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

Friday, July 14, 2006
Posted 8:10 PM by

Common Cause appeals pay raise lawsuit

Common Cause has appeal the dismissal of its federal lawsuit over last year's legislative pay raise in order to prevent Pennsylvania lawmakers from pulling a similar stunt again.Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and other groups appealed the dismissal of their legislative pay raise lawsuit this week, saying, "a loss on this case could consign the citizens of Pennsylvania to a quasi-politburo style of government in perpetuity."

U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane tossed the case against Gov. Ed Rendell,state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy and legislative leaders last month, finding the good government groups did not have any standing in federal court to bring their action.

"For better or worse, the matters of which Plaintiffs complain belong to the political and electoral process," Kane wrote. "For over two hundred years, our people have trusted these processes to restrain their officials from abusing the power of office and making a mockery of our laws. It is not for this Court to alter the course of history now."

Barry Kauffman, Common Cause's executive director, insisted Kane "misapplied the law" and said the group's lawyers found "enormous potential for appeal."

They filed an appeal on Wednesday to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

To pass the pay raise and other controversial legislation, Pennsylvania legislative leaders have routinely circumnavigated state Constitutional requirements that a bill must be publicly aired for three days before it can be voted on.

They do it by gutting an existing bill which has already been approved by lawmakers once and changing its wording in committee before the measure is put to a second and third votes.

A similar method was employed last month to pass a lobbyist disclosure bill penned by House Speaker John Perzel.


Thursday, July 13, 2006
Posted 9:48 PM by

Report: Disaster in Philly would cause chaos

A new report says Philly isn't prepared to handle a major disaster.Here's good news: In a major disaster of Katrina-like proportions Philadelphia's government would collapse like a house of cards.

That's what a $1 million report on the city's preparedness has concluded after a six-month study of emergency services.

The report concludes that Philly lacks strategies, documents, staffing and tools for handling a major disaster, as well as "well-defined" processes for helping residents with special needs. The city also does not have a comprehensive evacuation strategy with neighboring counties, cities and states, the report said.

The analysis includes 200 recommendations, but Mayor John Street's administration does not have a timetable or even know how long those steps would take to put in place, much less their cost.

That proves were missing one more thing - leadership, which is possibly the most important element at a time of crisis. That's why former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani still basks in the warm glow of national appreciation nearly five years after 9/11.

Last month's floods in Bucks County and throughout Pennsylvania should have been enough of a warning to us all that our government would be hard pressed to help when the shit hits the fan.

So short of government coming to your rescue, I suggest you do the sensible thing. Prepare for the worst by pulling together not one, but two disaster kits.

One goes in your car. One stays in your home. In an emergency, what good is a kit if you don't have it with you? At a minimum, both should include food, water, a first aid kit, some clothes and a radio.

I've taken the process a bit further by keeping my camping equipment in the trunk of my car too. And I'm not even a survival nut.

Remember, it's not paranoia if they tell you in advance that you're screwed.

At least they're no longer advocating that we stock up on duct tape and plastic.


To read the final report of Philadelphia's Emergency Preparedness Review Committee, click here.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Posted 9:16 PM by

Violating MySpace and my rights

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick is trying to make his political bones with a high profile bill destined to make waves but do little to halt online predators.In an effort to distinguish himself from a pack of young Republican Congressmen, U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick has been pushing his "Deleting Online Predators Act" and attacking

Fitzpatrick, R-Bucks County, is sadly mistaken, though, if he thinks new legislation will keep perverts and sexual predators away from kids online.

We already have plenty of laws on the books that are supposed to do that.

What his bill, H.R. 5319, will do, however, is put librarians and schools in the crossfire once again as the arbiters of good taste.

Beth Yoke, an executive director with the American Library Association, testified this week that Fitzpatrick’s bill was like trying to curb teenage car accidents by banning teens from the road. She said the bill would "block valuable technology" and "create barriers to information" that could be used for educational purposes.

If parents do want their kids spending time in MySpace, Friendster, Facebook or other social networking sites, they should supervise their kids' internet usage.

Failing that responsibility, there is plenty of software on the market that will block student users from visiting sites deemed inappropriate. Just like with the V-Chip on television, the program is only effective if parents keep it up to date.

Speaking of out of date and out of touch, the sleepy city of Sunbury has enacted a $25 per hour fee for researching and copying public documents.

Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the fee which is suppose to reimburse taxpayers for the time spent by city clerk Terry Specht to fulfill records requests.

If that's truly the hourly rate, I think Specht may be way overpaid for the task. Why can't somebody less expensive do the job? Moreover, what is the council trying to hide from the public by deterring such requests?

Councilman John K. Shipman said the measure required a 20-minute grace period, which could yield a request for up to three documents for free. However, citizens still will pay 50 cents per page for copies.

