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PITTSBURGH’S PEACE AND JUSTICE NEWSPAPER Published by the Thomas Merton Center
VOL. 41, No. 3 APRIL, 2011
NEWPERSON AWARD GOES TO
Marcellus Protest Group Tuesday, April 26, 2011- East Liberty Presbyterian Church ~ Casey Capolito Not just another award show, the Thomas Merton Center’s New Person Awards is an annual event that recognizes local activists with a commitment to peace and justice in the Western Pennsylvania region. The theme for this year’s New Person Awards is Environmental Justice and Community Solidarity. In choosing this year’s theme, the Thomas Merton Center re-commits itself to the struggle for environmental justice, a healthy planet for all, real green jobs, and fair bargaining rights for all workers, farmers, landowners and others facing poisoned water, pollution, dangerous jobs and destroyed lives. And the winner is Marcellus Protest! Marcellus Protest is an alliance of western PA groups and individuals building a broad movement to stop the destruction of our environment and communities caused by Marcellus Shale gas drilling, as well as providing support to other directly affected communities.
The Newpersons Award highlights organizations and working groups on the front lines in the fight for a not just an ‘airy fairy’ vision of a just world. These awardees-activists, legislators, landowners and residents of affected communities serve as shining examples and guides to lead a whole new social movement, inspiring thousands to join them to face down the juggernaut of Marcellus Shale oil and gas drilling, something many of us are only just hearing about. Whether teachers in classrooms, students on their campuses, or ‘average’ citizens’ taking the fight to the streets, government bodies and sleeping on the job regulators, the diversity of this new movement draws from the broader community, each different representative playing a vital role in the fight of our lives.. This year’s awardees come from many different groups including Clean Water Action, Lincoln
Photo by Ken Weir
Marcellus Protest Groups show their resolve in Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Place Action, Marcellus Protest, Peters Twp. Marcellus Shale Awareness, Sierra Club, and Sierra Student Coalition, the Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens Group, Murrysville Marcellus and many others. On Wednesday, November 3rd, they held a demonstration to
coincide with the Unconventional Gas Conference that took place at the David Lawrence Convention Center. More than 500 people were in attendance. In addition to organizing the November 3rd protest, they organize rallies and other activities to support Continued on Page 4
Republican elected President of HealthCare4All PA ~ Chuck Pennacchio, www.healthcare4allpa.org On Sunday, January 23rd Health Care4All PA held their annual meeting in Pittsburgh. David Steil was elected President of this non-partisan, state-wide, grass roots organization dedicated to passage of a Single Payer Health Care System. Steil, a Republican, served in the PA House from the 31st District for sixteen years from 1992 until he retired in 2008. He is currently the owner and President of Micro Trap Corporation, a small Pennsylvania manufacturing company.
Steils' recent comment on his election, "My commitment to a Single Payer Health Care System has its roots in my 35+ years of experience at the senior management level in several manufacturing companies. We must solve the health care dilemma if our businesses are going to compete in the international market place. Now is the time and HC4PA is the vehicle to make it happen. I am gratified to have the opportunity to contribute to this effort."
TMC works to build a consciousness of values and to raise the moral questions involved in the issues of war, poverty, racism, classism, economic justice, oppression and environmental justice. TMC engages people of diverse philosophies and faiths who find common ground in the nonviolent struggle to bring about a more peaceful and just world. April, 2011 NEWPEOPLE - 1
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In this Issue Page 4-5, 15 State of Marcellus Page 6
Analysis of Gov. Corbett’s Budget
From W VA to Afghanistan
Troops abroad, torture at home
Social Action Calendar
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Demonstrators unite PATs plight with war on Wisconsin unions by Ben Rickles About one hundred activists, mostly mechanics and drivers for the Port Authority, gathered in the rain outside the County Courthouse downtown, before walking en masse down Forbes avenue to the Steelworkers building, all while expressing their angst for the proposed 15% cuts to the Port Authority transit service set to occur on March 27th. The Cuts, which translate to a 15% reduction to the operating capacity of Port Authority overall, will leave many in the group of Port Authority mechanics unemployed, come April. The Cuts are an effort by the port Authority to extend the last-minute $42 million ¨couch cushion¨ funding Ed Rendell diverted to the Transit Corporation in 2010. While the Port Authority initially vowed to use the money for exactly one year´s worth of spending, the Authority plans on extending the lifespan of that funding for an additional six months. The stretch requires the 15% cuts, which the board of the county council opposes. ¨They´ve got the money¨ claims Jonah McAllister-Erickson of Pittsburghers For Public Transit (www.Pittsburghersforpublictranit.org), who has been closely following the status of the Port Authority´s budget. He explained a ¨game of chicken¨ going on between the Port Authority and the County Council, which plans to retract $5 million from their previous $30 million transit stipend.
