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Since former President Ford died while I was on vacation I haven't had a chance to comment on him and his legacy. I heard the news while in Santa Fe and on the computer (what else is new?) Ford was a good Congressman and a good President. Never remarkable or ever acheiving great success but always a man of integrity. That's a quality that has been rare in both Congress and the Oval Office both before and after his tenures.
Gerald Ford was a very decent man. That's a high compliment for anyone who has served this nation in the capacities in which he served. You'd be hard pressed ever to find someone who had a negative thing to say about him personally. That's quite a legacy for anyone and remarkable for a politician. He came to the Oval Office at one of the most difficult moments of the century. Nixon had torn the country apart and much hatred abounded from his crimes, his stonewalling, his corruption.
Gerlad Ford immediately changed the tone. I disagreed with his pardon and still retain that opinion. The country never got closure from the terrible wounds Nixon inflicted upon it. He was never held accountable for his crimes and that was sad. Ford thought it was important for the country to move on and made a critical decision. It cost him the Presidency in 1976. Still, he had the political courage to do what he thought was right. I do admire him for so doing.
Today we have a President who only does what's politically expedient, not what's right. We could use a Jerry Ford in the White House now instead of its current occupant.
3,000. Reuters is reporting that the American death toll in Iraq has reached this ignominious milestone. Meanwhile the Emporer fiddles while the Iraq Study Group report goes as ignored as the 9/11 Commission Report has. Meanwhile Saddam has been executed to throw the civil war further into a downward spiral.
The proposed escalation of troop levels comes three years too late. It wasn't done when critically needed to seal the borders and instill law and order after Saddam's fall. The Army and Marines had too few soldiers to keep areas peaceful and, as a result, had to keep refighting the same battles. The only thing escalation will accomplish now is an equal escalation of casualties.
Video of Saddam's hanging is readily available on the internet. How many times must we violate international human rights treaties? The videos of troops examing his teeth and hair were clear violations of the Geneva Conventions. Releasing tape of the noose going around his neck was another. All we needed were a few still photos to release to the Iraqi people to prove he was dead. Humiliating the man any further wasn't necessary and were violations.
The entire trial process was a sham and the whole world knows that fact. Why this couldn't have awaited a legitimate government and a true legal system is beyond me. Of course Bush couldn't allow a delay for further trials because Saddam may have exposed our close involvements with some of his atrocities. The fact previous Republican Presidents (Reagan & Bush I) condoned Saddam's atrocities and actually helped him in his war with Iran would have come out and been embarrassing. So Saddam had to be tried on specific charges and then hanged asap.
Meanwhile there have been more torture deaths became Islamic sects and more car bombs. There is no shortage of fireworks this New Years Eve in Baghdad. The difference is they're real.
May 2007 finally bring some peace. Let's hope the New Year brings President Bush to his senses. While he fiddles trying to resolve his disaster more people are being killed and maimed. There is no time for waiting, no time for fiddling while Baghdad burns.
New details are emerging both about Rep. Tom Caltagirone's deal with John Perzel and about other lawmakers deciding not to support their nominee for Speaker.
Let's remember why this mess has happened: both Parties put forth Leaders tainted by the corruption of the pay raise scandal and past abuses. The Parties ignored the ringing and decisive message of the voters this year by ignoring calls for significant reforms. We harshly criticized the nominations of these old pols for these slots on this basis and these others are also upset.
Choosing Perzel as a reformer over DeWeese though is crazy. As Speaker for twelve years John Perzel was the problem. If Tom Caltagirone thinks he's had an epiphany I suggest he read the many articles on this very blog about Perzel. If Tom thinks Perzel is going to live up to his end of the deal he's a fool. Perzel is no reformer and never will be, just like Caltagirone. Look at the way Caltagirone runs the Berks County Democratic Committee and you'll see he's no reformer.
Meanwhile here's the deal Perzel and Caltagirone reportedly have made: Committees will be divided between R's and D's, alternating the naming of Chairs. Perzel remains Speaker though and completely controls what bills get to the floor for votes. Both Appropriations and Judicial remain in GOP hands. Perzel also agreed to adjourn daily by 10 pm unless otherwise voted upon.
DeWeese has already agreed to an 11 pm curfew but both are useless because they can undone by simple votes. They are toothless. Bi-partisan Chairs may be a good idea but real reform must come with serious lobbying and campaign finance reform. Until Caltagirone agrees that no legislator can accept anything of value from a lobbyist and puts limits on campaign contributions, tightens reporting requirements, and adds serious consequences for failure to file full and accurate reports he's a pretender.
