About Wanderings

Each week I will post my current syndicated newspaper column that focuses upon social issues, the media, pop culture and whatever might be interesting that week. During the week, I'll also post comments (a few words to a few paragraphs) about issues in the news. These are informal postings. Check out http://www.facebook.com/walterbrasch And, please go to http://www.greeleyandstone.com/ to learn about my latest book.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fiscal Chicken


Talk show hosts and other bloviators have spent hours giving their versions of the fiscal cliff. In fewer than 750 words, I’ll explain the truth.
Taxes and the deficit are intertwined. If Congress can’t come up with a plan to solve those problems, the U.S. will jump into the abyss of a deeper recession than existed under the latter years of the Bush–Cheney administration.
Let’s first look at taxes.
            The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year.
            The idea of the cuts was to spur the economy and give what is loosely called the “jobs creators” a slight push to hire more people.
            But, the millionaire “jobs creators” held onto their money. They continued to downsize and outsource jobs, making even more money—which they used to buy whatever trinkets that rich people spend money on.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Brief Review of 2012: The Gun Culture of America



Jan. 8, 2011, Tuscon, Ariz.:  A man had gone to a political town meeting at a supermarket, with the intent to murder Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He killed six and wounded 14, including Giffords, who was shot in the head. On Jan. 25, 2012, Giffords, still in recovery from the shooting, walked onto the House floor to a standing ovation. Congress and the President have no plans to restore the assault weapons ban that expired under the Bush–Cheney Administration or to tighten gun laws.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dissolving a Stain Applied by Henry Ford


photo: Ford Motor Co.


            Mark Fields is the new chief operating officer of the Ford Motor Co., second only to the CEO of the 164,000 person multinational corporation.
            Normally, this would not be of much concern except to avid readers of the Wall Street Journal. There were several COOs and presidents before Fields. There will be several after him.
            But this time it’s different. Mark Fields is a Jew.
            Henry Ford, who founded the company in 1903 that bears his family name, was an anti-Semite. When asked in 1920 what the problem with major league baseball was, Ford summed it up in three words—“too much Jew.” At the time, fewer than two dozen Jews had ever played professional baseball during the previous four decades. During the 1920s, Ford’s newspaper, the weekly Dearborn Independent, distributed to every Ford dealership, was loaded with anti-Semitic articles. Several of those articles were compiled into a four-volume set, The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Discounting Lives to Maximize Profits

The fire at Tazreen Fashions


            Imitating Sgt. Schultz of “Hogan’s Heroes,” Walmart executives claimed they knew nothing—NOTHING—about working conditions in a garment factory in Bangladesh where 112 workers died and more than 150 were injured in a fire.
            Tazreen Fashions made Walmart’s Faded Glory brand clothes, as well as clothes for Sears and dozens of other major retailers. Walmart officials told the news media they had previously terminated Tazreen as a direct supplier because of concerns about fire hazards, but that another supplier had subcontracted the work to Tazreen. Walmart refused to identify the supplier. In an official statement, Walmart said that the fire was “extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work with the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Truckin’ to Treason: The Hot Air of Secession



            A white Ford F-250 pick-up rumbled through town, a Confederate rebel flag on a pole behind the cab; on the rear bumper were a pro-life and three Anti-Obama stickers, two of which could not be revealed in a family newspaper.
            It wasn’t a lone wolf protest; several cars, trucks, and homes in the area sport similar flags and messages. During the summer, when a 4-wheel Jamboree and a Monster Truck rally are held at the local fairgrounds, attracting thousands from a multi-state area, many trucks fly rebel flags, insignia, and political statements. During the annual eight-day fair at the end of September, vendors sell all kinds of items with the Confederate battle flag, most of them made overseas.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Unconstitutional Intrusions in the Disguise of Religion



            Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky, of Peoria, Ill., ordered all parish priests in his diocese to read a letter to their congregations condemning Barack Obama. The letter, to be read the weekend before the election, declared that Obama and the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate had launched an “assault upon our religious freedom.”
            He wasn’t the only priest who used the pulpit to attack the President. Bishop David Lauren of Green Bay, Wisc., told his congregations that voting for Obama and other candidates who were pro-choice or who believed in embryonic stem cell research or gay marriage could put their “soul in jeopardy.” Others, primarily from evangelical Protestant faiths, were even more adamant in their religious intolerance, declaring that voting for Obama would definitely condemn their souls to Hell.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I have Questions; The Candidates Don't Have Answers




            Most of the questions—and responses—in the three presidential debates had been asked—and answered—several times during the campaign. But there are critical questions that were not asked. Let’s begin with Foreign Policy.

The entire foreign policy debate focused upon the Middle East. While that region of the world has importance to the United States, there are other parts of the world that the moderators and candidates overlooked. Here are some of the critical questions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: AP, Media Fumble Story


by Walter Brasch

            On the Sunday before the final presidential debate, Mitt Romney and some of his senior staffers played a flag football game with members of the Press Corps on Delray Beach, Fla.
            Ashley Parker of the Associated Press, apparently mistaking fashion reporting for news, reported that Mitt Romney was “wearing black shorts, a black Adidas T-shirt and gray sneakers.” Romney’s team, composed of senior campaign staff whom Parker identified, was “clad in red T-shirts.” She didn’t report what the members of the press wore, their names, or how many were on a team, but did acknowledge she “also played, winning the coin toss for her team, but doing little else by way of yardage accrual.” Yardage accrual? If this was Newswriting 101, and she put that phrase into a news story, there wouldn’t be one college prof anywhere in the country who wouldn’t have red-marked it, and suggested she stop trying to be cute.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


’Twas the Blight Before Christmas

by Walter Brasch

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, the Christmas season began the day after Thanksgiving.
            That was sufficient time to get into the spirit, view the lights, buy a nice tree and decorate it, watch for the 200th time “It’s a Good Life” or that movie about a kid who wants a BB gun for Christmas, and buy whatever was being advertised as “Christmas Specials.”
            And then the season, promoted by advertisers and businesses, elongated itself to Halloween.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Romney & Co. Distort Medicare Realities


by Walter Brasch

Several times during the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney claimed President Obama had stolen $716 billion from Medicare to fund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
            That claim wasn’t original with Romney. Thousands of Republican candidates have said the same thing. And, thousands of Republican candidates are wrong. Most know the facts. But in their zealous attempt to spin the truth and get senior citizen votes, they still use that $716 billion claim as fact.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Romney v. Obama: The Debate That Wasn’t




Romney v. Obama:
The Debate That Wasn’t

by Walter Brasch


What passed as a presidential debate, Wednesday evening, was nothing more than a series of carefully-rehearsed, often rambling, mini-speeches that were more focused on generalities than on specifics.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, experienced debaters and strong orators, each threw out several points at once, hoping a few would stick; the rebuttals were a counter-speech, most of which didn’t address the points at all. The party nominees talked over one another, and both talked over the moderator. More important, numerous critical domestic issues, the first debate’s primary topic, were never discussed. Part of the problem was that Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” who had moderated 12 previous debates, didn’t control the candidates or the debate, nor ask probing follow-up questions. The direction of the debate became quickly obvious when strict time limits were shattered on the first question and every question after that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Republicans Lie About ‘Support Our Troops’



by Walter Brasch

For a decade, Republicans have been screaming at Americans to “support our troops.”
            But, they don’t really support our troops. Their constant chanting originally was code to support the Republican administration and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
            If the Republicans truly wanted to support the troops, they would have demanded—early in the wars—better armament and vehicles for the troops.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Attacking American Sovereign Soil Diminishes the Rights of Religion