When asked who will be affected, demonstrators were quick to list people and neighborhoods for which the cuts will translate as loss of livelihood. “Everyone’s got a story,” says Ted Kielur, a Port Authority driver for 23 years. While his seniority within the Union will keep him employed, his son who is a mechanic for port Authority and, more recently, a father, will be one of the first to be laid off. Kielur sees this decision by the Port Authority to be part of a larger movement to break unions nation wide. “This is bigger than just us,” he says, “We’re the last, and if we’re done, that’s it.” At the United Steelworkers’ Building, marchers from the local 85 met with a larger group totaling nearly 150, including teachers, nurses, some unionized, some not, expressing their opinions about how the union members in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin face common attacks by Governors who favor large employers. This is just one of multiple events occurring nearly weekly as the Port Authority nears the deadline for the budget cut. Details from the meeting between the county council and the Port Authority the same day are not expected to create a difference in the Port Authority´s decision. Even so large turnouts were expected in rallies supporting the transit service in the days leading up to the cut. For more, and how to get involved visit www.pittsburghersforpublictransit.org Photos by Molly Rush
Top: Protesting on the streets. Middle: Rallying at Sixth Presbyterian Church, Squirrel Hill. Bottom: Jonathan Robison and friend.
SHOULD PUBLIC TRANSIT BE FREE? A strategy to save our transit? ~ Jonathan B. Robison The Port Authority (PAT) on Mar. 27 cut bus and trolley service 15%. The PAT Board of Directors meeting March 25 disregarded anguished, often angry, pleas from riders and workers. PAT justifies the 15% reduction in service saying that there is no possibility the Governor and the Legislature will come up with more money for public transit before the Governor’s budget passes, before June 30 of this year. The system-wide 15% cut is supposed to enable PAT to maintain its reduced service level until June 30, 2012. The Board approved an application from Lenzner Coach Lines to operate service on two discontinued routes, the 13J and 13K. PAT acknowledged this would be less service for a 50% higher cost to riders, with no provision for senior citizens and a mandated monthly fare. PAT – and local people – say that this is better than nothing. NOW WHAT? We need a strategy to save our transit. Even for those of us who think PAT is well run, and for anybody not ideologically committed to union busting, the 15% cut is a step in the
wrong direction. Arguably, it’s a necessary evil. We have a new deadline, June 30, 2012. But what do we do now? When the establishment is moving in the wrong direction, even if they have good intentions, maybe we should look at a move in the opposite direction – free public transit. Transportation is a basic human right. For many people that means public transportation. Cars pollute the environment and use increasingly scarce and expensive petroleum. Alternatives are limited. No everybody can walk to work. Hitch-hiking is illegal. Privatization of transit is a proven failure – that’s why PAT was created in the first place. The limitations of the Lenzner application approved Mar 25 by PAT, is only new proof. Public transit free to the user, or at a nominal price, would benefit more than transit users. It would reduce our reliance on the private automobile. This would improve air quality. It would boost energy independence, when oil resources are diminishing as well as dominated by dictators. It would encourage rational land use. Land is a limited resource, too precious to tie up with parking. It would
encourage rational development, not only our cities but our small towns, where people don’t need two tons of steel to pick up a loaf of bread. Our whole society would benefit. This is why public schools are free to our children. Private schools may be good alternatives for some people. But society benefits when everybody is encouraged to get an education. We actually used to rely on private companies for fire protection. It didn’t work, Providing public transportation free or at nominal cost to the users is not a strategy for our immediate necessity. It is a policy, a radical policy, maybe, a good policy, I think. But is not a strategy. Maybe it’s a step towards a strategy. Transit riders, transit workers, and concerned citizens have protested, picketed, and rallied against cuts in public transportation. Hundreds of people were at the rally and walk Mar. 19 in Squirrel Hill. Demonstrations and protests for economic justice and other worthy causes are always good. But we need a strategy. We must win the struggle for adequate funding for public transportation, even with an unfriendly governor and legislature. Why even discuss free public transportation under current circumstances? Because, in my
opinion, discussing the benefits to the public from public transportation will help us build support for a compromise on a transportation policy that is sensible, sustainable, and in the interest of everybody. We need a statewide strategy on transportation funding and some statewide leadership. SEPTA in Philadelphia and some 36 smaller public transit properties around the state are endangered. The problem is not just public transit. PennDOT lacks the funds to fix or even maintain our existing roads and bridges. We will need some establishment allies, including business interests, to win with a Republican governor and legislature. We need to work with the Port Authority and chief executive Steve Bland. I opposed the 15% service cut, as did the Allegheny County Transit Council, which I serve as president. But Bland is pro transit, unlike State Rep. Michael Terzai from the North Hills, who is against any public service – transportation, education, health care, etc. We need to discuss more specifics for a transportation funding strategy, including possible funding sources. April, 2011