He contributed over $12,000 this year to a colleague's re-election effort and another $4,000 to the County Committee to use for other local campaigns. Not everyone received a penny of that money. Going through campaign finance reports since election day I saw some of it wasn't even reported. The $12,500 to another candidate was bundled with other funds, given to the House Democratic Committee and then returned to the District campaign in in-kind contributions. He funneled the money through the Committees so people wouldn't realize it actually came from him. It wasn't very hard to follow the money trail but try doing so on a statewide basis, especially when some of it was spent for in-kind contributions that weren't reported.
Caltagirone is no reformer. This is a naked power play against Bill DeWeese. A real reformer would be proposing bills disallowing some of the very abuses he engages in. A real reformer would outlaw all lobbying contributions and propose the public financing of all elections.
Meanwhile GrassrootsPA is reporting through CapitolWire that a number of other Representatives are also withholding their votes for Speaker. These are both Dems and Repubs so the election Tuesday could be chaotic. Joe Petrarca, Rosita Youngblood and Tom Tancretti, all Dems, are reportedly also withholding support for DeWeese. Republicans not voting for Perzel include Rosemarie Swanger and Scott Perry. Meanwhile Curt Schroder may also run for Speaker as a Republican.
Tuesday is bound to be a free for all, wide open battle for power regardless. No one knows who will emerge and power plays are going on everywhere.
Update: I have posted an analysis of Caltagirone's campaign finance reports at Berks Democrats. Who he got his money from and who he gave it to. His son John actually gave Bill DeWeese $250.
Update II: VoicePA has an excellent analysis of Tom Caltagirone's alliance with Perzel on the Sovereign Bank legislation.
This message was sent today by Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chair T.J. Rooney. It means the Reading Democratic Representative is officially dead as a Democrat. Who will he take down with him? Rep. Caltagirone resides at 2521 Hill Road in Reading, 19606. This is on Mt. Penn if anyone is inclined to protest outside his home.
An URGENT Message from Chairman T.J. Rooney BREAKING NEWS --- URGENT ACTION REQUIRED
Earlier today Democratic Representative Tom Caltigirone of Berks County announced his intention to support Republican John Perzel for the position of Speaker of the House.
Make no mistake – this is an act of political treason!
On November 7th. The voters of Pennsylvania sent a clear message - they want change in Harrisburg. Caltigirone wants to single-handily thwart the will of the voters.
On Tuesday the House will begin the new session and elect a Speaker. Democrats have nominated Representative Bill DeWeese. Democrats hold a ONE vote majority in the State House. We can’t let one power-hungry politician feather his own nest by selling out the party he has called home for over 30 years that he has spent in Harrisburg.
Here’s what I’m asking you to do:
1. Call Caltigirone at (610) 371-9940 and demand he re-think his despicable decision.
2. E-mail Caltigirone at firstname.lastname@example.org and demand he vote to elect Democrat Bill DeWeese Speaker of the House.
3. Attend a rally in front of Caltigirone’s office on Monday at 3pm. His office is located at 645 Penn Street in Reading.
Caltigirone must be stopped. This blatant sell-out must not occur. Too many Democrats, for too many years, have worked too hard to let this one devious, power-hungry politician abuse the voters of Pennsylvania!!!
I urge everyone to begin contacting State Representative Tom Caltagirone. All the work, all the effort, all the money raised to take the State House back for Democrats is at risk. This one man is ready to undo everything by voting for Republican John Perzel for Speaker.
Let's review some things about Perzel. He refused to allow much Democratic legislation to even get to the floor for votes. Critical legislative agendas were derailed by this Speaker. He not only voted for the illegal pay raise he championed it. He condemned everyone who protested against it. He went on record several times with outrageous justifications for why they needed more money over and above their COLA. He was Speaker the day the House voted to slash Medicaid funding, healthcare for the poorest of the poor, to line their own pockets with raises of 18-34%.
This is the man Tom Caltagirone wants to risk committing political suicide to help. Contact him via email at email@example.com, or at his offices at 610-376-1529 and 717-787-3525.
Going through state campaign finance reports this fall I noticed Tom spread a lot of money around. It seems he was planning this move all along and was currying favor since he was unopposed for re-election (the last time that will happen). It was interesting because not every other State Legislative candidate in Berks received his largesse nor was it equitable. Not all of it was even reported by the December 7th deadline. I believe there were also some in-kind contributions I didn't see reported.
I call for every candidate who received Caltagirone's money, either directly or through political committees to return it immediately. Believe me you no longer want to be tied to Caltagirone any longer. I also call on the labor unions to stop contributing to his campaign committee. We must exert maximum pressure to make Tom Caltagirone remain a Democrat. If he isn't willing to be a Democrat he should change parties.