by Walter Brasch

The terrorists who attacked the American embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, claimed the attacks were retaliation for the publication on You Tube of an anti-Muslim film. That YouTube video was a 14-minute trailer for a one-hour film, “Innocence of Muslims,” that was not only a vicious bigoted attack against Islam but also of no artistic merit.  
One of the extremist political parties in Egypt plucked the trailer from obscurity and used it as part of a newscast, inflaming the people of Egypt, who mounted a demonstration against the U.S. embassy. Within a week, the trailer had more than 10 million hits on YouTube.
An attack upon the consulate in Benghazi that followed the one in Cairo led to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador, a member of his staff, two Navy SEALS assigned to the mission, and 10 Libyan guards who defended the consulate.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly condemned the attacks. Mohammed Magarief, president of the Libyan National Assembly, apologized to the United States for the attack, and vowed to bring the killers to justice.
The man who gave the order that led to the execution of Osama bin Laden sent in Marines and the FBI and vowed to work with Libya to “bring justice” to the killers. Several persons accused of the murders have been arrested.
The attacks on American sovereign soil may have been planned and then carried out by a small group of terrorists to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11; the video was merely an excuse for the attack.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens was highly respected by the people and new governments in the Middle East. He and the U.S. helped promote the Arab Spring that had led to the overthrow of dictators and the creation of governments that could lead to more freedom for the people. Large spontaneous demonstrations by Libyans showed the world they were furious at the content of the video, but that they also despised the attack and continued to support the United States.
Dozens of smaller demonstrations began appearing within a day throughout the MidEast; many were merely moments of opportunity for thugs and terrorists to cause damage by invoking their disgust of the film; some were attacks to secure or maintain perceived leadership in the region.
Nevertheless, no matter what the reason for the rioting, the people were legitimately mad at the depiction of the prophet Mohammad and the no-star film that reeked with the slimy viciousness of hate.
The people, not the terrorists, in comments to the media, said they were reacting because President Obama did not take action against the film makers. They believed he should have at least ordered the arrests of those responsible for making the film.
For a culture that existed for millennia in having leaders who would have taken such an action, it was not an unreasonable demand. A part of their culture is the integration of religion and government, just as it was a part of English culture and that of colonial America at one time. As much as some fundamentals in the U.S. may wish it were still a part of American culture, it is not. The First Amendment not only establishes a separation of church and state, but guarantees freedom of religion, speech, and the press; allows people the right to redress the government for their grievances, and to peacefully assemble to protest.
President Obama said that the United States rejects “all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.” He emphasized, “Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.” Hillary Clinton was just as forceful: “Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”
Long before the attack in Libya, as rioters had begun to mass in Cairo, the embassy tweeted “Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages [by rioters] will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech and criticizing bigotry.” It was a message that defined the ideals of a nation that had created the First Amendment. But, in a “shoot first and aim later” blunder while events were still unfolding and the U.S. was responding to the attacks, Mitt Romney, without the facts and the timeline of events, fired an angry polemic, politicizing the murder of American diplomats. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” he said. Romney, whose own religion has been viciously attacked by members of his own party, probably should have done what the President and Secretary of State did—condemn violence and religious bigotry. And then shut up.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton could not allow government action against the filmmakers, as the protestors wanted. The Founding Fathers demanded freedom of speech, the press, and religion to allow all views to be heard, even if it meant protecting the vilest messages of hate, as long as they did not advocate violence or the overthrow of government. It is a fundamental part of what they wove into the fabric that became the United States of America.
[Walter Brasch is a syndicated social issues columnist and former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and a specialist in First Amendment issues. He is the author of 17 books; the latest is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution.]

