News & Notes June 7, 2012

I was down with one of my bad cluster headaches yesterday, sorry for not being able to write.  I finally gave up and took a Vicodin.

If you watched the film “Gasland” you recall streams out west where methane was bubbling to the surface.  Now you don’t need to go all the way to Wyoming just go to Bradford County to see the phenomenon.  There’s no danger to our water supplies though everyone, just keep walking.

A bill in the legislature would put limits on charter school tuitions.  These privatized, for profit enterprises have little to no accountability.  They aren’t subject to NCLB and are underperforming public schools even though they admit few if no special ed students.  They underpay their teachers and at a rally in the Rotunda Monday I heard one of their leaders complaining about having to fund teacher’s pensions.  Let me cry for you Argentina…

Here’s a bit more evidence our Governor is an idiot.  The state just concluded a three year extension of the contract for state liquor store workers.  It includes a clause guaranteeing their jobs if the system is privatized.  The Governor doesn’t think so.  Hmmm.  Should Tom Corbett be peeing in a cup or should we have insisted on IQ tests before that election day?  Kudos to Wendell Young IV who is looking out for his union rank and file.  It appears he outsmarted the Governor.

Scott Walker survived a recall election in Wisconsin though Democrats did take control of the State Senate in that once progressive state.  Gov. Walker is trying to destroy public sector unions.  It appears the sentiment of the voters was that he needs to do something even more egregious to deserve being removed.  Like a federal indictment?  That seems imminent for Walker.

Donald Trump says he will sue the former Miss Pennsylvania who resigned yesterday.  Calling the national pageant rigged she cast aside her crown.  Too bad it wasn’t attached to Trump’s wig.

We spend vastly more on our military than even China which is several times larger.  The obscene Defense budget can and should be at least halved if things are so out of hand The Pentagon has two Hubble type telescopes just sitting around collecting dust.

Have you read this NY Times piece about President Obama’s secret kill list?  Before rushing out willy nilly to knock on doors for OFA please realize his torture, detention and rendition policies differ little from GW Bush.  The unconstitutional domestic wiretapping also continues.

Meanwhile Dr. Jill Stein has garnered the Green Party presidential nomination.  There are alternatives to the two corporate owned Parties.

The Sandusky jury has been selected and has a distinct Penn State flavor.  That’s expected for Centre County which is why this trial should have been moved.  This report says the former defensive coach wrote love letters to alleged victim #4.  This is pathetic.  Testimony begins Monday.

These laws allowing medical professionals to deny treatment due to personal religious beliefs should mean they should not be allowed to practice.  In New Jersey a man was denied medicine by a doctor because he had AIDS.  What happened to the creed “first do no harm?”  If doctors and nurses refuse to treat people they should find other professions.

John Perzel and Bill DeWeese are cellmates.  A favorite Tweet I saw called them the Speakers of the (Big) House.  Can you imagine the conversations they’ll have?  DeWeese refused to book with Mike Manzo who turned state’s evidence.  You’d think after being House Speaker he’d be accustomed to living among rats.  He’d likely have bored Manzo to death vocally anyhow.

Any moron who still thinks Faux News is “fair and balanced” is unbalanced themself after they were caught producing and airing their own campaign ad against Obama.  That’s what political operatives do, not “news” organizations.

News & Notes December 21, 2011

Ignorant conservatives like to lie about hospitals refusing to treat people who are without insurance.  They do and they do it every day.  This case happened right in the Lehigh Valley. Heaven help us though if we criticize these leeches on society.

The riots at Penn State following Joe Paterno’s justified firing cost the town $190,000.  Thirty eight arrests and a another huge black eye for the university also cost our reputation.  He’d already announced his retirement so was it worth it?

Jane Orie’s retrial will begin in February and I can’t wait.  How much evidence will she fabricate this time to abort yet another attempt to hold her personally accountable for her misdeeds?  She had to sign a waiver in order to retain her high powered attorney since he may be called to testify in the altered documents portion of the trial.  Of course she can always claim duress later and appeal to the state Supreme Court where her sister sits thanks to their corruption, for which she is on trial.

As state revenues sink gas drillers continue to exploit our common resources for private profit without any extraction taxes.  Here’s a neat graphic showing the increase in wells:

Russ Diesinger, a school board member in Berks County, is running for the State House in the 130th District now held by Tea bagger David Maloney.

Philadelphia based Comcast stole $160,000 in payroll from its employees.

HBO has given “Hung” the short end of the stick.

Rick Santorum is OK with income inequality.  Of course he is since he’s one of the 1% biggest protectionists.