It will also be interesting to watch how our State Chair and County Chair handle this affair. It's up to Mr. Rooney and Mr.Herman to convince Tom of the folly of his ways. Of course it might also help if Bill DeWeese steps down as candidate for Speaker. I know some candidates this year he forced to commit to voting for him or lose their state party funding. It's these kind of hardball tactics and concern for only himself at the expense of the Democratic majority and the people of Pennsylvania that have fueled this crisis.
No one involved in this mess is without blame. Caltagirone has been running the County Committee through his choice for Chair. He has attempted to control it by funneling contributions to other candidates through the County Committee ($4,000 on October 20th for example). The by laws of the BCDC state all that money must be used for campaign support but not all $4,000 shows up in campaign finance reports filed with the state. Instead of all candidates being treated equally some got quite a bit, some a bit, and some none.
A candidate's manager was subsized by a county committee and it hasn't been reported as an in-kind comtribution.
The first reforms in Harrisburg MUST be campaign finance and lobbying reform. If not these violations and many others will begin to be exposed, regardless of Party affiliation. The use of political committees to launder (essentially that's what it is) contributions so they're difficult to track should cease. Richard Mellon Scaife, for example, owns new State Senator Mike Folmer. I call on each candidate who Tom Caltagirone has sought to control to return his money in lieu of these developments. I will begin listing them tomorrow along with the unions who contributed to Caltagirone.
Meanwhile email and telephone Rep. Caltagirone and let him know you'll be contributing to our Act Blue page as soon as it's up to defeat him in 2008.
Update: The Fly Under the Dome has some interesting information on this from across the aisle. This guy is rarely wrong and he says up to six Republicans plan on abstaining rather than vote for Perzel. If this is true Caltagirone has committed political suicide for nothing.
Update II: This is developing into a blogswarm. Down With Tyranny and Young Philly Politics are now on the story in addition to various regional blogs around Pennsylvania. I understand there's also a diary up at DailyKos.
This is good news. Marc Stier is a good man and a good progressive Democrat. I've met him several times. He is a blogger and a co-founder of Neighborhood Networks. He automatically has my support and andorsement.
Here is his letter announcing why he is running:
Because We Need a Politics of Hope Not Fear
Today I will send Temple University a letter resigning my position on the faculty as of January 1, 2007. Starting on January 2nd I will be a full time candidate for the Democratic nomination for City Council at Large in the May 15 primary.
Politics in Philadelphia is Broken
I am taking this step because politics in Philadelphia is broken. And, in 2007, if we work together, we can begin to fix it. I am writing you today to ask you to join in this work by volunteering to help my campaign www.stier2007.com/join.htm and by contributing to it financially at www.stier2007.com/contribute.htm,
Innovative Public Policies Can Make a Difference
On my campaign website, www.stier2007.com/issue.htm I present a series of innovative policy proposals on many of the issues that affect all of us who live in Philadelphia: crime; economic development; taxes; education, neighborhoods, development and zoning; affordable housing, gentrification, and poverty; our park system; public transit; and casinos. If enacted, these proposals would dramatically change the direction of our city and improve the quality of all of our lives.
These policy ideas are not new. They are being adopted successfully by creative city governments around the country and the world. However, none of them have any chance of being enacted in Philadelphia unless we first begin to reform our broken political system.
Our Politics of Fear
Right now we have what I call a politics of fear. Because none of us can count on our government fairly and efficiently providing us with basic services, we are dependent on political officials for help. We re-elect our politicians because of what they do for us as individual homeowners or business owners or as members of a local community. Most of us are so used to our broken politics that we don’t recognize that, in a good political system, we wouldn’t need special favors from our political officials. Nor do we notice that most of our politicians are not addressing the broad issues that affect every neighborhood and community in the city.
The Failure of Vision in Philadelphia Politics
The result is not just corruption, but something even worse: a failure of vision, that is, a failure on the part of our politicians to seek out and enact public policies that would make the lives of everyone in our city better, no matter the neighborhood in which we live or whether we are rich or poor, black or white.
The Politics of Hope We Need
What we need to replace our politics of fear is a politics of hope. If we begin to have hope that politics can be changed in our city, we will work together for the political reform we desperately need. And we will fight for the public policies that can finally realize the enormous potential of our city and region.
Help Me Build the Movement for Progressive Reform
I am running for City Council not just to hold an office but to expand the movement for progressive reform. To be effective in Council, I will need an organization of thousands of activists who are ready to work for change. My campaign will build on the work of the many activists who, in the last few years, have begun to give Philadelphians hope for the future.
Please join this campaign to create a politics of hope. Take a moment and go to my website www.stier2007.com/join.htm to volunteer your time and effort to this campaign to change politics in Philadelphia. And, if you can, please go to www.stier2007.com/contribute.htm, and give your financial support to this campaign. Contributions you make before the end of the year will help me give your fellow citizens hope for our future.
