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Ooh-ooh, that smell

Dedicated readers of this site might wonder why we are not commenting about the lameness of a political party that filibusters everything in the US Senate, used “the nuclear option” themselves to advance the most radical and extreme federal judges and political appointees from 2010 to 2015, but which now is screaming bloody murder that the other political party followed their lead, did exactly what they did with the Senate rules, and allowed a simple majority vote to confirm the next US Supreme Court justice (Gorsuch) yesterday.

Why would a normal, healthy person spend time on that issue? It is obviously quite insane. One political party is dominated by people with an agenda that does not fit in with America’s political model. Would you normal people please stop supporting the Democrat Party, until its leadership is replaced with normal, mainstream Americans?

Instead, this essay here takes a line from a Lynyrd Skynyrd song about drug abuse, “Oooh-ooh that smell.”

This is about a daily personal health issue that seems to be unknown and unaddressed, despite having a real effect on Americans across the country. If you care about your health, read on.

We Americans are so addicted to cheap Chinese junk (tools, food, clothing, furniture, shoes, tires) that we shop ever more in big box stores filled to the brim with that cheap Chinese junk.  Or buy from Amazon, which imports from China by the shipful.

And when you enter the doorway of these big box stores, you are confronted with an odd, sickly sweet smell associated with the vast majority of Chinese manufacturing: Formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is used to pickle human remains for wakes and open casket funerals. It is used to stash scientific specimens in glass containers, so they will not rot, so they can be viewed and studied.

Formaldehyde is dangerous, toxic, and both acutely and chronically dangerous. And yet Americans work around hugely elevated amounts of formaldehyde in these ubiquitous big box stores, and Americans shop daily in these same places, all blissfully unaware that they are inhaling a significant amount of nasty chemical.

The formaldehyde you smell in the store is off-gassing from the consumer items sitting in cardboard boxes on the store shelves. This chemical permeates everything made in China, and there is so much of it that for years it keeps leaking out of the plastics, fabrics, and woods sent here, which we then put in our homes and garages as furniture and tools.

You are worried about ambient cigarette smoke? Cut us a break! Exposure to air-borne formaldehyde in these amounts is far worse for the human body, far riskier than the occasional cigarette, as is standing on a street corner in down town Manhattan, waiting for a street light to change, for that matter, because of all the ozone, particulates, and sulfur/ carbon dioxide/monoxide smog.

But nothing is being done about ambient formaldehyde risk, because it is associated with too much money and economic activity. And it is invisible, except to the nose.

There are no sexy prohibitionist crusades about ambient formaldehyde like there is with tobacco use (an upcoming subject here).  And yet take a good whiff the next time you go to a big box store. That weird sickly sweet smell is formaldehyde. Your lungs are getting a free embalming when you enter.

Note: If we bought American products, made in USA facilities where formaldehyde is not allowed to be used, then we would not be exposed to it when we went shopping. But we are like drug addicts, addicted to cheap Chinese junk, to our own detriment.

Dangerous RINOs Ahead

Around the world, both the leading and moderately successful democracies  are unsustainably absorbing huge numbers of illegal immigrants who both refuse to integrate and probably could not integrate, even if they wanted.

In most places they show no signs of integrating, and are instead associated with lawlessness and chaos.

Europe, Israel, and America are where this is happening.

The faux “victim” status of the invaders has given them access to publicly funded health and education benefits, against the will of the people paying for them.

This invasion-in-fact puts increasing economic and social pressure on existing populations, the people who built their societies from the ground up. You know, the “natives.”

These European natives live in the very places against which the invaders are entitled to “resist occupation.” Why and how it is “occupation” when Europeans and Americans move to other countries, but it is a morally required population shift when everyone moves to Europe and America, is one of those mysteries that can probably only be explained by being steeped in the ‘deep thinking’ of Marxism.

This presently unarmed invasion is made possible by ruling elites who either benefit financially from the cheap labor influx, or who personally enjoy signalling their great virtues and thus willfully ignore the huge problems descending upon the natives.

While you would think leaders from opposite sides of the aisle would collide on this civilization-ending invasion, the truth is that huge collaboration between left and right party establishments is what has enabled this in the first place. Most of the left and the right are run by ruling class elites.

Among the world’s ruling class elite, the RINO is the most dangerous animal. This is because the RINO says it is a watch dog, when in fact it is a guide dog for the invaders while the American family lies asleep inside the cozy home.

Living in its own cushy, posh, comfy little corner, insulated from the reality around it, the careerist RINO just has to successfully pretend to be a watch dog and occasionally bark like a watch dog. That keeps most of the rabble away. Never mind that the rabble are the citizens the RINO is supposed to be watching.

