Saturday, April 30, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1573, April 30th, 2011




The semi annual Blogfest was held once more at Rooney’s Pub and it was quite an event. Because of the large political calendar, the candidates came in shifts. The first wave saw the very first arrival Mario Fiorucci who is a candidate for Luzerne County Council. Fiorucci is hosting his annual “State of the World” event Sunday from 1 to 4PM at 893 Main Street in Sugar Notch. Fiorucci worked the room the entire night…..Attorneys Jim Haggerty and Dick Hughes made the event talking to likely supporters. Both of these GOP candidates have very strong bipartisan ties and are making sure they are asking for every vote…..Attorney Lesa Gelb stopped by on her way to a myriad number of events. Political observers at the blogfest said that Gelb seems to be everywhere in this campaign effort……..A guy who made a very good impression on people was Assistant DA Jim McMonagle. It has been said that McGonigle might be the only candidate in the race without a private practice. He made a very good impression despite heading into deep Democratic party territory……Mountaintop Attorney Tony Ross also got some very positive vibes from the crowd. If this is Ross’ initial foray into a full blown campaign, you’d never know it since he was working the room like a pro….Attorney Paula Raddick worked the room outlining to people gathered her grass roots style campaign. Raddick left the event to motor up to an event for County Council candidate Mike Cabell of Drums….County Council candidate Bruce Simpson made the event. Simpson has impressed people on the stump. Simpson says either win or lose, this campaign has been an experience of a lifetime…..Libertarian candidate Tim Mullen stopped by and he had some interesting strategies for his general election effort. Both he and American Independent Party candidate Charlie Hatchko had their petitions and pens out and I gladly signed both of them………It was great to see Dave Baloga and his wife Donna there along with fellow GOPers Pat Umbra and Jim O’Meara……The room soon emptied out and then started to replenish itself after a short break. Candidates who were at the Third District Meeting stopped by…..Judicial Candidate Mike Vough worked the room with his wife Cindy. Someone strategically placed a pick up truck outside the event with Vough’s visage beaming forth…..Attorney Joe Saporito waded into the crowd greeting any and all of his friends and supporters…..Just as District Justice Fred Pierantoni was shaking hands, someone noticed him on the flat screen TV. It was double exposure for the long serving Justice looking to move up to the Court of Common Pleas…..I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. Mirabito, he of the Molly Hanlon Mirabito merger. We talked about his work with his students at Misrecordia and his wife’s campaign effort…..Attorney Mark Bufalino made the scene with his media advisor former Scranton Mayor Jim McNulty. Bufalino’s signs are everywhere and we both agreed that Mr. McNulty is a valuable import from neighboring Lackawanna County in terms of political marketing advice…..County Council candidate Casey Evans was boundlessly working the room. Evans and I were talking about his work with the Hillary Clinton campaign and his dogged determination on the campaign trail….Attorney Jennifer Rogers showed up working the room and taking a lot of time with individual voters. She is obviously building on one of her strengths from the last campaign, personal contact…..Had a great reunion with Eileen Sorokas and her husband Rich. As a matter of fact, Eileen’s husband testified to the fact that I wasn’t always with a cane and that yes indeed I could run (albeit slowly) the base paths. He and I were members of the City Hall Killer Bees Softball League in the 80s….On that note, County Council candidate John Adonizio and I were swapping stories about our various knee ailments through the years. Adonizio was one of the early arrivals. Adonizio also serves on the current Home Rule committee….Wil Toole made his way through the crowd. Toole was dubbed the energizer bunny because of his constant campaign appearances. Toole’s signs are placed strategically all over the county…..My former grade school class mate Mike Giamber made an appearance. Giamber was one of the original supporters of Home Rule and made quite an impression on the people at the event……Another guy who really wowed them was Attorney Jim Bobeck. Bobeck is actually serving on the Home Rule Committee now and he really had a few people listening intently to his pitch….Former County Commissioner Edd Brominski was greeted with open arms and friendly smiles. Brominski is one of the most well respected politicos in the arena and there are actually people thanking him for making the race……Harry Haas worked the room. Haas is running on the GOP ticket and more than a few people exclaimed, “Harry we got to elect you to something some time soon!”………….Representatives of Joyce Dombroski Gebhardt and Harry Skene were handing out their respective campaign materials…..Michele Bednar worked the room too. She has been traveling the county since the day of her announcement in pursuit of one of the seats on County Council…..Barb Zangre running for Pittston City Council was pressing the flesh advising people of her campaign promise to donate part of her salary for Pittston City playgrounds......Attorney Chris O’Donnell made the trek from South Wilkes Barre. O’Donnell, a well respected lawyer is making the run for District Magistrate in the South Wilkes Barre District that was represented by current Judge William Amesbury and prior to that the late Michael Collins. The district number is 11-1-01…....County Council candidate Tom Rome also stopped in handing out his materials and greeting his friends and fellow campaigners….Attorney Vito DeLuca who made quite an impression in the previous campaign regarding the Charter also was there easily milling about with his supporters….Among the media, WBRE TV’s Joe Holden showed up and did a story on WBRE TV Eyewitness News at 11PM….Jack Smiles from the Sunday Dispatch took copious notes from Mr. Valenti and me…Scott Cannon from Video Innovations was there the whole night taking film. The You Tube video you see was produced by Mr. Cannon who is one of the best media minds in the area. (Look at the video for proof), Cannon also was very active in the opposition to a frack water treatment building near the river in Hanover Township…..among the bloggers attending were the man himself who started the BlogFest, Gort 42… Michelle Hryvnak Davies who did some incredible work promoting this event. Her blog site link is as well as,and Harold Jenkins who operates the site D.B. Echo and Another Monkey, Here's his informative link: ……Tom Chipilewski one of the biggest supporters in the blogging community held court at the bar regarding issues of national security and the most important one, Penn State Football……I was leaving when local media follower and all around interesting fellow Bob Storz was on his way in...Bob Caruso, a former Democratic State Committeeman made the rounds...Larry DelGado, a candidate for Exeter Council stopped by as well as PA School Board candidate Bob Lamp....Rich Shemanki who is a comer in local politics was also there pressing the flesh and making more contacts for his bright future in politics and Athena Ford, a Fair Health Care activist circulated among the crowd.
This event was different than past years because there seemed to be an ebb and flow to the crowd. We thank all of our readers, supporters, media, posters, and most importantly the candidates for coming out on a typically miserable (weather wise) Northeastern Pennsylvania night. We are nothing but blank screens and empty thoughts without all of you.
NOTE: If I missed anyone in my rundown, I do apologize. Please send me an e mail and I’ll add you to this edition.