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Grade Inflation; Education Degradation


by Walter Brasch

        As a society we have allowed our children to believe they are all not just above average but superior.
        Because we’re afraid to hurt anyone’s fragile egos, or not be loved, or because we’re afraid of some nebulous retaliation if we aren’t soft, we dish out A’s and B’s as if they were scoops of ice cream on a hot humid day, the equivalent of myriad certificates and trophies we give our children for showing up so they don’t feel “left out” in sports and innumerable other activities.
        Grade Inflation is rampant throughout the educational system. A recent UCLA study revealed that although students are studying less than ever, grades of A- and A in high school classes are the most common grades. At many colleges, over half the class graduate with some kind of honors, making it difficult to distinguish the truly exceptional from the grade-exceptional. The pursuit in college is of grades, not knowledge, so it’s not surprising that students are as adept at cheating as they are in hiding booze in dorm rooms.
        At the university where I taught, last year’s freshman class had an average SAT of 1004 in verbal and quantitative tests, making their achievement dead-center average for the nation. But their high school g.p.a. was 3.3, about a B+. Those who don’t do well on the SAT shrug it off as “Well, like, y’know, I just kinda don’t do good on tests.”
        At many colleges, at least one-third of incoming freshmen are enrolled in remedial courses. But they and the rest of the student body can graduate within six years by packaging a program of “cake” courses with watered down content.
         At many colleges, the grades of “D” and “F” officially don’t exist; at many colleges, students can even drop classes any time, just so they don’t get a (horrors!) “C.”
        In 2004, Princeton established a guideline that there should be no more than 35 percent A’s in freshman/sophomore courses, and 55 percent A’s in specialized upper division courses. Even then, the recommendations, while lowering some of the grade inflation, were still above what used to be a “bell-shaped curve” that once suggested A’s and F’s should be about 10 percent of a general education class; B’s and D’s about 20 percent; and C’s, the average grade, about 40 percent.
        One of the reasons for grade inflation is that some teachers and professors can’t distinguish achievement levels or create tests that require higher level thinking and not a recitation of facts. Another reason is that teachers and profs want to be liked, to be seen as a buddy, who often allow students to call them by their first names and who go drinking in the same places students congregate. More common, there is a strong correlation between semester-end evaluations of professors and grades; high grades by teachers and profs, especially in colleges that use student evaluations for tenure and promotion, tend to propel similar high student evaluations.
        Because of runaway grade inflation, students avoid professors who believe the grade of “C” is the average grade and who set up standards that require students to do more than show up, read a couple of hundred pages, and answer a few questions. Even then, a significant minority of our students spend more time trying to plea-bargain the professor into raising the grade than they do studying for the exams. If the professor doesn’t acquiesce, the student’s parents call administrators whose backbones are as strong as warm Jello and who subconsciously go along with the fiction that because some parent is paying thousands of dollars to send their precious child to college, the college has an obligation not to educate that child but to reward that child with trinkets known as high grades. Thus, some Helicopter Moms are sure that grades of C, D, and F are not their child’s fault, but the fault of a system that took their hard-earned money and won’t even do the minimal work of issuing the “right” grade.
        High grades are important, every student wails, because it means being able to get into college, grad school, or to get a little extra consideration in the job market. But if all students get high grades, then the evaluation criteria becomes meaningless; the exceptional student may get into college and grad school, but so will those who get high grades but aren’t as exceptional. Companies hiring freshly-scrubbed graduates may soon disregard not only syrupy letters of recommendation but grade point averages as well.
        Until we stop believing it’s a Constitutional right to get A’s, with B’s seen as acceptable and C’s as failure, as a nation we’ll continue to complain about inferior workmanship, and, wonder why the U.S. ranked 32nd in the world in math abilities and 17th in reading ability, according to a recent study by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.
        [Dr. Brasch was a university professor for 30 years. He is an award-winning columnist and author of 17 books, including the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution. For several years he was a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor.]

