Observing the strike at West Chester University

This morning I went over to West Chester University to check out the second day of the strike there. No one enjoys or wants a strike. I know higher education from both sides, at four different institutions, as a faculty member and administrator for about equal lengths of time till I retired. I spoke with several faculty members (which include librarians) in the picket lines that ring the main campus.

The mood was quite upbeat. The strikers felt they were making their point and appreciated the strong support in evidence from students, who were circulating to offer coffee or water to the picketers or joining them with signs. Students were also lightening the atmosphere by performing music at the corner of High St. and University Ave. “Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions,” one sign there proclaimed.

Here are some perceptions I heard of the issues at stake.

1) Support for higher education. There was concern that the state’s contribution to the State System of Higher Education has been slipping. One can blame not only administrative priorities but also the often tortuous budget process in Harrisburg (talk to your state senator or representative about that).

2) Top leadership. I heard from several that the Chancellor is not interested enough in faculty welfare or student outcomes. “I think it’s really unconscionable that this Chancellor has not advocated for students,” one professor told me. The Chancellor apparently claims that faculty work only 17 hours a week, counting only in-class and office time and ignoring preparation time, reading homework and exams, email and phone contact with students outside of office hours, and so on. I can tell you, being either a faculty member of an administrator is much more than a 40 hour a week job.

3) Adjuncts. These are teachers who have no long-term contract and are pretty much at the call of the administration semester by semester. They are union members (or otherwise pay the “fair share” from their paychecks), just like the permanent faculty, but don’t enjoy the same rate of pay or benefits. The State system’s proposal to have adjuncts teach a 5th class has now come off the negotiating table. No one, in my experience, can teach that many classes and maintain the standards that students deserve. “Permanent” faculty now teach 4 + 4 (i.e., 8 classes a year), which is already quite high where research and governance participation are expected. Assigning more classes to adjuncts would further reduce the ratio of permanent faculty.

4) Pay and health insurance. These did not seem to be at the top of the faculty list, even though pay may rise just enough to offset unwelcome increases in health costs to faculty. I heard opposition to planned cuts for faculty development, though, and also criticism of the System’s attempt to divide faculty by giving different health plans to future and current faculty after they retire. As I witnessed long ago during a faculty strike at Boston University, “divide and conquer” is a usual management technique.

5) Class size.
I heard concern that the number of students per class will continue to rise until it pushes the fire code limit, which in many classrooms is 40 (except that the new Business School can go higher). Obviously, the more students, the less interaction time per student in class and the more pressure on faculty not to assign time-intensive work like term papers and essay-type exams.
6) Distance education. The System is said to be pushing distance education (i.e., not in class but via a screen) as “more efficient.” From what I saw, faculty aren’t against some uses of distance ed but feel that if substituted for a real classroom experience, it’s one more threat to academic quality. One professor feared that students might be forced to take distance education courses, whether they wanted or not.

At the end I spoke with Ed Lordan, spokesperson for the WCU APSCUF union. He sees the strike as going well, with solid faculty involvement and lots of student support. After 15 fruitless months of negotiation and without a contract, he said, this strike has to solve the pending issues; this effort is not short-term, but will benefit students 10 and 20 years from now.

More info:

APSCUF – lots more problems the faculty union sees in the State system’s position

State System of Higher Education – their view of the negotiations and strike

WCU web site strike info


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Gerrymandering is the real election fraud

Today I needed to remember where congressional district 7 is. Over there to the east of West Chester, right? Right. I looked it up. But it’s also south, west and north of West Chester.


On this map of the local districts, the green in the upper right quadrant is part of the 6th district. The blue that meanders around its edges is part of the 7th district. The green projection from Oxford to Coatesville belongs to the 16th district.

And so it goes on all sides: The 6th district sticks its neck out north to Kutztown and west to Lebanon. The left lobe of district 7 reaches almost to Reading and the right lobe beyond King of Prussia; those two parts are linked by a slender corridor between Coatesville and Downington. The 16th district extends from our area all the way to the Susquehanna River and north to Reading.

