LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
**Past Published Letters to the Editor**
No FBI Criminality ......
The Trib's head-line "Counsel blasts Russia probe", 5/16/23, conveys Durham's opinion. A more informative head-line could have read "No FBI criminality", which states a fact and not a point of view.
John Durham's investigation brought criminal charges against 3 people. Two cases were thrown out of court. The third person pleaded guilty to altering an e-mail concerning Carter Page who was already exonerated by the Mueller report. No FBI criminality was found. Compare Durham's result with those of Mueller, which included: 34 people and 3 companies indicted, convicted or pleaded guilty; Roger Stone, Trump's confidant, criminally guilty on 7 counts; Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, who previously worked for Putin's puppet in Ukraine, guilty on 8 counts; Michael Flynn, Trump's former National Security Advisor, pleaded guilty; Rick Gates, former Trump campaign aide, pleaded guilty; Michael Cohen, former Trump personal lawyer, pleaded guilty; George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign advisor, pleaded guilty; etc. At the judiciary Committee Meeting, when asked if Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice after he left office, Mueller answered yes.
There may have been mis-steps in the FBI's investigation but the facts remain unchanged. Former President Trump said the FBI scammed the American Public, but it seems Trump is the only one doing the scamming.
Backing the Blue ......
A recent feature article regarding law enforcement line of duty deaths was truly disheartening and speaks to our culture of gun violence. Eight local officers who lost their lives while serving our communities were highlighted. Five of those eight officers were fatally shot while responding to domestic disputes. At least some of those deaths may have been preventable.
We talk big of "Backing the Blue", but to do so, we must support sensible gun safety laws. We need background checks to truly keep guns out of the hands of abusers. There must be restrictions on gun purchases and ownership. We need consistent application of laws regarding abusers. Law enforcement cannot continue to be out-armed and ambushed by those who have no business owning guns.
Except for years when Covid deaths outpaced gun deaths, in recent years, including 2022, the leading cause of death of our police officers has been due to guns, homicides first, but also suicides. To support our police, we must support adequate gun safety laws. The majority of Americans want stronger gun safety laws. If we truly want to Back the Blue, we must demand action from our lawmakers.
Child Labor In America ......
It was depressing to read "States chip away at child labor laws, 4/23 Trib." This past century we fought hard for laws to protect workers against unfair labor practices and to protect our children against exploitation. Stories of our youth in sweat shops, mills and mines are still vivid. We thought that was all behind us. But now, the U.S. Department of Labor reports a 69% increase in the number of children employed illegally since 2018. Unfortunately the penalties for breaking child labor laws are minimal, a slap on the wrist. It is written off as the cost of doing business.
The captains of industry consider even that too much. They have gotten some lawmakers to do their bidding in rolling back child labor protections. To read their justifications "valuable work experiences", "supplement their families incomes" is nauseating. They are abusing our most vulnerable so they can make more money, period. It is interesting, some lawmakers profess to being pro-life, wanting to outlaw abortion. Yet, these same lawmakers, when children are being killed by guns, they vote against gun safety laws. When the children are being exploited by unscrupulous businessmen, they vote to facilitate that abuse.
Moving Forward To Save Our Planet ......
I believe the Trib is doing a disservice to its readers when it publishes articles promoting the natural gas industry. We know all too well the devastation the industry causes to our health and environment. Yes, natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide emissions than coal power when burned but the primary component of natural gas is methane, a potent greenhouse gas emitted throughout the development supply chain. To promote fossil fuel use when the window to save a livable planet is narrowing is shortsighted. Already we are seeing the "limits of adaptation" with rising sea levels, desertification, extreme heat, and for many, a lack of food and safe drinking water. The planet's temperature is increasing quickly and dangerously and creating an existential crisis. We need to be a leader in this effort because we are one of the biggest polluters. A massive mobilization, similar to that of WW11, is needed. Back then our country converted our industrial might to a wartime footing to combat fascism. Now we must mobilize that might to fight the climate crisis. The conversion to green energy must greatly accelerate. Generating electricity and transportation vehicles must rely on clean energy. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle should be the rallying cry. It is essential that America gains the cooperation of countries around the globe, especially the other major offenders such as China and India. We know how to do this. We worked with many countries including China on the Human Genome Project. This collaboration must work if we are to battle the climate crisis. Let's get this done.
