Monday, June 30, 2008

The LuLac Edition #509, June 30th, 2008



Yesterday as I was watching retired General Wes Clark respond to a question about Senator John McCain's ability to respond to an emergency in an attack or lead a country in war, on "Face The Nation", I thought I was hearing Kevin Lynn. Clark responded that being in a prison camp does not necessarily give you the tools to be a war time leader. Clark pointed out that McCain spent much of the generation shaping Vietnam War in a prison camp and inferred that he was just a victim of circumstances. WILK's Kevin Lynn has been saying the same thing since January. Clark's comments have unleashed debate from both the Obama and McCain campaigns.


Governor Rendell has named Attorney Joe Musto to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. The seat became vacant when Judge Michael Conahan retired. This is ironic since it was Conahan, a Hazleton Magistrate who beat Musto in both primaries in the nineties when Musto was a sitting Judge. Conahan's campaign characterized Musto's appointment back then as nepotism since Musto's brother was a former Congressman and State Senator. What goes around comes around I guess. It will be interesting to see the campaign Joe Musto mounts for retention this time.


Wonder of wonders, the State has a budget before the June 30th deadline. That means no layoffs for unessential employees and the state parks can be open on the Fourth of July. Major items in the budget, a rededication to energy policies in the state, no tax increase (hey its an election year) and major state government investment in Pennsylvania's crumbling infrastructure. Also there was added funding for aging dams and municipal water facilities.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The LuLac Edition #508, June 29th, 2008



I’ve always been told that my generation, the Baby Boomers are the luckiest in civilization. Unlike our grandparents, we were born in a country that was free, prosperous and abundant in its riches and opportunities. Our parents, those immigrant grandparents’ children, worked hard to establish the things for us they never had growing up. Education, a good nurturing neighborhood, steady discipline and team work (I think they call that family values now) and the freedom to dabble in questioning everything they taught us were the gifts my generation received. Even though most of us came from working, middle class families, our parents never let us go without anything we needed and more times than not, with sacrifices we never realized until adulthood, the things we wanted.
We went to church every Sunday and thought that was going to last forever because we were told your church would be there as long as you were. And we saw the continuity with our own eyes; pastors who served in prior years were buried with great pomp and ceremony from my church. Grandparents, aunts and uncles who through their contributions built the church went to their final reward from our church. We were baptized there, had the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation administered and were educated there. Like a wide eyed bride, we fully believed we’d grow old with our church and have it survive us.
But a funny thing happened to the Boomer generation on the way to our parent’s age. Things began to change and not for the good. Core items we took for granted began to be taken away from us. Oh they were given euphemistic words like “downsizing”, “right sizing” and “givebacks” but it all amounted to the same thing, we were losing things we thought would last forever in this great country. Sports records like Maris’ 61 and Jim Brown’s rushing titles were cherished but we knew someone bigger and stronger, some day would overtake them. After all, it was only sports. Then our careers took a u turn. Coming from parents who worked in the same place for decades, we thought we’d be afforded the same opportunity. But we weren’t, mainly because of world economic factors and things beyond our control. So the Boomers justified the elimination of jobs, career moves, and various salary dips chalking it up to the economy. Even the realization that we were getting less bang for our bucks than mom and dad did in the 60s didn’t seem to bother us. At least we had that place where we could come to as a remembrance of the times we had growing up - our church. Standing like a bulwark in a sea of uncertainty, at least as parishioners or visitors, we could drink in the spirituality that molded us. It should have come as no surprise to the boomer generation that this would also be taken away from us. Our generation has always been labeled as one of entitlement (uh, have you ever talked with a 30 year old???) and whining when things don’t go our way. Specious argument if you ask me. We’ve had things taken back from us that were givens in our parent’s prime years. This generation has had to take a lot of hits from a world market that crushes competition, a corporate philosophy that thinks if your boss gives you a candy bar instead of Christmas bonus they are treating their employees like kings and a government that doesn’t even have the decency to steal behind your back. But with all of those things, we thought we’d never lose our churches. But we are, one by one in an insidious attack on everything we ever believed in or knew.
Today, at 2PM, the church my grandparents on both sides of my family helped build with their contributions is closing for good. My grandparents and many other immigrants sacrificed so that they would have a church where they could worship God in the language of their childhood; a church that would honor their traditions and offer stability and moral leadership to their children and grandchildren. After today, St. John the Baptist Slovak Catholic Church will be no more. We will be told that “change is difficult”, “the church is only a building” and that “we must follow” as good Catholics. Take your pick of any cliché. Try to justify it in your mind. Look at it as a new beginning, a test of your faith. Yeah, yeah, yeah! Here’s the bottom line: the closing of this church, like many of the other ones in the Greater Pittston Area this year and others in our area to come is immoral. It is an insult to the memories of all those parishioners who built those structures with the promise that it would be there for generations to come. That promise today will be broken. Not kept by a church that preaches to us that we should always honor our word. The changes in the Catholic community the last few years have not been good. And the excuses we received from the church hierarchy have been insulting at best, devious at worst. It may not be in this lifetime, but those people who are closing our churches, schools, and treating fellow Catholics (I’m talking about the parochial school teachers here) like the coal miners of yesteryear will have a day of reckoning. At some point they will have a lot to answer for.


Even though I have belonged to another church since 1982, I wanted to put together a final tribute to St. John the Baptist Church. This was the church I was baptized, confirmed and educated from in the 50s and 60s. My grandparents on both sides, my father and countless relatives were buried from St. John the Baptist. Never being super religious or spiritual, it is surprising to me and others in my life how personally I am taking the closing of this entity. I do believe though the story of the life and now death of this church needed to be told. My intention was to have a historical record of this century old bastion of faith. Through the miracle of the internet, the history of the church and those who built it will live on. It will only take 6 minutes of your time to view. Here’s the link to YOU TUBE:

Friday, June 27, 2008

The LuLac Edition #507, June 27th, 2008



State Senator Vince Fumo, under indictment and under fire had a spell in the Chambers of the Senate this week. Fumo was taken to a hospital Thursday after he became dizzy and fell down during a session in the chamber. Fellow senators rushed to the aid of the Philadelphia Democrat when he collapsed around 5 p.m. during a long closed-door budget hearing. Paramedics put Fumo on oxygen and wheeled the pale-looking senator out of the chamber in a wheelchair. "The budget's going well," he joked on his way out. Fumo resisted going to the hospital, but paramedics overruled him. Fumo, 65, had surgery for a heart attack in March. "He seemed a lot better after a few minutes," said Senate Democratic Whip Michael O'Pake, D-Berks. O'Pake said Fumo was talking to Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, when he collapsed. Observers said Fumo complained of feeling lightheaded and dizzy, but did not report feeling any chest pain. Among those helping to tend to the stricken senator before ambulance crews were called was Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland, a registered nurse. Fumo has been a key player in this week's round-the-clock negotiations on the state budget as well as one of the strongest backers of casino gambling and same sex marriage. Senator O'Pake told the Harrisburg Patriot that Fumo looked ashen in a meeting of the Democratic caucus shortly before the incident, and complained that he hadn't been getting any rest. Fumo is to face trial in federal court in September on a battery of corruption charges.


This coming Tuesday, Channel 61, Scranton's public access television channel, will continue under new management. Mayor Chris Doherty said Electric City Television - ECTV -- was chosen from among three contenders to take over the station's programming. Doherty appointed a three-member panel to screen proposals: Thom Welby, advertising consultant for WNEP-TV; Mark Monahan, a former WYOU-TVcameraman; and the Rev. Reginald McClain, of Shiloh Baptist Church. The three applicants for the management contract were: Scranton Today, the current station operator; NEPA Public Access Project; and ECTV. ECTV won the day despite furious public lobbying by long time Scranton Today supporters, most notably Annette Palutis, a former volunteer for WVIA TV in its pioneering days.