The LuLac Edition #1572, April 30th, 2011



This past week the world and of course LuLac land was hit by Royal Wedding Fever. I spoke with someone that has been following the Royals for a long time.
Q: You seem to be excited about this wedding?
A: I am. My uncle married a woman from Britain and she was delightful. Growing up she shared so many of the traditions of royalty.
Q: I know what you mean. When I grew up we had a neighbor who married a woman from Britain. Met her when he was in the service. They would travel back and forth to England to see her family. I grew up with their children and got quite an education as to the throne in Britain.
A: Oh yes there is nothing like first hand experiences. I was blessed because my aunt took the time to explain the lineage. She also gave me schooling on the traditions of the last century.
Q: Is it true that the wedding in 2011, the customs actually had its roots culturally in the early twenties?
A: Correct. When Price George married his wife in 1923 this was in effect the first wedding in quite a while. The carriage was used as well as invitations to the public to see the spectacle.
Q: That was big because…
A: Well you know you know but thanks for the opening. George’s brother, David later to be Edward was not married and remained a bachelor until Wallace Simpson.
Q: You were quite young when the queen got married?
A: Yes but I saw color films of the event and my aunt was actually there. So I got the details.
Q: Did you ever visit Britain?
A: Yes in the late 70s and then again in the 90s. As a matter of fact, I left just a week before Diana’s death.
Q: Would you have stayed for the funeral?
A: I almost went back.
Q: Thoughts on this wedding?
A: I feel it was done in very good taste. I see so much of his mother in William. But I think many people should give credit to Charles too.
Q: He was quite a scoundrel as they say, why?
A: Oh sure he was. I mean that tampon thing was ugly but he really let those boys flourish. He didn’t try to deny Diana as part of their lives. Some thought he might. Q: I always thought he got a bad rap for being too stiff.
A: Oh I agree. I think he was caught as a prisoner in time. He had to adhere to the old ways, especially with the Queen Mother living so long. I mean he was up against two generations. So I think in a strange sort of way, Diana’s independence was good for him. Even in death it kind of rubbed off on him.
Q: I’m fascinated by the number of women watching this thing?
A: It’s all about the fairy tale. Love. We women love that sort of idealized fanfare. It’s all about being a princess.
Q: And the prince too, don’t forget that. If you could describe this wedding week in one word what would it be?
A: Uh, savor.
Q: Savor?
A: Oh yes, this was like a banquet of the mind and heart. I think it’ll be a while before we see another like it.
Q: What about Prince Harry?
A: Oh I have a feeling with that bloke it’ll be a while.
Q: You never know, he might fool us, right?
A: (Laughing) No he won’t.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1571, April 29th, 2011



Just an important reminder....the spring BlogFest will be held tonight, Friday April 29th from 6pm to 8pm at Rooney's Pub in downtown Pittston. Stop by and meet the bloggers, the posters, the pretenders, the readers, the candidates, the media and anyone interested in talking politics. County Council and Judicial candidates from Luzerne County are especially invited as well as candidates running in the all important Lackawanna County Commissioners race. Plus any other candidate, school board, borough, township councils....any and all political parties are all invited.
It's a cash bar and there are no speeches.



This Weekend on Sunday Magazine May 1....
Brian Hughes speaks with Scott Cannon, Janine Dymond and Leann Wallace of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition about the proposed wastewater treatment plant in Hanover Township, a proposed gas compressor station in Dallas Township, and the possibility of a gas severance tax in Pennsylvania. Brian interviews Paula Garrett and Ken Thornton about the thousands of unfilled lab technician positions available throughout the U.S. And Magic 93’s Frankie in the Morning speaks with Sherry about the Greater Hazleton Relay for Life, coming up in early June.
Sunday Magazine, Sunday morning at 5:30am on JR 93.7 & 97BHT, 6am on 97.9X, 6:30am on Magic 93, and 9:30am on WARM 590 AM


Distinguished Senior Fellow George Weigel—author of the magisterial two-volume biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning—addresses questions and criticisms concerning the forthcoming beatification of John Paul II. From Rome, Mr. Weigel will be providing commentary on the beatification ceremony for MSNBC from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 1.


Doctor Joe Leonardi will be appearing tomorrow, Saturday 4/30, morning at around 10:10 am on Tough Talk with Joe Peters; 94.3 fm in Northeast PA, there is a listen live link on the attached web site if you are outside of the listening area. Leonardi will be giving my insights on Childhood Obesity and Bullying. Here's that link:

The LuLac Edition #1570, April 29th, 2011



The LuLac Edition #1569, April 29th, 2011



Maybe I’m Amazed……..that the Royal Wedding is here and everybody seems to be talking about it. We in America have a grand curiosity about the Royal Family, given the WWII alliance and our shared history.
Maybe I’m Amazed……that there are still people in this country who doubt the President’s birth. Some I’m sad to say are even surprised that Hawaii is a state.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that Governor Tom Corbett seems to have a certain peace surrounding his actions regarding the budget. Corbett is thinking short term in getting the state out of debt. Even though I have disagreed with Corbett on some cuts, you have to admire his stand. And I bet in the long run, it’ll get him a second term.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that former Judge Anne Lokuta seems to have a lot of staying power with her core constituency, the media and politicians willing to give her a leg up. The recent story about her getting an offer to run as a Republican must have incumbent D.A. Jackie Musto Carroll scratching her head wondering what she deserved to get any opposition so suddenly.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that a local grocery chain even sent coupons to consumers trumpeting ways to “celebrate the wedding of the century with your own royal family”.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that people continue to take Donald Trump seriously. The guy is a bigot, he has bankrupted a few businesses, has himmed and hawed about releasing his tax returns and is very dangerous in his rhetoric regarding economic foreign policy. If he thinks acting like a bully is going to endear him to any foreign power, he is a really stupid man.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that most of the songs on “American Idol” are classic rock and oldies songs that can be construed as being “timeless”. You see you can’t make hip hop sound palatable to the great American middle.
Maybe I’m Amazed……that NBC cancelled “The Paul Reiser Show” after two episodes. Mrs. LuLac said they kept the show on the air one episode too many.
Maybe I’m Amazed….that the NFL Draft got as much analysis as the President’s economic policy this week.
Maybe I’m Amazed….that the Spring Blogfest is upon us. Stop by and join us at 6pm at Rooney’s Pub on S. Main Street in Pittston. Everyone, readers, candidates of all parties, (third parties also) , political operatives, bloggers, bloggers to be, media, campaign managers, pretenders, power brokers, cronies……….are all invited to attend. Cash bar, and no speeches.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1568, April 28th, 2011



