Pecos National Historic Site

Last week I traveled the short distance southeast to Pecos, New Mexico.  Ruins of an old Pueblo Indian town are all that remain from a once thriving community.  The Pecos were the most prosperous of the Northern (New Mexico) Pueblo people due to its town being a significant trading center.  Indians from the southern plains and the southwestern region from here (Apache, Navajo, Utes, etc) traveled to Pecos to trade their goods.  The community thrived to the extent their pueblos rose four and five stories high and held 600 rooms.

The Spanish arrived and built a mission church to convert the Indians and that is the largest remaining structure.  Twenty kivas, underground working places accessed via ladder, were spread around the village.  Some remain.

The location of the village was key to its success.  The Pecos River (you might recall my mentioning it went dry last summer) is close by and the strategic location allowed the Pecos people to see advancing parties.  Foreign tribes were forced to make camp in a large field just outside the village walls, the Indians never fully trusted one another.  I had the site entirely to myself hiking the ruins which was very peaceful.  That is until I came across a sign warning of rattlesnakes.


The Battle of Glorietta Pass during the Civil war took place just outside Pecos.  Confederates attempted to invade Colorado for its gold then proceed on to California but were stopped here.

Stand with the #WalmartStrikers in Boothwyn, PA

Stand with Walmart Workers in Boothwyn, PA

For those interested in getting involved, or who believe the Walmart Workers Black Friday strike is only happening in another part of the country;  look no further then Boothwyn, Pa in Delaware County. OUR Walmart, the Organization  United for Respect at Walmart is organizing a nationwide strike on Black Friday in order to draw attention to the abuses workers face at Walmart. And if you are in the area of the Walmart at Larkins Corner in Boothwyn, Pa, come out and support the workers.

The mission statement for OUR Walmart explains the purpose of the organization better then I could:

“OUR Walmart works to ensure that every Associate, regardless of his or her title, age, race, or sex, is respected at Walmart. We join together to offer strength and support in addressing the challenges that arise in our stores and our company everyday.”

Whether or not you believe in Unions, Collective Bargaining or the changes the Labor movement in this country seeks to address. OUR Walmart is trying to address an injustice almost all of us can agree is wrong. That injustice is the targeting of workers who try to speak up for what they believe, the firing of workers who want nothing more then a voice or a future.

This isn’t some foreign ideal, some unAmerican desire. The strike is about hard working Americans who have had enough of being told that they aren’t worth the bother; shut up and be happy that they have a job. The rights that OUR Walmart are demanding are rights that I enjoy at work. The only reason I enjoy these rights is because at some point someone enough. And I stand with the Walmart workers who this Friday are saying enough and standing up for their rights.

You can find an OUR Walmart strike in your area by clicking on this link

University Governance Doesn’t Represent the People


About 800,000 Pennsylvanians are members of labor unions, and the state has a long history of union rights and activism, neither of the two largest university systems has a labor representative on its governing board.

The only labor representative on the Board of Governors of the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) in its 29 year history was Julius Uehlein, who served 1988-1995 while Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president. The appointment was made by Gov. Robert P. Casey, a pro-worker Democrat. The SSHE, a state-owned system, has 120,000 students enrolled in 14 universities.

Only three persons have ever represented labor on Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Gov. Milton Schapp, a Democrat, appointed Harry Boyer, the state AFL-CIO president, in 1976. When Boyer retired in 1982, he also left as a trustee. Richard Trumka, a Penn State alumnus and Villanova law school graduate, now the national AFL-CIO president, served as a trustee, 1983-1995, while president of the United Mine Workers. He was first appointed by Gov. Dick Thornburgh, a Republican, reappointed by Gov. Casey, and not reappointed when Tom Ridge, a Republican, became governor. Penn State, a state-related university which received about $272 million in state funding for the current fiscal year, has 96,000 students on its 24 campuses.

The 32-member Penn State Board of Trustees is divided into five groups: ex-officio members who are in the Governor’s administration (6), Governor appointments (6), members elected by the Alumni Association (8), Business and Industry members (6), and elected members from Agriculture (6). The Agriculture representation dates to 1862 when Penn State (at that time known as Farmer’s High School) was one of the first two land grant institutions; the land grant institutions were created to provide advanced education in agriculture and the sciences. About half of its members are corporate CEOs. Except for one student representative, most of the rest are lawyers or senior corporate or public agency executives.

