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.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Polls. Survey USA released some startling poll numbers last week. The poll had Ed Rendell and celebrity Republican candidate of the year Lynn Swann in a statistical dead heat. Rendell had 50%, Swann 44% and 6% were undecided. With a margin of error of 4.4%, that means there is no clear leader. If these numbers are real, then Rendell is in serious trouble. However, there is reason to believe that the figures are questionable. First, there is a small sample of voters- only 506. Second, with 20 months to go before the election, it is unlikely that only 6% of the voters are undecided. Still, the results are worrisome for Rendell and the Democrats. (Survey USA did not poll a Rendell-Scranton or Rendell-Piccola match up.)

The same survey showed Bob Casey leading Rick Santorum 49%-42% with 8% undecided, and Santorum leading Barbara Hafer 52-38 with 10% undecided.
Survey USA was hired to conduct these polls by KDKA-TV Pittsburgh, WCAU-TV Philadelphia, and WNEP-TV Wilkes-Barre. Click here to see the poll demographics.

Is Casey Already in Trouble with Pro-Choice Progressives?

Is Casey Already in Trouble with Pro-choice Progressives? The Observer’s very unscientific poll might foreshadow a rocky road ahead for Bob Casey’s campaign against Rick Santorum in next year’s senatorial race. It would an understatement to say that the Observer’s readership is firmly in the Almost Anyone But Santorum camp. But it appears from our preliminary poll results that a majority of our readers also fall into the Anybody But Casey camp as well.
Now that PA Democrats have pushed Barbara Hafer out of the US Senate Race, what should pro-choice progressives do?Hold our noses and vote for Casey. Santorum has to be stopped. 46.15% Organize a "Draft Hafer" effort. 6.92% Join the Greens. They're the only pro-choice party in PA. 19.23% Work for Chuck Pennacchio, the only pro-choice Dem left in the race. 27.69%(To vote in the poll or to see the current results, click here.)
The liberal PA blogosphere is jammed with calls for action against the back room dealing of Ed Rendell and the Democratic leadership. NOW is actually doing something about it. The NOW PAC has a petition addressed to Rendell and Sen. Charles Schumer (NJ) of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Te petition reads:”Moving to the Right is the Wrong strategy! If you won't stand up for women and women's rights - core Democratic values - then you can't expect women's rights supporters to stand up for you.I am outraged at the most recent expression of this losing strategy -- the decidedly undemocratic actions of Democratic leaders and political consultants who forced Barbara Hafer out of the 2006 United States Senate race in Pennsylvania - in favor of a candidate who opposes women's reproductive rights, a fundamental principle of the Democratic party. I cannot in good conscience support Democratic party organizations that encourage anti-choice candidates against women's rights supporters. Remember that women are the vast majority of both the voters and the fundraising direct mail supporters of the Democratic Party. Women deserve better.” Click here to sign NOW's petition.Casey, Rendell and the Democratic Party leadership may not think they have much to worry about. Their thinking seems to be, “Santorum is so bad, it doesn’t matter who we put up.” Good thinking. After all, that strategy was so effective in the 2004 presidential race…

Grassroots movement to stop the US PATRIOT Act

Grassroots movement to stop the US PATRIOT Act. A movement is quietly taking hold across this country to protect the civil liberties of Americans by officially opposing the US PATRIOT Act. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is helping state and local governments pass resolutions that declare official opposition to the US PATRIOT Act, including "To the extent legally possible, no local resources, including law enforcement funds and educational administrative resources, will be used for unconstitutional activities in whatever manner or under whatever circumstances they may be presented."So far, four states and 371 cities and counties have passed resolutions, with hundreds more in process. In Pennsylvania, Berks County and the municipalities of Erie, Lansdowne, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, Wilkinsburg and York have passed anti-US PATRIOT Act resolutions. To see a sample resolution and to find out how your local government might join the fight to protect our civil liberties, go to:

Wal-Mart's new slogan--"Always screw workers. Always!"

Wal-Mart’s new slogan—“Always screw workers. Always!” Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is not satisfied to merely screw its workers under existing anti-worker US laws. Now they are trying to change the laws to force workers to work longer hours, under more dangerous conditions, for less money. According to the Washington Post, Wal-Mart is lobbying for legislation that would extend the workday for truckers to 16 hours. This bill will clearly make our roads more dangerous and put the lives of truck drivers at risk. The bill has been introduced by Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.), whose district includes Wal-Mart's headquarters.

