Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Down for the Count: America’s Fascination With Royalty

04.26.11

By Walter Brasch

In case you’re in a funk because you think the reason you didn’t receive an invitation to the royal wedding is because the Brits are still ticked off about that silly little skirmish back in 1776, the American media have a solution for you.

The media had been pumping out news, features, and gossip about the wedding for more than three months. Almost every radio, TV, and cable network, except for maybe the Cartoon Channel, will be covering the wedding on Friday. All. Day. Long.

Coverage begins at 3 a.m. EDT (8 a.m., British Standard Time) and finally ends before the bars close. In addition to extensive live coverage of the procession and wedding itself, ABC, CBS, and NBC are devoting five hours in evening prime time to reviews of the wedding.

WE TV has four one-hour documentaries: “Prince William,” “Kate: The New Diana?”, “Will + Kate Forever,” and “William & Kate: Wedding of the Century.” Apparently, the cable network that brands itself as “the women’s network devoted to the wild ride of relationships during life’s defining moments,” believes there won’t be a royal divorce, and that the marriages of Charles and Diana (which did end in divorce), Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, Elizabeth II and Philip, and Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in the 20th century were only preliminaries. Lifetime, which bills itself as the cable network that “celebrates, entertains and supports women,” has several one-hour documentaries, including “A Tale of Two Princesses,” “William and Kate: A Love Story,” and “Kate’s Gown of Renown.” The network is also cablecasting two two-hour docudramas, “Prince William” and “William & Kate.”

If you don’t have access to a TV set, You Tube is transmitting the events live to computers and every handheld device known to technology. Add in all the newspaper and magazine coverage—look for multi-page photo spreads in all major entertainment magazines in the next week—plus a million or so blogs, and there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t know important details, including how many canapés were ordered for the after-wedding reception.

Americans have always had a fascination with royalty. Although we organized a revolution to overthrow a monarchy, and created a president not a king as head of State, we have spent more than two centuries trying to regain a royal image.
Our fast food restaurants are called Burger King and Dairy Queen.

Somewhere at any moment during the year, American girls (infants through senior citizens) are practicing their wave so they can become a beauty queen. Schools have prom queens and homecoming queens, each with their court of princesses. Every college football bowl game parade has a Miss Something and her Court. And, every winner wears a tiara.

The media and the public dub almost every new celebrity singer a “pop princess.” Just about any young ice skating star is known as an “ice princess,” but the media in 1989 derogatorily dubbed Deborah Norville an “ice princess” when she took over for popular Jane Pauley on NBC-TV’s “Today Show.”

Princess Cruises has the “Love Boat,” but there was no love lost when Donald Trump sold his 282-foot Trump Princess for about $40 million in 1991 after he, mistress Marla, and wife Ivana had formed a Ménage a Tabloid.

Among googobs of literary and movie princesses have been Cinderella, Snow White, and Leia who helped Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and that giant furry thing make the world safe for high-tech special effects. And, of course, there’s the Lion King that made the Disney company rich enough to devour all other media companies, and take on the corporate shape of Jabba the Hut.

The greatest baron, pursued by ace aviator Snoopy, was the Red Baron. However, for some reason the media prefer to use the title “baron” to refer to evil “kingpins”–as in “drug baron,” “robber baron” and, understandably, “media baron.”

The music industry abounds with royalty. Bessie Smith was the Empress of the Blues; Roger Miller was King of the Road. Among other kings are those of Ragtime (Scott Joplin), Blues (W.C. Handy), Swing (Benny Goodman), Waltz (composer Richard Strauss or bandleader Wayne King), Pop (Michael Jackson), and, of course, Elvis, the king of rock and roll. One of the best singers was Nat “King” Cole.

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. Rap singer Queen Latifah may think she’s royalty, but British rock group Queen truly has a better shot at sitting in Buckingham Palace than she does.

Among singing princes are the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, who doesn’t do much singing or rapping any more, and Prince Rogers Nelson, who became known simply as Prince, and then the singer-with-the-unpronounceable symbol, who later regained a pronounceable moniker, and has the ability to predict purple rain.

The most famous duke is the “Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl, Earl, Earl, Duke of Earl” who proved in the late 1950s that anyone can grow up and write song lyrics.

Other less royal dukes have been baseball great Duke Snider and musical genius Duke Ellington who, had he gone to baseball games, would have had to sit in segregated seating in most ball parks. Sitting with him would be the Dukes of Dixieland. Upset there are no more segregated “colored” seats, drinking fountains, and rest rooms is David Duke who once cornered the market on pointy white hats and dull-witted Whites.