What mental wing housed the person who designed these districts? Sad to say, it’s the Pennsylvania General Assembly, that is, our elected officials in Harrisburg.

Their madness has inspired some people’s creative side. In a contest called by Chesco state senator Andy Dinniman (D-19), the winning title for CD 7 was “Bullwinkle J. Moose,” after a children’s cartoon character of that name.


The madness of gerrymandering, however, is all in the self-interest of the perpetrators. After the Tea Party propelled the Republican party to a big majority in both the State Senate and House on 2010, their party forced these districts through Harrisburg, violating all norms of community and all convenience of legislators, candidates, and voters. Their point was to push as many Democrats as possible into a few districts and give the Republicans winning margins in the rest. It worked brilliantly: the state has a lot more registered Democrats, but a lot more Republicans elected to Harrisburg and Washington.

This is not just politics as usual. It has risen to the level of anti-American election rigging, to use a term popularized this year on both the left and the right. Non-existent “voter impersonation fraud” is used as an excuse to disenfranchise millions of Americans (miraculously, that effort was beaten back in our own state, but will corrupt outcomes in many others) and meanwhile, gerrymandering makes a mockery of what should be an honest, open effort to determine the will of the people. You know, “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” as the first Republican president phrased it long ago.

The people in Harrisburg who put through this ignoble scheme should be ashamed of themselves. I hope they will soon have a lot of free time in which to repent.

What’s to be done? The two major parties need to come to approximate parity in Harrisburg before the next redrawing of boundaries, after the census of 2020. It would be helpful if a few Libertarians and Greens joined the mix and induced the others to see the folly of trying to undo democratic representation for the sake of party interests and personal careers. Then, “our” state government could change redistricting to a non-partisan process that would draw all districts as compactly (and non-creatively) as possible and split up the fewest municipalities possible.

Too much to dream for? Not for me.

The public interest group Common Cause has been trying to reform Pennsylvania redistricting since 1980. In 2015 a few legislators formed a working group to work on reform. I wish them luck. For the sake of public confidence in our government, we must end, as soon as possible, the massive election fraud of gerrymandering.

PS 10/21/16: for more PA background, see the comment and reply below. For the history of gerrymandering, see Elizabeth Kolbert, “Drawing the Line: How redistricting turned America from blue to red,” The New Yorker, 6/27/16. Kolbert’s examples circle around Pennsylvania, most notably (referring to after the 2010 census):

The new Republican majority “packed” blue-leaning voters into a handful of districts around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Then it “cracked” the rest into districts that tilted red.

The original gerrymander—named for Massachusetts’ ninth governor, Elbridge Gerry—was a sinuous blob that wound around Boston. (“The Gerry-Mander: A new species of Monster” read the headline over a cartoon of the district that ran in the March 26, 1812, edition of the Boston Gazette.) Among the misshapen districts to emerge from Pennsylvania’s 2011 redistricting plan is one Daley describes as looking “like a horned antelope barrelling down a hill on a sled.” Another has been compared to Donald Duck kicking Goofy in the groin. So skillfully were the lines drawn that in 2012—when President Obama carried Pennsylvania by three hundred thousand votes and the state’s Democratic congressional candidates collectively outpolled their G.O.P. rivals by nearly a hundred thousand votes—Republicans still won thirteen of Pennsylvania’s eighteen seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Arguably the most distorted map in the country” is how one researcher described the Pennsylvania districts. “In Pennsylvania, the Gerrymander of the Decade?” the Web site Real Clear Politics asked….

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Managing water: West Chester and Cape May Point

A Stream Protection Fee will take effect in West Chester in a few months. The online overview identifies the issues the fee will help solve: water pollution, flooding and erosion, and degradation of our storm water pipes, drains, and other infrastructure.

