There will not be a February 2014 edition of Counterpoint PA. The January edition bled into the first week of this month, and there has not been enough news to fill an entire show in the last two weeks. I want to start the March 2014 edition the very first week of March, so the couple stories I had lined up for this month will almost certainly be featured then anyway. See you then, and keep checking this website for the rest of February anyway as I will still be putting up videos in the PA Politics Video Hub when I see them!
H/T friend of the show John Rubino who you can tweet @HeyRubino
(and lt. gov. candidate:)
And the winner is Republican state Representative Gordon Denlinger of Lancaster County who is reportedly seeking cosponsors for a bill he wants to introduce in the Pennsylvania House that would make it legal for businesses to discriminate based on race, religion, gender, or literally anything else based on the business owner‚Äôs beliefs.
Trust me, I really wish I was making this up, but unfortunately I‚Äôm not. This Pennsylvania Republican is not content to merely ‚Äústand athwart history yelling ‚Äėstop!‚Äô‚ÄĚ as legendary conservative commentator William F. Buckley explained conservatism, but is trying to actively go backwards in history and reverse the clock on civil rights.
Lancaster Online reports ‚ÄúDenlinger is circulating a memo seeking supporters for a proposal that would protect the rights of private business owners who want to decline service based on their convictions. The proposal ‚ÄĒ called the Freedom of Conscience Amendment ‚ÄĒ would allow employers, store owners, Realtors, hotel managers and others to deny jobs, groceries, homes or rooms to anyone offending their ‚Äėsincerely held beliefs.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
That‚Äôs right folks, the Freedom of Conscience Amendment, for business owners whose consciences demand that they not sell to black people or rent rooms to Muslims or employ women. As long as the racism, religious prejudice, and sexism are sincere.
The piece goes on to say ‚ÄúThe proposed amendment would ensure that the beliefs held by private business owners exempts [sic] them from anti-discrimination laws pertaining to employment, housing or service based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, education or disability.‚ÄĚ
You know, it‚Äôs starting to feel like every time I think my expectations of Pennsylvania conservatives could not possibly be lower, they somehow manage to prove my expectations of them are actually way too high.
State Representative Gordon Denlinger told Lancaster Online, ‚ÄúThere are many beliefs that people hold that the majority would say are repugnant, and I‚Äôm certainly not endorsing discrimination in any form … But my belief is that each individual must be free to believe whatever they want without fear of government harassment.‚ÄĚ
The guy trying to pass a law legalizing discrimination by businesses says he‚Äôs not endorsing discrimination in any form. How about the law you‚Äôre trying to pass? And do not try to conflate the freedom to believe what you want with the freedom to discriminate based on your ignorant beliefs. The government protecting people from discrimination is not the policing of personal philosophy. Business owners can already have any personal beliefs they want about whoever they want, they just can‚Äôt treat customers differently because of those beliefs. This is not about the government harassing business owners based on what they think, this is about business owners‚Äô being allowed to discriminate. This conservative Republican lawmaker in the Pennsylvania House wants those kinds of business practices that were banned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to once again be legal, taking us back fifty years. And he‚Äôs saying so out loud.
State Representative Gordon¬† “I‚Äôm not endorsing discrimination in any form, I just want anti-discrimination laws to be really easy to get around” Denlinger – not allowing people to buy things, apply for jobs, or live in certain places because of their race, religion, or gender are forms of discrimination – the Worst Pennsylvanian of the Week.
Historical picture sources:
PA’s Worser: Conservative Group Masks Self-Contradictory Obamacare Attacks as “Policy Analysis” – Counterpoint PA Jan 2014
The runner-up is Elizabeth Stelle who‚Äôs kind of becoming the Bill-O the Clown of Worst Pennsylvanians. She‚Äôs a policy analyst for the conservative advocacy group the Commonwealth Foundation, and this is her third time making PA‚Äôs Worsts for absurd remarks about President Obama‚Äôs health insurance regulation overhaul often called Obamacare.
Part of Obamacare expands Medicaid, the public health insurance program for people living in poverty, but because of a US Supreme Court ruling, each state has the option to accept Medicaid expansion or not. According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Medicaid expansion would ‚Äúexpand health coverage to between 600,000 and 800,000 hardworking low-income Pennsylvanians, lowering the state’s uninsured rate by over 50% …‚ÄĚ
Now most people probably wouldn‚Äôt see giving health insurance access to hundreds of thousands of uninsured people as a particularly complex ethical quandary – but then again most people aren‚Äôt conservative policy analysts.
Elizabeth Stelle first made Worst Pennsylvanians for rhetorically asking ‚ÄúIs it moral to place more Pennsylvanians in a failing program infamous for poor health outcomes?‚ÄĚ in an anti-Medicaid expansion editorial published by PennLive [note: I mistakenly say the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the video]. She made the list again when she more bluntly stated quote ‚ÄúMedicaid is immoral because it provides poor quality care,‚ÄĚ in an email exchange with me among other hilariously bad arguments.
So while I‚Äôve been saying the Commonwealth Foundation really opposes Medicaid expansion because it‚Äôs a government program and they‚Äôre anti-government extremists, Elizabeth Stelle has been saying no, no, no, it‚Äôs because Medicaid is low quality health insurance.