In 1971 when his Presidency was on the rocks and the Democrats thinking they could beat him in ’72 Richard Nixon’s trump card was foreign policy. In 1983 when there were rumors of a single term for Ronald Reagan because of his shooting at the hands of an assassin and a very weak economy, the Democrats thought Reagan was gettable. Reagan’s trump card was his belief that the economy was at last turning around. In 1995 when Bill Clinton had to hold a press conference to say he was still relevant after the House take over in 1994, the GOP thought surely Clinton could be beat. His trump card was the hubris of one Mr. Newt Gingrich. It turns out that in 2011, a year before Mr. Obama has to face the voters after disappointing his liberal base and getting us into another war, there are members of the GOP thinking he might be this century’s Jimmy Carter. But President Obama has his own trump card. A real Trump, one Mr. Donald Trump. Trump may be the best thing that ever happened to a President on the ropes. Trump has been using the President’s birth certificate as a way to get recognition and a boost in the polls. He has questioned the existence of the birth certificate even after CNN sent their own team to find it. Trump was interviewed on CNN by that blond haired guy that every woman seems to adore and made a total ass out of himself. Or at least I thought that. My reaction was that Trump needed some type of validation and even more publicity than he seems to have right now. I realized how wrong I was.
Yesterday morning, President Obama released the version of his birth certificate that could only be presented by a special request from the birthee themselves. Trump took credit for having Obama putting the document forward to the American people. Cool move I thought. You had to hand it to him, he was taking credit for forcing the President’s hand. Kind of like an orphan telling the court that his situation happened because said orphan killed his own parents. I thought Trump has nothing if not a gigantic set of stones. But then Trump started in on how he couldn’t understand how Obama got into Harvard. Then I started to see and hear things that I grew up with here in LuLac land and in Washington, D.C. where I lived after high school. I heard Trump using “code language”. “You don’t want to live too deep onto Wisconsin Avenue because there’s a lot of transients there”. “You don’t want to hang out with that Jewish kid because those people have their own ways”. It is character assassination by inference. Donald Trump should say what he was thinking, “Did Obama get into Harvard because he was black?” “Did Obama get there because of that damn affirmative action?” That’s what Trump is saying. Donald Trump ladies and gentlemen is the Babbit of the 21st century. Donald Trump is a malevolent, conniving bigot. He just wears a better suit than Bull Connor and Lester Maddox ever did. But the danger about Trump is you knew where those guys were coming from. Trump has to cowardly sneak in his innuendos. In the move “Citizen Kane” the main character tried to buy talent for his mistress ensuring that she would be a big star. In this campaign, Trump has told us that he has the money to take his case to the people. But like Kane, Trump has a problem. Kane for all of his money could never convince the critics that his babe had talent. Trump for all of his money will never convince America that he doesn’t harbor hatred and bigotry in his heart. He proved that today by going to the next divisive argument that is its own silliness, college grades. Who the hell cares? Evidently only bigots who are still pissed America elected a person of color.


This is an OPEN LETTER to Star Jones, La Toya Jackson, NeNe Leakes, Lil John and Dionne Warwick:
Dear Celebrities:
How can each of you in good conscience believe that Donald Trump is a man of honor. Trump has been using code language to impugn the reputation of an American President. As a member of the black community, you surely must have some thoughts on these absurd allegations Mr. Trump is making. Even though I’m just a little nobody blogger from nowhere, I urge you to renounce your association with Mr. Trump because of his bigoted, coded statements toward an African American who just happens to be our President. If you have any questions, contact me through this site or better yet, talk to Whoopee Goldberg who was having none of his nonsense on “The View”.
David Yonki
The LuLac Political Letter



This week there was a mini controversy in the County Council race. Candidate Bruce Simpson was taken to task on the downlow, in effect a whispering campaign that said he wanted to thwart the free speech of third party candidates attending Democratic rallies. Simpson said that he just felt that in a crowded primary, it tended to muddy the message. Libertarian candidate Tim Mullen responded and here’s what he had to say: Response from Tim Mullen Libertarian for Luzerne County Council
Mr. Yonki,
After having read your April 26th column, I would have to assume that Mr. Simpson's comments were directed in a large part at me. I too, have heard of the original rumor that was circulated and personally I feel Mr. Simpson is entitled to his opinion regardless of what it is. Since you have brought up the issue of campaign etiquette on your blog, I feel a response from me is now warranted.
Being a third party candidate puts one at a distinct disadvantage especially here in Pennsylvania. It all starts with the taxpayer funded media blitzes known as the "primaries" of which we cannot participate in. Also the local newspapers will not allow us to participate in their editorial review boards or publish candidate profiles until after the primaries when we turn in our nomination petitions to become "official" candidates. I feel I have to do everything in my power to level this playing field and it includes attending as many political functions as possible. In addition, as a taxpayer and concerned citizen I feel it is my responsibility to find out who the candidates are, and what they stand for, especially the judge candidates that are up for election this year. Many of my friends, family, co-workers, and supporters, most of whom are either registered Republicans or Democrats, rely on my advice to sort the wheat from the chaff for them in these local races. I work the second shift so I am very limited to the number of events I can attend in the first place. Work constraints also limit the amount of time I can devote to signature gathering. I have been well-received by all the candidates and would personally like to thank Casey Evans, Vito DeLuca, Mark Buffalino, and Dick Hughes for making me feel welcome at their events. I would also like to thank Linda Urban for inviting me to her event this weekend.
I would like to address your comment that as Libertarians we cannot sway Democratic votes. I do not know if you mean Democrat votes in Democrat primaries, in which case I tend to agree with you. If you are talking about swaying Democrat votes to our side in the general election, I would have to disagree. In the 120th District State Representative race last year the well-liked Phyllis Mundy pulled in only a little over half the votes in a 3-way race, instead of her usual landslide plus. In addition I received more votes than the Republican challenger in Democrat strongholds as Luzerne and Pringle Boros. I have already made adjustments to my work schedule in order to attend this Friday's blogger's event. I will be there with clipboard in hand and look forward to seeing you and all the candidates there.
Tim Mullen/Candidate, Luz. County Council


Terrence Nealon and Carmen Minora’s nominations to the Federal Court are being held up. That word from Washington. It seems the Obama Justice Department is putting a new review process in place which will delay if not outright derail these plans. The political terrain is littered with Judicial hopefuls who aspired to the federal bench only to be stopped because of political calculations, non cooperation from a minority or majority party power broker in the Senate or like this, a change in the way things are implemented. Patrick J. Toole Seniors nomination died on the vine during the Clinton years because of GOP opposition in the Legislature.



This week Shadoe Steele interviews members of the band Berlin. Saturday Night Live at the Oldies is heard from 7 to midnight on WILK AM & FM with ABC News on the top of the hour.


ECTV Live (Comcast Ch 19) will be looking to the stars the week of May 2nd. The guest will be Jo-Ann Kamichitis representing the Lackawanna Astronomical Society. Saturday, May 7th., is Astronomy Day and society members are inviting the public to get a close up look at the night sky through the telescope at the Thomas G. Cupillari on the campus of Keystone College in Fleetville.


