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Around the Internets: Best Progressive Stories of the Week Dec. 14 -21 2013

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I'm using the very scientific method of what I highlighted in my twitter feed.

One: Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that is unconstitutional to let companies frack where ever they want. The court is split 3 to 3 between Democrats and Republicans. Turns out that the one Republican has switched sides on some very important issues and not just this issue but the other important issue of Voter ID, otherwise I guess I would have to pass one of those very difficult poll tests.

Clean Water Action has a full statement here:

Corbett Drilling Law Overturned by State Supreme Court
--Municipalities Urged to Exercise Rights to Protect Residents--
(Pittsburgh) – Clean Water Action applauded the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling today that overturned Act 13, state legislation backed by Gov. Corbett and the oil and gas industry to rewrite state gas drilling rules. The court specifically overturned portions of Act 13 that required municipalities to allow drilling in all zoning districts, including residential areas.

“We opposed the restrictions on municipal zoning rights that Act 13 represented, and we are pleased to see the courts agree that Governor Corbett and our state legislature cannot allow one industry to ignore local laws,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action.

As Act 13 was being debated in the legislator in late 2011 and early 2012, a letter signed by 72 elected municipal officials from across the Commonwealth was sent to lawmakers urging them to oppose the municipal zoning rights provision.

“Choosing to hear only the desires of the natural gas industry instead of listening to the municipal officials who know what their residents need has been the approach of Governor Corbett’s administration when it comes to dealing with this issue.” said Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Campaign Coordinator. “Investment in the future of our Commonwealth should not be done at the expense of our environment or our local communities. Thankfully the injustice of trying to strip away the power of local elected officials was undone.”

Two: For those of us wondering when Obama would use the power of pardons and commutations in an effective way -- or less than every other President that has ever served because he's lagging behind -- the wait is over. He commuted the sentences of eight people who had been convicted under the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine users, which means they were probably black and sentenced for way way too long. So good for the president. However, writer and noted corporate prison critic Michelle Alexander wants him to do much much more. From her Facebook page, because I'm one of her 25000 close friends, Alexander says she still wants the president to do more:

By now you've probably heard that Pres Obama commuted the sentences of 8 people sentenced to life imprisonment (or decades behind bars) for non-violent crack cocaine offenses. Eight people. Thousands are serving life imprisonment for non-violent drug offenses, so please forgive me if my joy is a bit restrained. The media reaction seems over the top. The NY Times says: "The commutations opened a major new front in the administration’s efforts to curb soaring taxpayer spending on prisons and to help correct what it has portrayed as inequality in the justice system." Hmmm. We're midway into Obama's second term, and until yesterday Obama had the worst record of all presidents when it came to pardons. During his entire presidency he had given only 39 pardons and 1 commutation. That's worse than George Bush or Ronald Reagan. On Thanksgiving he got flack because he had practically pardoned more turkeys than people. So let's put this in perspective. I think it's fair to say that ending mass incarceration hasn't exactly been a top priority for the Obama administration. This is a positive step, for sure, but let's not get carried away. If major change is going to come, it won't be because of Obama. WE must be the change. We must open up "a major new front" in the movement to end mass incarceration; let's not sit back and trust that Obama will do the right thing. History suggests that would be a mistake.

Three: The downward spiral of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett continues as well it should. The newest Quinniac poll puts him behind all of the Democratic challengers. That's because Tom Corbett is clearly one of the worst governors in the country. I can't tell you how much I hate him personally over his insane refusal to accept the free medicaid money, which seems to have no strings attached as long as you're not a crazy person who refuses even minimal yet productive taxation which would save thousands of lives in Pennsylvania. You can read a more objective take at Politico. Jon Walker gives a more partisan view:

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett (R) has some of the worst polling numbers for any incumbent governor in the country. He has a serious uphill climb in his re-election bid.
A new Quinnipiac poll found the people of Pennsylvania clearly don’t like their governor. Only 36 approve of his job performance as governor, while 53 percent disapprove. Even worse, the poll found 56 percent of voters don’t think he deserves to win another term, while only 36 thinks deserves to win again. Similarly, by a margin of 52-40 voters said they don’t think Corbett should even run.

As a result Corbett is now losing to six of the seven possible Democratic nominees. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, the front runner in the crowded Democratic primary, is leading Corbett 45/37.

At this point Pennsylvania looks like a lock for Democrats.

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