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Don’t Count Out the Labor Movement



by Walter Brasch

Almost every conservative political columnist, pundit, commentator, blogger, and bloviator has written about the decline and forthcoming death of the labor movement.
            They happily point to Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker shortly after taking office in January 2011 took advantage of a Republican majority in the House and Senate to ram through legislation that stripped numerous collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Among collective bargaining rights are those that assure decent working conditions and a fair grievance process to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory discipline.
            The Republicans point to Ohio, where Republican Gov. John Kasich, with similar legislative support, signed legislation in March 2011 that restricted collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.
            They point to state after state where Republican legislators, with the financial support of private industry, have brought forth self-serving bills to oppose collective bargaining.  
The conservative mantra is to pander to the middle-class pocketbook by creating a pseudo-populist appeal. The right-wing claims they are the ones who care about the people enough to cut government spending, which will lower all kinds of taxes. They altruistically scream that inflated payrolls and pensions caused economic problems, and the best way to help those who are struggling in a depressed economy is to lower those costs by curtailing the perceived power of unions. It sounds nice; it’s also rhetoric encased in lies.
            Numerous economic studies have shown that the pay for public union employees is about the same as for private sector employees in similar jobs. And in some jobs, public sector workers earn significantly less than non-unionized private sector workers, leading to professionals and technical specialists often switching jobs from government to private industry, usually at higher wages and benefits.
            So what, exactly, is the problem? Tax cuts. Bill Clinton left office, having given the nation a strong economy. During the Go-Go years in the first part of the 21st century, under the Bush–Cheney administration, states and the federal government created tax cuts for individuals, and held out generous tax cuts, tax waivers, and subsidies to corporations. The Republican theory was that these tax cuts would eventually “trickle down” to the masses by stimulating the economy.
What happened is that instead of benefitting the masses, these forms of wealthfare and corporate welfare have done little to stimulate an economy that was heading down because the Republican executive and legislative branches, preaching less government, didn’t want government interference in financial institutions, the most politically conservative business. As a result of deregulation or, in many cases minimal regulation oversight, came the twin catastrophes of the Wall Street scandals and the housing mortgage crisis that spun the nation into the deepest recession since the Depression of the 1930s.
            But you don’t hear the Republicans tell you they caused it, only that a run-away economy is because of those fictional high government salaries that need to be cut.
            Joseph Slater, professor of law at the University of Toledo, says because of the 2008 crisis, states experienced massive budget shortfalls because growing unemployment decreased tax revenue. The problem in the states and the federal government, Slater told NEA Today, isn’t because of collective bargaining, “because some of the worst state budget problems are in the small handful of states that prohibit public sector collective bargaining, states like Texas and North Carolina.” However, said Slater in an article for the American Constitution Society, “states with strong public sector collective bargaining laws . . . have smaller than average deficits.”
In response to conservative calls to curtail “pension abuse” in the public sector, Slater pointed out that “the vast majority of states don’t allow unions to bargain over public pension benefits,” and that some of the worst pension problems are in the so-called right-to-work states that have no public employee unions.
            In contrast to the all-out assault upon the workers by Republicans, Govs. Dan Malloy of Connecticut and Jerry Brown of California, both Democrats, have been reducing budget deficits, sometimes with a heavy hand as they slash programs and the number of workers, in consultation with the unions and without curtailing union rights. Unionized workers in both private and public sectors have taken temporary pay cuts or agreed to taking vacation days without pay. Few corporate executives and no state legislators have willingly matched the sacrifices of the workers.
            Now, as for those conservatives who are dancing on what they think are the graves of the working class labor movement. There are a few stories they aren’t happily reporting.  
In Wisconsin, the recall election of Scott Walker did fail, as out-of-state individuals, PACs, and corporations contributed about two-thirds of his $30 million campaign to keeping him in office, as opposed to his opponent raising only about one-eighth of that amount. However, in subsequent elections, all three Democratic senators survived recall votes, and two of six Republican senators were recalled, leading to a change in Senate membership from 19–14 Republican to 17–16 Republican, but effectively blocking a “super majority” from ramrodding further anti-worker legislation into law.
            In Ohio, voters overwhelmingly rejected, 62–38 percent, the new Ohio law that stripped collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. In defeat, Gov. Kasich, whose attacks upon collective bargaining were a central part of his campaign, said “It’s clear the people have spoken.”
            Monday is Labor Day. It’s more than just picnics and a three-day weekend. It’s a time to honor the working class, and the unions that gave them the rights of collective bargaining. They may be struggling but they are far from dead.
            [Walter Brasch is a syndicated social issues columnist and author. His latest book is the critically acclaimed journalistic novel, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, which has an underlying union theme. He is a proud member of several professional and trade unions, including The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America.]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Romney Tax Return Provides a Window to His Soul