As people all over the world deal with increasing climate change species are disappearing, migrating and adapting.  Still, stubborn idiots continue denying this is happening.  They’ll do so until it kills them then they’ll scream bloody murder that we failed to deal with the problem.  On the plus side Texas may become inhabitable in just a few years after its water dries up and the state burns itself out.

Gays are approaching presidential candidates and challenging them on their homophobia.  The latest is Newt who replied that gays should simply support Obama.  I thought leaders, especially presidents, were supposed to represent us all?  Of course American government stopped representing anyone except the 1% long ago.  At least Gingrich isn’t pretending otherwise.

Things in Wisconsin have gotten ugly as Gov. Scott Walker and his supporters try to sabotage the recall effort against him.  He doesn’t even seem to comprehend that faking someone in a campaign ad won’t be researched and exposed.  His “small business owner” turns out to be a billionaire who outsources jobs.

News & Notes March 26, 2011

Former Congresswoman and VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro dies this morning at age 55 (ladies always lie about their ages so I’m paying tribute to her this way).  She ran on a slate with Walter Mondale as a pioneering woman breaking that glass ceiling.  May we continue on such a progressive path that soon we will join other civilized nations and elect a woman president (as long as name isn’t Palin or Bachmann).

Elizabeth Taylor was late for her own funeral Thursday.  The Hollywood icon, fabulous actress and AIDS pioneer made the unusual request.  I have to love someone who insisted being late for her funeral, it tells us what a great lady she was.  Such a sense of humor!

In the “why are just learning of this now” department Ag officials quarantined some cattle last May after fracking fluid got into their pasture.  Gas companies keep trying to brainwash us that drilling is perfectly safe but no one in Dimock can sell their homes because their water is poisonous.  Now their cows are being poisoned.

Emails obtained from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker revealed an Indiana prosecutor suggested he plant an undercover agent provocateur amidst the union protesters who would incite violence or even an armed attack upon the Governor to foment opposition to the peaceful protesters and attempt to discredit them.  Carlos Lam resigned his position following publication of his email.

These people will stop at nothing to enact their radical conservative agenda.

Just when we thought it was OK to shop at Target again they’ve betrayed us once again.  If you recall last fall Target gave a fervently anti-gay gubernatorial candidate $150,000 (and Best Buy $100,000) triggering a boycott of the chain.  Now I suppose we need to reinstate that effort.

Penn State is freezing salaries after already halting all construction projects in light of Gov. Corbett’s radical state austerity program.  More jobs being lost by someone who campaigned for the job by promising to create them.  For some very strange reason Mr. Corbett the candidate is quite different from Gov. Corbett.  Perhaps we need to remind him of his campaign promises.

A shocking story out of Brazil says five police officers were shown on security footage shooting a young man at close range.  This sounds more like something which would happen in the central lockup of the Berks County courthouse.

State Rep Jim Cox needs a lesson in not committing slander.  He slams ACORN in a recent email accusing the organization of voter fraud.  In his argument for photo ID he says this:

The legislation would help ensure fair elections in light of recent incidencts of voter fraud in Pennsylvania and several other states committed by the now defunct group ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now.

ACORN never commited voter fraud and has never been convicted of such action.

President Obama: MIA in Labor’s Struggle

by Walter Brasch

           As expected, Michael Moore, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka were in Madison, Wisc., to support and rally the workers in their fight against the union-busting governor and Republican-dominated state legislature.

           But, so were union members Bradley Whitfield, Susan Sarandon, Tony Shaloub, and dozens of musicians and singers, including Peter Yarrow who, as part of Peter, Paul, and Mary, was at almost every major social protest for more than 40 years.

           “This is not merely a protest on the steps of the Capitol here in Madison,” said Shalhoub, “this is the birth of . . . a nationwide movement destined to restore the rights of workers, to safeguard quality education for our children and to reassemble and reconstitute the fragmented and wounded middle class.” Shalhoub, who won three Emmys, was born in Green Bay; his sister is a Wisconsin teacher.

           “Workers,” Sarandon told a crowd of almost 100,000, “had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, defy the courts to create a movement which won the eight-hour workday and caused such a commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, Social Security, unemployment insurance and the right to assemble in collective bargaining.”

           Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told thousands of cheering protestors they had to “reclaim the essence of economic justice before it is lost on the corporate scaffold.” Former senator Russ Feingold, the only senator brave enough to oppose the PATRIOT Act when it was created, said the actions of the governor and legislature were “an outrageous assault on working people.”

