Friday, March 31, 2006

117: “The Demise of the Gettysburg Times”


[Opinion]
The owners and editors of the Gettysburg Times have now shed their skin one final time turning the Newspaper into nothing more than a mouthpiece for the developers and big moneyed interests in the area. In doing so, the Times now has placed itself beside the local Merchandiser as little more than a collection of paid advertisements.

How sad to see such an important newspaper decline into shelf-liner because of the policies driven by monied interests rather than the public service a newspaper is bound to serve.

The Gettysburg Times, which recently had two of its staff members win awards for investigative journalism, now is reduced to shilling for the casino investors. They have dropped all pretense of equity and fairness, they have dropped all pretense of presenting both sides of the issue, and they continue to run the dishonest and misleading advertisements of the casino investors.

[In fairness, so too does the Hanover Sun, which is guilty of carelessness in what ads it runs. The ads have been debunked here, and elsewhere. We expect the Hanover Sun to clean up its act and return to a position where they do not serve as a propaganda organ for the dishonest monied interests of development.]

A newspaper’s credibility is established over long years of service to its readership, and the community in which it is located. One bad decision can wipe out years of hard work, integrity and commitment to an ideal.

This is what has happened to the Gettysburg Times.

Over the past six months, an editorial policy has emerged that strongly favors not just the casino at Gettysburg, but also the rampant overdevelopment in Straban, Mount Joy, and Cumberland townships, and in the areas around Biglerville, and Fairfield.

This policy has not been made a clearly stated one in an editorial…no, the owners and editors of the Times do not have the courage to do that. Instead, they publish positively flavored articles for the casino and other development (note the recent series of puff pieces on Bob Monahan’s project at routes 15 and 30, by John Messeder, their principle ‘reporter’ for this policy), and negatively flavored ones about the anti-casino movement. Apparently the Concerned Citizens of Straban Township are not militant enough to warrant much coverage at all.

Certainly, the public is not being served by their local newspaper. Indeed, as of a few years ago, the word on the street was, if you want to read the news of Gettysburg, buy the Hanover Sun. That obviously continues to be the case today.

The recent award to one current (Scott Pitzer) and one former member of the reporting staff at the Times was cause for hometown pride, and rightfully so. The two won an award for investigative journalism for a series of articles on how the Charlestown, Jefferson County area of West Virginia has fared since the introduction of gambling in their area. The pieces were honest, and fair, though they could have gone a bit deeper into things. The awards, however, were well deserved.

Unfortunately, since that series ran, this policy of pro casino, pro development bias has become quite evident even to the casual observer. It does not take a microscope to divine the bias in any article run with the byline of John Messeder. And it is not the first time, either. In late April last year Straban Township’s Supervisors pulled a secretive end run around their citizens by declaring a new zoning plan in force that would change more than 8,000 acres of currently open and agricultural land to open it up for development. That would leave only 3,000 acres of current open and agricultural land in the township, which is one of the top agricultural-producing counties in the state. John Messeder gave the event one line at the tail end of his weekly article about the doings of these folks we call "The Strabaddies". In comparison, the Hanover Sunday Sun ran a large article detailing everything, and included a large color map. This is just one comparison that illustrates the Gettysburg Times failure of its implied promise to serve the people of Adams County. And the Times statement on its banner, “Adams County News First” is simply not true any more.

Their recent undeserved and unprovoked attack on the much honored and honorable Civil War Preservation Trust is something that will forever have the Times listed on a wall of shame. Here is a group that does so much good preservation work in this area and the Times gives voice to a few petty accusations in a rant by David LeVan as if he speaks with the voice of God. Money, not God. And the Times readily and conveniently forgot how much money the CWPT has sunk into the Gettysburg area for preservation, far more than LeVan has for preservation. But it did not serve their new purpose.

When it comes to development, the Gettysburg Times no longer prints news, it prints advertisements, and often covers them with innuendo-filled headlines, as it did today. [An article by Scott Pitzer covering the Borough Council meeting yesterday dealt with the reluctance of the local No Casino Gettysburg group to give up a list of businesses that are against the casino. The list was given to the Council. The reluctance stems from various threats and rumors of threats by the monied interests behind the casino to do financial harm to businesses and individuals that do not support the casino. So the Times ran the article with the headline, “Group says 70 businesses opposed. But which ones?” This is how to subtly change the thrust of an article by the lead-in headline.]

There is more in the history of the Gettysburg Times about which it should be ashamed, and when the time is right it will be revealed. Editor Small knows what it is, so does John Messeder. So does a good friend of mine, who has a signed and notarized affidavit on file with an attorney. All in good time.

In the meantime, there is no doubt that the Gettysburg Times does have a niche in the Adams County area. The comics are decent, the local sports coverage is about what you would expect for a small town newspaper, and it does make for great shelf-liner. It also does well to wrap glassware and crockery when packing it away for storage or shipping. That should at least provide a minimum for circulation.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

116: “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”


Well, things are really moving at a very fast pace now, as efforts underway to clean up state politics continue, in spite of the new gambling bill passed in 2004. As it turns out there have been three recent articles posted online, one from the Online Edition of the Reporter, one from the Allentown Morning Call, and the other at the conservative blog Keystone Review. We’ll get to them in a moment. First, however, a comment. If the two main political parties in Pennsylvania think life continues on under the aura of “business as usual” they need to learn a very hard lesson in humility and reality.

Come the May primary, and later the November election, what you are about to read is going to go into the booth with the voters of this state, which both parties have demonstrably abandoned, in principle and in effect. How is this information going into the voting booths? The same way it is reaching you now, by unbiased reporting in the many fearless small daily newspapers around the state, and by unbiased bloggers like Keystone Review who have been abandoned by their party leaders. Those leaders have abandoned reason, principle, and their oaths of office for greed. They no longer work for the people, but only for themselves, and have lost all touch with the will of the people.

I salute the Keystone Review for its principled stand against the ongoing graft and corruption of our state and local government. I salute the smaller, area newspapers across the state, like the Record Online, who are sending reporters out to gather real news and track real problems outside the state capital. Oh, the big city newspapers, such as the Morning Call, are doing their job, too, primarily because these same politicians threatened them with a special tax which would seriously dent their revenues, and partially because they still retain that crusading spirit, even after decades of political bias and political friendships.

The people of Pennsylvania are fortunate to have the bloggers, the newspapers, and the grassroots groups like the people who sent these three stories to me, friend Dianne Berlin from the
Pennsylvania Family Institute and its sister Organization Pennsylvanians Against Legalized Gambling, and friend Russ Diamond of Operation Clean Sweep, and the friends over at Stop the Casinos in Limerick who sent us the third article.

First,
Operation Clean Sweep sent out this note to alert us to the Keystone Review article on Brightbill and Jubelirer the top two Republicans in the State Senate. Please note that Keystone Review is a conservative blog which is, with this story, outing two Republicans for financial campaign misdeeds. If this story doesn’t make you angry, the next one will.

More Capitol $henanigans
can things get much worse for Team Incumbent? Apparently so...

Brightbill Relation, Jubelirer Aide Bought Off Pro-Life, Tax Groups?
We wanted to let you know about an interesting story from our friends at the Keystone Review blog. While the Keystone Review blog is a "conservative" outlet and PACleanSweep is a non-partisan organization, we believe all Pennsylvanians should take note of their discovery regarding the flow of money and power in Harrisburg.

Click the link below to read the story. If it makes you angry, forward it on to all your associates.

Armstrong accused
of using staff, office for campaigning In yet another story of Team Incumbent using YOUR tax dollars to campaign for office, The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal is reporting that Rep. Gib Armstrong, Jr. is under fire for allegedly ordering district staffers to conduct campaign operations while on the taxpayers' timeclock.
Now, Russ threw in the article on Gib Armstrong just for an extra treat. Thanks Russ!