The fourth anniversary of the Broadway musical Hair is celebrated with a free concert at a Central Park bandshell, followed by dinner at the Four Seasons. There, 13 Black Panther protesters and the show's co-author, Jim Rado, are arrested for disturbing the peace and for using marijuana……………………in Pennsylvania Hubert Humphrey wins his first Presidential primary ever outpolling Senators Muskie and McGovern in the Commonwealth……Robert Casey and Grace Sloan win renomination for the offices of Auditor General and Treasurer respectively….in Luzerne County, Senator Edmund Muskie wins the day even though Humphrey took the state. Muskie beat Humphrey in the county by about 10,000 votes. In Lackawanna County the story was about the same. The GOP had no primary ballot per se but there were write in votes for President Nixon that totaled about 400 per county. Humphrey garnered 51 delegates, Musakie 36 and McGovern 32. In Luzerne County, Lucille Maziarz, Frank Faye and Frank Podsladik won the top spots pledged to Muskie. Joe Benish, a young newscaster from WILK Radio was elected as a Muskie alternate while 18 year old Michael Libenson of Academy Street in Wilkes Barre ran as an uncommitted delegate. LIbenson was one of the youngest candidates in the state. From my journal of the campaign in 1972: “The campaign for the young Democrats they had me in charge of started out badly. We had to wait a week and a half for a plane load of materials to get shipped to us from Wisconsin. But when we got them, we hit every parking lot we could think of. Our goal was to have Humphrey finish second in the county and first in the state. With the help of dedicated Humphrey people like Roth Novelty’s Herbie Gurbst, this became a campaign of the possible". David Yonki, April 28th, 1972….and while all of this was going on, I was also getting ready to graduate high school. This week the number 1 song in Lulac land and America was “I Gotcha” (yeah really, I’m not kidding) by Joe Tex.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1567, April 27th, 2011




While all eyes are going to be in England this week for the Royal Wedding, on Sunday Pope John Paul II will be put on the road to Sainthood. While there are many supporters in this effort, there are others in the church who express caution. Many people have asked why I seem to champion Benedict more than JPII. After all, I am prone to hero worship according to some of my readers. But I have always felt that Benedict had a very tough act to follow. From a public relations standpoint as well as one of policy. Benedict seems to have been stuck with coming to terms with the sex abuse scandal. He has met it head on and I give him credit for that. Last week, Newsweek published an article on the events that will take place on May 1st regarding JPII and why there should be room for some caution before the fast track continues.
Fast Track Saint by John L. Allen, Junior
When Pope John Paul II is beatified on May 1 before an audience of hundreds of thousands in St. Peter’s Square, the event will mark a new land-speed record for arrival at the final stage before sainthood, beating Mother Teresa’s previous mark by 15 days. Some have objected to the haste, particularly given persistent questions about John Paul’s handling of the sexual-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Yet if the child is father to the man, this is a clear case of the pope being father to the saint.
John Paul notoriously presided over what wags called a “saint-making factory” during his almost 27 years atop the Catholic Church. He produced more beatifications (1,338) and canonizations (482) than all previous popes combined—and since Catholic tradition acknowledges 263 previous popes stretching back nearly 2,000 years, that’s no mean feat. This avalanche of halos was the result of a deliberate policy. In 1983, John Paul overhauled the sainthood process to make it quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial, eliminating the office of “Devil’s advocate” and dropping the required number of miracles. His aim was to lift up contemporary role models of holiness in order to show a jaded secular world that sanctity is alive in the here and now.
A substantial share of John Paul’s picks lived in the 20th century, from Padre Pio to Mother Teresa to Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei. In that sense, John Paul’s fast-track beatification is a natural byproduct of his own policies, which have been largely upheld by his successor and erstwhile right-hand man, Pope Benedict XVI.
Yet John Paul’s cause is also a reminder, at least for some, of why waiting a little while isn’t always such a bad thing.
In theory, sainthood is supposed to be a democratic process, beginning with a popular grassroots sentiment that a given figure was a saint. Six years ago, the evidence of that conviction vis-à-vis Karol Wojtyla, the given name of John Paul II, seemed like a slam-dunk.
This was, after all, the pope who brought down communism, who was seen in the flesh by more people than any other figure in human history, who reinvigorated Catholicism after a period of doubt and confusion, and who gave rise to an entire “John Paul II” generation of young priests and bishops eager to take the church’s message to the street.
Crowds chanted “Santo subito!”—“Sainthood now!”—at his funeral mass. The cardinals who gathered to elect the next pope signed a petition asking whoever it might be to waive the normal five-year waiting period to launch a cause, which Benedict XVI swiftly did. Adulatory coverage in the global media amounted to a sort of secular canonization, making the formal ecclesiastical process seem almost anticlimactic.
Today, however, that enthusiasm has been tempered by revelations about the role of the late pope and his aides in the sexual-abuse crisis—by any reckoning, the most destructive Catholic scandal in centuries, and one that critics say metastasized on John Paul’s watch.
The signature case is that of the late Mexican priest Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the controversial conservative religious order the Legionaries of Christ. John Paul II was a great patron of Maciel, admiring the religious order’s unapologetic fidelity to Catholic teaching, its loyalty to Rome and the papacy, and its success in generating vocations among younger Catholics.
Yet in the mid-1990s, charges began to surface that Maciel’s public face concealed a deeply flawed private life. A complaint was filed in Rome with the office headed by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, today Pope Benedict, alleging that Maciel had sexually abused a number of former members of the order. That case was tabled until late 2001, and no action was taken until after John Paul’s death.
Even when Ratzinger’s staff began to become convinced there was fire behind the smoke, other senior figures in John Paul’s regime gave Maciel aid and comfort. Maciel accompanied John Paul II on several foreign voyages and was extolled by top church officials as a role model for his work with youth. At one stage, the most powerful department in the Vatican, the Secretariat of State, denied there was any case against Maciel, at the very moment Ratzinger’s office was reaching the conclusion that Maciel was indeed guilty.
Under the new pope, the dam broke. In May 2006 Benedict XVI ordered Maciel to withdraw to a life of “prayer and penance,” and the Legionaries acknowledged his responsibility for a wide range of abuses and acts of misconduct, including that he fathered children out of wedlock with at least two women with whom he maintained relationships.
In the eyes of critics, the Maciel case illustrates a pattern of denial and obstruction of justice on sex abuse during the John Paul years. In cases where local bishops attempted to formally expel abusers from the priesthood, in a process known as “laicization,” Rome often counseled caution. Vatican authorities until very recently turned a blind eye to “mandatory reporter” policies that would have obligated bishops to report these crimes to police and civil prosecutors.
The extent to which that pattern has been reversed under Benedict XVI may be open to debate, but that it largely describes what happened under John Paul is, by now, a matter of record.
Those inclined to give John Paul the benefit of the doubt argue that the church has been on a learning curve and it’s unfair to judge him by today’s standards. Further, they say, by the time the American scandals erupted and Maciel’s guilt became clear, the late pope was already well into his twilight. His primary contribution to combating the scourge of clerical abuse, they argue, was inspiring a new generation of dedicated and holy priests, men who take their duty of standing “in the person of Christ” seriously, and who are therefore less likely to dishonor their vows.
Whatever one makes of those arguments, the Vatican denies that declaring a saint is tantamount to ratifying all the policy choices of his pontificate. When the 19th-century Pope Pius IX was beatified in 2000, for instance, Vatican officials took pains to say it was not an endorsement of his Jewish policy, which famously included forcing the Jews of Rome back into their ghetto and refusing to return a Jewish child to his parents after he had been secretly baptized.
Sainthood, these officials say, means that despite whatever failures of judgment and foresight marred a pope’s reign, he was nevertheless personally a holy man. Certainly few seriously question John Paul II’s rich personal prayer life, his strong mystical streak, or his deep and abiding faith.
Of course, Vatican spin no longer carries the weight it once did, and in many quarters critics will still see the beatification as an attempt to whitewash John Paul’s record on the crisis. One test of how concerned the Vatican is about that reaction may come in whether John Paul II remains on the fast track, moving to the final step of canonization in record time, or whether the case for caution prevails.
The pilgrims and devotees who will throng St. Peter’s Square on May 1 will doubtless be grateful for a chance to recapture some of that old John Paul II magic. Others, however, will wonder if this is a case in which the Vatican’s legendary penchant for thinking in centuries would serve it better.
Allen is senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and author of The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1566, April 26th, 2011