Boozman's bill has been called "a sweatshop-on-wheels amendment," by Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen. "The last thing we need is for tired truckers to become even more fatigued and threaten the safety of those around them on the roads."
The Post reported that "critics of the Boozman proposal accuse Wal-Mart of trying to fatten its profits by forcing truckers to spend more time waiting at the loading dock without getting paid."

Also this week, the New York Times reported that unnamed Federal immigration officials had agreed to pay $11 million in fines in a settlement for using undocumented immigrants to clean its stores. In yet another sweetheart deal (see Observer Volume II, Number 5, February 16, 2005),the Times reported that "Federal investigators said they had decided not to bring criminal charges against Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, because it was cooperating and had pledged strong action to prevent future employment of illegal immigrants at its 3,600 stores in the United States."

Wal-Mart had nearly $300 billion in sales last year, so an $11 million fine is insignificant, especially since the agreement did not require Wal-Mart to admit any wrongdoing.
TAKE ACTION! Purple Ocean has started a Wal-Mart Fact Check email network to counter Wal-Mart's multi- million dollar whitewashing campaign. If you sign up, Purple Ocean will send you updates on Wal-Mart to share with your friends and colleagues. As an added incentive to join, if you get 200 people to sign up for the email notices, Purple Ocean will give you $1,000 toward your health coverage, or you can donate the money to an uninsured Wal-Mart worker. (The Observer will donate its money to a worker if we reach that goal. We’re currently at 60—44 directly and 16 indirectly.) Click here to join the Wal-Mart Fact Check email network


Observations…Rustbelt Radio (, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's ( review of news from the grassroot s, is expanding to a weekly broadcast on a new day. Every Monday from 6-7pm the show will air live on WRCT 88.3FM ( in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. News you won't hear on the corporate media…
Last month, six activists were sentenced to prison time for a hanging a banner action at Hatsfield's Ferry Power Plant in southwestern Pennsylvania. Five of the climbers were sentenced to five days in prison, and one defendant was sentenced to 30 days in prison. On June 23, 2004, the four women and two men scaled the 700-foot smokestack at the Hatfield's Ferry power plant, 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, and unfurled a 2,500 square foot banner that read, "The Bush Energy Plan Kills -- Clean Energy Now!"
"The real threat to Americans is the Bush energy plan, which kills over 23,000 people every year," said Greenpeace Energy Campaigner Casey Harrell.
The Bush administration has systematically weakened clean air laws by allowing power stations to install new equipment without adding pollution controls, and permitting coal-fired power plants to continue to release tons of mercury into the air and waterways. In addition to its negative impacts on health, dirty energy wreaks havoc on the environment, causing global warming, acid rain and smog. The Hatfield's Ferry Power Station in Masontown was under investigation by the Justice Department for violating the Clean Air Act -- an investigation that was dropped by the Bush administration. For more information, go to: Morning Call reported that "Northampton County employees who work in court-related offices voted Tuesday to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Workers voted 33-13 to become the seventh AFSCME bargaining unit among county employees and the county's 10th labor union. More than half of the county's about 2,000 employees belong to unions…Roll Call reported that Santorum killed his own online poll on Social Security because the poll results were overwhelmingly against privatization. “The question in his online poll asked, ‘Do you support the creation of voluntary Personal Retirement Accounts as a part of Social Security reform?’” Roll Call reported. “Answering yes were 9.2 percent of respondents; 90.8 percent clicked ‘No, Social Security should not be reformed to include Personal Retirement Accounts for Individuals.’” Asked about the results of the poll, a Santorum spokeswoman told Roll Call the senator switches polls so “visitors can register their opinions on various issues.” …Washington state's House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would mandate that all elections in Washington state would be by mail ballot only. If it passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, Washington would join Oregon as the only states to conduct its election solely by mail.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Observer Poll

Now that PA Democrats have pushed Barbara Hafer out of the US Senate Race, what should pro-choice progressives do?

-Hold our noses and vote for Casey. Santorum has to be stopped.