Babe Ruth was the Sultan of Swat. But no royal monikers were attached to Roger Maris who broke Ruth’s single season record or to Hank Aaron, who broke Ruth’s lifetime record, and had to put up with numerous racist comments. So far, no one has given royal titles to Barry Bonds, the current leader in single season homeruns, lifetime homeruns, and steroid usage accusations.

Nevertheless, the only royalty that matters are the Counts–Tolstoy, Dracula, and Basie.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist. His next book is Before the First Snow, a look at America’s counter-culture and the nation’s conflicts between oil-based and “clean” nuclear energy. The book is available at amazon.com]

Scratches on the Blackboard of Animal Cruelty

04.22.11

Pigeons, NRA, Pennsylvania, Legislature, Humane Society of the United States, animal rights, animal cruelty, pigeon shoots, illegal gambling, International Olympic Committee, Heidi Prescott,

by Walter Brasch

Take a pigeon.

Now put that pigeon, along with thousands of others, into small coops that don’t give the bird much freedom to move.

Don’t worry about food or water. It won’t matter.

Take some of the pigeons—who are already disoriented from hours, maybe days, of confinement—and place a couple of them each into spring-loaded box traps on a field.

About 20 yards behind the traps have people with 12-gauge shotguns line up.

Release the pigeons and watch juveniles disguised in the bodies of adults shoot these non-threatening birds. Most of the birds will be shot five to ten feet from the traps; many, dazed and confused, are shot while standing on the ground or on the tops of cages. Each shooter will have the opportunity to shoot at 25 birds, five birds each in five separate rounds.

About a fourth of the birds will be killed outright. Most of the rest will be wounded. Teenagers will race onto the fields and grab most of the wounded birds. They will wring their necks or stuff them still alive into barrels to die from suffocation.

Some birds will be able to fly outside the killing field, only to die a slow and painful death in nearby yards, roofs, or rivers. A few will live.

Now, do it again. And again. And again. All day long. At the “state shoot” in Berks County, about 5,000 birds were launched from 27 boxes on three killing fields.

And, just to make sure that you’re a macho macho man, why not stuff a bird onto a plastic fork and parade around the grounds? How about wearing a T-shirt with language so nauseating that even Cable TV would have to blur the message.

By the way, make sure you collect your bets. Illegal gambling, along with excessive drinking, is also a part of this charade that poses as sport. The shooters don’t make much, but thousands of dollars will exchange hands.

These are the same psychopaths who probably twirled cats by their tails, and used birthday money to buy BB guns to pluck birds from fences and telephone wires. In their warped minds, they probably think they’re Rambo, their shotguns are M-16s, the cages are bunkers, and the cooing birds are agents of Kaos, Maxwell Smart’s long-time nemesis.

This is what the NRA is defending as Americans’ Second Amendment rights. And why the Pennsylvania legislature has been afraid to pass a bill prohibiting pigeon shoots.

For more than three decades, Pennsylvanians have tried to get this practice banned. For three decades, they have failed. And when it looked as if there was even a remote chance that a slim majority of legislators might support a bill banning pigeon shoots, the House and Senate leadership, most of them from rural Pennsylvania, figured out numerous ways to lock up the bills in committees or keep them from reaching the floor for a vote. In 1994, the House did vote, 99–93, to ban pigeon shoots. But 102 votes were needed.

But now a bill to ban this form of animal cruelty may be headed for a vote in the full legislature. SB626, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Allentown), forbids the “use of live animals or fowl for targets at trap shoots or block shoot” gatherings. It specifically allows fair-chase hunting and protects Second Amendment rights.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee finally got a spine, and voted 11–3 to send legislation to the full Senate to ban this practice. Six Republicans and five Democrats voted for the vote; all three negative votes were from Republicans, including the Senate’s president pro-tempore. Many of those voting for the ban are lifetime hunters; many are long-time NRA members. They all agree that this is not fair chase hunting but wanton animal cruelty.

