Friday, December 23, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Keystone Progress organized a great mock news conference about HB 1100, the Private Jet Sales Tax Exemption Bill. At a time when they say we can't afford public schools, healthcare for the poor or nursing home assistance, they're giving tax breaks to the wealthy for their corporate jets. This is not a joke. They're serious.
Friday, December 16, 2011
It’s that time of year again. Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Day. Oh, and the annual “report” on courts by the Big Tobacco front group American Tort Reform Association (ATRA). Their so-called “report” allegedly ranks the worst courts in the United States. And despite its lack of credibility or objectivity, it gets media coverage every year.
ATRA identifies the courts that it believes are “judicial hellholes.” Their definition of a hellhole is a place “where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally against defendants in civil lawsuits.”[i]
What they really mean is a “Judicial Hellhole” is a place where working people have a fair chance against corporations with products that have harmed consumers.
In truth, this is part of a campaign to limit our ability to sue big corporations.
The release of an annual “report” is part of that campaign, and the mainstream media eat up this propaganda as if it were an objective study. But ATRA’s Judicial Hellhole propaganda has been repeatedly debunked.
In 2007, the New York Times published this damning paragraph:
“The question is whether the report’s arguments make sense, are supported by evidence and are applied evenhandedly. Here the report often falls short. It is, for starters, a collection of anecdotes based largely on newspaper accounts. It has no apparent methodology. There is no way to tell why South Florida is the top hellhole while West Virginia is hellhole No. 4.”[ii]
Indeed, even ATRA admits they just make things up. “’We have never claimed to be an empirical study,’ said Darren McKinney, a spokesman for the association.”[iii]
ATRA called Philadelphia their #1 hellhole this year, in part because it allows cases against Big Pharma and asbestos to be tried collectively. Cases involving corporate liability are expensive to litigate, and unless working people can join together in what’s called “mass tort,” lawyers won’t be able to build a winnable case against corporations like Bayer with their untold billions of dollars in resources.
Bayer is the manufacturer of the birth control pill Yasmin, or Yaz, that has been shown to cause blood clots in blood vessels that can lead to death.[iv] According to recent studies, Yaz carries triple the risk over traditional birth control pills.[v]
So what is the response of Bayer, the manufacturer of Yaz? They are trying to prevent women from being able to sue for damages by changing the rules by which plaintiffs can pool their efforts to sue when there is a large number of claims of damages against a product.
There are already approximately 2,000 cases filed against Bayer, with many more to come. Bayer wants to change the rules, effectively separating the cases, requiring 2,000 individual trials in courts across the country. The ATRA “report” is part of the campaign to change those rules and squelch our ability to sue them.
If ATRA and Bayer win, it will effectively end the possibility of a fair trial for women who are making claims that they were injured or killed by Yaz. And it will mean that other corporations, including tobacco and asbestos, will have a new way to avoid responsibility by manipulating our courts.
2) And if you see this “report” in any media outlets, please do two things. First, write a letter to the editor telling them the truth about this “report.” Second, write to us and let us know who covered it.
[ii] New York Times, December 24, 2007, “The Worst Courts for Businesses? It’s a Matter of Opinion” http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/24/us/24bar.html?pagewanted=all
Thursday, December 15, 2011
By Rick Ungar
12/14/2011 @ 11:23AM
It’s all fun and games, politics and ideology until someone gets…sick.
If you don’t believe it, just ask Spike Dolomite Ward, a California progressive and non-profit activist who campaigned in support of the Obama election effort in 2008 only to turn against the President, as many progressives have done, when he disappointed her by not going far enough with the Affordable Care Act.
But that was before Spike was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and found out how just how much the President had, in fact, come through for her and the many others in her difficult position. …
Aside from the obvious good news in this story, there is a message that one can only hope that progressive writers who havehammered Obamacare because they did not get all that they wanted – and you know who you are - will finally begin to understand.
By focusing on the failure to succeed with the public option – an idea that was doomed to failure in the Congress from the beginning – and a few other unfulfilled wishes, these people have failed to let people know the important things the law did accomplish. There are a lot ofSpikes out there who do not know that the Affordable Care Act solved the pressing problem Spike was facing and these people may not have a Becky in their life to discover that there may now be a solution to avoid a potentially disastrous circumstance.
As I said, it’s all fun and games, ideology and politics until you or someone in your family gets cancer and can’t pay for treatment.
That’s when the politics end and real life steps in. We would do well to keep that in mind.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
From our friends at the Keystone State Education Coalition
A voucher bill may move in the House as early as Monday.