SSHE’s 20-member Board of Governors has three student representatives, who are appointed by the Board after being nominated by the presidents of the 14 universities; thus, the students usually have views similar to what the administration sees as acceptable. Most student representatives have tended to follow a “cower and comply” role. Membership also includes four legislators, selected from each political caucus (Democrat and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate), and the secretary of the Department of Education); the rest are appointed by the Governor, with the approval of the state senate. Gov. Tom Corbett and his designated representative, Jennifer Branstetter, a public relations executive, serve on both Penn State and SSHE boards. Most of the other members are lawyers or senior business executives. One of them, Kenneth Jarin, who served as chair for six years and is currently a member, is a lawyer who represents management in labor issues.

The lack of at least one representative of labor on the SSHE Board of Governors is because of “a lack of sensitivity to the labor point of view,” says Dr. Stephen Hicks, president of the 6,400 member Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty (APSCUF).

“It remains a curiosity why the people’s universities don’t represent the people,” says Irwin Aronson, general counsel for the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. Aronson is a Penn State alumnus and graduate of the Penn State’s Dickinson Law School.

“Because of the number of union members in Pennsylvania, and the need to have working people’s issues and perspectives represented on the board,” Dr. Paul Clark, chair of Penn State’s Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, says “We always thought it made a lot of sense for that constituency [working class] to be represented on the trustees.”

About three-fourths the 6,400 full- and part-time faculty and coaches, and about two-thirds of the staff at the SSHE universities are members of unions. About 3,000 Penn State staff (mostly those working in maintenance, physical plant, dormitories, and the cafeteria) are members of the Teamsters; about 1,300 registered nurses, including those of the Hershey Medical Center, are members of the Service Employees International Union. However, there is no faculty union at Penn State. Part of the problem, says Dr. Clark, is that faculty in the large business and agriculture colleges, plus those in engineering and science, tend not to have strong union loyalties; those in the liberal arts tend to have more acceptance of the value of unions.

Dr. Hicks has tried to get the SSHE Board to include a faculty member. However, he says, when a Board has most of its members “who have run a business and made money, you get a certain viewpoint.” Under the “business plan,” it is more economically feasible to bring in as much raw product (often called freshmen) as possible, and for the university to produce finished units (often called graduates.) More units and fewer staff and faculty result in higher return on investment. Having unionized staff and faculty-or unionized graduate and teaching assistants, as exist at some out-of-state universities-apparently is believed to be a deterrent to a business model.

It is that reason that probably results in most public and quasi-public Pennsylvania universities having strong business schools but few labor studies classes. At Penn State, about 90 percent of students in the Labor Studies and Employment Relations Department plan to enter the corporate world in human relations. Of the 14 SSHE universities, only one, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, has a labor studies program that has a focus upon the working class.

During the recently-concluded presidential race, Mitt Romney (a multimillionaire venture capitalist) and Barack Obama (a Constitutional lawyer and community organizer) incessantly drummed out a theme of how much they would do for the middle-class. Perhaps it’s time that both Penn State and the State System of Higher Education realize they need to include more diverse governing boards, starting with permanent representatives from the labor movement.

[Walter Brasch is a syndicated social issues columnist and the author of 17 books. His latest is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at,, and bookstores.]


News & Notes November 16, 2012

Gee, has anything been happening while I’m on vacation?  Shouldn’t the weeks right after a major election be fairly quiet?  So far we have:

Gen. Petraeus was investigated by the FBI for having an extra-marital affair.  Someone explain to me the probable cause and statutes violated?

Mitt Romney blames his loss on the massive “gifts” (called good policy elsewhere) which enabled the President to win.  It really might have been the Republican messages which sank them.  The GOP was clear about getting its message out to voters, they were just horrified at it.

Hostess brands is going under.  It is yet another Bain Capital company which was sucked dry by Romney.  One good thing:  you can hoard those Twinkies and cupcakes forever.  There are so many chemicals in them they’ll last forever.

The Benghazi incident is making John McCain appear to be as old as he is.  He skipped a classified briefing on the assassination of the Ambassador to do television appearances so he could complain he isn’t being told anything.  Exit stage right Senator. It’s time for you to sashay away.

The manufactured “fiscal cliff” crisis drags on.  Obama is now going back to his Grand Bargain cutting Social Security, which adds not one red cent to the deficit, and Medicare to spending cuts hurting all of us while the top 1% give barely anything.  Now you know why I voted Green.