-Organize a "Draft Hafer" effort.

-Join the Greens. They're the only pro-choice party in PA.

-Work for Chuck Pennacchio, the only pro-choice Dem left in the race.

Vote at:

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Casey In, Hafer Out

Casey In, Hafer Out. Barbra Hafer made it official last week. She’s running for US Senate, seeking the Democratic nomination no matter who else is planning to run. Hafer cited a February 24 meeting with US Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid in Washington as part of her decision. "Ed [Rendell] has told him that I was his (Mr. Rendell's) candidate," said Hafer, according to The Scranton Times. "He said the governor called and said that I was his candidate. I wasn't there two minutes before Reid said that."

Media wags lionized her surprise move, saying it put pressure on Bob Casey to make a decision about his own decision quickly.

Well, Casey read the editorials and blogs, and sure enough on Friday he made his own announcement to run.

Also on Friday, Hafer made a 180 and decided not to run, citing pressure from Gov. Ed Rendell. In a terse statement, Hafer said, "Today the Governor and I spoke about the US Senate. The Governor has asked me to step aside and allow Treasurer Casey to run unopposed for US Senate. After some consideration, I have decided to agree to the Governor's request. I’d like to thank the many people from throughout the Commonwealth who offered me their support and guidance."

Why would Hafer drop out so soon after announcing her candidacy? Word around the Capitol is she is being promised Fast Eddie’s support for the Lt. Governor slot. It’s no secret that Rendell wants Catherine Baker Knoll off the ticket. Hafer has a ton of money waiting to be used for some campaign, and with the Guv’s backing, she might be the ideal candidate (woman from SW PA) to take on Knoll.

Other big-name Dems considering a challenge to Santorum have also apparently decided not to run. They include ex- congressperson and 2004 US Senate candidate Joe Hoeffel, Department of Environmental Protection Director Kathleen McGinty, State Rep. and PA Dem Chair T.J. Rooney, and former Lt. Governor Mark Singel.

That leaves only Paul Wellstone wannabe Chuck Pennacchio as Casey’s sole Democratic challenger. Dr. Pennacchio, PhD, is a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia who has worked on numerous political campaigns. He sees the Democratic Party as making a disastrous rightward drift in moves such as nominating Casey. “Apparently, the state and national party is willing to sacrifice its principles for what they mistakenly perceive is the best chance of beating Rick Santorum,” Pennacchio said in a statement last week. “I am the lone Democratic candidate in this primary so far,” attempting to echo Wellstone’s iconic “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” mantra. (See “Observations,” below, for more on Pennacchio)

Ask Bush to Send Your Chastity Belt

We couldn’t improve on this one, so we’re giving it to you verbatim from NARAL-PA’s website:
Ask President Bush to Send Your Chastity Belt

Times have changed, but our Federal Government has not. In his most recent budget, President Bush attempted to address the challenge of unintended pregnancy. Did he provide more funding for comprehensive sex education, insurance coverage for birth control, or access to emergency contraception? No. He asked for more money for "chastity" programs - the same programs that have proven ineffective and harmful to our kids!I

f President Bush wants to make chastity our only option, shouldn't he give us the right accessories? Order your chastity belt from President Bush TODAY! Then, ask for more than a chastity belt this year - ask him for real choices.

Chastity Belt: the way to not do itIn vogue in the Middle Ages, chastity belts are making a come back in PA! Get one today from the President George W. Bush.

Don't let your chastity go one more day without protection. Order your belt TODAY!

Free the UglyRipe Tomato

Free the UglyRipe Tomato©. With debates swirling about the wars, the future of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and so much more, it’s refreshing to know that our two US Senators have their priorities in order. Sens. Specter and Santorum introduced legislation last week to eliminate restrictions on the UglyRipe Tomato©. According to a news release from the Procacci Brothers Sales Corporation, the UglyRipe© is being discriminated against by the Florida Tomato Committee (FTC). The FTC “sets standards pertaining to the shape of round tomatoes grown South and East of the Suwannee River and shipped out of Florida from October 10 through June 15.” According to a recent FTC ruling, the UglyRipe© does not fit the standard of a round tomato. Specter and Santorum have stepped into the fray to free the UglyRipe by sponsoring the Agricultural Marketing Success Act of 2005, which will allow the free marketing of the UglyRipe©. Not to be outdone, Rep. Don Sherwood will introduce a similar bill in the House in the near future.To join the campaign to free the UglyRipe© Tomato, click here.


