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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Trayvon Martin Case: A Lesson Still to be Learned


by Walter Brasch

For years, my father, a federal employee with a top secret clearance, carried a copy of his birth certificate when he went into Baja California from our home in San Diego. Many times, when he tried to reenter the U.S., he was stopped by the Border Patrol.
            My father had thick black hair and naturally dark skin, and the Patrol thought he was a Mexican brazenly trying to sneak back into the country by claiming to be married to the black-haired, blue- eyed, light-skinned woman he claimed was his wife. Once back home, he faced discrimination because neighbors thought he was Mexican; the ones who knew better discriminated because he was a Jew.
            When I was 11 years old, we moved about 120 miles north to a suburb of Los Angeles. My parents bought a house in a new tract of about 150 houses, all owned by Whites and a few Hispanics. Three or four years later, a Realtor came by, plastering flyers on all the houses, announcing he had a special real good, one-time only deal. A few wouldn’t sell their houses at any price if it was a Black who was planning to move into the area. Someone in the tract finally took up the offer, and a Black family—he was a mechanical engineer—moved in. It didn’t take long before other White families began putting their houses up for sale. Only this time, they weren’t getting as much as the first family that sold out. Soon, the prices began tumbling as other Blacks and Hispanics moved in.
            Eventually, the first Black family moved out. But my parents refused to sell their house. They had no intention of becoming involved with what was now known as “block busting.” A few of our Hispanic and Black neighbors wondered why we stayed; some even said we were crazy. But, until my father died in 1983, he owned that house in a neighborhood that went from almost 100 percent White to almost 100 percent Black, Hispanic, and lower-class White, refusing to be sucked in by racism.
            Discrimination occurs throughout our country, whether we want to believe it or not. Just in the past year, thousands of incidents show that America still has a long ways to go.      At a synagogue in Sunbury, Pa., someone painted a swastika. In New York City, unidentified individuals threw several Molotov cocktails against a rabbi’s residence. These weren’t isolated incidents. The Anti-Defamation League says there were 1,239 reported incidents in 2010. (The 2011 number is still being tallied.)
            Several American communities and the states of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah have enacted oppressive anti-immigration laws. On the surface, it appears they want to rid their areas of illegal immigrants, acting only to protect law-and-order. But, the deeper structure is that they fear Hispanics, more of them legal immigrants or citizens of the U.S. than undocumented workers, will get political, educational, and financial power and would reduce the influence of the ultra-conservative White population.
            At the University of California at San Diego, a fraternity of Whites sent out invitations to a “ghetto-themed” party, which it called the “Compton Cookout.” The invitation noted that “ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes.” At that same school last year, a Klan hood was placed on a statue of Dr. Seuss.
            In Kentucky, two men shouting anti-gay slurs kidnapped and beat a gay man. In Tulsa, Okla., an 18-year-old was beaten unconscious by men shouting slurs.
            Several firebombs were thrown at an Islamic cultural center and a Hindu house of worship in New York City. Throughout the country, local government and citizens, in defiance of the First Amendment, are trying to prohibit the building of mosques and cultural centers.
            At innumerable local schools, where the teachers had “cultural diversity” classes in college and on-the-job “diversity training,” it’s not unusual to hear a few teachers telling racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic jokes, not just among themselves in a faculty lounge but also with students. 
            White supremacists shout for “White Pride!” and Black militants call for “Black Power!” Each claims they aren’t planning to destroy any other race--although myriad Klan and Skinhead actions prove otherwise--but merely to strengthen their own. Add into the mix, a few who will shout “racism” when no racism occurs and, thus, make it difficult for those with true compassion for justice to separate the truth from the fiction. Peel the rhetoric, and the core is still fear.
            And that may be why the death of Trayvon Martin is so important. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader in Sanford, Fla., killed Martin, Feb. 26. Zimmerman acknowledges he killed Martin, but claims it was in self-defense. Under Florida’s reactionary “stand your ground” law, borne from fear rather than logic, people who feel threatened can take whatever action they think necessary, even shooting Black teenagers who are armed only with a pack of Skittles.
            There are numerous versions of what happened, all of them advanced by myriad people with social and political agendas rather than a search for justice, no matter what they claim. But, fear is at the core of the rhetoric.  Mistrust and distrust, often fueled by the mass media with their own agendas, may lead some to irrationally believe that entire demographics of people—White, Black, Hispanic, gay, Jew, Muslim—may pose threats to their own safety, leading them to react as if the threats were real rather than imagined.
            The reasons no longer matter to Trayvon Martin. The lesson however, should matter to the rest of us.
            [Walter Brasch is the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. distinguished service award. His latest book is Before the First Snow; a major theme of the book looks at issues of racism and bigotry. The book is available from Greeley & Stone Publishers or amazon, in both hardcover and ebook formats.]