Next we find the shenanigans of the Democrats, particularly one Robert Mellow, Brightbill’s Counterpart as floor leader for the Democrats in the Senate. It seems Mr. Mellow has the option to appoint one of the five members of the Gambling Control Board. His initial selection, a fellow named Conoboy, resigned late last week, and moving swiftly, Mellow replaced him with another person, with the same conflicting ties to an individual mentioned in the Keystone Review article, one Louis DeNaples, a Scranton resident and head of a group applying for a license to open a casino at Mt. Airy Lodge in the Poconos. You will find this hard to believe. Please visit the Allentown Morning Call and read the article [link below]:
Replacement appointee to gaming board raises eyebrows
Ray Angeli also has ties to slots license hopeful. Senator defends pick.
By Matt Birkbeck
Of The Morning Call
March 30, 2006

When Sen. Robert Mellow made his latest appointment to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, it was supposed to be conflict-free. But on Wednesday, Mellow found himself once again defending an appointee: this time, Ray Angeli and his ties to an applicant for a slots license in the Poconos.

Angeli, appointed Monday to replace William Conaboy on the gaming board, is president of Lackawanna College. The college's board has ties to Scranton businessman Louis DeNaples, who is vying for a license for Mount Airy Lodge. The college board chairman is DeNaples' brother, Dominick.

Two other associates of Louis DeNaples — Conaboy, who resigned from the gaming board a week ago, and Al Magnotta of CICO Associates, DeNaples' chief engineer on the Mount Airy project — also serve on the Lackawanna College board. Louis DeNaples is seeking a Category 2, or stand-alone, slots license for his $350 million hotel-casino at Mount Airy Lodge in Paradise Township.

Mellow, through a spokeswoman, scoffed at any conflict between Angeli and DeNaples, Conaboy, and Magnotta. ''Dominick DeNaples doesn't have anything to do with the gaming application and Sen. Mellow is satisfied there is no conflict,'' said Teresa Candori, Mellow's spokeswoman.

Read the rest of the article: click here
Who needs Tony Soprano when we have Louis DeNaples!?

Finally, we have this from The Reporter Online, in Montgomery County, that will show you the graft on a smaller scale. This gets as confusing as the first two.

Casino opposition spurs scrutiny
JACOB FENTON, Staff
Writer
03/28/2006
If state regulators allow Boyd Gaming Corp. to build a 3‚000-slot-machine casino in Limerick‚ township supervisor Frank Kotch will serve as a liaison between the company and the local government during the rezoning process. Kotch knows a thing or two about gambling. His resume includes more than six years in the casino and gambling industry in Nevada.

“I started as a dealer and eventually got up to a floor supervisor‚” Kotch said. None of the casinos he worked at were owned by Boyd‚ he said.

Kotch said his work experience would aid his understanding of the proposal‚ but not make him more likely to support it.

“I do have an insight‚ but is it biased? I don’t think so‚” said Kotch‚ who was first elected in 2005.

Kotch said that he has not been offered a job at Boyd if the casino goes through – but he couldn’t rule out the possibility of working at a Limerick casino if it were built. It would be‚ he pointed out‚ the largest local employer.

Local officials in municipalities where casinos are proposed face heightened scrutiny of their potential links to gambling backers.

Although public attention has focused most heavily on the competitive state process for awarding casino licenses‚ state politicians who were worried about Philadelphia corruption passed legislation this month to curb city politicians’ participation in casino zoning decisions.

Bucks County state Rep. Paul Clymer‚ R-145th District‚ has been a consistent critic of gambling.

“In looking at other states that have legalized gambling‚ we know that public corruption and organized crime will surely follow the industry’s formation in Pennsylvania‚” Clymer said in a press release touting the formation of a new unit in the state attorney general’s office devoted to public corruption.

Posters to sites like stopthecasinos.com have speculated at length about possible misdeeds surrounding the plan. A site representative would not comment for this article.

Heading up Limerick’s board of township supervisors is Skippack developer and newly elected board chairman David Kane.

Questions about possible links between his firm‚ Limerick Township‚ and a real estate group that would benefit from the casino are unwarranted‚ Kane said.

“I resent the implication‚” Kane said. “We’re transparent about everything.”

Limerick‚ Kane said‚ is the only municipality not to have provided casino zoning so far.

And Kane’s expertise in development means the public can expect a more knowledgeable review process‚ he said.

“Nobody ever reports the good stuff‚” he said‚ adding that he volunteered long hours of his time to insure that Limerick got the best representation possible.

By day‚ Kane works as a developer for the Skippack firm he founded‚ Kane Core Inc.

The firm drew attention for a proposal to build a 17-story tower in Ambler‚ though that plan was withdrawn after considerable public outcry.

Attorney Michael Clement has represented Kane Core in Lower Providence and has litigated for the firm in a dispute with Franconia Township.

Clement also represents Boyd’s in Limerick.

Clement‚ of the Blue Bell firm Wisler‚ Pearlstine‚ Talone‚ Craig‚ Garrity & Potash‚ said he saw no problem presenting Boyd’s case to a board chaired by a member of a firm he’d represented.

Clement said the key point was that he didn’t represent the township.

“Obviously there is a limited pool of attorneys in the area who do development work and many of us represent interests which will come into play with each other but I don’t represent Limerick Township and never have represented Limerick Township‚” he said.

Beyond state guidelines‚ Clement said he examines any job for its potential appearance as well.
“The second consideration is whether there is an appearance of impropriety and I don’t think there is‚” he said.
Kane Core also has several government ties.

Kane’s co-founder‚ according to the firm’s Web site‚ is Mark Marino‚ who is chairman of the Skippack Township Board of Supervisors.

Marino recently became chairman of the Area 4 Republican Committee‚ a district that includes Limerick‚ Collegeville‚ Lower Providence‚ Perkiomen‚ Royersford‚ Skippack‚ Trappe‚ Upper Providence and Worcester.

Marino’s father is former District Attorney and former County Commissioners Chairman Michael Marino‚ who was recently appointed county solicitor.

Michael Marino also keeps an office at Kane Core and does occasional legal work for the group. “It’s a loose association‚” he said.

When Michael Marino was appointed county solicitor‚ Carolyn Carluccio was named to the newly created position of chief deputy solicitor. The promotion increased her salary from $68‚321 a year to $91‚773.

Carluccio’s father is Charles J. Tornetta‚ president of Tornetta Realty Corp.

Providence Properties‚ a related company that state records list as being headed by Lawrence F. Tornetta‚ made more than $31 million selling 125 acres to Boyd’s for the casino.

A project summary prepared by Boyd notes that “Tornetta Realty Corporation will retain 57 acres of the site for retail and commercial development.”

Charles Tornetta has served on the county planning commission since 1966 and chaired it from 1968 to 1991. He also serves on the board of Continental Bank with Clement.

Realty executives at Tornetta’s firm did not return calls for comment on the proposal.

Tornetta’s daughter Carluccio was appointed chief public defender about five years ago under Marino’s administration.

“I appointed her because she’s highly competent‚” Marino said. He said he’d known Charles Tornetta “forever.”

The idea that Carluccio’s employment had any bearing on the Limerick proposal was “the most absurd‚ ridiculous possibility in the world‚” Marino said. He described the association as a meaningless link. “You string ’em all together and you end up with nothing‚” he said.

County Commissioner Ruth Damsker‚ the lone Democrat on the county’s three-person governing board‚ said that Carluccio’s promotion came about because both she and County Commissioners Chairman Tom Ellis were pleased with her performance. “Michael did not choose to have her as a deputy‚” Damsker said.

