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

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

Tom Corbett’s Sizzle has Fizzled

by Walter Brasch   With his popularity about the same as a hairy wart, Gov. Tom Corbett (R-Pa.) had to make some critical changes in his administration if he has any hope of winning a second term in 2014. There are many things he could have done. He could have increased funding to education. Shortly after he took office, he slashed educational funding, including half the budget of the 14 state-owned universities. But he decided education wasn’t all that important. He could have restored some of the budget to child care services, programs for the disabled, and the state parks and forests. But, he didn’t do that. Tom Corbett could have made his statement for austerity by reducing his out-of-state … Continue reading

Royal Dutch Shell: They’ve Really Got a Friend in Pennsylvania

  by Walter Brasch Royal Dutch Shell, which owns or leases about 900,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale, had a great idea. It wanted to frack the Ukraine. But, there was opposition. So, Royal Dutch Shell decided to create a junket for some of the Ukrainians opposed to fracking to show them just how wonderful fracking is. They were going to bring the Ukrainians to northeastern Pennsylvania, and give them an all-expenses-paid four day tour. The tour was to begin at the end of July. Other shale gas corporations have created press junkets, where they lay out a nice day or two of activities, complete with handouts, trinkets, meals, and lodging. Members of the establishment press often go on these … Continue reading

‘Putting People over Profits’: The Fight Against Fracking

By Walter Brasch   Pennsylvanians want to put a moratorium on fracking. And it’s not just a few thousand, but a majority of the state’s residents. Pennsylvania lies in the heart of the Marcellus Shale, possibly the most productive shale for gas in the country. A joint University of Michigan/Muhlenberg College study reveals that only 49 percent of Pennsylvanians support shale gas extraction and 58 percent of all Pennsylvanians want the state to order “time out” until the health and environmental effects of fracking can be fully analyzed. That same study revealed that 60 percent of Pennsylvanians believe fracking poses a major risk to ground water resources, only 28 percent disagree; 12 percent have no opinion. Petitions with more than … Continue reading

The Politics behind the Killing of Americans

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and vows to block the expansion of Medicaid in his state. At a news conference this past week, Perry, flanked by conservative senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, declared “Texas will not be held hostage by the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into the fool’s errand of adding more than a million Texans to a broken system.” About one-fourth of all Texans do not have health care coverage. According to an analysis by the Dallas Morning News, if Texas budgeted $15.6 billion over the next decade, it would receive more than $100 billion in federal Medicaid funds, allowing the state to cover about 1.5 million more residents, … Continue reading

You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects

José Lara just wanted a job. A company working in the natural gas fields needed a man to power wash wastewater tanks. Clean off the debris. Make them shining again. And so José Lara became a power washer for the Rain for Rent Co. “The chemicals, the smell was so bad. Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk,” Lara said in his deposition, translated from Spanish. The company that had hired him didn’t provide him a respirator or protective clothing. That’s not unusual in the natural gas fields. José Lara did his job until he no longer could work. At the age of 42, he died from pancreatic and liver cancer. Accidents, injuries, and … Continue reading

Sunshine Still Blocked at Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa.–The Penn State Board of Trustees, still sanctimonious in its public moral outrage, continues to violate state law. The Board held a private three hour meeting, Wednesday evening [July 25] to discuss the NCAA sanctions and the role university president Dr. Rodney Erickson played in accepting the sanctions. Erickson, according to the Centre Daily Times, had “accepted the sanctions after discussing them with advisors and some trustees, but not the entire board.” The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, which covers Penn State, requires that public agencies “shall give public notice of its first regular meeting of each calendar or fiscal year not less than three days in advance of the meeting and shall give public notice of the schedule of … Continue reading