Meaning Of Socialism ......
It is baffling that some people feel they can hurl the word socialist at someone as a slur to insult and demean that person. In reality, we are all socialists as well as capitalists. The U.S. has a mixed economy. It works according to an economic system that features characteristics of both capitalism and socialism. Most advanced countries are a mixed economic system that protects some private property and allows a level of economic freedom in the use of capital, but also allows for governments to intervene in economic activities in order to achieve social aims and for the public good. At its core socialism is when a society does things for the common good.
Capitalism and socialism can work well together. They prevent one another from becoming too extreme, too radical. Extreme socialism leads to concentration of power which leads to tyranny. Extreme capitalism leads to concentration of wealth which leads to tyranny.
Taking up a collection in church to help a family whose house burned down is socialism. North Dakota's publicly-owned bank is socialism. Municipally owned sports stadiums, our military, postal service, police and fire departments, public schools and parks, public infrastructure, Social Security and Medicare, all are socialistic. We are all beneficiaries of a capitalist, socialist society.
It Can Happen Here ......
The Norfolk Southern train derailment at the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio brought national/world attention to a disaster that could happen in any community located along the railroad's path. In Westmoreland County that means Greensburg, Latrobe, West Newton, and Irwin could have exchanged places with East Palestine. The findings of the investigation will go on for years, but the catastrophic effects of this event on the people and the communities is evident.
We all adhere to regulations to make our lives safer; getting your vehicle inspected, obeying traffic signals, and adapting to changes in construction zones. Why is the public held accountable to regulations while corporations are allowed to sidestep them spending millions to lobbying to have regulations removed that protect citizens, communities, and personal property. Corporate greed and profits far outweigh concern for the result of their actions. The welfare of people and the community is secondary to the bottom line: how much money can we make.
The previous president, in 2017, allowed deregulations to take place. The people and communities of East Palestine and surrounding areas are suffering the consequences of a decision: profit over human safety.
Lobbyists serve the interest of their employer, not individuals when it comes to regulations that protect public safety. Lobbyists should have NO seat at the table debating what the government does to protect its citizens and communities. The government and elected officials need to put their priority on the people and do a better job of protecting their constituents instead of their wallet.
Train Derailment In East Palestine ......
The disastrous train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, has put a spotlight on the railroad industry. Their average profit margin since 2001 has steadily increased from 15% to 50% in 2019. The national average profit margin for U.S. industries is 9% but for railroads it is five times the average. This outrageous profit is adding to the high cost of goods that is hurting the already battered middle class.
The CEOs of 5 major rail companies averaged more than $16 million in compensation, more than 162 times the median salary of railroad workers. In addition to unfair wages is unfair "precision scheduling", being on-call 90-95% of the time, which makes any quality of life impossible. Add to that, longer trains and fewer workers and the result is 3 train derailments every day. This brings into question the competency of the CEOs.
So we have outrageous profits and executive compensation, on top of the staggering amount the industry spends on stock buybacks, dividends and lobbyist, and you begin to understand why the price of goods and services is crushing the middle class.
Tell our government we demand a reversal of our massive economic inequality. They need to pass the Price Gouging Prevention Act, the 2% Wealth Tax Bill and approve President Biden's 25% tax on billionaires. We need a revision of the tax code and salary guidelines so that everyone pays and receives a fair share.
McGonigal Arrest Raises Questions ......
This nightmare just will not go away. We know that Oleg Deripaska was a key coordinator of Russia's foreign influence operation in the 2016 presidential campaign. We know he was associated with Paul Manafort, the ex-operative for Putin's puppet regime in Ukraine, ex-campaign adviser for President Trump, and ex-felon whom Trump pardoned and for whom he unwound seized assets.