Aside from a small group of conservatives in Congress and in state houses, the GOPe is not protecting America. The GOPe is not standing guard. Sure some of the GOPe members make a few noises about standing up for the citizens they represent, but just like with the GOPe recent unwillingness to eliminate ObamaCare, these RINOs cannot bring themselves to make a principled stand when the time has arrived. It might upset someone and threaten their cozy elected job.

Around here in central Pennsylvania, career congressman Charlie Dent is probably the greatest example of the most worthless of RINOs in Congress, and state senator Jake Corman is the best example in the PA legislature.  Won’t a couple patriots please challenge Dent and Corman in their upcoming primaries?

It is time to make these RINOs an endangered species. Otherwise, America will become an endangered specie itself.

Gov. Wolf must pull Marcus Brown nomination

Governor Tom Wolf nominated Marcus Brown to be Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner.

Brown is a deeply, amazingly flawed candidate whose poor record literally involved recent malicious vandalism and theft. That is, the most basic, lowest form of law breaking. It’s behavior far beneath the dignity of any professional, and even farther, unimaginable, really, for someone representing the pinnacle of law enforcement. Brown is under investigation and will probably be charged soon with the crime. It’s an awkward scenario.

Brown’s many other flaws are notorious and even kind of crazy, like shutting down an entire highway and having Maryland state police go car-to-car with their guns drawn. That’s insane. It’s patently unconstitutional behavior and obviously tyrannical.

Brown is a man who has gotten away with all kinds infractions and law-breaking his entire career. He’s got a huge sense of entitlement. He is not cut out to be any sort of law enforcement officer, need we say the head of the PA State Police.

I know what it’s like to be a nominee running into an opposing state senator. I’ve been there and it can be an unfair fight, especially when the senator will tell no one what his objection is. Nevertheless, that same state senator is now joined by many others in formal opposition to Brown’s nomination, for good reasons that are a matter of the public record, not some personal vendetta.

Wolf doesn’t need this headache. There are going to be worthy disputes and tests with the legislature aplenty in the next four years. Wolf should choose his fights carefully, and in my experienced opinion, this is a bad one for him to stand on. He’s not going to win. And he’s promoting someone, Marcus Brown, who is unworthy of any support at all, much less a taxpayer-funded job, based on his historic and recent law breaking.

If you want freedom, you are going to have to fight for it

Nevada senator Harry Reid changed the US Senate rules last year, which may not sound like a big deal.  But those rules had been in place for about 215 years, a significant portion of America’s existence.

The former senate rules ensured that a slim majority of senators could not win important votes by a slim majority of votes.  Important votes like confirming federal judges, whose stamp on the nation’s character lasts for decades.  Some federal judge nominees are extremists, nakedly partisan political activists who only wear the black robes for effect, not because they are truly dignified and above the political fray.  The former rules prevented those extremists from being confirmed to the bench unless a super-majority of US senators agreed.

Harry Reid’s rule changes allowed his party to ramrod through a whole freak show of kooks, anti-American anarchists, and other assorted wing nuts.  These are not people dedicated to serving American citizens; these people are at war with the America we grew up with.  They think that Communism only failed because the Soviets didn’t implement it correctly, not that Marxism is a bad idea.

Last week I sat about ten feet away from where US Senator Pat Toomey was speaking at the Perry County Republican Committee Fall Dinner (kudos to county chairman Don McClure for getting Toomey to speak to us).  Sure, Toomey said a lot of good stuff.  But then he dropped a bombshell, even worse than his ill-fated anti-gun legislation last year: If the Republicans regain the US Senate in two weeks, they will return the Senate rules back to the old set.

Toomey said that this would be done to “prove” that Republicans are “better” than Democrats.

Well, what the hell, Patrick?  The liberals are playing to win, to win everything, to win all the power, to take over the entire nation, and the Republican party establishment is engaged in a game of checkers.

In Houston we got to see what Liberals-Gone-Wild really looks like, as the new mayor there served subpoenas on many of the pastors in the city, who had dared to exercise their First Amendment rights and oppose the mayor’s policies.  In other words, the only free speech under liberals is speech that they approve of, using the full force of government coercion to achieve their goal.  In other words, we are in a fight for survival, for the basic core of American democracy.  We have to win this fight, because if people like the Houston mayor win, if people like Barack Hussein Obama win, every citizen loses.

Here’s the thing that people like US Senator Pat Toomey just do not understand, that they will never understand: A gentlemanly duel with the liberals will not succeed.

Instead, a bar room brawl is what is needed, and frankly, it is what is desired by the disaffected grass roots activists who otherwise fuel the Republican party.