Most places let the public do their own research and simply apply a copying charge. Here's hoping somebody challenges the fee on the grounds that its unreasonable as defined by the state Open Records Act.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Posted 9:39 PM by

Federal flip-flops order of the day

This should be the new symbol for the Republican Party, which twice reversed itself today.Well, I'm back from vacation just in time to find our fine federal Republic (Do Democrats even count anymore?) finally flip-flopped on two issues it should have and held fast to one issue it should not have.

First, off the Bush Administration finally realized it could no longer treat people like property and the law like it doesn't exist. Instead, of being given the non-existant label of "enemy combatants," prisoners of president Bush's war on terrorism will be granted the basic protections of the Geneva Conventions.

The administration has refused to grant Geneva status to the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere, saying they were not from a recognized nation, were not captured in uniform and did not observe traditional rules of war.

Pvt. Lyndie England would be a war criminal under new orders issued today requiring 'enemy combatants' to be treated as prisoners of war.However, a memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England to all branches of the armed forces, released Tuesday, instructed them to ensure that all Defense Department policies, practices and directives comply with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions governing the humane treatment of prisoners.

Excuse me, but doesn't that now make Lyndie England and others at the Abu Gharib prison war criminals?

The order comes too late to help many prisoners who have died from beatings, asphyxiation and downright torture during interrogation, but at least it may have some impact the next time an American is captured on the wrong line of a map.

Speaking of arbitrary lines, the Senate might have erased one today when it voted 68-32 in favor of granting a Canadian loophole in a federal Food and Drug Administration ban on importing prescription medicine into the United States.

That means the elderly in border states may be able to order cheaper prescriptions than they would here in the United States. That's because Americans subsidize the drug industry for the rest of the world through higher prices with the tacit approval of lawmakers, whom they've plied with $10.5 million in campaign contributions over the last two years.

The approval became overt when the ban on importing Candian drugs was imposed as part of the new federal Medicare prescription program, which has proved more expensive to seniors.

Voting "yes" were 44 Democrats, 23 Republicans and one independent.
Voting "no" were 32 Republicans and no Democrats. Pennsylvania's two Republican senators were split on the issue.

"I believe individuals ought to have access to less expensive pharmaceutical supplies provided they are safe as determined by FDA," Sen. Arlen Specter said after voting for the loophole.

O Canada, my home of cheaper prescriptions....Sen. Rick Santorum voted against it, saying, Canada "has publicly stated on numerous occasions that it cannot guarantee the safety of pharmaceuticals exported from, or through, its borders to the United States."

Given the Vioxx case, they're not doing a great job with the drugs already marketed and sold here either.

Bob Casey Jr., Santorum's Democratic opponent in the November election favors rewritting the Medicare drug program.

I'm still not sure if residents will simply be able to order their drugs online from Canadian pharmacists the way they used to before the ban was imposed two years ago.

One thing is for sure, they still won't be able to gamble online - at least not legally.

Despite a "60 minutes" report that says all of our allies in the war on terror have legalized and taxed online gambling, at the expense mostly of Americans, the U.S. House of Representatives voted, 317-93, today to prevent gamblers from using credit cards to bet online. The bill could also block access to gambling Web sites.

If onling gambling was legalized and taxed as it is in other countries, politicians would soon find the gravy train for campaign contributions a lot more bare.Gee, I wonder if the $6.5 million in gambling interest money lawmakers have taken over the last two years came with some strings about eliminating their competition.

Critics argued that regulating the $12 billion industry would be better than outlawing it. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said, "Prohibition didn't work for alcohol. It won't work for gambling."

For instance, what's to stop someone from making a deposit into a Paypal account using a credit card and then using that account to pay for gambling?

Voting yes were 115 Democrats, 201 Republicans and one independent.
Voting no were 76 Democrats and 17 Republicans.

Here's how Pennsylvania's representatives voted:

U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady (D - 01) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D - 02) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D - 11) - Yes
U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha (D - 12) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D - 13) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Charles W. Dent (R - 15) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Phil English (R - 03) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R - 08) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R - 06) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Melissa A. Hart (R - 04) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R - 09) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Donald Sherwood (R - 10) - Yes
U.S. Rep. John E. Peterson (R - 05) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R - 07) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R - 16) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R - 18) - Yes
U.S. Rep. Todd R. Platts (R - 19) - Yes

U.S. Rep. Tim Holden (D - 17) - No

U.S. Rep. Michael F. Doyle (D - 14) - Did not vote

Of all the "Yes" votes, my favorite belongs to Kanjorski, my former Congressman, who won $19,500 playing blackjack in an Indian Casino in New Mexico in December.


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