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spearing a Tax Deduction

Britney Spears' bedroom in the Kentwood Museum

Fun Game for Readers: See if you can find the hidden
song titles in this column. 

by Walter Brasch

            On a bright Monday morning, a day before tax returns were due, I bumped into my ersatz friend Marshbaum who was placing a change container at the Gas-High Mini-mart on Low Octane and Greed avenues.
            “March of Dimes?” I asked.
            “Dimes. Quarters. Ten-dollar bills. Whatever.”
            Since he misunderstood my question, I tried it another way.
            “What charity? Humane Society? MS? Veterans Relief?”
            “Even better. A museum.”
            “Science museum for kids? Art museum?”
            “Not even close.”
            “I’m not playing 20 Questions. Put the danged label on your change can.” From a tattered vinyl briefcase, Marshbaum took out a peelable label proclaiming donations for the “Marshbaum Museum of American Culture.”
            “You can drop your spare change into it now.”
            “What’s the scam?” I asked suspiciously.
            “No scam. Legitimate museum. Just like the Historic Voodoo Museum, the International Toaster Museum, and Britney Spears’ one.”
            “Britney Spears has a museum?”
            “Not really a museum, but four rooms in a museum in her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana. Been there more than a decade. Even has a scale model replica of the stage of her HBO concert and a full-scale replica of her pre-teen bedroom.”
            “Just because she can dance, flash skin, and lip sync at the same time doesn’t warrant a museum. And in your case, even if you do build a monument, it will remain as empty as your own life.”
            “I shall build it, and they will come.”
            “They will come and be taken.”
            “I got credibility,” Marshbaum said, wounded by my skepticism. “I took first place in Air Guitar at the county fair. If I had a gaggle of marketing geniuses and choreographers, I’d be bumping and grinding before every teen, making millions, and creating designer labels.”
            “I doubt you’d have even enough to fill a small case.”
            “I think I’ll have three sections. Just like the Queen of Bubblegum Pop. Teething years. Mouseketeer years. Pop star--”
            “Marshbaum! You weren’t ever a Mouseketeer.”
            “I watched them. I’m donating my TV set. It’s the same age as Britney.”
            “And how do you justify your pop star section?” I asked sarcastically.
            “I eat Pop Tarts all the time. I should have a used box somewhere.”
            “Mold has no value outside a lab.”
            “IRS doesn’t think so.”
            “The IRS may be moldy, but I doubt--” I didn’t even have to finish the sentence. Revelation and french horns played all at once. “It is a scam, isn’t it! Most people have yard sales. You’re donating junk to a bogus museum and taking tax deductions.”
            “And you think Miss Oops-I-Did-It-Again isn’t? She’s a one percenter who have found loopholes in loopholes to tax cheat the people. Probably pays less tax than the person who stuffs her into her costumes. Their whole philosophy is Gimme More. And why should we hold it against her till the end of time? She’s probably getting tax deductions for her traffic tickets and marriage certificates. Probably a half-fortune for her clothes. She has more costumes than an elementary school at Halloween. I mean where else would she put all that drek and get paid for it?”
            “Are you really serious about this scam?”
            “From the bottom of my broken heart.”

            [Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed social issues comedy, Before the First Snow, available through http://www.greeleyandstone.com or amazon.]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reality, News Perception, and Accuracy