Water has been in the news a lot lately. We just saw it battering the shores in Florida and covering route 95 in North Carolina. Meanwhile, in parts of the West reservoirs are drying up and the risk of forest fires increases. Traditional weather patterns are disrupted, warmer seas and air cause bigger storms, and the arctic ice is melting. A scary New York Times article just showed devastating effects if a hurricane directly hits Houston and the center of the US petro-chemical industry.

flooding-1In Cape May Point last week, I observed something of a flood in the back yard of our rental unit, even though it had not rained for three days. The owner blamed pavers that were added not long ago in a yard nearby. A glance over the fence showed that the back yard next door was doing more than its part in collecting runoff.flooding-2

It took a week (Friday to Friday) for the water to recede, and then it started raining again and the water rose even higher than before. I think there are three reasons:

1) Impermeable areas–houses, sheds, decks, driveways, pavers–concentrate rain in the remaining permeable areas, which are then overloaded. One house in the same block has been operating a sump pump almost continuously. In a construction hole in a non-flooded property, I noted the water table only about 7 inches down; that block must be better at shedding water than this one, but that is still uncomfortably close to the surface.

Here is the view between the essentially impermeable yard and the water buildup next door.flooding-3

2) Rising sea levels. Not a lot, maybe a couple of inches since Cape May Point started being built up in the 1870s, but every inch raises the water table and cuts down available drainage capacity underground.

3) Starting in the 1870s, Cape May Point borough (much smaller than West Chester) was built up in a marshy area, obviously without proper protection of natural drainage areas. The state park is right next door, with marshes and ponds behind the dunes. In Cape May Point, wet areas must have been filled in and built over… with consequences.

A 1936 hurricane shaved off a whole street at the edge of Cape May Point. The higher the water on both sides of the dunes, the more vulnerable today’s houses will become. As we see from the Cape May Point web site, flooding is a serious concern here. “Cape May Point Flood Service Information” shows that Cape May Point has been taking extensive protective measures, with the Army Corps of Engineers, such as beach replenishment, dune reconstruction, and additional storm drains. Water is a big deal in the area; the three front-page articles in the October 5 issue of the Cape May Star and Wave are about salt water intrusion into city wells, flood zoning by FEMA on Delaware Bay, and flooding in West Cape May.

Back now to West Chester. Although our borough is at the top of a hill, we also have water issues. Streams drain outward from the high point at Marshall Square Park. In some areas, due to earlier filling of low areas, construction, channelization, and debris, streams can overflow in a flood (notably, where Goose Creek enters a pipe under Franklin St. and Rubinstein’s). In other areas, stagnant water can favor the breeding of mosquitoes. Basements regularly take on water. Streets have low patches which can ice over dangerously in winter. And it’s not just about flooding. We need healthy streams and good drainage as part of our sustainability aspirations.

When water drains too fast, it carries polluting wastes and erodes stream banks; when it drains too slowly, it builds up in streets and yards… just like in Cape May Point. At least, we don’t have the ocean to worry about on top of our hill, and lower-lying parts of the County face more water danger than we do.

I applaud the Borough for taking steps to remedy our water problem with funding from all property owners (and not just the homeowners and businesses), since all properties that allow any water runoff contribute to the problem. Just as we collectively contribute to the problem, so we will collectively contribute to the solution.

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International Day of Peace / Senator Dinniman

From U.N. International Day of Peace:

The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution 36/37, the General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”

West Chester Borough has a long tradition, stretching back to late former Mayor Dick Yoder, of observing this occasion. This year, an hour-long event was organized by the Chester County Peace Movement on the steps of the Historic Courthouse. Along with several speakers and musical interludes, Mayor Carolyn Comitta’s 2016 proclamation was read (download here: 2016-west-chester-borough-mayors-proclamation; also see Tom Buglio’s talk “Fear vs. Hope: What Kind of a Country Do We Choose?” here).