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What it means to “Get Fracked?” ~ Ben Price Exploding gas wells, flaming faucets, lost land value, floating fish, radioactive road de-icers, roadside dumping of toxic waste… the evidence that our communities are being turned into resource colonies of gas drilling corporations is everywhere. People in the targeted municipalities are waking up to what’s in store for them, and they are beginning to understand that no one is going to help them: they are on their own. State law-makers continue clearing the way for frackers: in Pennsylvania there’s a new exemption from clean air requirements, no regulation or monitoring of frack waste water dumping in Commonwealth streams and rivers, and a complete exemption from local control via state preemptive law. In New York, citizens are holding their breath waiting for the moratorium to expire this summer and for the drilling to begin; they’ve been pushed out of the decision-making loop by a state preemption on local control over drilling corporations. Some are hoping to use zoning to shrink the percentage of their communities they’ll have to surrender. In Ohio, in Western Maryland and West Virginia it’s the same story –state and federal legislators, judges and
governors have become advocates for the privileges of state-chartered drilling corporations and against the rights of people. They’ve done all they can to silence and neutralize those communities that will be directly affected. As citizens scramble to educate themselves about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, the industry continues to lie to landowners as they slide leases under their pens. Corporate public relations flacks take money to misinform and deceive people in print and on camera. And “corporate neighbors” quietly approach victims of fracking’s too- common destruction of well water to offer “free” bottled water if the desperate landowners agree to sign non-disclosure agreements. Meanwhile, professional corporate prostitutes claim there is no documented evidence that fracking ever ruins wells. To say the game is stacked against regular citizens would be a major understatement. To attempt to treat only the symptoms of this problem, mentioned above, would be a mistake: we need to cure the disease, and first we need to understand its nature. Instead of communities being
immunized against industrial corporate destruction of our health, safety, environment and quality of life, corporations have been immunized against local control by state and federal lawmakers. Quiet collusion between “public servants” and privileged corporations yielded corporate exemptions from federal, state and local laws. Let’s be clear what it means to be exempt from obedience to laws that command compliance from everyone else: corporate managers hiding behind limited liability protections have placed their corporations above the law. This injustice is bad enough. Even worse, state governments have placed the privileges of corporations above the fundamental rights of people by issuing permits, against the consent of the governed, that legalize the harms. For people who still believe state officials serve the public there’s a predictable tendency to petition them for help. Our municipal officials are developing shoulder cramps from repeated shrugging at the pleas of constituents, as they sheepishly intone “we wish we could help, but our hands are tied.” And they aren’t lying. The handcuffs they’re wearing are
marked “property of the corporate state.” But if we leave it at that, then we truly have no remedy for injustice. This is what it is to “get fracked.” But it’s not inevitable unless we surrender by inaction. It’s not inevitable unless we assume there’s nothing we can do. It’s not inevitable unless we are willing to lose our fundamental rights without a fight. Instead, people in Pittsburgh, Licking Township and Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania and Mountain Lake Park Maryland and Wales New York and …soon others…are acting on the premise that their right to community self government, to water and a healthy environment, are higher law than state preemptions and federal exemptions for corporations licensed and chartered in the name of the people. In these towns, people have taken steps to enact local laws establishing a community Bill of Rights and prohibiting corporate fracking in order to protect those rights. Here are people who will not surrender their rights. They won’t voluntarily “get fracked.” Want to stand with them? Contact CELDF today!
Marcellus protest, cont. from Page 1 Pittsburgh's ban on shale gas drilling. The ordinance passed by a vote of 9-0 on November 16th, 2010. Currently Marcellus Protest is also engaged in the following activities: · Advocating for legislation to ban shale gas drilling throughout the region, · Creating & distributing publicity and educational materials (including art & photos), · Organizing video screenings, · Helping to project and amplify the voices of directly affected communities, · Pitching stories to the media, · Supporting and promoting other protests and actions as the need and opportunity arise, · Fundraising and dispersing funds for our activities. MarcellusProtest.org is an information clearing house about Marcellus Shale gas drilling and activism and related issues. Although this website's primary geographic focus is Western Pennsylvania, MarcellusProtest.org also includes content pertaining to the fives states in which the Marcellus Shale is located - as well as other Shale gas formations across the U.S. A new social movement is in the making, and it's going national. This year’s annual award event is different. In honor of the Marcellus Protest groups’ spectacular environmental defense work in a record short time, the annual New Persons activists award will be given out during an 4 - NEWPEOPLE
