Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kanjorski Flips on Surge

Yet another Youtube video has surfaced on Congressman Paul Kanjorski. This time, Kanjorski is seen flipping and flopping like a fish on the surge. In 2007, Kanjorski spoke from the house floor discouraging President Bush’s “ill conceived” surge of troops in Iraq. Since it has proven a successful tactic, Kanjorski now takes credit for it. In a recent local newscast, Kanjorski claimed that the Democrats took public positions that forced the President to go into the surge mentality.

Paul Kanjorski is yet again talking out of both sides of his mouth. This Washington doublespeak is only going to bolster Lou Barletta’s chances of being the next Congressman from Pennsylvania’s 11th District.

I have heard rumors of a shake up in campaign staff. Perhaps this doublespeak is the result of a ship with no captain, perhaps not. In either case, Kanjorski’s advisors are not managing his public speaking very effectively.

Kanjorski Fallout Continues

Politickerpa called Democrat Congressman Kanjorski a loser this week over his recently discovered statements at a town hall meeting in which Kanjorski admitted to playing politics with the war in Iraq.

Kanjorski’s troubles don’t end there, Fox News is running a story tonight that tears the scab off of Kanjorski’s now infamous Cornerstone Technologies blunders. If you don’t remember, Kanjorski directed millions of federal tax dollars to a now bankrupt firm headed by his family. Allegations of Kanjorski being involved in the day to day operations of the firm surfaced. The bankrupt firm is still unable to locate missing equipment valued at over $100,000 that was the property of the Navy.

Reassessment Botched?

According to the Citizen's Voice, Luzerne County’s reassessment is not going well. The Voice describes values going from $420 to $84,000 while others tripled. Democrat Luzerne County Commissioner Petrilla says in the article that the county is prepared to hear 16,000 appeals. This may not be enough as there are 150,000 parcels in Luzerne County that were subject to reassessment.

The Times Leader also covered the story and revealed something even more shocking…if you seek a hearing to appeal the reassessment, it may cost you more than just paying the tax bill itself.

Other horror stories include tales of botched assessments that include buildings that simply don’t exist. Gort42 points out that when Republican Commissioner Steve Urban pointed out that people were going to get hurt by the reassessment, Democrat Commissioner called urban a “terrorist.” Looks like Urban was right.

Luzerne County Judges Draw Scrutiny

The Citizen's Voice is reporting that the relationship between Judge Mark Civarella and county contractor and local attorney Robert Powell has become an issue in a $3.4 million malpractice case that Atty. Powell won in a case that was before Judge Civarella. At issue is a multi-million dollar real estate development project headed by Luzerne County Prothonatary Jill Moran.

Judge Civarella is accused of excluding defense evidence, making prejudicial statements in front of the jury, and limiting defense testimony in a way that gave Atty. Powell more leeway in the case.

Judge Civarella was primarily the presiding Judge over Juvenile Court since 2001 and up until this week.

Atty. Powell, through his company Pennsylvania Child Care LLC, leased its newly constructed juvenile detention center to Luzerne County for 20 years at a cost of $58 million. Officials from the State Dept. of Welfare have been critical of the cost of the lease stating it was “artificially high.”

The Citizen's Voice likely finds relevance in discussing the juvenile detention center because two Luzerne County Judges that were involved in the closing of the previous center have a financial interest in a Mountain Top real estate project Atty. Powell. The Times Leader also wrote a story about the financial relationship between the Judges and Atty. Powell.

Taxing Questions

Despite her initial proclamation that tax money was “none of your business” to Democrat Scranton City Councilman Bill Courtright, Tax Collector Marilyn Vitali-Flynn has finally revealed how much interest the city is collecting on the mysterious $12 million dollars it “found.” According to the Scranton Times, Vitalli-Flynn finally shared the information with the Scranton Times and faxed a copy to City Council’s solicitor.

Vitali-Flynn may have aspirations of keeping this seat which will be up for election in 2009. Bill Courtright has made no bones about his intention to also seek the office. Hopefully, she wasn’t refusing information for political purposes. The tax office should be one of the most transparent offices in the city. Unless Viatli-Flynn wishes to keep the reputation of mismanagement that has haunted that office she should work with elected officials and the public to assure public faith in the office.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

When Democrats Attack

Blue America Pac has launched an attack on Democrat Congressman Chris Carney. The attack is on youtube. They hit him for “failing to fight for our security and freedoms,” “surrendering to Bush and Cheney” by giving essentially communist-type spying powers presumably to the government, and “pardoning phone companies that gave thousands to his campaign.”