If you want to hold onto your freedoms, you’d better fight like hell to hold onto them, fight at least as hard as your opponent, if not harder.  That means letting the people who changed the US Senate rules learn to live with that change under Republican administration.  The Republicans should run the US Senate for at least one year, maybe two years, under Harry Reid’s new rules.

Any Republican senator who cannot support this stance is not really committed to winning back the America that the liberals have dramatically damaged over the past six years.  Republican senators who are only committed to the meaningless game of checkers, to the effete gentlemanly duel, what are they doing there?

Step aside, Patrick.  The rest of us are rolling up our sleeves and grabbing something solid and heavy to set this situation right.  That’s right, that heavy lifting is always left to the grass roots activists, isn’t it….

An open letter to Patrick Henderson

Dear Patrick,

Years ago, you were a sweet kid from Western Pennsylvania, beginning your career in the state legislature.  Working for state senator Mary Jo White and the senate environmental resources committee gave you lots of opportunity and exposure to political issues, outside issue groups, and the overall political process, including the executive branch.  You were smart, interested, thoughtful, and principled, and although we occasionally disagreed I really enjoyed working with you….. way back then.

But something changed.  You changed.  You seem angry, hateful, even.  Even towards people who have done nothing to you, at least that they are aware of; although I write this for myself, I write knowing that many other individuals have experienced the same unfair, undeserved treatment from you.

Your role in the Governor’s Office the past few years seems to have been largely dedicated to using state government to settle old scores with real or imagined “enemies” of yours (they were not Tom Corbett’s enemies, that’s for sure, although after you alienated them they aren’t up for helping Tom now), or to create new vendettas as you demonstrate that you have influence over government functions.  For now.

At Governor Tom Corbett’s inaugural back in early 2011, you treated my wife Vivian rudely, to her face, despite her sweet nature and she having never met you before.  She did not deserve that.  Was it your way of getting at me, trying to  hurt me, one more time?  Whatever your purpose, it was petty behavior unbecoming someone in your senior, public role.

It is difficult to accept that you have become this way, but it has become a universal truth in Harrisburg that you are, in fact, angry at the world and determined to get even with everyone in it, whether they are guilty (of what?!) or innocent.

I suspect a lot of this negative change is a result of your cocoon-like experience inside the Republican Party, where you have been sheltered from the real world for your entire career.  Like all of the other professional staff on the Hill, in both parties, you merely must meet a technical standard, not a performance standard.

Meeting a technical standard means that you, and other professional party people paid by the taxpayers, must merely show up for work and stay out of trouble with your elected boss.  If you were held to a performance standard, then you’d be in a world of trouble.  Other than using your public position to hammer away at “enemies,” what performance for the public have you achieved on the taxpayer’s dime these past three and a half years?

Taking risks, making sacrifices, meeting real deadlines, making personally uncomfortable decisions — none of these are part of the professional life on the Hill, although I am confident that you or others in those roles (even friends of mine) would disagree.  We taxpayers who underwrite your salary see it differently.

As a public servant, Patrick, you are subject to writing like this.  You may hire an attorney to try to get this off the web, and I sarcastically wish you good luck with that.  I stand behind everything written here, as you well know, and if I am pushed to do so, I can certainly provide any necessary evidence to support it.

Good luck with your career, Patrick.  Unless you are recycled back into the Republican Party, and God knows I really hope you are not, because I think you are a huge liability to our party, you are destined to work in the private sector.  Here is some valuable advice: Don’t treat people in the private sector the way you treated them when you were in the public sector.  You won’t last five minutes.  Other than that, I hope you enjoy your family and show humble appreciation for all of the good things that God has bestowed upon you.

–Josh

PA Senator Mike Folmer on our pension crisis

Pennsylvania’s Pension Crises

by Mike Folmer, PA State Senator

August 21, 2014

President Kennedy said: “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

Pennsylvania’s failure to address its public pension problems recently resulted in another downgrade of its bond rating: from Aa2 to Aa3. According to the rating agency Moody’s, “. . . the expectation that large and growing pension liabilities coupled with modest economic growth will limit Pennsylvania’s ability to regain structural balance in the near term.”

Consider where Pennsylvania’s Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) was prior to 2001 changes enhancing benefits: $9.5 Billion surplus and a 123.8% funded ratio (100% is an appropriate ratio). Using the most recent actuarial valuations, the funded ratio for the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and PSERS (using an optimistic 7.5% annual asset return assumption) was 59.2% and 63.8% respectively. Further declines are expected.