Bruce Simpson made a comment that third party candidates and GOPers should not be working the room at a Democratic event during the primary and all hell broke loose. All of a sudden, Simpson is being decried as a person who wants to squelch free speech. Simpson says, “It has come to my attention that someone is saying that I oppose Libertarians from being on the ballot. That is incorrect as I have not only voted for Libertarians in the past, I believe they have a place in the political process. What I said was: I don't believe that Libertarians or Republicans should be "working" Democratic events prior to the Primary. That's my view and I won't change it.” One thing you don’t want to do is muddy up an already confusing primary. I know the Republicans and Libertarians want to get exposure but they aren’t going to sway Democratic votes. Perhaps the best example of campaign etiquette that meets the standard of Fair Play is what Wil Toole did in ’09. He stayed away from even getting his petitions signed until after the primary. He attended a debate sponsored by LuLac at LCCC among all the Controller candidates and said very little out of respect for the primary process. Then he went full boar in the general. Now all that stated, if any of the GOP or Libertarians want to get serious face time, we do have our bloggers meeting this Friday April 29th from 6 to 8PM and beyond at Rooney’s Irish Pub on South Main Street in Pittston.


Republican Hazleton Mayoral Candidates Debate
Thursday, April 28 at 7:00pm
Location: Live on WYLN TV-35
Incumbent Mayor Joe Yannuzzi squares off against challenger Jeff Cusat. This debate is going to be pretty interesting. There are some in the city that think Cusat has a better than even chance of upsetting Yannuzzi. Yannuzzi had a close association with Mayor Barletta and his tenure is seen as an extension of Barletta. Fair enough, he’s filling out the term. But Cusat’s ace in the hole is that perhaps the GOP in Hazleton might consider a Yannuzzi term in his own right a 4th Barletta term. The debate can be seen on Service Electric Channel 7 in Wilkes Barre.


Wednesday, April 27 at 7:00pm
Location: Nanticoke Eagles 834


There will be a C.O.P.S. Meeting
Thursday, April 28 at 7:00pm
Location: Conyngham Borough Municipal Building, 215 Main Street, Conyngham, PA 18219.


Gary DiBelio’s campaign for Lackawanna County Controller is finally getting some steam. DiBileo who was a perennial candidate for Mayor against Chris Doherty would be an ideal candidate to replace Ken McDowell in that job. DiBileo is making the rounds and shoring up support from his previous runs for the top job in the city of Scranton.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1565, April 25th, 2011



Lou Barletta is the recipient of a type of dual envy. First off, he is a Congressman. It was a lifelong political goal that he pursued with zeal and persistence. As part of a new GOP majority in the House, Barletta has to tow the party line for his new leadership. Barletta could afford to be a tad moderate nationally since his candidacy was not solely based on the influence of the Tea Party. That said, he is replacing long time Democrats that unabashedly brought money into this district. Because the population of seniors is second only to Florida, Barletta has to be tread carefully on issues like Medicare. Recently the Congressman was presenting a slide show about the Republican plan for Medicare. Never mind that it will not adversely effect people over 55, the perception was that he, as a new representative was tinkering with something dear to the hearts of his core constituents. Last week the Times Leader reported a conversation he had with a senior named Linda Christian Rose, "You seem to think that because I’m not affected, I won’t care if my niece, my grandson, my child is affected. I do care," she said. "You said nothing in the campaign about ’I’m going to change Medicare.’ Now you voted for a plan that will destroy Medicare." "I won’t destroy Medicare," Barletta replied. "Medicare is going to be destroyed by itself." Christman Rose talked over the congressman, telling him to pay for Medicare by taxing the wealthy. The town meeting, which Barletta so championed during his 2010 campaign might be a potential mind field for him. Baletta is in the unenviable position of balancing the wishes of his district with what his national party is selling. There will be some days when people will welcome his message and other days when they won't, witness this incident. The honeymoon has ended for Barletta and the eggshells are accumulating. To garner another term, he has to step lightly and gingerly.


The Plymouth Action Committee has fired up the video waves and have taken it to the streets. Here’s their latest video effort.


Rally to Support Tom Borthwick for Scranton School Board!
Sunday, May 1 at 4:00pm
Location: Ballina Pub and Eatery.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1564, April 24th, 2011



Just an important reminder....the spring BlogFest will be held on Friday April 29th from 6pm to 8pm at Rooney's Pub in downtown Pittston. Stop by and meet the bloggers, the posters, the pretenders, the readers, the candidates, the media and anyone interested in talking politics. County Council and Judicial candidates from Luzerne County are especially invited as well as candidates running in the all important Lackawanna County Commissioners race. Plus any other candidate, school board, borough, township councils....all invited.
It's a cash bar and there are no speeches. And positively everyone, everyone is invited. Plus, if you are a candidate and have a conflicting event, either come early or show up a little later. There will be lots of cameras.
David Yonki The LuLac Political Letter
Joe Valenti Pittston


Earlier in the year I spoke with a political consultant who told me that the candidates for County Council had to answer some fundamental questions, like who they were,, what they stood for and what they thought of the people and government in Luzerne County. Mike Giamber who is running for the Council has a few questions of his own for the voting public he hopes will elect him to one of those seats.
Last November’s triumphant home rule election symbolized an end of a corrupt-laden government as well as a beginning for renewed hope. The adoption of home rule sent a clear message to those who misrepresented us for years that the citizens of Luzerne County are still in charge.
On May 17, 2011 the citizens of Luzerne County will once again take control by casting their vote in the primary election.
Batter Up ... Second inning. Can we hit another home run by making sure the right people get elected for County Council?
A difficult task, I know, but well worth the investment.
Forty nine candidates are running for council. Whew! We have a cornucopia of candidates that range from home rule haters to working class heroes.
How do we separate the slate from the coal?
May I suggest you ask the following 10 questions.
1. Who has actually read and understands the home rule charter?
2. Who attended the weekly home rule meeting, offered suggestions and comments?
3. Who volunteered to sit-on or assist the home rule transition committee or subcommittees?
4. Who has government policy making experience?
5. Who understands the role of county council under home rule?
6. Who has a hidden agenda?
7. Who can devote adequate time to this monumental task of forming a new government?
8. Who has real world experience that can make a difference?
9. Who can we trust to be honest and ethical?
10. Who can think out of the box?
This election really is a big deal. Think hard before you vote. Your future tax burden depends on it.