I’m going to focus on the first speaker, PA Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19), whom as always I found eloquent and uplifting. Since he always speaks without a script, I can’t ask him what he said, but here are his approximate words from my notes:

There is no denying that we live in a world that has always been full of strife and now terrorism. But peace needs to start within each of us. Chester County, with its long Quaker tradition, is comfortable with differences and recognizes diversity not as a source of conflict but as part of the wonder of life.

Quakers know how to sit down in a group and work toward consensus. When I was a Chester County Commissioner, at one point we tried Quaker-style mediation to resolve some issues.

We need to learn from the past and from our faith traditions, which tell us the importance of silence. This reminds me of a story from the founding of the Pennsylvania colony. When Willliam Penn was here, a non-Quaker friend came to meeting with him and, after 45 minutes of silence, said: “Billy, when does the service begin?” And Billy answered: “The service begins when we leave the meeting.”

People need to acquire respect for each other, at this moment and as we leave this meeting today. Around us, finally, we are seeing the beginnings of a transformative politics in Harrisburg. People are starting to join with others.

Discussion should end in a moment of silence, when we can remember the victims of the lack of peace and find peace in our own souls.

dinniman photo of Senator Dinniman, 9/21/16, by John Hellmann III

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What we can learn from anti-zika spraying

Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and people.

So, health authorities have been working on the twin challenges of eradicating mosquitoes and educating people.

Transmission of Zika virus from mosquitoes to people (and vice versa) in the continental US has occurred only in one small tropical enclave: a square mile (or now it seems even less) of Miami. Pennsylvanians might worry about catching zika from travelers returning from the Rio Olympics but not from mosquitoes this summer so far north. (1)

However, we should be worrying about the effects of being sprayed with pesticides, of which there is really no safe level for the environment and human exposure.

As someone involved in the current campaign to cut down on both mosquitoes and pesticide spraying in West Chester, I think we can learn a lot from zika, even if it is not currently being transmitted by mosquitoes anywhere near us.

Many insects, like the viruses that attack the human body, reproduce quickly and can develop resistance to whatever we throw against them. As doctors turn from one antibiotic to another to find one that still kills a given virus, so health officials experiment to see what still kills different mosquito species.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, the chief transmitter of zika, is particularly problematic for traditional mosquito elimination programs and the standard anti-mosquito pesticide permethrin, a pesticide usually applied from ground-based equipment such as trucks. (2)

Aedes aegypti has been acquiring immunity in Thailand (3) to permethrin and even to DDT (which was banned in the US in 1972 after severe impacts such as almost driving our national bird into extinction); and similarly in Mexico (4) and, more recently, in Puerto Rico (5) and now Florida. (6)

As time goes on, scientists have to look farther up the pesticide chain—with further likely risks—to find more effective pesticides. This is not good news.

When permethrin fails, specialists are turning to naled (7), a chemical dispensed from airplanes (now daily, over ten square miles of Miami) in very fine particles.

aerial spraying

When pesticides are applied from airplanes, droplets drift farther, potentially affecting more habitats (and hypersensitive people) than from ground-based application. People in Puerto Rico don't want to be sprayed with naled, to put it mildly (8) The Union of Concerned Scientists, not surprisingly, expresses more concerns about naled than does the EPA. (9)

If mosquitoes develop resistance to both permethrin and naled (10), what will be the next pesticide of choice? With what effects?

Let's not find out! Communities need to take all measures now to stay off the pesticide chain and the slope of increasing insect resistance.

As Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC, said about the zika-affected area in Miami, "Everyone has to be involved and try to find every drop of standing water and get rid of it." (11)

So everyone here, while mosquito-carried zika is still a distant threat, please look around for sights like the one below (photographed in West Chester last month) and educate your neighbors about regularly dumping out all water standing in recycling containers, trash cans, plant saucers, pet bowls, bird baths, tires, and anywhere else. Let's not get to the point of Puerto Rico, where volunteers recently were recently organized to go door-to-door on a "Clean-up Day" helping people to eliminate breeding sites, or Florida, where the government is paying employees to do it. Here, we can still rely on citizen cooperation.

