Tag Archives: politics

The American Way?

Rep. Steve Scalise, third in the chain of command in the House of Representatives, two House staffers and two Capitol Police officers were wounded Wednesday morning, apparently by a guy from Illinois who didn’t like Republicans. The operative phrase is “didn’t like,” because police killed the shooter.

It’s OK to not like Republicans – or Democrats – but when we claim this isn’t the way we do things in this country, shooting people we don’t like, or people ostensibly on their side, should top the list. Unfortunately, it does not.

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Father seeks family haven

Millions of our fellow residents are driven bare handed by the ravages of war.Let’s call him Jimmy. He is 31, more or less, from the town in which his father and mother were born. As a youngster, he knew nearly everyone within a mile or so of his home, and several who lived farther away. He rode his bicycle around the town, the way some kids where I live ride their bikes around Gettysburg.

“Sometimes we stacked concrete blocks in an alley, to hold up the end of a two-by-ten board,” he said. “Then we raced our bikes to see who could jump the longest.”
“I usually won,” the now father of four boasts.

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Judge’s decision could have broad consequences for public Right to Know

Author's pen seeks to expose government secrecyA Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, judge may soon have a say in whether citizens have a right to know what decisions are made when their elected officials gather to make them. Currently, some gatherings of elected officials are claiming to be protected from the state’s Right to Know Law. A decision either way could affect other agencies, from school boards to economic development corporations.

Last July, a Bloomsburg-based author asked the PA State Association of Township Supervisors for information about its lobbying efforts as the legislature formulated a law to, purportedly, regulate the controversial Marcellus Shale industry. Continue reading

Giving thanks, and thinking ahead

Life, like this photographic glimpse, is a bit blurry during the holidaysEach year about this time, I take a few minutes to remind myself of the sorts of things for which I’m thankful. On the simple end are toys such as DVDs and telephones we carry in our pockets that can, if their owners wish, play movies or simply, in the case of my grandkids, affirm connections to friends with whom they have not spoken in four or five minutes.

When I was 12, I had thousands of acres of woods in which to roam, and streams and a big lake in which to swim and slake my thirst. All of it was not ours, but property boundaries were not strictly enforced in those days. The 513-acre pond was home to three pair of loons, a couple beaver families, a family of moose and several species of fish.

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Shorting-funding DEP is false economy

Several pipelines arrive at a compressor collector before gas is sent over a mountain in Loyalsock State ForestPennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection may not be protecting the environment and the Commonwealth’s citizens as much as they deserve.

That is the assertion of a report issued Tuesday by Earthworks, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental watchdog agency.

The report begins by noting “more than 5,700 ‘unconventional’ shale gas wells have been drilled (in Pennsylvania) since 2005.” It also acknowledges DEP’s claim that staffing has increased – including, in 2012, about 83 inspectors. If the “unconventional wells” – a euphemism referring to deep shale fracking wells – were the only wells needing oversight, that would mean about 68 wells for each inspector.

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Some encouragement required

American wind farms mean American jobs and cleaner air.I’m watching an old black and white movie on television, “Cow Country,” made in 1953. It’s about times economic change in the 19th Century West, and cattlemen having a rough time adjusting.

Their situation was like oil companies of the 21st Century saying wind and solar will not work – because it’s easier and more profitable to keep doing what they’re doing than figure out how to do something new.

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New word needed to remind that Government is Us

Taxpayers built the Pittsburgh Pirates a new home and PNC Bank named it

One of the things that has bothered me during the past few election cycles is the way the challenging party always promises to take the country back – back from the precipice of dictatorship, collapsed economy, and moral decay.

And through it all, a certain group of industrialists loudly proclaim the need to protect Taxpayers from Government.

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PA Voter ID could fire up the Dems

Many long-time voting seniors may be excluded by Voter ID lawsDuring my tenure on the planet, I have witnessed numerous outcries directed toward those who would have a national identification card. Such an affront was OK for the less civilized and freedom-loving of fellow nations, but we would not be subjected to such insult.

Opponents of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law say about 10 percent of the state’s voters will be disenfranchised (and) more likely to be Democrats. But throwing the 2012 presidential election to the Republican ticket isn’t the only goal.

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Behind Door 1, Voter Fraud; behind Door 2, Global Warming

White mountains of northern New Hampshire are nearly snowless.I suppose there is room for some question about whether global warming is even partially manmade. After all, scientists say, the entire globe once was a spinning molten mass.

Then, most of the northern hemisphere was blanketed in miles-deep ice. Next it became warm enough to reliably grow crops while encouraging some of its human inhabitants to, at least part of the year, wear warm clothing. So it’s getting a little warmer. What’s the big deal?

Of course, it does seem a little incongruous that certain politicians would exhort their compatriots to believe science, and then legislate denial of science that says the earth is becoming warmer and humans are helping it happen.

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Nero plays while …

Nero plays while the planet burnsIn the past couple weeks, the evening news has been occupied with obesity, Distracted Walking, and appropriate attire for women playing Olympic beach volleyball.