They Came With No Warning With little to no warning by government, industry, media, or regulators, hordes of trucks, drilling rigs, clear cutters of forests and stealers of clean air and water began showing up across the country. Gas and oil rigs, clear cut roads, large spills of toxic sludge and a never-ending convoy of giant tankers sprouted like some bizarre mechanical plague in state forests, suburban communities, farmlands and urban densely populated areas alike. Sometimes the rigs have appeared overnight or unannounced while the landowners were at work; the startled and horrified residents did not Photo by Ken Weir know they did not own the mineral rights and rightaways UNDER their now St. Patrick’s Day Parade virtually worthless property, farms and innovative teach-in, inspired by a renewed homes. There is little to nothing but Marcellus environmental movement that is sweeping across Shale activists standing between the victims of the land. As the region, country and world lurch both a sudden unannounced landgrab and from one economic and environmental disaster mineral theft. to the next, it’s time to stop the insanity, get Extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale ourselves informed and be ready to act. While formation requires both vertical & horizontal our thoughts, hearts and help go out to the drilling, combined with a process known as victims of recent tragedy in Haiti, Chile, New ‘hydraulic fracturing’ that uses far greater Zealand, Japan and elsewhere, we must amounts of water than traditional natural gas exremember them also with renewed energy to ploration. Drillers pump large amounts of water get informed and prepare for the future with mixed with sand & a cocktail of over 600 chemiour actions. cals, some already documented as carcinogens How about we ‘recycle’ one of the best tools of and neurotoxins. into the shale formation under both the Anti-Vietnam War and the early high pressure to fracture the shale around the Environmental Movement-the Teach-in! Bring well, which allows the natural gas to flow freely. your knowledge and experience, your banners Once the hydraulic fracturing process is completand signs and prepare to sit-in and stand up for ed, the used water, often referred to as “frac fluour right-to a clean and healthy environment and id,” must be treated to remove chemicals & minthe end of corporate ’persons’ taking control of erals.- PA Department of Environmental our lives. Protection
How can we use the upcoming elections to stop fracking? Joni Rabinowitz We have local elections coming up in November, and on May 17 there's a primary election, where each party will chose its candidates for the respective offices. If you want to vote in the primary in Pennsylvania, you must be registered in a party.
county land and also in the county as a whole. And regardless of who wins the Democratic primary in April, there will be a serious race in November for this office.
The current county executive - Dan Onoratowants to spend his last months in office getting a Several local races in Allegheny County are lease on airport land for a Marcellus Shale well. key to the overall campaign to affect the race by The current county controller, one of the huge corporations to extract natural gas from the contestants for this seat, Mark Patrick Flaherty, Marcellus shale thru intensive high- volume, high says he's not in any rush and we have plenty of pressure, horizontal drilling and fracking . time to figure out how to do it right. Rich Fitzgerald, the other Democratic candidate, We should pay attention to at least at least two supports drilling but says it should be done in county council seats, county executive and 4 a safe, responsible manner which protects the Pittsburgh city council seats, as well as environment and is minimally invasive to our commission seats in some townships and communities. municipalities. The township officials, often unpaid, make important decisions, like zoning Both of these candidates, as well as any regulations, which can make it very difficult Republican candidates, need to be pushed for drillers to operate. towards a moratorium approach. So, electoral activity is one part of a broad strategy to make a difference in the world. Election time provides a great opportunity to discuss issues with many people we might not talk to otherwise…. and to influence the election. It's one of many platforms in the struggle. The most important office up for election in Allegheny County is the county executive. Whoever is elected will lead the county in our approach to Marcellus shale drilling, both on
At least one anti-Marcellus candidate-- in South Fayette -- is making plans to run in the General Election for Allegheny County council against Vince Gastgeb, District 5. Several anti-Marcellus candidates are also running for the township commissioner, there. Steve Hvozdovich is running in the primary for County Council District 6. Other such candidates are probably running across the county. For Pittsburgh city council, several of the
Marcellus Protester seeks Governor Corbett
incumbents-- Darlene Harris, Ricky Burgess, Patrick Dowd and Bruce Kraus-- have opponents who were endorsed by the Democratic Party. Since the vote for the citywide ban was unanimous, losing any of these incumbents might be a sign that somebody wants to repeal that ban. In sum, for those who consider electoral activity a waste of time, it seems to me self-defeating to fight to pass a city-wide ban -- which we did -- or a countywide or statewide moratorium, and not try to have the best possible people in those offices. Not only should we lobby for these policies, we should try to get people elected who will work with us on these policies. Isn't that the whole point?
