Okay, if movies have taught me one thing, it's that robots will soon become sentient beings and kill us all. It's the reason I don't trust Roombas and it's the reason this ad creeps me the fuck out. Pay your taxes, or Pennsylvania (or should I say Skynet?) will find you.
Take a look at these two new ads from Dems Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak, who are running against each other for U.S. Senate:
First, Specter's, a total attack ad that dubs Sestak "No Show Joe." Yay rhyming!
And then there's Sestak's ad, wherein the Congressman only has time to tell voters who the hell he is.
|Photo | Zimbio|
By now, you've heard Joe Sestak's claim: The Obama administration dangled a job in front of him, but only if he'd drop out of the Pa. Democratic Senate race against Arlen Specter.
So far, the White House has been mum on this, but press secretary Robert Gibbs dropped a hint about it yesterday, kinda:
Whatever conversations have been had are not problematic. I think Congressman Sestak has discussed that this is whatever happened is in the past, and he's focused on this primary election.
Which translates to: We've swept it under the rug, and you should too, right?
|Photo | New World Order|
|Pennsylvania no likee.|
So the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on SB707 today, which would amend our state constitution to add a cute little part about marriage being defined as "between one man and one woman." Which is appalling.
But the weird thing is, Pa. has a ton of anti-gay marriage laws on the books already. We've got the 1996 Pennsylvania Marriage Statute, which defines marriage as one XX-er and one XY-er, only. Then of course there's the Defense of Marriage Act (thank you Clinton!). Add that to the aforementioned state marriage statute, which also ensures that no gays married in Vermont or D.C. or Mars will be recognized as such in our state, and you gotta wonder is Pennsylvania in some sort of God Hates Fags-funded contest to become the most anti-gay state in the republic?
|Photo | Alice in Wonderland|
On Tuesday night, while the rest of you were stocking up on bread and six-packs, or poring over Lostpedia, I decided to brave the beginning of Snowpocalypse III and attend the Tea Party Candidates Forum in Center City. After all, there were 14 Congressional candidates, three Lieutenant Governor candidates, two Senate candidates and two Governor candidates (including Tom Corbett) set to speak.
You won't be surprised to hear that 90 percent of the candidates made references to the fact that global warming is a hoax because, clearly, look outside! It's snowing! (After saying such things, James Jones, who's running in the 8th Congressional district, actually talked about an Ice Age that allegedly took place in the '70s â¦ I think he was referring to this.) Or that almost everyone I talked to in the audience seemed to be from Lansdale, Blue Bell, Ardmore or anywhere other than Philly proper â save for a few who came from the Northeast. Or that almost everyone was white â¦ and bald â¦ and old. Or that one of the moderators' questions was, "When's the last time you read the Constitution?" to which nearly every candidate said, "Er, last night!" (Ira Hoffman, also running in the 8th Congressional district, admitted that he reads the U.S. Constitution for Dummies instead.) Or that Hoffman made an off-color joke about Democratic Rep. John Murtha, who died this Monday. ("Half the earmarks have been snuffed within the last 48 hours," he said.)
No, none of that is surprising, given media coverage like last week's Philadelphia Weekly cover story.
What I did find interesting, and surprising, was the fact that many of these candidates and audience members contained multitudes that you never see represented in the press. For one, the Tea Party population is viewed as being 100 percent white â and James Jones is black, and there was a (small) number of black people in the audience. (Perhaps that's why the TPs were on good behavior on Tuesday â nary a racist statement was made, neither in printed literature nor speech â¦ which is quite different than what PW's Jonathan Valania found at a Media Tea Party event.) Also, several of the candidates made some fairly anti-war statements: Pia Varma, running in the 1st Congressional district, said "we can't fight a War on Terror forever" and "it's now time to sit down and think about what we're doing over there." (Varma also said "immigrants are the backbone of our country" â at a Tea Party! A Tea Party!) Similarly, Patrick Sellers, running in the 6th Congressional district, said of the men and women who are fighting our country's two wars, "It's time to bring them home." Meanwhile, on the not-totally-crazy-about-the-environment front, Steve Welch, also running in the 6th district, said, "It's our responsibility to pass on a country with clean air to our children." Sellers also stated that eliminating earmarks â perhaps the most vilified entity in the TP coalition â is like "trimming the nosehairs" of the budget deficit.
It's hard to say whether or not these candidates, many of them new to politics, will hold onto these beliefs once the GOP machine gets ahold of them. But, still, it's worth noting that Tea Party folk are not 100 percent crazy, 100 percent of the time. A great article in the New Yorker recently explored such things.
Throughout the day, The Clog has been told that nearly everything in the city that was going to take place today and tomorrow school, flights, concerts has been canceled. Except the Tea Party Candidates Forum, that is. According to the folks over at the Crystal Tea Room (100 E. Penn Square, ninth floor, 215-627-5100), "the Republican thing" (their words, not ours) is still going on tonight.
It's free and open to the public.
What happened? Apparently "there was a breakdown of operational procedures," explained Aramark's VP of operations Bruce Walton, which led to, y'know, mice. Lots of 'em. Pooping everywhere. Which is bad and all, and when this happens you slap the company around a bit (or, y'know, fire them) and move on.
But not when there's a morality play to be staged. There was, good god, a hearing, during which Aramark was accused, among other things, of "betraying the public's trust" and "[playing] a disgusting joke on me and the people I represent."
Now, of course, this is about more than state lawmakers getting some nasty food (ostensibly, anyway). This is about a food safety bill that passed the House in June and has been put on the backburner by the Senate.
According to the Inky, a GOP lawmaker accused Philly Democratic Rep./liberal lioness Babette Josephs of wasting time discussing the conditions at the restaurant she eats at, and Josephs shot back that the Senate should try slumming it in the House dining room and see how the other half (of the legislature) lives. Long knives drawn here, people.
The bill in question would tie restaurant license renewal to passing an annual inspection, which sounds both incredibly reasonable AND insanely bureaucratic.
We'll check in with the Meal Ticket folks to see where they stand on the issue.
The Fix is In, Part Two: How the table games amendment was rammed through the House, and opponents stifled.
(Apologies: this reporter clicked "Publish" instead of "Preview" and subjected early post readers to horrendous spelling mistakes).
(In Part One: The Great Santoni, Gaming Oversight Chairman Dante Santoni concocts a super-amendment to destroy all other amendments and rewrites the table games bill to include all sorts of earmarks and casino-friendly provisions).
By Monday night, House legislators saw that the fix was in: the dozens of amendments to the table games bill drafted by House members â each of which would, in theory, require a reading and open debate before the public on the House floor â had been obliterated by the omnibus Santoni amendment. It was to be an all or nothing vote.
Part Two: The Gag.
The debate carried on for six hours, as Rep. Santoni stood for interrogation by oppositional Republicans and a few furious Democrats, who accused him of leaving them out of the process.
Rep. Mike O'Brien (D-Philadelphia), for example,a member of the gaming Oversight Committee, who represents part of Fishtown, asked why, when he called on Friday to make inquiries on the massive bill that had suddenly appeared, Committee staff was unable to help him.
"This process reeks," O'Brien said. "Tonight, I will correct the error of my vote in Gaming Oversight, and I will vote 'no.'"
Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) spoke at length and passionately against the bill, reading from a long list of bizarre and suspicious earmarks, and criticizing the bill's failure to adopt Attorney General recommendations that law enforcement authority be taken away from the gaming Control Board.
Rep. Paul Clymer (R-Bucks) condemned the bill as a giveaway to the casinos, citing the low license fees ($16.5 million versus a $50-$60 million recommended figure Clymer had obtained from an investment specialist) and the low tax rates (14% versus the 55% tax on slot revenues).
Clymer referenced a group of consultants from the Innovation Group â a company with strong ties to the gaming industry â who had met with House leaders and recommended those very figures.
"It's exactly what they said at that meeting that we're finding in this Amendment," he cried. "You can see the voice and face of the casinos' influence in this legislation."
But Clymer's heaviest condemnation was on moral grounds, calling provision for allowing credit to gamblers "horrendous."
"What are we doing to our fellow man?" he asked. "I hope Governor Rendell, if this bill gets to him, will veto it on that issue alone."
Finally, around 8:00 P.M. the amendment was put to a vote. It passed: 97-95. Click here to see how each member voted.
The amendment had passed, but the night wasn't over â not quite.
A number of Representatives had managed to get new amendments on the agenda.
Representative Keller (D-Philadelphia), who had voted for Santoni's amendment, nonetheless offered a new amendment to remove the language in Santoni's bill allowing Foxwoods Casino to extend its license. The motion failed.
Representative Clymer, not going down without a fight, had several amendments. One would require that quarterly statements be sent to gamblers, letting them see on paper how much they had spent at a given casino. It failed.
Another amendment banned free alcohol in casinos; three more amendments tried to raise the licensing fee for table games from $16.5 million to between $25 and $75 million.
"Whether you agree or disagree with gambling, we can try to get the most out of it for the state," Clymer later told me. "If we did $50 million we'd get in approximately $600 million" - which is an increase of $400 million dollar and that would fix the governor's $200 million deficit."
Such a measure, one would think, would be amenable to everyone in the House â unless, of course, House members' loyalties were to the casinos themselves, and not the state coffers.
And, in fact, these amendments were not voted upon. Instead, any House members trying to further amend the bill were silenced â by a single old man: the 88-year-old Representative Frank Oliver (D-Philadelphia) who offered the obscure "motion to move the previous question."
I don't know what it means, but I've learned what it does: it ends debate, on the spot. The motion carried. Neither Clymer's amendments nor anyone else's would be given even the dignity of a public hearing, much less be voted upon.
The gag had worked.
Listen below to some of the testimony in Monday's debate on the House floor.
|Rep Paul Clymer|
|Rep Mike Turzai|
would allow PA casinos to extend credit to their customers, whether they're playing table games or just slots to die before reaching his desk. In a phone conference today, Rendell referred to that clause and others as "ancillary," and said, "I think a lot of that stuff is going to go out of the bills before it gets to me." Pressed on the issue of casino credit specifically, Rendell said, "I don't think that will survive the final bill but if it did, I would have to sign it. That's not a core issue for me." Listen to the exchange here: [audio:http://stream.citypaper.net/music/edrendell_tablegames_30oct09.mp3]
The General Assembly is supposed to reconvene on Monday, Nov. 9 to settle the issue. Meanwhile, we noticed that today's Inquirer editorialized against the credit clause:
Even when Pennsylvania's flawed gaming bill was passed in the dark of night in 2004, the legislature had enough sense to prohibit the extension of in-store credit. Why back off now? The gaming industry says it needs to be able to provide credit to the high rollers expected once the slots parlors morph. But the credit access will also be there for problem gamblers and those who can least afford it. That's especially troubling in Philadelphia, where about a quarter of the population lives in poverty and many are on the edge.
A week ago, I got astride my bicycle, turned my phone off, and set off for a leisurely five-day ride to Pittsburgh. Amazing how much can happen in a week: I arrived to the news that the state budget had finally passed and that table games (blackjack, poker, etc.) were legalized as part of that budget.
Only they weren't.
Little-reported is the fact that while the General Assembly may have agreed to fill about $240 million worth of the state budget with table games, lawmakers haven't yet passed the legislation needed to legalize them. And now the General Assembly is in recess until Nov. 9, meaning that for the next few weeks, anyway table games are potentially still up for grabs.
There are a couple of hold-ups.
One is the rate of taxation for table games. Proposed taxes on table game revenues range from arond 10 percent to the mid-30s. There are similar disagreements over licensing fees.
Another is that while the Senate currently holds two bills relating to gambling one that contains gambling reform, and another that would legalize table games the House has both lumped into the same bill, which originated in the Senate (Senate Bill 711).
Casino opponents, like Rep. Paul Clymer (R-Bucks), may not vote in favor of the House's bill, despite the reform components. The Senate's bills, on the other hand, would let those politicians vote for reform, but against table games. Clymer, for example, would favor the Senate's gambling reform bill (Senate Bill 1088), but would work against the table gaming legalization bill (Senate Bill 1033).
Meanwhile, proponents of table games have come up with a novel way of pushing their agenda: holding universities and museums hostage, refusing to deliver payments for "nonpreferred institutions" until the legislation passes.
Reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The delayed payments are for 28 institutions in a strange-sounding category called "nonpreferred appropriations," and include such major venues as the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University, the Carnegie Museums, the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh, Temple University and a dozen other groups in Philadelphia.
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