Best wishes for a 2007 that is wonderful for you, and for the city that we all cherish.
Last night I questioned on Berks Democrats.com whether Reading Representative Tom Caltagirone was about to switch parties and support John Perzel for Speaker of the House. This morning's Reading Eagle reports he is notifying Democratic leaders he intends to vote for Perzel while continuing his Democratic voter registration.
Tom cannot have it both ways. If he votes for Perzel he will be a leper in the Democratic Party from now on. According to Kori Walter, the Eagle's crack political reporter, Caltagirone is unhappy with Bill DeWeese and his hesitation to embrace real reforms. Voting for John Perzel certainly ISN'T the solution though. Perzel is worse than DeWeese and led the pay raise fiasco, for which Caltagirone voted. He's also anti-choice and anti-gay so he fits well with Perzel and the GOP.
If Caltagirone intends to vote for Perzel he'd best simply switch parties because he'll no longer be welcome with Democrats. He's already unwelcome with many of us. Let me relate a personal story about Tom. In 2004 I was the Berks County Field Manager for Lois Herr in her campaign for Congress. Lois Murphy was also running and the City of Reading, much of it in Caltagirone's House District, was split between the 6th and 16th Congressional Districts.
While out hand delivering an invitation to Mayor Tom McMahon my cell phone began going off like crazy. Being in City Hall I didn't think it appropriate to answer. I'm a stickler about using my cell phone appropriately and a particular pet peeve is ignorant people who don't understand there are times and places where it's unsuitable to use them. The Mayor's Office is one such place.
It was Rep. Caltagirone calling, several times, and he left a very ignorant message, screaming that Lois and I had missed an appointment with him and using offensive profanity describing how upset he was. When he couldn't get me personally he then telephoned our campaign HQ in Lancaster where he proceeded to scream and cuss at Lois' scheduling secretary, a young lady.
We had no appointment with Caltagirone that day. His meeting was with the other Lois, Ms. Murphy, who apparently stood him up. The State Representative's staff messed up and we took the brunt of his ignorant temper tantrum and profanity. Caltagirone has never apologized to either of us for his inexcusable rant. This is the kind of man he is so discovering he's about to betray Democrats who worked tirelessly and effectively to finally gain the majority in Harrisburg doesn't shock me. Nothing this man does shocks me.
What I will do is create an Act Blue page along with other bloggers throughout Pennsylvania and I will also begin recruiting a strong candidate to challenge him in the 2008 primary. Several prominent names immediately come to mind. We will begin fundraising online as soon as Caltagirone casts a vote for John Perzel as Speaker. The funds will go to whomever we deem is the strongest candidate to unseat him.
President Bush just gave all Sunni Muslims their martyr by hanging Saddam Hussein. This will inflame the Iraqi civil war more and result in more American casualties. As our death toll reaches 3000 all the new Gold Star Mothers need to ask why their sons and daughters died. I hope each one goes to Crawford to ask the President what "noble cause" they died for. There's a newly grieving family this week in Levittown.
Since the Iraq Study Group released its report more of our soldiers have died while Bush fiddles with in a parallel reality. Osama Bin Forgotten continues plying the trails of Pakistan while Bush allows Pakistan to harbor the terrorist who actually, really attacked us on 9/11. Meanwhile he hangs someone who had nothing to do with that crime.
We really have our national priorties screwed up. Yes, Saddam was a bad person but so is George W. Bush. They've both been responsible for destroying Iraq and killing hundreds of thousand Iraqis. What's the difference? Saddam used chemical weapons and Bush is covering the country with poisonous depleted uranium. What's the difference? The world is filled with bad dictators but it isn't our job to overthrow them. Let's simply concentrate on regime change here at home by insuring the integrity of our election process and using the ballot box to bring this nation back to its ideals and moral principles.
The hanging of Saddam was a personal act of revenge by George W. Bush, a man with an equal amount of Iraqi blood on his hands. Yes, Saddam was guilty of these crimes but they weren't established by a legal court in a sovereign nation. There IS no legitimate Iraqi government under which a trail could be conducted. This was a sham trial by an occupation power and only insures the creation of a new martyr for the holy jihadists. It's another colossal policy blunder by the incompetent idiot in the White House.
U.S. Senator elect Bobby Casey Junior is about to resign as State Treasurer in order to succeed outgoing Senator Tricky Ricky Sanitorium. Casey cannot hold both jobs and Gov. Rendell has yet to appoint a new Treasurer. Therefore Casey has appointed Anthony Wagner, the Executive Deputy State Treasurer to succeed him until a new person is appointed by the Governor.
This is likely going to be a very short stint for Mr. Wagner. I expect Rendell will choose a successor to Mr. Casey rather soon.
The new class of Congress persons and Senators are due to be sworn in on Thursday.