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The following article has been crossposted from the Raging Chicken Press.  Yesterday I attended the Senate Labor and Industry Committee hearing on raising the minimum wage.  Enjoy!

Knowing that an increase in the minimum wage in Pennsylvania is likely and probably imminent, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry went beyond scraping at the bottom of the barrel to chiseling their way through the floor that barrel sits on when it came to crafting an argument against the minimum wage increase.  For the hearing the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry submitted a 12 page document called “Unintended Consequences of Mandated Wage Hikes Include Job Loss,” and Alex Halper, the lobbyist testifying for the business friendly organization, threw a large floppy red herring into the fray.

According to Halper and the Chamber, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should keep tens of thousands of working class families in poverty because of the already high youth unemployment in inner cities.  Halper claims that raising the minimum wage will keep minority youths unemployed, which will then cause more violence in places like Baltimore Philadelphia.  To back up his claim, Halper cited a recycled oped from the last time Pennsylvania went to raise the minimum wage.  In the testimony, the Chamber stated:

The unintended negative consequences of mandating an increase to entry-level wages go further and an impact with critical short- and long-term implications is being felt especially in the city of Philadelphia. An April 6, 2007 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer stated: “One consequence of January’s increase in the minimum wage – from $6.25 to $7.15 an hour – is the threat it poses to summer jobs for youth. As salaries rise, the number of jobs comes down…”6 The article went on to explain that, in the summer of 2006, the nonprofit Philadelphia Youth Network facilitated summer jobs for thousands of young people between the ages of 14 and 21. However, with the minimum wage increase making it more difficult for businesses to hire, an estimated 1,100 young people would not be able to find summer jobs.
Does this point have validity?  Possibly.  But this red herring a lame excuse that goes against the greater good of lifting tens of thousands of families out of poverty and starvation wages.  Whenever a minimum wage increase is being considered, this excuse is brought up by business friendly or conservative institutions.  Recently, the Washington Examiner and the Washington Policy Center out of Washington State both used this scare tactic in opposition of a minimum wage increase.

In reality, increasing the minimum wage will be a large benefit to minority communities.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 10 million members of the African American community will benefit from a wage increase, with 5.8 million of those being women.  The same can be said for members of the Latino community.  Over 15 million Latinos will witness a wage bump and 6.6 million of those include women.

For a complete play by play blow of yesterday’s minimum wage hearing, listen to Mark Price from the Keystone Research Center talk with Rick Smith.

Discuss
 

The following was crossposted from the Raging Chicken Press.   There are more links and audio of Vereb comparing union workers to Baltimore Rioters on the original page.

Last week was a banner week for Pennsylvania Republcians when it came to itchy twitter fingers and making extremely stupid statements on the Baltimore Rebellion.  State Representative Stephen Bloom got the ball rolling by blaming the situation on President Obama.  State Representative Mike Vereb retweeted a meme of President Obama taking a selfie in front of a burning CVS, which was not picked up by the media, and then later in the week, Vereb went on the Dom Giordano radio show and compared union workers to rioters in the city.  Then Congressman Mike Kelly made some pretty flippant remarks about the levels of poverty experienced in Baltimore.  On Sunday morning, Keystone Progress blasted out an email that quoted the Congressman saying “This is turning into anarchy and you have people doing things that are absolutely horrible and then saying, ‘oh it was just because I wasn’t given a chance,’ oh my God, give me a break…” on another conservative talk radio show.

Over the past few months, I have posted some of the dumber things that State Representative Mike Vereb has released on twitter.  Vereb is a former police officer from suburban Philadelphia and a corporate security guard for Comcast, and according to his legislative website, he was a sponsor of the unconstitutional bill that attacked Mumia Abu Jamal’s right to speak out from prison.  Then a couple of weeks ago, State Representative Dom Costa – another former police officer – stated that he and Vereb are spearheading legislation that would make it a crime to taunt a cop in public because of emotional reasons.

Since I am blocked from Representative Vereb’s personal Facebook page, an astute reader of the Raging Chicken Press forwarded me Representative Vereb’s cover photo that he has been using since December, and man oh man, it is this photo a dozy.  While “typing leik dis,” Vereb has posted photos that some can describe as anti-protester, possibly racially charged and definitely pro-cop.  The representative called President Obama the “emperor of the United States” after the president’s immigration executive order, called for the arrest of Ferguson demonstrators outside of an Eagles game for inciting a riot that never happened,  posted photos on Facebook of getting a police escort through Center City Philadelphia while Ferguson solidarity demonstrations were going on, and claiming “Blue Power” while attending a Penn State Football game at Yankee Stadium after the non-indictment of the cops who chocked Eric Garner to death.