By Walter Brasch


She quietly walked into the classroom from the front and stood there, just inside the door, against a wall.
            I continued my lecture, unaware of her presence until my students’ eyes began focusing upon her rather than me.
            “Yes?” I asked. Just “yes.” Nothing more.
            “You shouldn’t have done it,” she said peacefully. I was confused. So she said it again, this time a little sharper.
            “Ma’am,” I began, but she cut me off. I tried to defuse the situation, but couldn’t reason with her. She pulled a gun from her purse and shot me, then quickly left. I recovered immediately.
            It took less than a minute.
            The scene was an exercise in a newswriting class, unannounced but highly planned. My assignment was for the students to quickly write down everything they could about the incident. What happened. What was said. What she looked like. What she was wearing. Just the facts. Nothing more.
            Everyone got some of the information right, but no one got all the facts, even the ones they were absolutely positively sure they saw or heard correctly. And, most interestingly, the “gun” the visitor used and which the students either couldn’t identify or misidentified was in reality a . . . banana; a painted black banana, but a banana nevertheless. The actual gun shot was on tape broadcast by a hidden recorder I activated.
            It was a lesson in observation and truth. Witnesses often get the facts wrong, unable to distinguish events happening on top of each other. Sometimes they even want to “help” the reporter and say what they think the reporter wants to hear.
            Reporters are society’s witnesses who record history by interviewing other witnesses, and they all make mistakes not because they want to but because everyone’s experiences and perceptions fog reality.
            Of the infinite number of facts and observations that occur during a meeting, reporters must select a few, and then place them in whatever order they think is most important. Which few they select, which thousands they don’t select--and, more important--which facts they don’t even know exist--all make up a news story, usually written under deadline pressure. Thus, it isn’t unusual for readers to wonder how reporters could have been in the same meeting as they were since the published stories didn’t seem to reflect the reality of the meeting.
            But there are some facts that are verifiable. We know that a South American country is spelled “Colombia,” not “Columbia.” We know that Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive Republican. And we know that the current World Series champions are the St. Louis Cardinals not, regrettably, the San Diego Padres.
            But, for far too many in my profession, facts and the truth are subverted by a process that has become he said/she said journalism. We take notes at meetings, recording who said what. If there are conflicting statements, we try to quote all the opinions, even the dumb ones, believing we are being “fair and balanced.” If  a news source says the world is flat, we write that, and then see if we can find someone who will say that it is round—or maybe square.
            When we write features and personality profiles, we tend to take what we are told, craft it into snappy paragraphs, and hope the readers don’t fall asleep. If someone shyly tells us he earned a Silver Star for heroism during the Vietnam War, we don’t demand to see the certificate—or question how a 50 year old, who was wasn’t even in his teens when the war ended, could actually have served during the Vietnam war.
            At the local level, although we’re trained to be cynical, we aren’t. If a mayor or police chief tells us something, we attribute the quote, figuring we did our duty. Maybe we ask a couple of questions, but we tend not to pursue them—we have far too many stories to write and far too little time. Besides, if the facts are wrong, we believe we’re “protected,” since it’s not we who said it but someone else. Legally, of course, we’re still responsible for factual error even if someone else said it and we accurately quote that person, but we don’t worry about the technicalities.
            Adequate reporters get their facts from people in authority; the great reporters know truth is probably known by the secretaries, custodians, and other workers. We just have to find the right sources, dig out the facts, and verify them.
            And now comes another presidential election, and we continue to perpetuate lies by not challenging those who spout them. Rick Santorum says California’s public colleges don’t teach American history—and we write down his lie. Mitt Romney claims he never said the Massachusetts health care plan was a model for the entire country, that Barack Obama never mentioned the deficit during his state of the union or that the President is constantly apologizing for America, and we write that without challenge. Newt Gingrich, like most Republican candidates for president and Congress, wants us to believe he’s an “outsider” and a fiscal conservative, and we go along with the fiction. Barack Obama said he’d be a leader for defending Constitutional rights, yet willingly signed an extension of the PATRIOT Act, which curtails civil liberties. Pick a candidate—any candidate, any party—and we think we’re “fair” because we record what he or she said, even of it’s a lie, a half-truth, an exaggeration, a distortion, or a misconception. Perhaps American politicians have internalized the wisdom of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels who said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
            Quoting people isn’t journalism—it’s clerking. We’re merely taking words, transcribing them, and publishing them. Journalism demands we challenge our sources and find the truth. As one grizzled city editor said in the late 19th century, if your mother claims to be your mother, demand a birth certificate. It was good advice then; it’s even better advice now.
            [In a 40-year career as a journalist and professor, Dr. Brasch has won more than 200 awards for excellence in journalism in investigative reporting, feature writing, and for his weekly column. His current book is the critically-acclaimed novel Before the First Snow, which helps explain the rise of the Occupy and anti-fracking movements.]