Pennsylvania’s private sector has predictable and affordable pension costs while providing employees with competitive retirement benefit packages. Over 70% of these firms have defined contribution plans for new hires with average employer costs ranging from 4% to 7% of payroll. (All private sector defined benefit plans must eliminate any deficits over time – often as short as seven years).

Ignoring such facts has resulted in unsustainable plans in states from New Jersey to California. Cities like Chicago and Detroit face bankruptcy because of public pension costs.

Courts have said public pension benefits once earned are protected by Pennsylvania’s Constitution: Article I, Section 17, “Impairment of Contracts.”

I’m not part of the legislative pension system as I believe Article II, Section 8 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution doesn’t provide for elected officials’ pensions: “The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, whether for service upon committee or otherwise.”

This same provision is why I also return my legislative cost of living adjustment: “No member of either House shall during the term for which he may have been elected, receive any increase of salary, or mileage, under any law passed during such term.”

Nonetheless, I’m regularly asked why Pennsylvania underfunds its public pension plans. Taxpayers fear proper funding policies will result in districts increasing property taxes to pay pension contributions. Schools say the alternative is cutting programs or increasing class sizes.

Failure to contribute at least the actuarially recommended contribution transfers ever-mounting debt to future generations. The combined liabilities of SERS and the PSERS are over $50 Billion – and growing. These costs are the fastest growing state budget line item.

Separate from proper plan funding are new GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board) accounting and reporting standards to assess current and future pension obligations. Unfunded liabilities will now be reflected on school districts’ balance sheets and the underfunding issue will be further highlighted. Increasing numbers of municipal and school audits will be flagged due to GASB 67 (“Financial Reporting for Pension Plans”) and GASB 68 (“Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions”) standards.

In 2009, legislation (which I opposed) was enacted attempting to address Philadelphia’s public pension problems: a temporary 1% Sales and Use Tax increase. This “temporary” tax was subsequently extended. Purchases in Philadelphia include an 8% Sales Tax. However, Philadelphia’s pension liabilities have continued to grow. Like Pennsylvania’s infamous “temporary” 1936 Johnstown Flood Tax, this tax continues to exist and continues to grow. Ironically, Philadelphia is being flooded with pension liabilities.

In 2010, another law was passed to address Pennsylvania’s pension issues. Act 120 made some benefit changes for new employees, including: raising the vesting period to 10 years from five, reducing the multiplier to calculate retirement benefits (to 2.0% from 2.5%), increasing the retirement age for new employees to age 65, eliminating lump sum payouts of employees’ contributions and interest upon retirement, and limiting maximum retirement benefits to 100% of final actual salary.

But, Act 120 also continued the practice of underfunding, which further deferred state and local pension contributions to future years through “collars:” below recommended actuarial levels, which reduce public pension funding by about $1 Billion to $2 Billion annually. Such sustained underfunding has resulted in numerous credit downgrades. This is why I also opposed this measure.

Supporters of the status quo urge the General Assembly to allow Act 120 “time to work.” However, since passage of Act 120, pension liabilities have grown to $50 Billion from $41 Billion; the original assumptions of Act 120 have shown Act 120 has failed to attain its goals.

This $50 Billion deficit is growing by over $10 Million a day – over $3 Billion a year. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth, municipalities, and schools are allowed by law to underfund these plans by about $1 Billion to $2 Billion a year. Every 0.5% reduction in SERS and PSERS assumed investment returns adds approximately $7 Billion to their combined unfunded liabilities. If PSERS would compute its unfunded liability using market value of assets, this change alone would immediately add about $8 Billion to the deficit.

Failure to both properly fund these plans or move new hires to a defined contribution plan will only make matters worse (the claims of unaffordable transition costs are vastly overstated). Taxpayers should fear higher taxes to continue to fund public pensions. Public employees should fear their continued solvency.

There is a cost for inaction.

Ken Matthews, local reporter extraordinaire

WHP580 AM radio has long been a source of news for those hungry for accurate reporting outside of the establishment media liberal agenda.

Bob Durgin was the lovable, garrulous, crotchety, cowboy hat wearing local man-on-the-street news guy from 3:00 to 6:00 daily, and his news items shaped a good deal of local, regional, and state politics.  Because Durgin worked in the state capital region, he was listened to by a population of political activists.  So when the PA state legislature midnight pay raise happened, Durgin was on the soap box, giving vent to his frustration.  He inspired an entire movement and generation of political activists; existing activists like Gene Stilp, Russ Diamond, and Eric Epstein were bolstered by having weekly access to his show as guests, and often sitting in for Durgin when he went on vacation.