            When a craven of buffoons and bigots disguised in the bodies of Birthers figured that anyone with dark skin and a foreign name had to be born outside the U.S., Barack Obama provided a birth certificate. Not just the usual “short form,” but a state-certified copy of the “long form” that detailed he was born in Hawaii, which some birthers apparently think is a foreign territory, to a mother who was a natural-born U.S. citizen.  
            That, of course, was not enough for the whackadoodles who claimed, among other things, that the President’s birth certificate was altered or forged. All of their claims have been debunked by scientific evidence. Of course, they produced their own poorly-forged birth certificate that they said “proved” President Obama was born in Kenya.
            In February, billionaire Donald (Look-at-How-Wonderful I-Am) Trump, an unabashed Birther, stood next to multi-millionaire Mitt Romney in a Las Vegas casino and endorsed him for the Republican nomination. A few months earlier, Trump had gotten significant face-time in the media while flirting with the idea of running for the presidency while whining about Romney. “He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs,” Trump crowed. But now, with Romney running well ahead in the primary contests, Trump was trying to be relevant and stay in the political spotlight. Romney, for his part, smiled and said nothing to suggest that Trump could be wrong about pursuing the birther argument. Trying to have everyone like him, one of the most unlikable presidential candidates refused to repudiate Trump’s birther views.
            Unlike Barack Obama, Mitt Romney does have a secret. This one is buried within what he either did or did not report to the IRS.
            It’s traditional, but not required, that presidential nominees release copies of their tax returns. Most people have no idea how to read a tax return, especially one with dozens of amendments, filings, and schedules. But, the posting of the returns is a form of trust.
            Barack Obama has released his returns. Romney’s father, George, former governor of Michigan and presidential candidate in 1968, released 12 years, thus setting a standard for future presidential candidates.
            At first the flip-flopping Romney said he didn’t plan to release the returns. Then he said, “Maybe.” Then he declared he’d release only the previous two years’ returns. Then he said that because of the complexity of the return, he filed for an extension from the IRS so he could file after the April 15 deadline for the 2011 return. Then this past week before a fundraiser he said he “never paid less than 13 percent. . . . So I paid taxes every single year.” He expected us just to believe him. He never defined whether that was just income taxes, or included all taxes paid, including social security, local, and state taxes, thus making the federal income tax even lower.
            But, let’s pretend he meant income taxes. Even at 13 percent, it’s one of the lowest tax rates. In 2011, Romney had a gross income of about $21 million, according to a partial return Romney finally allowed to be posted. The effective tax rate for persons with incomes over $1 million, according to the Tax Foundation, averages about 25 percent.
            But, most of Ann and Mitt Romney’s reported income in 2011 was based on capital gains. In 2003, the Bush–Cheney administration had lowered capital gains taxes to only 15 percent, primarily benefitting the wealthy. If the Romneys did not take most of their money from investment capital, their tax bracket would be 35 percent.
            There are a number of questions that need to be answered.
            The first questions are about that extension for the 2011 taxes. With a fleet of lawyers and accountants, why did the Romneys need at least a five month extension to file a return? Was it to massage the data for public consumption? Equally important, if he needed this extension to file a personal income tax return, what does that say about his ability to govern a nation with a $2.3 trillion budget?
            Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints tithe to the church. The Romneys acknowledge donating $2.5 million in cash to the church in 2011. Were they overly generous? Or, does that contribution reflect that the Romneys’ income may have been about $25 million. If that is the case, where did the rest go? Ann Romney told NBC News, “We also give 10% of our income to charity.” According to a partial return in 2011, the Romneys claim they donated about $4 million to charity. If Ann Romney is a accurate, that would be a $40 million income, twice what is claimed.
            Why Romney won’t release tax returns prior to 2010 may be because secrets are buried in 2009. According to BuzzFlash’s Mark Karlin, citing Lawrence O’Donnell’s pointed queries, “Romney may have taken advantage of a 2009 IRS amnesty period to disclose hidden income in offshore accounts but subject to US taxation. The amnesty offer allowed such persons to escape potential criminal prosecution for tax evasion.” It would be nice to know how much income was diverted to off-shore accounts in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Switzerland, and into various tax-shelters the average American has no idea even exist.
            That leads to an obvious question. How much of the Romneys’ income over the past decade, not just the two years when he was planning to run for president, had deductions that might be questionable to the average person who doesn’t have lawyers and accountants on retainer? Certainly, taking a $77,000 write-off in 2010 for a show horse isn’t something the average American can do. Working with an onerous tax code, loaded with myriad special interest loopholes, the Romneys know how to take everything wealthy Americans are entitled to receive. It may be legal, but is it ethical?
            Frankly, it doesn’t make much difference how much Romney earned, how he earned it, what he did with it, or how he and some extremely bright tax advisors took advantage of the system created by lobbyists and Congress. What does matter is that by stonewalling, obfuscating, and refusing to give full disclosure, he appears to have something to hide. And upon that—and that alone—the people and the media need to pursue why Romney is reluctant to release financial data. It’s a matter not of how rich he is, but a matter of trust and a window into his soul.
            [Walter Brasch has been covering local, state, and presidential political races for almost four decades. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed journalistic novel, Before the First Snow, which looks at the American counter-culture and media of the ’60s as a base to understand today’s social issues.]