           The people, the workers, were there when newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker first announced, Feb. 11, he was going to demand hard concessions from the public sector unions. They were there when he lied about the budget and his intentions. They were there when the truth came out that at the same time Walker and his Republican cabal were taking away worker rights and demanding more wage and pension sacrifices, they were also assuring significant tax rebates and making innumerable promises to Big Business. They were there when a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll revealed that in less than a month Walker’s approval rate had plunged to only 43 percent. And they were there after he signed a bill, March 13, deviously manipulated through the Senate in the middle of the night, to strip collective bargaining rights of public employees.

           But, while the masses protested the shredding of their rights, not at any rally anywhere in Wisconsin were several people who should have been there. Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.),  House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.), Vice-President Joe Biden, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis have been conspicuously absent. So are almost all major national Democratic political leaders, obviously afraid to publicly support their largest constituency, the American working class.

           One person, more than any other, needed to be there, if only to prove that campaign rhetoric and one’s promises mean something after the election.

           During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama told energized and reinvigorated crowds, both small and large, “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself [and] I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”

           As president, Obama may be wearing comfortable shoes, but he hasn’t gone to Wisconsin to stand by the workers, nor has he ever walked a picket line at least in the past two years. His only public comments, and even then weak ones, were to call the actions in Wisconsin an “assault upon the workers,” and several days later to add,  “I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified, or their rights are infringed upon.” It was a statement that could have been said by any Democratic president-and most Republican ones as well.

           There are dozens of reasons and excuses why President Obama is not in Wisconsin. The one that seems to be most probable is that going into a re-election campaign he doesn’t want to alienate any of his constituencies. It’s doubtful, however, that anyone on the extreme right wing will vote for him, no matter what he does or doesn’t do. It’s also probable that the core of the Democratic party-the unions and workers, the youth, the alienated and disenfranchised, and those who believe in social justice, who awakened in 2008 to give him a mandate for change-may give him only lukewarm approval or, worse, be silent in 2012. They have every reason to believe they had been betrayed.

           Good presidents do what is best for the country. Great presidents, however, do not only what is best for the people, but are also willing to speak to the courage of their beliefs, of their principles, even if it may be unpopular among many of their constituencies. They don’t put their “finger in the air” to judge what’s popular. Republican Theodore Roosevelt, and Democrats Franklin Delano Roosevelt and “Give ’em Hell, Harry” Truman were among the great presidents. If Barack Obama doesn’t soon speak out on behalf of the working class, he may find his legacy mired in the struggle to become even a good president.

           [Walter Brasch is an award-winning columnist, and the author of 16 books. You may contact him at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

Thank You Gov. Walker

Gov. Scott Walker has done what no one else has been able to do for two years:  awaken apathetic Democrats.  His attempts to screw teachers and public workers out of their collective bargaining rights has enraged and angered the rank and file whom we have been trying to get back out to the polls for two years.  It isn’t just Democrats however.  Republican extremists are motivating everyone and opening the eyes of independents also.  We are witnessing a rolling back of rights unprecedented in American history.  The Tea Party has taken the GOP over the edge and a government shutdown will cement their demise.

We all need to thank Scott Walker and his cohorts:  those advancing legislation to eliminate child labor laws, defund Planned Parenthood, attack Social Security, eliminate clean air regulations, etc.  The team of fringe “populists” have been exposed as tools of the Koch brothers.  How many of these rank and file voters had ever heard of the Kochs before this?  Few I bet.  Now they’re all over the news and people are seeing how the GOP is harkening to their every beat and call.  Two weeks from now we have a special election to elect a new State Senator here in my district.  A Republican replacement who would gut state pensions while gladly accepting his own.  Yes, Larry Medaglia told an audience of Republicans he would eliminate fixed benefit pensions for public employees but wouldn’t turn down his own.  We’ll see if the voters will turn out and prevent someone like that from representing them and giving Pennsylvania Republicans one additional Senate vote to screw workers.

News & Notes February 28, 2011

Today is the final day of AdultBasic.  Tomorrow 42,000 Pennsylvanians will awaken to a life with no basic health care coverage thanks to Gov. Corbett.  Democrats offered to trim legislative budgets or use their surplus to fund the program to no avail.  ABC used to be paid for by the Blues with excess revenues.  The PA Blues are sitting on billions in retained profits but have no cash to maintain this vital program?  Perhaps it is time to revisit their non profit status.

The Oscars were last night which explains why I was late getting going this morning.  The snorefest began with a neat dream sequence for hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway.  She was refreshing and made few errors while he was resplendent in white tights during the opening number then seemed stoned the remainder of the night.  The event dragged on and on and on.  Why couldn’t they have found real singers?  I actually saw The King’s Speech and thought it wonderful.  Kudos to Colin Firth who was nominated last year for the film A Single Man.