NBC anchor Brian Williams had the first two items. For more than a week, aided by a steady parade of guest experts, he told us of the consequences of being obese. The obesity stories ran nightly until, I am certain by sheer coincidence, came the announcement of a new miracle drug that just might make everyone slim and sexy.

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Pennsylvania’s parallel governments: a journey to The Outer Limits

Two Pennsylvania capitals side by sideFor decades, science fiction has been telling of parallel universes. I was introduced to the idea in my youth by “The Twilight Zone,” a weekly television show that ran 1959 – 1964 and featured people in strange situations – often in places they thought they recognized, but were not where they thought they were – their home town, but with no people, for instance.

Or “imagine, if you will,” as show host Rod Serling would say, finding yourself on the street where you lived. You walk up to your home and are met by – yourself. It’s you, your wife, your child, your dog – and none of them know who you are.

Sometimes the evening news resembles reruns of those old shows. We recognize the representatives we voters sent to Harrisburg to oversee the state’s operations, but they seem not to recognize us. It’s as though we live under parallel governments.

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Pa. lawmakers find billions for Marcellus Shale Welfare Fund

Mountaintop cleared for a well pad and pipeline connecting to wells across Gray RunIt’s looking as though Pennsylvania lawmakers may repeat last year’s performance and get the 2013 budget approved in time for them to go home for the July 4 holiday. The hot dog industry is depending on them.

To get it done, House and Senate Republicans (Democrats – at least those who would object – have pretty much been left out of the discussions) seem to have struck a deal with Gov. Corbett. If he gives back the cuts he proposed to higher education, they will give him another $1.65 billion for his favorite charity.

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Lack of GED, diploma or degree not necessarily indicator of school’s failure

Loading mulch into a semi-trailer with a front loader requires hand-eye coordination and attention, not collegeWhen I was young, Eighth Grade graduation marked the limit of many students’ academic career. I was raised in rural Maine, where young people helped their families on the farm, and the school calendar was written around planting and harvest schedules, and the fall agricultural fair.

The engineer who designs wind turbines can benefit from advanced education in physics. The primary requirements to operate a crane or read a torque wrench are ability to read and follow directions, and good hand-eye coordination.

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“Poverty-stricken” Shell Oil offered $2B taxpayer handout to set up in Pa.

Shell oil stands to gain two billion in tax incentives to build a 400-job plant near PittsburghShell Oil Co., a child of Royal Dutch Shell – the latter reportedly the largest oil company in Europe and second largest company in the world – is thinking about building an ethane cracker plant in Monaca Borough, Beaver County, 30-some miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Pa.

The proposed plant would be used to “crack” ethane from natural gas derived from wells drilled into the Marcellus Shale in the southwestern region of the state. The cracking process results in ethylene, used mostly in making plastics.

If Gov. Corbett has his way, Pa. taxpayers will pay Shell about $2 billion to come to the state.

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Some Marcellus-related companies may be boosting profits by importing illegal workers

A quarter mile from a Marcellus Shale job site, WV union workers protest imported laborers

A newspaper story Thursday reported a federal indictment against a Texas-based company accused of bringing illegal workers to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fracking fields.

Coincidentally, workers in West Virginia are staffing road-side positions, protesting the practice of some Marcellus-related companies bringing out-of-state workers to take jobs for which local workers are available.

“We have a lot of people trained to do the work,” Stephen “Vern” Montoney, of Randolph County, W.Va told me last week.

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While we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, at least one American industrial giant invests in green technology in, of all places …

Masdar, a city in the middle of a desert with zero carbon emissions
While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.

For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels. Continue reading

Sometimes it takes us all

A row of 300-foot tall wind turbines visible from the Pennsylvania turnpikeWind power, a Pennsylvania state politician recently said, is accomplishing one thing: spending taxpayer money.

But there is growing evidence it is doing other, more positive things, such as creating jobs and supplying the electrical grid – with considerably less risk than the Keystone State’s other burgeoning energy source.

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Late may not be better than never

50-foot wide pipeline path cuts through Loyalsock forestLast month, the EPA announced new regulations that will require natural gas drillers to capture the methane they ordinarily allow to escape before they cap their well. The new rules take effect in 2015.

Last week, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, announced proposed regulations that would require drillers to tell us what chemicals they are pumping into the ground – and sometimes spilling onto the ground and into our waters – to release natural gas by fracturing shale thousands of feet underground.

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Replacing humans with machines not necessarily a cost savings

NASA photo of Alan Shepard's launch of first US astronaut into spaceThe Messeder Space Pod (for want, at present, of a better name) finally is ready to go. My co-pilot in life and other travels went visiting her sister a couple months ago, and came home in love with an r-Pod, a small (18-foot) camper trailer not much bigger than the original space capsule that carried Astronaut Alan Shepard from Cape Canaveral to a wet spot in the Atlantic Ocean.

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EPA regs not to blame for refinery shutdowns

One of the real reasons East Coast refineries are shutting downAccording to several sources, including the refinery owners, the U.S. EPA is not the source of their woes – unless we count a planned 25 percent increase in U.S. vehicle gas mileage scheduled by 2015. … Continue reading …