After the death of Senator Robert Kennedy, members of his campaign tried to form an alliance with Senator Eugene McCarthy in facing Vice President Hubert Humphrey at the Democratic convention in Chicago. The Kennedy backers finally persuadecd Senator George McGovern to pick up the RFK standard at the convention and allow his name to be placed in nomination for the Presidency.....Meantime President Johnson signed a bill that would put a 10% surcharge on income to help pay for the Vietnam War....Statewide, former Governor Arthur James, a Plymouth native recalled a bill he proposed that would ban fireworks in the state....Wilkes Barre's Model Cities Program was told they would recieve $900,000 in grant money from the feds for its first year action plan...Recent graduates of St. John the Baptist Grade School had a mock convention at the Wyoming Monument and selected Nelson Rockefeller as the GOP nominee and Edward Kennedy as the Democratic nominee. The polling was very unscientific with the winners names being picked out of a straw boater...and the number 1 song in America and LuLac land this week was
"Reach Out of the Darkness" by Friend and Lover. Here's the link from YOU TUBE:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The LuLac Edition #506, June 26th, 2008



My girl Maria Sharapova was defeated today in one of the opening rounds of Wimbledon. She was upset by a newcomer. I petitioned Mrs. LuLac to give me permission to fly to England and console the distraught, young athlete. I even offered to take my good friend David Dellarte, a tennis aficionado along as a chaperone and WILK Morning Talk Show host Kevin Lynn, a former tennis pro as my wing man. Predictably, the answer was nay.


The Supreme Court’s ruling that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting was the opening salvo in what will be a long legislative battle over how strictly cities and states can regulate firearms sources in the know said today.
The court’s 5-4 ruling, its first ever addressing the ambiguity and fuzziness of the Second Amendment, upheld an appeals court ruling that struck down the District of Columbia’s 32-year-old ban on handguns. The decision went further than even the Bush administration had sought, but it probably leaves most firearms laws intact. It also struck down Washington’s requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but it left intact the licensing of guns, and it upheld longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill. Americans love their guns. I used to work for a guy who was a gun owner as was his whole family. One day when I came into work, I saw he was upset and I asked him what was wrong. “Jimmy got in a fight on Sunday at the Woods and the guy he kicked the crap out of is going to press charges. If they stick, do you know what that means, he won’t be able to exercise the most precious right Americans have if he is convicted on a felony count. Do you realize what that means?” he said. I replied, “He won’t be able to vote?” “Hell no” the guy said, “he won’t be able to carry a gun!”


It appears Barak Obama has won over more than half of Hillary Clinton's former supporters, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll that finds party loyalty bypassing hard feelings less than three weeks after their bruising Democratic presidential contest ended. You’d never know it talking to Mrs. LuLac or callers to the Steve Corbett Show on WILK Radio. But
the poll suggests time is beginning to heal some wounds from the primary campaign and that the New York senator's endorsement of Obama carried weight. The poll was taken in the days after Clinton suspended her campaign and said she was supporting her rival. Obama's acceptance by Clinton supporters is steady, yet far from complete. More than one in five who had backed the New York senator now plan to support Republican John McCain in the fall, a boost for McCain. Last night we went to the Blue Ribbon Dairy in West Pittston for some ice cream and a thirty plus something “mom” was there in a McCain tee shirt. She told me she had supported Senator Clinton in the primary. We shall see how this turns out. But my feeling is that if the Dems want a slam dunk, pick Hillary for Veep and Barack can sit on his front porch and plan his Cabinet the rest of the way to November.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The LuLac Edition #505, June 25th, 2008



So the Luzerne County GOP has a new Chairman. He’s Terry Casey and he has a mountain of work ahead of him. We wish him the best. As noted in our LuLac Edition # 376 of Dec. 21, 2007, (you can pull it up in our archives by accessing Dec. 2007) the County GOP needs help.
Casey has come up with good ideas like hiring an Executive Director and staffing an office in Downtown Wilkes Barre. However, it will take more than that to rejuvenate the Republican Party locally. First off, he has to get those Executive Committee members like Mr. Flack and the Sordonis to become more involved as power brokers. They must treat the registration depleted 6th District just like they would their own backyard. Money poured into races, and no deals with the opposition no matter how tempting and a bona fide effort to increase registration would be a good start. In a news article Casey referred to the fact that the GOP has to field better candidates. I disagree. There is a contingent of dedicated candidates who if they had the backing would win in a walk. In Wilkes Barre city alone in ’07, the GOP had 4 articulate, professional Council candidates. They were the best kept secrets in Pennsylvania politics. Save for geographic location, what’s the difference between a Karen Boback winning a State Rep seat and a Christine Katsock losing one? Registration, registration, registration. Terry, you have the candidates, it’s not like the old days where the late cigar chomping Harold Williams ran just because no one else wanted the job. Give them the money, and you’ll see competitive races. The Congressional race of 2006 was a travesty right down the line from the national GOP to your local outfit. I attended two Joe Leonardi events and the representation from the party leaders was pathetic, make that non existent. Don’t put the blame on candidates in this decade, when your party could not even defend two multi term incumbents like Barry Stankus and Mary Dysleski when they came under mild political fire. A few thousand bucks in retaliatory advertising and you’d have those two offices retained.
Even though there is a long row to hoe, the time is ripe for a GOP take over. But let’s not underestimate the GOP’s ineptness in trying to take advantage of the Democrats shortcomings. In 1968, the Democratic party in the County was divided after the death of Dr. Dorris. As a matter of fact, there were two factions, one headed by Senator Martin Murray, the other headed by the people at the Courthouse. How did the GOP take advantage of that split? 20th District Senator T. Newell Wood made deals with Murray to get a few jobs for his cronies and the Dems sat fat and happy for years. Casey alluded to the treatment former County head Guthrie Conyingham received at the 1982 GOP county convention. Conyingham, a well known businessman and philanthropist was associated with the Newell regime and even though he was a decent man, he as Chairman was painted with that brush. The Trinicrats saw Conyingham with tunnel vision, only as part of the Wood era. It wasn't his fault as chairman but during the time Conyingham served, only one row officer was a Republican and he even lost that election and served by court order!!! (The Late Joe Tirpak ran for County Controller, defeated Steve Yanoshak who was an incumbent but never served because he held a financial position prior to his election. Yanoshak, defeated, served until 1975 when he was elected Minority Commissioner). The reason why Frank Trinisewski wanted his own chairman, Ted Warkomski, was because he feared another GOP deal in 1983. Frank Crossin Senior had died, his son Frank Junior was just finding his footing and Edd Brominski was under fire for various and sundry developments in his reign including a brewing Human Services scandal. Trini and Phillips won two terms as Republicans (Trini became a Democrat in 1988, not the next year after his first majority election as Commissioner) but each time they ran, they had opposition within their own party. What is it with the GOP and primaries? When Charles Lemmond retired in the 20th, you had an heir apparent, Lisa Baker with two decades of experience, yet 5 other people jumped into the race. One of the secrets of the Dems rise to power is no primary. Now, as the Dems under the dome are openly contemptuous of each other and there are multi faceted investigations going on in almost every department, it would appear that the Courthouse is ripe for the picking. Maybe the local GOP will get smart, united and funded and the third time will be the charm. But given the past history, maybe is a gigantic word. Terry Casey needs to build from within, blow it up and start over (the roster of district chairman is a good start) and get the local power brokers to stop giving big bucks to the likes of Dick Cheney when he blows into the Back Mountain and start funding candidates who believe in GOP principles. To date, those local candidates have been pretty much hung out to dry. Good luck and God speed Mr. Casey. All political observers are pulling for your success. If you succeed, then that means good government (or hell, I’ll even settle for “not so bad government” ) has half a fighting chance again in Luzerne County.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The LuLac Edition #504, June 24th, 2008



Once in a while, we'll do a special feature on this site celebrating a local historical event in depth. God knows, none of the local newspapers do it anymore so someone has to. Our story is about when Charles Lindbergh had to make an emergency stop at Coxton Yards in Pittston. My father alluded to this incident many times but was fuzzy on the details since he was only 14 and working in a butcher store to help support his family. But years later, as a railroader he was headquartered out of Coxton Yards, the same place where Lucky Lindy landed. About a year ago, an old neighbor and world's greatest barber, Barry Prandy gave me the details. We worked on the story but held it until the 80th anniversary.