“This is really a local issue and we really have no oversight whatsoever‚” said Damsker‚ adding that local issues like traffic would be much more important.

The traffic analysis included with Boyd’s local impact report was conducted by Pottstown-based Traffic Planning & Design and dated Dec. 16‚ 2005.

On Jan. 3‚ 2006‚ Traffic Planning & Design was named the new traffic consultant in both Skippack and Limerick townships.

Kane said the firm was the most qualified.

“As a board in Limerick Township we did tremendous research and did tremendous interviews to become educated” about professional consultants before hiring them‚ he said.

Read the article at
the ReporterOnline.
I love it when someone says, "Conflict of interest? No Conflict of interest here." It is so....unctuous. Just look at all the money being spread around in the name of development!

Our thanks to reporter Jeff Fenton for allowing us to reproduce his story. As you can see, this one has implications that ripple across the eastern part of the state. When you read about Mr. Kotch, take a look back as the other essay posted here today, GettysBLOG # 115: “Why Pennsylvania is the Laughingstock of the Nation”.

Folks, one final set of groups to recommend to you. Pennsylvania Common Cause has been at the front of this fight since day one, as have our friends at Rock the Capitol, Bob Durgin at WHP, and our great friend Tim Potts at Democracy Rising: please visit his site to see what ideas exist for a State Constitutional Convention to fix these ethical problems we have in Harrisburg and locally throughout the state. Visit all of these sites, and get involved. Stay informed, and stay involved. It is the only way out of the mess these hubris-filled politicians have gotten us into. You owe it to yourselves, and you owe it to future generations of Pennsylvanians, for after all, we voted these folks in, and we voted in the people who selected these folks. This happened on our watch. Let’s fix it on our watch.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

115: “Why Pennsylvania is the Laughingstock of the Nation”


It is a process not unlike the way vultures circle while selecting which carcass they will carve up among themselves. They come into an area far in advance of any development. They look around and see who is pro-development. After getting to know some people, they pick several out, as worthy candidates. They encourage them to run for township supervisor. They pay for their campaigns. They instruct them on what to do to get elected. Eventually, the hand-picked ones get elected. They are usually small business owners or construction contractors. They may have a direct connection to development, or they may not. If not, they do once they are elected. The candidate may even be a farmer who wants to retire and has a developer waiting for a rezoning of the property so it can be sold for five times the value of the actual farm. The farmer wins. The developer wins, and the community loses.

Welcome to the Third Political Party. They are king makers, for those who shine at the township level get the group blessing for a run at County Commissioner, or even State Representative if they show real talent. Their capital is not political, it is financial. Need $10,000 to run for State Rep? “No problem, why don’t we make it $12,000?” Need $25,000 to run for State Senate? “No problem, I’ll write you a check for $15,000 right now, and introduce you to my good friend from XYZ Bank, who has a 2% second mortgage for you for $20,000 more. Take your wife on a cruise.”

Third Party. It’s a cartel of developers and investors, and they have more political clout than the governor of the state. Their money and influence will back any party. That is, as long as they continue to vote pro-development. These people don’t even care what you say…as long as you vote right. Hence the supervisors who sit in a public meeting and decry the devastation of development, and then vote to change a zoning ordinance to allow development. Anyone who has ever been to a Straban Township Supervisor’s meeting and seen the now retired Roy Thomas at work knows exactly what I mean. “Oh, this is just a terrible thing, but I was forced to vote for it.” Sound familiar? They call it progress, economic development. Well, a little of that goes a long way. It is not needed in the amount they want to do. This will destroy Pennsylvania if left to go on unchecked.

There is a fourth party that is a coalition of groups that are fighting the casinos, from preservationists, to anti-gambling organizations, to community concerned citizen groups, to religious groups, to people who simply do not want to see runaway development (for those around Gettysburg, when you mention runaway development, think Bob Monahan, Dave Sites). The casinos proposed around the state have generated a number of these groups. Their problem is they remain fragmented, and thus they expend too much energy on their local fights, and not enough on the root cause. Coalesce into a statewide organization and you will have the power to defeat this monster called gambling. And if you defeat gambling you can defeat anything.

Last fall, a State Supreme Court Justice suffered the unheard of result of being voted out of office, with a second justice barely being retained. This was a clear and unequivocal message from the taxpayers and voters of the Commonwealth. The message was to the state legislature: repeal the pay raise! Enough of them got the message that they repealed it several days after the election.

Voter anger is still high. Many who accepted money early are keeping it despite the repeal, thus providing instant vulnerability on the campaign trail for themselves. (Thank you Steve Maitland!). Operation Clean Sweep is in full stride, with a slate of candidates that will put an enormous dent in the legislature if elected. And many of them will be elected.

The climate is right for those who are fighting the casinos to climb on board the Operation Clean Sweep campaign and help out, and thus gain a statewide voice for the repeal of Act 71 legislation that enables gambling In Pennsylvania.

We have pressed for the joining of the various anti-casino groups into a statewide grassroots organization several times here publicly, and have done so privately directly to a number of those groups. The fate of your communities is better served by a statewide effort to repeal the gambling act than by fighting the local fight. No Casino Gettysburg seems to have chosen to put its eggs in the basket of Steve Maitland, who has collected their hearts and minds by writing a piece of legislation prohibiting a casino in a county the size of Adams. The legislation, attached as an amendment to a large package of gambling related revisions, and additions, is currently gathering dust in the Senate after passing unanimously in the House. The Senate is allowing the Gambling Lobby to spread more money around while it searches for a poison pill to place in the legislation that will require the governor to veto the whole package. That would be the last anyone hears of Mr. Maitland’s bill. And he won’t be around after November to submit any more after he committed political suicide by keeping the raise money that was repealed.

Repeal. It is the only hope for all these grassroots organizations fighting proposed casinos in their back yards. Give back the $50 million collected as application fees, and tell the investors to write off any expenses as a tax loss. Dismantle the new Gambling Control Board agency, with 30 day pink slips. Tell Pittsburgh that if they can’t drum up their own support for an ice hockey team, they deserve to see the Penguins go to another city.

Then you can begin the business of reestablishing control over your state and local government. More than anything else, there need to be immediate changes made to the structure and rules of the State Legislature. No one should occupy a position of leadership for more than four years – total. No benefit or gain from financial expenditures by lobbyists, and that means, no dinners, no golf outings or hunting trips, no vacations, no Broadway shows, no personal loans, or gifts of cash, or any other thing of any value at all…not even a ball point pen! It also means no deposits in a legislator’s kid’s college fund account, no payments made to your bank for a legislator’s mortgage, and no sweetheart contracts for a legislator’s cousin, or for a staff member of any legislator. If you want something passed in the legislature, you make an appointment with your legislator and sit down and explain to him or her why it should happen. Then move on to the next legislator. All who lobby the legislature must file a complete detailed accounting of their financial dealings weekly, reviewed by the Attorney General’s office. Any lobbyist in violation will be barred from future lobbying, fined a minimum of $5,000, and charged with attempted bribery. Any legislator caught in violation will be removed from office on conviction of accepting bribes, and fined a value of ten times the amount received, not to be less than $5,000.

Another important change would be full public declaration of all campaign funds, none of which may be collected past a date three weeks prior to an election. Full declaration means a complete detailed list of all donations and their source, the occupation and employer of the source, and any direct or indirect relationship either by blood or by employment between the source and the candidate. The time schedule may not be amended, nor are corrections allowed at a later date. Failure to comply results in removal from the ballot for that election. This would apply to any elected office in the state, including down to district justices, township supervisors, zoning board members, municipal council members and the like, all the way up to and including governor. Everybody has the same rules. Want to run for office? Comply.