Also, be aware that adult mosquitoes like to hang out in the shelter of brush, weeds, and long grass and in humid areas (you are less exposed on your patio than at a compost heap or stream bank). So you might want to deal with both breeding sites and hang-out sites at the same time.

Recycle can w water20160712


(1) "Since the 1950s, it has been known to occur within a narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia" (Wikipedia).

(2) According to "Spraying Begins in Miami to Combat the Zika Virus" by Lizette Alvarez and Pam Belluck, New York Times, AUG. 4, 2016:

The Aedes aegypti mosquito has several bad things associated with it," Dr. Lyle Petersen of the C.D.C., who is managing the agency's Zika response, said in an interview. "It tends to breed in small pools of water, which are ubiquitous in any urban environment, and tends to be hard to reach. It tends to breed in cryptic environments that are hard to find. And it's just very hard to get rid of."

The traditional methods used in Miami - truck-mounted spraying and backpack spraying with two types of pyrethroid insecticide - have not killed enough mosquitoes, Dr. Petersen said. He said Naled, an insecticide that has been widely used in Florida but not in Miami, might work against city mosquitoes that could have become resistant to pyrethroids, the insecticides that had been used. He said the plan was to spray once a week with Naled to kill adult mosquitoes and once a week with insecticide to kill larvae.

(3) La-aied Prapanthadara et al., “Mechanisms of DDT and Permethrin Resistance in Aedes aegypti from Chiang Mai, Thailand,” Dengue Bulletin vol. 26, 2002 185-189.

(4) Adriana E. Flores et al., "Resistance to Permethrin in Aedes aegypti (L.) in Northern Mexico," Southwestern Entomologist, June 2009:

...Frequent use of insecticide... has led to chemical resistance in many arthropods and this led to operational problems in vector control programs. In 1947, the first case of mosquitoes resistant to insecticide was observed in Florida where the mosquitoes Ae. taeniorhynchus (Wiedmann) and Ae. sollicitans (Walker) showed resistance to DDT (Brown 1986). The problem increased during the following decades....

(5) "Insecticide Resistance Testing in Puerto Rico" at CDC, including mosquito resistance to permethrin.

(6) Lena H. Sun, interview with CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, "CDC director: Sporadic Zika cases possible for months, maybe year, in Florida," Washington Post, 8/3/16 (also, from the video, source of aerial spraying image above):

It's possible the mosquitoes in the affected Miami area have developed resistance to certain insecticides. Over the next few days and weeks, CDC and local officials are testing to see which insecticides will work best. In the meantime, Miami and Florida are considering aerial spraying to kill adult and larval mosquitoes.

(7) The EPA describes naled in this way:

For mosquito control, naled is applied as an ultra-low volume (ULV) spray. ULV sprayers dispense very fine aerosol droplets containing small quantities of active ingredient insecticide that drift through the air and kill mosquitoes on contact. The amount that reaches the ground is small. For mosquito control, the maximum rate for ground and aerial application is very small.

(8) Per Jason Beaubien, "Zika Cases Surge In Puerto Rico As Mosquitoes Flourish," NPR, 8/5/16:

A plan for aerial spraying of an insecticide called Naled caused an uproar here. San Juan's mayor called the plan "environmental terror" and late last month the governor blocked the proposal. Naled is the same chemical that's being sprayed from planes over parts of Miami to combat Aedes aegypti mosquitoes there.

(9) Juan Declet-Barreto, "CDC's Efforts to Combat Zika in Puerto Rico Hampered by a Legacy of Mistrust," Union of Concerned Scientists, 7/28/16:

...the CDC and the PRDOH have recently come under fire from broad sectors of Puerto Rico's civil society after announcing their intent to conduct aerial spraying ("fogging") over the island using naled, an organophosphate pesticide with potential toxicity to humans and debatable effectiveness in controlling Aedes aegypti populations. The EPA has stated that recent naled tests in Puerto Rico were highly effective in controlling mosquito populations. However, the agency deemed naled unsafe for use in or around the home, precisely the habitats that Aedes aegypti prefers, according to Dr. Duane Gubler, who conducted a similar, dengue-focused naled spraying campaign for the CDC in Puerto Rico in 1987: "The [Aedes aegypti] mosquito lives in closets, inside garbage, indoors… [t]hose conditions are less than ideal for mass spraying campaigns”.