On the Represntative’s Facebook account, he has a cover photo from the pro-police blog The Police Wife Life that is titled STOP BLAMING THE POLICE!  The photo reads:

Facts:

Less than a million officers in the US, 313.9 million residents in the US.  Only 245 police per 100,000 residents.

12 million arrests per year.  34,000 arrests per day.  400 fatal police shootings per year.  Less than 1% who encounter police die.  99.9% who encounter police….LIVE!

Every 58 hours an officer dies on duty.  Over 58,000 officers assaulted each year.  Only 245 officers per each 100,000 persons.  760,000 officers for 319.9 million people.

Police kill less than one percent of those they encounter and the vast majority are justified.

Right, no wonder why Representative Vereb think’s it’s a great idea to make taunting a police officer some sort of felony in Pennsylvania.  I mean taunting a police dog is a class three felony, so what will taunting a cop be?  According to the photo Vereb has on display and, most likely his whole entire attitude toward Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Kimani Gray and other young black men killed at the hands of police officers, the vast majority of police related killings are justified so they’re just dead and shit out of luck?

But let’s save the best part of the photo for last…

And for those who like to throw the race-card 91 percent of blacks are killed BY MEMBERS OF THEIR OWN RACE.  ALMOST 500 MORE WHITES DIE EACH YEAR THAN BLACKS.  [Emphasis not my own]
For our readers purposes, the blogger makes it known that she is married to an African American cop.  Putting that aside let’s talk about some of these claims.

First off.  No one really knows how many “justifiable” homicides there are at the hands of police officers each year.  That “400” figure comes from police departments self reporting police related killings because there is no federal requirements or database that keeps track.  The number can be as much as three times the original claim.  One website, Killed by Police tracks “corporate news reports of people killed by nonmilitary law enforcement officers, whether in the line of duty or not, and regardless of reason or method,” and the “inclusion implies neither wrongdoing nor justification on the part of the person killed or the officer involved. The post merely documents the occurrence of a death.”  According to the website, there have already been 392 police related killings in 2015, in 2014 there were at least 1,101 incidents and in 2013 (from May 1 to the end of year) there were 770 police related killings.

The second point is this racially charged trope of “black on black” crime.  As mentioned above, the photo claims that 91 percent of murders within the African American community are “black on black” murders, and the same can be said about the white community.  Last November, the Washington Post fact checked Rudy Giuliani after he made an appearance on Meet the Press and claimed that 93 percent of murders within the black community are black on black crime.  According to the FBI, murders in the white and black communities are intraracial and rarely cross racial boundaries.  The FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that 90 percent of murders in the black community are intraracial, and in the white community, that number is 83 percent.

The Washington Post goes tackles most of the other claims that the photo in question raises.  For instance, the photo claims that less than 1 percent of all police encounters are fatal and justified.  Probulica discovered that black men were 21 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than their white counterparts.

Discuss

No, really folks.  A Pennsylvania Republican, Mike Vereb, went on a conservative radio show based out of Philadelphia and compared unions to Baltimore Rioters.  

Of course there's some back story to this.  For the past 3 years, Pennsylvania's ALEC style think-tank, The Commonwealth Foundation, has been pursuing laws that would make it illegal for union workers to follow bosses around town and protest outside of their place of residence.  Laws that allow unions to commit these acts of free-speech date back to the 1930's and conservatives want to change that.

Last year, a group of Philadelphia Ironworkers, the president included, were charged and convicted of arson and intimidation, and the right-wing used this high profile incident to push really hard pass the legislation while Governor Corbett was still in office - and failed.

The GOP has renewed their efforts in curbing these not so subtle acts of direct action and have already passed a bill out of the Senate.  While on the radio show, Vereb was asked about this law and said the following:

They inflate their rats or they do whatever they do.  But destructing property in Baltimore style tactics is just not something any of us want and I think that legislation will ultimately be sent to the governor.
You can read the full report and listen to the radio conversation HERE:
Discuss

Teamsters President James Hoffa was in Hershey this week for the annual Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters.  At the conference, Hoffa was interviewed by Rick Smith, host of the Rick Smith Show, and at the beginning of the interview, Hoffa called "bullshit" on President Obama's TPP strategy.

