Click here to view progressive events in and near Chester County. Agenda view (upper right of calendar) is easiest to use.
These local progressive bloggers are featured here regularly:
* Lawrence Davidson (see also To the Point Analyses and Facebook)
* John Grant (see also This Can’t Be Happening)
* Barnacle Bill
* David Long
* Lisa Longo (see also Lisa Longo
* John Mason (see also The Mason Missile)
* Bill McLaughlin
* Karen Porter
* Nathaniel Smith (see also Politics: A View from West Chester)
* Jessica Weingarten (“DocJess” at Democratic Convention Watch)
To see their writings on this site, click on their names above or in Categories (right sidebar). If you would like to suggest a blogger to join us, whether blogging at an extant site or yet without a site, please contact us.
Letter, Daily Local News, 5/17/13
The article “Board hopefuls represent competing camps in primary,” printed in the May 13 Daily Local News, deals with a vital race in the May 21 primary but has some issues, as they say.
The print article says that the “Better Directions” slate of Ricky Swalm, Joyce Chester, Robin Kaliner, and Chris McCune “were endorsed by the Democratic committee, though they are all registered Republicans.”
There were two errors there: the Democratic committee does not “endorse” Republicans (and vice versa) and one of those four is a Democrat.
The online edition (under the title “8 West Chester school board hopefuls represent 2 slates“) changed that quote to:
“Chester, the only registered Democrat is endorsed by the Democratic committee. Though Swalm, Kaliner and McCune are registered Republicans, they received a recommendation from the committee, but cannot be fully endorsed.”
That is a lot better, but a candidate cannot be partly endorsed. The proper term, used by the Dem committee, is “supported.”
For further confusion, the bipartisan group just described and the other four candidates, representing the current board majority (with one substitution for an outgoing board member), are all cross-filed in the primary, meaning that all eight will appear on both ballots on May 21.
Why is this such a mess? Because the whole system of electing school boards is faulty in Pennsylvania–one of only three states to put board candidates on primary ballots. Such a vital community resource as public education should not be part of the business-as-usual political process.
State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) and state representative Dan Truitt (R-156) have both filed bills to remove school board elections from the primary ballot. Rather, candidates would get on the November ballot by filing petitions over the summer, with a required number of signatures.
One of the benefits would be to give Independents–20% of the electorate, who currently have virtually zero chance of getting on a school board in our state–a chance to serve.
Finally, the print edition headline’s term “camps” suggests that electing school boards is a military or political maneuver. Rather it should be a chance for voters to mull over a diversity of candidates’ backgrounds and positions on education and our communities’ ability to support education for the common good.
by Kiby Kim Barker and Justin Elliott, ProPublica, May 17, 2013
The IRS division responsible for flagging Tea Party groups has long been an agency afterthought, beset by mismanagement, financial constraints and an unwillingness to spell out just what it expects from social welfare nonprofits, former officials and experts say.
The controversy that erupted in the past week, leading to the ousting of the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner, an investigation by the FBI, and congressional hearings that kicked off Friday, comes against a backdrop of dysfunction brewing for years.
Moves launched in the 1990s were designed to streamline the tax agency and make it more efficient. But they had unintended consequences for the IRS’s Exempt Organizations division.
Checks and balances once in place were taken away. Guidance frequently published by the IRS and closely read by tax lawyers and nonprofits disappeared. Even as political activity by social welfare nonprofits exploded in recent election cycles, repeated requests for the IRS to clarify exactly what was permitted for the secretly funded groups were met, at least publicly, with silence.
All this combined to create an isolated office in Cincinnati, plagued by what an inspector general this week described  as “insufficient oversight,” of fewer than 200 low-level employees responsible for reviewing more than 60,000 nonprofit applications a year….
continue reading and follow links at ProPublica
by Kurt Jaworski, Facebook, 5/16/13
Regarding the AR-15 raffle here in Chester County…
Help me get my mind around this (from today’s Inquirer): “he (the raffle winner) is so proud of his prize (an AR-15) that he plans to frame it and hang it on his wall.”
I must ask: why would anyone consider this ‘massacre tool of choice’ a proudly displayed art object? Is it possible to disassociate the enabling hardware from its very public history, to appreciate its hard-edged shiny splendor without responding, on some level, to where it’s been? To savor its engineering without dealing with the minds that sought it as the ultimate misanthropic expression?
The petition reads:
“Attorney General Holder: Your department’s seizure of two months worth of the Associated Press’ phone records amounts to nothing less than an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment. But sadly, this indiscriminate surveillance of journalists is part of a larger pattern within your department to go after whistleblowers without consideration of the vital role a free press plays in our democracy.
We join the Associated Press in calling on you to return the records you seized and to destroy any copies you have made. In addition, we call on you to end your dangerous war on whistleblowers.”
Tell Eric Holder: Stop your attack on the First Amendment
It was recently revealed that the Department of Justice secretly seized two months of telephone records of a large number of Associated Press reporters.