Many, including his opponent, have argued that Congressman Carney is a left-of-center Democrat. Carney has argued that he is dead center. If Carney were to adopt half of the positions of the “Blue America Pac” he would certainly lose his rural, conservative district.

Bonus Gate Update

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that 100’s of current and former House Democratic staffers are receiving subpoenas from a Grand Jury investigating the bonus-gate fiasco and public corruption.

At the heart of the investigation, led by Attorney General Tom Corbett, is whether taxpayer funded bonuses were awarded to staffers as a reward for political activity and whether documents were destroyed in order to cover up any wrongdoing.

Some of the aforementioned bonuses were as much as $20,000.

Locally, the paper reports that aides to Demmocrat State Representative Todd Eachus were interviewed by the State Attorney General’s office. The paper was not however able to confirm this with Eachus at time of writing.

The investigation has so far identified that the Democrats have given $2.3 million in bonuses for the years 2005-2006. Of that, $1.85 million was given out directly after the November 2006 Election in which the Democrats took control of the House.

Kanjorski Bombshell

Out of respect for our brave men and women serving our country abroad I made the decision to hold off on this post until after Memorial Day.

On Friday, a youtube video surfaced of Representative Paul Kanjorski at what appears to be a town hall meeting of some kind. In the meeting, Kanjorski is quoted as saying

“I’ll tell you my impression. We really in this last election, when I say we…the Democrats, I think pushed it as far as we can to the end of the fleet, didn’t say it, but we implied it. That if we won the Congressional elections, we could stop the war. Now anybody was a good student of Government would know that wasn’t true. But you know, the temptation to want to win back the Congress, we sort of stretched the facts…and people ate it up.”

Kanjorski issued a statement that stated that the Congressman was merely sharing “the frustration of my constituents that the war in Iraq had continued,” and that “I expressed my belief that some Democrats in 2006 overestimated the ability of a single house of Congress to end the war, particularly in the face of an intransigent President and Senate Republicans who are committed to continuing the war.”

I find it distasteful that Kanjorski would blame the Republicans for his remarks. This statement seems to be nothing but politics. Politics are what got Paul Kanjorski and now, by extension, the Democrats into this mess. Worse, the most important words that should have been in the statement that seem to be missing are “I’m sorry.”

This has spread through the blogosphere like wildfire and I imagine it has far reaching implications. Nearly every major news resource has something on this. The Chairman of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania issued a release calling on Kanjorski to resign.

The Scranton Times, Morning Call, Citizen's Voice, Hazleton Standard Speaker, Times Leader, Pocono Record, and The Hill as well as the major political websites like Red State and Politico all have covered the story. It made TV on CBS.

What will the ramifications be?

Normally, a story like this would not get as much play on the Friday before a Holiday weekend. That cannot be said for this. House Democrats must be fuming. Essentially, Congressman Kanjorski said that the political policy of the Democratic Party was to lie about withdrawal from an unpopular war to get elected in 2006. This would implicate his fellow Democratic members of Congress as well as the freshman that won in the 2006 elections. Not a good day to be a Democrat.

The big question now is how the Democrats handle this. Will they cut him loose and distance themselves from this enormous misstep or will they circle the wagons and try to defend the Congressman?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

PAGOP Bitter?

This week the Pennsylvania Republican Party raised concerns about Obama’s long history on guns. This, after Obama’s now famous “bitter” remarks about Pennsylvania. The release highlights Obama’s previous positions that sought to ban the manufacture and sale of handguns, his support for an outright ban on private firearm ownership according to John Lott, and his support of a ban on semi-automatic firearms.

The Democrats have finally realized that their party’s anti-firearm rhetoric costs them Elections in all but the most liberal states. Because of that, they have acknowledged that they must temper their statements or risk otherwise loyal Democrats voting Republican. It makes for good political gamesmanship, but risks charges of hypocrisy when previous statements are brought forward.