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vouchering an Educational Adventure


                       by Walter Brasch

            I hadn’t talked with Marshbaum for a couple of years, ever since he left newspaper journalism for more lucrative work in the fast food industry. But here he was in my office to ask if I would publicize his new educational adventure.
            “That’s great!” I said. “You’re finishing the last three years of college.”
            “I own the school. CEO of Little Minds Charter and Voucher Corp. We’re on the leading edge of the trend to privatize schools.”
            “How does mumbling into a broken speaker box make you qualified to run a school?” I asked.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Baffled, Befuddled, and Bamboozled: Penn State Trustees are Sinking




        When we last left the baffled and befuddled Penn State trustees, they were trying to figure out what happened in the Great NCAA Sanctimonious Sanction.
            What happened is that the NCAA bamboozled university president Dr. Rodney Erickson. The NCAA—having spent most of its history figuring out ways to make college athletics even more prominent on college campuses—suddenly found religion, created new rules, didn’t conduct an investigation, and shredded anything resembling due process. Using the Freeh Report as its newly-found Bible, NCAA president Mark Emmert piously declared he wanted Penn State to “rebuild its athletic culture,” and preached the lesson that the NCAA hoped “to make sure that the cautionary tale of athletics overwhelming core values of the institution and losing sight of why we are really participating in these activities can occur.”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympians Medal in London, While the NRA Meddles in Harrisburg


Dead and dying pigeons at Wing Pointe pigeon shoot
(photo by SHARK)

Shortly before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on an amendment last December that would ban pigeon shoots, the Pennsylvania Flyers Association sent out a bulletin it marked as “urgent.”
“We must act now to preserve our sport,” the Flyers screeched. In a separate letter to members, the Flyers told its members they “should be very proud that your association has been able to keep the sport alive in PA [sic] for the last 27 years.” For added support, the notice referred to an NRA release, which called pigeon shooting a “Pennsylvania Sporting Tradition.”