This unprecedented, indiscriminate surveillance of journalists is an attack on the First Amendment that will have a chilling effect on the ability of these journalists and others to function as a free press.
And unfortunately, it is only the most recent case of overreach by the Justice Department in its overzealous pursuit of whistleblowers.
Tell Attorney General Eric Holder: Stop attacking the First Amendment and end your war on whistleblowers.
While the Department of Justice ostensibly wanted the information as part of an investigation into leaked information about a foiled terrorism plot, the wholesale dragnet of call records for over 20 different phone and fax lines used by Associate Press reporters explicitly violates the written policies that govern DOJ access to such records.
As the Associated Press explains:
[According to the Department of Justice guidelines a] subpoena to the media must be “as narrowly drawn as possible” and “should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period,” according to the rules.
The reason for these constraints, the department says, is to avoid actions that “might impair the news gathering function” because the government recognizes that “freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of reporters to investigate and report the news.”
Yet despite implicit recognition of the vital role a free press plays in our society, the Department of Justice under Eric Holder has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to criminally prosecute more whistleblowers than all other previous Attorneys General combined.
The result is a climate of fear for those who know that the government is hiding inconvenient facts from the public. And that makes it much more difficult for investigative reporters to do their job.
Without whistleblowers and a free press, there is little to check the government’s ability to manipulate the population through excessive secrecy and selective leaking.
So attacking the functioning of a free press is both dangerous and undemocratic. It is also absolutely unacceptable and Attorney General Holder must take corrective action immediately.
Tell Attorney General Eric Holder: Stop attacking the First Amendment and end your war on whistleblowers.
by Leo Casey, Albert Shanker Institute, May 2, 2013
“Injustice anywhere,” Martin Luther King famously wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Two events last week which might seem worlds apart provide evidence that working people around the globe are indeed tied together in King’s “single garment of destiny.”
In Texas, fourteen people died and up to 180 were injured in an explosion that obliterated a fertilizer factory and leveled the surrounding town. In Bangladesh, over 400 garment workers died when a factory building collapsed with thousands inside. Rescue and recovery operations continue to find additional Bangladeshi dead, with hundreds still missing. The human toll makes this the deadliest accident in the history of the garment industry worldwide, even before the terrible final count is known.
Neither of these terrible events was “an accident.” In both cases, factory management engaged in dangerous and reprehensible conduct, creating entirely avoidable conditions that made these events possible, even predictable.
There was a history of environmental safety violations at the Texas factory (see here, here and here). It warehoused large amounts of ammonium nitrate fertilizer — the main ingredient in the 1995 Oklahoma federal building bombing by Timothy McVeigh — which the owners never reported this to the Department of Homeland Security, as required by law. (In 2012 alone, the plant processed 270 tons of the explosive fertilizer.) Complaints by surrounding townspeople of noxious ammonia smells seem to have been largely disregarded, even though the factory had on hand large amounts of an extremely hazardous gaseous chemical, anhydrous ammonia.
In Bangladesh, large cracks appeared in the foundation of the illegally constructed factory building the day before its collapse, leading local authorities to ask for an evacuation (see here, here and here). The owner of the building and owners of the garment factories on the building’s upper floors refused to comply. Since the garment workers knew they would be penalized three days of unpaid labor for every missed day of work, most felt they had little choice but to enter the building and go to work. The building owner and factory owners have now been arrested.
Clearly, the managements in both settings were greedy and unscrupulous. But it would be a mistake to write off these events as that and nothing more; both reflect larger economic and political realities….
continue reading and follow links at Albert Shanker Institute
by Laura Catalano, Daily Local News, 5/8/13
Boasting a median household income of $62,295, Chester County is ranked as the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania and the 24th richest in the nation.
That may be a startling statistic. Even more startling: More than 6 percent of the county’s population lives in poverty, and more than 600 of its residents, were counted as homeless on a single night in January. Many more people, confronted with the high cost of living, are struggling to make ends meet.
St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Glenmoore recently presented a panel discussion on “The Challenges of Poverty in Chester County: Helping Those in Need.” About 50 people attended the discussion, which is the first in a series of planned lectures by the church.
The discussion featured three panelists who deal with poverty in Chester County on a regular basis. They included Patrick Bokovitz, director of the Chester County Department of Community Development; Thomas Burd, executive director of The Clinic in Phoenixville; and Phoebe Kitson-Davis, program manager of Chester County Food Bank Inc.
They revealed some stark truths about the specific challenges faced by the economically disadvantaged living in the midst of prosperity.
Among those challenges, the high cost of housing is perhaps the most significant. The average two-bedroom apartment costs $1,095 per month, according to statistics provided by Kitson-Davis. To pay that, a provider needs an hourly wage of $21.06. Someone earning only $8 an hour would need to work 88 hours per week, just to cover the rent.
When all costs are factored in—health care, child care, food, transportation and taxes—a single parent with one preschooler needs a salary of $51,853, according to “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for PA, 2010-2011,” published by the University of Washington….
continue reading at Daily Local News