Please consider taking these three actions ASAP:
1. Contact your State Representative’s office.
Ask them to oppose any voucher bill.
Ask them to contact House leadership and tell them not to bring a voucher bill to the floor.
2. Pass this legislative alert on to any and all public education stakeholders today.
3. Please take 10 minutes and call as many of these House Leaders as time permits.
If you are a constituent please let them know that.
If you voted for them or worked for their election let them know that.
Please oppose vouchers in any form. We don’t need a pilot – Milwaukee has had one for 20 years and it has not resulted in improved student achievement. Pennsylvania education policy should focus on helping all of our students, not on creating a new entitlement program for unaccountable private and religious schools.
Samuel H. Smith (717) 787-3845
Mike Turzai (717) 772-9943
Stan Saylor (717) 783-6426
Sandra Major (717) 783-2910
Mike Vereb (717) 705-7164
William F. Adolph Jr. (717) 787-1248
Richard R. Stevenson (717) 783-6438
Dave Reed (717) 705-7173
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
From our friends at PHAN:
Yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that for the first time, under rate review provisions of the Affordable Care Act, HHS has deemed a premium increase unreasonably high.
Everence Insurance, which sells policies to small businesses and has a presence in Pennsylvania, received a letter on Monday from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services scolding the company for a 12 percent increase for its small business clients that went into effect October 1.
"We're calling on the insurance company to immediately withdraw this rate and provide refunds or credits to any beneficiaries who have already paid the unreasonable amount," said the HHS Secretary.
But we need more than just a call. Take action to help protect small business owners from excessive health insurance premium increases.
Call your state legislators in Harrisburg and tell them to vote NO on HB 1983 and SB 1336 and to pass real rate protections for consumers instead! Click here to look up the number for your State Representative and State Senator.
The legislation being considered now should better protect consumers, but instead it takes away the few transparency protections that exist - such as requiring that health insurance companies post their proposed rate hike in the PA Bulletin. The bill even allows the Insurance Department to take away your right to have your voice heard through public comments on rate hikes.
Tell your legislators they can and should do better for Pennsylvania.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
LADELLE MCWHORTER, VIRGINIA ORGANIZING BOARD MEMBER
I am a board member of Virginia Organizing, a statewide, nonpartisan grassroots organization that works on social and economic justice issues.
We have a lot of members who are concerned that Rep. Cantor is not representing the 7th district or the state of Virginia well.
Lately it seems that Rep. Cantor has gone out of his way to embarrass Virginia to the rest of the nation and has become a lightning rod for good reason. He has obstructed the American Jobs Act. His unwillingness to negotiate helped lead to the Standard and Poors credit downgrade. And when natural disaster struck Joplin and his own district twice, he heartlessly announced that we must counter any disaster aid with spending cuts.
Recent earthquakes and hurricanes aside, many Virginians feel that Eric Cantor is the biggest recent disaster to hit Virginia.
Rep. Cantor’s cancellation of his Philadelphia income inequality speech is part of a pattern of behavior that indicates that he is not interested in hearing from the other 99 percent, or working on the one issue almost everyone cares about: jobs.
Rep. Cantor promised to work on jobs just like he promised to speak at the University of Pennsylvania last week. Well, Philadelphia has unfortunately learned what Virginia already knew: Eric Cantor has no problem breaking promises.
Virginia needs jobs and we need all of our representatives in Washington fighting for the unemployed. Virginia has fared better than other states like Pennsylvania, due to our high concentration of government and military jobs. But as massive cuts continue, we find our unemployment rate rising.
I am a professor at the University of Richmond, which is in the middle of Rep. Cantor’s district. There is no question that the number one priority of the graduating students and the community surrounding the university is jobs. Rep. Cantor represents some rural districts as well that have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Cantor’s constituents need a Jobs Champion in Washington, not a Jobs Obstructer.
Rep. Cantor has spent the last several weeks killing the American Jobs Act, which would create thousands of jobs in Virginia and 2.6 million jobs nationwide. Instead of working on jobs, Cantor is attacking the Occupy Wall Street protesters, restricting women's reproductive rights and working to deny disaster aid to his own district.
And instead of facing his constituents to explain why he is not fighting for jobs, he is scheduling speeches in Philadelphia only to cancel at the last minute because he is scared of the other 99 percent.