Still more, such as a recall petition process for every elected office in the state, reversion to part time legislature, reducing by half the number of representatives in the House, eliminating for all time, the travel allowances, meal allowances, and per diems for the legislature, and the courts. Allow legislators to ride any public ground transport for a token charge of $1. Redraw the legislative districts to conform to county lines, with a minimum of one, and a maximum of three house members from each county. In the cases of first class cities which correspond to a single county, the number shall be six. Each county shall decide, and be responsible for transportation costs incurred by the representative on transport between his home office and Harrisburg only.

Graft in our government will never be cleaned up, but only get worse, unless you take the problem seriously, and take direct action to get it out of government. With the combined efforts of all the anti-casino groups in the state and Operation Clean Sweep, Pennsylvania can start lifting itself from the bottom of the pile where it stands in effective, honest, open, graft-free government, where it has been the laughing stock of the nation for the past three years.

Our fourth President, James Madison, once said,

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

He is referring to graft and corruption. It is rampant in Harrisburg, it is rampant in many counties, and in many townships, boroughs, and cities. And it is bleeding you, the taxpayer dry. You pay for it.

Draw the line, and stand your ground. Gather together statewide to make massive changes in the legislature. It all starts there. Let this “Third Party” know their money is no good here any more.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 27, 2006

114: “Gettysburg Casino Guilty of False Advertising”


A block advertisement which appeared in the Hanover Sunday Sun presents the same old tired and dishonest claims by Chance Enterprises as before. Chance Enterprises is that collection of idle rich investors from outside Adams County (with one exception) who want to cram an unwanted, unneeded casino down the throats of the people of the Gettysburg area.

The ad touts “jobs and real opportunities for Adams County”, claiming later in the ad that Adams County will benefit from the casino because it “…will provide more than 4000 new jobs…”. That is several hundred more jobs than there are unemployed in Adams County – total! Think about it. Do the math. You know not every unemployed is truly hirable. You know that there are chronic unemployed in those numbers, and you know there are temporarily unemployed in there who await a return to work call from an employer who was forced into a temporary layoff. And you know there are some seasonally unemployed in there. If there are 1,500 truly employable unemployed people in the 3.2 percent of Adams County employables that are not working, then Chance is going to be faced with 2,500 open positions.

The ad also claims “…good benefits, and new tax revenues for local streets, schools and services.” The Chance people keep ignoring the fact that the local school district flat out rejected taking money from gambling. But no problem, the money will go to Straban Township most likely so they can continue to pave over one of the most scenic and productive agricultural areas in the state.

Let’s connect some dots for these apparently dim-witted investors (well, if they aren’t dim-witted, then they are dishonest. And they aren’t dishonest, are they?):
  • How are you going to run a casino operation with 2,500 unfilled jobs?
  • Who is going to patronize your casino if there aren’t any housekeepers keeping the place clean, aren’t enough bellhops, maids, waiters, waitresses, valets, janitors, maintenance personnel, groundskeepers, car-hops, cooks, security guards, etc. to meet the needs of your customers?
  • Do you honestly think you are going to squeeze tens of millions of dollars from the local economy? I mean, if the local economy is as bad as you claim it is, the money simply isn’t here, and 5 casino projects won’t make it good enough to supply that kind of money.
  • Do you really believe that Dave Sites, and A&S Builders will rescue you by building their mega-developments and people will move into them in such numbers that your operation will be saved? Hello? The housing bubble is over.
  • So if you can’t get your revenue from the locals where 80% of your take is supposed to come from, and you can’t attract people from farther away because you do not have the housekeeping staff to support your hotel/spa, then who is going to patronize your slots parlor? Perhaps you think the Sultan of Brunei will fly in to Gettysburg Airport in his Lear Jet and take a short chopper ride to your private heliport (located where the ball
    fields currently exist), drop 15 million and fly away again?
  • With a minimum of two large hotels sitting right across US 30 from you that are already in operation, who is going to pay premium rates to stay in your resort, when they can be almost as close and stay for 25% of what you charge?
  • Since those hotels will have opened long before you have even laid a brick, those 1500 unemployed in Adams County are going to go to work there. Who, then, will you get to park your cars for you when you do visit, or even to mow the grass?
  • When the project fails, who will buy this “pig in a poke” you have been trying so stupidly to sell to the people of Adams County, who have loudly, and clearly and repeatedly told you “NO!!!”?

This won’t be an economic boon to the area, it will be an economic disaster for everyone involved, directly or indirectly, except for the investors.

Plainly speaking, it should be obvious to everyone by now that the Investors from Chance Enterprises have been lying through their teeth about this whole thing, and intentionally misleading the public since day one. Lying through their teeth, either to us, or to themselves and to us.

It is patently clear: there is no economic benefit to Adams County, or the Gettysburg area. This project simply does not stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of any kind of success at all beyond a tax write-off for the investors. This thing will become Gettysburg’s White Elephant.

We have looked and looked and cannot find an up-side to this project. Oh, the investors can, they make out win or lose. Bob Monahan loses if it doesn’t go through as he doesn’t get his money for the property (Poor little Bobby! Please excuse me for a moment while I go off in search of a shred of pity for Bob Monahan, who is absolutely intent on destroying the character of the Gettysburg area!), but heck, he’ll just slap up a few more hotels, and conference centers that will remain empty, fall into disrepair, and eventually become an eyesore.

Nope, no up-side in sight. None lurking around the corner, either.

It is time to end this farce. It is only more stupid now than it was when it first reared its ugly head. Now, the lies have been exposed, the (faulty) reasoning defeated, and the ugly truth behind this disaster has been revealed.

From the start, it was a stupid idea. Worse, it was an insult. Obviously, the investors do not understand how insulting their proposal and actions are to the area, or perhaps they do not care – dollar signs have a way of making people into moral relativists. Or as ‘Gordon Gekko’ said, “Greed is good.”

Woodrow Wilson once said, “If a dog will not come to you after he has looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”

Perhaps all the Chance Investors should do so.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!”
-- THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG


Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

113: "Fioravanti to Appear for History Meets the Arts"

This news release is about one of our featured "Favorite Artists", Jeff Fioravanti [see GettysBLOG # 91: "An Invitation to an Art Show"], who will be in town for this year's History Meets the Arts in Gettysburg. Here is the release:

Artist Jeff Fioravanti to Appear at Gallery 30 for 9th Annual History Meets the Arts

Gettysburg, PA (March 26, 2006) - a collection of new original and reproduction artwork, by acclaimed artist Jeff Fioravanti, will be on display April 1-30, 2006 at Gallery 30, located at 30 York Street, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 17325. On Saturday, April 22, 2006, from 1:00 - 3:00 PM visitors to the gallery will have the opportunity to meet and speak with the artist as part of the annual "History Meets the Arts" celebration.

Artist Jeff Fioravanti has quickly gathered a following for his ability to connect the viewer to the lands of our nation in an evocative and touching manner. His deft touch brings to life for all who see his work, the vistas upon which the events of our country transpired.

It is not just an artist's touch to capture the tranquil beauty of our treasured lands that has helped to endear and build Mr. Fioravanti's following, but also the utilization of his gift toward the preservation and conservation of the many places often featured in his finished work.

Through his efforts, he has helped raise approximately $20,000 for a number of non-profit groups and organizations dedicated to saving the properties and antiquities of our nation's legacy.Trumpeting the call for peace and remembrance, protection and preservation, this talented artist truly creates artwork of America for America.

To learn more about Mr. Fioravanti, his artwork and efforts with preservation and conservation, please visit his web site at www.fioravanti-fineart.com, or call 781-595-5961.