Now, in a recent piece called ‚ÄúFive Facts about Obamacare Enrollment,‚ÄĚ one of which is indisputably proven by a whopping two pieces of anecdotal evidence, Stelle writes quote ‚Äúan estimated 250,000 Pennsylvanians received [health insurance] cancellations [sic] letters thanks to Obamacare.‚ÄĚ
Stelle conveniently leaves out a very important point here, which is why these plans were canceled. As the very source she provides attests, these plans were canceled ‚Äúbecause they do not meet the higher standards of the federal Affordable Care Act.‚ÄĚ In other words, those plans were too low quality for Obamacare‚Äôs high standards for health insurance.
So if Obamacare offers low quality health insurance, that‚Äôs bad, and if Obamacare bans low quality health insurance, that‚Äôs also bad? The only consistent things about that are you always say Obamacare is bad no matter what, and the more important subtext that public health insurance is always bad and private health insurance is always good. She says public health insurance that‚Äôs allegedly low quality is ‚Äúimmoral‚ÄĚ to give to the uninsured, but canceling private health insurance that‚Äôs objectively so low quality that it doesn‚Äôt meet minimum coverage standards is outrageous evidence that Obamacare is apocalyptic. Because the free market is never wrong? I say again Commonwealth Foundation: just be honest. You would oppose Medicaid expansion no matter what because it‚Äôs insurance from the government. And you‚Äôre completely entitled to that opinion. Just stop trying pass it off as ‚Äúpolicy analysis.‚ÄĚ
Two things about Worst Pennsylvanians of the Week:
1.) Instead of putting all three “contestants” in a single video, I’m now splitting it up into three videos. (Which you probably already noticed if you’ve watched it before.) So don’t worry, there are still two more coming out.
2.) It doesn’t look like I’m going to get the other two videos up by tonight, so I’m going to miss my self-imposed deadline of getting all videos for the January edition out by the end of the month. (I was on schedule when the week started, but stuff out of my control popped up I had to deal with.) Good news, however, is that I should be able to have it all up within a week from the first one – so you’ll get to see it soon, and my OCD isn’t too badly inflamed about bleeding into February because it’s still within the span of a week which fits the segment title. Sorry about the wait!
This is Counterpoint PA, the only grassroots progressive newscast exclusively about Pennsylvania politics. I‚Äôm your host, Aaron DiDonato. And now, time for Counterpoint PA‚Äôs special homage to Keith Olbermann, the Worst Pennsylvanians of the Week.
The bronze goes to Democratic state Senator Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia, who not only voted for a bill to give the fracking industry the same liability immunities for fracking with abandoned mine drainage instead of fresh water that volunteers get under Good Samaritan laws for trying to clean it up, but also gave one of the worst excuses for voting for it that you could imagine.
Within a month of the state Supreme Court striking down part of Pennsylvania‚Äôs fracking regulation overhaul for violating the state Constitution‚Äôs environmental protections, which was covered earlier in this edition of Counterpoint PA, Senate Bill 411 passed the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee 16 – 9 with several Democratic votes, including state Senator Hughes.
Abandoned mine drainage (photo source) is polluted water that flows out of abandoned coal mines, and Pennsylvania‚Äôs Environmental Good Samaritan Act limits the liability of people who clean it up. Senate Bill 411 would amend Pennsylvania‚Äôs Environmental Good Samaritan Act to give the fracking industry those same immunities for fracking with this stuff, injecting millions of gallons of this into the ground in what in many cases would be otherwise pristine areas.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network calls Senate Bill 411 ‚Äúa bill written by and for the gas industry‚ÄĚ that ‚Äúwould extend broad immunity to end-users of AMD (including gas well development or manufacturing facilities) who cause damage to adjacent landowners or downstream riparian owners‚ÄĚ which would ‚Äúprevent workers and all others who are injured by an AMD end-user‚Äôs operations from holding accountable those responsible for the injuries they cause‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúencourage moving polluted water into unpolluted higher-quality watersheds, while protecting end-users from responsibility for pollution they cause in those areas.‚ÄĚ
Now I imagine that it‚Äôs pretty hard to come up with an excuse for voting for a bill that would give you the same Good Samaritan immunities for fracking with abandoned mine drainage that you would get for cleaning it up, and there‚Äôs some evidence of that in state Senator Vincent Hughes‚Äô explanation for doing so. PennLive reported that ‚ÄúSen. Vince Hughes, Democratic Chair of the appropriations committee, said he voted for the bill to ‚Äúfurther the process,‚ÄĚ but hoped the language will be tightened.‚ÄĚ
Uh…what? Why would you want the process furthered on a bill you know is bad? I could see voting to further the process on a good bill hoping to make it even better before final passage, but not on a terrible bill like this. Tighten the language? I guess that would mean state Senator Hughes wants the fracking industry to get some environmental Good Samaritan immunities for fracking with abandoned mine drainage, just not too many? Right. At least the other Democrats who voted for this were intellectually honest enough to let the vote speak for itself – on this issue they think it‚Äôs more important to protect frackers than the environment.
Maybe state Senator Vincent Hughes really doesn‚Äôt think the bill is good enough even though he voted for it, and maybe he‚Äôll even vote against it when it‚Äôs up for a vote in the full PA Senate, but when fundraising time comes and he‚Äôs trying to get donations from the fracking industry, you can bet he‚Äôll be touting his committee vote for Senate Bill 411 as much as any of the others.