Saturday, December 17, 2011

The wealthy protest in Harrisburg, "Don't tax my jet!"

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

Another Corporate Attack on Our Rights

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.


1) Tell Bayer to play fair. Sign our petition demanding that they stop their attempt to change the rules.

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.

[i] “Judicial Hellholes,” American Tort Reform Association, December, 2011

[ii] New York Times, December 24, 2007, “The Worst Courts for Businesses? It’s a Matter of Opinion”

[iii] ibid

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Anti-Obamacare Activist Sees The Light, Changes Sides And Apologizes To Obama
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

New PA House districts finalized

Here's a link to the new PA house districts as finalized yesterday:

The plan can be appealed to the Supreme Court, but it's unlikely given the 4-1 vote by the panel.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Take action to stop the privatization of PA's public schools

From our friends at the Keystone State Education Coalition


A voucher bill may move in the House as early as Monday.

The Students First PAC which bankrolled SB 1 in the Senate, is targeting House Republican leadership for phone calls today for a last ditch push for vouchers before the end of the year.

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.

Simple message:

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