Another example of how current laws work catching people trying to commit voter fraud.  Isn’t it interesting this guy is a Republican?  I thought from listening to Metcalfe and Turzai that all voter fraud was done by Democrats.

Arizona still hasn’t counted almost 500,000 provisional ballots.  If anyone forces you to vote via provisional ballot you’re a fool.  If you encounter a problem contact your local elections office while at the poll.  If that doesn’t work go see a Judge.

Various national restaurants are firing employees and cutting hours citing the costs of ObamaCare.  Papa Johns can give away 2 million pizzas but can’t afford to provide health care for its employees.  Remember that the next time you’re hungry for pizza.  Buy local.  Of course this isn’t the only problem Papa Johns is facing.

residents in many states are signing petitions for secession.  First of all, this is treason.  Secondly, let’s allow those southern red states to leave once again.  This time we’ll even show them to the door.  That is after they’ve paid their share of the federal debt.  All of the southern states receive more dollars from the federal government than they pay in taxes so I’m looking forward to seeing how they cope independently.   There’s a reason we call them Dumbfuckistan.

During the election campaign one of those residents claimed that women no longer die because they can’t get abortions.  Explain that science to Ireland where a lady just died because she was refused an abortion.  And these morons call themselves “pro life.”  It isn’t “pro life” when women are dying.

Speaking of that subject my term on Pennsylvania’s Planned Parenthood Boards is expiring at the end of the year.

Aside from all of this its been a quiet week hasn’t it?

Enough is enough…

…there will be a formal challenge to Tom Caltigirone next time around, in 2 years from now, so help me.  

It is time that the City and the boroughs his district makes up finally had again, someone who puts the interests of the people ahead of the dirty politics of the “system”.  

Folks, there will be a candidate, a non-partisaned, non-affiliated candidate running.  You will come to learn more of him in the coming months and the next couple years.  

He is someone who will stand up with you and who will work with you and for you and do as much right by you, the people as possible.  

I shall be introducing him to you in the coming months.  Stay tuned.  

It is time to bring the PEOPLE’s business back to the focus of government and address needs and work solutions.  The candidate that I will introduce to you will not be beholden to any party or any group, but be open to working with the people, all people for the better of the district, the state, and the nation.  The only thing that the candidate will be beholden to is making sure that he does right by the people who he seeks to represent and to work openly and honestly and as ethically as possible so that people can once again, regardless of viewpoint, regain some trust in their elected public officials.  

Some of the core values of this candidate, are that all people, regardless of background or situation, have some basic needs and basic desires that they seek to fulfill.  The role of government at a minimum must be to see that the public needs are as met as they can be, in terms of key services and public functions, in an efficient and effective manner and to fix it when that is not happening.  Also, government should provide favorable conditions for opportunities for personal, professional, community, and business growth and sustainable development.  Balance, respect, and understanding are the keys to doing this, and the candidate that I am speaking of, will bring to bear these things at every turn.  

Coordination, collaboration, and communication are also strong key values of the candidate that I am speaking of, for we need to see that public resources are employed as cohesively and efficiently as possible, but not at the expense of quality.  Employing the aforementioned key values will help to make sure that quality is retained and enhanced, while reducing waste, redundancies and keeping to what really matters for the people.  

The candidate I speak of has several years of  professional and management experience in private, non-profit business that has served countless numbers of persons who are within the 126th district and beyond.  He has advanced educational experience and has done primary research and review of state-wide community/economic development programs and understands the importance of what it takes to make a community stronger, more stable and healthy, as well as what must be protected and supported so that strong communities can stay that way, using both tried and tested methods and examining innovative and emerging strategies to address issues and craft solutions.  

I will share more with you in the future about this candidate including an unveiling of who this candidate is, in due time, but for now, know that there is hope, there is an alternative coming and it will be someone and it will be a choice that offers a refreshing new energy and vitality to the district and an enthusiasm for public service in the true sense of the word, in the way that the late, great State Senator Mike O’Pake would identify with and will remind you of.    

Caltagirone At It Again: Helping Republicans Against Democrats

Rep. Thomas Caltagirone has had a checkered past aiding Republican candidates running against Democratic opposition.  He recently said Gov. Corbett is doing a wonderful job.  In 2007 I exposed a $500 contribution he gave to Tom Corbett’s initial run for Attorney General.  Since then he’s also given campaign contributions to Republicans such as Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht.  He has given tot he Sheriff repeatedly including in his latest 2012 cycle 5 campaign finance report.

