The Lulac Edition #1489, Feb. 24th, 2011
PHOTO INDEX: RICHARD NIXON IN CHINA USING THE OLD CHOP STICKS AT A STATE DINNER, 40TH SENATORIAL DISTRICT SENATOR JANE ORIE AND OUR 1972 LOGO.
WISCONSIN, WORKING AND WOE
The actions of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker the last few days started a debate within me that I found very hard to shake. On the surface, Walker paints a picture that in this tough economy everyone should make concessions. Since tax funded jobs are always a favorite target for those who don’t have them, this politically was an easy stance to take. It was thought that conservative Walker would make a stand and then back down. He did not. It has been said that unions had their day. We were told that unions were formed to promote worker safety and fair wages. But in this the greatest country in the world, where we want for nothing, unions aren’t necessary to protect the dignity of anyone anymore. To be sure there have been abuses in unions. Just take a look at the United Mine Workers Union. I remember stories from my father who told me that after a 17 hour day of clearing snow, he had to endure a three hour meal in White Haven (more than 35 miles away from our house) because his union steward wanted to get an even twenty hours from the company. My father would’ve preferred the extra time at home. There are enough horror stories in teacher’s union too. It is no secret that some of the less proficient teachers and workers are protected by unions. I have called many times for a mass firing of the Luzerne County Courthouse because of corruption and inefficiencies begot by numerous unions. So unions are not the angelic forces that many would have us believe.
That said though, Wisconsin tells us that the conservative right, primarily supported by big business now has its eye on what was once sacrosanct, unions. American business today is not at all about people, but about profit. Years ago, business people would provide a product, they’d sell it at a fair price and then take a profit. It was enough profit to let them reinvest it in the business, give them sometimes a higher standard of living than those who bought it and in effect rewarded them for their risk. Right around the end of the 70s, unions lost their juice. In the Wilkes Barre Area, the employees of the Times Leader went on strike. Within a few days, replacement workers gladly took over. It was no longer taboo to be called a “scab”. While the early non union employees at the Leader had some rocky times, they soon subsided while the striking employees formed the Citizen’s Voice. Within 30 years, the Voice itself was absorbed by a non union paper. To date there are less than a handful of union employees at the Voice. Nationally Ronald Reagan got kudos and high heroics for firing the air traffic controllers. Union disintegration continued into sports when the NFL and baseball hired replacement players.
Meanwhile, American business started to flex its muscle. Corporations cared only about the bottom line. Eager politicians gave the companies tax breaks while weak knee Chamber of Commerces gave into their every demand. I worked for three companies that got federal money to set up shop. Only one is left (and that’s after they outsourced 75% of their jobs to India and Canada) and last I heard the starting pay is $11.00 an hour. Workers are told to be grateful for their jobs. The same workers are told they’ll be vested in a retirement plan after 5 years. Those workers never make it to five years. Super market chains come in here and offer jobs. 90% of them are part time with no health care. Even “family” businesses look out for number 1 keeping the help in line by reduction of hours or threatening to fire at will. Which they do regularly. The horse is out of the barn in our economy regarding “at will” workers. One must go into any job today thinking like a baseball manager, “you are hired to be fired”. Things can never return to the way they were in the 50s and 60s.
But given all the trepidations I have about unions, the Wisconsin story is troubling. Once a concession is taken back by an entity, whether it be business or government, it never comes back. In the mid 80s, the management at the old Sunday Independent repeatedly asked for concessions from their employees. “Help us, help you protect your jobs”. The union did. It made many concessions they never got back. One day when those union workers were coming to work, the Independent was padlocked. No notice, nothing. My question is: What good were the concessions if management couldn’t use that extra money to stay competitive?
Wisconsin is important because workers need to keep what they fought for. Empty promises just won’t cut it. Wisconsin is important because concessions always come at the expense of those who can ill afford to give it. Wisconsin is important because if this Scott Walker plan succeeds, the elimination of the middle class in this country will be complete.
State workers are an easy target. Teachers are an easy target. It’s because of envy. But that envy is fueled by $9.00 an hour jobs and no health care. It is a typical divide and conquer mentality. But the fact is government workers have not received raises in years. In states like Pennsylvania they are at the mercy of Legislators who make over $100,000 a year. The recent attempt to privatize liquor stores in Pennsylvania is as much about union busting as it is about getting a one time windfall for a strapped Commonwealth economy.