Virginia Organizing members traveled 300 miles to Philadelphia last Friday just to see their congressman. Representative Cantor rarely holds public meetings in his district and does not put out a public schedule. The closest thing Rep. Cantor has had to a recent town hall was an invite-only event on August 31, publicized only on the local tea party website. Hundreds of his constituents showed up anyway and were kept away by the police. It’s clear that Representative Cantor wants to keep his distance from the poor, middle class, unemployed and just about anyone else who doesn’t agree with him.
Rep. Cantor is much more comfortable surrounded by his wealthy donors and corporate CEOs. Well, in order to move our country forward, we might have to take Rep. Cantor out of his comfort zone for a moment, so that he can understand the struggles of the other 99 percent.
Programs provide benefits to 1 in 5 residents, contribute $79 billion per year to state’s economy
A new report issued today (http://bit.ly/samlK2) outlines the importance of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to people in Pennsylvania and the state’s economy.
The report comes out just as Pennsylvania’s Senator Pat Toomey finishes his work on the congressional Super Committee tasked with reducing the federal deficit. The Committee must recommend at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts by November 23. The full Congress must approve these recommendations by the end of the year, or it will trigger automatic deficit reduction.
At an event today, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans and the Strengthen Social Security campaign unveiled the report detailing the number of state residents who rely on these programs as well as the economic impact and number of jobs the programs support.
Although programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are widely scapegoated in federal deficit discussions, today’s report points out that they are not the true cause of the deficit. The report notes the large recent run-up in federal deficits resulted largely from 2001 and 2003 tax cuts; unpaid costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; the Great Recession which dramatically reduced tax collections, and the Wall Street bank bailout. Correspondingly, in seeking solutions to the federal deficit, the Super Committee should be looking at its causes and should not be cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which are absolutely vital to the economic security of this nation.
Highlights from the new report:
ü Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spend a total of about $79 billion a year in Pennsylvania, providing benefits to an average of 1 out of every 5 residents for each program.
ü Social Security provided benefits to more than 1 in 5 (20.3 percent) residents in 2010, with an average benefit of $13,508 per year.
ü Without Social Security, the elderly poverty rate in Pennsylvania would increase from 1 out of 11 (8.7 percent) to nearly half (47.7) residents.
ü Social Security never has and will never contribute to federal budget deficits because, by law, it does not have borrowing authority.
ü Medicare spending generally rises less than private health insurance. From 1997 - 2009, Medicare’s annual costs per beneficiary rose far less than those of private health insurance. Cutting Medicare’s benefits simply shifts costs to the sickest and oldest among us, forcing some seniors and people with disabilities to forego treatment, living shorter, less healthy – and more medically costly – lives as a result.
ü Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are a lifeline for residents of Pennsylvania and the lifeblood of many small businesses, hospitals and nursing homes and home caregivers. Most of the jobs they create stay in America. Cutting these programs would threaten our families’ economic security and health and deepen our jobs crisis.
ü Two-thirds of all Medicaid spending is for seniors and people with disabilities. One out of every four (16 million) seniors and people with disabilities depended on Medicaid in 2010.
Pennsylvania resident Maxine Yancey worked as a nurse for 43 years. She is now retired and gets by with help for Social Security and Medicare.She said, “For me, it’s a matter of survival. Without the help of my four adult children and these supports, I would not be able to survive.”
“Too often political and media elites talk about these programs as just cold, unfeeling facts and figures, as if they are divorced from the people whose lives they touch,” said Eric Kingson, co-director of Social Security Works. “Too often, the programs are talked about as ‘problems’ when in fact they really are ‘solutions’ – solutions that provide benefits that have been earned through the hard work of Americans.”
Jean Friday President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans said, “I worry about the future of retirement in this country. People used to work until the day they died. Seniors often lived in extreme poverty and bad health. We’ve come a long way, and we can’t go back. … We call upon Senator Toomey to support retirees and all residents in Pennsylvania by safeguarding these programs.”
View the full report here: http://bit.ly/samlK2.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
To read the full report click here.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Talker, Texas Deranger & Scared Speechless|
ALLENTOWN, PA –Angered by months of unanswered calls to address joblessness, an increase in Pennsylvania’s unemployment and news of an influx of donations to Senator Toomey from the banking industry, unemployed workers and concerned voters marched to Senator Toomey’s Allentown office this morning to call on him to support real job creation efforts, including the American Jobs Act. Refusing to leave the office until Senator Toomey changes his position on critical job creation programs, the demonstrators pledge to continue daily protests during the Senate recess.
“Senator Toomey has turned his back on Pennsylvania’s middle class,” said Shawn Wygant, who has been looking for work since the laundry facility he worked at closed down in May. “Our families are hurting. While we struggle just to keep a roof over our heads, Senator Toomey is working to give more tax breaks to companies that are sending our jobs overseas and taking donations from the greedy CEOs and banks that put us in this mess.”