Naled is also a "broad spectrum" insecticide, meaning that while it can be effective in killing mosquitoes, it can also adversely affect beneficial insects like bees, pollinators of citrus and coffee plants, important agricultural commodities in Puerto Rico. There's also a lot of concern about naled's potential to adversely affect humans.

(10) The EPA also says about naled: "Mosquito resistance is not an immediate concern, since all mosquitoes from Puerto Rico tested have been found to be susceptible to naled. Despite many acres across Florida being sprayed with naled each year, no resistance to it has yet been detected." The "yet" is the problem!

11) Above-mentioned interview (video, 1:22).

Posted in Environment, Health care | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Is the United States a failed country?

Is the United States a failed country?

That term “failed state” (I prefer “country”*) is often tossed around in news reports to describe other countries, the most dramatic of which are predominantly Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Pakistan (one of the three pieces of what was one country on independence from Britain).

Then there is Latin America, where two of many examples are Venezuela (an example of pure government incompetence leading to breakdown in vital services and widespread starvation) and Brazil (whose infrastructure and services are collapsing under corruption, impeachments, and the 2016 Olympics).

You know: countries with governments that can’t govern, countries riven by ethnic and ideological strife and about to fall apart, countries with leaders on the take and huge gaps between the wealthy and the impoverished, countries whose citizens can’t get along because they lack the long tradition of respectful democracy founded long ago in Europe, of which it is accepted wisdom that we are the greatest exemplar.

And Europe? Come to think of it, Germany was split in two states after World War II. Czechoslovakia split into two parts and Yugoslavia into, eventually, seven. The USSR collapsed into its 15 constituent republics. Belgium periodically looks like the Flemish and French speakers are breaking up. The UK again is threatened by possible Scottish independence and Spain by the long-standing Catalan and Basque independence movements. And Greece, the birthplace of democracy, has been undergoing a bit of turmoil itself recently.


Our distrustful Founders, in the movement initiated 240 years ago today (image above**), hoped to safeguard democracy by playing off three branches of government against each other. We have been finding out ever since then whether a tree with three equal trunks (and one of them itself divided in two sub-branches) is prone to fissure.

We are still, in Abraham Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, testing whether a nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal… can long endure.” The outcome, these days, depends on leaders many of whom don’t wish to lead and people many of whom don’t wish to vote.

You’d have to say that the United States was a failed country leading up to 1861, when an extraordinarily bloody Civil War tore it apart, with wounds that still haven’t healed in areas like race relations and vote suppression. Is it failing again?

One sign of impending country failure is a breakdown in national institutions. As pointed out in a recent New York Times article, “3 Separate, Equal and Dysfunctional Branches” by Carl Hulse, 6/23/16, our legislative branch does nothing about the epidemic of gun violence, refuses to restore the Supreme Court to full strength, and tears down the executive branch’s major principles like safeguarding immigrant parents of American citizens, while the states chip away at the Affordable Health Care Act and abortion rights long recognized by the judicial system.

The article ends by quoting Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass), following Democratic representatives’ sit=-in demanding the right to discuss and vote on a gun bill: “So we’re locked out of everything, if I am understanding the rule correctly? This is a lousy process, Mr. Speaker.”

Amid all the turmoil, one of the most divisive presidential campaigns since perhaps 1860 lurches along toward yet unknown heights of financial coercion and verbal and physical violence, making one wonder how much longer, at least under the current form of government, the American experiment can continue.

Oh, and Happy Independence Day!