Wisconsin happened because of greed. Greed by business owners. Two years ago a local concern lost a sales contract to a competitor. At a meeting with the Executive Board, the manager was told by the company CEO, “I don’t care how you make it up, fire, cut, demote, reorganize. I don’t care what you do to get this money back. But know this: I will not change my lifestyle that I’ve been accustomed to one bit because of this. This is your problem, not mine”.
And that my friends is why Wisconsin is so important. We are at a crossroads. One bad turn and we’re done.
The recent article in the Citizen’s Voice by Dave Janoski about the circumstances regarding the tragic death of Edward R. Kenzakoski III are both compelling and confusing. The boy’s father admitted to Janoski that he and his friends set the young man up when they felt he was getting out of control by planting drug paraphernalia in his vehicle. The intention according to the father was to haul the boy before Judge Ciavarella who would “scare him straight”. Instead Ciavarella sent him to the Juvenile Detention facility. After those stint and a few brushes with the law, the young man committed suicide. After Judge Ciavarella’s conviction on 12 of the 39 counts filed against him, Kenzakoski III’s mother Sandra Fondo went off on a tirade against Judge Ciavarella holding him responsible for her child’s death. She later appeared on CNN, Good Morning America and The Today Show. With the revelation from the father, Edward Kenzakoski Junior that he had a hand in all of this illustrates just how complex these cases are. Surely Judge Ciavarella had a hand in all of this young man’s spiral downward but it appears as if he came in on the second or third act of this drama. I am not defending Ciavarella here and I am very sympathetic to the loss of any young person who’s potential is cut short by an untimely death. But the Juvenile system, such as it is or was or will be cannot be blamed fully. It can share part of the blame but not all of it. My sister taught first grade for over thirty years in a local school district. When parents brought their kids to her, more than a few would say, “Thank God he or she has you. Now maybe you can do something with them”. My sister replied that the foundation for good, bad or indifference had already been built. There is a role of personal parental responsibility and in the case of divorced parents, (as the Kenzakoski Case) there has to be communication. And perhaps there was but I can’t believe that after Ms. Fondo’s passionate plea against the Judge that she would permit her ex to “set up” her son.
The other day the Times Leader had a story about a young woman who wanted to be a doctor. At the age of thirteen she threatened her grandmother and even though her relative dropped the charges she was sent away anyway. After her release she broke a few rules. Then a few laws. At the age of twenty she now has two babies. Even though Ciavarella sent her away, how is he responsible for her opening her legs and having those babies?
A few months ago I was going to The Bake House. As Mrs. LuLac drove to a parking space, this guy kept on eye balling me in as I sat in the passenger seat. It was a kid I knew from Hanover Area who was hell on wheels back then. He had a few runs in with the law and dropped out of school. No one gave him a chance. He has a business in Kingston now and has two kids who he told me proudly are on the honor roll. Why I asked him how he did, all he said was, “It was time to get my shit together and I did”. Now I understand that everybody can’t be this guy but everybody sent to the Detention Center by Ciavarella can’t be without blame either.
A hard look at the schools has to take place too. The “zero tolerance” policy gave administrators and teachers an easy out in handing over to authorities any kid who was a pain in the ass. So if someone broke a window (or in my case when I was in the 8th grade with my buddy Paul Komensky a plate glass door) is that warranting a kid being sent away? And where was the legal profession in all of this? Like any line of work, attorneys gossip. You mean to tell me that local lawyers didn’t know that Ciavarella before and after Pa. Child Care wanted to make a name for himself as a “tough little bastard”? Anyone who observed Ciavarella’s demeanor in Court knew this guy wasn’t going to be warm and fuzzy. Did anyone not know that he loved to run a tight court where disposing of the cases was more important than actually hearing them? Ciavarella, like former Judghe Ann Lokuta’s behavior in all those years did not occur in a vacuum. There were warning signs but parents, school officials, lawyers, the probation office , and the courts took the easy way out. Perhaps Judge Ciavarella’s greatest crime will never be on the court ledger. Perhaps his greatest sin was that in terms of the easy way out, Ciavarella let everyone take it.