Celebrity. Fame. It is something today that can be purchased very inexpensively. Andy Warhol said every American was destined to have their 15 minutes of fame. With today’s Cable News saturation, you could become famous just for spilling hot coffee on yourself or if you a modern day starlet, get five days of news commentary if you unwittingly or purposely forget to wear underwear. TV and Radio Talk shows have segments called “Your brush with Fame” where us regular folk tell the tale of how we met our favorite celeb.
Back in the twenties, there were a handful of famous people. Movie stars had to work long and hard before they could become a famous name that would roll off your tongue. The top tier were Baseball’s Babe Ruth, Football’s Knute Rockne and Red Grange, American business moguls Rockefeller and Mellon, politicos Hoover, Coolidge and Smith. A new addition to this “wall of fame” was aviator Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh had become world famous by the end of the twenties for flying his “Spirit of St. Louis” plane clear across the Atlantic Ocean in what was then a death defying leap of faith and courage.
The celebrity of Charles Lindbergh intruded on the good people of Pittston Junction on June 23rd, 1928. Lindbergh was flying from Detroit to New York and was forced to land because of heavy fog at 7:45PM that evening. He was flying a near replica of his “Spirit of St. Louis” plane, a machine called a “Ryan monoplane”. Lindbergh was traveling easterly toward New York City when he ran into heavy fog banks at the junction of the Lackawanna and Susquehanna Rivers. He circled a large field at Coxton Yards seven or eight times before he landed. The field went from Duryea to the Railroad roundhouse at Coxton. Lindbergh was flying very low as he tried to find a location that would not damage his plane. According to news reports of the day compiled by Frank Nealis and Harold Myers, Lindbergh found a spot that was dead center in the marshy field of dense hay grass vegetation.
Once on the ground, Lindbergh found himself in a similar position as when he landed in Paris from New York: he was alone. Inspecting his plane, the aviator had a few moments of solitude, until being approached by a railroader from the Roundhouse. The state police at Wyoming were notified of the impromptu visit and in a matter of minutes, hundreds of Greater Pittston residents began to storm the field to catch a glimpse at “Lucky Lindy”.
One of the assembled multitude elbowing into the farmer’s field was a young eighteen year old girl, Josephine Knowles who lived on Cliff Street in the Junction section of Pittston. Josephine loved to take photos with a Kodak Box camera purchased by the family. When she heard Lindbergh had landed, she grabbed her younger brother, Arthur, then three at the time and headed toward Coxton Yards. Tall for a girl her age and that era, the young Josephine took long strides while her brother tried to keep up. Arriving at Coxton Fields that was right next to Coxton Yards, Josephine used her height to scope out the terrain. A plane landing on a warm summer night was an event in and of itself in Pittston for a young teenager but this was as they say in today’s vernacular, “huge”. Josephine steadied herself, and despite noise and confusion from the emerging crowd (the State Police already had put up a rope line) she aimed and took a few pictures.
When the film was developed, Josephine had herself a beautiful side profile view of Colonel Lindbergh and his plane. Over the sands of time, some interesting aspects of that photo emerge. There is a hand crank that was used to start the engine. Look at how “Lindy” was dressed, in a suit, vest and tie. It is a clear contrast to today’s airline passengers that favor Velcro band sneakers, running suits and sweats. Since there is no evidence that telephoto lens existed at the time, it is apparent that young Ms. Knowles used her height, her skills and plain old luck in snapping the photo. As any professional photographer will tell you, she was in the right place at the right time.
Looking at old newspapers of the day, the enormity of Lindbergh’s accomplishments and daring are just too much to comprehend. On the same day the Scranton Republican reported “Lindy’s” spur of the moment visit, its front page reported on the death of an Air Mail pilot in Emporia, Kansas and the demise of an Aviatrix in Norfolk, Virginia. The weather, Lindbergh’s own good common sense and skill as well as fate were on his side that summer day in Upper Pittston.
When Josephine Knowles took that picture back in 1928, she, nor could anyone in her family ever imagine that the photo she snapped would be accepted by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Archives Division. In a letter from Patricia Williams, Acquisition Archivist to Barry Prandy of Pittston, the Museum gladly added the photo to the National Collection where researchers could view it. More than eighty years later, a young girl’s random act of teenage enthusiasm and “celebrity star gazing” is now part of our national history. Young Josephine’s brush with early twentieth century fame, was not only a story she could share with her relatives through her life, but an enduring historical addition to the archives of our nation.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The LuLac Edition #503, June 23rd, 2008



Finally GOP Presidential candidate John McCain is making a stop in Wilkes Barre. The date July 23rd. The venue, TBA. Dan Meuser, president of Pride Mobility, said he will serve as chairman of the event – a luncheon somewhere in Wilkes-Barre . Meuser ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 10th, losing a close race to Chris Hackett. Two things I'm wondering, how much will it cost, (these are GOPers after all who are short on money) and what kind of seat will Chris Hackett get.


One of the things about hiring a shock jock is that you have to deal with what comes out of his mouth. Don Imus has done it again, same thing, sports, same deal, commenting on race.
When one of Imus's on-air partners, Warner Wolf, discussed Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones' legal troubles, Imus asked, "What color is he." When told that Jones is African-American, Imus said, "Well, there you go. Now we know."The full transcript is below.
Wolf: "Defensive back Adam 'Pacman' Jones, recently signed by the Cowboys. Here's a guy suspended all of 2007 following a shooting in a Vegas night club."
Imus: "Well, stuff happens. You're in a night club, for God's sake. What do you think's gonna happen in a night club? People are drinking and doing drugs, there are women there, and people have guns. So, there, go ahead."
Wolf: "He's also been arrested six times since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005."
Imus: "What color is he?"
Wolf: "He's African-American."
Imus: "Well, there you go. Now we know."
What type of fallout comes out of this is anyone's guess. PacMan Jones is a bad boy and not as beloved as the women's basketball team Imus dissed the last time he got in hot water. Also, maybe some people will just ignore it as the ramblings of an old guy that is 15 years past his prime. In addition, Imus is no longer on a network but on WABC in New York. My reactions were as follows, "sad", "who cares" and "deal with him if you want". Any intelligent person will know many black athletes party without incident just like many white athletes. And why I think Imus is losing it is because any casual football fan, even Mrs. LuLac, knows Pacman Jones' ethnic background. You're telling me Iman didn't know? If that's the case, then there's no show prep and for the money he's making, I'd can him for not knowing about Pacman Jones. Here we go again with the Iman. No surprises here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The LuLac Edition #502, June 22nd, 2008