* To me, a state (or a colony like Puerto Rico, or a city, or any political unit) fails if it becomes dysfunctional, stops following its own rules, does not use its resources to meet its people’s needs. A country fails if it does not meet its own expectations, if its principles are subverted in practice, if its citizens are disaffected and divided by more than unites them, if it loses the desire for consensus that holds a nation together. I am not sure that Czechoslovakia was a failed state; it was a country whose people preferred to form two states. The USSR was manifestly a failed country even while it still had a strong state. UK has (at least till the current uproar) a long-respected state, but as a country it is losing its unity; in fact, the desire to strengthen the state against foreign influence is driving its collapse as a single country.

**from Wikimedia Commons: John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda.

Posted in constitution, History, Politics | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Rep. Costello, Do Your Job!

“Rep. Costello, do your job!” was the first of several chants by the 25 people assembled under his office window on West Market St. on June 27.

Then, it was on to “Background checks now!” and “No guns for terrorists!”

And “What did Congress do after Sandy Hook?” Reply: “Nothing!” And the chants went on to a list of other mass shootings after which Congress likewise did nothing.

Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence leader Tom Buglio pointed out that 80-90% of Americans poll as wanting background checks and gun denials for individuals on the terrorist watch list—issues about which Rep. Ryan Costello (R PA-06) won’t meet with CCCPGV personally, though his office staff has.

According to Buglio, Costello is typical of today’s US House: he took $10,000 in NRA funding 2 years ago and avoids every chance to engage with gun violence prevention advocates. Buglio read from Costello’s statement after the Orlando shootings; Costello speaks repeatedly of “terrorism” and “hate” but does not stress that terrorists and haters should not have easy access to assault-style guns.

Activists have repeatedly asked Costello to cosponsor HR 1217, introduced by Peter King [R-NY-2] and cosponsored by almost 200, including 5 R’s and 2 D’s from PA, but Costello will not answer. (See HR 1217 info here.) Buglio challenged Costello: “Stop protecting the NRA and start protecting your constituents.”

The next speaker, John Gribbin, saw Orlando as an attack directed against the LGBT population, not as terrorism in general. A new “Gays against Guns” group has formed to “fight this long battle.” Gribbin held up a sign saying “Costello: SILENCE = DEATH.” In 2005-2015, Gribbin said, this country saw 71 terrorist murders and 301,000 other gun killings; Costello is wrong to keep saying that the main problem in this country’s spate of mass shootings is Islamic terrorism.

Buglio then led a chant of “We are the 90%” and praised a strong editorial by Costello’s November opponent Mike Parrish: “We need leadership on gun violence.” He also lauded West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, long-time active member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, now running for PA House 156.

Costello rally Molloy
Marty Molloy, candidate for PA Senate district 9, then spoke passionately (photo to the left; Rep. Costello’s office window is to the left) about measures needed to protect citizens against mass gun violence, such as restricting magazine sizes and assault weapons. Politicians should not say they are sorry if they don’t mean it, he said. The NRA wins because it organizes and gives big money, and “guns are the #1 issue of the 10%” (those who do not favor any protective measures). But “we will win,” he said, and he asked support for candidates like himself and Susan Rzucidlo (for PA House 158), who was part of the group.

And the rally adjourned until another day.

So are the long chain of mass shootings including Orlando in fact a terrorism problem or a gun problem? For detailed discussion, see “Our gun problem IS a terrorism problem” at The Daily Sift, 6/20/16. The author, Doug Muder, shows that “the Orlando shooting makes the guns-or-terrorism argument obsolete” because “ISIS is actively encouraging lone-wolf attacks, and the easy availability of AR-15s and other military-style weapons makes the United States uniquely vulnerable to lone-wolf terrorism. Our political inability to control or track even the most destructive guns keeps that hole in our defenses open. I’m amazed it took Islamic State strategists so long to figure that out.”

The author concludes: “The question is whether we will adapt, overcome the NRA’s resistance, and force our representatives to face the new reality….. That isn’t just a gun-control agenda any more. It’s an anti-terrorism agenda.”

Posted in Guns | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment