Pennsylvania Observer

A blog for progressive people in Pennsylvania. Greens, Democrats and others who want to comment on current news items in the Keystone State.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Million Man March Redux

Million Man March Redux. It doesn't seem possible, but the 10th anniversary of the Million man March is c oming up next October. Largely ignored by white Americans, it was probably the most important political event for African-Americans in the 1990's. Some of the organizations involved in the first MMM are hoping to replicate its impact by holding an even larger event next October 16. Details are still sketchy, but some are calling for the largest mass mobilization in US history involving poor whites, Asians and Latinos. Others want the focus to stay on African-American empowerment. In any case, it promises to be a major political event with huge ramifications for progressives.Local organizing in Central Pennsylvania is being coordinated by Don Blackman ( and Minister Angelo Muhammad ( They have already had the first local organizing meeting for MMM-II. The second meeting of Susquehanna Valley Local Organizing Committee (SVLOC) will be held on Saturday, January 8 at noon at the Comfort Inn, 525 South Front Street in Harrisburg. Contact Don Blackman for information about other Pennsylvania organizing.

Working Families Party to Organize in PA

Working Families Party to Organize in Pennsylvania. Organizers of the Working Families Party in New York state are planning a foray into Pennsylvania politics. The party recently led a successful campaign to raise New York’s minimum wage by employing electoral and community-based pressure. The WFP believes that they can mobilize labor unions, community organizations and progressive individuals to create a powerful political force that will challenge the rightward trend of the Democratic Party. The WFP employs “fusion” politics in New York, which is currently illegal in most electoral contests in PA. It will be interesting to see how they develop in PA without the ability to cross-register candidates for major offices. To subscribe to their PA listserv, send an email to:
Grinch of the Year Nominees. We got a lot of interesting nominations, but only 7 got more than one mention. We decided to list only those on the ballot. The Observer knows the Greens will feel we’re discriminating against minority views by limiting the choices. We also know many Democrats will feel that having any more than two choices is too confusing and too democratic. And we know that we should be conducting this poll using Instant Runoff Voting. But let’s lighten up a little. This is just a fun, very unscientific poll. (Seriously, if anyone knows of a free online system for conducting polls with IRV, drop us a line.)
So here are your choices (in alphabetical order):

Lois Murphy and the Democratic Leadership. For trying to subvert democracy by getting Green Dorothy Schieber and Reform Party Presidential nominee Ralph Nader off the ballot.

Ed Rendell. PA's chief corporate booster. Raising taxes on workers, cutting benefits for the poor, promoting corporate welfare.

Republican Leadership of the General Assembly. They don't like Ed Rendell, so they pettily dismissed any idea that came out of the corner office simply to spite the Guv. Pretty childish and ultimately destructive to the future of the Commonwealth.

Rick Santorum. Need we say more?

Mark Scott is the Republican Berks County Commissioner who has proposed an Almost-Final Solution to his idea of the county's biggest problem--too many poor and dark-skinned people. His solution is to tear down low-income housing and stop providing services that attract "those people" to Berks County.

Arlen Specter. For losing his spine. He gave in to the far right to get the Judiciary Committee chair. Can you say Chief Justice Scalia?

Wal-Mart. Driving local retailers out of business, forcing US manufacturers to purchase only from slave-wage Chinese companies, busting unions...
To vote, go to:
Results will be published next week.

The result from our “Did the Democrats try to steal democracy?” poll was:
Yes. It was outrageous. 23 38.33%
No. Schieber didn't have the required signatures. 15 25.00%
Curses on the Ds and Gs alike. If the Greens and Democrats don't get along, the Republicans will have a permanent majority. 22 36.67%

Eddie on the Web

Eddie on the Web. A new listserv popped up on the web to "encourage and support the candidacy of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell for President of the United States in 2008." It may have a way to go, though. So far there is only one subscriber to the list. If you'd like to double the size of the Rendell for President campaing, send an email to:
To be fair, there is also a listserv to dump Rendell in 2006. It has been around since the summer. It has managed to attract 7 subscribers so far. Here's the definition of that group:
"I am a Democrat (a fairly progressive Democrat mind you) and a candidate for State Representative who has grown disillusioned with the direction Ed Rendell has taken us in less than 2 years. This group is dedicated to the dumping of our "esteemed" Governor Ed Rendell in 2006.Democrats, Republicans, and Independents can use this forum to discuss Pennsylvania politics and in particular, the failed policies of the Rendell adminsitration."The anonymous host suggests Bob Casey, Rep. Jennifer Mann, Sen. Arlen Specter, State Sen. Jane Earll and Bill Cosby as possible alternatives. To join this list, send an email to:

Democrats vs. Greens, Part 3

Democrats vs. Greens, Part 3 (and final exchange). The heat generated by this exchange between the Greens and progressive Democrats is importnant, but the Observer is not a discussion list. This is the final piece we’ll publish on this, with one Democrat and one Green opinion:

I don't want to appear to be continuing this fight, but I would like to clear the record. Most of waht happened during Lois Murphy's legal challenge of Dorothy Schieber is so complicated that it is difficult to explain in a single letter. The Deomcrats fought us [the Greens] on about 20 different levels hoping we would go away. Even with all of their efforts, Dorothy missed getting on the ballot by only 8 signatures.
Murphy and the Democrats employed "win at all costs strategy" that backfired. Any one that thinks winning at all costs is the only way to win is mistaken. We tried to work with the Democrats to defeat Gerhlach. We got the door slammed in our face at every turn. We contacted every level of leadership in the Democratic party to work with them to defeat Gerhlach all to no avail. Then they pull a George W Bush on us, purging voter records mainly Latino, and spend $50,000 dollars to stop democracy. This was total BS. If you liked GW's tactics in Florida and Ohio then you probably loved Murphy's tactics even more. If this is the way elections are won now we are all in trouble.
Even the corporate media realized something was fishy in the way the Democrats were operating in trying to limit voters' choices. We got great new coverage on this across the state because almost all of the reporters looked at the information and saw we were right.
If anyone wants to talk to me about this please call 610-374-2897 so you can hear the real story. Come with a open mind because you will not believe what you are going to hear. I will also keep a open mind. What's done is done, but trust me that no one in the Green Party wanted it to be this way. But when a friend is being attacked, such as Dorothy who spend hundreds of hours collecting thousands of signatures, I willfight back. That's exactly what the Green Party did in response to the attacks by the Democratic Party. I am glad we stood for the principle that democracy is for everyone, not just millionaire campaigns.
We did not choose this fight. We pleaded with Democratic leaders for weeks to not start it. But I am proud the Greens went down swinging.
Jennaro Pullano, Reading, Chair, PA Green Party
My e-mail to the PA observer was slightly longer than some they "published." It was also quite evenhanded. Without asking, they edited it--making it entirely partisan (and carelessly dismissive of the Greens).
For future reference, please do not take anything printed in PA-observer as necessarily "true to the spirit or intent of the contributor." Muck-raking is one thing, distortion quite another. (And yes, I'd have edited my comments further, if asked.)
as quoted:
"Lois Murphy was not only more progressive than other PA democrats, she was progressive enough to meet every qualification in some state Green party platforms...[The Greens] joined in re-electing an anti- gay, anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-environment, anti-drug-law- reform, anti-labor, anti-fair wage Bush-backing incumbent. Way to go, Greens."
original message:"How sad. Lois Murphy was not only more progressive than other PA democrats, she was progressive enough to meet every qualification in some state Green party platforms. Murphy, was a late entrant in the race. With no loss of face, Greens could have shifted support to her. There's no ideological problem there; progressives generally support the rights of candidates to cross-file. By throwing support behind Murphy, on the issues, they could in turn have taken credit for her victory--a much stronger boast. Instead, the local Greens focused on the big-G Green party rather than on green issues. (Ironically, this is the same thing we all love to hate about big-DDemocrats.) They joined in re-electing an anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-environment, anti-drug-law-reform, anti-labor, anti-fair wage Bush-backing incumbent. Way to go, Greens. At the same time, given that progressive D's make a lot of noise about increased ballot access, drawing a bead on the Greens (as opposed to that Republican stooge, Nader) is not a defensible move for any progressive candidate. As the R's have shown, if you want to mess with the system, you can legitimately support someone on your opponent's flank, instead of shooting your own fringe. Or, better yet, save the cash, and sink your resources into your own campaign, where it belongs."
Joy Sabl, Pittsburgh

Monday, December 20, 2004

Who was the biggest Grinch of 2004?