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Collateral Damage in the Marcellus Shale

by Walter Brasch

            There’s nothing to suggest that in his 51 years Kevin June should be a leader.
            Not from his high school where he dropped out after his freshman year.
            Not from his job, where he worked as an auto body technician for more than 35 years.
            Both of his marriages ended in divorce, but did produce two children, a 31-year-old son and a 28-year-old daughter.
            June readily admits that for most of his life, beginning about 14 when he began drinking heavily, he was a drunk. Always beer. Almost always to excess. But, he will quickly tell you how many weeks he has been sober. It’s now 56, he says proudly.
            In October 2008 he was in an auto accident, when he swerved to miss a deer and hit an oak tree head on. That’s when he learned MRIs showed he had been suffering from degenerative arthritis. Between the accident and the arthritis, he was off work for three months. Then, in May 2009, he was laid off when the company moved.
            The pain is now so severe that after about 10 minutes, he has to sit.
            Unable to work, surviving on disability income that brings him $1,300 a month, just $392.50 above the poverty line, he lives in the 12-acre Riverdale Mobile Home Village, along the Susquehanna River near Jersey Shore north-central Pennsylvania. The village has a large green area where families can picnic, relax, or play games, sharing the space with geese and all kinds of animals.
            For most of the six years June lived in the village, he kept to himself—chatting with neighbors now and then, but nothing that would ever suggest he’d be a leader. The last time he led anything was almost two decades earlier when he was president of a 4-wheel club.
            On Feb. 18, the residents found out their landlord had sold the park, only after reading a story in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. The landlord, who the residents say did what he could to make their village safe and attractive, later came to each of the 37 families. He told the families he sold the park and they would have two months to leave. It was abrupt. Business-like. “We knew he was planning to sell,” says June, “but we all thought it would be to someone who would allow us to stay.”
            Four days after the residents were ordered to move, certified letters made it official. The owner sold the park to Aqua PVR, a division of Aqua America, headquartered in Bryn Mawr. Sale price was $550,000. It may have been a bargain—land and industrial parks that have been vacant for years are going for premium sales prices as the natural gas boom in the Marcellus Shale consumes a large part of Pennsylvania and four surrounding states.
            Aqua had received permission from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) to withdraw three million gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna; the 37 families of the mobile home village would just be in the way. The company intends to build a pump station and create a pipe system to provide water to natural gas companies that use hydraulic fracturing, the preferred method to extract natural gas from as deep as 10,000 feet beneath the earth. The process, known as fracking, requires a mixture of sand, chemicals, many of them toxins, and anywhere from one to nine million gallons of water per well, injected into the earth at high pressure. Jersey Shore sits in a northeastern part of the Marcellus Shale, which is believed to hold about 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
            Aqua isn’t the only company planning to take water in the area. Anadarko E & P Co. and Range Resources-Appalachia have each applied to withdraw up to three million gallons a day from the Susquehanna. While the Delaware River Basic Commission, and the states of New York and Maryland, have imposed moratoriums upon the use of fracking until full health and environmental impacts can be assessed, Pennsylvania and the SRBC have been handing out permits by the gross.
            Most residents had only a vague knowledge of fracking and what it is doing to the earth. “They have a lot more knowledge now,” says June, as politically aware as any environmentalist.
            Aqua had originally ordered the residents to leave by May 1, but then extended it to the end of the month. It dangled a $2,500 relocation allowance in its eviction.
            However, the cost to move a trailer to another park is $6,000–$11,000, plus extra for skirting, sheds, and any handicap-accessible external ramps. But, most trailers can’t be moved. “These are older trailers,” says June. His is a 12-by-70, built in 1974, with a tin roof and tin siding (“tin-on-tin”); like others, it isn’t sturdy enough to survive a move. But even if it did, there would be no place to put it. The parks want the newer trailers, but most parks are full.
            So, the residents began looking in the classified ads for rentals. Because the natural gas companies are bringing in thousands of employees to frack the land, there is a shortage of apartments, most with inflated prices to take advantage of the well-paid roustabouts, drivers, and technicians who moved into the area, and spend their money on local businesses eager to improve their own profits. During the past two years, rents have doubled and tripled. “None of us can pay a thousand or more a month,” says June. The current mobile home owners paid $200 a month for their lot.  
            Not long after he was served his own eviction notice, June had a dream. Some might call it a nightmare; some might see it as he did, a religious experience. “It was Jesus coming to me, telling me I had to do something,” he says.
            June is constantly on the move, going from trailer to trailer to help the families who were abruptly evicted. Whatever their needs, Kevin June tries to provide it, constantly on the phone, running up phone bills he knows he can’t afford but does so anyhow because the lives of his neighbors matter.