We know that Charles McGonigal, a former senior FBI counterintelligence officer in the New York office, was indicted in January on money laundering and corruption charges in connection with none other than Deripaska, Putin's go-to guy. We now know that Rudy Guiliani was very close to the FBI's New York office, which had a reputation for being pro-Trump.
This arrest of McGonigal makes it clear that we still do not know all of the facts surrounding our 2016 presidential campaign and that we are still vulnerable to Russian influence operations. We do not know why the Justice Department has not indicted Trump with obstruction of justice charges. Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated that after Trump left office he could face criminal charges as a private citizen.
Is Rep. Jim Jordan's investigation into the FBI an attempt to muddy the waters about the McGonigal case similar to then-Attorney General William Barr's attempt to muddy the water in the Mueller Investigation?
White Supremacists Terror Attacks......
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has reported that the incidence of domestic terrorism attacks are on the rise. These attacks come from the far right and the far left. The Center emphasized that the words right and left do not refer to the Republican or Democratic parties but rather indicate a small group of individuals on the extreme fringes. Violence in America has risen to alarmingly high levels, corroding our political processes, substituting force and fear for debate and compromise. Increasingly bellicose language from our national leaders, lawmakers, and television personnel create an atmosphere of grievances, resentment, fear and anger. The level of threats and intimidation to our public servants, election workers, nurses and doctors, teachers and librarians has reached new heights.
The Center indicated that between 1994 and 2020, we had 893 terrorist attacks and plots. 57% were perpetrated by extreme right-wing white supremacists. 2/3 of the terrorist attacks and plots in 2019 and over 90% of terrorist fatalities in 2021.
Our government must do more to deal with hate speech and acts, and law enforcement must have better tools to handle these corrosive situations.
Sensible Gun Laws......
America has a gun problem. We are world leaders in both gun ownership and deaths. Statistics show 120 guns per 120 Americans. In the first 6 weeks of 2023, there were 71 mass shootings. We have become numb to media reports of the carnage that affects civilians and law enforcement alike. The police are often out armed.
The surge of gun purchases during the pandemic did not make us safer. Studies show in homes with guns, the guns are more likely to be used against someone in the home, more often a woman, than for self defense. Guns are rarely used against intruders.
We feel unsafe in our schools, churches, places of work, and communities. Then, cite the 2nd Amendment and the need to protect ourselves. We do not need to gut the 2nd Amendment to achieve change. The 2022 bipartisan Safer Communities Act is a start, but not enough. We need universal background checks, a truly national registry, consistent laws and enforcement regarding domestic abusers, more restrictions on gun modifications and tracking of ghost guns. We need reinstatement of the Assault Weapon Ban.
The majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws. We need legislators to push forward bills to keep us safer, and to show us who back both us and the Blue.
How Will You Vote......
One hundred percent of Republicans in Congress voted against prosecuting rich tax cheats, 100% of Republicans in Congress voted against cheaper insulin, 100% of Republicans in Congress voted against cheaper prescription drug prices; voted against cheaper gas, voted against the Voting Rights Act, voted against fighting climate change, voted against ending gerrymandering, voted against the stimulus checks, voted against Roe vs. Wade, and voted against the child tax credits. How will you vote the next time you go to the polls?
Democracy and Protecting Public Education Go Hand In Hand......
The Trib's recent articles criticizing public education speaks to the ill conceived effort in Pennsylvania to privatize education. Under the guise of vouchers or parental choice the extreme right's elite class of billionaires want to corporatize one of the foundations of our middle class. They want more of our taxpayer dollars going into their pockets. Taking tax dollars away from public education to give to private entities will destroy our public education system. A system that is a great equalizer and played a big part in expanding our middle class. The current three generations of my family has prospered due to public education. Do not let the billionaire class destroy that opportunity for the next generation.
Religious schools are part of private schools. Do you want your tax dollars subsidizing religious schools? Do you want your tax dollars subsidizing elite expansive private schools? There are problems in our public schools. Let's put our energies to work fixing areas what should be improved. But don't through the baby out with the bath water.