Maybe his greatest sin though came last month when he provided email letters sent to him by House District 126 candidate Mark Rozzi.  Caltagirone gave the letters to Tea Party Republican candidate James Billman who posted them on an attack website called “The Real Mark Rozzi.”  Rozzi was the Democratic candidate for the 126th State House seat and Billman the GOP candidate.  Rozzi won last week with 70% of the vote to replace retiring Representative Dante Santoni Jr.

The letters were sent by Rozzi to Rep. Caltagirone regarding sexual abuse of minor children.  As a victim himself of a catholic priest as a child Rozzi was seeking Caltagirone’s support for legislation which would have extended the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse and strengthen reporting laws.  As Democratic Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Caltagirone killed the bills on behalf of the Church.

Following the Jerry Sandusky scandal these bills and Rep. Caltagirone’s conduct in stifling them became news.  The fact that Mr. Rozzi had sent him well written pleas on behalf of those victims of molestation in support of the reforms was hardly what most of us would consider “attack” material.  It tells us much about both Rep. Caltagirone and Mr. Billman that they thought so and used it at as part of Billman’s website to attack Rozzi.

So why did Tom Caltagirone give confidential communications to a Tea Party Republican against a fellow Democrat?  The answer is simple:  his real constituency is the Roman Catholic Church, not residents of the City of Reading or the public.  His purpose in killing legislation designed to protect children from sexual molestation was to protect Catholic priests as part of the extensive efforts by the Church to conceal such conduct and protect itself from liability.  As a victim of such molestation himself Mr. Rozzi campaigned on passing such reforms in Harrisburg and holding the Church accountable.

The question now is what will House Democrats do and react to this series of events?  Will they continue allowing Rep. Caltagirone, second in seniority among House Dems, to keep his powerful position where he can continue to harm children?  What will Berks Dems do?  They have repeatedly allowed Caltagirone to keep his position as a County Committee man in spite of constantly violating their by laws about aiding Republicans running against fellow Democrats.

Pennsylvania Private Job Performance Through the Looking Glass

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

In the 1890s, scientist George Stratton reported that, after four days of wearing a lens that inverted his vision, his brain reprocessed what he saw and flipped everything back up the right way.

John Micek’s Friday article brought this experiment to mind.  Micek quotes Pennsylvania House Speaker Sam Smith summing up the accomplishments of the House of Representatives in the 2011-12 legislative session: “We … focused on the economy and private-sector job creation.” Majority Leader Mike Turzai echoed Smith saying: “We kept our commitments on fiscal responsibility and private-sector job-creation.”

Let’s take a look at some actual job numbers.

Between January 2011 (the start of the current legislative session) and September 2012 (the latest data available), the number of private-sector jobs in Pennsylvania grew by 87,000, an increase of 1.8%. In this period, Pennsylvania ranked 31st out of the 50 states for private job growth by percentage. National private-sector job growth equaled 3%.

If you look at the last 12 months, from September 2011 to September 2012, Pennsylvania’s private-sector job ranking falls to 35th, with the state’s private-sector job growth equal to about half the national rate.

Now, compare that to job growth between January 2010 and January 2011, when the commonwealth ranked 12th among the 50 states with job growth of 1.8% (compared to the national rate of 1.3%).

As our summer policy brief explained, part of what is dragging down private job growth in Pennsylvania are deep cuts to education and other services that led to the layoff of 20,000 teachers and thousands of other public-sector workers in 2011. As a result, private-sector job growth also is not keeping pace with more than three out of every five states.

I’d hate to see the numbers if the Legislature hadn’t kept its commitments on private-sector job growth.

Profiling the Presidential Vote

The Sunday New York Times did an analysis of where votes came from for both the President and Mitt Romney in last week’s election.  It’s interesting to see who won each bloc and by what margin.  I’m amazed that the Republican took a small majority (52-47) of voters aged 60 or over.  That means millions of seniors voted to end their medicare and Social Security.  That doesn’t bode well for convincing Obama not to put them back on the table in his “Grand Bargain.”

The typical Romney voter was white, male, married and wealthy.  The further you were from a city the more likely you voted GOP.  If your financial situation was worse than four years ago you were part of the 80% of those who went with Mitt.