As a young boy on summer Sunday nights, I would take my trusty left hander’s mitt (obtained by selling Stanley tooth brushes in the neighborhood) along with a big rubber ball and bounce it against the steps in front of my house. More times than not, I caught the ball coming back on the bounce. But on the times I didn’t, I’d eavesdrop on the conversation my father had with his railroad cronies (who were mostly his brothers and brother in laws) talking about the state of the world. One of my uncle Andy’s favorite bromides was, “if you knew the world was going to end, you’d want to be here in Luzerne County because it’ll take 20 years before it happens”. I thought of that the other day when I read in the Citizen’s Voice and heard on Corbett’s radio show that a former deputy in the County Sheriff’s office had behavior unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. It seems that a deputy under the reign of Barry Stankus took a photo of a fellow female Sheriff’s Department employee taking a shower and passed the nude photo around to co-workers. Needless to say there is a lawsuit which will cost county taxpayers money. But the sad and at the same time hysterical thing about this is that once again Luzerne County lags behind, even in deplorable conduct. I guess when Clarence Thomas almost had his Supreme Court nomination derailed by a few little details about a hair on a can of Coke or when Senator Robert Packwood resigned a distinguished three decade plus career because of his roaming hands, Luzerne County politicos were oblivious to that news. Look, what happened here should have been preventable. What type of screening process was there to hire this individual? Was he made aware that this type of thing was against all standards of decent human behavior? (I mean I’m told that those “swinger’s clubs” in the 70s had changing rooms for heavens sake!) And if this guy was in law enforcement for eight years, what other complaints or misuse of authority are out there that we have not yet heard about? And how about passing on the photo to co workers in that department? Were they at all appalled? The story tells us that not all was on the up and up in the Stankus administration, a regime I vigorously defended when challenged by current Sheriff Mike Savokinas. The offending deputy was canned by the new lawman and the woman will get a boatload of county money that could’ve been used for a program at the Area Agency on Aging or the CEO food bank. But the sad part of this story is that, as the kids say nowadays, “that is so yesterday!” We all passed photos of disrobed women in our lifetimes to our friends, but the major difference is we were only 12 years old and not deputy Sheriffs with a public trust. One must wonder what in the world is going to crawl out next from under the dome on River Street.


Time is flying by and in just a few days we will be blessed with a three day Fourth of July weekend. Thanks to Leap year, the fourth falls on a Friday and many local residents, tired of being sodomized by the Bush administration’s oil policy and high gas prices might want to vacation close to home and take in the beauties of Frances Slocum State Park or Thornhurst State Park, Ricketts Glen, take your pick. But as ESPN commentator Lee Corso is fond of saying, “Not so fast my friend…”An impasse in approving a state budget by July 1 could stop them from enjoying the park system. If the state Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell do not agree on a budget, nonessential state employees could be furloughed, and state parks such as those in our area could be padlocked.
In 2007, after the Legislature and the governor could not agree on a budget on time, employees were furloughed and the state's 116 parks were closed, some entrances were barricaded until an agreement was reached days later. Reservations for park facilities, such as cabins and camping spots, were canceled and reservation payments refunded.
If budget talks reach an impasse and employees are furloughed, the state will again barricade its parks, ask campers to leave and cancel reservations until the 2,300 employees of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are back to work. Once more, the working stiff who just wants to use the services paid for with his tax dollars will be screwed by a State Legislature and (you know I admire Big Ed) a gamesmanship loving Chief Executive who can’t get a budget passed by July 1rst. It will never happen in my lifetime but I think the State Lawmakers should have their salaries dinged every day they don’t pass a budget. Just put this big calculator over the Capitol in Harrisburg and have the numbers flash, “today you are now losing your per diem and one day’s salary.” You’d see how fast they’d get the thing done. In the meantime though, if the budget does not pass and the state parks close, it’s “Porchville, Pa.” for the rest of us who work for a living.


Again, you know I love Big Ed but can’t he control or won’t he control some of the aftermath of his 2004 slots bill victory?
A legislative bill to earmark slots revenues for a broader category of economic development projects has surfaced just in time for the finale of the state budget debate.
House Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon, sponsored the measure to provide $760 million from a slots money pot to finance a range of “legacy” infrastructure projects to aid tourism, private colleges and universities, hospitals and projects by municipal authorities and economic development agencies to spur economic development. Yeah, as if what’s been done has given this area jobs with a working wage of more than 7 bucks an hour! Included is installing or upgrading water, sewer and electric power systems, natural gas pipelines and transportation facilities such as airports and parking garages. Wait a minute, I thought slots was supposed to be for property tax relief only. I thought the crumbling infrastructure in the state was supposed to be handled by the obscene gas taxes we pay at the pump? McCall’s bill begins a belated debate in the Senate about how to deal with a second generation of slots-financed projects. The 2004 slots law earmarks five percent of annual slots revenues to a fund for economic development and tourism. I’m all for economic development but first, let’s get the homeowners property tax relief, on which slots was predicated. If you can’t get a tax rebate on property taxes to every Pennsylvania homeowner, than you have no business “earmarking” the money someplace else. Maybe Pennsylvania residents should repeal slots by casting out lawmakers like McCall. Or have them (the Legislature and yes, even the Governor) all grow a set and pass a universal sales tax where everyone, from the junkie buying his rubber bands to shoot up to the person buying a starter car for their kid has to pay something. Let the debate begin, I have no problem fixing the infrastructure, but let's always keep in mind that property tax relief has not been forthcoming as promised. We're still waiting!


So last week I recieved two letters in the mail. One from John McCain asking me to contribute. Highest rate I could give (and "the ask" was in this letter 5 times) $2300.00. I got a letter from Barak Obama, highest contribution request $250.00. There was a tad bit of desperation in the McCain missive but that's what happens when you are behind a hundred million in the Presidential fundraising race.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The LuLac Edition #501, June 20th, 2008



Former Wilkes Barre City Councilman Phil McCabe died the other day. McCabe served on Council for 16 years and was a vigorous voice for fiscal responsibility in the city. Winning four terms on council, McCabe always finished near the top in each election he competed. His base was local labor but as time went on, he built a base of citizens that supported him because of his independent stance on many issues. Although he was a political ally of Mayor Lee Namey, he did not hesitate to disagree with a Mayoral decision if he didn't think it was in the best interests of the city. McCabe chose not to run for a fifth term on Wilkes Barre Council a few election cycles ago.


It appears that Chuckie Costanza is innocent on 11 counts of conspiracy, aiding and abetting interference with commerce by threats of violence and money laundering. Prosecutors alleged that Charles Costanzo and Philip Forgione extorted more than $300,000 from Alicon Environmental Inc.
The case centered around payments that Mr. Costanzo and Mr. Forgione received from Alicon. In 2004, Lackawanna County paid Alicon about $1.8 million to remove about 20 tons of pigeon dung from the Courthouse, along with removal of lead paint and restructuring of that impressive looking bell tower. The central element of the case revolved around whether thepayments were a finder’s fee for helping Alicon get the county work or an illegal kickback. Former Lackawanna County Commissioner Robert Cordaro's name came up during the trial when prosecutor's said that Costanza could use his influence to steer work toward the company in question. Cordaro, guest hosting on WILK this week said the ceiling collapsed as the company was holding a meeting with county officials and that Alicon stepped in immediately to take care of what turned out to be an environmental and health disaster at the Courthouse.