But, the NRA, with its paranoid personality that believes banning animal cruelty would lead to banning guns, fired back. In a vicious letter to its members and the media, the NRA stated that national animal rights extremists, whom they have also called radicals, are trying to ban what they call a “longstanding traditional shooting sport.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) disagree. In 1900, the IOC banned pigeon shoots as cruelty to animals and ruled it was not a sport. The PGC says that pigeon shoots “are not what we would classify as fair-chase hunting.” Also opposed to pigeon shoots are dozens of apparently other radical extremists—like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. “Each pigeon shoot teaches children that violence and animal cruelty are acceptable practices,” says Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president for the HSUS.

The vote will be close in both chambers, mostly because of the financial power the NRA wields in the rural parts of Pennsylvania, and the NRA’s fingernails-on-the-blackboard screeches to its members. On his blog, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-King of Prussia), a member of the Judiciary committee, wrote that when he supported a ban on pigeon shoots in previous Legislative sessions, he “got more hate mail on this than any other issue I’ve been involved with.” He stated he “got e-mails from all over the state telling me that I obviously hated America and that God, who wanted the pigeons he created to be slaughtered as quickly as possible, was very disappointed in me.”

Failure to pass this bill into law will continue to make Pennsylvania, with a long-established hunting culture, the only state where pigeon shoots openly occur, and where animal cruelty is accepted.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning reporter who attended several pigeon shoots. His next book is Before the First Snow, a look at America’s counter-culture and the nation’s conflicts between oil-based and “clean” nuclear energy. The book is available at amazon.com]

Look for the Union Bunny

04.16.11

by WALTER BRASCH

Bullied, harassed, and lied to, District 1 of the Amalgamated Association of Easter Bunnies, AFB-CIO (American Federation of Bunnies–Cottontails International Organization) went on strike, forcing a halt to this year’s Easter egg hunts in Wisconsin.
At Bunny Headquarters, Solomon P. Bunny, union executive secretary, and a militant corps of Easter bunnies were preparing picket signs. I walked in, notepad in hand.
“Excuse me, Mr. Bunny, why aren’t your members delivering eggs this week?”
Bunny looked up from the papers on his desk, chomped harder on his cigar, looked at me, scowled, and answered harshly, “Don’t you know!?”
“No, sir,” I replied apologetically. “I always thought you were happy and content delivering Easter eggs.”
“We love it,” growled Bunny, “but the Wisconsin Legislature doesn’t love us.”
“I will admit the newly-elected governor and the newly-elected conservatives in the Legislature were a bit authoritarian in what they did to the rights of the workers.”
“Authoritarian, heck!” said Bunny, “they’re the models of a fascist government in how they took away our rights.”
“But don’t the people have a right to balance their budget without excessive union demands?” I asked.
“Listen, Ink Breath, Wisconsin had a $120 million surplus just three months ago. The deficit isn’t because the public employees’ pensions and wages but more than $140 million in tax breaks the Republicans gave businesses, and another $200 million it pays every year to Wall Street investors. Add in all the travel perks and legislator benefits and you have a pile of money to stack your lies upon.”
“But I read that public sector employees make more than those in the private sector.”
“You read it where? In newspapers?” When I didn’t answer him quickly, he continued. “Yeah, thought so. The Center for Economic Policy Research—that’s an independent think tank—independent, you get it?—Independent, as in not funded by FOX News or Progressive Democrats of America—said that public sector workers, when compared against the same criteria as private sector workers, actually earn 4 percent less.”
“Even with these facts, I doubt you’d have much support,” I said, noting that while most taxpayers want programs they don’t want to pay taxes and think union workers are greedy opportunists who deserve to be thrown on their tails, even if made of cotton.
Bunny went into one of his files, pulled out a sheaf of papers, and slammed it on the desk. “Read it!” he commanded. Not wanting to further upset a furious bunny, I skimmed the report that revealed about two-thirds of Americans support the rights of collective bargaining, even if they have serious problems with unions and how unions operate.”
“But those are polls,” I challenged. “Numbers can be manipulated to say anything.” “How’s this for a number? In Madison one day, 100,000 citizens went to the capitol to explain things to their legislators. Even the cops and firefighters who had endorsed Republicans during the election were there as part of the working class.”
“And the legislators heard their concerns?”
“You crazy? Most snuck in and out of their offices, like the weasels they are. America is being mocked by other countries for what it’s doing to the workers.”
“But we have the highest standards of living,” I countered.
“Listen, Lead-type-for-brains, collective bargaining is one of humanity’s most fundamental rights. Says so in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by 48 countries in 1948.”
“But the Wisconsin governor says he never planned to kill all collective bargaining, just the public sector ones. And only because it would help the people.”
“You’ve got to be the dumbest piece of cow excrement walking around,” said Bunny. First you believe the newspapers, and then you believe some politician!”
Humbled, I apologized. “I can see your point,” I said, feeling a little sorry for the bunnies, but I quickly recovered, reasserting my spine as a hard-hitting investigative reporter. “I assume you want everything. More wages, vacation days, sick days, larger pensions, no-pay medical benefits, shorter work weeks.”
“You been sniffing newsprint? Haven’t you learned anything?! Sure, we want better work conditions. But, most of all, we want the right of collective bargaining negotiation. We ask for stuff. They don’t want to give us stuff. We negotiate. Just like unions have done for two centuries.”
“There’s still the matter of the Easter eggs. Are you so self-centered that you would deny the people of Wisconsin the right to hunt and capture hard-boiled cholesterol?”
“We don’t want to harm the decent people of Wisconsin, whether or not they’re in a union.”
“So you will deliver Easter eggs this week!” I said, thrilled that the bunny union was relenting.
“This is off-the-record, but everyone will get their eggs. It’s just that some people in Wisconsin may be getting 20-year-old eggs. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to preparing for a demonstration.”
As I left, Solomon P. Bunny was multi-tasking on three different phones and two computer screens. But, he warned if the rotten eggs of the Legislature and their buddies in corporate industry don’t stop pretending how religious and patriotic they are, while consistently violating the principles that Jesus stood for, “this will be the last Easter they will ever celebrate.”

[Walter Brasch is a social activist and award-winning journalist. His next book is Before the First Snow, a look at America’s counter-culture and the nation’s conflicts between oil-based and “clean” nuclear energy. The book is available at amazon.com]

Labor endorsed Luzerne County council candidates named

04.09.11

APRIL 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Labor endorsed Luzerne County council candidates named

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 27th- The labor community in the Wyoming Valley announced which candidates they will support in the May 17th Primary Election to become members of the Luzerne County Council under the new home-rule charter that was approved by the citizens in 2010.

Edward Harry, President of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council, and a retired American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 Business Representative, which has several labor agreements with Luzerne County, told the newspaper the labor federation wanted to support at least 11 “pro-labor” candidates for the county council, that will form the new county government beginning in January 2011.

Currently, the government is led by three county commissioners, two from a majority political party and one from a minority party.

The charter establishes 11 part-time county members and will hire a county manager to run county business. Also under the home-rule charter the county will hire a full-time chief solicitor. Other roll-offices will also be elinimated.

“Getting people on that council that will support labor is vital,” Mr. Harry said.

A committee was established by the labor federation to meet with potential candidates and discuss their views regarding collective bargaining rights and whether they would support the labor community if elected.

Patrick Connors, Secretary-Treasurer/Business Representative and Principal Officer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre, which has several contract agreements with Luzerne County, stated there are approximately 13 labor contracts, union members of government boards, and Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) with the unions of the building trades, that need to be “watched-out for” and it is very important the working people of Luzerne County vote for the endorsed candidates to assure labor is represented on the new council.

The 11 candidates that the labor federation supports include 10 current or former union members. The candidates are:

Linda Houck, John Nadolny, Theresa Morcavage, Jane Waitkus, Jane Waitkus, Salvatore Licata, John Livingston, Brian Overman, Joe Padavan, Frank Sorokach, Michael Collins, and Michael Chrobak.

According to Mr. Harry the slate is called the “Working Families 4 Better Govenment.” Mr. Harry added a Political Action Committee (PAC) fund has been created to help raise money.

“We will need to raise at least 200,000 dollars to make these candidate viable. There will be anti-union forces out there trying to stop us from getting our candidates elected,” added Mr. Harry.

Mike Kwashnik, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 163 in Wilkes-Barre, stated union members need to support the labor slate and understand it doesn’t have anything to do with any single individual or union, it is about labor as a whole.

“We all need to put our deferences aside and pull together to get our team elected,” said Mr. Kwashnik.

The Theory That’s Killing America’s Economy– and Why It’s Wrong

04.08.11

The Theory That’s Killing America’s Economy — and Why It’s Wrong

I wrote in a previous article how America’s disastrous embrace of free trade is ultimately based on a false theory of how the global economy works: the so-called Theory of Comparative Advantage. This is what economists, from the government on down, believe in. This matters.

But I didn’t explain why the theory is wrong — which it is. Understanding its flaws is the price of admission to serious criticism of free trade, so it’s well worth getting a grasp on them. Economic theory can be a tough chew, but it’s worth the effort, if only to gain the intellectual confidence not to be intimidated by the so-called experts. So… let’s take a look at some of that machinery behind the wizard’s curtain, shall we?

The theory’s flaws, which are fairly well known to economists but mostly ignored, consist of a number of dubious assumptions upon which the theory depends. To wit: ……

(click on link below to read the rest of this important article)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ian-fletcher/the-theory-thats-killing-_b_846452.html

A Crock Pot Tax-Exempt Idea

04.08.11

by Walter Brasch

A wall of suffocating heat nearly vaporized me as I walked into Marshbaum’s house. In the kitchen was a portable kiln spewing fiery venom that was curling the linoleum. In the den, wildly pumping a potter’s wheel flinging clay all over the room, was Marshbaum.

“Got a new hobby?” I asked from a puddle of water that I assumed was what was left of my body.

“Hobby, nothing!” shouted Marshbaum over the noise. “This is my path to fame and fortune.”

“Every one of your fame-and-fortune paths have ended in a cul-de-sac,” I reminded him. “You scamming the public into believing that slops of glazed clay dipped into leftover house paint are the last sculpture of a dying genius?”

“They’re cookie jars,” said Marshbaum wounded.

“Still looks like schlock to me,” I suggested.

“Work with me on this,” Marshbaum commanded, “it could result in a column for you.”

So I played straightman while Marshbaum threw pots together. “Who,” I asked skeptically, “is going to buy ersatz cookie jars?”

“Corporations,” he replied smugly.

“For gifts?”

“For receipts. Taxpayers keep their receipts in cookie jars,” Marshbaum explained, “so why not corporations? It’ll help them avoid paying any taxes. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s—”

“Probably illegal.”

“It’s in the Tax Code,” said Marshbaum. “Individuals pay; corporations don’t.”

“I doubt the IRS Code says anything like that.”

“There are four million words in the IRS Code,” said Marshbaum. “Lower-class and middle-class Americans get a few thousand of those words. The rest of the code is a roadmap to help the wealthy and their corporations avoid paying taxes.”

“The IRS encourages corporations to cheat?”

“No, Congress does that. It writes the code to give rebates, tax deferments, subsidies, and all kinds of tax shelters that only the wealthy and their corporations can take advantage of. It’s just a way to reward their friends.”

“But, it’s the people who vote for their representatives,” I said naively.

“You think some homeless vet can afford to donate to Sen. Sludgepump’s campaign? You think Rep. Bilgewater even listens to the opinions of the impoverished and disenfranchised? Why do you think the Republicans want to cut into Medicare and Medicaid?”

“To balance the budget?”

“Because, Ink Breath, the rich don’t need those programs. That’s also why they want to cut funding for public education. The rich can afford private schools. The poor can’t. Besides, you can’t have an educated population of middle-class citizens. They might do something un-American, like actually learn something about the issues.” The issue, said Marshbaum, slinging clay and getting high on pot fumes, is that Congress allows the rich to realize their dreams that greed is not only good, it’s encouraged.

Marshbaum explained that a Government Accountability Office analysis showed that almost three-fifths of all American-based corporations pay no federal taxes. The GAO study didn’t identify individual companies. Marshbaum, with the help of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), did.

Pretending that the international crisis-of-the-week has led to the highest gas prices in years, the oil companies—smirks of greed tucked neatly into their wallets—made record profits, paid no taxes, and even received rebates and refunds from the IRS. Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009, paid no taxes, but received a $156 million rebate. Chevron made $10 billion, paid no taxes, and received a $19 million refund. ConocoPhillips during a three year period had a $16 billion profit, paid no taxes, and received a $451 million tax break. Valero Energy had $68 billion in sales, and a $157 million tax refund.

General Electric had a $26 billion profit in five years, and a $4.1 billion refund. Boeing, tucked into bed with a $30 billion Defense Department contract, got a $124 million refund to sleep better.

Even those that received taxpayer-supported bailouts, after being a major cause of the sub-prime housing debacle, made profits, paid seven-figure executive bonuses, and received refunds. Bank of America scammed the people for a $1 trillion bailout, made a $4.4 billion profit, and received a $1.9 billion refund. CitiGroup, with a $2.5 trillion bailout, paid no taxes on a $4 billion profit. Goldman Sachs and Carnival Cruises were model corporate citizens by paying all of 1.1 percent taxes. Goldman Sachs had a $2.3 billion profit on an $800 billion bailout; Carnival, which took passengers and the taxpayers on a cruise, made $11 billion in profit over five years.

“Assuming everything you say is true, how does your overpriced crock pot cookie jar allow the rich to cook the books to avoid paying taxes?”

“Because it comes with extras,” said an enthusiastic Marshbaum. “With every 25 jars, you get a scanner and software that I created. All you have to do is scan the receipts, and my patent-pending pot ware zooms through the receipts to match the tax code and declare that the rich guy and his even richer corporation are tax-exempt.” The best part, said Marshbaum, is that corporations will be able to lay off thousands of six-figure income CPAs in order to maximize their profits.

“But wouldn’t that just increase the problem we already have with unemployment?” I asked.

“Not when the accountants and auditors—the ones who know all the corporate secrets—realize that the government pays 15 to 30 percent of all money it collects from whistleblower tips. They may never have to work again.”

“You’re brilliant,” I said commending my pot throwing friend. “Just brilliant.”

[For decades, Walter Brasch has used cookie jars to collect his tax receipts, much to his wife’s and accountant’s annoyance. His next book is Before the First Snow, a work of journalistic fiction that explores war in the Gulf, the peace movements, and the effects of “clean” nuclear energy. The book is available from Amazon.com for pre-orders.]

Obama has lost my support for 2012 over Colombia “Free Trade” deal

04.08.11

This is a deal breaker for me. I will not vote for nor support Obama for President in 2012.

I like Obama personally and supported him because I thought he would support progressive, pro-worker policies on a consistent basis.

Instead, Obama has grown increasing “Republican-lite” in policy terms.

Obama supports the so-called “free trade” deals with both South Korea and Colombia. He failed to push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. He failed to get us fully out of either Iraq or Afghanistan. He did not push for investigations or prosecutions for anyone from the Bush regime for their many violations of federal law. He has supported budget cuts during a recession that severely hurt poor, working class and middle class Americans. He did not veto continued Bush-era tax cuts for those making over a million dollars a year. He continues to push for nuclear power.

Obama did not push for single-payer, universal healthcare. He should have insisted on at least the “public option.”

I vote on policy positions and actions….. not feelings or promises.

I will support a Democratic challenger if a progressive one arises. If not, I will only be working on state legislators, Governors, U.S House and Senate races.

Sincerely,

Stephen Crockett

Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com
Host, Democratic Talk Radio

Basic ideas central to federal and state budget discussions

04.07.11

“Republicans are pushing for Radical Right Wing policy changes using budget blackmail.” Everyone should be saying so… over and over again. No policy or funding changes should be in the budget that could not get public support as stand alone measures.

In solidarity,

Stephen Crockett

Communications Workers Local 13500 files complaint against Lifepath Inc.

04.07.11

APRIL 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Communications Workers Local 13500 files complaint against Lifepath Inc.

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 4th- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union Local 13500 filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed on February 17th, 2011, that was reviewed by the newspaper, the CWA alleges Lifepath Inc., which operates approximately 29 facilities throughout the Lehigh Valley that provides specialized support services for mentally and physically disabled persons, violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct.

The CWA organized the employees of the facilities in 2007 after the approximately 460 workers of Lifepath Inc. voted to be represented by the union for the purpose of collectively bargaining in a NLRB conducted election.

According to the ULP, Lifepath Inc. is headquartered on Highpoint Boulevard in Bethlehem.

“On or about October 1st, 2010, and continuing thereafter, without notice to the bargaining representative of its employees, the employer unilaterally and arbitrarily changed terms and conditions of employment for employees by unilaterally and arbitrarily terminating a 15 minute grace period given to employees who were late for a scheduled training class,” states the Unfair Labor Practice.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the union by Philadelphia Attorney Richard Markowitz.

The employer representative named on the complaint to be contacted is Karen Werkheiser, indentified as Lifepath’s Human Resourses Director.

Since the CWA has represented Lifepath Inc. employees the union has filed at least three other complaints with the NLRB.