If you’re a resident of an urban area, a minority, female, LGBT and young you were an Obama voter.  The President took 53% of the women’s vote, 60% of those 29 or younger, 93% of African-Americans, 73% of Asians and 71% of Hispanics.  LGBT voters gave Obama 76% of their vote.  If your financial situation was improved over 2008 you were part of 84% of those who voted Democratic.

This election came down to economics:  are you better off, and the votes of women and minorities.  The GOP is increasingly the Party of older married white couples, especially men.  young voters are opting for Democrats and ethnic minorities are overwhelmingly Democratic.  With the nation changing to a younger, more diverse populace the GOP is, literally, dying out.  Every four years they’ll have fewer voters and a smaller percentage of voters.

Another fascinating statistic:  Romney only won 54% of voters earning $200,000 or more.  That undermines their arguments not to raise taxes on those making $250,000 or more since 44% of them voted for Obama.

News & Notes November 11, 2012

Today is Veterans Day.  Thanks to all who have served.  To all of those who served and were disabled through that service we will not forget our obligations to you.

Ninety six members of the State House ran for re-election unopposed.  This is nearly half of the entire General Assembly.  I worry about the health of our democracy when so many public officials aren’t even challenged.  Thanks to all who took up the challenge, win or lose.  Your commitment to our democratic process is valued.

I’m almost adjusted tot he two hour time difference going from Eastern to Mountain time for three weeks.  Going home and picking up the time is never a problem, coming out here and losing it is.  I’m up and out before anything in Santa Fe is open.  We got a dusting of snow last night and the weekend has been cold.  We should be back up to the high fifties mid-week.

It took me five trips through the metal detector at Philly International Thursday morning.  I finally got cleared after taking my belt off.  Then TSA confiscated the tube of toothpaste I’d just bought for the trip.  When I arrived in Albuquerque the shuttle service had my reservation under a different name.  Strange trip.

I was never a fan of David Petraeus.  Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out General.

PDA (Progressive Democrats of America) has a good article on the end of the GOP’s Southern Strategy.   As long as Republicans remain the party of white racists they will be a minority.  Their conundrum is attempting to mitigate the racist attitudes towards Hispanics to attract a wider base while being overtly racist.

It was a good election for progressives.  Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, Alan Grayson and others prove you can run as a progressive and win.

The next big race in Pennsylvania is 2014’s Gubernatorial contest.  Gov. Gasbag is up for re-election with 30% approval numbers.  The Sandusky case has serious legs as we saw with the Attorney General contest.  Kathleen Kane became both the first woman and first Democrat elected to that office.  The fact she ran on a platform centered on investigating whether then Attorney General Tom Corbett stalled the Sandusky investigation so as not to harm his run for the Governor’s Mansion.  The long list of Democratic challengers illustrates Corbett’s vulnerability.

Rick Santorum simply can’t control his homophobic mouth.  Now he’s claiming gays stole the election.  Of course Rick is part of the reason 73% of LGBT citizens voted Democratic.  Rick, go stuff something worthwhile into that big, fat mouth.

Will Pennsylvania Take Full Advantage of Health Reform?

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

With the election decided, it is now clear that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. That’s great news for Pennsylvanians, some of whom have already begun to benefit from the health reform law, and many others who will see more gains as major provisions take effect in 2014.

As Judy Solomon writes at the Off the Charts Blog, a key provision of the law will allow states to expand Medicaid to cover low-income adults earning up to 133% of the poverty line, with the federal government covering most of the costs:

The question now is whether some states will squander this opportunity to cover millions of uninsured Americans.

Coverage for more than 11 million poor, uninsured adults is at risk if states don’t expand Medicaid, according to the Urban Institute.

Status of Health Reform Medicaid Expansion

As you can see in the chart above, Pennsylvania is among the states that have not made a clear decision on the Medicaid expansion. 

Failing to expand Medicaid would squander the opportunity to boost our state economy. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimates that the Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania will amount to at least $17 billion in additional federal dollars invested in the state between 2014 and 2019. By contrast, as Solomon writes, the “Congressional Budget Office estimates that if all states adopt the expansion, they will spend only 2.8 percent more on Medicaid from 2014 to 2022 than they would have spent without health reform.”

Failing to expand Medicaid would also cost Pennsylvania real money that would otherwise be saved by reducing what the state spends to provide health care in emergency rooms and health clinics to people without insurance. 

Governor Corbett and the Legislature should take steps to expand Medicaid in 2014. It will help thousands of working parents and other adults in Pennsylvania get the quality health care they need and give the state’s economy a real boost.