The FBI came a calling on late Thursday afternoon at the Luzerne County Courthouse annex and they didn't just want to get a good parking spot to have lunch at Genetti's popular Oyster Restaurant. Nope, they took financial records relating to placement of juveniles going back to 2002. The Director of Administrative Services, said the feds took records relating to placements, including Pa Child Care and Western Pa Child Care, formerly owned by Butler Township attorney Robert Powell. The Times Leader reports that billing statements and records of the number of children who were placed at PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care. Even though a warrant was issued for the records, it should be stated that these are all open to the public. Some have speculated that the FBI signature on this search signals that the feds are looking into the business dealings of the Child Care Center. The Times Leader is saying that the search is the latest development in the county’s long, convoluted and often controversial dealings with Powell and PA Child Care. Most recently, Powell’s relationship with President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, a senior judge, came under scrutiny after it was revealed the three had current or former ties to W-Cat Inc., a real estate development firm building a townhouse project in Wright Township.
Conahan and Ciavarella each listed financial ties to W-Cat on the statements of financial interest filed for 2007. Powell has acknowledged he was part owner of W-Cat, but has said he sold his interest to Luzerne County Prothonotary Jill Moran in 2004. Moran is a partner in the Powell Law Firm. The revelation of the financial ties prompted commissioners Maryanne Petrilla and Stephen Urban last month to call for an investigation to determine if that relationship influenced the decision to utilize PA Child Care. Our take on it is this: if you are associated with this company, or any company doing business with the county government, you do not want records seized by the FBI. Even if things turn out clean, and there's no evidence of irregular billing, the stigma of an FBI seizure does not bode well for the people associated with the business. Reports have circulated for years that the FBI was looking into the dealings of the Judiciary under the dome. There is even a media watch going on to see if there will be major indictments. Whatever happens with this thing that happened Thursday, it is sure to change the political landscape of the County and once more give voters pause to reflect on the ethics of their already battered county government.


Paul Kanjorski's new TV ads are up. Running frequently on TV. Shows the Congressman stepping out in matching royal blue with his wife, meeting a neighbor walking a tiny dog. Saying he's a hometown guy that never forgets his roots. In my opinion, an okay ad but they should so something with the closing shot. It does not look dynamic in my humble opinion.


Former Alabama Governor George Wallace resumes his presidential campaign which was suspended after the death of his wife Lurleen in May…….Atty. Robert Casey Senior of Scranton begins to gear up for his race for Auditor General in the fall criss crossing the state attending fairs and picnics……Locally, Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas rejected Dallas Borough’s suggestion that a 50 cent license fee on each electric light pole in the municipality be enacted into law……and in Pittston, this blog editor began the summer with the knowledge that he would return no more to St. John the Baptist Grade School as a student and forty years ago this week, the number one song in America and LuLac land was “Yummy Yummy Yummy” by the Ohio Express proving not all the music was superb in that summer. Here’s the link from You Tube:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The LuLac Edition #500, June 19th, 2008



When I first started this blog/site two years ago, I never dreamed I'd have the material to crank out 500 editions of The LuLac Political Letter. But with all of the material at hand, now I wonder how I never got to 500 sooner. As I approached the number, I wondered what I would put on the site for edition number 500. I toyed with the idea of a historical perspective or some opinion. But instead, I decided today, with your indulgence to post the euology I gave today at my mom's funeral. She knew about LuLac but never really "got" what I was trying to do with it. All she said was "just make it good". Through 500 editions, I tried my best to grant that wish. There are breaking developments happening that will make certain we'll return very shortly with news of politics and pop culture. But for today, the milestone edition, #500, belongs to the person who always encouraged my writings, whether she "got it" or not. Now that's unconditional love and trust that only a mother can give.


When I worked at Rock 107 as a salesman, my least successful days were the best days I spent with my mother. If you didn’t get a sale by 1pm, it usually meant the day was shot. So some radio reps went to a bar, or some would park on a side street and smoke a cigarette of dubious legality. And others like me would visit our moms. When I sat in the TV room as she was watching her stories, we’d talk about a lot of things. Sometimes we talked about death. And she’d say, “I don’t know what Sandy is going to do when I die.” And I said, yes Sandy would be very sad. Then she looked at me and said, “what about you?” And I told her I’d miss her very much but I’d most likely see if I could stand up here and tell a few stories about her. She then said, “Don’t you dare, don’t you dare get up and say anything about me”. Now for anyone who knows our family, you know that my sister always listened to everything my mother said. I, on the other hand listened to nothing she ever said. Which is why today I am standing before you telling stories about my mother.
She was born the 10th of 13th children, the youngest girl. Her name was supposed to be Barbara but legend has it that her god parents got confused on the way to the christening. Back in those days, parents stayed home and the godparents took the child to church for baptism. When the priest asked what the name of the infant was going to be, the two godparents were flummoxed. Again, this is family legend but the story goes the two were so taken aback their frantic eyes finally gazed upon a statue of the Blessed Mother and both cried out in unison “Mary!”. And thus little Barbara became Mary. But there was a problem with that. You see the Pribula’s had an older daughter, their oldest named Mary. So there was a big Mary and a little Mary. And my mother remained “Little Mary” until July 1965 when Mary Seman, aka “Big Mary” died.
My mother enjoyed all of the jobs she had. As you know she was a department manager at Grant’s and K Mart as well as a type of nanny for a child who’s parents owned dress factories. Another job my mother had was at Consolidated Cigar in West Pittston. She had the misfortune of having her older sister Anna as her supervisor. And my aunt, so as not to show favoritism was a little bit harder on my mother. She would never complain but once in a while I’d hear her say to my father, “I wish just once she’d disown me for a week. Just a week!”
My father also worked in that factory. He’d work the night shift while she worked days. I remember Friday nights, my father would come home at 1130PM and there’d be stirring in the kitchen. Then by midnight, a few neighbors would come over, Stella and Bill McCauley, sometimes Bertha Milkannin or Dinah Milkkanin. Sometimes a friend from the factory. And by 1230am, they would either be canning if it was the fall, baking cookies if it was the holidays or concocting home made root beer in the summertime. When I got up the next morning, I’d come down the steps, and honestly, it looked like the Food Network had landed in our kitchen. Then when they remodeled the kitchen, there was no stopping them. I asked my mother on one of our visits how she did it. I said, “You left for work at 630am, you came home and made me supper, you helped me with my homework, hosted my friends, took care of the house, then when your husband came home you did all of this stuff straight through the weekend including banquet waitressing, what were you on?” And she looked and me and simply said, “Maxwell House!”
Mothers protect, nurture and warm us with their love. That’s an undisputed fact. I can say without exaggeration that my mother and her friends were responsible for at least 250 quilts coming out of our house during her lifetime. The quilts, efforts of skill and love were gifts for weddings, engagements, graduations, baby showers and many were donated to various churches. You named the occasion, they’d make it. The ladies would gather together and sew. It was like an all star team of sewers. Joyce Prandy, Thelma Prandy, Margaret Sincavage, Alberta Kridlo, Stella McCawley, Bertha Muroski, Anna Copper her daughters Anna Mae and Marie, Mary Sookey, Bertha Milkannin, Mary Simalchick, Helen Harmonous and Margie Gerboc. They, along with my mother were the players. But then there was the big three. They were my godmother, Anna Yonki, my second mother in the neighborhood Dinah Milkannin and Katie Haddock. Hearing these ladies debate the issues of the day was like The View on steroids. And my mother was right in the middle to moderate.
Now my mother was not all smiles and flowers. She had a very determined streak that served her well in life. She was not afraid to speak her mind like one night in the late 90s. My sister was very upset and called me telling me that my mother was going out of her mind. I got on the phone and I asked my mother what was wrong. “They bought a horse she said, there’s a horse in my living room!” Now my mother never thought I should drive anywhere at night, so when I asked her if she wanted me to come up, I was surprised when she said yes. When I got there, it turned out that Sandee and Owen promised Troy a dog if he had a good year at school. Because of his success, they brought home Travis. “Look at this thing” she said, “it’s gonna kill me. I’m gonna die because of this horse. Now Mom, I said, Dad’s tombstone says, “In my house there are many rooms” what are we going put on yours, “annoyed by a dog?” I got a harrumph. Then I thought I’d invite her to live with me and Mary Ann. She said no. “It’s either me or the dog. He goes or I go.” She said. Then I played the mother card. I said, “Mom, Troy got good grades, Sandee and Owen as parents promised the boy a dog. Just stay away from him”. She shrugged her shoulders and harrumphed.
So Travis for the first 24 hours was the horse in the house.
48 hours later, it was that dog.
3 days later, he was the dog.
A week later, according to my mother, Travis became “her dog”. When Troy would roughhouse with the dog, my mother would scold him saying, “leave my dog alone”, or “don’t you hurt my dog”. Adaptability.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to do some reporting on current events and sometimes a TV or radio show host will say, “what’s the headline on this story?” And if I had to write a headline on my mother’s life, it would be “Fearless and Faithful”. Not fearing to take a chance on a guy 10 years older than she and building a marriage. Not fearing to take on a new job to support her family and molding it to her own personality and making it her own. Not fearing to live her life for decades after the death of her husband. Faithful in her abilities, optimistic in her outlook on life. Faithful in her family and friends who were the bedrock of her life. Faithful in her God. People took care of her like she took care of them. She had faith and it was rewarded with friendship and love.
The last few months have not been kind to my mother. The only consolation we have in her death is that she will suffer no more. On Mother’s Day I asked her what she wanted. She said “I just want to go home!” With the iron will of my sister, the staff at John Heinz and her own tenacity, she got home to Dewitt Street one last time. Now she’s in a permanent home. A home with no bounds or walls, a home where she can now walk or if she meets up with my father, drag him out on a dance floor. A home where the pain of the past year is washed away like you’d wash away dirt from an old painting. And a different picture emerges, the one where you see the smile, hear the smart remark, see the arched eyed brow and witness the boundless energy that made her the person we all knew and loved. Fearless and faithful once more, in her new home with God. “Little Mary”, “Big Mary’s” ready to give you the grand tour of heaven.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The LuLac Edition #499, June 15th, 2008