Wilma Subra at Carlow College ~ Ken Lewis Wilma Subra, world renowned environmentalist, chemist, and winner of the MacArthur Fellowship ‘Genius Award’ spoke at Carlow University, before a packed auditorium of students, activists, and concerned citizens. The event was sponsored by University’s Communications and Community Relations Department Ms. Subra held the audience spellbound as she recounted the horrific stories of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and, closer to home, Marcellus Shale drilling. As Ms. Subra described severe health risks due to environmental contamination, backing her statements with factual data, a common story emerged. In both Pennsylvania and Louisiana, questionable information is being released to the public by industry and governmental agencies. In Pennsylvania, an explosion and fire filled the night air just outside of Avella on the evening of Feb 23. Thirteen vessels holding wastewater from fracking the Marcellus Shale burned for over five hours. The vessels consisted of a toxic brew of chemicals, and Ms. Subra confirmed the probability that this wastewater was contaminated by radiation in the form of Radium-226. This fire spewed toxic vapors skyward as fifty foot flames turned
the horizon orange. Chesapeake Energy, the operator of the site, called this a, “Flash fire,” seemingly to make it sound smaller than it actually was. And both Chesapeake and PA’s Department of Environmental Protection stated that there wasn’t any danger to the environment. They made that statement on Wednesday night, yet reported on Friday that tests were done on Thursday. It isn’t known the depth of the air quality tests performed. Ms. Subra stated that there would have been an immediate danger to anyone in close proximity to the fire. In Louisiana, miscarriages are on the rise, and people continue to fall ill. Ms. Subra’s organization conducts blood tests on those individuals and has identified the same toxic chemicals that are found in seafood from the Gulf. The FDA’s stance is that all is well with the seafood. They conduct a ‘Sniff’ test to determine the safety of the sea life destined for your table. If it doesn’t have an odor, it is deemed okay, and no further testing is done. Only the fish with an odor are tested; however, Ms. Subra states that isn’t enough. “The seafood we have tested do not exhibit an odor and they look fine. But when they are tested, chemicals are found. Furthermore,
the FDA says that a small percentage of chemicals in the seafood is acceptable. But this isn’t right. There shouldn’t be any chemicals in the seafood.” Ms. Subra emphasized the need for proper legislation and regulation. Without them, the industry will have their way. Before setting up shop in PA, the energy industry sent in a horde of lobbyists to influence politicians at the state level, and have legislation written to suit their needs. The same was done on the federal level a decade ago. Now the public has an uphill battle to gain a level playing field. In the questions and answers that followed the lecture, a young girl clutched her baby doll and asked, “What can we do to help?” Ms. Subra embraced the child with kind wisdom. “Tell your classmates and teachers what you heard here. Educate them.” Loretta Weir, of Marcellus Protest, received an ovation from the crowd for her stirring appeal to become involved. She said that she agrees with Matt Pitzarella’s original statement in the Wall Street Journal, “We have to stop blaming documentaries and start looking in the mirror.”
reported that 30 minutes later, that quote disappeared online??? and was replaced by a statement from Tom Price of Chesapeake Energy saying, “We need to respond objectively and accurately.” With all of the deceitful spin and censorship from state agencies and industry, the public needs to be diligent by insisting that the upcoming testing of our waters for radiation is done in an objective and accurate manner, and not manipulated through the influence of the energy industry. Ms. Weir closed by saying that “You need to get off of your butt and do something. Get away from the TV and understand what you’re up against by educating yourself.” Now might be the perfect time. The public needs accurate testing to be done to ascertain the level of radiation in the water. Contact your state representative and senator and demand fair testing be done. Do it now!
Pitzarella said that in response to the criticism the energy industry leveled against ‘Gasland’. It is April, 2011
NEWPEOPLE - 5
G-GOOBERS, PRIVIES & CORPORATEERS ~ Molly Rush They’re everywhere! G-GOOBers (Get Government Off Our Backs), PRIVIES (def. privy: 1. in on secrets 2. an outhouse 3. short for privatizationeers), and CORPORATEERS (related to Citizens United against the people.) The U.S. and Pennsylvania economies and governments are experiencing something akin to a huge multi-train collision. Economic inequality, unfair taxation, budget cuts, and corporate control are putting our lives and the future of our children at risk. The rise of the G-GOOBERS, PRIVIES and the CORPORATEERS, who control not only public policies but, all too often, our own perceptions, cripples our ability to build an economy that serves the vast majority of our people. It’s urgent that we understand how these issues intersect if we are to act together to rediscover the meaning of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” PENNSYLVANIA Gov. Tom Corbett carried a few bags of tricks into his new office, ones he never mentioned during the campaign. He did say he opposed a tax on Marcellus Shale drilling, but… One of the first things he did was give unprecedented new powers to his new Secretary of Community and Economic Development, C. Alan Walker, a former coal executive, “to expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.” Walker can, for example, override Environmental Protection and other agencies if he thinks they’ re hindering drilling expansion. Also represented on Gov. Corbett’s transition team:
· Bank executives and lobbyists on the Banking Committee
· Large insurers, including Highmark Inc., on the Insurance Committee
· Power and water utilities, and the coal and gas industry, on the Energy and Environment Committee
· Vahan Gureghian, Corbett’s
largest campaign contributor ($250,000), who owns a billboard company and runs the state’s largest charter school, chaired the Transportation Committee and served on Education
· Contributor Buchanan Ingersoll
and Rooney ($134,000), whose clients – from fields as diverse as energy, health, telecommunications, transportation, biotechnology, banking and insurance – are affected by state regulators, had eleven of their lobbyists serve.