Here's the portion of the interview:

Rick Smith:  I gotta talk about this trade agreement.  In the opening we had President Obama saying "You can trust me.  I am not going to sign these trade agreements."  Yet he signed KORUS, Panama, Columbia and now this?

James Hoffa: Well, everybody in Washington is talking about this.  I mean this is the biggest issue right now.  They call it TPP - Trans Pacific Partnership, and I always call it NAFTA on steroids.  This thing is huge.  It covers the entire Pacific, and there's an idea here.  Obama's got this idea that we're going to surround China.  Well that's bullshit.  You're not going to do that.

Hoffa then goes on to raise questions about the deals secrecy and why it is not being released to the public.  You can listen to the rest interview here.
Discuss

In Pennsylvania and 8 other states, conservative think tanks in the State Policy Network and ALEC web are pushing "collective bargaining transparency" legislation.  These bills would neuter the collective bargaining process between public sector unions and state and local governments by making the negotiations subject to Sunshine Laws, forcing unions to publish negotiating positions 2 weeks before the contract talks begin and 30 days after they end and, in Pennsylvania, publish a fiscal report from the Independent Fiscal Office that explains how much the outcome will cost the state.  

For a clearer idea on what is happening in Pennsylvania and around the country, click on the following link.

Discuss

The following has been cross posted from the Raging Chicken Press, and yes, this did happen today (audio and links found on the link)!

It was Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on the hill today, and legislators were exuding out of the woodwork and offices to give the fancy police state that we have built in post 9/11 America a big, wet, sloppy, drooling kiss.  The event was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police and MC’d by State Senator John Rafferty.

In a press release earlier this week, Rafferty stated “the recent ambush-style attacks on two Pennsylvania State Police Troopers in Blooming Grove, Pennsylvania, and two New York Police Department officers in New York City, New York have violently demonstrated that law enforcement officers are being marked for attack,” and the Senator did not hold back when it came scapegoating the police hate.  At today’s rally, Rafferty blamed the uptick in violence against police on September 11th.  No really.  At the rally, he said, “it used to be when a law enforcement official answered the call for a burglary or an armed robbery he or she worried about a situation where their life maybe threatened.  After 9/11, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the attitude of this country and in the world.  Law enforcement officials are now being targeted because they wear a badge.”

Also taking part in today’s meathead intellectualism de jour, was former Pittsburgh Police Officer and current House member Dom Costa, who proposed that taunting cops should be a crime because feelings may be hurt and egos may be bruised.  At the press conference, Costa said:

This nonsense that is going today on where police officers are being taunted by people and being provoked, lets face it we’re all human beings, and eventually that emotion will break.  And that’s what they’re trying to do.  So, what I’ve talked to some of my colleagues and the senator [Senator Rafferty] is that we have a bill about taunting a police dog.  It’s illegal.  There should be out that you can’t taunt a police officer because you’re going to get those emotions up.  I myself and Representative Vereb are looking at that bill to put it forward in the House, and I am sure the Senate will follow.  Or at least support that bill.
Or.  Ya know.  Training police officers not to fly off the rails and harm unarmed people should also be part of the equation.  But getting into the ironic part of comparing police officers to dogs, here’s some information on the dog taunting law.

According to the Pennsylvania Humane Society, it is a third degree felony to “willfully or maliciously taunt, torment, tease, beat, kick or strike a police animal,” and the “taunting” part was slipped into a bill that stiffened penalties for people who kills a police dog.  So here’s a handful of stories of people who taunted a police dog.  In 2007, a 23 year old man was arrested, and given a $100,000 bail, for yelling at a police dog.  Then last fall, a 34 year old man was arrested for yelling “shut up” at a barking police dog, and last winter, a drunken college student was arrested for barking – yes barking – at a police dog at 2 in the morning.

In Pennsylvania, barking or yelling at a police dog carries consequences.  Imagine what will happen if the Mike Vereb’s or the Dom Costa’s of the Commonwealth’s police forces have some chafing between the legs going on because they didn’t get their daily Dunkin Donut fix in that morning and you happen to snatch a ticket out of an officer’s hand?  Or if you happen to be at a demonstration – which I have been to a lot of – and there’s verbal jabing happening between protesters and police officers?  This may not make it through the Pennsylvania Legislature, if it is even proposed, but after all, it is now the “Year of the Cop” in Pennsylvania and it is a Class 3 felony to taunt, bark or yell at a police dog.

