News & Notes December 30, 2010

Three months plus after losing my desktop computer Erie Insurance still hasn’t settled the claim.  If you have auto or homeowners through them my advice is this:  switch.  This company has been dragging its feet for so long…

Joe Miller took his sore loser fight in Alaska to federal court after losing in state courts and got his butt handed to him there also.  It is a fundamental right of each voter to have their clear intention counted.  This Tea bagger is undemocratic.  He’s the biggest sore loser since Norm Coleman.

Speaking of big losers NJ Gov. Chris Christie had his political star snuffed out in this week’s blizzard.  How basic a management decision is it not to have both the Governor and Lt. Governor gone at the same time?  It proved a bonanza for Democrats who were left behind to deal with the storm.  Newark Mayor Corey Booker may ride his storm heroism to the Governor’s mansion.

In New York Mayor Bloomberg also saw his political career go down in flames due tot he storm.  How much snow do you need Mayor before declaring a snow emergency?  Six feet?  That’s how far underground your career just went.  Say hello to Christie when you get there.

Yard sings continue to pollute area roadways almost two months after the election.  If you put them up you can take them down folks.  

In another neighboring state Christine O’Donnell is calling Joe Biden out for what she calls “thug” behavior because the FBI is investigating her campaign finances.  This is a good one.  Former staffers accused her of using campaign money to pay personal expenses including her rent.  The FBI has a duty to investigate legitimate complaints such as this.  What made this so legitimate?  O’Donnell herself admitted using funds for her rent.  She claims it was legit because she was running her campaign out of her home.  That doesn’t make it legal only even more unethical.

How is this different from State Sen. Bob Mellow renting state office space for his office from his own company?  This is crooked politics plain and simple.  Christine should just twitch her nose and turn the FBI agents into bats.

Fox News just keeps getting more and more extreme.  Tucker Carlson thinks Michael Vick should have been executed for killing dogs.  As much as we here at TPP have castigated and criticized Vick and the Eagles let’s get real.  We don’t execute people for animal cruelty.  We shouldn’t take any life much less for such an offense.  As much as we hate Vick and what he did the man did do his time and repaid his debt to society.  He didn’t deserve to be hired by the Beagles after what he did but executed?  Going by that rationale every hunter should be on death row.  Stupid is as stupid says.

Bang…I just killed Tucker’s bow tie.  Now there’s an unpardonable offense, someone call the fashion police!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Suggested Amendments to the U.S. Constitution for 2011

by Stephen Crockett

It has become clear that our nation has a severely crippled political system where the will of the majority and the best interests of the nation are being ignored so a very few obscenely wealthy individuals and many international corporations can reap absurd profits. Our American democracy and way of life are under serious attack by elite, powerful forces exploiting grave weaknesses in our system of government.

In my opinion, we need to start serious discussions about how to amend our Constitution in an effort to both correct institutional weaknesses and reduce to power of excessive wealth to undermine our nation. I am suggesting that we start introducing Constitutional Amendments in our state legislatures and in Congress to encourage public debate about these problems and how to best address them.

Below the reader will find some suggestions and It is hoped by this writer that others will suggest additional ways of strengthening American democracy, restraining excessive corporate power and making our government better able to deal with the modern problems facing us in the first half of the 21st Century:

(1)    Corporations shall not have the right to spend shareholder money to influence elections. Executives who are convicted of using corporate funds to influence elections shall be barred from serving as corporate officers for life and be punished as felons.

(2)    Corporations chartered in the United States of America and foreign corporations with operations in the United States shall be required to have as their first mission serving the public good before the mission of maximizing returns and maximizing the dividends of shareholders. American corporations failing to serve the public good shall be dissolved or have their management replaced at the discretion of the federal courts. Foreign corporations found to be not serving the public good shall be barred from operating in the United States or selling into the American market. The restriction on offending foreign corporations shall include sales via third parties or subsidiaries.

(3)    All Congressional election districts shall be required to be drawn in as competitive a manner as possible by state governments.

(4)    All votes in all elections in the United States must be counted with reasonable accurately and be cast using independently verifiable methods. All vote counting must be done publicly by government agencies. Private businesses and corporations may not be permitted to fill this government function.

(5)    All trade agreements between the United States and foreign nation must be approved by a majority public referendum vote of American citizens of voting age. All previous trade agreements must be approved in the above manner within 4 years of the adoption of this amendment.

(6)    All imported manufactured goods must be taxed by the federal government at a minimum rate to offset the financial losses involved to American workers, businesses and governments. No trade agreement may be placed into the referendum process for approval that does offset the financial losses listed above.

(7)    All citizens shall be entitled to basic healthcare at public expense. The federal government has the responsibility to provide basic healthcare to all citizens and must fund adequately this responsibility.

(8)    The right of American workers to organize and bargain collectively with employers shall not be restricted by employers, Congress or governments at any level. Employers are not permitted to interfere with the election process when workers are deciding rather or not to unionize and bargain collectively. Employers who violate the unionization rights of workers shall be considered felons and punished as felons subject to punishments established by Congress.

(9)    All citizens have the right to gainful employment, at hourly rates at least equal to the established minimum wage, by the federal government, if able and willing to work, during periods of excessively high periods of unemployment, unless fired by the federal government for good cause or while serving a criminal sentence. Congress shall establish a reasonable definition of excessively high unemployment rate at a level of no more than 8 percent of the total available domestic workforce.