            There’s Betty and William Whyne. Betty, 82, began working as a waitress at the age of 13 and now, in retirement, makes artificial Christmas trees. She has a cancerous tumor in the same place where a breast was removed in 1991. William, 72, who was an electrician, carpenter, and plumber before he retired after a heart attack, goes to a dialysis center three times a week, four hours each time. They brought their 12-wide 1965 Fleetwoood trailer to the village shortly after the 1972 flood. Like the other residents, they can’t afford to move; they can’t find adequate housing. “We’ve looked at everything in about a 30 mile radius,” they say. They earn $1,478 a month from retirement, only $252.17 above the federal poverty line. One son is in New Jersey; one is in Texas, and the Whynes don’t want to leave the area; they shouldn’t have to.
            There’s April and Eric Daniels. She’s a stay-at-home mom for their two children; he’s a truck driver whose hours have been reduced. Their 14-by-70 trailer is valued at $13,200; she and her husband were in the process of remodeling it, had already paid $5,000 for improvements, and were about to start building a second bathroom. April Daniels had grown up living in a series of foster houses, “so I know what it’s like to move around, but this was my first home, and it’s harder for me to leave.” Their trailer provides a good home, but can’t be moved. “We’re pretty much on the verge of just tearing down the trailer and living in a camper,” she says. They don’t know what will happen. They do know that because of what they see as Aqua’s insensitivity, they will lose a lot of money no matter what they do.
            Doris Fravel, 82, a widow on a fixed income of $1,326 a month, has lived in the village 38 years. She’s proud of her 1974 12-wide trailer with the tin roof. “I painted it every year,” she says. In June, she paid $3,580 for a new air conditioner; she recently paid $3,000 for new insulated skirting. The trailer has new carpeting. Unlike most of the residents, she found housing—a $450 a month efficiency. But it’s far smaller than her current home. So she’s sold or given away most of what she owns. She may have a buyer for the trailer, and will take $2,500 for it, considerably less than it’s worth. “I can’t do anything else,” she says. “I just can’t move my furnishings into the new apartment,” she says.  Like the other residents, she has family who are helping, but there’s only so much help any family can provide. “I never knew I would ever have to leave,” she says, but she does want to “see one of those gas men come to my door—and I’d like to punch him in the shoulder.”
            Not only are there few lots available and apartments are too expensive, but most residents don’t qualify for a house mortgage; and there are waiting lists for senior citizen and low-income housing. The stories are the same.
            No one from Aqua has been in touch with any resident. But, the company did hire a local real estate agency. The agency claims it has made extraordinary efforts to help the residents find other housing. The residents disagree. April Daniels says “some of the Realtors have gotten real nasty with the people in the park—they just don’t understand that we are all in a hardship, so we get mad and frustrated and take it out on them.” But there really isn’t much anyone can do. The natural gas boom has made affordable housing as obsolete as the anthracite coal that once drove the region’s energy economy.
            The residents, with limited incomes, have lived good lives; they are good people. They paid their rents and fees on time; they kept up the appearances of their trailers and the land around it. They worked their jobs; they survived. Until they were evicted
            And now it’s up to the residents to try to survive. They have become closer; they listen to each other; they hug each other; and, the tough men aren’t afraid to let others see them cry. “The pain in this park is almost too much at times,” says June.
            If something goes wrong, the residents have to fix it; Kevin June is the one they call. If he can’t fix a problem, he finds someone who can. In this trailer park, as in most communities, there is a lot of talent—“we help each other,” says June. His job is to make sure the residents survive. I’ve had the Holy Spirit running through my veins a long time, but it’s running real deep right now,” he says.
            A half-dozen families have already moved, but most say they will stay and fight what they see as a politically-based corporate takeover.
            During the week Aqua PVR issued eviction notices, its parent company issued a news release, boasting that its revenue for 2011 was $712 million, a 4.2 percent increase from the year before; its net income was $143.1 million, up 15.4 percent from the previous year. But, for some reason, the company just couldn’t find enough money to give the residents a fair moving settlement. “They just expect us to throw our homes into the street and live in tents,” says June.
            “I went to see a state representative to ask what he could do to help,” he says, “but his secretary just coldly told me there was nothing that could be done because whoever owns a property can do with it what he wants to do.” He never saw the state representative.
            The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—armed with an industry-favorable law recently rammed through by the Republican-controlled legislature and eagerly signed by a first-term Republican governor who received more than $1,6 million in campaign contributions from the energy industry—has decided that fracking the earth, threatening health and the environment, is far better for business than taking care of the people.
            Kevin June and 36 families are just collateral damage.
            [Tax-deductible donations may be made to the Riverdale Fund, c/o Sovereign Bank, 222 Allegheny St., Jersey Shore, Pa. 17740; 570-398-1540. Dr. Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist and author of 17 books. His current book is Before the First Snow, available in hardcover and ebook editions from Greeley & Stone, Publishers; amazon; and other book stores.]