Discuss

In Pennsylvania, there is an anti-union, Koch Brother funded organization that is harrassing college professors and faculty workers within the State System of Higher Education.  Why is Simon Campbell doing this?  Because the state's Right to Know Laws allows him to get the addresses of every single state employee.  Click on the following link to read up on this.  

Discuss

Yesterday, Republican and Democratic senators in Pennsylvania held a hearing for medical marijuana in the state.  After the hearing, the mothers and fathers of sick children who have been pushing for this bill for a year and a half held a press conference and rally for legislators, Wolf administrators and those who need medical marijuana to speak out.  

One of the legislators who spoke was State Representative Ed Gainey from Pittsburgh, and he delivered one of the most passionate speeches on this topic.  The speech is transcribed below, but to hear the awesomeness of the speech, please jump over to our website.  

For complete coverage and not the speech, you can click here

Good afternoon, how is everybody doing? No. No.  We look like we're tired when we should be energized.  Good afternoon, how is everybody doing?

 Let me hear you give a big hand, and I need the House to hear this so they know how important it is for Senator Folmer and Daylin Leach for their leadership on Senate Bill 3. I need them to hear you one more time, because I need them to understand that we are hear today to talk about people.  Lets give it up for the parents who have come together for compassion to get this moving.  

A lot of times I think we forgot why we're elected and why we come here.  We're elected by the people, for the people to do the work of the people, and one of the main things we are sent to do is make sure we provide relief for people and whatever field we are entering.

In the House today, we have children, we have vets, we have adults impacted by cancer, by post-traumatic stress, by epilepsy, by MS, and we still cant move Senate Bill 3 through the House because of distorted myths that are not true.  Today, it got to stop.

We the government and us the people have to work together.  We have to work together to make sure everybody understands that medical marijuana is another tool that we can use to help people.

Lets stop with the distorted facts that there is no research, that there is no reports, that it's a schedule one and we want to hide behind the FDA!  Lets move everything out of the way and focus on people, and make sure that we provide another form of relief to the people who need it!  THAT'S WHAT GOVERNMENT IS ABOUT. THAT'S WHAT GOVERNMENT IS ABOUT.

Government is about us, the people.  So Senator Folmer is right.  We need us.  You and I.  To come together, and let every House member know right now that we will not be denied.  That we will continue to fight for what is right, and that's the relief for the people on Pennsylvania!      

If 21 over states are doing it and we know it's working, and we know the addictiveness of opium, the addictiveness of Vicodin, we know that is a hundred times more powerful than medical marijuana.  IT'S TIME THAT WE PUT THE DISTORTED FACTS IN THEIR PLACE AND CALL A "LIE A LIE!"  AND I'M CALLING EVERYBODY WHO IS MAKING IT SEEM THAT MEDICAL MARIJUANA IS A GATEWAY DRUG TO OTHER ADDICTIVE DRUGS, THAT IS A LIE!

Lets do as we were sent to do as representatives.  Create relief for the people of Pennsylvania today!  Call everybody today and tell them that Senate Bill 3 is alive!

   
 
Discuss

Democrats in Pennsylvania are an extremely minority party when it comes to the House and Senate, but we elected a Democratic Governor.  On top of that, there were two State Supreme Court vacancies to fill, so to please the Republican Leadership, Tom Wolf appointed one democrat and one republican to fill the seat.  

Well, it looks like the Republican appointed judge sent out this:
 

The email of that the judge sent out was thoroughly described in the Philadelphia Inky as:
The Inquirer reported Friday that an e-mail was sent in December 2013 under Kistler’s name titled “Merry Christmas From the Johnsons.” The message depicted a black man and a black woman during what appears to be a jail visit. The man, smiling and wearing an orange prison uniform, sits behind a glass window.

Forwarded with a subject line that read “Best Christmas card ever,” the message also includes cartoon depictions of Santa Claus and reindeer.

The news paper did not publish the photo, but anyone who knows how to use a search engine can easily find this photo.  

And said that there was "no ill intent" behind the Christmas email.  It was, ya know!, just some good ol office humor.  Wolf must rescind this nomination and fill someone else to fill it.  This judge cannot be trusted on issues, like Voter ID, that effect the minority community.  

End. Of. Story.

Discuss

This post is a follow up to my previous diary and was cross-posted from the Raging Chicken Press.