· David Simon, President of the Jefferson Health System ($20,000), was co-chair of the Insurance and Welfare 6 - NEWPEOPLE
Committees, and a member of the Health and Aging Committees.
instead of the normal depreciation over several years.
The Governor promised big budget cuts, but did you hear him say he would:
No tax on Marcellus shale drilling. Cut the corporate tax rate. No new taxes – even on the rich and the corporations. They won’t feel the pain, but we will. School districts and municipalities may well have to raise taxes or lay off teachers, firefighters, and cut necessary services to make up for some of the drastic cuts.
· End Adult Basic healthcare for 41,000 jobless (and 500,000 who are on the waiting list)?
· Slash support for education,
including early childhood ($11.2 billion), K-12, community colleges (10%), universities ($5.5 billion or 54%), Pell Grants ($176 million or 313,000 students), and New Directions – a job training/ support program (50%)?
· Cut Community Economic Development programs by 31.7% and Cash Assistance by 10%?
I knew he joined other Attorney Generals in a suit to repeal the so-called Obamacare legislation. But did I miss something? Did he also propose to end all funding for the state’s office of Health Care Reform as well as regional cancer institutes, biotech and emergency care research, poison control, newborn hearing screenings, medical assistance programs for obstetrics/neo-natal and critical care, and for these programs, organ donations, rural cancer centers, Diabetes, Arthritis, Lupus, Epilepsy, Tourette Syndrome? REGRESSIVE TAXES Pennsylvania is of the “Terrible Ten” according to the Institute on Tax and Economic Policy (www.ITEP.org). If you earned $19,000 in 2007 you paid 11.2% of your income in state and local taxes, or over $2000. If you are in the top 1% with income over $428,000 – the average is $1,369,600 – you paid just 3.9%. As income up goes up the rate goes down, but even if you earn $89,000 a year you paid 8.9%. Currently seven out of every ten companies incorporated in Pennsylvania pay ZERO taxes. The Delaware loophole allows a corporation to create a subsidiary in a tax haven state – often just a post office box. In Delaware a modest, one-story building is home to 14,000 of these phony subsidiaries. Closing tax loopholes could raise $500 million or more in annual revenue. Half of the states have combined reporting, requiring parent companies and all subsidiaries to file as a single unified company. Why not PA? (source: PA Budget & Policy Center [www.pennbpc.org]). And, of course, corporations and the rich have access to tax accountants and law firms to ensure they keep their taxes low. For years Ernst & Young accounting firm have worked with Wal-Mart to use exotic accounting tricks to cut their tax bills. Pennsylvania could also save $833 million this year by decoupling from the new federal provision that allows businesses to immediately deduct investments in machinery and equipment that were made between Sept. 8, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2011
U.S. CONGRESS –H.R. 1 42 billion dollars: That’s what the wealthiest Americans got in the compromise deal that extended the Bush tax cuts for one year. 44 billion dollars: That’s the total of the budget cuts in the House bill that will have a devastating effect on low income families. Affected programs: Early childhood ($11.2 billion), Low –income housing ($8.9 billion), WIC ($7.6 billion), Teacher training and after school ($4.6 billion), LIHEAP ($2.5 billion), Community Health Centers ($2.5 billion), Homeless Assistance ($2 billion), Legal Services for the poor ($420 million), and Title X Family Planning ($317 million). Meanwhile, a generous Congress would end the estate tax on millionaires ($11.5 billion), allow mortgage interest on vacation homes to be deducted ($8.9 billion), remove the limit on itemized deductions for high- income taxpayers ($5.2 billion), give tax breaks for offshore operations of U.S. financial companies ($4.1 billion), provide a tax break on drilling and oil well costs ($2.5 billion), allow tax loopholes for managers of hedge funds and private equity funds ($2.5 billion), and on and on. INEQUALITY Michael Moore pointed out in Wisconsin that “WE’RE NOT BROKE!” The idea that because the country is bankrupt and cannot sustain public programs is the excuse that is given for attacks on workers, unions, women and children, the ill and disabled, the unemployed and underemployed, students, and seniors. What we are as a society is grotesquely unequal economically. The income gap has tripled over the past 30 years. The richest 400 Americans’ income increased an average of $139 million in 2007 alone. They jointly own $1.5 trillion in assets. Half of Americans, the bottom 150+ million people, jointly own $1.6 trillion. The average worker’s income has stagnated since the late 1970s. This is no accident. It is the result of policies calculated to outsource jobs and corporate investments to
low-wage countries, strangle unions, lower wages, lift profits, cut taxes on corporations and the rich, and privatize government and military programs to increase profits. It worked. In the past twenty years the effective tax rate on the rich was cut in half. The capital gains tax on investments is down to 15%, thanks to another Bush tax cut. That is less than half the top rate on wages and salaries. SOLUTIONS There are real solutions to this disaster that has been created as a result of corporate monopolies and their increasing power over our political system. These changes did not come about overnight. Perhaps that is why, because they happened incrementally and usually behind closed doors, they snuck up on many of us. An increasingly captive media has failed utterly to tell the true story of where we are and why. Nonetheless there are signs that the mood of the country is changing. What happened in Egypt shows the power of our new media and information systems when put to use in informing, galvanizing public opinion, and inspiring joint action. Many more people are on Facebook than watch Fox News. We are the majority. Poll after poll, including the Wall St. Journal/NBC poll, indicates public support on many of these issues. Less than 25% of the public supports cuts in Social Security or Medicare. 62% support the right of public employees to bargain collectively while 77% say they should have the same rights as private sector workers. In other polls, 69% support stricter regulation of the banking industry and single payer health care gets 60-65% support in a number of major polls. The message of Wisconsin, that people can fight back, is spreading. Actions are happening all over the state and the U.S. The Marcellus Shale issue has activated thousands of ordinary people in PA. Hundreds showed up for the County Council hearing. What it will take is for more groups to work together on common goals around economic as each continues to fight for its key issues. We need a synergy that can come with shared actions and coalition building on a larger scale. I believe the time is ripe for just that. Onward!