Observations. .. Last week’s Observer pointed out that had posted a video of Republicans chanting “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Social Security has got to go.” We were not aware at the time that US Senate Candidate Chuck Pennacchio’s campaign was responsible for the video…

Pennacchio has been the subject of rumors in Green Party circles. The Greens see a real opportunity with two anti-choice candidates running for US Senate under the two old party banners, so they are seeking a high profile candidate to lead their 2006 campaign. The Greens constantly posit themselves as the only pro-choice party and some see this race as their opportunity to solidify that position with the PA electorate. In a dream scenario, Pennacchio would get so frustrated with the DLC-dominated state Dems that he will bolt and join the Greens. Ideologically (check out Pennacchio’s issue website) it’s a great fit, but as we said, it’s only a dream…

A more likely scenario for the Greens is Philadelphia’s White Dog Café owner Judy Wicks, who expressed interest in taking on Santorum in the past. Wicks is a long-time progressive activist and would be hard-pressed to support an anti-choice, DLC-backed Democrat. Remember, you heard it here first…

Tim Stevens, former president of the Pittsburgh Branch of the NAACP, has resurrected the Black Political Empowerment Project(B-PEP). B-PEP was a major political player in Pittsburgh during its heyday of the late eighties and early nineties, focusing on candidate recruitment and voter turnout. In announcing its rebirth, Stevens noted that when B-PEP was active, the voter turnout in Pittsburgh was at near-record highs for Blacks. In 1987, 88% of Blacks in Pittsburgh voted, while in recent years the turnout has been as low as 30%.In announcing the reformation of B-PEP, Stevens was quoted by the New Pittsburgh Courier as saying, "“We must utilize the concept of political mathematics. The more we vote, the more we get. The African-American community has never fully realized, nor utilized, the potential of our collective political power. Now is the time to wake the sleeping giant.”Call B-PEP at 412-758-7898 to get involved…

The Food Research and Action Center released its annual State of the States Report and found that Federal nutrition programs really make a difference in the health of low-income people. This is despite serious cuts in programs such as Food stamps, which saw funding fall by 17% from 1993 to 2003 (adjusted for inflation). Download the report by clicking here.

Friday, March 04, 2005

So That's What the Duct Tape Was All About

So That’s What the Duct Tape Was All About… Home Depot reported that former P A Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has been named to its board of directors. "Tom Ridge served his country with great distinction, and we are honored to have him join our board, where we expect that his unique global experience and perspective will make a profound contribution to our company and our shareholders," said Home Depot Chairman Bob Nardelli, according to the Associated Press. Nardelli forgot to mention the profits Ridge already made for Home Depot by urging Americans to buy plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect their families in the event of terrorist attacks.Word on the street is that Ridge will also be named as a consultant to Crayola, in recognition of the highlight of his tenure as Homeland Security Secretary—the creative use of colors in creating the terror alert system.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Polls. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Bob Casey with a decent lead over Rick Santorum in next year's U.S. Senate race. The poll showed Casey would win 46-41 with 12% undecided. This poll has led much of PA's corporate media to join the Democratic Leadership Council in anointing Casey as the clear choice for the Dems. But the Quinnipiac poll showed that Casey wasn't the only viable Democrat. Barbara Hafer's numbers put her well within striking distance of Santorum, trailing only by a 47-39 percent margin. The same poll showed former Congressperson Joe Hoeffel getting crushed 50-34, while State Rep. and PA Democratic Party Chair loses 51-30.
Hafer's own internal poll shows her in a dead heat. Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates (FMM&A) leaked the Hafer poll to the media last week. This poll (see chart) showed Hafer and Santorum tied at 44% each. Even better for Hafer, when positive statements were read about both candidates, Hafer leapt to a 52-41% lead.
The same poll showed that most Pennsylvanians remain pro-choice, choosing a candidate who “supports a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion” over a candidate who “opposes abortion and led the fight to ban partial birth abortions” by a 51-37% margin.
In another Quinnipiac poll, Governor Ed Rendell appears to be in for a cakewalk against any of the three Republicans looking to take him on. Rendell leads State Sen. Jeff Piccola 52 - 28 percent; former Lt. Gov. William Scranton III 50 - 35 percent; and celebrity gubernatorial candidate of the year and former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann by a 50 - 34 percent margin.In the Republican gubernatorial primary, Scranton will win handily, if Scranton’s internal poll is to be believed. In another leaked memo, Neil Newhouse, of Public Opinion Strategies, informed Scranton that he would annihilate Piccola 48-12 in a two-way race. If Swann makes it a three-way, Scranton still wins handily with 38% to Swann’s 17% and Piccola’s 10%.

