Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Another Tuesday Mashup (8/3/10)

(I also posted here.)

  • I received a mailer from our PA-31 state house rep Steve Santarsiero today, which tells us the following about his accomplishments and that of the PA state house (with its current Democratic majority):

    Highlights of the 2010-11 Budget:

  • No New Taxes: For the second straight year, there was no increase in the income or sales tax.

  • Total Spending Cut: To balance the budget, significant spending cuts were made. Overall state spending has decreased by $400 million since 2008-2009.

  • Budget Passed On Time: The main budget was passed by the June 30 deadline.

  • Forcing the state to live within its means: This is a bare-bones plan, but it’s a responsible one that keeps our commitments to Pennsylvania’s working families during these tough times.

  • More money for education: An additional $250 million in basic education funding with more state funding for Council Rock and Pennsbury school districts to protect local property taxpayers.

  • Also, Steve “joined with every Republican and Democratic House member from Bucks County” to vote for H.B. 2497 (pension reform legislation):

    This reform legislation corrects some problems of our state employee and teacher pension systems by:

    - Requiring employees to contribute more towards their benefit;
    - Delaying the vesting period from five years to 10 years;
    - Increasing the retirement age to 65; and
    - Lowering the cost to taxpayers by lowering the benefit multiplier to pre-2001 levels.

    These changes apply to new employees only and will save the funds more than $25 billion over time.

    Also, co-sponsored legislation (H.B. 2559) that would create a Public Employee Pension Commission to prepare within six months a comprehensive report of recommendations for long-term systemic changes to pension systems to ensure fiscal solvency.

    Finally, the reform bill that we passed would re-amortize existing obligations over a 30-year period to avoid a potential spike in pension payments by school districts and the state.
    Isn't it nice to read that and see the talking points of "Self" Ciervo, Steve's Repug opponent for his House seat, disappearing one by one?

    And to contact Steve and/or help with the campaign, click here.

  • Also, Ollie North of Fix Noise tells us the following (here)…

    Washington, D.C. – In most administrations, leaks of classified information precipitate presidential ire. Nearly all such unauthorized disclosures are the consequence of disgruntled government employees deciding that a “leak” is the best way to stop some activity they have decided should not continue. To justify their unlawful actions they call themselves “secret whistleblowers.” The so-called “mainstream media” loves them. Most American presidents do not. That’s what makes the current commander in chief’s reactions to a whole series of “leaks” so unusual. Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to be concerned at all.
    For the record, this tells us the following…

    President Barack Obama spoke publicly about the WikiLeaks incident for the first time today, expressing concern about the disclosure of tens of thousands of documents, but at the same time, downplaying the content.

    “While I'm concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations, the fact is, these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan. Indeed, they point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review of our policy last fall,” Mr. Obama said.
    You could legitimately argue how much Obama is trying to downplay the damage of the Wikileaks information, as opposed to running all over the place with his hair on fire and making speeches about "terrist killers" and shoving "freedom" down the throats of people in poorer middle eastern countries as his predecessor was wont to do in response. But I really don't intend to get into that here.

    Instead, I'll merely point out that North has no room to criticize anybody about leaks. And as to the reason why, I have one name to offer in response – Barry Seal.

    This Wikipedia article tells us that Seal was an American aircraft pilot who flew flights for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Medellin Cartel, among others, in the 1908s, when North was a Lieutenant Colonel in the National Security Council of Ronald Reagan (Seal joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) in 1955, a group whose members at the time also included Lee Harvey Oswald and David Ferrie.[2] ).

    The article also tells us the following…

    In 1984, a Washington Times article stated DEA informant Barry Seal had successfully infiltrated the Medellin cartel's operations in Panama and Nicaragua.[12] The story was leaked by Oliver North to prove Nicaraguan Sandinistas' involvement in the drug trade and to build support for the Contra war effort. This leak and subsequent controversy eventually led to the Iran Contra Affair which unraveled a year later.[13]
    It gets much worse…

    On February 19, 1986, Barry Seal was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in front of a branch of the Salvation Army on Airline Hwy, which he was required to stay at as a condition of his plea bargain, making him an easy target for retaliation. As he sat in his parked Cadillac, a man carrying a Mac-10 machine gun approached him. He then emptied a magazine into his body, neck and head, killing Seal instantly, which brought the DEA's most important investigation to an end. Colombian assassins sent by the Medellin Cartel were apprehended while trying to leave Louisiana soon after Seal's murder.[18]

    In 1987, Luis Carlo Quintero-Cruz (the trigger man), Miguel Velez, and Bernardo Antonio Vasquez, were convicted of the slaying of Barry Seal and sentenced to life in prison.[19]
    So because of his own leak in an effort to gin up the Iran-Contra fiasco, North quite probably ended up getting Barry Seal killed.

    I would say that that easily trumps any feigned indignation over our president’s alleged apathy over the Wikileaks controversy.

  • And oh boy, are the Repugs crowing here over the ruling by a district court judge in Virginia that has allowed the bogus health care reform lawsuit to proceed, joined by 21 attorneys general (including, to his eternal shame, PA’s Tom Corbett).

    Even though (as noted here) Judge Henry E. Hudson "has financial ties to both the attorney general who is challenging the law and to a powerhouse conservative law firm whose clients include prominent Republican officials and critics of reform."

    Still, though, the Obama Administration issued the following statement (here)…

    Today’s decision merely said that the Virginia Attorney General has standing to challenge the lawsuit – which means that the court has jurisdiction to hear further arguments. The federal government believes this procedural ruling is in error and conflicts with long-standing and well-established legal precedents – the types of precedents that, in the words of Chief Justice Roberts, are designed to preserve the “judiciary’s proper role in our system of government” and to ensure that our courts do not become forums for political debates.

    Now that this preliminary stage has ended, the government fully expects to prevail on the merits. The Affordable Care Act falls well within Congress’s power to regulate under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause. As President Reagan’s Solicitor General Charles Fried recently wrote, “the health care law’s enemies have no ally in the Constitution.”
    Amen to that (and to punish Corbett by helping his Dem opponent in the PA gubernatorial race, click here).

  • Update 8/4/10: Gee, I wonder if Corbett knows about this? I hope not.

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