Gov. Scott Walker failed to listen to the thousands who protested at all fifty state capitols Saturday and ordered his Capitol building emptied last night.  Gov. Walker, that is the people’s Capitol, not yours.  Protesters remained in their building.  Perhaps we need a giant rally this weekend in DC.  Here is a 92 year old standing up for Wisconsin at Saturday’s rally in Harrisburg:

Let’s remember, it wasn’t public workers or pensions which created the deficits but failed Republican policies.  Dick Cheney infamously said “deficits don’t matter.”  They do but where were all these Tea baggers when George W. Bush doubled our national debt in eight years?  His tax cuts for the rich, two unpaid for wars and recession are what created the deficits.  Where were these morons then?

Be careful if you have a miscarriage in Georgia.  A new bill in the GOP’s war on women would make that a capital offense.

Treasurer Rob McCord is touting how much unclaimed property has been returned to the people.  Funny, I’ve had a claim in for over two years and his Department won’t even respond.

Another gas well exploded late last week near the Ohio border.  Fracking fluid in storage facilities blew up.  This is what we’re injecting into our drinking water and rivers. The New York Times reveals just how much fracking fluid is being used to pollute our waterways.

The hacker group Anonymous has taken down Americans For Prosperity, the Koch brother’s astroturf group supporting the Tea Party.

Ironically, Anti-Union Republicans Need Unions

By Walter Brasch

There are a lot of ironies in the Wisconsin fight between the Republican-dominated legislature and the working class.

           On Tuesday, Feb. 22, the State Senate unanimously passed a resolution to honor the Green Bay Packers for winning the Super Bowl. Every one of the players is a member of a union.

           Of course, only the 19 Republicans in the chamber voted for the resolution; the 14 Democratic senators, co-sponsors of the resolution, were in Illinois. They were in the neighboring state because newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker, supported by Big Business, the Tea Party, and far-right conservatives, had ordered the unionized state police to bring every Democratic senator into the capitol in order to assure a quorum. Needing one more member, the Senate couldn’t pass any fiscal legislation.

           Walker and the legislature thought they could ram through a union-busting measure, disguising it under a cloak of balancing the state budget. All they needed were 20 senators-19 Republicans and, for that elusive quorum, one Democrat, even if he or she voted against the bill. The only reason the state had a deficit, they lied, was because of union wages and benefits.

           The unions had already said they would accept what amounts to an 8 percent cut. But, Walker, acting more like a caricature of a Fat Cat Boss, refused to negotiate. His demands, if put into law, would essentially “gut” public worker unions.

           For two weeks, beginning Feb. 14, thousands of government workers and their supporters came to Madison to defend unions and collective bargaining. At its peak, more than 70,000 were in the streets of the state’s larger cities. One of those protestors was all-pro cornerback Charles Woodson, the Packers’ co-captain, one of those honored by the Legislature. Woodson, strong in his condemnation of the governor and Legislature, said he was honored “to stand together with working families of Wisconsin and organized labor [who were] under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work.”

           There are more ironies.

           Thousands of anti-union voices have cried out that they don’t need unions. However, even the most rabid anti-union reactionary has benefitted from labor’s push for a 40 hour work week, overtime, better working conditions, the enactment of rigorous child labor laws, and basic benefits, including vacation time and sick leave.

           Unions also led the push to create the National Labor Relations Board, which gives further worker protections, while restricting excesses, both by unions and employers; and the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires all private contractors on federal projects to pay wages equivalent to what union workers would earn, even if their own companies are not unionized. The “prevailing doctrine” has led to better wages and employee training in the construction industry, according to labor historian Rosemary Brasch.

           Unions were primarily responsible for creating the rise of the middle class, thus elevating the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised. With weaker unions, says economist Richard Freeman, “the U.S. will be slower in developing policies to help the disadvantaged and poor . . . and to protect consumers, workers, and shareholders from business crime and dishonesty.” All social programs, according to writer/activist Harvey Wasserman “can trace their roots to union activism, as can the protection of our civil liberties.” Strong labor unions generally have higher productivity, according to independent research done by Harley Shalen of the University of California, because there is “less turnover, better worker communication, better working conditions, and a better-educated workforce.”  Further, merely the threat of unionization at a company usually leads to improved work conditions as employers, using extraordinary means to impose anti-union bias into their companies, nevertheless, will improve the lives of their workers solely to avoid collective bargaining and union benefits.