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sunshine Still Blocked at Penn State

PENN STATE / OLD MAIN, ADMINISTRATION BUILDING



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.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Fluff Factor: Today’s Journalism



Will someone please buy gags for Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford?
            It makes no difference what the color is. Plain or polka-dotted. Painted or sequined. Scented silk, Egyptian cotton, or an auto mechanic’s oil-soaked rag. Just as long as it can be stuffed into their mouths.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


                                                         

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pennsylvania Politics Continues to Trump Health and the Environment




            Politics continues to threaten the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians.
            The latest is how the Republican-dominated legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett separated one of the wealthiest and more high-tech/industrial areas of the state from the rural areas.

Friday, June 29, 2012

More Jokes From the Penn State Trustees

 Penn State trustees on the day they
fired Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier




Whenever I need a couple of laughs, I turn to the bumbling self-aggrandizing antics of the Pennsylvania legislature.
            However, in the past few months, the Penn State Board of Trustees has done the near-impossible; they have provided more laughs than the menagerie in Harrisburg.
            To call either the Legislators or the Trustees “clowns” would demean the hard work of the circus performers who spend significant time to develop and execute comedy routines. There is no evidence the Trustees even have a thought process before they make outrageous and just plain silly statements.
            The latest Trustee joke is that the reason they really fired Joe Paterno abruptly on Nov. 9, 2011, is because of “a failure of leadership.” The Board released what it called a “report,” but which is nothing but a press release of rehashed statements. This “report” claims the Trustees fired Paterno after they read the Grand Jury report that outlined a series of allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, whose name is now known among more Americans than anyone who ever won a Nobel Prize.

Friday, June 22, 2012

American Patriotism in Hyper-Drive


LEE GREENWOOD  
                                                      
It’s midway between Flag Day and Independence Day.
That means several million copies of full-page flags printed on cheap newsprint, June 14, have been burned, shredded, thrown away, or perhaps recycled. It’s an American tradition.
Flag Day was created by President Wilson in 1916 on the eve of the American entry into World War I. It has since been a day to allow Americans to show how patriotic we have become, and give a running start to celebrating the Revolution by buying banners, fireworks, and charcoal briquettes for the upcoming picnic.
 Within American society is a large class of people who fly flags on 30-foot poles in front of their houses and adorn their cars with flag decals and what they believe are patriotic bumper stickers. They are also quick to let everyone know how patriotic they are, and how much less patriotic the rest of us are. But patriotism is far more than flying flags and shouting about liberty in Tea Party rallies.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Splitting Hairs in a Multi-Cultural School



Sasha Rivera is a 15-year-old sophomore at the Multi-Cultural Academy Charter School (MACS) in Philadelphia.
She’s an honors student who never got into trouble at school, and volunteers at Motivos, a national magazine for Hispanic youth.
She also has blue bangs in her dark brown hair. For that reason, she isn’t attending class.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Snipers of Jersey Shore




Garder54 calls Kevin June “a real scum.”
LadyDawg4 calls him a “sleazeball.”
Proud2bMom calls him a “liar and a thief.”
Kevin June is the reluctant leader for the 37 families of the Riverdale Mobile Home Village in Jersey Shore, Pa., who were evicted from their homes, most of which they owned and paid a monthly lot fee. Some of the residents lived there for more than three decades. Most of the residents are elderly, disabled, or living slightly above the poverty line. Several are employed; all are struggling to survive in a bad economy.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pennsylvania Politics Continues to Override Humane Actions

        
                         The deal was worked out with Sean Corr, attorney for the PGC. Corr, says Steve Hindi of SHARK, “was one of the biggest individual donors to the Bucks County Republican Committee [which had] heavily funded Heckler’s election campaign.” Heckler had been a state representative and senator and then a judge of the Bucks County Common Pleas Court. Corr, who was shooting pigeons at the PGC in December 2009, was convicted of harassment for shoving a camera into Hindi’s face; Hindi was not on PGC property at the time of the incident, according to the Doylestown Intelligencer. Corr is currently a part-time solicitor for the county.