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Late Great Commonwealth: Catching Up to the Republican Primary


                            by Walter  Brasch

            It’s the beginning of April, and that means I just finished celebrating New Year’s Eve, and will soon begin shopping for Valentine’s gifts. In a month or two, I may even get around to toasting St. Patrick.
            It’s not procrastination, it’s just that I’m a Pennsylvanian, and the state encourages me to be behind the times. At one time, Pennsylvania was first in just about everything-—and then Ben Franklin died. Since then, we’ve been first in ridiculous license plate slogans.
            When other states, including those settled by Puritans, got rid of their “blue laws,” Pennsylvania still bans the sale of cars on Sundays. By archaic practices, it still allows municipal governments and school districts to raise taxes and create more buildings without giving the people the right of a vote, common in most states. It is also the only state that still taxes people for income, property, and their occupation. Forty-nine other states believe pigeon shoots are animal cruelty; we proudly proclaim our state as the last bastion of the right to “bear arms and blast birds.” And, we don’t allow Independents to vote in our primaries.
            Iowa, with anomalies known as a straw poll and a caucus, is the first major battleground in presidential races, having usurped New Hampshire, which thought having the official primary was a birthright dating to when granite first showed up in the state. Nevertheless, whether Iowa or New Hampshire, Americans understand that the people need something to break them out of their Winter funk when snow covers what will eventually become cornfields in Iowa and the ski lifts of New Hampshire will no longer be inoperable because of blizzards.
            With nothing else to do in January, the media schussed into the Hawkeye State—just as soon as they could find enough chauffeurs to drive them to wherever Iowa is. With megawatt lights and dimly-lit minds, they infiltrated the state so that the voters not only had their own individualized politicians, they also had their own puppy-dog reporters prancing brightly behind them to the coffee shop, factory, and bathroom.
            Surrounded by the media who smugly said they were only telling the public what they needed to know to defend and preserve democracy—and millions in advertising revenue—the candidates played to the press, attacking each other rather than attacking the issues. In neatly-packaged seven-second sound bites, politicians and the media sliced, diced, and crunched the campaign to fit onto a 21-inch screen.
            Because of an inner need to believe they matter, the media predict who will win the nomination, changing their predictions as quickly as a fashionista changes shoes. For what seemed to be decades, the ink-stained bandwagon has pulled voters and campaign dollars, and left Pennsylvania voters waiting at the altar for candidates who don’t care anymore, abandoned by the media who have found other “stories of the week.”
            For all practical purposes, the Pennsylvania primaries, with large slates of uncontested local and state races, is about as useless as a Department of Ethnic Studies at Bob Jones University. By the time the 2000 primary rolled into Pennsylvania, Al Gore and George W. Bush each had 65 percent of the delegate vote needed for their parties’ nomination. In 2004, Bush and John Kerry had already locked up the nominations. In 2008, Pennsylvania became a pivotal state for the Democrats for the first time since 1976, with Hillary Clinton defeating Barack Obama before losing the nomination by June. For the Republicans, it was “business as usual,” with John McCain having already sewn up the nomination.
            A Republican needs 1,144 delegate votes to get the nomination. Mitt Romney, America’s best runner-up, has 568; two-term senator Rick Santorum, recovering from a blistering loss to a moderate Democrat in Pennsylvania’s 2006 Senate campaign, has 273; Ron Paul, who may or may not be a Republican, has 50. Newt Gingrich has 135 delegates; however, this week he announced he downsized his staff and campaign, and is layin’ low—except, of course, for the times he can get free TV time to lambaste Romney and Santorum who are engaged in a vicious personal battle that has bubbled out of the TV ad cauldron.
            The April 3 primaries will add a maximum of 98 delegates. And that brings Super Northeast Tuesday, April 24. The Republican leftovers and their never-ending TV ads will blitz Pennsylvania, which might even become relevant.
            Even if Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island—and Pennsylvania with 72 of the 231 delegate votes—go for Romney, it won’t be enough to get him the nomination. However, it will be enough to cause major financial backers to pull their support for Santorum and what’s left of the Gingrich campaign, leaving Romney to flip-flop into the Republican nomination convention, Aug. 27, in Tampa, Fla.—which seems to be the Republicans’ destiny.
            [Dr. Brasch has covered political campaigns for more than three decades. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed fast-paced mystery Before the First Snow, available at amazon.com and his publisher, Greeley & Stone.]Within the next week, another nine states voted.