           Anti-union rhetoric also leads people to believe that the generous health benefits that governments give to unionized workers has led to the current financial problems, all of which are absorbed by the taxpayers. But, the truth reveals another irony. Better health benefits actually result in lower costs to the taxpayers. Most of the 50 million uninsured are members of working families, and have lower incomes, making them eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), funded by taxpayers. Unable to pay even the co-insurance costs, low-income workers usually use medical facilities only when there are critical problems, thus jeopardizing their own health, and resulting in less productivity and more long term care, all paid by public programs. Uninsured patients also pay more for health care, and are more likely to stay impoverished because of health costs, according to recent studies by the Kaiser Foundation on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Medicaid payments in 2008 were about $204 billion.

           And in the ultimate irony, Rush Limbaugh, who called union workers “bottom-feeding freeloaders,” Glenn Beck, who miraculously linked trade unionism with Communists, socialists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the United Nations, and numerous other conservative commentators are all members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), an AFL-CIO union.

[Next Week: Lies and the truth in Wisconsin. Walter Brasch, an award-winning journalist, is author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist. He has been a member of several unions, including The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, International Association of Machinists, the United Auto Workers, the Association of State College and University Faculty, and three in the entertainment industry. You may contact Dr. Brasch at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

News & Notes February 23, 2011

There’s things going on all around the world this week, lot’s of which to discuss.  Today President Obama announced his DOJ will no longer defend DOMA in court saying they believe the law is unconstitutional.  This is a major turnaround as the Justice Department had been positioning itself very badly on the law.

Gov. Scott Walker got pranked this morning when someone pretending to be David Koch called and spent twenty minutes on the phone with the Guv who is too busy to return phone calls from Democratic Senators blocking his union busting legislation.  The Koch brothers finance the Tea Party fringe groups along with major right wing think tanks.

Here’s some video from last week’s rally for women’s rights in Philadelphia:

Congressional Republicans are even trying to eliminate Obama’s teleprompter.  I haven’t seen any cuts to abstinence only or faith based initiative funding however.

Rush Limbaugh actually had the gall to call Michelle Obama fat.  He criticized her for eating ribs while she’s calling for children to eat better and avoid obesity.  Of course a balanced diet allows for eating ribs or other not as healthy foods sometimes.  Perhaps Rush should look in the mirror before he criticizes someone else’s eating habits.

Gov. Tom Corbett rescinded Rendell’s moratorium on gas drilling in state lands.  This means that private, for profit companies can cut down OUR trees, drill on OUR land and extract OUR resources without paying any taxes on the natural gas.

Speaking of extraction taxes GOP candidate Larry Medaglia Jr has signed a no tax pledge and is touting it in his campaign materials.  This means he would oppose an extraction tax.

Gov. Corbett killed a new prison in Fayette County but did agree to spend $42 million on a shipyard in Philadelphia which builds boats for which there are no buyers.  Smart?  The Commonwealth is building four new prisons at a time of severe budget cutbacks.  We spend $32,000/year for every inmate.  Isn’t it time we revisited mandatory sentencing guidelines for non violent offenders?

Sam Rohrer is the new head of Americans For Prosperity in Pennsylvania.  AFP is one of the Koch brothers primary front groups for funding and organizing the Tea baggers.  Rohrer is out of work since his failed campaign for Governor.  

If you’re searching for a fun and entertaining Twitter account to follow I recommend FakeSantorum.

Clarence Thomas has now gone five years as Justice without asking a single query during oral arguments at the Supreme Court.  I suppose he lives by the maxim that one shouldn’t open their mouths and remove all doubt as to their intelligence.  This guy couldn’t even figure out how to disclose his wife’s $700,000 in income from the Heritage Foundation on his tax returns and financial disclosure forms.  Better to shut up then speak up and remove all doubt right?

AdultBasic ends on Monday for 43,000 Pennsylvanians.  Corbett is defending this indefensible action by blaming Ed Rendell.

Rahm Emmanuel won the Mayor’s race in Chicago yesterday.  The nation’s gain of losing him as Obama CoS is mitigated by Chicago’s loss getting him as Mayor.

Penn State students raised $9,563,016 for kids with cancer during last week’s dance marathon or THON.  The annual event supports the Four Diamonds Fund.  The next time you see young Nittany Lions collecting funds at an intersection be sure to drop a few bucks in their buckets.

Following successful attempts to shut down the internet during revolts in Africa Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins have introduced legislation here authorizing the President to enact a “kill switch” here.  If you still had any doubts about our still having a democracy this is the proof we do not.

Protesters in Madison are running out of water.  There seems to be pizza aplenty thanks to contributions but go here to provide them with water.