♫ “Black waters, black waters run down through my land”

Today our new President signed (yet another) executive order nullifying many of our old President’s carefully crafted climate change guidelines — “to revive the coal industry,” they said, and send all the coal miners “back to work.” (You have to feel sorry for those miners, because they seem to actually believe it!)

This order goes along with a Jan. 24th order reversing Obama’s “Stream Protection Rule” that prevented coal mining companies from disposing of mine waste by dumping it into the water supply. (Who needs healthy kids if you’ve got a job, right?)

So, in celebration of these two giant steps backward, I offer you this great version of Jean Ritchie’s famous song, “Black Waters.”

Continue reading “♫ “Black waters, black waters run down through my land””

Aero Porcus

Our local patron saint of Journalism, Tom DiStefano, writes:

Today I wish to invoke the patron saint of lost causes. I couldn’t remember what saint that is, he or she has apparently been forgotten. But I looked it up and there are actually four of them: St. Jude the Apostle (the best known), St. Rita of Cascia, St. Philomena and St. Gregory of Neocaesarea.

My skeptical side sees a move in the state legislatures as a lost cause, but my hopeful side sees, well, hope. State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from the East Side of Pittsburgh, has introduced a series of election reform bills, co-sponsored by mostly Democrats.

My skeptical side calls these bills by the legal term (I just made up) Aero Porcus – when pigs fly, you will see these bills signed into law. Still, it is good to push for these bills, to pressure legislators to back reforms and to let people know these bills exist and that our legislature is ignoring them and the will of their constituents.

House Bill 945 – Same Day Voter Registration

Thirteen states and DC have it. In 2012, voter turnout increased over 10% in states where it existed. Voters simply register at their polling place on election day, showing a photo ID. There have been no documented incidents of voter fraud due to same day voter registration. (18 cosponsors, all Democrats).

HB 946 – Early voting

Over 30% of votes in last two Presidential elections were cast by early voting; 37 states and the District of Columbia allow it. This bill would authorize early voting 15 days before the election at early voting sites set up by the county boards of election. (20 cosponsors, 19 Democrats and one Republican.)

HB 947 – Resign to Run

Any federal, state, county or municipal official must resign prior to running for an elected office that begins before the end of their current term. This avoids the additional cost of some special elections. The bill also bars individuals from running for more than one office in the same election year. In general, it means one less advantage for incumbents. (4 cosponsors, all Democrats).

HB 948 – Limiting a Legislator’s Outside Income

This bill prohibits members of the General Assembly from receiving more than 35% of their base salary as a legislator from outside sources.

Full-time legislators are paid for full-time service, and should devote all their time to being a legislator, DeLuca argues. Influences and time demands from other jobs mean legislators aren’t serving their constituents. don’t serving our constituents. (6 cosponsors, 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans.)

HB 949 – Outside Income Disclosure

This requires legislators filing a statement of financial interest to list not only the source of any outside income, but also the amount within specified ranges. This helps reveal real or perceived conflicts of interest, improves transparency, and limits the influence of wealthy individuals, corporations and special interests. (13 cosponsors, 10 Democrats and 3 Republicans.)

HB 950 – Sick Day Campaigning

This prohibits public employees from using sick time to campaign. Legislators are known to order or allow their staffers to do this. It closes a little loophole that had taxpayers supporting re-election campaigns. (12 cosponsors, 7 Democrats and 5 Republicans, including our neighbor Cris Dush.)

HB 951 – Stand Back

This increases distance campaigners must be from a polling location from 10 feet to 35 feet. DeLuca says this will help prevent any unwanted confrontations or voter intimidation. (4 cosponsors, 3 Democrats and Republican perennial gadfly Russ Diamond.)

♣︎

DeLuca introduced all of these bills March 23 as a package of reform legislation. All were referred to the House State Government Committee where they will die unless people make a big stink and demand their passage.

To read the full text of these bills and to follow their progress (or lack of it), go to www.legis.state.pa.us, click on the Legislation tab, and type HB (bill number) in the top left search box.

Following the Money to a Trump Presidency

The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency
The New Yorker.com

Jane Mayer, a writer for The New Yorker magazine, has done some terrific reporting on money trails and politico-financial cabals. Her work on the Koch brothers led to her 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. While she was working on the story, back in 2010, she found herself the target of a smear campaign mounted by associates of the Koch empire — which she managed to survive.

This week’s New Yorker has another Mayer article, this time on the dark money contributions of shadowy billionaire Robert Mercer and a network of dark-side political operatives and media outlets that — with a little help from Vlad “The Derailer” Putin and the director of the FBI — put Trump in the White House. Mayer draws a very clear connect-the-dots picture of the way the key players (the Mercer family, Steve Bannon, Breitbart News, Kellyanne Conway, among others) aligned forces to change our world.