Who was the biggest Grinch of 2004 in Pennsylvania? There are so any to choose from. Of course there are the perennial favorites, such as Little Ricky Santorum, or any Member of the GOP Congressional Caucus. But there are some dark horses as well. How about Berks County Commissioner Mark Scott, who claims that the poor are the reason for the county’s budget problems? His solution—tear down low income housing to force those people (Latinos mostly) to move somewhere else. There’s the leadership of both Chambers of the General Assembly, the Governor, Tom Ridge…

Let us know who your choices are. We’ll pick the top ten and post them in next week’s Observer. Then you’ll have a week to pick the winner. We’ll let you know in the January 2 issue. (It’s still Christmastime. Orthodox Christmas is January 5). Send us your picks and a brief reason for why we should choose them.

Democrats vs. Greens, Part 2

Democrats vs. Greens, Part 2. Last week’s article on the Green Party claim to have cost Lois Murphy the election in the Sixth Congressional District race was by far the Observer’s most controversial in our brief history. We received nearly 50 letters; some angry at the Greens, some at the Democrats, and a few expressing anger at us for reporting the story. Three people quit our mailing list, but we got over 200 new subscriptions in the intervening week. Nothing like controversy to stimulate readership, eh? Here’s a brief, redacted sampling of the letters we got:

"Thanks to the Greens we are one vote further from being able to protect the environment."
Charles Moleski, Philadelphia

"Lois Murphy was not only more progressive than other PA democrats, she was progressive enough to meet every qualification in some state Green party platforms...[The Greens] joined in re-electing an anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-environment, anti-drug-law-reform, anti-labor, anti-fair wage Bush-backing incumbent. Way to go, Greens."
Joy Sabl

"I believe that the contentious, problematic activity of third parties is absolutely crucial for driving fundamental electoral reforms like IRV and Proportional Representation. Nothing says "my democracy is broken" like the spoiler effect, and if things ain't broke, people generally aren't inclined to fix them. Personally I consider it a crime against democracy to work to keep anybody off the ballot. Frivolous attempts to do so should frankly be illegal, IMHO. If I ran the zoo, Murphy would be in jail, her name notwithstanding ;-)"
Kevin Murphy

"There were OVER 2000 invalid signatures! Shame on you Green Party, to submit such a document to the PA Dept. of State. All you served was your own discredit. While it's unfortunate that the issue was raised causing resources from both Parties to be spent, it nevertheless was raised and apparently for good reasons. This says something in and of itself. Green candidacy's need to be valid and the Green Party has an obligation to make sure it's petitions meet that simple requirement. If Green leadership is threatening to be a "spoiler" because it cannot field valid candidates, then so be it. Such irresponsible behavior will creat it's own downfall. However, it makes one wonder, if you can't do something so simple as to submit a legitimate petition, who is really trying to steal democracy?"
Tom Herman

"Curses...a curse on both your houses!"
R.J. Goetschkes

"Much agreement on "can't we just get along sentiment." For 4+ years Dems have decried Greens for playing spoiler in 2000 (perhaps rightfully) and Greens bashing Democrats for losing touch with our values (perhaps rightfully). But when push comes to shove, at least on the whole, we both want change. We want a peaceful and just America for ourselves and for generations to come, and I wonder how effective we will be if take pride in knocking each other down."
Ben Donahower

"...and shame on you for fanning the flames that have kept our country on the path to fascism. When the stakes are as high as they have been, we can't f@#& around with parties that have not got a chance in hell when the alternative is the Republican party."

"You didn't add a selection for: The Greens should be ashamed of how they help the Fascists. They should terminate their party and join the rest of us who are fighting Fascism. You guys really suck for making a Dem lose. I sent another E-mail to take me off your list."

"Many of the signatures were declared invalid because they lacked the middle initial of the signer. Nowhere in the instructions is that listed as a requirement. Also, signatures for getting other candidates on the ballot were not struck off because of that, purely because the Democrats did not decide to challenge on whatever grounds they could come up with. The Democrats, for example, while challenging Scheiber and others for signatures that were borderline, did not challenge such allies of theirs as George Bush for filing well past deadlines in states like Delaware or Florida."
Mike (Philadelphia)

"I urge all of you to unsubscribe from this rag, and refuse to support or vote for Green candidates from now on. I urge all Pennsylvanians of conscience to do so."
John P. Morgan

"As the misguided/misinformed Pullano sees it, that made Murphy guilty of trying to "sabotage democracy" and "steal democracy" and that she "deserved to lose." Apparantly, following the election laws is quite a crime to the Green Party! Murphy was a great candidate. She was endorsed by the Sierra Club, NOW, and many other progressive groups. Maybe the Greens could learn that people like Bush & Gerlach are the enemy - not us liberals & leftists! And let's remember this for the 2006 Congressional elections."
Bob Millar

Inauguration Action. Turn Your Back on Bush

Inaugural Action. Turn Your Back on Bush. The right to protest has been seriously restricted in recent years, especially under the Bush Administration. Bush rarely had to face a dissenting voice during the presidential campaign since his events were screened. Only supporters were allowed to attend. This poses a real problem for people wanting to attend Bush’s inauguration to express their displeasure/disgust/dis-ease.