Barletta Interview

Mayor Lou Barletta had an interview on Townhall.com. In the interview, Barletta discussed his history, the City of Hazleton, and the state of the Congressional Campaign. Of great interest is the participation he is receiving from others. In the interview, Barletta claims that over 1000 people in 41 states have contributed to his campaign.

Cash for Gun Control

According to the Post-Gazette, the Joyce Foundation is contributing $350,000 to CeaseFirePA, a Philadelphia-based gun control group. Specifically, the contribution is to fund grassroots operations in response to gun violence in PA. The Joyce Foundation is a Chicago based charitable foundation that often funds research in favor of gun control.

While on the subject of gun control, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called gun shop owners “gun traffickers” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. This has obviously angered gun shop owners across PA. The NRA called Nutter a “tyrant” in the Philladelphia Daily News in response to his action and encouragement to ratify firearm ordinances in Philadelphia in violation of the State Constitution.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Energy

There has been a lot of discussion recently about natural gas reserves in NEPA. Basically, energy companies are drilling for natural gas reserves in our area. With energy prices being what they are, this should come as no surprise. Quite frankly, I am happy to see the industry here as it shows a growing trend of relying on domestic sources for energy instead of importing energy from countries that otherwise hate us.

The process involves companies that will come in, either lease or purchase land that might contain hydrocarbon reserves, perform environmental and geological tests to determine if they can drill for hydrocarbons if they are found, and extract the deposits and deliver them to the market. When complete, they promise to return the property to pristine condition.

The Citizen's Voice had an article that talked about the benefits to the local economy with this relatively new industry. That is, besides the obvious benefit of taking unused property and making a profit on it.

Pennsylvania has a long history in the energy industry. Pennsylvania is the leading petroleum refining state in the Northeast. Pennsylvania’s infrastructure affords it with one of the highest natural gas storage capacities in the nation. Pennsylvania was also home to the world’s first commercial oil well which was the Drake Well in Titusville. Pennsylvania was also the place where the world’s first oil boom occurred.

What seems to hamper the extraction of energy from Pennsylvania is the lack of pipelines to move the fuel once it is extracted. There is a pipeline that runs along the top of NEPA but if we are going to get serious about energy in Pennsylvania, we need to make an Eastern expansion on the Rockies Express Pipeline and move forward on the proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Logan Township, NJ.

This industry is growing very quickly. Since 2001, nearly 10,000 new natural gas wells have been created in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has an 11% share of the wells in the country. This doesn’t even go into the alternative energy sources being developed here. Pennsylvania has the ability to be a leader in domestic energy production. Let’s hope our elected officials don’t screw it up!

Luzerne County…Tax Free For Some

Luzerne County’s Democratic Recorder of Deeds, James O’Brien, apparently didn’t pay his taxes. In question is almost $18,000 in unpaid taxes from 2003-2007 on his pub.

From my read of the story in the Times Leader, it seems that the Budget/Finance Director of the County is the principal responsible for placing those delinquent properties up for tax sale once they fall behind in their taxes. The story also states that the typical tax sale occurs after two years of delinquency. The story also reminds us that Sam Diaz was in that position during this time period.

Mr. O’Brien was asked if he was friends with the former county budget/finance director Sam Diaz to which he replied “I am a Christian. I am friends with everyone.”

The Luzerne County Courthouse has proven itself to be inept and an outright embarrassment. Will there be a week that doesn’t produce a new scandal under the dome?

Carney Under Pressure

Carney has come under fire over the FISA mess in Congress. I talked about it before. At issue is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the Protect America Act of 2007. Essentially, FISA set forth guidelines under which the intelligence community could monitor communications between foreigns peoples to protect against espionage. The Protect America Act of 2007 expanded those powers. The problem is that the legislation has reached it sunset and has yet to be reauthorized. This has kept the intelligence community flying blind since February.

Republicans, in the minority, have been working to have this legislation reauthorized to further protect America and give the intelligence community the ability to quickly monitor communications between two foreigns that might be routed through the US.

Since Carney is a member of the Navy and was part of the intelligence group that recommended action in Iraq, House Republicans figure he might be an easy one to get to break ranks with the Democrats in control and vote to reauthorize this legislation.

