While Taking Out Bin Laden, Did We Create A New Enemy of America?

oA5zKuHiy7vlOn April 30, 2011, as Navy Seals were en route to take out Osama Bin Laden, the President helped ensure operational security by keeping to his pre-announced schedule and giving his speech at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Donald Trump was in the audience as a guest of the Washington Post and was ridiculed mercilessly by President Barack Obama and comedian Seth Meyers. Obama joked about Trump’s responsibilities on Celebrity Apprentice:

Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf. (Laughter.) You fired Gary Busey. (Laughter.) And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. (Laughter and applause.) Well handled, sir. (Laughter.) Well handled.

Quite a contrast with the decisions which Obama would be faced with that very night in the Situation Room.

Donald Trump tried to be stoic, but from his expression it seems he was internally seething. Was this the moment that Trump decided that he would get the ultimate revenge against the political establishment and the mainstream media?

Presidential Campaigns: Is 2016 the New 1964?

1964 Presidential Election Results

1964 Presidential Election Results

If you are looking for clues about what this Fall’s campaign will look like, consider the 1964 Presidential campaign. The Republican National Convention in Daly City, California was contested as the establishment viewed Governors Nelson Rockefeller (NY) and William Scranton (NJ) as their best candidates to challenge Democratic incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson. After much infighting, the radical Senator Barry Goldwater (AZ) was nominated. The belligerent Goldwater ran a campaign of fear while Johnson reached across the aisle winning the support of moderate conservatives with his “Confessions of a Republican” commercial.

Confessions of a Republican

EITC: A Tax Scam in Sheep’s Clothing

greedypersonIn 2001, the Pennsylvania legislature created the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC) in order to encourage companies to donate money to private schools. This program – little known and even less understood – expanded over the years to the point where it has distorted an act of charitable generosity into a accounting trick stealing money from the public treasury and actually paying schools only a fraction of the money lost.

While Pennsylvania’s legislature is unable to agree on a budget, EITC has grown into a bonanza for those willing to game the tax system. Here is how it works: A profitable company or a group of high-income tax payers have a total annual income of $22 million. Normally, Pennsylvania would tax this income at a rate of 3.07%, yielding $675,000 per year to help fund all the needs of our commonwealth including the most underfunded public schools.

However, under this law, the company could commit itself (over the next two years) to “generously” donate $750,000 per year to their favorite education school or scholarship fund. They are then able to use 90% of the value of their donation (i.e. $675,000) as a credit against their obligations to support the needs of our tax. This completely offsets their state obligation!

If we stopped our calculations at this point it would be bad enough. The group or company would be taking $675,000 from the coffers of the state at a net cost of only $75,000 to themselves. This money wouldn’t necessarily go to meet the state’s educational priorities with a public school system plagued with crumbling infrastructure. Instead it would go to whatever elite private institution was lucky enough to have benefactors with such large tax bills which they need to offset, and the tax/legal-savvy to form the fictive corporations necessary to exploit this fiscal loophole.

Yes, we should give more money to schools, but money should go to schools according to their need, not according to the luck of the draw and the whims of the elite. This credit is only available to the wealthiest citizens and corporations. Accordingly, low-income Pennsylvanians pay the full 3.08% state income tax while their high-income counterparts can offset all or most of their tax obligation.

The government should strive to make the best use of its revenue. Call your State Representative and State Senator and tell them to end this insane system of Orwellian accounting which rewards self-interested manipulation in the name of so-called charity.

Full disclosure: I personally benefit from EITC with my donations to Jewish schools. While I oppose the concept, it is currently legal though capped at $75 million. I rationalize my participation in this program arguing that the money will go to an elite school to the benefit of some high-income taxpayer whether I participate or not, so why not me and the schools I support. Meanwhile, I am calling for an end to EITC in Pennsylvania.

Fair Districts PA Coalition Making Our Vote Count

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, the League of Women Voters and other organizations across the state announced the formation of a new coalition called Fair Districts PA. The coalition’s purpose is to advocate for reform of Pennsylvania’s redistricting rules to make the process of drawing electoral districts impartial, transparent, and accountable.

Pennsylvania's current redistricting plan is on the left. A hypothetical plan with compact districts is above on the right.

Pennsylvania’s current redistricting plan is on the left. A hypothetical plan with compact districts is above on the right.

Congressional and state legislative electoral maps are redrawn every ten years following the national census. In Pennsylvania, the process of drawing those maps is controlled almost entirely by state legislators, a conflict of interest that puts politicians in charge and takes away the rights of voters.

Some states, most notably Arizona and California, have reformed the process by establishing impartial citizen commissions and clear standards for how districts are to be drawn. The results have shown increased voter engagement and more competitive elections.

Fair District PA’s priorities include:

  • Assigning the redistricting power to an independent commission, of which neither the commissioners, nor members of their immediate families, may be government or political party officials.
  • Ensuring the transparency of the process and meaningful opportunities for public participation.
  • Establishing verifiable statistical standards for a fair election process.

[Read more…]

Cosby May Regret “Spanish Fly” Episode

December 30, 2015 mug shot of Bill Cosby following an arraignment for felony sexual assault of Andrea Constand.

December 30, 2015 mug shot of Bill Cosby following an arraignment for felony sexual assault of Andrea Constand.

