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Republican ‘bleedership’ in PA

The Republican relationship with economic health is akin to that of a parasite and its host:

While many panelists at this weekend’s Pennsylvania Leadership Conference complained about the Pennsylvania government being too big, a new study shows Pennsylvania may be the poster-child for a stagnant unemployment rate due to state level cuts under Republican leadership.

Bryce Covert and Mike Konczai illustrate a painfully obvious point in The Nation regarding the Commonwealth’s cutting of public jobs and enacting partisan social legislation. And while Pennsylvania may be the most obvious example used by the authors, we’re one of many states undergoing a conservative transformation to the dark side.

Republican state legislators, empowered by new control of the governorship and the state house, proposed one of the most stringent mandatory ultrasound bills in the country. The House passed a voter identification law that could block 700,000 Pennsylvanians from voting, most of them young, of color, and poor. Meanwhile, the same state legislators led a successful charge to shrink public employment. The number of government employees fell over 3 percent that year, one of the sharpest declines in any state.

The piece goes onto to explain that “Pennsylvania isn’t alone.” In fact, as we’re all likely aware, 2010 was a blood red electoral year, and happened because those Republicans promised massive job growth if they only got the chance to rule over us. Lots of swing and oft-blue states went red. The result: the economic and social equivalent of a tire iron to the face. In those 11 states where Republicans have taken control since January 2011, “public sector layoffs are disproportionately concentrated, leading to one of the biggest rounds of job losses for the public workforce since record keeping began.” And with that has come a massive increase in conservative bills meant to limit voting by minorities and the poor, and limiting abortion rights.

In 2011, Pennsylvania state and local employment by the state legislature dropped by more than 3 percent, according to the article. Corbett’s lowering of the corporate tax rate and imposition of a low effective tax rate on drilling the Marcellus Shale have “made the deficit even worse.”

“There could have been fewer layoffs than there were,” said Mark Price, an economist based in Pennsylvania. “They could have avoided this.” As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found, many of these newly GOP-dominated states, including North Carolina, cut corporate taxes, or cut taxes on high-income earners, including Maine and Ohio. Wisconsin did both.

I don’t they wanted to avoid this. Repeat after me, class: Cheap, disposable labor with no legal protections! It’s the Holy Grail of the Grand Old Party.

Fun with fracking

I love what the frackers do to my state:

An explosion at a natural gas compressor station in Susquehanna County this morning blew a hole in the roof of the complex holding the engines, causing a black cloud to billow from the building.

The incident in the Lathrop compressor station off Route 29 in Springville Twp. drew emergency responders from nearby counties and shook homes as far as a half-mile from the compressor complex.

Helen Humphreys, a spokeswoman for Williams, the company that operates the Lathrop station, said all employees and contractors on the site have been accounted for and no one was injured.

The damage was confined to the Lathrop station and did not impact the high-pressure pipeline the company operates between Springville and Dallas Twp. in Luzerne County, she said. Williams will do a full evaluation and investigation as soon as it is safe to go back into the building, she added.

“The emergency shutdown equipment did work properly to isolate and minimize the incident,” she said. “Emergency procedures were immediately activated. That included notifying local authorities and first responders, and evacuating all personnel.”

The Lathrop station pressurizes gas from Marcellus Shale wells in the county for transport through pipelines. It was sold to Williams by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. as part of a deal announced in 2010 that also included a second compressor station and 75 miles of the natural gas drilling company’s gathering pipelines.

Making whoopee

Dr. John and Rickie Lee:


by Susie

These entrapment stories are really infuriating. Instead of out looking for people who might actually be a threat, the FBI fabricates these cases instead:

The arrest of a Pittsburgh man described as a Taliban sympathiser has sparked allegations that the FBI deployed a notorious confidential informant used in previous controversial stings on suspected Muslim radicals.

Khalifah al-Akili, 34, was arrested in a police raid on his home on March 15. He was later charged with illegally possessing a gun after having previous felony convictions for drug dealing. However, at his court appearance an FBI agent testified that al-Akili had made radical Islamic statements and that police had uncovered unspecified jihadist literature at his home.