What’s remarkable to me is how little Trump himself had to do with the actual masterminding of his own election. Trump does crowds, and brilliantly; these people did the long-range strategy that created the crowds and put him in front of them. Trump is the lumbering, impervious tank the infantry shelters behind as they advance on the enemy — but in this case, the infantry are the masters and the enemy is us. The upshot: Trump is now President, and these people surround him in the People’s house.

Anyway, you might give it a read, if you haven’t already…

♫ “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore”

James McMurtry is the son of Western writer Larry McMurtry.  While the father is one hell of a writer (you may remember reading or watching Lonesome Dove years ago), the son is one hell of a songwriter.  “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore” is a devastating anthem to America’s decades-long decline and fall from its former manufacturing greatness to our present rust belt diminishment.

This song is remarkable in a lot of ways — it’s one of the rare songs that can stand on level ground lyrically with Bob Dylan’s greatest songs, for one.  But I’m posting it for a different reason: because, in this song, McMurtry channels the same hard anger and despair that just put Donald Trump in the White House. It’s about why “Make America Great Again” hats were all the campaign advertising Trump needed to pull his base on board. (That and generous doses of fear-mongering, ridicule, and immigrant-bashing.)

In the song, though, McMurtry comes to a different understanding of our predicament than Trump and his voters do. They, in their anger and fear of the future, lash out at minorities, immigrants, Moslems, and liberals. McMurtry doesn’t fall for that easy blame. He calls out the real enemy at the end of the song. (You’ll just have to listen to it to find out who or what that is…) To me, one of Indivisible’s biggest challenges is helping Trump’s voters — our neighbors, more often than not — see beyond those too-easy decoys to the real sources of the misery and despair so many feel.

Trigger warning for parents of very young children:
the “sh*t” word is used a time or two in this song.

Action Alerts for the Week of March 3

Please: Call, write a letter, send a postcard or fax regarding these urgent concerns:

  1.  Defend healthcare
    • So far the repeal and replace plans are a mess… or possibly out and out non-existent. Tell your MoC’s to oppose repealing the ACA and protect Medicaid. Fine-tuning and improving can be worked out later.
  2.  Demand Trump’s tax returns
    • OK, enough is enough on this. Anyone who has applied for college aid must disclose tax returns, yet President Trump refuses — in spite of growing suspicions about possible conflicts of interest and ties to Russia. Demand that your MoC’s sign on to Rep. Bill Pascrell’s letter that would instruct Congress to exercise its legal authority to obtain those returns.
  3.  Push for truth and full disclosure about Trump’s Russian influences
    • Tell your MoC’s that the American people deserve to receive a full report on this situation provided by an independent team of investigators.
  4.  Oppose a dangerous gun law
    • Ask your MoC’s to vote against Concealed Carry Reciprocity. This bill would force Pennsylvania to allow dangerous people from every other state to carry hidden, loaded guns on your streets — convicted stalkers, domestic abusers, people with no training, even the legally blind… and there is nothing PA will be able to do about it! The views of the head of the NRA have gone beyond what most members believe or want. He recently declared that anyone in opposition to the Trump agenda is part of “the violent left.”
  5. Protect Our Earth
    • Ask your MoC’s to fight the gutting of the EPA. In addition, ask them to specifically oppose a proposed $800 million giveaway to Big Oil. When fossil fuel companies drill on our public lands, they often burn away — or flare — natural gas. This sends climate-busting CO2 straight into the atmosphere. And it pollutes the air in local communities.
    • They used to be able to do this for free. But President Obama changed that. His Administration made a rule that makes the fossil fuel industry pay taxpayers and tribes for the wasted natural gas. This made Big Oil think twice about destroying our wild places.
    • Now, Congress is trying to undo the Obama administration’s action. And we know why. Thanks to an investigation Friends of the Earth launched in 2015, we know exactly which companies are getting the most free natural gas from our public lands. The biggest winners are some of Trump’s biggest donors… companies like ExxonMobil, which is now running the State Department through former CEO Rex Tillerson. And companies like Devon Energy, which was so close to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that back in Oklahoma they actually drafted letters for him to copy and paste onto his letterhead when he was state Attorney General.
    • Reversing the rule would be a huge win for companies like these — and a huge loss for taxpayers and the climate! (This vote is going to be very, very close. The difference between protecting our air and letting Big Oil go back to destroying it for free is going to come down to one or two Senators!)

Thanks for rising up!

–Kathy Krouse