A creative response to this problem is the “Turn Your Back on Bush” protest. According to their website, “We're calling on people to attend inauguration as they are: members of the public. Once through security and at the procession, at a given signal, we'll all turn our backs on Bush. A simple, clear and coherent message.” The organizers are asking people not to wear anti-Bush buttons, carry signs or banners which might identify people as protestors. Just show up and turn your back.

Of course, there are also direct actions planned. The DC Anti-War Network is planning a permitted anti-war rally away from the Inaugural Parade. They are also planning “a nonviolent civil disobedience die-in.” There is also a rally planned for Harrisburg on the day after the inauguration on Friday, January 21, 4-5 PM. The Harrisburg rally will take place at the Federal Building across from Strawberry Square, 3rd and Walnut Sts. More info on the Harrisburg rally is available from

Storm Clouds Gathering—2005-06 PA Budget Will Mean More Cuts for the Poor.

Storm Clouds Gathering—2005-06 PA Budget Will Mean More Cuts for the Poor. Governor Rendell’s Budget Address is scheduled for February 8, but there are clear signs that next year’s state budget is going to mean dire straits for the poor. The Rendell Administration seems to be going out of its way to make sure the public is not surprised by cuts in services for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable. Estelle Richman, Secretary of Public Welfare, spoke to a gathering of healthcare providers and activists at the United Way in Philadelphia. She warned that a combination of federal cuts, especially from Medicare and Medicaid, and more people qualifying for DPW services will mean a shortfall of at least one billion dollars just in medical assistance. A few days earlier David Feinberg, Deputy DPW Secretary for Medical Assistance, made a similar projection to his Medical Assistance Advisory Committee. Michael Masch, Rendell’s Budget Secretary issued the same message to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (12/11/04) and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (12/16/04). Under questioning, neither Richman nor Feinberg would rule out major cuts to services for the poor. Masch specifically mentioned Medicaid and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families as programs that were likely to feel the axe. Richman suggested that cuts to programs serving the elderly, especially nursing homes, would see some kind of cutbacks in service or limits to eligibility. “We have to face some unpleasant realities,” Richman told the United Way gathering, pointing out that while the elderly make up only 12% of PA Medicaid eligibility, they consume 40% the expenditures.

DPW’s budget this year is about $20 billion, out of a state budget of roughly $50 billion. DPW serves abut 1.7 million Pennsylvanians, and the number of those eligible for its services is growing. In fact, Richman talked about an alarming trend among those eligible for Medicaid—working people. Medicaid eligibility is limited to those with extremely low incomes, but as wages decrease and fewer employers provide medical coverage, the numbers of the employed qualifying for Medicaid is growing.

It is clear that Rendell’s people are preparing us for the budget storm to come. It is also clear that they are testing the public’s response to balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. There was nary a peep when they raised taxes on working people by 420% in 2004 (Occupational “Privilege” Tax), so perhaps they are hoping there is no outrage expressed by the public for cutting welfare.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Greens Claim Credit for Lois Murphy Defeat

Greens Claim Credit for Lois Murphy Defeat. After the 2000 presidential election, Greens in Pennsylvania took great pains to avoid the "spoiler" label. In the days after the 2004 election they are embracing it. Jennaro Pullano, the chair of the PA Green Party is absolutely crowing about the Green Party's hand in turning back Democrat Lois Murphy's challenge of Jim Gerlach in the Sixth Congressional District race. "Lois Murphy tried to steal democracy," Said Pullano. "She deserved to lose."

Pullano was referring to the challenge by Murphy and the Montgomery County Democratic Party of Dorothy Schieber's candidacy. Schieber attempted to run as the Green Party standard-bearer in the 6th CD race, submitting over 4,000 signatures. She only needed 2,000 valid signatures. Murphy hired an army of lawyers to challenge Schieber's petitions at a cost of $50,000, according to Pullano. The result was Schieber falling short by 8 signatures in Commonwealth Court.