But, in a strange twist, al-Akili’s arrest came just days after he had sent out an email to friends and local Muslim civil rights groups complaining that he believed he was the target of an FBI “entrapment” sting. That refers to a controversial FBI tactic of using confidential informants – who often have criminal records or are paid large sums of money – to facilitate “fake” terrorist plots for suspects to invent or carry out.

In the email – which was also sent to the Guardian before al-Akili was arrested – he detailed meeting two men he believed were FBI informants because of the way they talked about radical Islam and appeared to want to get him to make jihadist statements. According to his account, one of them, who called himself Saeed Torres, asked him to buy a gun. Al-Aikili said he refused. The other, who was called Mohammed, offered to help him go to Pakistan for possible Islamic radical training. Al-Akili also refused.
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Mitt jokes about lost jobs

My dad laid everybody off, you get it? Hahaha!

Even when Mitt Romney tries to sound like an average Joe, he ends up reminding listeners that he’s the guy who puts the average Joes out of work. More here.

by Odd Man Out
What happened to NPR’s new goal – to be “fair to the truth“? Glenn Greenwald dissects an NPR story about “state-sponsored terrorism” from Iran that relies almost exclusively on current and former U.S. government officials:

This is what establishment-serving journalists in Washington mean when they boast that they, but not their critics, engage in so-called “real reporting”; it means: calling up Serious People in Washington and uncritically repeating what they say

Uh huh

“We are, at this moment, in a savagely perilous place.”

Billions of aliens out there?

by Odd Man Out

Take it from Ziggy Stardust, 'You're not alone'

Another blow to believers in Earthling exceptionalism:

A study published this week suggests that there may be “tens of billions” of planets in the Milky Way galaxy that fall within what scientists call “the Goldilocks zone,” where the conditions for spawning life are thought to exist.

Working with a relatively new technology called the HARPS spectrograph, located at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, scientists said that a survey of red dwarf stars in the Milky Way found that approximately 40 percent had planets orbiting within the Goldilocks zone. They also estimate there are about 160 billion red dwarf stars in our galaxy…

The housing recovery pipe dream

by Odd Man Out
From Firedoglake:

…Home prices have fallen a whopping 34.4% from the peak set in July 2006…. The reaction from those with that deep investment is to say that prices aren’t coming back to the bubble years, nor should they. And that’s true. But the notable part of all this is the trend. You have new and existing home sales falling month-over-month, and now prices falling as well. And what we know is that the coming months will probably lead to a spike in foreclosures and a new set of inventory dumped onto the market. In fact, we’re already seeing this. It’s a result of the foreclosure fraud settlement, and the very reasonable belief from the banks that they will never face sanction for their misdeeds…

Foreclosure sales start to make up a larger portion of the market, and sellers must set their price accordingly. This lowers prices overall, and the negative equity increases. Eventually people either cash out or they succumb to being underwater, leading to more foreclosures. Leading to lower prices. Leading to more negative equity.

Maybe it’s better to be on the pipe. The reality of the government allowing the mortgage giants to get away with fraud on the grandest scale possible, and the inevitable effect this has on the housing market, is too painful to think about.

‘Small business,’ my ass

You know, I was just thinking that millionaires needed another tax cut!

Earlier today ThinkProgress reported that the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to approve a proposal by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that is misleadingly entitled the Small Business Tax Cut Act.

People who have read the bill and not just its title, however, have noted that it is extremely poorly targeted at small businesses. It is, in fact, just another tax cut for rich people. Among the biggest beneficiaries would be the owners of extremely profitable businesses like Oprah Winfrey’s production company and professional sports teams like theSuper Bowl champion New York Giants, as well as highly paid professionals like lawyers, lobbyists, doctors, and consultants.

The Tax Policy Center has now estimated who benefits from Cantor’s bill. Among TPC’sfindings:

– The top 1 percent would receive an average tax cut that is 1000 times bigger than the average tax cut for people in the middle quintile ($23 vs. $23,000). The top 0.1 percent would receive an average tax cut of more than $130,000.

– Half of the tax benefits would go to millionaires, who comprise less than one-half of one percent of all taxpayers and only 4 percent of actual small business owners according to a recent Treasury study. Millionaires, on average, would get a tax cut of $45,000 — almost as much as median household income in 2010.

– Business owners with annual income of $200,000 or less — who comprise more than 75 percent of small business owners — would receive only 16 percent of the benefit from Cantor’s bill.

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