Gallery 30 is an artistic and literary landmark located off the main square in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In business for more than twenty-five years, it offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and is one of those rare gems, well appreciated by the locals, and a memorable experience for all visitors. To find out more about Gallery 30, please visit their web site at www.gallery30.com, or phone 717-334-0335.

Now in its ninth year, "History Meets the Arts" occurs each April in the picturesque town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where, on July 1-3, 1863, one of the most defining events in our nation's history occurred. Featuring more than seventy artists, artisans and musicians, "History Meets the Arts" blends the rich history and culture of this small south central town into an event not to be missed. For more information about "History Meets the Arts" please visit www.hmtarts.org.
America's Town meets America's Artists. Please make time to visit Gallery 30, and at the very least, tell Jeff Fioravanti that GettysBLOG sent you! Once there, I am sure you will see why you must see this very talented man's work.

We'll post a reminder just a few days before the big event!

GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

112: “Pennsylvania, the Land of Graft”


Our good friend Tim Potts over at
Democracy Rising, has sent his latest news piece along, with a scorecard for the (non)performance of Governor Ed “Fast Eddie” Rendell on the issue of lobbyist control. As you will see, it is pretty damning. Apparently “Fast Eddie”, who was in one heck of a hurry to get the Gambling bill passed in mid-2004, but is in no particular hurry to get a lobbyist disclosure and control bill signed into law.

Here is the latest issue of Democracy Rising News:

----------------------------------------------------


In this issue:
· Citizens’ Constitutional Convention (C3) Update
· Rendell’s Lobbyist Control Order – Three Years for This?

C3 Update
Thanks to all of you who have sent us ideas for debate and decision at a Citizens’ Constitutional Convention in 2007. DR Fans from across Pennsylvania have submitted dozens of good ideas on subjects from the legislature to elections to local governments to the judicial branch. We are now researching facts about your issues, including how other states treat them. As we finish our research, we will begin posting detailed information on our web site for additional comment.

In the meantime, interest in a constitutional convention continues to run strong. Here’s a timely editorial from the March 22nd
Pocono Record:

Rendell’s Lobbyist Control Order – Three Years for This? Let’s set the stage:

August 2002 – After 16 months of consideration, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared Pennsylvania’s lobbyist disclosure act unconstitutional, making Pennsylvania the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbyists.

January 2003 -- Ed Rendell becomes governor.

January 2004 – Pennsylvania is still the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbyists.

January 2005 – Pennsylvania is still the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbyists.

January 2006 – Pennsylvania is still the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbyists.

March 2006 – Gov. Rendell issues an executive order to require some disclosure of lobbyist activities with respect to the executive branch of state government.

In other words, for more than three years Rendell had an open field. On any day he could have issued an executive order giving the executive branch of our state government the highest standards of public integrity in America. No lawmakers could block him. No courts could overrule him unless he violated a previous court decision.

Instead, last week Rendell gave Pennsylvania citizens a campaign brochure disguised as
Executive Order 1980-18 Revision No. 4.

The True Cost of Lobbying. How does it hurt citizens and taxpayers when lobbyists take public officials on golf outings, to gambling parlors, to conferences in exotic locations, to championship sporting events, or “just” to dinner?

The hours and days a public official spends in the company of a lobbyist are hours and days that no one else has such access, and there are still just 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week. So the current system rewards wealthy lobbyists by letting them buy a public official’s time – in private and off the record. Meanwhile others with equally valid perspectives but who can’t afford such largess find it hard to get a 15-minute meeting.

Monopolizing the time that taxpayers have already paid for is what makes gifts and entertainment for public officials so hostile to the thorough, informed, balanced and public debate of public issues.

Timing is everything. Rendell said that he issued the executive order because he didn't think the legislature was going to enact a new law. Yet the Senate has had a rule about lobbyists (weak and not very informative, but there nonetheless) for years while Rendell dawdled. Plus, there is now reason to believe the House will act, despite years of claiming that no law is necessary. Speaker John Perzel recently formed a commission to prepare at least part of a new proposal. Contrary to Rendell’s statement, the legislature is more likely to do something now than at any time since Rendell took office.

Making Sense. Rendell said it doesn't make sense to ban gifts from lobbyists to public officials. Yet several other states think it makes sense. Florida in December became the most recent state to ban gifts. Even the U.S. Congress, never a leader in matters of public integrity, is now considering its own ban in the wake of the Abramoff scandal.

What doesn't make sense is to allow private interests to influence public officials in ways that personally benefit the public official. What doesn't make sense is the assumption that private interests would spend millions of dollars a year and not believe they were getting anything in return. What doesn’t make sense is the idea that these personal gifts and perks have any public purpose at all.

Not Peanuts. So Rendell’s order allows $250 worth of gifts per year that lobbyists don’t have to report. It also allows $650 per year in “travel expenditure reimbursements" that lobbyists don’t have to report. That’s $900 a year, per lobbyist, per public official.

Imagine an issue that has a few key decision-makers but several groups that would be affected. If just 20 well-heeled lobbyists provided the maximum unreported gifts and entertainment to a state official, it could equal $18,000 worth of influence spending that personally benefit the state official and that lobbyists never have to report. There are estimated to be 800-900 lobbyists in Harrisburg.

EXCEPT, the Governor’s Office points out, that executive branch employees are required to report gifts of $100 or more and “any payments for services, including any travel reimbursements.”
(
Q&A on Lobbying.)

In other words, lobbyists don’t have to report a lot of things that employees have to report. Skeptics can just hear a lobbyist saying to a public official, “I don’t have to report this $900. Why should you?” At the very least, having two different reporting requirements makes it harder to reconcile reports and arrive at a clear picture of the influence of lobbyists.

Bureaucracy. Here’s another reason to ban gifts that makes sense: A ban would eliminate the bureaucracy needed to track all that self-reported gift-giving and to make sure that reports are timely filed, placed on the Internet, etc. Ban gifts, and all of that bureaucracy disappears.

Enforcement. A ban also would allow more resources to go toward enforcement, which the governor admits is beyond the power of an executive order.

So Rendell’s order says, in effect, "We'll put some information out there and it's up to the citizens to catch us breaking the rules, although there are no real penalties for lobbyists who break the rules anyway."

Any time government pushes enforcement of the laws and rules onto the citizens, government will not take the laws and rules seriously. It knows that citizens have other things to do – and that citizens believe they’re already paying for enforcement.

Transparency? While the governor’s order requires some information to be put on the Internet, even that doesn’t go far enough. Reports will be searchable by lobbyist and by whoever hired the lobbyist, but not by public official.

Citizen-enforcers need to see the information by public official – the public decision maker that lobbyists attempt to influence. It will be exceedingly valuable to see how often and by whom any individual public official deals with lobbyists on the whole array of public policy decisions. Rendell’s executive order makes that crucial information next to impossible to find.

It also would be helpful if reports could be filed daily and placed online immediately. Waiting months for these reports could make the difference between citizens having the chance to participate in their government or being shut out once again.

Questions for Rendell
What took you so long? Did it have anything to do with slots?

Why doesn’t it make sense to ban gifts and entertainment to public officials? Which public officials deserve to receive gifts and entertainment from lobbyists who can afford to provide them? How does such preferential treatment help public officials to make decisions that benefit ordinary citizens?

Are you concerned about the appearance of impropriety?

Why doesn’t your order require lobbyists to use the same reporting rules -- $100 for gifts and “any travel reimbursements” – that employees must follow? Would the number of gifts between $100 and $250 and a full accounting of entertainment expenditures be too much of a burden for lobbyists to report? Is the purpose to inform the public or to make reporting convenient for lobbyists?

Why isn’t the database of lobbying activities under the executive order searchable by public official? Why isn’t information made available to citizens in as close to real time as technology allows?

Why aren’t you leading the effort to give Pennsylvania the highest standards of public integrity in America when it comes to controlling the activities of lobbyists, among many other things?

----------------------------------------------------

Thanks, Tim. I suspect that the answer to that last question is because so many people would lose their jobs, and perhaps go to jail if a lobbyist disclosure law were enacted. Now that our great governor has brought us legalized gambling it is safe to say that not only is Pennsylvania government the laughingstock of the nation, it is also the most corrupt. All the more reason for outfits such as Democracy Rising and Operation Clean Sweep, and Common Cause of Pennsylvania to exist. Bless you all, friends, for the great work you do on the front lines of Democracy in Pennsylvania. What a pity that in the state where our nation was formed on the principles of Democracy, Liberty, and Justice, we now have little of any of those qualities to our life.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 24, 2006

111: “The Further Decline of Steve Maitland”


As if it weren’t bad enough that Maitland refuses to return the ill-gotten money he took in the form of an “unvouchered expense” last summer, now he stoops to new lows with his bogus Public Service Announcements (PSAs).

Oh, he is not the only one.

Members of the General Assembly have funding available to them to promulgate information by way of PSAs. Any legislator can send out info, or make a TV commercial like PSA, and pay for it with tax payer money.

The problem arises with the approach to elections and the increased occurrence of such PSAs. An ad for Senior Citizens, the latest a guide for services available for senior citizens in Pennsylvania, prominently featuring Maitland on one side – very prominently - arrived in the mail today, just a few short weeks before a primary election that has Maitland facing a serious primary challenger for the first time in Dan Moul, and in trouble as an incumbent thanks to his record with the notorious pay raise last summer.

Maitland has worked very hard to overcome the negatives of his behavior over keeping the money, in particular the lame excuse of using it to pay for law school so he can be a better legislator! Hello?!?! You will never be a better legislator if your ethics and moral rectitude are in question because you don’t know right from wrong! But hard work alone does nothing to atone for the wrongs committed by Maitland, and the wrong he continues to commit and to attempt to justify. He is to be congratulated on his attempt to forestall a casino in Adams County, but it is an effort that would have been better suited to 2004 when the state’s gambling bill was passed (in the same, sneaky, nefarious way that last year’s pay raise was passed!). But he had just been elected then, and now it is before the election. In light of his actions over the pay raise money, and now sneaking the campaign ads out as PSAs, one is correct in questioning his motives. Some people will do anything to stay in office.

Not only is he keeping money that belongs rightly to the tax-payers of Pennsylvania, he is also attempting to maximize his positive exposure with these PSAs touting great programs for seniors, none of which he had a whole lot to do with, and that he is putting before you using money from your pocket!

Do not be fooled by the PSAs shown on your local TV stations, and on cable channels in the Adams County area (Adelphia), or by the ones that come in your mail. These are nothing more than slick, subtle campaign ads designed to make your representative or senator look good, and socially responsible.

Frankly, it is long past time for the concept of career politicians to come to an end. Time for term limits, and Maitland has already gone way past his promised 12 years and out. He is running for years fifteen and sixteen now.

Its time to send a message to Maitland and the General Assembly, that misconduct, bad ethics, and bad moral choices will not be tolerated. Pay for law school on your own hook! Get a real job and not one that amounts to political welfare.

Things in Pennsylvania politics are about to change drastically. Operation Clean Sweep and other grassroots organizations are in full swing backing slates of candidates facing incumbents in the primary election. Many members of the legislature, seeing what was coming, already decided not to run, and did so in record numbers. That’s fine, as it means fewer incumbents to defeat.

It is a great pity that someone would wreck his entire legislative record over a series of stupidly greedy, selfish decisions involving a few thousand dollars. But apparently that is the value of integrity in Harrisburg these days.

The behavior of the General Assembly over the past two years is nothing short of contemptible.

Do something about it. Spread the word. Kick them all out of office and let God sort them out!

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --
GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

110: “Dedicated to Rep. Steve Maitland (R-91)”



We have been extremely disturbed at Representative Steve Maitland’s obstinate refusal to return the money he took as an “unvouchered expense” last summer. Despite all of Mr. Maitland’s good points, there is this one issue that goes above and beyond the potential illegalities of keeping money received as compensation from an unconstitutionally passed pay raise that has since been repealed.

This is from the friends over at Operation Clean Sweep, who owe their start to the impetus provided by the hubris-filled legislature’s attempted theft from the citizens of Pennsylvania.
The legislature, with the complicity of the State Supreme Court, particularly Chief (mis)Justice Ralph Cappy, and of the Governor who signed the unconstitutional pay raise into law, attempted to pass a fat (16-34%) pay raise for themselves by the stealth method – after midnight, with no public input or discussion, and no notice. Further, it is unconstitutional for the legislature to pass a pay raise for themselves. Only the next session of the legislature can benefit from a raise. So, despite what the legislators claim, and despite what Cappy claims, and despite what Rendell claims, the raise was unconstitutional, and plainly so.

But that did not stop our “benevolent” legislators, as hundreds of them immediately accepted huge payouts under a scam called the “unvouchered expense”, a vehicle the legislature concocted for just such a purpose. Most of the legislators who accepted the money have either repaid it in full, or made arrangements to do so (although this amounts to an extended interest-free loan at the expense of the tax payers!). Now, the few greedy hard-heads that still have not repaid the money stand to up their retirements in addition to gaining from an unconstitutional piece of legislation.

A good case can be made for charging these individuals with felony theft, for failure to make proper disposition of funds, and/or illegal taking. The repeal of the legislation wipes out any entitlement to money accepted under the repealed pay raise. Ergo, those who have not returned their ill-gotten gains are stealing from the General Fund of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and in effect, from the citizens and tax-payers of Pennsylvania.

But this should never have come to this. The shame of it is that so many of the legislators in the General Assembly simply do not know the difference between right and wrong.

Let us be clear about this: it is simply wrong to keep that money - morally, and ethically wrong. There can be no argument about this fact. No amount of rationalization can make it right. Even if legal, which it is not, it is still wrong to keep that money. Just because something may be legal, does not make it right.

One clear and unequivocal example of such rationalizations is the Holocaust committed by the German nation under the thrall of the National Socialist (Nazi) party and Adolf Hitler. In order to make sure of the forced enslavement, confinement in concentration camps, and eventual murder of more than six million Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and Poles during World War II, the Nazi’s gathered for a conference at a Berlin lakeside resort called Wannsee.

The Wannsee Conference, held on January 20, 1942, was conducted by Reinhard Heydrich, second in command of the Nazi SS, commanded by Heinrich Himmler. Heydrich conducted an aggressive agenda, laid out by Adolf Eichmann representing the Gestapo. That agenda coerced top level Nazi political, military, paramilitary, and most importantly, judicial leaders into justifying and upholding what was termed as “The Final Solution”, the eradication of the Jews in occupied Europe and Germany. It was an official conspiracy, a policy projected from Hitler, Himmler and the Nazi hierarchy and it became policy for the entire Third Reich, and it was, after this conference, fully sanctioned and justified by the entire German government.

Understand that the taking and keeping of the money from the pay raise is insignificant compared to the Holocaust, but the rationalization process is the same, and where the Holocaust was wrong, so is keeping the money.

Some justify keeping the money by the spurious reasoning that they do not get involved with the money from lobbyists, or some of the other “perks” available to members of the General Assembly, so they are just getting a “little of their own.” In response to this rationalization I ask, “Is an evil not an evil because it is the lesser of two?”

Obviously, greed has pervaded the General Assembly, and our state courts, as well as the Governor’s office. So much greed that it compares evenly with gold fever like that experienced by the miners involved in several Gold Rushes in the mid to late nineteenth century, specifically in California, in the Black Hills of the Dakotas, and later in the Klondike. The greed and treachery that pervaded those events was such as to reduce man to his basest, and most selfish and paranoid self.

That pretty much defines the nature of our elected state government officials. They have long since stopped serving you, the citizens and taxpayers of the Commonwealth.

There is an election coming up. Remember in May, before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Let’s stop electing legislators, governors and judges who do not know the difference between right and wrong, are driven by greed, and are filled with hubris.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Alert: IRS to Allow Your Data to be Sold!

The IRS is going to allow tax preparers to sell your personal and business tax data. Yes, you read that right. The IRS is issuing a rules change (without benefit of Congress!) that will allow tax preparers like H&R Block, and Jackson-Hewitt, or Pete, the guy down the block from you who “does everybody’s returns for them”, to sell your tax information to marketers, credit bureaus, and the like, which means it will fall into the hands of those who will use it against you.

Your tax information is the deepest intrusion into your personal life the law allows any government agency to make. It surpasses the data given to the census, which is (supposedly) not linked to your identity. Your personal income, investments, marital status, prior marital status if paying or receiving alimony, Social Security Number, size of your family, who’s a student, who’s disabled, who had high medical expenses and if they were high enough to gain a deduction, what those expenses were for is there, too.

The IRS is doing this by stealth. They have recently published notice that they are making changes to IRS Regulations and Rules. “…Not a significant regulatory action", they say.

“Not a significant regulatory action?" Are they nuts? Obviously, some companies have lobbied the IRS to make these changes simply so they can gain increased income from the sale of the data, and so other companies not bound by confidentiality can store the data for later sales to market research firms, credit bureaus, or just plain no-goodniks.

The IRS says it is only trying to give more control to the taxpayer’s data by requiring preparers to get a signed release! Do you read every word you sign under at Block’s?

This is a pitiful attempt at diminishing personal identity, and exposing the taxpayer to identity theft, or unscrupulous use of their data. Further, in the case of families, it gives the permission of the one or two persons (if filing jointly) to sell the personal data of everyone on that return – including kids.

Imagine the eventual onslaught: you will be inundated by demographically matched sales people, calling you, sending you emails, and snail-mails, and even camped out on your doorstep waiting your arrival home from work, with sales pitches tuned to your family’s data. Have a nasty neighbor you don’t get along with? Watch out they don’t go to the online XYZ Data Repository and buy your tax data to look for things to use against you.

Specifically, by requiring the tax preparer to obtain your authorization for the release of your data, the IRS is saying to the preparer that they can do whatever they want with your data – as long as they get your release.

It is not too late to stop this. There is a 30 day public comment period after the prospective rules are published. While it is too late to post comment at the IRS website, there is still time to register your outrage by snail-mail at:

CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-137243-02)
Room 5203
Internal Revenue Service, Box 7604
Ben Franklin Station, Washington, D.C. 20044

You know what to do. And, while you are writing them, you should call your Congressman and Senator and get them to move on this. It’s an election year, so they should be responsive.

See an expansive article about this at the Philadelphia Inquirer, titled
IRS plans to allow preparers to sell data.

This is reprehensible. Let’s get it stopped now.

GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 20, 2006

109: “Word from the Great Ed Bearss”


Our friends at the Civil War Preservation Trust have issued a press information release regarding the great Civil War historian Ed Bearss. It states:

STATEMENT OF HISTORIAN ED BEARSS REGARDING IMPORTANCE OF EAST CAVALRY FIELD

World-renowned historian and preservationist calls East Cavalry Field an ‘unsurpassed opportunity to walk in the footsteps of history.’

For Immediate Release
March 16, 2006

(Washington, D.C.) –World-renowned historian and preservationist Edwin C. Bearss issued the following statement today about the historic significance of East Cavalry Field, an important component of Gettysburg National Military Park. Bearss is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT).

In recent weeks, Chance Enterprises, the investment group trying to build a new casino within a mile of East Cavalry Field, has tried to diminish the historic significance of the East Cavalry Field site, in order to improve their chances of getting a license for a slots parlor. As a result of the casino controversy, last month CWPT identified Gettysburg as one of the ten most endangered battlefields in the nation. Bearss’ response follows:

“The East Cavalry Field fight is as much a part of Battle of Gettysburg as Little Round Top. The fight for East Cavalry Field underscored the coming of age of the Union cavalry. From here on in the Civil War, the Union cavalry in the east will achieve the same dominance over the Confederate cavalry that the Confederate cavalry heretofore had had over the Union.

“You can not divide the different parts of the segments of the Battle of Gettysburg. East Cavalry Field is as important to understanding the Battle of Gettysburg as the Angle or Little Round Top.

“The decision to include East Cavalry Field in the Gettysburg National Military Park was made by the veterans. Who has a better right to decide what was important and what was significant than those men who fought there? The fight on East Cavalry Field was a significant success for the Union horse soldiers and underscored that the Union cavalry could now meet the cavaliers in gray and best them. Henceforth in the Civil War, the Union cavalry in the east will become increasingly dominant over the Confederate cavalry.

“No place on the battlefield of Gettysburg possesses greater integrity to time and place than East Cavalry Field. You could bring one of Stuart’s horsemen, or one of Custer’s, back and he would recognize the landscape, the woods, the topography. And here today’s visitor has an unsurpassed opportunity to walk in the footsteps of history.”

Bearss is considered a national treasure. Tens of thousands of people, including many national figures, have toured battlefields and historic sites with Bearss, both here in America and overseas. He is an award winning author; having written or edited more than 20 books. In 1983, he received the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor. Bearss was also the first recipient of CWPT’s most prestigious national award, which is now named after him. In November 2005, he was identified in Smithsonian Magazine’s cover story, “35 Who Made a Difference.”

With 75,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 22,000 acres of hallowed ground, including 591 acres in Gettysburg. CWPT’s website is located at
www.civilwar.org

Bloggernote: For those who may not be familiar with Ed Bearss, here is the Smithsonian Magazine article, which should let you know just what kind of a man (and hero) Ed Bearss really is:

35 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE:
ED BEARSS - ON ANY BATTLEFIELD, HE STRIKES THE MYSTIC CHORDS OF MEMORY

By Adam Goodheart

November 2005
Smithsonian Magazine
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/issues/2005/november/bearss.php

Ed Bearss has what might best be called a battlefield voice, a kind of booming growl, like an ancient wax-cylinder record amplified to full volume—about the way you'd imagine William Tecumseh Sherman sounding the day he burned Atlanta, with a touch of Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill.

We're on a battlefield today, in fact. But now, unlike on a certain summer day 142 years ago, this corner of southern Pennsylvania is quiet, with fields of soybeans and corn drowsing under the midmorning haze. Quiet, that is, except for that voice: "George Armstro-o-ong Custerrr has been a brigadier general for all of five days. He's already got himself the larrrgest starrrs on his shoulders of any general in the Army. He's adopted a red neckerchief with a gold arro-o-ow stickpin in it. And he's just come within a hairrr of losing his life, 13 years before the Sioux Indians send him to the happy hunting grounds."

Several dozen listeners stand silent, transfixed. In Civil War circles, Bearss is nothing short of a rock star. One of the men in the tour group wears a baseball cap covered with commemorative buttons celebrating each of Bearss' birthdays for the past decade (the latest is for his 82nd), while others have been known to wear T-shirts depicting his face on Mount Rushmore or transposed onto Elvis' white jumpsuit with the simple legend: "THE KING."

What inspires such adulation? As historian and battlefield guide, Bearss' store of knowledge is prodigious. Today, he's spending several hours covering a brief, relatively minor sideshow to the Battle of Gettysburg. He's speaking without notes and admits it's been years since he's read a word about the skirmish on East Cavalry Field. Yet the details pour over us in a heady flow: Rebel cavalrymen on horses exhausted after a 200-mile trek from Virginia. Michigan troopers charging into battle to Custer's cry of "Come on, you Wolverines!" A Northern captain felled when a Confederate color-bearer drives the spear point of his guidon into the Yankee's open mouth.

As he talks, Bearss marches back and forth, brandishing a silver-headed swagger stick, tucking it from time to time under his withered left arm—a casualty of a bullet at a battlefield on the other side of the world in 1944. He keeps his eyes tightly closed while he lectures, and he later tells me that way he can see the events of 1863 unfolding before him.

Some might say that Bearss has spent most of his life in the 19th century. He grew up with kerosene lamps and horse-drawn plows in Montana. He remembers Civil War stories told firsthand by the hometown veteran, "Grandpa" Henderson, who "used to sit around the hotel lobby with his reunion ribbons on."

After serving in the Marines and earning degrees at Georgetown and Indiana universities, Bearss joined the National Park Service (where he is now chief historian emeritus) and devoted himself to the study of the American past, particularly the struggle between the blue and the gray. When he compares contemporary America to the 1860s, his allegiance is clear: "We're in an age of Teflon people now. People then were more original, more individual."

Yet when he has to, Bearss can stand squarely in the present, as he has proved rather often of late, enmeshed in one 21st-century battle after another—over the suburban development that has threatened to engulf Civil War battlefields. Here at Gettysburg, for instance, the idyllic vista before us is broken by a water tower that went up a few years ago, part of a new industrial park. Just to the right of it, investors want to build a casino with 3,000 slot machines.

It's a scenario that, in various permutations, has repeated itself at many sites over the past decade or so. Bearss is well-armed to support the preservationist side of the fight. He remembers visiting Manassas in 1941, when it was a sleepy rural area; now, when he leads bus tours there, they often end up stalled in shopping center traffic. At Petersburg in the early 1960s, he saw where an 1864 fort was bulldozed to make way for a mall; now the mall itself is nearly derelict. "The development is advancing more irresistibly than Grant's army did on Richmond," Bearss grumbles.

"Ed's name carries a lot of weight," says Dean Shultz, a leader in the land-conservation movement at Gettysburg. Some years ago, a preservation group was debating whether to help purchase easements on the ground where Custer gathered his men for the East Cavalry Field assault. There was concern about whether the site was truly historic. "So finally I said I'd talked to Ed Bearss, and he said it had historic significance," he says. "And they said, 'Well, if Ed Bearss says it's worth saving, it's worth saving.'"

Like Custer's men, preservationists now face a do-or-die moment, Bearss says. "The battles are going to be played out in the next 10 to 20 years, because by then the battlefield parks will be islands in urban corridors of the United States, in a sea of sprawling shopping malls."

On East Cavalry Field, our tour draws toward a close beneath a granite column topped by a statue of a Union cavalryman. "The trumpets are playing," Bearss intones. "Thirteen hundred sabers are drawn. They flash in the sun. The Confederates are coming toward them: five regiments, riding boot to spur. Men of Michigan, are you ready? Charrrrrrrge!" And suddenly he's off, his swagger stick flailing—a hunched figure racing across the soybean field, charging fearlessly forward into the past.

COPYRIGHT 2005, Smithsonian Institution

---------------------------------------------------------
Jim Campi, Policy and Communications Director
Civil War Preservation Trust
1331 H Street NW
Suite 1001
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 367-1861
http://www.civilwar.org

Always a pleasure to hear from our good friends at CWPT. Thanks, Jim. Ed Bearss is a National Treasure, as important as the Battlefield itself. Anyone who has ever been on a tour with Ed knows that he is very hard to keep up with on the Battlefield. He moves at an incredible pace, so if you ever fortunate enough to go with him, be forewarned, wear running shoes, and have a good ear because he will provide you with insights that few others are capable of providing.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

108: “Gettysburg Times Guilty of Editorial Bias”


Lieutenant Colonel Bill Hewitt, US Army, Retired, is a well known and highly respected member of the Gettysburg Battlefield community. In a letter to the editor of the Gettysburg Times published on Friday, March 17, 2006, Lieutenant Colonel Hewitt took the news media in general and the Gettysburg Times editorial staff specifically to task for their biased and prejudicial editing of the news the paper prints. [Didn’t we talk about this just a week ago in GettysBLOG #
105: “Alas, The Gettysburg Times, I Knew Them Horatio”?]

The good Colonel presented a fine litany of national news stories carried by the Gettysburg Times such as the failure of the Army to meet recruiting quotas for three straight months last year, the failure of the Iraqi parliament to hold a scheduled session ten days ago, Senator John Kerry’s election campaign “chicken little” claim that the draft was coming back, and the coverage of deaths of Pennsylvania Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He pointed out that the Army’s recruitment quotas not only have met but surpassed quotas for the past eight months, and that over the past few years the Army has consistently been well over quota. Reenlistments are also over the quotas. Further, the Iraqi Parliament met within hours of the story that they failed to meet, that here we are almost 18 months after the last election and there is no hint of a draft, and that only one small article reported the return of thousands of servicemen and women from Iraq and Afghanistan to Pennsylvania, an event that occurs far more regularly than service deaths in Iraq.

His point, that with the exception of the one small story about returning veterans, nothing has been published by the Gettysburg Times to counter the negative image left in their news stories when those stories turn out to have been wrong, insignificant, or simply one-sided.

One could call it a “Liberal Bias”, but that has become so trite and hackneyed as to make the charge meaningless – it is a given these days that the press/media is based in the mid-left politically. One could be more appropriate to call it an anti-Bush bias, or anti-Administration, or even anti-Congress bias – and they would be correct.

This blogger is not the only person scratching his head over the Gettysburg Times – Republican owned, in a near total Red County – publishing with a left wing editorial bias.

Oh, to be sure, the Times has other biases, too, like the bias in favor of the casino. Case in point: in the very same edition, a front page, above-the-fold story expressed surprise (even shock???) by the investors that the State House of Representatives would unanimously vote for legislation that would block the proposed casino from Adams County! Unlike articles which are prompted by the No Casino Gettysburg group, which all have a counterpoint from Chance built in, this article is one continuous assault by LeVan and a downtown shop owner against No Casino Gettysburg, the legislature, and the Civil war Preservation Trust. There is no counterpoint from either NCG or CWPT.

And, to cap it all off, the Editor of the Gettysburg Times, one B. J. Small, actually does not deny any bias. In an arrogant post script to Lieutenant Colonel Hewitt’s letter, editor Small writes: “The Times is fortunate to have well informed readers, to complement our priority of local coverage.”

com·ple·ment
n.
1. Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection.
2. The quantity or number needed to make up a whole: shelves with a full complement of books.
3. Either of two parts that complete the whole or mutually complete each other.

Frankly, if editor Small think’s Colonel Hewitt’s letter qualifies as a complement to his biased editorial policies, he’s nuts, but if that assuages his conscience, it also measures the man as aptly named.

The Gettysburg Times banner says “Adams County News First”. That is not always the case, and if the news is detrimental to local developers or certain politicians, it often won’t show up at all. If you want an unbiased picture of Adams County news, you must read the Hanover Evening Sun.

Not that it matters to the owners or to editor Small, but the good Colonel, and this blogger are not demanding a conservative bias, just an honest, responsible picture of the news. If you print something that turns out not to be correct, clean it up.

The Times does not serve the people of Adams County. It serves a privileged few in one class, who have the money and power to pave over the county, and the very few liberals, greenies and libertarians that inhabit the county. The Times has no soul, and no spine but the dollar.

It’s a wonder they have any readers at all.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,
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Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.