Gun Violence In America......
Ninety-nine percent of Republican lawmakers voted against banning assault weapons and 96% voted against common sense background checks before gun sales. Both of these safety measures are supported by the majority of Americans and would save countless lives.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 648 mass shootings in 2022. Despite this, GOP legislators blocked the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which was designed to combat the growing threat of domestic violent extremist groups and individuals by ensuring that law enforcement had the resources needed to identify and prevent this type of violence.
As of February 6, there were 60 mass shootings reported this year that resulted in 92 deaths and 240 injuries. That doesn't include the over 1,200 gun deaths in this country so far in 2023.
January 6 saw a domestic violent attack against the very institution that governs our free nation. Law enforcement personnel were injured and died as a result of the mob attack on the Capitol. Other instances of political violence include the attack on Paul Pelosi, the plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, and a Republican candidate paying men to shoot at Democratic lawmakers' homes. Even election workers, school board members, and librarians have had to endure harassment and death threats.
The GOP has purposefully ignited violence for partisan political purposes. They normalize the use of violent rhetoric, which has become a dangerous and alarming hallmark of their messaging.
When did the law and order party become the vigilante party that advocates vengeance and a blatant disregard for law and order?
Balance of Wealth and Power......
It is noticeable that many of the Trib's opinion pieces are written by the Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. I consider these two organizations to have extreme right-wing conservative and libertarian beliefs. To me their objectives are, no taxes no regulations and privatize everything. They worship at the alter of unfeathered free markets, the law of the jungle.
The Economist Robert Reich's approach is that there can be no "free Markets" without rules. He states, "Government doesn't intrude on the free Market. It creates and maintains a market that works for all of us." But today, "our economy is influenced by giant corporations, big banks, and wealthy individuals with enough resources to be heard. Their money buys lobbyist campaign contributions, and public relations campaigns. And so the notion of the "free market" becomes a kind of smokescreen used by the very rich to continue rigging a system they're already rigged to their benefit. The debate should not be about free markets vs. government interventions but about power and who wields it." It should be about how we the people should have a seat at the table. How we should benefit from the fruits of our labor and our economy. We the middle class need to speak out and demand our fair share. If Republicans and Democrats unite, we could take on the one percent.
Toxic Waste Site Should Not Be In OUR Backyard......
Residents of Western Pennsylvania Beware! We are at risk! MAX Environmental plans to build a new hazardous dump on the banks of the Sewickley Creek, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River, threatening drinking water for thousands. We have some of the worst air quality in the nation with MAX releasing the highest airborne lead pollution in Pennsylvania. For years, DEP has ignored our poor air quality. In 1948 in Donora, 20 people died, within 6 days another 50 were found dying, hundreds of citizens were left disabled from a mix of pollutants and a temperature inversion. For 50 years, toxic wastes have been dumped in Yukon. Max and its predecessor Mill Service have had hundreds of violations, spewing harmful chemicals into the air and water, threatening our health. This new MAX dump will be the ONLY hazardous dump in all of Pennsylvania. They will dump untreated wastes including arsenic, benzene, lead, chromium, and radioactive wastes. Why would the DEP consider allowing a known polluter to continue? Remind our County Commissioners that allowing this dumpsite to go forward in NOT acceptable! If they turn their backs on the voters in Westmoreland county, come this November we will vote them out. Commissioners and the DEP should say no to MAX!
Patricia Daly Oliver
Wealth In America......
From the results of this past November election, one can conclude that a stable democracy is important to the people of Pennsylvania. We do not want our legislature to be able to nullify our votes, or Republican lawmakers claiming the 2020 election was stolen, or Representatives going to court to oppose certifying a duly elected President, or lawmakers participating in an insurrection. We do not want a one-party autocracy.
But here we are, two years after the 2020 election and our General Assembly is still tampering with our democracy. They are again going to court, this time to prevent voters from filling three vacant seats in heavily Democratic districts just so they can maintain their majority a little while longer. They are ok with voters not having representation just so they can stay in power.