Mrs. Mary E. Yonki of Pittston, my mom, passed away tonight at 7:20PM at Geisinger Medical Center in Plains after a long and painful illness. She died on the 65th anniversary of her wedding day. For obvious reasons, we'll be taking some time.


Mary E. ( Marion) Yonki of Pittston died Sunday evening in Geisinger Medical Center, Plains after a long illness. She passed away on the 65th Anniversary of her wedding day.
Born August 11th, 1921, she was the daughter of Andrew and Susan Pribula of Exeter. In addition to being a loving spouse and mother, during her lifetime she worked in various jobs which included Department manager at Grant’s and K Mart in the 70s and 80s, assembly worker at Consolidated Cigar, West Pittston in the 1960s and in the 1950s as a nanny. She was active in the Parent Teacher Organization of St. John the Baptist School, the Holy Rosary Society and most recently was a member of the Cosmopolitan Senior Citizens Club in Exeter and the Senior Citizens Center in Pittston. She was a 1939 graduate of St. Cecilia High School in Exeter.
She was preceded in death by her husband Stephen in 1980, and an infant daughter in 1950, brothers John Pribula, Andrew Pribula , Thomas “Tim” Pribula, sisters Mary Seman, Susan Dziak, Helen Pribula, Verna Pribula, Anne Pribula, and Margaret Pribula. She is survived by a daughter, Sandra Barnett and her husband Owen of Pittston with whom she resided, David and Mary Ann Yonki of Wilkes Barre as well as a grandson Troy Barnett. Also surviving are brothers Joseph Pribula of Exeter and Leonard Pribula of West Pittston as well as a sister Elizabeth Zujkowski, Duryea.
Friends may call Wednesday from 5 to 8pm at the Bernard Pointek Funeral Home, Main Street in Duryea. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on 9:30AM at Holy Rosary Church, Duryea. Internment will be at St. John the Baptist Slovak Cemetery, Schooley Avenue in Exeter.

The LuLac Edition #498. June 15th, 2008



A poster in one of our previous editions wanted to know my take on the Catholic School teachers recent troubles with the Diocese. Having been a product of Catholic schools right through my entire education career, I have thought about this issue. I had been educated by nuns exclusively until the seventh grade when a lay teacher was hired at our school. To be honest it was a tough transition because it was something new for all of us. But after a bumpy first half, we began to learn what we were supposed to but with a perspective of someone less cloistered. In high school, my lay teachers taught me Biology, English and the humanities. My first exposure to an honest to God right winger was at St. John’s High when I had classes with a gentlemen who constantly urged us to join a group called the YAF, Young Americans for Freedom. Something like that made you come face to face with your own mind and beliefs. My regard for lay teachers, what they do, how they educate is unparalleled. So with this back drop, here’s what I think.
The recent efforts by State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski to pass House Bill 2626 gives you an insight into how this guy governs. Someone had to do something to counteract the actions of the Diocese and do so legally. The Diocese, like Pashinski and many others have said, have to make the decision whether they want to be in the education business. In a way, the Diocese has used to its advantage all of the pro business, union busting activities that have come down the pike in the last twenty five years. Give them credit, they used the tools America has given them. In a way, their motto is “We do it…because we can” following the lead of Oil Companies and Airlines. What they have done to the lay teachers and the schools is unfair but not illegal. They know the loopholes and use them well. Ask Mike Mills. But finally, someone has stood up to this way of doing business and handling workers. It may not bring us back to the days of Samuel Gompers, but thank goodness at least it’s a start. The PR people can tell you all about their committees until they are blue in the face but this is not only union busting, it’s inhumane. You’d expect that from big business but not the Church. Oh wait, I forgot, sometimes the Church is big business. But maybe the church, and all business and government should follow Ghandi’s definitions of the 7 deadly sins and how we as a people can avoid them, maybe the world would be kinder. They are
1. Wealth without work.
2. Pleasure without conscience.
3. Science without humanity.
4. Knowledge without character.
5. Politics without principle.
6. Commerce without morality.
7. Worship without sacrifice.


The reassessment notices for Luzerne County are currently being mailed and most people are unhappy with the increase in the value of their properties. We have not yet received our notice but expect have an increase like everyone else. I have never been a tax crazy, I believe that you pay taxes to get services. You pay taxes to get yourself help when you need it. You pay taxes to help those less fortunate than yourself. Government should be in the business of protecting the common good. So whatever the rate is, we’ll pay it knowing that at some level that money will be used to make the Luzerne County a better place. That said, there should be no special breaks for people who are connected, no whining from those who built McMansions to impress the neighbors, and by all means no tax breaks or loans for private businesses (some that have failed two or three times already) that use government money to get a leg up on their competitors who are using their own capital. Also, criminals charged with murder should not use tax payer money to hire out of town experts who are paid to get them off after their kill in our town, prime example, Henry Stubbs. Use the money for what it’s intended, don’t play Santa to your buddies and make it fair for everyone. Do it that way and you won’t hear a complaint from me on reassessment.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The LuLac Edition #497, June 14th, 2008



Was watching “The Morning Joe” the other day waiting for the water guy to come and drop off our monthly supply. He had a great point about Washington insiders. He said that if any President truly wants to affect change that President should surround himself with Washington insiders who can get the change the new leadership wants through the governmental system. He brings up a great point. If a President wants to overhaul things, he needs people who are willing to go from one team to another. Bringing in new, untried rookies who have ideals and nothing else, cries for a repeat of the Carter administration. And Scarborough, a former Congressman points out that if the new President can’t stand up to the insiders and get across to them what he wants, that person has no business being the Commander In Chief of the nation.