The race is heating up for Luzerne County Council. Here are some names being bandied about. On the GOP side you have Michael Cabell, Kathy Dobash, Harry Haas, Rick Morelli, Gina Nevenglosky, Moderno "Butch" Rossi, John C. Ruckno, Linda Urban, Frank Vandermark and Edward Warkevicz.
The Democrats have an array of candidates running too. They are; Michelle Bednar, Kevin Casey, Casey Evans, Mario Fiorucci, Thomas Ksiezopolski, Thomas Rome, Gary Reese, Wil Toole and Bruce J. Simpson. Plus there are still at least another 15 who have told me that they are in "the mulling stage".
BORTHWICK KICK OFF
Tom Borthwick for Scranton School Board Campaign Kick-Off will be at Kilcoyne's, Friday, March 11 at 6:00pm. Borthwick is a candidate for Scranton School Board and will cross file.
Republican State Sen. Jane Orie's former chief of staff said the lawmaker tried to cover up campaign work being done by her taxpayer-funded staff after learning an intern had reported the activity to authorities in October 2009. Those darn interns!
Orie's former top aide, Jamie Pavlot, continued testifying this week in the corruption trial of the senator and her sister, Janine Orie, that the senator told Pavlot to post a sign on a seldom-used office upstairs of Orie's legislative office to make it appear that location was the campaign headquarters of a third sister, now-state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. Pavlot said Orie also hand wrote a letter later sent to the intern and her professors at the University of Pittsburgh denying campaign work was ever done by the senator's staff on state time.
We first met Attorney Vito DeLuca when he campaigned for rejection of the Home Rule Charter in the County. He’s running for Luzerne County Judge now having hosted a campaign kick off at Alden Manor. To learn more about Attorney Vito DeLuca’s candidacy for Luzerne County Judge please visit his website at www.VitoDeLuca.com.
King’s College Government and Mass Communications Students and departments hosted a fine event this week at the college. Both Congressmen Lou Barletta and Tom Marino were on a panel hosted by Sue Henry. It was a very good meeting exhibiting the interest young people have in government.
Penn State students raised A record $9.56 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital at the annual Thon. The Four Diamonds Fund benefits pediatric cancer patients. About 700 dancers kicked up their heels for the 46-hour dance marathon, which is billed as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
This week on Saturday Night Live at the Oldies, tune in when Shadoe Steele’s guest is the biggest 70s novelty hits artist, of Cheech and Chong - Tommy Chong live from Stamford, Connecticut 8 - 9 PM. Saturday Live At the Oldies is on WILK AM & FM Saturday from 7PM to midnight with ABC News on the hour.
Join WARM’s Brian Hughes at 9:30AM for his weekly public affairs program “Sunday Magazine”. This Week on Sunday Magazine Brian Hughes speaks with Andy Mehalshick from WBRE-TV about the aftermath of former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella's corruption trial, and what's next in the ongoing federal corruption probe, And Brian speaks with Doctors Jeffrey Becker and Robert Bohlander from the Neurosensory Center of Eastern Pennsylvania in Kingston on a wide variety of ailments treated by the center, ranging from Autism and ADHD to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Disorders. Sunday Magazine, Sunday morning at 5:30am on JR 93.7, 6am on 97BHT & 97.9 X, 6:30 on Magic 93, and 9:30am on WARM 590 AM.
Tune in every day at 5:30 and for the rebroadcast at 11:30PM to Topic A on WYLN TV 35You can see WYLN TV 35 on Service Electric Channel 7 in Wilkes Barre.
President Nixon continues his historic trip to China this week 39 years ago……
As the economy in Pennsylvania rebounds, Governor Shapp singles out his legislative Democratic leadership in the General Assembly--Senators Murray and House Speaker Howard Fineman, Majority Leader Leroy Irvis and Majority Whip James Manderino—for shepherding his income tax proposal in the previos year…….in the 117th District, Shickshinny’s George Hasay announces that he will run as a Republican for State Representative........ and 39 years ago today, the number 1song in America and LuLac land was “Sweet Seasons” by Carole King.