It is unfortunate they are not as interested in passing legislation that will help us, as they are with expanding their power. Most Republicans and Democrats want the same things from our lawmakers: a fair wage and taxation system, clean water and air, safe streets, good public schools, affordable healthcare, the freedom to choose our own religion. Our do-nothing legislature is MIA with our most important issues, while they are working overtime demolishing our two-party system.
Wealth In America......
The top 1% of Americans own around 32.1% of the country's total wealth, the 90 to 99% own around 37.7% , the 50 to 90% own around 28%, and the bottom 50% own around 2.6% of the country's total wealth. We have not seen this level of inequality since the early 1900's and the robber barons of the Gilded Age. At that time, extreme inequality lead to the Great Depression which in turn lead to Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. It is said "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." We do not want to repeat that terrible time in history.
Tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy has significantly eroded the middle class. The rich are getting richer and the rest of us are getting poorer. In 2020 the median wage increased by $26, but for those making over a million dollars, the increase was $300,000.
We must demand a fair taxation system from our government. Everyone and every corporation should pay their fair share of taxes no exceptions. Congress must undo the damage done by these tax cuts.
Thank You Pennsylvania......
Thank you Pennsylvania. This past November you went to the polls and voted for democracy, for the rule of law, for action on the climate crisis, for bodily autonomy, for good paying union jobs, for the right to have clean air and water, for affordable healthcare, for quality public education, for living wage, for equitable taxation. And, you voted against fascism, vigilantism, privatization of essential public services and necessities, government restriction of religious freedom and reproductive freedom, no to gun violence, restrictions on voting, lies and conspiracies theories, and white nationalism.
You made a difference for our state, for our country. Thank You.
This Is Not The First Time......
I have been listening to the podcast, "Ultra" by Rachel Maddow. It is frightening and at the same time reassuring. Reassuring in that our current political situation is not unique, we have been there before, and frightening in that our democracy can be so fragile. "Ultra" takes us back to the 1930's and 40's when American First Committee and Father Coughlin's inspired Christian Front reared their ugly heads. Thousands of Americans belonged to these organizations including many members of Congress. Some of them were on Hitler's payroll to spread Nazi propaganda.
The similarities between then and now are jarring. Their White Christian Nationalist goal was a violent insurrection to overthrow the U.S. government and install a racist authoritarian state. They tried to delegitimize the 1940 election. They used fear, intimidation, and harassment to divide Americans along racial, religious and political lines. They attacked the Justice Department and the press.
The Justice Department did bring members to trial on sedition charges. But powerful politicians quickly turned the trial into a circus and chaos ensued. The trial ended without charges being made. However, thanks to a diligent press the scandal did not die and the American public voted those congressmen who were involved out of office. Hopefully this time around the Justice Department will not cave and, no matter the politics, will bring those involved in the insurrection to justice. If not, we citizens will again vote them out.
Is This Who We Want To Be ?
The far-right often talks about the supremacy of freedom and liberty. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. However, their actions have consequences that diminish the freedom of some. In Georgia vigilante supporters have targeted election workers with death threats and physical intimidation. In Texas, their abortion law permit citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion after 6 weeks. The law allows ordinary citizens to be deputized as bounty hunters. Vigilantism is replacing the rule of law. There has been an increase in death threats, spying, hate mail and bomb threats.
There are 191 bills across 40 states seeking to limit classroom instruction on gender, sexual orientation, race and American history. In Florida, Palm Beach County schools were instructed to remove books that even implied the existence of systemic racism and sexism. In Florida, students can file lawsuits about their classmates. In New Hampshire, teachers can lose their license if they teach about race, sex, gender and other sensitive issues. Schools can be sued by anyone and informants receive a $500 bounty.
Rather than the land of the free, this sounds like an authoritarian surveillance state. One reminiscent of Hitler's Germany or the communist government in East Germany where citizen informants reported on their families, friends and neighbors. Is this who we want to be?
Who Is To Blame?