WBRE TV reports that Judge Ann Lokuta’s lawyer is urging the Judicial Conduct Review Board to reopen Ann Lokuta’s case. The reason? Her lawyers says the testimony given by Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciaverella should be looked at more closely. The testifying Judges against Lokuta are being looked at for their financial dealings. Personally I think this is a good idea since the testimony against Lokuta by the Judges is now tainted. If it’s “they said, she said”, the “they” are not the impregnable force of truth they were purported to be. Either the Review Board should reopen the case or the testimony of the Judges should be eliminated. Lokuta has always claimed she was targeted and outcast by the male members of the Judicial branch in the county. Apparently she wasn’t making that up.


Still another public official feeding at the trough has finally paid taxes on his properties after being prodded by news reports. This time it’s in Lackawanna County. Lackawanna County Housing Authority solicitor Paul J. LaBelle piled up almost $42,000 in unpaid property taxes on his home. The county recently sold three properties whose owners owed far less in taxes than what Mr. LaBelle owed. The largest tax bill of the three was slightly more than $13,000. Let me ask a few questions. How do you get away with not paying your taxes for years, not lose your house and how in the world do you live with a $13,000.00 bill hanging over your head? LaBelle paid the money in full. Good for him. But did he have that money all along? Did he ever intend to pay those taxes? And how does one forget to pay their property taxes? He had two other properties too. Local homeowners are struggling to pay one mortgage and one set of taxes. Why should special people get the chance to own properties they pay no taxes on, without loss or fear of penalty while the rest of the body politic live in fear of getting their homes taken to tax sale? Revolutions have been started for far less.


While Luzerne County home owners are getting the news of their reassessment, Lackawanna County residents might have a 7 year break. The completion of Lackawanna County's long-awaited reassessment could be delayed up to seven years. An official from reassessment vendor 21st Century Appraisals Inc. told the commissioners his company cannot figure new assessment values for the county's 98,000 properties until as many as 2,000 mapping issues are resolved, a task that could take until 2014. Of the 70,000 properties visited so far, there have been issues with 5,735 of them. Problems range from parcels whose exact locations could not be determined, to properties that lack ownership information, to subdivided land where the parcel numbers and ownership are unknown.


James Earl Ray is arrested for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr……..Statewide, the government awarded contracts totaling $242,000 for construction at Retreat State Hospital….in Luzerne County 7400 people greeted the opening of the race season at Pocono Downs...........
Graduation Day was held at St. John the Baptist Grade School in Pittston on June 15th. That same day, my parents Stephen and Mary Yonki celebrated their silver anniversary..... and in LuLac land and the nation, the number one song was a tune by novelty and country artist Ray Stevens who crossed over big time with the song “Unwind”. From You Tube:

Friday, June 13, 2008

The LuLac Edition #496, June 13th, 2008



I first heard of Tim Russert in early 1990 when Rush Limbaugh railed against him as this Washington insider who all of a sudden got the plum promotion to be the moderator of “Meet The Press”. What Limbaugh did not know was that Russert was someone who would transform Sunday morning TV into a giant meeting place for politicians and citizens of America. Russert brought to the broadcast humor, incisive questioning but more importantly a sense of history. When he took over the broadcast, the heritage cornerstone of NBC News was operating on fumes. Taking the show to one hour, Russert carved out a niche on Sunday morning TV that would revive the program but also transform the political landscape. While he did things to make the show more contemporary, like utilizing the modern tools like set design, and internet, he embraced the heritage of “Meet The Press”. With his “Press” minutes or retrospectives, Russert celebrated the past while reporting the present. He was the type of man, host, moderator who did not shy away from his past. He proudly spoke of his hometown Buffalo, their usually poor performing teams, the Bills, Sabres and Bisons as well as his family. It was not uncommon for him to do a “shout out” to his dad, “Big Russ” or display a tie his son bought for him for Father’s Day or his birthday. Russert spoke here locally and was a big hit. Recently, in my opinion I felt his coverage of the 2008 campaign was bordering on breathless fawning of Barak Obama and unfairness to Senator Clinton. But that said, maybe it was me. Russert always had the facts, knew the inside games and enjoyed immensely the game that is politics in America. As he is mourned, there will be reports about his weight and even allegations that he was workaholic. Maybe. But as stated here before on this site, people who get in broadcasting get “the bug”. They work holidays and all nights at a 250 watt radio station, they miss time away from their families in pursuit of the big story. Or if they were fortunate enough to be Tim Russert, you reported the results of a primary till 1AM, went on “Morning Joe” at 6AM, got on a plane to cover a story, get back to do “Nightly News” and then prep for Sunday morning. No normal person would want this schedule, let alone thrive on it like Russert did. His contemporaries on the cable news channels pointed out Tim thought he was the luckiest man alive doing what he did. It was almost beyond his comprehension that he got paid for what he did. He had “The Bug”. The broadcast and media people who read this site will know what I mean. Although he is mourned, we will remember this larger than life presence who never dreamed that he’d be the top story in the middle of a Presidential election campaign. There will be a hole in Sunday Morning TV as well as the discourse of politics in America. In a way, it’s ironic I heard of Russert first through Rush Limbaugh because the late moderator was the “anti Limbaugh”. (Russert even invited Rush on Meet The Press much to the outrage of his liberal friends). While Limbaugh talks of the ideology of today, Russert took us back on a journey of his youth, telling us what shaped him. Seeing JFK in Buffalo like many of us saw him here in NEPA, rooting for a team that was more unsuccessful than not, remembering Vietnam, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King’s death and commemorating them not as musty historical tidbits but part of what made him the guy who shook his head at the wonder of it all. Guys like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would’ve loved him because he understood politics, what it took to win and how to lose gracefully. With him suddenly gone, we now move on. Russert’s tagline was “If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet The Press”. It will again be Sunday, but never, ever the same.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The LuLac Edition #495, June 11th, 2008


THE 80/20 POL

A report was filed by Luzerne County Prothonotary Jill Moran detailing her involvement with a company linked to two county judges. To some, even men of high finance, her report doesn't make sense. Two professors, one at Wilkes, one at King's said the filing contains confusing information that “doesn’t make sense".
In the Times Leader, Dr. Jeffrey Alves of Wilkes University and the Rev. Jack Ryan of King’s College said they had a hard time understanding a statement of financial interest filed on Monday by Moran. In the report, Moran states she is a 100 percent shareholder in W-Cat. Inc., but has only a 20 percent “interest” in the company. Now I don't know about you but how can someone own 100% of the shares but 20% of the company. Calling the statement "odd" the two profs said usually those who have 100% of the shares own the whole company.
The company is W-Cat and has become a source of interest and raised eyebrows after the revelation that judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan also have a financial interest in the firm. Moran is also the law partner of Robert J. Powell, a Butler Township attorney who state officials say made millions of dollars by leasing the PA Child Care juvenile detention center to the county. Powell sold his interest in the juvenile detention center and two other businesses. He has said he at one time owned half of W-Cat, but transferred full ownership of the company to Moran in 2004. Now folks, I love my friends but I never got half of a company, then full ownership. I guess I hang with the wrong crowd. But in the land of Luzerne County politics, 80/20 ownership is perfectly logical if you are connected. Now I have to tell you I've been in the Prothonotary's office and Ms. Moran has the thing running perfectly. But this latest filing cries out for an explanation.