The incident of the “Spanish Fly” which Bill Cosby jokes about in Chapter 10 of his biographical comedy Childhood strikes a bit too close to home now that Cosby has been charged with aggravated indecent assault for having engaged in similar behavior.

Andrea Constand alleges that in January 2004, she was surreptitiously drugged by her employer after she visited him at his home for career advice and that he used this opportunity to fondle her.

Cornstand raised these allegations first in 2005, but Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor declined to pursue charges saying there was not enough evidence. Instead Cornstand decided to pursue civil charges against Cosby and they settled out of court. Excerpts of Cosby’s disposition in the civil suit have now been released in which Cosby admits having obtained opiates to give to women in order to have sex with them. [Read more…]

Jews Should Be Last to Turn Away Refugees

Anne Frank in 1941 (left)  tried to escape Naziism but was denied refugee status. A terrified 4-year old girl (right) is among Syrians seeking refugee status.

Anne Frank in 1941 (left) tried to escape Naziism but was denied refugee status. A terrified 4-year old girl (right) is among Syrians seeking refugee status.

Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill 289-137 making it virtually impossible for Syrian refugees to get asylum in the United States and escape slaughter at the hands of ISIL.

Many of our parents and grandparents were German refugees seeking asylum in America while isolationists in America used the logic of fear to turned Jews away. If “Never Again” is not to be a mere slogan, the Jewish community needs to stand up against xenophobia.

HR Bill 643 Vote, November 19, 2015

HR Bill 643 Vote, November 19, 2015

American Security Against Foreign Enemies SAFE Act goes far beyond the already stringent screening process for refugees. (See graphic at the end of this article.) President Obama, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of the FBl all oppose this bill. Next week, this bill goes to the Senate.

Forty-seven House Democrats voted for the bill including local Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ) and 135 voted against. Of the 19 Jewish Representatives in the House, 16 stood up against fear, but Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Steve Israel (D-NY) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) voted for the bill.
[Read more…]

Redistricting Reform Bill Does Not Go Far Enough

Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District

Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District

Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. Under Republican control, the Pennsylvania legislature crammed as many Democrats as possible into a small number of districts in the redistricting following the 2010 census. Accordingly, in the following Congressional election, despite winning the support of a majority of voters statewide, the Democrats lost a seat leaving themselves with only 5 seats while the Republicans retained 13 seats.
[Read more…]

Local Senators Ensure Approval of Iran Deal

Projected JCPOA Voting in the Senate as of September 2. (Washington Post)

JCPOA Voting in the Senate (Washington Post’s Sep. 2 projection).

Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland has announced her intention to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the “Iran Deal,” guaranteeing President Obama the 34 votes he needs to sustain a veto.

Short before, Senators Bob Casey (PA) and Chris Coons (DE) have announced that they will vote in favor of the Deal. (The full statement by Casey can be found below.)

On Tuesday, the Senate will return from its summer break, and its first order of business is a resolution to keep the U.S. out of the JCPOA.

Stop the Iran Deal Rally speakers: Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz

“Stop the Iran Deal Rally” speakers: Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz.

On Wednesday, the Tea Party Patriots, Center for Security Policy, and Zionist Organization of America will weigh in with their Stop the Iran Deal Rally with keynote speakers Glenn Beck, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Eleven more Senators are either neutral or leaning toward supporting the deal:

  • Neutral: Senators Susan Collins (ME), Michael Bennet (CO), Benjamin Cardin (CO), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Cory Booker (NJ), Mark Warner (VA), Maria Cantwell (WA) and Gary Peters (MI).
  • Leaning toward: Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Joe Manchin (WV).

[Read more…]

Penn. Voting Technology Enters 21st Century

votePennsylvanians are now able to register to vote online, thanks to the efforts of Governor Tom Wolf’s administration. This is not a misprint!

The process is relatively straightforward, as the diagram to the right shows.

*October 5 is the registration deadline for the November 3, 2015 general election.*

This crucial election will determine not only control of city councils, county commissioners and school boards, but also the all-important Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The upcoming state redistricting will largely determine the balance of control in the state’s legislature and Congressional delegation, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will surely be called upon to settle disputes regarding this redistricting just as they have done in the past.

The new online process can be used by individuals registering for the first time, or for individuals who are already registered but have moved, changed their name, or want to change their party affiliation. Pennsylvanians can still use paper forms to register or change their registration info, if they prefer.

To register to vote for the first time in Pennsylvania, a person must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the Pennsylvania district in which they want to vote for at least one month before the next election. They also must be at least 18 years of age on or before the day of the next primary, special, municipal, or general election.

DNC national director of voter expansion, Pratt Wiley, applauded Governor Wolf’s initiative:

Every day, Americans go online to pay bills, trade stocks, and even adjust the temperature in their homes – there’s no reason why Americans shouldn’t be able to use these tools to register to vote.

Democrats believe our nation and our democracy are stronger when more people participate, not less. That’s why we advocate for commonsense solutions like online voter registration and why we remain committed to ensuring that every eligible voter is able to register, every registered voter is able to vote, and every vote is counted.

Pennsylvania now joins 27 other states currently offering or implementing online voter registration.

Please share this information with others, particularly new residents in your neighborhood and younger people who will be turning 18 this fall. More details are available online.