The media was quick in blaming Donald Trump for the outcome of the recent election. However, the Republican party played a major role, along with the right-wing media and conspiracy followers, who elevated the past president to the status of "Prophet of the Republican Party."
How many times over the last 6 years did the GOP and the right-wing media have the opportunity to speak out against his lies, misinformation, and self-serving platform? Many opportunities were present. For starters, there were two impeachment trials addressing his transgressions and the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen. The same lie the Republican candidates are now using in Arizona and not allowing the votes to be certified. Who can forget Trump inciting an insurrection? His loyal followers, on January 6th, attempted to destroy our seat of Democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. Then there was the theft of classified documents. These were all opportunities for the Grand Old Party to denounce his actions, but instead, they vilified others, made up excuses for what transpired, or remained silent.
The GOP has emboldened Trump, and in doing so has given a platform to others like Ron DeSantis, Majorie Taylor Green, and Ron Johnson to openly spread fear and lies about LGBTQ, Jews and minorities. They propagate hate and violence with their white supremacist, anti-democratic talking points that incite people to lash out at any group they deem not worthy of their approval.
This isn't on Trump. This is on the Republican Party who have allowed and even promoted this Neo-fascism movement to take root and threaten the very fiber of our democracy and our individual freedoms.
President Biden's Accomplishments...
Even with the Senate split 50-50, President Biden's accomplishments in just two years are very impressive. His handling of COVID-19 saved countless lives. Medicare coverage improved. Childhood poverty levels were cut in half. The bipartisan PACT Act and Safer Communities Act, were passed. The CHIPS Act, which will strengthen American manufacturing and innovation was passed. We are already seeing the results of the Infrastructure Bill which was desperately needed here in PA. The American Rescue Plan Act passed with little Republican support. This Act's purpose was to support small business and rescue the American economy from the public health and economic crisis created by the previous administration. The Inflation Reduction Act passed with zero Republican support. It includes a 15% minimum tax on companies with over $1 billion in earnings, a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks, improvements in healthcare, and a lifeline to battle climate change. President Biden is increasing the decimated IRS employee pool so that they can reduce Big Money's tax evasion prevalent under President Trump.
The media and Republicans label President Biden as senile and incompetent but the facts indicate he may be the most consequential President in 40 years. In contrast, President Trump's main accomplishments were a $2 trillion tax break for Big Money and a packed ultra-light Supreme Court hell-bent on reducing our rights and freedoms.
Patricia Daly Oliver
Unite Against the Real Enemy...
I have protested at Donald Trump's and Doug Mastriano's rallies. It is always baffling when one of the participants looks at me and in their best authoritative angry voice shouts at me to "get a job." Now, with my gray hair, hunched shoulders, and wrinkled skin, I am obviously way past retirement age. But, those fact do not seem to matter to some Republicans. They see a Democrat and assume they are a free loader.
The facts tell a different story. The blue states send more tax money to Washington than they receive back and the red states receive more tax money from Washington than they send. So, if anyone is a free loader it is the Republicans.
Ron De Santis personifies this mentality. He rallied against New Jersey receiving government funds after a disaster but demands assistance when Florida has one. This attitude is a little hypocritical.
Do not let them gaslight you. Democrats and Republicans share common needs and goals. We should unite against the real enemy, big money and big corporations. The wealthy are focused on a single objective, making more money. To that end, they do not want to pay their fair share of taxes. Taxes that we depend on for our safety and protection, our roads, a clean environment, and schools. They do not want regulations that interfere with their money making schemes. They want to privatize everything and anything to make more money. We need to stop demonizing one another and focus on the real enemy, the one percent.
Enforceable Banking Regulations...
Recently I received notification from a credit card company that the interest on card balance will now be $28.99%. I find that amount shocking. How can we allow banks to charge that exorbitant level of interest on loans. In the past, if you paid more than 12 to 14% interest, you were dealing with loan sharks. Banks were not allowed to charge that outrageous amount. Now the banks are charging twice the interest the loan sharks charged.