According to a previously published story in the newspaper, the last ULP was filed against the employer in March 2010.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Region’s unemployment rate decreases to 8.9 percent

04.07.11

APRIL 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Region’s unemployment rate decreases to 8.9 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 16th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.7 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area has the second highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.1 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.5 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.2 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 523,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, but that number does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,344,000 and 5,821,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.0 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. That number also does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

There are 13,863,000 residents nationally unemployed but counting workers that have exhausted their benefits or have been unable to find full-time work there are more than 20 million Americans without jobs. After workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits they are no longer counted as unemployed unless they continue to apply for work.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.1 percent, decreasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.5 percent and the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.7 percent. The Harrisburg MSA and the Pittsburgh MSA are tied for the fourth lowest rate at 7.2 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 419,000 civilians. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,954,000 with 253,900 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,222,900 with 88,200 without jobs; the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 281,700 with 20,200 without employment. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 281,500 with 25,600 without employment.

Lehigh County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 8.6 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by nine-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 176.200. There are 15,200 Lehigh County residents without jobs, decreasing by 800 from the previous report.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.9 percent, decreasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by one and five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,000 with 3,100 residents without jobs, decreasing by 200 from the previous report.

Northampton County unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 152,600. There are 13,300 Northampton County residents without jobs, decreasing by 500 from the previous report.

The National Labor College launches new Bachelor’s Degree Program

04.04.11

APRIL 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

The National Labor College launches new Bachelor’s Degree Program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 14th- The National Labor College, which is sponsored by the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC, and is the nation’s only regionally accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union members, union leaders, and staff, recently announced it has launched three new fully online bachelor’s degree programs in Construction Management Emergency Readiness and Response Management and Business Administration.

The new degrees completion programs offer union members the convenience and flexibity of online study. And with special union member rates and scholarships, the National Labor College students can compete their degree for less than $10,000 in two years. Plus, learning for work experience and apprenticeships can earn union members credits towards completing their degree.

The AFL-CIO announced in early 2010 that the National Labor College and the Princeton Review have created the online college for the labor community.

The college called the “College for Working Families,” is intended to expand job opportunities for union members by providing education and job training.

The Princeton Review owns and operates Penn Foster Education Group, a global leader in online education and correspondence course school, which is located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The school employees are represented by the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 5652.

Currently Penn Foster provides online courses to 220,000 students. There are approximately 270 workers at Penn Foster in Pennsylvania that are represented by the USW Union.

College online courses through the National Labor College began in the fall of 2010.

According to the AFL-CIO in Washington, which was contacted by the newspaper for this story, the training center for union members was established in 1969 to strengthen union member education and organizing skills. Today the National Labor College is the nation’s only accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union members, leaders and activists.

The college offers the only bachelor’s degree in Construction Management with required courses that explore the labor movement’s pre-eminent role in the construction industry. The degree is geared for members of the Building and Construction Trades unions who are interested in combining their experience in the industry with the knowledge and credentials gained in the program to become effective construction managers.

There are 57 national and international unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO labor federation. The organization was created in 1955 by the merger of the AFL and the CIO. There are approximately 11.5 million union members that are affiliated with the unions that are members of the labor organization.

UFCW Union President provides testimony at PLCB hearings

04.04.11

APRIL 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

UFCW Union President provides testimony at PLCB hearings

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 16th- The Pennsylvania legislature conducted hearings on whether the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirit Shoppes, should sell the retail stores to private business people.

The Pennsylvania Senate has conducted hearings and heard testimony on what impact privatization will have on the public, the business community, and the unions that represent the PLCB employees.

The debate of whether Pennsylvania should sell their state liquor stores to private owners has resurfaced in the General Assembly in Harrisburg and the three labor unions that represent the workers will likely be affected if the stores are privatized.

The United Food and Commerical Workers Union (UFCW) represents the majority of the workers employed by the PLCB. The UFCW represents shelf stockers and clerk workers.

Most lower tied supervisors of the system are represented by the Independent State Store Union (ISSU) in Harrisburg while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly office employees including auditors.

Should the stores be “sold-off” to private owners the unions’ would likely lose members and may even be removed as the bargaining representative of the employees.

There are approximately 625 liquor stores throughout Pennsylvania and the LCB also operates liquor stores located in around 50 grocery stores. The retail store system generates millions of dollars in profit including creating $400 million in tax revenue.

Supporters of privatization suggest the selling of the stores would generate $1.5 billion of state revenue yield, but it would be a one-time infusion of funds.

Before a sale can be held legislation would need to be passed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, which supports privatizing the stores.

Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, which has offices in Plymouth Meeting, Gettysburg, and Pittston, has spoken at the hearings and has challenged the legislators to provide proof that selling the liquor system would really benefit Pennsylvanians.

He stated keeping the Wine and Spirit stores means protecting 4,500 tax-paying jobs. If the stores are sold the groups that buy them will most likely pay their workers much less and the Pennsylvania economy will be hurt.

Also, the stores provide a reliable and growing flow of taxes and profits to the state treasury, instead of to big out-out-state corporations.

Some newspapers in the state support the selling of the stores mainly because the main-stream media is corporate owned and perhaps their publishers may purchase one or several of the retail stores.

Mr. Young stated privatization opponents suggest selling of the licenses would raise $2 billion but comparable licenses have not been shown to be worth anything close to that anywhere in the nation. Also privatization supporters suggest selling of the stores would give “mom and pop” a chance to go into the liquor business. However, they do not show where “mom and pop” would come up with the $2.3 million needed to purchase a license.

The Koch brothers are getting nervous

04.03.11

Charles and David Koch seem less confident these days. The brothers – who inherited money from their dad and grew it into America’s largest collection of dirty industries – have decided they need to fight back. That’s not surprising. Since Koch-sponsored secret meetings were revealed, secret planning with Supreme Court Justices was exposed, and secret funding of right wing groups became apparent, Americans have begun to wonder just how much influence these guys have purchased.

America has now heard of the Koch Brothers.

The Koch ad aimed at media pros.

But that’s not all. A Google search of “Boycott Koch” reveals “about 907,000” pages. Many of these sites include a list of brands owned by the Kochs. Just type the word “boycott” into a Facebook search and Koch Industries pops up first. There appears to be a growing interest shunning Koch brands.

This week, Koch Industries opened a counteroffensive. But you may not have noticed. In a style harking back to the early 1900s, these puppet masters of public opinion began their counter-offensive indirectly. They placed an ad in a media-insider newsletter, FishbowlDC, published by Mediabistro. FishbowlDC is a daily in-boxer advertised as “Where the DC media masses go for dish about their coworkers and competitors.” It’s an entertaining gossip rag aimed at journalists, bloggers and pundits. (Yes, it’s my guilty pleasure.) Until now, the typical sponsor was a writer’s workshop, a search engine optimizer or a writer’s services provider.

The ad teases “WASHINGTON POST STORY ON KOCH MISLEADS READERS” and the tagline is “Open discussion. Competing ideas. A stronger nation.” Koch Industries is trying to gain media traction without anyone noticing they pitched their own patriotism story. Clever. The ad links to KochFacts.com.

So what sort of information is at KochFacts? It’s a word-heavy site consisting of flamboyant headlines and red text rebuttals of whatever Koch finds unflattering. It’s also deftly search-optimized. Here’s an example of a rebuttal to a Washington Post story about Congressman Mike Pompeo hiring a Koch-affiliated staffer.

“[Washington Post Quote] Now liberal groups have begun turning their ire toward Pompeo, who hired a former Koch Industries lawyer as his chief of staff and proposed legislation in his first weeks in office that could benefit many of Koch’s business interests.”

“[KochFacts Response]Translation: Rather than engage in a constructive debate and allow the American public to decide what positions to support, liberal groups have targeted an individual and launched a character assassination campaign.”

That tone is fairly typical for the site. News reports and calls for disclosure are reframed as attempts to stifle free speech,

“Koch encourages and honest and open debate of these important values. Sadly, many opposed to these views have deployed partisan smear tactics for the purpose of silencing open and honest discourse.”

The company represents itself in a reverential tone almost as if it were a person of great patriotism, fighting for America – the Thomas Jefferson of privately-held polluters, if you will. The seminal assertion seems to be that secret funding is the same as “open and honest discourse.” Is this a critical misunderstanding of “open and honest?” Or is it simply an attempt to change the subject?

The public is now demanding to know more about Koch’s shadowy funding of advocacy groups. Consumers are showing an increasing willingness to boycott companies that don’t disclose their issue-advocacy spending. Is this is the beginning of a new wave of citizen-driven corporate oversight? Is there a voter-driven rush to fill the void left by a corrupted Supreme Court?

During the last two decades, almost every large company developed a “corporate responsibility” program to assure consumers that they were environmentally sensitive. Perhaps healthy government policies – including the full disclosure of advocacy and political contributions – are the next great wave of corporate responsibility.

I’m sure the Koch brothers hope not.