Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dude, where's my pig?

This story is from the “okay, sometimes sh*t happens” file.

Roger Waters did his best for the good guys at last weekend’s Coachella Music Festival. Waters spray-painted the legendary inflatable pig with the slogans “fear builds walls” and “don’t be led to the slaughter.” On the underside was an explicit endorsement of Senator Obama.

On point one, Waters is right. Fear builds walls. Consider this:

Exhibit A: The Berlin Wall (fear of capitalism freedom)
Exhibit B: Israel’s Wall (fear of freedom fighters terrorism err…a whole population of people who have a legitimate grievance against the only democracy in the Middle East)
Exhibit C: America’s Southern wall (fear of fear of losing jobs brown people)
Exhibit D: Pink Floyd’s The Wall (fear of the Rest of the World)

On point two, we have already been led to the slaughter...twice. Let’s not make it thrice.

Back to the show in California…According to all reports, Rogers was great. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with giant inflatable floating pigs is that they have a maddening tendency to float off into the night sky. Check it out:

Personally, I loved Waters’ reaction. As he watched his inflatable animal drift away, he simply said “That’s my pig.”

At least they found the pig and a couple of lucky homeowners will be getting an unexpected economic boon. The remnants of the pig landed on two people’s property. They will split the $10,000 reward for the return of the pig. It turns out finding Roger Waters’ pig is better than the Bush economic stimulus package.

Why can’t I ever find Roger Waters’ pig?


P.S. The next post will be about the train wreck that passed for a legitimate interview in the No Spin Zone this evening. In case you missed it, BillO interviewed Senator Clinton this morning and showed clips of the interview on his show. In a desperate attempt to boost his ratings, BillO decided to only show 15 minutes (plus commercials) of his interview with Hillary Clinton this evening. The rest of the interview will presumably air tomorrow. The rest of the show was dedicated to analysis of the interview from the likes of Dennis Miller. Ugh. Stay tuned, if you can stomach it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Flashback: "We Win"

I was checking through the archives this evening and I came across this headline:

There Goes the Sun

I ranted then about the government's decision to shut down a key website that provides useful economic data. Apparently, the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESB) could not set aside a few bucks for a web page. Come on. We're only $9.4 trillion in debt.

The good news is that this is how democracy is supposed to work. I checked ESB's page today and saw this on the front page:

ESA initially planned to discontinue the service due to cost concerns but given the feedback ESA received, the decision has been made to continue the site and improve its functionality.
Score one for open records.


Making your presidential campaign stand out

Now that Pennsylvania is done mattering for the moment, I thought I would post something of very little intellectual value. I got this as an e-mail forward from a co-worker. I appreciate it because it nails all of the candidates and takes a couple of cheap shots at Our Fearless Leader and friend along the way.

Hey there, Zeke, I'm calling on behalf of the Obama for President Yokel-Outreach Hotline, offering you a chance to climb out of your bitter, dead-end hole and do something right for once: Vote for Barack Obama! Now, before we get started, call Charlene in from the pen, and let's put down the gun …


Hi, I'm calling on behalf of Senator Hillary Clinton. Sorry to wake you at 3 a.m., but that's exactly the point we're trying to make …


Hello, I'm calling on behalf of Senator John McCain. Please don't hang up. Oh, God, please, don't hang up! He'll scream at us again. He gets that look, you can't talk to—OHMYGOD, HE'S COMING …


Hi, I'm calling for President George W. Bush. According to our records, you are one of the 15 percent of the American public who believes this country is moving in the right direction. Because of that, we've been authorized to give you this one-time chance to buy $10 Rolexes from our special online value store …


Hi, I'm calling from the American Polling Institute. Would you approve of an intra-presidential race marriage between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?


Hello there, I'm calling from the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C. This call, like all your phone calls, is being monitored, not just for quality control but to learn what you're up to …


Hello, I'm calling on behalf of Senator Hillary Clinton, the most experienced candidate running for president. As you know, Hillary has overcome terrible tragedies and … (sniff) … sorry … forgive me … I just get emotional whenever I think of what he did to her …


Hello? Hello? I'm calling from Septuagenarians for John McCain, and we're hoping that you'll support our … hello? Hello? I think I did something wrong again. Hello? I touched something, and the screen changed. Hello?


Hello! I'm calling for Senator Barack Hussein Obama who—praise be to Allah!—shall bring the sword of justice to the infidels as our next president.


Hello, this is Dick Cheney. I'm talking to you from a secure bunker deep within the earth. Through a blend of science and the dark, mystical arts, I have transferred my brain into pure energy, and I am speaking to you now, mentally, though it may seem like it's coming through the phone…

Okay, I thought it was funny. Others disagree...


It's finally over

As a preface and caveat, I will support Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination. My only two issues with her are 1) she voted for this war and 2) It really seems undemocratic to have a whole generation of young people who have only known a Bush or Clinton in the White House. On the other hand, the country was going in the right direction under the first Clinton Administration.

Well it’s all over here in the Keystone State and (from R&R’s perspective) the good guys lost, not that we were looking for an outright win. Senator Clinton did indeed win Pennsylvania by about 10 points. More about that later, but here’s the current delegate counts from CNN.

Instead, let’s start with the Pa.-05 Congressional District race. If you recall, we had nine Republicans and three Democrats running for the seat being vacated by John Peterson. Pa.-05 is one of the Reddest districts in the state and historically, the token resistance has been an unknown Democrat or a Libertarian. The current GOP backlash opened the door to the loyal opposition here. In reality, come this fall, the Republicans will probably take the district, but it is refreshing to know that the opposition will be mounting a challenge.

The Centre Daily Times is reporting that the Democrats nominated Clearfield County Commissioner Mark McCracken, who only spent $8,800 on his campaign. I was not particularly enamored with McCracken, but other than the foreign policy weakness his positions on the issues are generally in line with what I can support.

On the other side, the GOP nominated Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, who picked up Peterson’s endorsement a less than two weeks ago. Despite my policy differences with Peterson, he has been just fine for the district. Thompson spent about $20,000 on his campaign, which was a real value for him. By contrast, Matt Shaner spent $1.2 million (seemingly largely on television ads showing his wholesome family making pancakes while disparaging illegal immigrants); Derek Walker spent $800,000 to snag a third place victory (while also dealing with criminal charges filed less than a week before the election); and Jeff Stroehmann (another candidate who ran far to the right) dropped $300,000.

After checking Thompson’s website, he offers a reasonable compromise on immigration. He says send ‘em home, but make legal immigration easier. He is also a pro-lifer, but that is to be expected from the GOP. Most importantly, though, he is a health care professional and should be on board for reforms that will allow all Americans to afford health care.

If there is any lesson to take from this, it is that money cannot always buy a seat in congress. The winners spent less than $30,000 while the GOP numbers two to four spent a combined $2.3 million.

As for the presidential race, I did manage to make it to a bar and spent way too much money in the process. (Where’s Shaner when you can really use him?) The music was great, but the returns were another story. The first set of returns that we saw from CNN showed Clinton leading 67% to 33% (with 0% reporting, of course). As more precincts came in, the tallies started to more accurately reflect the final outcome. At around 9:20 p.m., Obama had cut the lead to 52-48. By 9:45 p.m., the numbers were 54-46 in favor of Clinton.

The Obama camp did not expect to win in Pa., but knew they could not lose a landslide. Ten points is a significant margin, but the net gain for Clinton was only about nine pledged delegates. He may very well make that up in North Carolina and Indiana in two weeks. More importantly, Obama was trailing Clinton in Pennsylvania by as much as 19 points in March and managed to cut that deficit in half. A loss is a loss, but Clinton probably needed to win Pennsylvania by a bit larger margin. A lot of the early speculation was that even a six to eight point win by Clinton would make the superdelegates wonder about her “electability” in large, industrial states.

Here’s my rant against the very idea of superdelegates, just so we are clear on R&R’s stand on that peculiar particular institution.

But when it was all said and done, it doesn’t seem like Pennsylvania settled anything at all.

As for the polls, I can report that my alma mater, Mansfield University, called Pennsylvania for Clinton by nine points, which is about as accurate as anyone lately. (I’m waiting for a link to the survey.)

Locally, I did glance at the returns and Mansfield Borough went for Obama, but I don’t have the exact numbers. Thanks to Heidi we do have a very detailed breakdown of the voting trends in Blossburg Borough and the rest of Tioga County. Overall, the county overall voted for Clinton by a margin a little over three to two.

To conclude, check out this video because “Everybody knows that the good guys lost.”

Yes, it is Concrete Blonde’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s song. Enjoy.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Six weeks later...

Today's the big day. We've been inundated with it for weeks (six weeks to be exact) with the campaigns. Today, Pennsylvania finally votes in the primary election. It's almost over. *whew*

Most of the polls are showing Clinton with a small lead in Pa. today. That's not the best of news for the good guys, but even a narrow defeat for Obama should give him enough delegates to secure the nomination. A big win in North Carolina and a solid showing in Indiana ought to clinch it, but we'll see.

I will be following the results this evening (hopefully at a bar). More reporting to follow...


P.S. Today is also Earth Day. What better day to clean house?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Go, Danica

Congratulations to Danica Patrick on her first win.

She won the Indy Firestone 300 in Japan today for her first professional victory and she is sitting in third place currently.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

No, really... we were misled into war

I just love it when someone finally connects the dots. Remember back in 2002-2003 when we were all watching CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc. The networks always seemed to have all kinds of military analysts ready to talk about anything anytime.

Today, the New York Times introduced us to them. Check it out:

Kinda interesting how the Pentagon was able to get their people on TV all the time to repeat their erroneous messages all over the news.

PBS has an even better account of the run up to the war on Frontline's Bush's War.

Finally, I need to admit when I am wrong. I recently made the statement that I predicted accurately what would happen if we invaded Iraq: we would be stuck in a quagmire. It turns out that Darth Cheney was well aware of that probable outcome in 1994 and apparently did not need my input.

Support Our Troops. Bring 'em Home.

Pa-5 endorsement

First a major tip o' the hat to Heidi for an excellent analysis of the Pa.-5 debate. Her post motivated me to finally announce my endorsement to the candidate for Pa.-5...

...and I'm still working on it.

As a Democrat, I personally have a choice of three people:
Bill Cahir
Rick Vilello
Mark McCracken

The biggest issue seems to be the proposed tolling of Interstate 80. I-80 really is iconic in Pennsylvania, dividing "upstate" from "downstate." I have a hard time with any tolling of public highways since we are already paying for them with our tax dollars. Period. It seems like all of our candidates have picked up on this and are opposing all calls for yet another tax.

After checking out the candidates, here is what I have found that sticks out for me.

McCracken does not have a very nuanced grasp of foreign policy. Sure, he wants to end the Iraq War, but regarding our allies in NATO he wants to:

remind these allies that the United States rebuilt their countries after World War II and ask for the help of all of our allies to design a plan to stabilize the Middle East

That's pretty arrogant. He goes on to pass some more of the buck along to Saudi Arabia.

I'm not a fan.

Next up is Bill Cahir. This guy intrigues me. He sought and received an age waiver from the Marines in order to serve two tours in Iraq. He has 13 years experience as a journalist. When you go to his website and click on the "issues" link, there are only four issues listed. Normally, I am not an issues voters, but this caught my attention. Cahir's issues are:

Our Economic Future
Health Care
Conservation and Energy

Nothing like a little focus. His stances on Health Care seem more like bandaids than actual fixes to a broken system. On the other hand, his energy proposals are worth checking out. He did send me three separate glossy mail ads explaining how he would do a better job for the District. Better jobs, Don't toll I-80, get out of Iraq, yadda, yadda, yadda... I threw them out. Good bye environment.

Finally, we come to Rick Vilello. He is the Mayor of Lock Haven, Pa., which hosts the university of the same name and has had some colorful local government history. They have had two university students elected to city council and one elected treasurer.

Having personally met Rick, I found him to be a really good person and someone who would work hard for the district. The issues portion of his website lists a whole slew of items, but makes a very pointed statement about each. I can get behind all of his points. Each of them ends with the slogan "We can do better." That was the same message I got from him.

More importantly, Vilello has the support of Governor Ed. In spite of his endorsement of Hillary and a lot of other gaffes), I still pay attention to him. It's just Ed being Ed. In fact, that education budget thing in 2003 got a lot of people thinking about property tax reform here. Honestly, the only thing I have against Hillary right now is that I have a serious problem with another connected family running the show. How will we explain this spot in American History where an entire generation has only known a Clinton or Bush in the White House?

That said, the connection with the Hillary campaign is a non-issue to me (hey, check out how much I wrote about the non-issue; maybe I can get a job with ABC).

Personally, I liked Vilello's campaign style of visiting communities often (he has been here in the hinterlands of the districts at least three times) and passing on the wasteful direct mailings. I can agree with him and I trust him to make good decisions for the people of the Fifth District.
My humble endorsement is Vote for Rick.

As a caveat, I think Cahir has a better shot at securing the nomination and could run as well as anyone against any given GOP candidate. It is nice to know that some legitimate Dems are running in the region for a change.


Sorry, but the GOP candidates are not on my radar at the moment. However, you may be interested to know that two of the candidates (Shaner and Walker) have serious criminal charges in their pasts. *Slings the mud*

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I'm really not that bitter

As a resident of a small town in Pennsylvania, I finally felt like a candidate was speaking to me last week. I’m talking, of course, about Senator Obama’s “bitter” comments on April 6.

Here’s the relevant sentence that the other candidates and the media have been repeating ad nauseam:

So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Am I bitter? I’ve got a whole list of things about which to be bitter. I’ll get to those after a brief preface. I do not cling to:

Guns. I have always lived in rural Pennsylvania but I do not hunt. On the other hand, it is reassuring to know that gun ownership is an option.

Religion. Rather tough for an agnostic with pagan leanings.

Anti-immigration stances. If the United States had the immigrations laws currently championed by the right in the mid-1800s, the Irish half of my family would probably not be here. I can only support deporting violent felons.

Anti-trade sentiments. At least not in principal. If NAFTA and other free trade agreements are going to succeed, then trade must be both free and fair. That means all parties must have equitable labor, environmental, and monetary policy standards prior to implementation. If people in developing countries have the opportunity to succeed at home, they would not be itching to come here.

That said, here are a few issues that have made me bitter and which I feel an Obama Administration will begin to address:

I am bitter that those of us opposing the Iraq War were shouted down five years ago. Despite revelations that we were right, the war drags on.

I am bitter that a rash of unwise loans are sinking the economy.

I am bitter that the Right Wing, with the help of the media, have convinced the American public that the most pressing issues are abortion, ID/creationism, same-sex marriage, and whether or not the Ten Commandments are posted at the county courthouse.

I am bitter that a woman’s right to choose is constantly under attack.

I am bitter that the traditional media prefer to cover the easy political scandal stories rather than the tough policy debates.

I am bitter that some folks had to live survive in flooded New Orleans for more than a week before federal aid arrived.

I am bitter that someone convicted of selling a dime bag of grass can end up with a felony record and not be able to get a job or student financial aid. Meanwhile those with assault, theft, or sexual assault misdemeanor convictions are not even questioned about their records.

I am bitter that gasoline is currently selling for $3.40 per gallon but the oil companies are posting record profits.

I am bitter that an uninsured person can go bankrupt from a single emergency room visit, something that is unheard of in Switzerland.

I am bitter that the people who agree to harvest fruits and vegetables at near slave wages are decidedly unwelcome here.

I am bitter that people living on almost no income are seeing the price of food double and triple.

I am bitter that global climate change is still called a “myth.” Even if 99 percent of scientists are incorrect, efforts to combat climate change have the side benefit of weaning us off of fossil fuels.

I am bitter that there are still people who honestly believe that Obama is a Muslim bent on destroying America. By extension, I am bitter that true patriotism requires a lapel pin (and the rule only seems to apply to Democrats).

I am bitter that I live six miles from a CAFO and have to worry about a manure leak getting into the water table.

I am bitter that it is nearly impossible to find a product that is truly made in the USA. Here’s one exception that I know of.

I am bitter that half a century after the beginning of the civil rights movement, we still have pervasive racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism (okay, I just made that one up), and a whole host of other bigotries.

I am bitter that homeland security could be monitoring my every move for no good reason.

I am bitter the United States is the most powerful country in the world, but we have absurd high school drop out rates.

I could come up with a lot more, but that should suffice for now. After a bit of consideration, maybe “bitter” is the wrong word. I’m mad as Hell and I’m not gonna take it any more. What we really need is some kind of change. That’s why I’m voting for Senator Obama on Tuesday, not just because The Boss told me to.

On a related note, Rolling Stone put Obama on the cover of their March 20 edition. If you remember the old Dr. Hook song, “I’m gonna buy five copies for my mother.” (She’s voting for Hillary.) h/t to Pam for the magazine

I’m not saying that Senator Clinton will not address my concerns, but I do think that Senator Obama will confront them head-on. I am also convinced that he will surround himself with advisors who might gasp disagree on key points and avoid groupthink mentalities.

Remember that Earth Day is Election Day in Pa. Vote and save the world all in the same day.


By way of full disclosure, I originally supported Mike Gavel for president, but I got sick of jousting at windmills.

Update: I added a link to the sentence about why I am bitter with the media covering "the easy political scandal stories." I wrote the post before watching the train wreck that passed for a debate last night.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I changed up the template on the blog. This one is not quite as interesting, but I think it is more readable.

Any thoughts?

The world's largest dump

Well, the good news today is that we may have located that basketball that you lost six years ago. The bad news is that it has been floating in the Pacific Ocean all this time…that is if a shark hasn’t eaten it yet.

From the “not exactly news” department, we bring you the story of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Ocean. Measuring in at about twice the size of Texas, this part of the ocean has become a collection point for all sorts of trash from around the Pacific Rim. There is probably 3.5 million tons of trash, 80 percent plastics, jest kinda floatin’ ‘round in da sea.

We’re not talking about a solid mass of garbage, resembling the eighth continent. Instead, imagine sailing out to one of the most remote sections of the Pacific Ocean and finding soda bottles, cigarette lighters, grocery bags from both California and Japan, medical waste and hockey gloves every few feet. Garbage Island has been around since the 1950s, coinciding with the beginning of the widespread commercial use of plastics.

Most of this garbage is produced on land and is carried to this point in the ocean and trapped there by ocean currents. This spot is called the North Pacific Gyre. Here is a graphic showing the relevant ocean currents:

Obviously, this is nothing new and trash has probably been accumulating in this section of the ocean for as long as humans have been dumping trash. The problem is that, unlike at the beginning of the 20th century, human garbage consists more and more of plastics. Carbon-based trash like wood, rotten food, and even sewage degrades easily and subsequently acts as nutrients for aquatic life. Plastics take longer to degrade and then degrade into smaller bits of plastic, which fish and birds can easily eat. That’s not good for the aquatic life.

This is suddenly news again because the filmmakers at VBS.TV took a trip out to the garbage island and are posting on their website 12 episodes of their documentary Garbage Island. (Just a word of caution: there is some strong language in the video.) AS of today, they are up to episode five. The Traditional Media have taken notice. Here is a link to ABC News’ report on the documentary.

h/t to POAC for posting the story originally.

So what can be done? Considering the costs of a clean up, there is probably nothing that can be done right now other than to limit the amount of plastic that we use. One person in the documentary pointed out that Subway Restaurants put every sub in a plastic bag. You use that bag for a grand total of a few minutes before eating the sub and tossing the bag. San Francisco passed a ban on plastic grocery bags last year, according to the previously linked story in the Chronicle.

Of course, when the rest of the state tried to follow suit, our good friends in the plastics lobbying business managed to kill the idea. Thanks, guys. We appreciate it. Now we can all be secure in the knowledge that we will never have to buy a few reusable canvas bags, nor will we ever have to make the decision between “paper or plastic.”

I guess I’ll have to go out and buy some of these:


Friday, April 11, 2008

Karma 1, Walmart 0

First off, all apologize for a lack of an update on Pa.-5. Unfortunately, life got in the way of volunteer journalism. We’ll (okay, I’ll) get something up in time for the election, though. On to today’s issue…

If you have a few hundred bucks lying around and have always wanted a glimpse into the corporate culture of the Worst Person In The World (four days in a row), today is your lucky day. First a quick preface:

There are certain rules for dealing with a video camera.

Rule One: When in doubt always assume that the camera is rolling.
Rule Two: Don’t do anything stupid/embarrassing/illegal while the camera is rolling.
Rule Three: If you intend to violate rules one and two, make sure you have the only copies of that tape.

Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the home of low cost managed to violate all three of these rules and now they are getting their just desserts. (Of course, we all know that Walmart is not exactly averse to breaking the rules, but this is another example of challenging Karma and losing.)

Here’s the deal. A small video production company called Flagler Productions of Lenexa, Kansas (founded by Wild Bill Hickok incidentally) was under contract with Walmart to videotape shareholder and manager meetings and to produce demotivational videos for the company. The Walmart contract of $10 million per year accounted for approximately 90 percent of Flagler’s business.

For the better part of 30 years, Walmart management managed to repeatedly violate rule number two. Some of the antics caught on tape at the meetings could put the company in some very actionable and definitely embarrassing positions. These meetings had everything from anti-union strategizing to admitting a dearth of female managers to cross-dressing corporate execs. The tapes were kept well away from public view for a long time until….

…Walmart went and violated rule number three in 2006. The corporate giant decided to abruptly cancel its relationship with Flagler Productions, forcing massive layoffs in Kansas. None of the news sites offers so much as a lame reason for Walmart’s action other than some new managers wanted to hire a different company. Unfortunately, Walmart neglected to – wait for it – sign a formal contract spelling out ownership of the tapes.

Splendid job.

There is some question about the actual legal ownership of the tapes, but there is no question at all about physical possession of them. Flagler’s got them and they want everyone to see them. The company did initially offered the tapes (with .pdf) to Walmart for $150 million and subsequently lowered by the offer by another $5 million. Walmart countered with an embarrassing $500,000. That is .0033 percent of Flager’s offer if you are keeping score at home. It should go without saying that Walmart can probably afford to pony up a little more. Maybe they were hoping to use the settlement they got out of a disabled woman to buy the tapes.

Insult to injury anyone?

So now it is fire sale days at Flagler: 15,000 tapes in all. There are plenty of plaintiffs, union organizers, and media types who would love to check them out. For the incredibly low price of $250, you too can check out an hour’s worth of footage. For a few dollars more, they will burn a DVD for you.

Always Low Prices, indeed.

That rate probably won’t come close to covering the amount that Flagler tried to extort from charge Walmart in exchange for the tapes. On the other hand, revenge is a dish best served cold. It should be fun to watch the fallout from this as some of these videos come out.


A little more on Walmart

Here are few more thoughts about Walmart.

First, Senator Clinton (the one running for president) has some past ties to Walmart. That’s not going to play well with the traditional union base in the party. On the other hand, if she manages to come up with a legitimate national health insurance program, Walmart might actually hire a few full-time employees (not having to pay for health benefits and all).

Second, I understand that there are a lot of people who pay the rent on a Walmart paycheck and a lot of others who survive because they can actually afford to buy the stuff at Walmart. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich offers an interesting perspective on working at the bottom rung of the corporate structure. She worked at a Minnesota Walmart and could have had a better experience.

Third, have you ever taken a really close look at the stuff on sale there? I challenge you to find a non-food product that was made in the United States. Here’s the high price of low cost conundrum: A widget made here by unionized workers making $15 an hour retails at Walmart for $5. The person who made that widget would have to work 20 minutes to buy it retail. The same widget made in China retails for $3 at Walmart. Meanwhile, the now former union worker is forced to take a job at – you guessed it – Walmart for minimum wage. At the federal minimum wage of $5.85, that same person now has to work more than half and hour to buy the same widget. That equation does not even take into account potential disparities in quality between the domestic and foreign widgets or income taxes.

Finally, I still have to shop there. Once our local Walmart added the grocery store, the family-owned grocery went out of business for good.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Race hots up for Pa.-5

(Sorry about the British expression. It makes me giggle.)

Never mind the Presidential race because it’s shaping up to be a fun election up here in the rural and sprawling Fifth Congressional District of Pennsylvania. Our representative, John Peterson, joined the mass exodus of Republicans who are retiring from Congress this year.