The unemployed workers and community members are demanding that Senator Toomey:
1. Support the American Jobs Act;
2. Stop making job-killing cuts to Medicare and other services Pennsylvania families need;
3. Make big banks and corporations pay their fair share.
“I’ve been looking for work for months, and there’s nothing out there,” said Dan Haney, who has been out of work since his job and those of 650 of his co-workers were outsourced in February. “Senator Toomey is trying to make it easier for corporations to send jobs overseas when my family needs him to help create jobs here in Pennsylvania. Senator Toomey is siding with the rich CEOs and Wall Street bankers, the 1% that he spends his time with, and has forgotten about the hard-working Pennsylvanians who put him in office.”
The demonstrators are angry about Senator Toomey’s opposition to the American Jobs Act, which would create jobs in Pennsylvania, and his recent proposals to the budget Super Committee, including a territorial tax system which gives tax cuts to corporations that ship American jobs overseas, and his proposal to institute a voucher system for Medicare.
Pennsylvanians have been calling on Senator Toomey to stop siding with CEOs and Wall Street bankers at protests in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Allentown,Scranton and Harrisburg. Protests outside of Senator Toomey’s Allentown office will continue throughout the Senate recess with faith leaders and local elected officials adding their support to the unemployed workers.
Education Voters Institute of Pennsylvania (EVI) is conducting a video project to highlight both the impact of cuts to critical programs that serve kids, and the importance of education to our communities and our economy. Tell us about how a program has affected you, or what the schools are like in your community, or who was the first person in your family to go to college. It can be a video short, or just a personal story told directed into the camera. Across Pennsylvania, students, parents, community leaders are speaking up about how we are affected by these choices.
What happened with this year’s budget was a travesty, and it didn’t need to happen. If we’re going to overcome the same obstacles next year we need make our voices heard and start laying the groundwork for change NOW!
Deadline October 30th
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Check out this great video from Jon Stewart about the hypocrisy of GOP leaders deriding people who are standing up for the 99%.
And join us on Friday, October 21 in Philadelphia to greet Eric Cantor. He's speaking on economic inequality in the United States, but he opposes anything that seriously addresses that issue.
Tell Eric Cantor "We are America!"
Friday, October 21
3:30- 6:00 PM
Walnut and 38th Sts.
Friday, October 14, 2011
- Tens of thousands of Marcellus shale gas wells will be tapped in Pennsylvania Forests in the next 20 years. How will they affect the birds, fish and plants that call the deep forest home? The Allegheny Front's Reid Frazier went over one forest to find out the answer.
- Read the whole story, with photos, here:
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
- Development of an Action Plan for Building Social Justice in Southwestern Pennsylvania
- A major Youth Leading Change event for 350 young people on Thursday, October 13
- Keynote address by renowned environmental, social justice, and Native American rights activist Winona LaDuke
- The five-day, multi-theater Building Change Film Festival
- The 7 Pathways of Change Arts Show
- A Regional Champions of Change Awards presentation and ceremony
- An eclectic mix of entertainment
- Region-wide Internship Fair
- Grassroots Grantees Recognition event
Additional activities include workshops, panel discussions, roundtable discussions, keynote speakers, and plenary sessions on a wide range of issues such as Labor; Disability Rights; Economic Empowerment; Environmental Sustainability; LGBTQ Advocacy; Peace/Human Rights; Racial Equity; and Women, Youth and Families.
To make this event as accessible as possible for people of all means, we have kept the price very low at $5-$10. And, we have a limited number of free "scholarships" for which people with limited budgets can apply. Also, we are arranging bus and van transportation from the nine outlying counties in the region. Convergence attendees are free to tour the History Center and the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum after attending their chosen workshop(s) ($12 value).
People will take part in this Convergence in several ways, including participating on an appropriate forum panel, co-presenting in a workshop, co-sponsoring in return for a range of benefits and premiums, tabling at the event to distribute information about their services and work, attending the workshops and panels of their choice, and engaging with the many young people who will be signing up for community service projects and internships.
This event presents many opportunities for networking and involvement, including tabling, sponsorship, presenting, serving on a discussion panel, and participating in relevant workshops and skill building sessions.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
The other day, Time magazine’s Michael Scherer weighed in with a great post reporting that one of the wealthy individuals who would be impacted by Obama’s push for the “Buffett Rule” is none other than Mitt Romney.