Vermont Town Meetings Vote to Bring Troops Home

Vermont Town Meetings Vote to Bring Troops Home. Vermonters voted in large numbers this week to bring home U.S. troops from Iraq in that ultimate expression of democracy, the New England Town Meeting. In the town meeting, residents of the municipality gather together to decide on issues such as budget matters, equipment purchases, taxes and policy. There are no elected officials making the decisions for residents. Instead, all citizens gather together to discuss and collectively decide their own political and fiscal destiny. In 56 of Vermont’s 246 towns, there was a referendum on bringing the troops home. The Washington Post reported that 39 towns passed the resolution, 3 tabled it and 4 did not pass it. The other ten results were not available at publication time.

Action Alert-Stop Medicaid Cuts

Action Alert: Stop Medicaid Cuts. Put Families First is asking people to call Senators Specter and Santorum, demanding that they oppose Medicaid cuts that will "take health care away from children, force hospitals to cut services, lead to further overcrowding in our emergency rooms, and cut nursing home staffing leaving residents without the help they need with feeding, dressing, and bathing."
They have created a toll-free number where you can call the Capitol Switchboard at 1-800-247-2971.
Tell Senator Specter that working families in Pennsylvania need Congress to oppose health care cuts for seniors and children that will increase the burden on families and drive up private insurance rates.
Ask them to transfer you to Senator Santorum's office. Repeat Step 2.
“Together, we'll send the Senate a strong message that families can’t afford health care cuts that will drive up private insurance premiums and put seniors and children at risk.”
For more information, visit


Observations…Not satisfied to blame the poor for the fiscal crunch in Berks County government, Republican Commissioner Mark C. Scott has decided to run for county judge, where he can put "those people" where they belong--in jail. Scott is best known for defying Federal Court orders to make bilingual ballots available. He is developing a reputation for being Pennsylvania's version of David Duke, slickly using racism to divide people and advance his own political career. Unfortunately, the odds are he will win handily in November…
"The Casey Committee" registered with the Feds as a 527 organization last month “To raise and spend money to finance pre-candidacy exploratory activities for a possible U.S. Senate campaign.” Word is that Casey will decide any day now that Barbara Hafer has thrown her hat in the ring…
A mock funeral for Social Security will be held on March 11, 4 pm to 5:30 pm. The March will depart from 12th and Market Street in Philadelphia and march to the office of Sen. Rick Santorum. For more information, contact the Action Alliance at posted a truly unbelievable video on its website last week. It was unbelievable because it showed Republicans telling the truth about their views of Social Security outside of one of Santorum’s P.R. sessions. The Santorum/Bush supporters were actually chanting, “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Social Security has got to go.” Don’t take our word for it, see the video by clicking here....
Progressive Democrats gathered last month in Washington to create a new organization called the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). Its PA affiliate is the Pennsylvania Progressive Caucus. PDA’s website says that the intent of Progressive Caucus “is to provide a philosophical home within the Democratic Party for the progressive community...a place where they can continue to work to implement public policy that reflects human rights, economic equality, and social and environmental justice.” Before you get too excited, it should be noted that the contact information for the PA Progressive Caucus lists David Bright as the contact person. David’s email address,, is a farm in Maine, while his phone number sports a New York area code (917-679-9827). While we wish them well, it might be hard to organize progressive Dems from New York or Maine…
Where is the Green Party? They seem to have dropped out of the political scene, missing every special election where they could place a candidate without petitioning.