The Greens responded by having a man in a chicken suit follow Murphy to events throughout the district. They disrupted a Murphy fundraiser at the Works Restaurant in Wyomissing, convincing some donors to leave the event. They ran ads in the Reading Eagle telling voters to vote against Murphy because of her opposition to democracy. They circulated a mock Murphy website that parodied her listening tour. Murphy ended up losing in a nailbiter, 51.1 to 48.9%.

"Murphy lost because she tried to sabotage democracy and we exposed her actions," said Pullano. "Democrats should take this as a lesson and stand up for democracy in the future."

Other PA Green leaders promised "to make the Democrats a permanent minority party" if they continue to challenge Green candidacies.

English Reneging on Term-Limit Pledge

English Reneging on Term-Limit Pledge. In 1994, Phil English (R-3rd CD) joined the Gingrich Revolution and signed a pledge to abide by the Contract With America's six-term limit for Members of Congress. The Observer's math tells us that last month's election was English's sixth, meaning there will be an open seat in 2006. But English, like many other Republicans, is having second thoughts about his pledge. The 1994 GOP Freshman Class has been almost universally reluctant to honor their pledges, but English is being more creative than most. He claims that he signed the pledge for Republicans in general, but that it didn't necessarily apply to himself. Recent term-limit pledge breakers have fared poorly, but NW Democrats have had a difficult time finding quality candidates to run against English. If the Dems can find a good candidate, or if the Greens can convince AnnDrea Benson to run again, English could be in real trouble in 2006.

Rendell's Tax Panel: Lower Business Taxes

Rendell's Tax Panel: Lower Business Taxes. Democratic Governor Edward Rendell created a panel to discuss ways to lower taxes on businesses in the Commonwealth. They didn't disappoint him. The Pennsylvania Business Tax Reform Commission reported to Rendell last week and recommended a reduction in the corporate net income tax from 9.99% to 6.99%. Any changes proposed by the panel were supposed to be "revenue neutral," but their recommendations reduce overall revenue by nearly $50 million, and shift the tax burden from larger corporate businesses to small businesses and individuals. It isn't clear whether Rendell will support the panel's package of changes, but the Guv is on record supporting the reduction of the corporate net income tax. You may not like the changes, but at least Rendell is consistent. He signed a 420% increase on taxes on workers into law earlier this month (raising the occupational privilege tax from $10 to $52). Aren't we lucky the Republicans didn't win the Governor's Mansion in 2002?

End Sine Die

End Sine Die. The lame duck session of the General Assembly, known as Sine Die, is notorious for being a time when PA's solons wreak the most mischief. This year is no exception. Bills to ban gay adoption and civil unions, corporate welfare for Comcast, monopoly communication rights for Verizon and others, pay raises for the legislators were just some of the schemes considered this year. One would think "good government" Democrats would lead the charge to end the post-election shenanigans. One would be wrong.

A conservative Republican, Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango/Butler), promised to re-introduce a bill to eliminate the Sine Die session early in the next session. Hutchinson introduced a similar bill (HB 3012) at the end of the just-concluded session, but it was ignored by his own party's leadership. “The practice of calling the legislature back to the Capitol following the general election for a week of marathon late-night sessions prior to the end of the two-year term has become a notorious tradition in Pennsylvania politics,” Hutchinson said. “This [year] has been a prime example of the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that goes on during a lame duck session. Although an attempt to increase various taxes as well as legislative salaries was thwarted this time, a lame duck session can often end on a mischievous note, leaving a bad taste in the voters’ mouths.”

Hutchinson stood alone in 2004. Will he be singing solo in 2005 as well?

New York State Passes Minimum Wage

New York State Raises Minimum Wage. Progressive activists won a major victory this week by convincing the Republican dominated state legislature to overturn New York Governor George Pataki's veto of a significant increase in the minimum wage. The activists, led by the Working Families Party and ACORN, were able to get the minimum wage raised to $7.15 an hour. For full-time workers, it's an increase from $10,700 a tear to $14,900. More than one million workers will be affected by the raise. Dan Cantor, of the New York Working Families Party said, "It’s a powerful validation of our overall strategy: choose issues carefully, stay laser-focused on them, organize hard in the key districts, use the ballot line to reward and punish politicians, and above all, don’t give up. Hope and love really can defeat fear and anger."

Florida voters last month raised the minimum wage in their state to $6.15, with automatic increases based on the inflation rate.

No Comment Department

No comment department. One day’s business headlines on one page in the December 8 Reading Eagle:
TriQuint cutting jobs in Lehigh (110 jobs)
Colgate-Palmolive to slash jobs, close factories (4,400 positions)
IBM sell PC division to Chinese company