Peterson is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Those are the people who decide whether or not a particular spending measure is included in budget bills. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, Peterson secured 37 earmarks that meet the definition of “pork” in the most recent round of government spending accounting for $26.6 million in tax dollars. That figure actually places him somewhere in the middle of the Porkers list. Here in Tioga County, the Wellsboro Hospital got $195,000 for new equipment and two flood control dams (which primarily protect communities downstream on the Chemung and Susquehanna rivers) also got their annual funding to continue operating. In contrast, the top Porker was Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi 1), who retired Dec. 31, with $176.3 million in appropriations.

In fairness the total pork for the most recent budget -- money that typically does benefit the recipient community -- amounted to $17.2 billion. The Iraq War has cost $144 billion in the same time period.

(h/t to POAC for the link to CAGW’s 2008 Pig Book)

With Peterson’s announcement, candidates have been coming out of the woodwork to run for the seat. We have 12 people (all men) running for the seat. If you happen to be in Wellsboro Monday, April 7 the candidates or one of their aides will be at the high school beginning at 6 p.m. for a forum. Tioga County Development Corp. is sponsoring the forum. (That’s me in the purple shirt and silver tie.)

PA-5 is one of the more conservative districts in Pennsylvania (Our Fearless Leader got 61 percent of the vote here in 2004) and is the largest district geographically in the East. Occasionally, a Democrat or Libertarian runs for the Pa-5 seat, but they are lucky to get 20 percent of the vote. Regardless, we have three Democrats and nine Republicans running for their party’s respective nominations. You can’t tell one from another without a scorecard.

So, as a public service, here is your (un)Official Pa.-5 Scorecard:


Mark McCracken

Bill Cahir

Rick Vilello Jr.


John Krupa

John Stroup

Lou Radkowski

Matt Shaner

Jeffrey Stroehmann

Keith Richardson

Chris Exarchos

Derek Walker

Glenn Thompson

In Pennsylvania the first party listed on ballots in the general election is the same as the Governor’s party. No slight intended to the loyal opposition; just following custom.

Here is a full list of all of the Pennsylvania races this year if you need it. It looks like Pa.-5 is the hottest race in the state.

Here in the extreme eastern portion of the district, we have encountered some of these candidates already. I’m much more interested in the Democratic nomination since I am not a member of an organized political party – I’m a Democrat.

I have personally met Vilello, who is the mayor of Lock Haven, when our local Democrats gathered at the Gaslight in Wellsboro for Super Tuesday. He seems like a nice enough guy, but when I interviewed him for a story (best link I could find), he seemed to go into a standard stump speech. I generally agreed with what he had to say. ActBlue and Governor Ed have endorsed him (which got the attention of DailyKos). Here are DailyKos’ updates about Pa.-5.

Cahir (sounds like “care”) has also visited Wellsboro. Cahir is a former journalist (that’s a plus for me) and an Iraq War take II veteran. He got an age waiver to join the Marines and finished up his basic training at age 35. Former Senator Harris Wofford and have endorsed him. Unfortunately, I was at work during his visit to Wellsboro, but I am leaning toward voting for him.

Shaner has not been shy about spending money and has dropped $1.22 million so far. His commercials have been all over the television lately. This guy is the definition of an archconservative. He wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent (probably because he has the money to drop on a huge campaign). He has a problem with gay and lesbian couples sharing their lives together, opposes women’s right to choose what they do with their bodies, and does not want those illegal immigrants here. He also wants to eliminate earmarks, so the hospital can kiss that money for equipment goodbye. (Oh, and he was probably drunk when he left the scene of a crash last year.) This blogger and Kos contributor is probably not going to be voting for this guy.

Someone from Stroehmann’s campaign placed a campaign sign in the front yard of my company’s store without asking permission.

I have also heard that some of the other candidates have stopped through the area, but I have yet to meet any of them.

I plan to go to the candidates’ forum on Monday. Until then, I will be withholding my humble endorsement, but right now I am torn between Vilello and Cahir.

Election Day is April 22, which is also Earth Day. Plant a tree and use the bullsh** political fertilizer to help it grow.