Cowardice Plagues Pa. House of Representatives

  by Walter Brasch The Institute for Legislative Action of the National Rifle Association (NRA-ILA) gives politicians Defender of Freedom awards. The award, accompanied by a glowing press release, has little to do with freedom; it has everything to do with legislators advancing the NRA agenda. Usually, the award goes to someone who managed, sometimes against great odds, to ramrod legislation that advances gun rights. However, for 2014 the award should go to someone who not only prostrated himself before the NRA lobby, but in a “two-fer” single-handedly blocked an animal cruelty bill. Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Turzai is the House Republican majority leader and chair of the Rules Committee. Both the House and Senate are Republican-controlled; Gov. Tom Corbett … Continue reading

Pennsylvania’s Politics of Virtue

  by Walter Brasch   The Pennsylvania Senate, possibly for the first time in its history, stood up against the NRA leadership and extreme gun-rights groups, and voted to ban pigeon shoots. The senators correctly called the ban a matter not of gun rights but of eliminating animal cruelty. The International Olympic Committee in 1900 banned pigeon shoots because of their cruelty and never again listed it as a sport. Most hunters and the state’s Fish and Game Commission says that pigeon shoots are not “fair chase hunting.” Pennsylvania is the only state where there are active pigeon shoots. The vote in the Senate was 36–12. Voting for the bill were 21 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Before the Senate could … Continue reading

The Politics of Animal Cruelty

  by Walter Brasch   Pennsylvanians can still butcher, braise, and broil their pet cats and dogs because a murky mixture of politics has left a critical bill on the table in the state senate. Residents may also continue to use cats, dogs, and other animals as targets for what some erroneously call “sporting events.” Although there are no documented cases of cats and dogs being thrown into the air at these shoots, there is a long history in Pennsylvania of pigeon shoots. Pennsylvania is the only state where such shoots occur legally. The remaining shoots are in the southeastern part of the state, in Berks and Bucks counties near Philadelphia. However, this past week, an undercover investigator for SHARK, … Continue reading

Arsenic-Laced Coffee Good for You

  by Walter Brasch   You’re sitting in your favorite restaurant one balmy September morning. Your waitress brings a pot of coffee and a standard 5-ounce cup. “Would you like cream and sugar with it?” she asks. You drink your coffee black. And hot. You decline her offer. “Would you like arsenic with it?” she asks. Arsenic? You’re baffled. And more than a little suspicious. “It enhances the flavor,” says your waitress. “I really don’t think I want arsenic,” you say, now wondering why she’s so cheerful. “It really does enhance the flavor—and there’s absolutely no harm in it,” she says. “But it’s arsenic!” you reply. “That’s rat poison. It can kill you.” “Only in large doses,” she says. “I’ll … Continue reading

Labor Day Assignment: Educating the Uninformed

    by Walter Brasch   It’s Labor Day weekend, the schools have been in session about a week, and the disgruntled voices of a minority drone on. Their screeching refrain, often in letters to the editor and talk show call-ins, is familiar: –Teachers only work half a year. –Teachers are overpaid. –Local school districts and their taxpayers shouldn’t have to hold the burden of teacher salaries. Often, those who complain the most are those who were average or below-average students who blame teachers, not themselves, for their mediocrity. Although most claim to be strong free-market capitalists, they believe teachers should not have much higher wages and benefits than they do, a philosophy bordering on socialism. Let’s look at each … Continue reading

Pennsylvania Senate Committee Says Pigeon Shoots are Animal Cruelty

  by Walter Brasch   HARRISBURG, Pa.—There is a remote possibility that Pennsylvania will finally ban the cruel practice of live pigeon shoots when the state senate reconvenes in September. Pennsylvania is the last state where pigeon shoots are legally held. Rep. John Maher had written an amendment to an animal cruelty bill that would ban the killing, serving, and eating of dogs and cats. The amendment to ban pigeon shoots was sponsored in the Senate by Stewart J. Greenleaf, the committee chair; and Richard Alloway, a life-long hunter. The Judiciary committee had voted 10-4 to send the bill to the full Senate. Voting to send the bill to the Senate were all five Democrats and five of the nine … Continue reading

Scientists Predict Increased Rain, Floods for Northeast

  by Walter Brasch   Pennsylvanians will experience increased rainfall and floods if data analysis by a Penn State meteorologist and long-term projections by a fisheries biologist, with a specialty in surface water pollution, are accurate. Paul Knight, senior lecturer in meteorology at Penn State, compiled rainfall data for Pennsylvania from 1895—when recordings were first made—to this year. He says there has been an increase of 10 percent of rainfall during the past century. Until the 1970s, the average rainfall throughout the state was about 42 inches. Beginning in the 1970s, the average began creeping up. “By the 1990s, the increase was noticeable,” he says.  The three wettest years on record since 1895 were 2003, 2004, and 2011. The statewide … Continue reading

The Sounds of Silence—Political Style

by Walter Brasch   A hush has fallen over our house. It began late Tuesday night and, if we are fortunate, will last at least a week. But it will return. We have no illusions that there will be continued quiet. That’s because we are in the middle of yet another election cycle.   It’s not as bad as it was in 2008 or 2012 when we were getting five to ten robocalls every day from Democrats, Republicans, Friends of Democrats, Friends of Republicans, Chambers of Commerce, and unions. During those years, almost every TV ad was someone praising his own political legacy or attacking her opponent for something that may or may not have been better placed in one … Continue reading