After Durgin retired, Ken Matthews was hired by RJ Harris to run the 3-6 slot.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Ken was going to make it during his first couple of months at the microphone.  His listeners missed Durgin’s style, and they missed Durgin’s local content.  It is a tough place to be, following three hours of Rush Limbaugh, and the natural inclination is to talk about national and international issues.  After all, these big issues best reflect the great principles and ideas that guide government, both good and bad.

So Ken’s callers were hostile towards him.  They didn’t like his style, his voice, or his views.  It was a rough transition, and it came through the radio like a sharp thumb in the eye.

But to Ken’s credit, he dove into the Central PA culture and took a crash course in our ways and our people.  There is a reason that this region is the most politically and culturally conservative area in America.  Our people here will always fight the good fight, and they want to be knowledgeable about politics.

Ken Matthews has now mastered the audience’s interests and passions, and he has really hit his stride.  Last week Ken reported on the frivolous but dangerous lawsuit against Perry County Sheriff Nace, by liberal county auditors seeking concealed carry permit holders’ information. Did the Patriot News report on it up front? No.  But, surprisingly, that liberal activist newspaper had an incredible interview with citizen activist Jim Lucas, after the fact.  So Ken is having an impact.

Ken’s reporting awakened a sleeping giant in otherwise pastoral, tranquil Perry County.  Ken is a hero.

Perry County’s tranquility is often seen as being simple and backwards by outsiders.  As a guy who grew up in very rural farm country, I can tell you that the outward tranquility masks a soul of steel and resolute commitment to American liberties.  City slickers do not understand that.  Here comes the political surprise, folks!  The hornet’s nest was knocked down with a broom handle, kicked, and then a swarm of angry hornets poured forth.  The implications for the 2016 state senate race in the 15th PA senate district are huge.  Perry County voters are now riled up.

Thank you to Ken Matthews, a friend of our Second Amendment rights, and a fantastic local reporter.  We are pleased to have you wearing Bob Durgin’s big cowboy boots.

Historic win in York, Pa

Tonight, candidate Scott Wagner beat all the odds and won a contrived special election by write-in. The Pa-28th state senate district is in his hands.

As I’ve experienced myself, when your own party decides you’ve served enough of a purpose, or not enough, the people you were loyal to can try to dump you overboard. Such happened to Scott.

But tonight, Scott bested both the Democrats and the Republican establishment. It’s a historic win by any standard, especially by write-in.  Congratulations to Scott Wagner and to his campaign manager Ryan Shafik.

Freedom of opportunity reigns.

York County senate race is a sad state of affairs

Scott Wagner is an upstart York County businessman who wants to be elected to the PA state senate. He’s not a fan of the Republican establishment, and they’re no fan of him.

What Wagner has done to attract the negative radio ads the PA Republican Senate Election Committee is running against him, is anyone’s guess. His political independence is most likely the great crime.

Voters overwhelmingly embrace independent minded candidates. Free of special interests, or of tepid blah political stances designed to offend no one, candidates like Wagner are a threat to a plain vanilla political orthodoxy that often stands for basic business issues and not a lot else.  Candidates like Wagner have the potential to propose and support strong laws that threaten to upset the delicate balance of power the establishment has cultivated with Big Labor, Mainstream Media, etc.

Wagner is a breath of fresh air, necessarily running against his own political party because his party is afraid of him. Very sad state of affairs. And an indication that political parties often have their own interests well beyond those interests of the party members.

Senate ceding its role to president: Chaos

The US Senate has recently changed rules that have helped maintain America’s checks-and-balances system of government for over 150 years.

In the interest of bolstering the executive branch’s incredible reaches for off-limits power, the senate has ceded its role as being a legislative check.  The senate is now an adjunct of the executive branch.

Recent senate rules change allowed radical, far out of the mainstream federal judges to be confirmed.  They in turn go on to help the executive branch implement its unconstitutional actions.

Assuming we get through this crisis without a civil war, what happens if a new president is elected from the other party, and he or she wants to correct the damage done to America, liberty, and democracy over the past five years? When that president employs the same exact methods, will the current party cede the field, acknowledge that politics is a two-way street, and relinquish their rights?

No, they won’t.  They will fight like hell, use their media allies to bolster them in the public eye, and accuse the new party in power of all kinds of contraventions.  Hypocrisy? Yes.  It is the norm in politics, apparently.

If amnesty is granted to 8-10 million illegal immigrants, and they become voters, then the two-party system is over.  America will become artificially dominated by a single party bent on controlling the citizenry through gun confiscation, NSA spying, and more onerous socialism designed to end our capitalistic system.

I, for one, will go down fighting, if necessary.  I hope you, too, will join your liberty-loving fellow citizens and either prevent the country from descending into chaos through successful political work, or prepare to meet that chaos in an organized way.