ARE WE ALL ANIMALS? De-humanizing our kids ~ Mark Ozark, Black & White Reunion member At a recent Pittsburgh City Council Public Hearing on police accountability, a speaker veered off on a common tangent to denounce the violent crime in his community. He passionately and repeatedly called young violent criminals "animals." I didn't like hearing that, but I couldn't say exactly why. Some clichés and other phrases were a little help. "It takes one to know one.” "If I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don't know." "Man makes himself." Most of those were too nasty, though. In the end the most useful was a quote from Carter Woodson, that I first read in an article by Calvin Clinton in the November, 2009 NEW PEOPLE. "If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don't have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told, and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don't have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own, and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one." Then I understood my discomfort. Ironically, in denouncing crime, the speaker at the meeting did just what Woodson warned against. He took the
position that certain people are an inferior breed, and thereby supplied a double edged excuse for misbehavior. Calling lawbreakers "animals" falsely exalts ourselves. Criminals are not animals, no more than we are. They are of us. They are those of us who have chosen crime. In part, they are products of the conditions into which they are born, as are all of us. Mightn't more of us than want to admit it take the excuse to choose the back door? Like being labeled an "animal" by one's neighbors, being in a group that feels unjustly brutalized by police is another invitation to try Carter Woodson's back door. In areas of weak civil authority, where mere might is the only right, blood feuds and revenge or retribution based systems of "justice" and "street justice" prevail. We do need a fair and civilized criminal justice alternative to deal with madness, evil, and personal motives for crimes, and to define and uphold civil society. But we also define ourselves by the extent to which we allow systemic incentives such as poverty, tax cheapskating, service cuts, discrimination, and racism to persist, and slander their victims because of their reactions. We further define ourselves by how we see and treat the criminal
part of us. Right or wrong in any individual case, overall it is at least more productive to treat all of us as if we are not only amenable to, but also deserving of correction. That would include not only violent drug gang members, but also those Pittsburgh Police officers Ewing, Sisak, and Saldutte, the men who beat young Jordan Miles in January, 2010. Given some of the commendations and praise they have received, one suspects that they may be products of a law enforcement culture that, sadly, has convinced them that they are no more than big strong contenders in a conflict of "animals," and that they themselves belong with their adversaries at Carter Woodson's violent back door. Disciplined and rehabilitated, though, those men might one day properly be reassigned to some types of duties in a more accountable, trusted, and respected law enforcement establishment. It is worth the effort to advocate that they be reformed, along with our criminal justice and economic systems, and those of us who portray criminals as "animals," failing to heed Carter Woodson's warning.