Democratic candidates John Wansacz and Brian Jefferrs are on the air with their spots for County Commissioner. Here’s a sampling.


Tom Borthwick the dynamic candidate for Scranton School Board recently spoke to the board about the education cutbacks thrown at the district by the Corbett administration. Here’s what he had to say:


Welcome to veteran newsman Dave DeCosmo who has joined the ranks of us bloggers. When Dave was on the road reporting the news, he knew just about everything. Young reporters were urged to soak up his knowledge. A few of us wistfully wondered what would happen if he ever wrote down everything he knew in that head of his. Well, we’re about to find out. Here’s his link.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1563, April 23rd, 2011



This week I talked with a lady whose very first job was being an Easter Bunny.
Q: How old were you?
A: I just turned 15 but looked a bit older. My sister worked at the old Pomeroy’s downtown and got me in. The original Easter Bunny got drafted.
Q : Are you serious?
A: Yeah he never told them and when the ramp up to the holiday was starting, he wasn’t available. His grandmother who had some problems kept telling the store manager he’d be there 3 weeks before Easter. But she neglected to tell them he was in Germany.
Q: Why was she lying?
A: I think she was trying to hold his job and was getting a bit senile. I know she was an immigrant and went through coming here and also had a tough time during the Depression.
Q: What did you make an hour?
A: $1.20 and if there were left over peeps and candy I could have some.
Q: Wow, lucky you.
A: Yeah just what a teenage girl from GAR needs. More candy.
Q: Did you ever tell your friends? I would think you’d get teased to death.
A: Not when I was in school. My husband spilled the beans at our 20th class reunion. They all thought he was kidding.
Q: Where did you tell them you were going on Monday, Thursday and Saturdays?
A: I said I was studying during the week and going to Confession on Saturday.
Q: But you’re Methodist, right?
A: We were kids, no one paid much attention.
Q: Best part of the job?
A: I didn’t have to wear stockings and heels?
Q: Worst?
A: The strange looks from the matronly regulars who thought it was beneath the dignity of women to do that. Dressing up in a bunny suit was man’s work to them!
Q: They never heard of Playboy?
A: Oh jeez not these ladies!
Q: Any other part you didn’t like?
A: The smell. God the suit was awful.
Q: How many years did you do that?
A: Two, then I got myself into a keypunching class at WB Business College and never looked back.
Q: When you had little kids, did you take them to the Easter Bunny and critique him or her?
A: Nope, just wanted to get them in and out. The more they lingered, the more sugared up they’d be liable to get.
Q: Happy Easter.
A: You too.
Q: Will I see you on the bunny trail?
A: Only on a ski slope!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1562, April 22nd, 2011



Maybe I’m Amazed……….that with the closing of many Catholic churches in the area as well as the virtual condemnation, assassination and implosion of some churches, in downtown Wilkes Barre you have St. Mary’s and St. Nick’s within spitting distance of one another. A friend of mine made a point a few summers ago that there was ethnic cleansing (mostly European churches ) going on. When he said it, I thought it was a strange statement but I’m starting to see the wisdom in it.
Maybe I’m Amazed……..that the more I listen to Michael Savage, the more I’m starting to agree with him on certain things. And that’s kind of scary.
Maybe I’m Amazed……..that Judge Richard Caputo said yes to Lackawanna County Commissioner’s request for the trial to be held in Scranton instead of Wilkes Barre. Reason: Convenience. Yeah so let’s make it more convenient for defendants to face a judgment.
Maybe I’m Amazed………that the suicide rate among teenagers in both Lackawanna and Luzerne County is very challenging. If only there was a fast forward button so that these troubled kids of today see years from now what is causing them to think suicide. No person is worth taking your own life as well as no situation that cannot be overcome.
Maybe I’m Amazed………that Governor Tom Corbett talks over and over about how he won’t talk about a tax on the gas and oil drillers. And then he winds up talking about it.
Maybe I’m Amazed……..that Charlie Sheen has gone off the radar. Also, maybe I’m amazed that some of Charlie’s porn star friends have flown the proverbial coop.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that I shouldn’t be amazed at the daily 11 O’Clock WBRE Eyewitness Newscast at 11AM. The news broadcast is quick, comprehensive and gives you a jump on the afternoon. Kyla Campbell anchors and Mark Hiller is the principle reporter.
Maybe I’m Amazed……that Luzerne County Budget chief Tom Pribula is finally being asked by the local media his reaction to the up front loans and the factoring in of the sale of Valley Crest in to this year’s budget. Valley Crest’s sale was a no go and now the county is scratching for money. I’m not amazed that he’s right and was right from the get go.
Maybe I’m Amazed……that every where I go I see on area high ways and by ways more lawyers than Cardinals at a papal conclave. And these suckers are big, big enough if you are so inclined to have some serious nightmares.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that this weather is still not giving us a break. It seems like we have 6 months of winter in this God forsaken land of potholes, wind and cold.
Maybe I’m Amazed……..that Blue Cross is asking the state insurance commission to look at four of their plans. A company spokesman says the plans under review might have decreases. But the plans only cover about 2700 people. Blue Cross has substantially more membership in plans that went up. The last increase came at the end of last year which saw a 12% increase. They say it’s because of feedback from members. Sounds like a PR ploy to me. Good for the 2700 but what about the others that got an increase?
Maybe I’m Amazed…..that Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien is amazed that no one believes he will not be running for Congress next year.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1561, April 21st, 2011




Next week's edition of ECTV Live (Comcast Ch 19) will feature information on
the second annual Penn State Worthington Scranton Children's Health Fair. Co-hosts Judge Tom Munley and David DeCosmo will welcome Mike Evans as their guest. Mr. Evans is a Nursing Instructor at the Scranton campus. The Health Fair, scheduled for Saturday, April 30th., is offered free to the public and will include demonstrations on things like bike safety, healthy eating, and injury prevention to name just a few.
ECTV Live is presented each day at Noon and Midnight on Comcast Ch 19 in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.


This Weekend on Sunday Magazine: Brian Hughes interviews Dr. Joseph Bloomer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham about the diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases. Magic 93’s Frankie in the Morning speaks with Peg Ruddy from the Women’s Resource center on their upcoming Great Chefs 21 fundraiser. 97.9X’s Bone and Rebecca speak with 12 year old Gulnara Sadowski from West Scranton Intermediate School about the letter she wrote to President Obama, and his reply. And an encore of Brian’s interview with Monsignor Joseph Kelly about the St Francis of Assisi Soup Kitchen’s Host For a Day Program. Sunday Magazine, Sunday morning at 5:30am on JR 93.7 & 97BHT, 6am on 97.9X, 6:30am on Magic 93, and 9:30am on WARM 590 AM.