According to the Times Leader, Republican House Minority Whip Roy Blunt is hoping that Carney will be the first Democrat to sign a discharge petition to force the legislation to the floor. This is necessary because the Democratic leadership has stalled the legislation.

This should be a no-brainer for Carney. In my opinion, it is politics not policy that is preventing this vote. There is no reason to prevent legislation that deals with national security from coming to a vote. The Democrats also control the Senate. When this legislation was allowed to come to a vote in the Senate, it passed with bipartisan support (68-29). My belief is that the Democrats in the House would prefer to not support this legislation but simply fear the voters. So, instead of having the political courage to act and allow it to come to a vote, they act as obstructionists.

Of a more political nature, Carney the super-delegate has finally revealed who he supports for President. It is none other than the Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton. I discussed his indecision before. Carney has now kept his promise and decided to support the popular candidate of his district.

NRL Pro-Hackett

Congressional Candidate Chris Hackett picked up a very valuable endorsement. According to PolitickerPA.com The National Right to Life PAC has decided to support Chris Hackett. In the announcement release, Hackett points out that Chris Carney has received a 100% ranking from NARAL, the nation’s leading abortion rights group and has voted to continue to fund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider.

Life issues are still a very serious issue in PA-10. This is has obvious benefits for Chris Hackett’s campaign. Particularly due to questions raised about his position on abortion in the last few days before the Primary Election. If questioned, this certainly gives Hackett credibility on the issue that might have been lacking before.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Where's Kenny?

The Scranton Times is wondering where in the world is Ken McDowell? Ken McDowell is the current Democratic Lackawanna County Controller. Mr. McDowell was also the former tax collector for the City of Scranton. In case you missed it, it has been reported that the City of Scranton Tax Office is being investigated by the FBI. No one seems to be able to track down exactly what they are looking for. This makes sense since it would likely disrupt their investigation.

Apparently, Ken McDowell has been MIA since at least Monday. The Scranton Times has reported in the past that the Democrat has had issues with attendance in the past. Maybe it is just another occurrence of this type of behavior.

If nothing else, this situation shows a pattern of abuse of the taxpayers. Mr. McDowell is paid over $66,000 to do a job. I understand that sometimes the jobs of elected officials dictate that they need to travel, attend seminars, seek further training, etc. It is an abrogation of duty to merely take off from the job and not give any kind of excuse. That would never work in the private sector and the taxpayers should demand that it not occur in the public sector either.

Carney Talking Corruption

In their zeal to find a reason to attack Chris Hackett, the Times Leader is reporting that Chris Carney’s campaign is trying to link a recent visit from Tom Delay and his Coalition for a Conservative Majority to Hackett.

The salient point I find here is that it would have been illegal for Chris Hackett, or any other candidate for that matter, to attempt to bring in a group like CCM. Either Chris Carney’s campaign is accusing Chris Hackett’s campaign of violating FEC laws or he is grasping at straws trying to find a reason to issue a press release. I don’t think it is the former.

With unbridled hypocrisy, Carney’s campaign is attacking Tom Delay. Perhaps they should clean up their own house before they go after former members of Congress. Take a guy like Representative William Jefferson. He gets caught by the FBI with 90 Grand in his freezer of alleged bribe money and what do the Democrats do? The take him from the Appropriations Committee and place him on the Homeland Security Committee.

There is a funny video about it here. So much for the “most ethical congress in history.” Oh, and incidentally, when Carney had a chance to toss the corrupt William Jefferson out of Homeland Security, he instead secretly voted to place him in the committee.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Washo & O'Brien Sued

Democrat Commissioners Mike Washo & Corey O’Brien of Lackawanna County are being sued in Federal Court for firing three employees. It is alleged by the plaintiffs that they were fired because of political reasons. Specifically, they stated that they outwardly supported then incumbent Republican Commissioners Bob Cordaro and AJ Munchak.

According to the Scranton Times, three employees maintain that their employment was terminated by Lackawanna County shortly after the new majority commissioners took office. Two of the employees were employees in the Public Defender’s Office, the third was the Director of Veterans Affairs for Lackawanna County.

The suit seeks punitive damages, legal fees, and other costs.