Many people have asked how Barack Obama got where he was in order to launch a longshot bid for the Democratic nomination. You need look no further than the 2004 Senate race in Illinois where Obama beat a field of Democratic hopefuls to square off against GOPer Jack Ryan, who was at one time married to Hollywood stunner Jeri Ryan. As a result of the GOP and Democratic primaries, Democrat Barack Obama was pitted against Republican Jack Ryan. Ryan trailed Obama in early polls, with Obama opening up a 22-point lead after the media reported that Ryan had assigned Justin Warfel, a Ryan campaign worker, to track Obama's appearances. The tactic backfired when many people, including Ryan's supporters, criticized this activity. Ryan's spokesman apologized, and promised that Warfel would give Obama more space. Obama acknowledged that it is standard practice to film an opponent in public, and Obama said he was satisfied with Ryan's decision to have Warfel back off. Again, here's a key component Obama used in the race against Senator Clinton, when attacked, he was not vengeful or bitter but accepted with the shrug of the shoulders the explanation of those performing the dirty pool or in Clinton's case, making the not well thought out statement.
As the campaign progressed, the lawsuit brought by the Chicago Tribune to open child custody files from Ryan's divorce was still continuing. Barack Obama's backers emailed reporters about the divorce controversy, but refrained from on-the-record commentary about the divorce files. On March 29, 2004, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider ruled that several of the Ryans' divorce records should be opened to the public, and ruled that a court-appointed referee would later decide which custody files should remain sealed to protect the interests of Ryan's young child. A few days later, on April 2, 2004, Barack Obama changed his position about the Ryans' soon-to-be-released divorce records, and called on Democrats to not inject them into the campaign. On June 22, 2004, after receiving the report from the court-appointed referee, the judge released the files that were deemed consistent with the interests of Ryan's young child. In those files, Jeri Ryan alleged that Jack Ryan had taken her to sex clubs in several cities, intending for them to have sex in public. The decision to release the files generated much controversy because it went against both parents' direct request, and because it reversed the earlier decision to seal the papers in the best interest of the child. Jim Oberweis, Ryan's defeated GOP opponent, commented that "these are allegations made in a divorce hearing, and we all know people tend to say things that aren't necessarily true in divorce proceedings when there is money involved and custody of children involved." Although their sensational nature made the revelations fodder for tabloid and television programs specializing in such stories, the files were also newsworthy because of questions about whether Ryan had accurately described the documents to GOP party leaders. Prior to release of the documents, Ryan had told leading Republicans that five percent of the divorce file could cause problems for his campaign. But after the documents were released, GOP officials including the state GOP Chair. Officials said they felt Ryan had misleadingly indicated the divorce records would not be embarrassing. That charge of dishonesty led to intensifying calls for Ryan's withdrawal, though Topinka said after the June 25 withdrawal that Ryan's "decision was a personal one" and that the state GOP had not pressured Ryan to drop out. Ryan's campaign ended less than a week after the custody records were opened, and Ryan officially filed the documentation to withdraw on July 29, 2004. Obama was left without an opponent. Enter talk show host Alan Keyes. Keyes, a conservative Republican from Maryland, faced an uphill battle. First, Keyes had few ties to Illinois political leaders. Second, during the time when Obama had no opponent, he had campaigned throughout the more conservative downstate regions to build up name recognition. Third, Keyes was seen as a carpetbagger, only establishing legal residency in Calumet City, Illinois days before running. The Chicago Tribune in an editorial, stated that "Mr. Keyes may have noticed a large body of water as he flew into O'Hare. That is called Lake Michigan." Obama ran the most successful Senate campaign for a non-incumbent in 2004, and was so far ahead in polls that he soon began to campaign outside of Illinois in support of other Democratic candidates. He gave large sums of campaign funds to other candidates and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and sent many of his volunteers to work on other races, including that of now-Congresswoman Melissa Bean who defeated then-Congressman Phil Crane in that year's election. It was there that I believe Obama found the base for how he would organize a nationwide 50 state effort which did him great good and Senator Clinton great harm. Obama and Keyes differed on many issues including school vouchers and tax cuts, both of which Keyes supported and Obama opposed. The Keyes-Obama race was one of the first to be called on Election Day, 2004.At the start of Keyes' candidacy in August, Keyes had 24% support in the polls. He received 27% of the vote in the November general election to Obama's 70%. So if you wonder where he came from and how he got here, that's the story.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The LuLac Edition #494, June 10th, 2008



As many of you have ascertained from this site, I am a person who believes there should be a historical record of the events of our time. That's why I was thrilled yesterday to see on C-SPAN Representative Dennis Kucinich defying his party leaders (yes Democrats, those same Democrats who wanted to have a "peaceful, non confrontation" convention in 2004 so as now to ofend those who mildly respected Mr. Bush) and standing alone in the well of the House calling for impeachment articles against the current administration. He called for the impeachment of President George Bush for launching the Iraq war -- but his move was not expected to go anywhere. The Ohio representative outlined his intention to propose more than two dozen charges against Bush on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Kucinich, a former presidential candidate, accused Bush executing a "calculated and wide-ranging strategy" to deceive citizens and Congress into believing that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States. It's an irony that the shortest guy in all of Washington, D.C. has the biggest "set" when it comes to telling the truth about the Iraq War and making someone accountable. But I guess sending 4,000 of our best and brightest off to war is nothing compared to lying about a little hottie so your wife wouldn't find out! See, no matter is the resolution goes anywhere, there is now a historical record of it...from someone!


In his tenure as Governor, Ed Rendell has manipulated the State Legislature like no one's business. Guess what? They bit back. Senate Republicans remain convinced that no law compels Gov. Ed Rendell to furlough as many as 25,000 state employees in the event that a budget impasse goes beyond June 30. Following a more than two-hour hearing held by Senate State Government Committee today, Sen. Jeffery Piccola, R-Dauphin County, who chairs the committee, said Rendell administration officials "are making a policy decision and the reason for the policy decision is they want to threaten layoffs so it'll be another pressure point for the Legislature to enact something they might not otherwise want to enact." We'll see Governor Ed's response.


At least not in Pennsylvania eating places and bars. Restaurants, most offices and other public places look like they are going smoke-free.
The state Senate today approved a bill prohibiting indoor smoking in public places, with a 41-9 vote. The House passed the legislation last week, so the Senate vote moves the bill to Gov. Ed Rendell. Rendell had indicated last week that he would swiftly sign the bill. The measure would take effect 90 days after Rendell signs it. The measure would allow some exceptions lawmakers had demanded. All but two of Pennsylvania's casinos would allow smoking sections. The Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course would maintain a smoking area. Neighborhood bars and some hotel and motel rooms would be reserved for smoking. Lawmakers and public health groups have wrestled over the legislation for more than a year. Some health advocates have complained that there are too many exceptions, but most said the legislation would cut down on the risks of secondhand smoke in many workplaces. The bill allows Philadelphia to retain its own smoking ban, which bars smoking in the city's two casinos. Rendell had said that he would veto any bill that revokes the city's smoking ordinance. Proving once more that Governor Ed looks out for the old hometown.


Tonight's Scranton City Council meeting has been canceled due to a lack of a quorum. Or lack of interest on the part of the elected, high exalted ones!