This week Shadoe Steele hosts the best in oldies music from the 60s, 70s and 80s with ABC News on the top of the hour. Shadoe's guuest this week is a personal favorite of mine, Lesley Gore.


County Council candidate Rick Morelli recently sent some information regarding his candidacy. Morelli is running as a Republican for one of the 11 seats. Morelli penned this letter to the local newspapers: Back in November, the citizens of Luzerne County voted for reform by adopting the new Home Rule Charter in Luzerne County. The next step in moving this county forward is electing the best qualified 11council members to implement this charter effectively so that Luzerne County can get back on the right path. As someone who has been involved with the Home Rule process from day one, I will tell you that the transformation of this new government will not be easy and will not happen overnight. In order for this new government to be successful, it is critical that the best and most qualified candidates be elected to this first and new county council.With 49 people running for the 11 council seats, it will be quite confusing as to who those candidates are for this important job at hand. Unfortunately races with this many candidates turn into popularity contests rather than elections based on experience and ideas. Let’s not let that happen in this election!As one of the candidates running for this office, I ask the voters of Luzerne County to take a good look at my experience, knowledge and track record. As one of the 49 candidates, I am the only candidate who has served on both the Home Rule Study Commission as well as the Home Rule Transition Team. I believe my knowledge and understanding of this Home Rule Charter can help with the difficult transition that will take place in 2012. My degrees and experience in finance (Villanova University – Bachelors Degree., Saint Joseph’s University, Masters Degree) give me the knowledge to handle this $125 million dollar budget and $400 million plus debt that the county is faced to deal with come next year. I have a track record of transparency in government. While serving on the Home Rule Transition Team, I am on record for wanting the names of applicants for county positions be made public. No salary will be accepted for me doing this job, l work for the people! To find out more information on myself and my ideas, please view my website at I don’t want to ask you for your vote, I want to earn your vote! I would also like to wish all of the other candidates the best of luck with their election bid for Luzerne County Council.
Rick Morelli
Candidate for Luzerne County Council


The Northwest Area School Board went with experience when filling a vacancy on the board. The board returned Randy Tomasacci at a meeting yesterday. The appointment of Tomasacci wasn’t without complaining. When the chair called for a roll call, board member Gina Schwartz voted against Tomasacci. Schwartz said she isn’t against Tomasacci personally, but “told the Times Leader that she preferred the matter to be a public vote rather than a board decision. Tomasacci has been active in the political arena running for State Senator in the 20th District as well as Luzerne County Commissioner.

The LuLac Edition #1560, April 21st, 2011



Former Congressman Patrick Murphy is going to attempt to climb the biggest hill in Pennsylvania politics. He is running for state attorney general, an office that has not had a Democratic occupant in it since the office was formed in 1980. Before then Pennsylvania Governors appointed Attorney Generals but the Shapp administration had such a dismal cast of AGs (one Robert Kane was indicted while in office) that it was deemed prudent to let the voters decide.
Murphy became the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress in 2006, when he defeated Republican Mike Fitzpatrick for the suburban Philadelphia seat. Two terms later, in 2010, Fitzpatrick won the seat back. The office has been held by Leroy Zimmerman, Ernest Preate, Mike Fischer and Tom Corbett, all Republicans. Fischer and Corbett used the office as stepping stones to run for Governor. Corbett, has nominated federal prosecutor Linda Kelly of Pittsburgh to complete the rest of his second term as attorney general. Kelly has promised not to run for a full term. Former Congressman Murphy is related to local Leighton Administration Aide, J.J. Murphy.


Wow, how about the Scranton Police union going after the Chief of Police Dan Duffy because he followed up on a warrant and arrested a guy for drug possession? The Chief, who I guess throws people around here because he actually looks the part, finds himself in a battle with the union and his officers. The union says they aren’t against the chief and neither is the rank and file members. But because the chief was not covered under the union contract, we are being told that the union would have preferred the Chief not get involved and leave it to a union guy. So if you go to Scranton and are under detainment for a crime, just ask not to see the policeman’s badge but their union card! You might get off. Two points, first off if you ever wonder why reasonable people, reasonable liberals even have problems with unions, it is because of this behavior by the union heads. Second, for every step unions have won for their public service employees, those gains are obliterated by actions like these. And finally, on 911 as those planes in New York city crashed into those buildings and thousands of New York police and fire personnel were risking it all, do you really think they were thinking of their union cards, bosses or dues? I think not.


State Senator Lisa Baker is being bashed by Freedom Works. A radio ad criticizing Baker for supporting Governor Tom Corbett’s education plan is up and running. The ad says that public education is suffering in the state because of the actions of politicians. I think public education is just fine, where the problem is with parents who think the schools and teachers are magicians that are going to turn their all but ignored little brats and al ah kazam, turn them into solid citizens in half a year. Baker now is officially a veteran of the Pa. Senate. She’s being vilified by an interest group because she won’t see it their way. Senator welcome to hardball.


Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien has said publicly that he will not run for Congress in 2012. O’Brien, running for re-election with Mid Valley Mayor Jeanette Mariani was asked by outgoing and not to mention indicted Commissioner A.J. Munchak about his plans. According to the Scranton Times, O’Brien said "My intention is to be a county commissioner," O'Brien told Munchak. "I'm running for re-election because I think we have a done a decent job - not a great job, but I think we've done a decent job - and my focus is running for and serving as a county commissioner. That's why I'm running. I wouldn't be running if I didn't want to serve." O’Brien faces a stiff challenge from former State Representative Jim Wansacz and Brian Jeffers. The latter two are campaigning very hard and were at the Commissioner’s debate on Monday night, however O’Brien and were not.


Federal Judge Richard Caputo has granted Lackawanna County Commissioner’s A.J. Munchak request to have the corruption trial moved from Wilkes Barre to Scranton. Munchak’s lawyers requested the change because it would be more convenient for the witnesses, (some who are Lackawanna County employees) to just take a short stroll from the county facility to the federal building.