County Attorney Larry Moran was also interviewed by the Scranton Times. He claims the firings were not political. Instead, Moran states that there was a committee assigned to reviewing the state of the county when the new majority commissioners took office and that they recommended changes.

The article does not go on to name those responsible for making that recommendation. Perhaps if there is a follow-up story, the Scranton Times can ask that question.

Arlen Ready for Hardball?

The New York Sun is reporting that Hardball’s Chris Mathews is once again entertaining the thought of running for the US Senate. Specifically, he was asked about taking on Republican Senator Arlen Specter in the 2010 Elections. That would also be the year that Pennsylvania would be elected its next Governor.

Mathews is a former President Carter staffer and is from the Philadelphia area. In that, he shares the home turf with Arlen in Philly. Arlen Specter typically does very well with both Republicans and Democrats in the Philly area.

Carney Still Undecided

Many are blogging about where the wind will blow Chris Carney in the DNC. Carney is after all a superdelegate. Carney said in a Bloomberg.com story that he would wait and see how his district voted. Essentially he said if anyone won with a landslide victory, he would support that person.

Well, his district went in a landslide overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. Clinton secured 70% of the vote. She beat Obama far more handily than Carney beat Sherwood in 2006. I don’t doubt that Carney takes his job as a superdelegate very seriously, but the people of the tenth district deserve to know where he stands. At this point, it looks like he is waiting to make a safe choice instead of keeping his promise.

Carney Attacked on FISA

According to the Down With Tyranny blog, Chris Carney (and I supposes the blue dog coalition) are “motivated by fear, conflicting motivations, and confusion.” That is, as it pertains to FISA.

What is at issue here is the lapse in the FISA bill. Carney and other democrats in red districts are likely to catch some serious criticism for imperiling national security by allowing these lapses in our monitoring ability.

Since February 16, 2008 the democrat-controlled congress has failed to pass legislation to keep our intelligence operations running at full speed. To add fuel to the fire, Democrats even authorized a 10 day vacation during the lapse. There is legislation, the Protect America Act, which would likely pass and correct these problems. The Democrats have refused to allow it to come to a vote.

When the US Senate voted, the bill was passed by a 68-29 vote. The House is still taking the weak-knee approach.

Toomey Calls it for Hackett

According to the Evening Bulletin, former Congressman Pat Toomey is calling the race early for Chris Hackett in PA-10. Toomey called the Hackett vs. Carney race “maybe the No. 1 best pickup opportunity for the Republican Party in the Country.

According to the NRCC, the highly respected Cook Political Report chart still ranks PA-10 as toss up. If memory serves, this district was previously listed as “leans democratic” which suggests that it has improved to “toss up.”

Kanjorski Offers Solution to Gas Prices…Taxes

The Times Leader is reporting that Democrat Congressman Paul Kanjorski is offering up a solution to the nation’s fuel problems. That is, he wants to tax oil and gas companies that are making huge profits while consumers pay nearly $4 a gallon. Kanjorski acknowledged that his proposition stands zero chance of passing since the President has promised to veto any such legislation.

The problem with this type of thinking is one of basic economics. You cannot increase the cost of doing business on a company and expect that they are going to simply take that expense out of their profit margin. In truth, less than 10% (see the Cato article) of what you pay at the pump is profit to the gas companies. What will more likely happen is that “big oil” will pass along this increase onto the consumers and still keep fuel prices high.

Congress should consider lowering or outright eliminating taxes on fuel. 18 cents on the gallon is nothing but federal taxes. If states followed suit, there would be an even greater savings to the consumers.

There is a real difficulty here for Democrats. In 2006, many used fuel prices as a campaign issue. The Democrats pledged that if they took control of Congress they would lower fuel costs. Instead, fuel costs at the pump have increased dramatically. This creates a quandary for Democrats going into this Election cycle.

Fuel costs are of great concern to everyone. They affect consumers across the income scale. I would respectfully submit that taxes are not the answer. I cannot recall a business tax increase that resulted in lower prices to consumers.

Kanjorski Delivers for AVP

Paul Kanjorski announced that he was able to secure a $4 million discretionary grant for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

The money will be used to acquire improved snow removal equipment and enhance the safety of the runway operation.

According to his release, Kanjorski has now collected $71 million for the airport and its reconstruction projects.