THE GREYHOUND DIARIES FROM COLUMBUS, OHIO TO ROCK CREEK ~ Vincent Scotti Eirene, March, 2011 I WAS MESMERIZED BY THE UPRISING IN WISCONSIN... I was making arrangements to go where the action was when I got a message from Sue in Kent, Ohio: "Save gas and come to Ohio. It's the new Wisconsin!" Apparently the Buckeye State was seeing the same type of attack on unions and collective bargaining as proposed by Wisconsin's charming Governor. So I called some friends, looked up the worker's uprising schedule on the Internet, and found that Jesse Jackson would be speaking the day after a huge rally at the state capital's rotunda. Then I packed my tooth brush and a change of boxer shorts and asked a friend to drop me off at Pittsburgh's new Greyhound station. w w w Collective bargaining defined Is a process of negotiations between employers and the representatives of a unit of employees aimed at reaching agreements which regulate working conditions. Collective agreements usually set out wage scales, working hours, training, health and safety, overtime, grievance mechanisms and rights to participate in workplace or company affairs. From Wikipedia: Collective bargaining was first won and employed in the state of Wisconsin. Sometimes I feel like some grand puppeteer is systematically dismantling Roosevelt's New Deal. Ohio SB 5: The Anti-Collective Bargaining Bill Explained * It would limit collective bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters. The bill permits union negotiations for wages, hours and working conditions, but still bans collective bargaining for benefits. It also eliminates binding arbitration and prohibits public employees from going on strike. *Thousands could be affected. Northern Ohio's The Morning Journal reports that 350,000 workers would be impacted by SB 5's * It cuts pay increases for public workers and
requires them to pay more for their health insurance. It also limits sick leave and vacation time. *opponents could launch a petition drive to put a repeal measure on November ballots. If enough valid petition signatures are gathered, the bill would not take effect unless voters uphold it. From AOL news w w w COLUMBUS: JESSE JACKSON MAKES THE SCENE After a good night of rest, at the home of my old friend and partner in crime, Frank -- and after consuming a vegan farmer's breakfast -- we headed out to the local steel worker's building. I insisted we get there ridiculously early… and my hunch was right! These enormous old union men directed us to a basement hall that was standing room only, with the overflow directed to the simulcast upstairs. We had a front row seat to a massive, historical uprising. The day before, 5,000 people had showed up to rally against the governor's new policies blaming organized working people for all the financial woes of the world. The world, in return, was shocked, and in less than a week 20,000 people made it back to the rotunda. What a feat for a cow town! In these times, I reflected as we waited for things to begin, activists are obsessed with smashing any type of leader-based movement and heroes are deemed a pathos. But I am from a small, rusting steel town, where we are not granted such luxurious snobbery. Speaker after speaker spoke. Some good -- and many great. But I have never have had much patience for the warm up bands! So I held in there until, finally, Jesse entered the room. As he spoke, I became aware of my tears. All I could think of was his pointing from the balcony forty-three years ago, pointing to the magic bullet that killed Martin Luther King. The audience was unusually African American for a progressive gathering, including three
black Ohio state senators. The entire gathering was being broadcast live over the Internet and archived for the world to watch at any given time or place: URL link to Jesse video / http:// www.ustream.tv/recorded/12889464 We could not have done THAT in he early 1970s when, as an Ohio State University student we organized against the war in Vietnam and for the United Farm Workers who provided us with lettuce and grapes and all that is from the fields of America. They put food on our table and were rewarded with slave wages, pesticide poisoning, and a Mary and Joseph-style house. All we had were postage stamps, three TV stations, and big titanium black phones. Still, without Twitter and today's electronic gadgets, we slowed down history's mightiest army and ended the war in April, 1975. w w w ONWARD TO BECKLEY WV: EVERYONE MUST EXIT THE BUS AS IT IS BEING SERVICED No phone service, no food, no heat, welcome to Charleston, WV., the capitol of West Virginia. As I looked around at the sea of humanity I was stuck by their glamour. Finally we all re-boarded and the dirty dog screamed thru the icy rain. I fell asleep once more and magically woke up in Beckley. Upon stepping off the bus I was told that the bus station had closed. Immediately I spotted mike and Charles peering out a well employed Suzuki. Thru the windy roads we went till we ended up at the ford addition home of "climate ground zero", four rehabbed cottages that once housed coal miners years ago. After a hardy vegan breakfast we raced off to a meeting, we were late for. We walked into the concrete block building, barely heated. There sat the heavy hitters of the mountain top removal resistance, most retired coal
miners. The wireless phone sat in the middle of the table, like the squawking computer on Jeopardy. NBC had come to town, they would soon be racing up and down the mountains, renting airplanes and interviewing those absurd enough to think this was not a civilized way to mine coal. Finally plans were being made to expose the unimaginable and the fact the EPA has not evened fined those continuing mountain mining in spite of their permit being pulled. The producer from NBC, puzzled, asked who I was.... I gave her a big Pittsburgh smile and said me?! Well, I am the ice cream man. YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR FINAL DESTINATION THANK YOU FOR FLYING GREYHOUND AIRLINES BACK HOME: WISCONSIN COMES TO PA. Pennsylvania releases budget plan • In his first budget as Pennsylvania governor, Tom Corbett called for a $1 billion cut in state spending for education and the elimination of hundreds of state jobs. The Republican also warned unions that represent 75,000 state employees he will be seeking concessions in salaries and benefits. MARCH 8TH, 2001 "For the custom of tormenting and killing of Beasts will, by degrees, harden their Minds even towards Men; and they who delight in the suffering and destruction of inferiour Creatures, will not be apt to be very compassionate or benigne to those of their own kind." John Locke (1632-1704) from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education" April, 2011
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