The Lockheed L-1011 Tristar enters service with Eastern Airlines.........A no-confidence vote against German Chancellor Willy Brandt fails under obscure circumstances.....In Pennsylvania United Steelworkers Union President I. W. Abel says that many of his rank and file members could do worse than not voting for former Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Abel later endorses Humphrey in the primary race..….and in Wilkes Barre, “That Girl”, TV’s Marlo Thomas makes an appearance in Wilkes Barre stumping for the McGovern for President effort. Thomas appears at the McGovern headquarters located at 91 South Main Street in Wilkes Barre and 39 years ago this week the number 1 song in America and LuLac land was “Me and Julio Down By the School Yard” by Paul Simon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1559, April 20th, 2011




"Then Everything Changed" is the title of a new book by author Jeff Greenfield. A former broadcast journalist, Greenfield answers a series of "what ifs" about significant political developments in our recent history. Here is the review of the book from the New York Times:
Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan
By Jeff Greenfield
In his shrewdly written, often riveting new book, “Then Everything Changed,” the veteran political journalist Jeff Greenfield ponders some smaller-scale and more plausible what-ifs: three events, he says, “that came within a whisker of actually happening.” What if an actual attempt on John F. Kennedy’s life, shortly after his election to the White House, had succeeded? What if Sirhan Sirhan had been thwarted in assassinating Robert F. Kennedy in 1968? What if President Gerald R. Ford had corrected a misstep in the 1976 presidential debates and defeated Jimmy Carter?
Thanks to Mr. Greenfield’s own familiarity with American politics and a lot of energetic research, he turns these twists of fate into accelerating historical snowballs that rumble through our recent history, altering the social landscape in ways both small and large. In doing so he’s produced three slyly observed novellas that (with the exception of a couple of laughable lapses in the third story) have the verisimilitude of real life. His descriptions of the vicissitudes of the campaign trail have a wonderfully immediate, you-are-there feel, just as his accounts of primary face-offs between Hubert H. Humphrey and Robert Kennedy and, years later, between Edward M. Kennedy and Gary Hart attest to his detailed knowledge of the complexity and absurdities of delegate math.
Mr. Greenfield’s clever narratives are also rooted in a reporter’s understanding of how character and personal relationships inform politics and policy decisions. His insights into the personalities of his central players come partly from firsthand knowledge (he worked as a speechwriter for Robert Kennedy and has covered politics for CBS News, CNN and ABC News). Partly from interviews and conversations with experts like Richard N. Goodwin, an assistant to Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and Brent Scowcroft, Ford’s national security adviser. And partly from a close reading of news accounts and political biographies — most notably, Robert A. Caro’s multivolume portrait of Johnson; Evan Thomas’s “Robert Kennedy”; and “Mutual Contempt,” Jeff Shesol’s 1997 book about the bitter feud between Johnson and R.F.K.
In the first story President-elect Kennedy is killed by a suicide bomber named Richard Pavlick — in real life, a CNN column reports, that retired postal worker was arrested in Palm Beach, Fla., on Dec. 15, 1960, in a car filled with dynamite — and the vice president-elect, Johnson, ascends to the White House. Extrapolating from Johnson’s known tendency to “split the difference” when making important decisions, Mr. Greenfield draws a harrowing portrait of his handling of the Vietnam War and the Cuban missile crisis, writing that nuclear catastrophe over the Cuba confrontation is averted through sheer “blind luck.”
Luck and the alignment of political stars also play pivotal roles in the second novella, in which Robert Kennedy beats out Humphrey for the 1968 Democratic nomination. Kennedy’s impulsive decision to leave his Chicago hotel room and talk to demonstrators who are massing in Grant Park helps galvanize popular support, much as his handling of his near-death experience at the hands of Sirhan Sirhan (like President Ronald Reagan’s chipper handling of the attempt on his life in 1981) wins him new sympathy and admiration. Also crucial in Mr. Greenfield’s telling is the endorsement of Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago.
Mr. Greenfield’s descriptions of a Robert Kennedy presidency reverberate with echoes of Barack Obama’s presidency and issues and debates abroad in the country today. His R.F.K. presides over a country in which war and partisanship have wrought growing disaffection with the notion that “government did more or less the right thing most of the time.” This R.F.K. has also run as “the candidate of change” and must cope as president with an unpopular and increasingly costly war (Vietnam), divisions within the country over race and class, and the high expectations raised by his ambitious agenda.
As for the final novella in this volume, it’s a decidedly clumsier performance. Mr. Greenfield’s portrait of the rivalry between Ford and Reagan lacks the authoritative intimacy that makes his depiction of the R.F.K.-L.B.J. feud so visceral and real, and his efforts to extrapolate the fallout of various events onto the wider stage of the Middle East are ridiculously contrived.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is conveniently killed off in a Diana-like car crash in Paris, and we are asked to believe that because Ford (not Jimmy Carter) was in the White House, the shah of Iran — not feeling pressured by the Americans on human rights and democracy — steps down and is succeeded by a coalition government that includes a moderate Muslim ayatollah, who rejects any alliance with Hezbollah. Israel, feeling grateful for this gesture, begins to limit the growth of settlements on the West Bank sharply.
Fortunately for the reader, this fanciful Middle East scenario is limited to a couple of passages, with Mr. Greenfield wisely confining the bulk of the narrative to the domestic political scene, which showcases his knowledge of party politics. He has Gary Hart running an insurgent, Obama-like campaign against the front-runner, Ted Kennedy; Reagan picking a little known female running mate, Sandra Day O’Connor, in hopes of shaking up the race; and the political consultant David Garth (for whom Mr. Greenfield once worked in real life) telling Mr. Hart, during debate prep, to try to take the comfort zone away from Reagan, because “in politics, Bugs Bunny always beats Daffy Duck” — that is, the calmer, more at ease candidate always wins.
Some of Mr. Greenfield’s changes to the historical record strain a little to be deliberately ironic. A dirty-tricks scandal, reminiscent of Watergate, threatens Robert Kennedy’s presidency but fails to blow up into a scandal, and Bob Woodward ends up going to law school instead of becoming a famous investigative reporter. And a sex scandal rocks the White House of Gary Hart, not Bill Clinton.
As in the famous Ray Bradbury story “A Sound of Thunder” (in which a time traveler kills a butterfly in the days of the dinosaurs and discovers, upon returning to the present, that this tiny event has apparently created a mind-boggling cascade of changes), Mr. Greenfield’s small twists of fate set dominoes tumbling in all directions — from the small to the tragic. Because J.F.K. has been killed in 1960, Ian Fleming’s James Bond books — rumored to be a favorite of the president-elect’s — never catch on. Because R.F.K. has ended the Vietnam War early, Pol Pot never comes to power in Cambodia, and the Khmer Rouge massacres are averted.
In his foreword to this gripping book Mr. Greenfield — the author of a 1995 novel, “The People’s Choice” — mentions two other powerful “what ifs” that he does not tackle in these pages: what if an assassination attempt on Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 had succeeded, and he had not gone on to become the leader who steered the United States through the Great Depression and World War II; and what if “it had rained in Dallas on November 22, 1963, so that John Kennedy’s car was covered by a bubble top”?
Such incidents, Mr. Greenfield writes, underscore his belief that “history doesn’t turn on a dime; it turns on a plugged nickel,” that history “is as much a product of chance as of the broader forces at play.”
“Geography, topography, ethnicity, ideology, climate, natural resources, the search for wealth, mass migrations, all set the framework; but the random roll of the dice is as potent a force as any,” he writes. “A missed meeting, a shift in the weather, a slightly different choice of words open up a literally limitless series of possibilities.”