The income the banks make from this excessive interest is on top of the 2 to 3% income they make on every single credit card transaction. We consumers see an increase in purchase price because of the fees the banks charge and then we have usury level interest on top of the banks's already sizable profit.
At one time banks paid out 4% interest on savings account. Today your savings account earns .1% to .2% . It feels as if we are being squeezed by banks both coming and going. It is time to demand our lawmakers place sufficient regulation in place to protect us from being gouged by big banks. Harrisburg and Washington should develop enforceable banking regulations.
Republicans Assault On Democracy Continues
The other day I was watching footage of 1/6. The crowd was chanting U.S.A., leading one to believe they thought of themselves as patriots. However, what these supposed patriots were doing was violently and destructively trying to bring down our democracy, our government. Because they could not admit defeat, the Republicans and Donald Trump sought to nullify our votes and proclaim themselves the victors. 147 Republicans voted to overturn President Biden's election even after the riot. 8 of 9 Pennsylvania Representatives, John Joyce, Fred Keller, Mike Kelly, Daniel Meuser, Scott Perry, Guy Reschenthaler, Loyd Smucker, and Glenn Thompson voted for one party rule, voted for autocracy, They sought to illegitimately overturn our votes.
Even today, 345 current Republican candidates, 37 in Pennsylvania alone, are perpetuating the Big Lie. 60% of Americans have an election denier on the ballot, The radical far-right coalition seeks to put election deniers in charge of elections. If deniers succeed in controlling future elections they will interfere with non-partisan election administration and put our free, fair and secure elections at risk.
Vote as if our democracy is on the ballot, because it is.
Republicans Assault On Democracy
The Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers are gradually evolving into an anti-democratic Party. None of our Republican U.S. Congressman voted for the update of the Electoral Count Act, which would defend our voting rights and prevent a future January 6 style assault on our democracy. They are embracing Trump's Big Lie, passing laws to suppress the vote, and supporting takeovers of the machinery of elections. Eight out of nine Pennsylvania Republicans in the U.S. House opposed the certification of the 2020 election. They voted to nullify our votes, knowing there was no proof of fraud. But they just couldn't accept the will of the American people. One hundred and forty-seven Republican Representatives, in total, voted to throw out our votes. This is not how a functioning representative democracy works.
The Republicans ignored democratic norms to pack the Supreme Court with justices who are willing to ignore the people and make rulings that further erode voting rights. They manufacture phony culture war issues, like CRT and the trans. panic, to distract and divide. They will lie, cheat, steal, to win at all costs. What the voters want is inconsequential. We must stand up to this assault on our democracy. Do not take our freedoms and liberty for granted.
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.
HB 1059 Pennsylvania Economic Development for a Growing Economy
Biden's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes more than $65 billion for clean energy transmission and infrastructure upgrades. 206 MAGATs in the House and 30 in the Senate voted against it.
Build Back Better includes more than $400 billion in clean energy tax credits and investments in clean technology and manufacturing. 213 MAGATs in the House and 50 in the Senate voted against it.
CHIPS and Science Act made a $52 billion investment in semi-conductor technology and manufacturing here. 187 MAGATs in the House and 33 in the Senate voted against it.
So now our MAGAT legislature wants to take credit for programs based on Biden's legislative successes. PA EDGE would establish specific incentives applied to investments of at least $500 million that create a minimum of 1,200 jobs across an array of Pennsylvania industries including:
U.S. Department of Energy-approved regional clean hydrogen hub.
Natural gas-derived fertilizer production facilities.
Biomedical and semiconductor manufacturing facilities that invest at least $200 million and create 800 jobs.
These are sound investments, but they are only made possible because of President Biden and House and Senate Democrats. We need to keep the drum beat going now through November 2024. Like John Fetterman we should be "alpha" liberals calling out the MAGATS in our state legislature for what they are- a festering mass of hate, ignorance and hypocrisy.
Say NO to Let Mom Die Laws ....
Let Mom Die laws have become the norm among Republican legislators. Under the leadership of Senator Ward, with the support of Representatives Nelson, Rossi, Silvis and others, our Republican-led legislature has set the stage where Pennsylvania could be next.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano would institute a complete ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother.
