"What's black and white and read all over?"

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Posted 3:13 PM by

Dark day for Democracy

God help us all.Even before President George Bush took the stage last night for his annual State of Confusion speech, America took a heavy turn toward the bizarre from which it may now take decades to recover.

First off, right-wing Republicans now hold a majority on the Supreme Court with the confirmation yesterday of Justice Sam Alito.

So, the bench that brought America the unquestionable brilliance of John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Thurgood Marshall has been dumbed down to the level of Clarence Thomas. Well, at least Harriet Miers didn't get the job.

Meanwhile, Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, died. Her husband's dream still lives, so long as people who want to hear it are willing to pay the foundation established in his name.

Speaking of money, Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, who has single-handedly and effectively navigated the nation's money supply through treacherous waters over nearly 20 years, retired.

He must have seen the handwriting on the wall now that the government's yearly deficit - brought under control during Bill Clinton's presidency - is back into the hundreds of billions annually under Bush with no sign of paying down the Chinese-held national debt in sight.

They're still our enemies, right? Or do one-party ruled capitalist states really like each other?

Capitol Hill police could have been working in Beijing last night when they ejected Cindy Sheehan, mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq, from the Congressional gallery simply because her T-shirt said, "2245 Dead. How many more?"

She was invited to Bush's speech as a guest of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., and left the Capitol building in handcuffs for exercising the very rights the building is supposed to embody and in the name of which her son died.

Sheehan wasn't the only one ejected. Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida - Republican chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee - was removed too because she was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Support the Troops - Defending Our Freedom."

"They said I was protesting," Young told the St. Petersburg Times. "I said, "Read my shirt, it is not a protest.' They said, 'We consider that a protest.' I said, 'Then you are an idiot.'"

This morning, her husband took the House floor, held up his wife's gray shirt and said, "Shame, shame."

But the cops left a bomb-sniffing German shepherd, a veteran of Iraq, stay in the gallery as part of Bush's dog-and-pony show.

There was no pony present, but Bush proved himself a jackass by proclaiming that America is addicted to foreign oil and needs to be weened off, even though he let the industry write his administration's energy policy.

Perhaps that's why ExxonMobil posted all-time record profits Monday for the fourth quarter of 2005, with no Congressional investigation into price gouging in sight.

As for Bush's speech, it was filled with the usual platitudes and cliches. He even reached into the lame duck bag of tricks by asking Congress to give him a line-item veto.

Funny, why should he need that since his party controls the White House, the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court?


Monday, January 30, 2006
Posted 9:48 PM by

I can't believe it...

In Harrisburg, they don't call this guy the 'Vince of Darkness' for nothing.Somebody slap me hard. I find myself once again in agreement with the Vince of Darkness.

Of course, I'm referring to the one and only, state Sen. Vince Fumo, D-Philly.

On Monday, Fumo proposed breaking the stalemate on school tax reform by shifting more of the burden on a graduated income tax - one that would hit the richest in the state the hardest.

His proposal to shift $750 million in school funding onto the state income tax is the latest as the Legislature searches for a way to slow the rising cost of property taxes before this year's elections.

Unfortunately, no one has addressed the real root cause - the poor negotiating skills of elected school board members when they go up against the politically powerful state-wide teachers' union at the negotiating table.

I have friends who are teachers, and even a local union president, who tell me some school directors don't have a friggin clue how to handle even the most basic district issues, let alone contract talks.

That aside, Fumo said raising income taxes on the wealthiest 1.5 percent of Pennsylvania households makes more sense than an across-the-board hike because it does not hurt renters, the fixed-income elderly and people with the lowest incomes.

Truth be told, I'm sure a graduated income tax eventually would. Just not nearly as much as it might have and not as quickly.

Creating a graduated income tax takes an amendment to the state's constitution. Fumo said the quickest way would be to secure a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature before putting the measure to voters, ideally on the May 16 primary ballot.

However, that process is reserved for emergencies. Erik Arneson, the chief of staff to the Senate's Republican leader, David J. Brightbill, disputed whether the issue meets that definition.

Why shouldn't it? After all, the state's new slots machine commission - the very thing that touched off this debate - was able to hire a company using an emergency, no-bid contract to do background checks of slot machine manufacturers and would-be owners.

Lest we forget, the 146-page law approving slot machine gambling - of which an unspecified portion of the $1 billion in anticipated state revenues will also help reduce the school property tax burden - was slid into an unrelated two-paragraph bill late at night on a July 4 holiday weekend in order to avoid public debate.

Oh and by the way, one of Fumo's political donors, car dealer Richard Potamkin, is reportedly tied to one of the firms that has submitted a request for a slots parlor license. So is Fumo's attorney, Richard Sprague. Meanwhile, the slots law still allows lawmakers like Fumo to hold up to a 1 percent share in a parlor.

The Legislature should be fixing those ethical loopholes first. Until then, they can't tackle the tax issue with any semblance of credibility.


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