Yesterday morning, I had my first “Welcome to Harrisburg, kiddo” experience when Representative Vitali’s climate change press conference began at 11:oo am.  Inside the media center, there were two folks sitting in front of me, a senate staffer to my left and three news cameras directly behind me. As of this morning, I am beginning to believe that I was the only print journalist who attended the press conference. Besides my earlier article for the Rick Smith Show, the only other media coverage came from NorthCentralPA.com, which aggregated Greg Vitali’s press release, and the local Fox 43 news affiliate, which had a barn burning 130 something word write up and short video on the event.

Sure, covering legislation that may never make it out of committee may not be the sexiest thing to ever occur, but the lack of media coverage on yesterday’s climate change press conference falls right in line with the lack of media coverage on the issue as a whole.

Since 2009, Media Matters has been tracking the minutes of climate change segments on the Sunday morning shows and the major news networks.  In the past 5 years, 2009 was the peak for climate change coverage at 205 total minutes between the networks and the Sunday shows.  In 2013, there was a total of 129 minutes dedicated towards climate change – 27 of which were on the Sunday shows, and in 2014 there was a raise to 154 total minutes with the largest gains coming in the Sunday shows.

In August, John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, broke the internet when he called out traditional media’s “play it down the middle” style of reporting.  When someone is demonstrating that there is a thing called climate change, the mainstream media has to be “fair and balanced” so they have to invite a climate skeptic to make it look like there’s a real debate happening.  John Oliver destroyed that “play it down the middle” style of journalism that we are used to by having Bill Nye and 96 other “scientists” and 3 climate deniers.

Print coverage of climate change hasn’t fared too well over the last five years either.  According to Science Policy at the University of Colorado, climate change coverage among the nation’s five major newspapers (Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today and Los Angles Times) peaked in December 2009 with 510 articles, 165 of which came from the New York Times.  It took until November 2014 for press coverage on the issue to get close to its 2009 peak, but even then, there were only 352 articles published.  With last summer being one of the hottest summers on record, you’d think there would have been a significant increase in coverage?  Wrong.  From June through September, the big five reported on climate change 256, 202,158 and 308 times, respectively.

One excuse I’ve heard for the lack of coverage at yesterday’s press conference was that it occurred on a non-session day. Another is that it shows how our print media has been worn thin because of news room cuts. There are others, of course.  Fact of the matter is that if we are to have these debates in a public space, especially on one of the most pressing issues of our time, it is the responsibility of the media to do its job.  At the press conference, Representative Vitali compared climate change to medical marijuana usage and same-sex marriage, both issues that have hit tipping points over a 10-year period.  With the dismal coverage of climate change in the mainstream media outlets and local newspapers, how is this debate supposed to reach its tipping point so we can finally start to act?

Discuss

Just so everyone knows, I have been working for the Rick Smith Show the past month as the producer and capitol reporter for Rick's show.  At 11 am this morning, I was at a press conference on the reintroduction climate change legislation from the previous session in the Capitol Media Center, and at the time I posted a video of those who attended.  

I was sitting in the back of the media center and there 3 news cameras behind me, a photojournalist, a Senate staffer / intern sitting next to me and two people who I thought were journalists right in font of me.  As of 5PM EST, there hasn't been a single story on today's presser, which I am about to publish my first and a follow up on the lack of media at today's event, and I am beginning to believe that I was the only person who attended the thing.

All I can say is "WOW?" There was a press release published after the conference was held, but yeah, just goes to show you how important this issue is on the state level.

For the record, I tried to embed a youtube video into the diary, but is not appearing.  Just click on the provided link above.  You may spot some crickets.

Discuss

No really.  

Instead of funding public higher education and fixing the damage that Governor Corbett wreaked on public education during his one term as governor, Pennsylvania State Senator and Philadelphia Mayoral front runner Anthony Williams is set introduce a bill that would allow PHEAA - the state agency that issues college grants to PA citizens who attend in state schools - to create a lottery system that would compete with the state's existing lottery system.  This bill would would dedicate 30 percent of revenues aside for cash prizes and the remaining 70 percent for administrative fees and needs based grants.  Students - or "players" - would get cash prizes for anything under $500 and would be credited prizes over $500.  

But how sick is this?  This bill will incentivize students or graduates to gamble so they can get some sort of relief.  If you thought you've seen it all, here's another crappy idea.

Discuss
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