Mastriano would criminalize women who have abortions and doctors who perform them, even under circumstances where the mother will die or when the fetus is dead or non-viable.
Bans envisioned by Mastriano and by state Republicans are fundamentally Let Mom Die laws. Doctors and hospitals struggle to understand how close to death must a woman be before they can perform a lifesaving abortion without going to jail.
Wisconsin criminalizes any abortion after the point of fertilization. Doctors in Alabama, Kentucky and Florida face criminal penalties up to life in prison. Is Pennsylvania next?
Maternal mortality will increase by more than 24%. But apparently that's OK with state Republicans.
Your vote in November is more critical than ever.
Say NO to Let Mom Die laws. Women's lives depend on it.
Legislators Favor Donors Over Constituents ....
The majority of citizens support Pennsylvania joining RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) with the benefits of increase job growth and decrease pollution and carbon emission. However, our legislature with the backing of the fossil fuel industry has been blocking that effort. They have gone to court to stop us from joining RGGI. They would rather support their donors than their constituents.
As with the fossil fuel industry, the utility industry is a powerful political force with massive political donations and lobbying efforts. The Senate passed the Water Quality Accountability Act and the bill is now in the House. Once again, our lawmakers are siding with donors over constituents. This bill makes it easier to privatize our water systems. The average bill for customers of private water companies is 59% higher than that of public utilities (1).
If there is any one thing that demonstrates our lawmakers are working for their own interest and not ours, it is their position on wages. They recently gave themselves a 14% salary increase over a two year period. At the same time they refuse to raise our minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. A living wage is reported to be $25 an hour and rising due to inflation. Our lawmakers have forgotten that we are their employers, let's vote them out.
(1) The Nation, August 22, 2022, p26, Water Wars. Julie Bojalad
Tax Breaks for employers....
Republican Joe Pittman's article, (Trib 8/14/22), "Can't have good jobs without employers", is typical Republican doublespeak and a race to the bottom. Tax give-a-ways to big corporations and failure to increase the minimum wage are what got us into the situation we are in today. Our middle-class wealth has been redistributed upward to a corrupt few, causing inequality to reach all-time highs. Trickle-down did not work in the last century and it won't work in this one.
It does not need to be this way. Pennsylvania has many advantages, many resources. We do not have to offer out-of-state, multinational companies sweetheart deals to create jobs. Employers whose only interest in Pennsylvania is to extract our natural resources, take the profits out of state, and leave us with a mess to clean up. Instead, the state should nurture homegrown start-ups. We should look for companies who do not price gouge their customers, who pay their employees a living wage, who are good stewards of our community and environment, and who pay their fair share of taxes. We need companies that are good neighbors. Employers who aren't solely concerned with profits.
Taking Care of the Middle Class....
On June ninth, The Republican Study Committee released its 2023 budget recommendations, titled "Blueprint To Save America". The Heritage Foundation and other radical right-wing groups are singing its praises with buzz words like, empower workers, balance the budget, and stop socialism. A closer look at their recommendations reveal their far-right anti-democratic, anti-middle class horror show agenda.
The GOP is all about cutting spending when that money helps middle America. But when taxpayer funds subsidize big corporations the GOP does not talk about reducing spending. They do not talk about the budget deficit caused by the Reagan, Bush, Trump tax cuts for the wealthy. Policies favoring big corporations and the wealthy are supported, those for the rest of America are not.
The Republican recommendations are anti-abortion, anti-gun safety, anti-voting rights, anti-democratic governance, anti-campaign finance reform, anti-tax policy reform, anti-science, and anti-healthcare reform.
Their aim is privatization in schools, postal service and where ever they think the wealthy few can make more money. They want to eliminate our social safety net programs, our involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement, and agencies that protect us, such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and the National Labor Relations Board.
These recommendations are directly opposite to what the majority of Americans want. No wonder you hear little about the "Blueprint".
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ultra rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer.
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
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.
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.
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.