(10) Corporate officer elections of publicly traded corporations shall be conducted by the Commerce Department of the federal government. Shareholders voting to elect the corporate officers shall vote their shares independently on the salaries and other compensation packages of the corporate offices involved. A majority of shares voted by participating shareholders must approve these compensation packages. Candidates for these corporate offices may vote their shares in the election of corporate officers but may not vote their shares in the vote on compensation.

It is time for the American nation to react to the excessive power of huge corporations to control the lives of American citizens and the institutions of our government. These proposed amendments will be fought by powerful, wealthy forces but are long overdue. We can no longer ignore the damage that a tiny elite is doing to the American nation and the American Dream.

We need a vigorous public discussion of these problems and proposed solutions. It is this writers hope that the discussion will start here and that legislators in every state will force the discussion by introducing some or all these ideas in their respective legislative bodies.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio… . Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email:  

On Starving In Prison, Or, Who Gets Pardons In Florida?

If you were with us on Christmas Day you heard the story of Betsie Gallardo, who, unless something changes quickly, is going to be intentionally starved to death in a Florida prison after being convicted of spitting on a cop.

In fairness, the State did not decide simply to starve her; instead, the Department of Corrections (DOC) first chose to withhold any further treatment for her inoperable cancer…and then they decided to starve her to death.

Her adopted mother is trying to get her released on humanitarian grounds; the DOC recommended in October that she be allowed to go home and die, the Florida Parole Commission refused.

Governor Charlie Crist chairs the Executive Clemency Board, who could also agree to let her go…and so far, they’ve also refused to take action.

Funny thing is, the Governor and his Board have been more than willing to step in when other Floridians requested pardons and commutations, even in situations that seemed a lot less dire.

Today, we’re going to look at that history-and to be honest, as with many things in the Sunshine State, from the outside…it all looks a bit bizarre.

“Forgiveness, particularly at this time of year, is a very worthwhile message for all of us to be reminded of…”

–Florida Governor Charlie Crist, December 9, 2010

So right off the bat, if you’re 21 years old and you’re having sex with a 15 year-old, you’re looking at some trouble if the police find out. In fact, you’re going to be regarded as a sex offender in the eyes of the law if you’re doing something like that and you get caught.

But as it turns out, in Florida, if you marry the young person in question, you can get a pardon. In fact, it comes up often enough that they’re called “Romeo and Juliet” pardons, and the Executive Clemency Board actually handed out a couple of them in 2009 to John Kemp and Virgil McCranie, who were dating 14 and 15 year-olds when they were originally convicted.

Actually, you don’t even have to marry the minor in question if you can obtain their consent for the underage sexual encounter and demonstrate a reasonable degree of remorse: that happened to Gregory Allen, who was 40 when he was convicted of having sex with a minor.

Describing the events that led to Allen’s conviction, Alex Sink, who was not elected Governor to replace Crist:

“…later expressed frustration with the state’s classification of people as sex offenders even though they may have been convicted of having consensual relations.”

Suzanne Squires killed her own daughter and seriously injured another woman while driving drunk, and just this month the Board commuted 12 years of her 23-year sentence so that she could return home to her family.

18 year-old Jennifer Martin was driving way too fast, and in the eventual crash she killed one of her passengers, and injured another, although she was sober when she did it; she received the second commutation granted by the Board under Crist’s chairmanship when her 16 year sentence for manslaughter by culpable negligence was cut in half in 2009.

The Doors’ Jim Morrison, who is not at risk to die in prison, was posthumously pardoned by the Board just this month for an indecent exposure “event” that took place in 1969. Reached for comment, Morrison suggested that these were strange days indeed when he could be pardoned in death and Betsie Gallardo can’t be pardoned in the final days of her life.

Donald Keehn lent a neighbor $7,000. When she couldn’t repay the debt, he drove by her house and shot up the place-five times.

He was 88 at the time, she was 66, but instead of starving him to death because of his cancer, congestive heart failure and kidney failure, the Board chose to commute half of his five year sentence in 2009 and set him free.

Remember when I suggested that Florida, to the outside observer, seems a bit bizarre?

Well…consider this:

If you date underage girls in “Chain Gang Charlie’s” Florida you can get a pardon or a commutation. In fact, if you do…they even have a special name for it.

If you kill someone drunk driving-or even driving sober-there might be a commutation for you, too.

Did you ever wag your penis onstage 40 years ago, then die, and now you’re having trouble finding a job because of your besmirched reputation? Governor Crist wants to help-and the Board has his back.

Have you ever committed a series of drive-by shootings, and then developed a series of serious physical problems that make you seek a commutation so that you can go home and die? Florida will find a way to let you out.

On the other hand, if you spit on a cop, and then you develop inoperable cancer…and your name’s Betsie Gallardo…Florida not only won’t let you out of prison to go home and die-they’ll starve you in prison, just to make your death come a bit faster.

Wanna discuss any of this with the Board? Here’s some handy contact information for Crist and the other three members:

Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida

(850) 488-4441


Bill McCollum, Attorney General

(850) 414-3300

Click here to e-mail Mr. McCollum  

Charles Bronson, Commissioner Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

(850) 488-3022

Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer Florida Department of Financial Services

(850) 413-3100

I don’t know how many of you remember the show “Daria”, but all of this reminds me of an episode of Sick Sad World-except that in this case the application of outside pressure is having an effect on the DOC…and that means we need to keep the pressure coming.

If we drag them to it, kicking and screaming, I’m sure the State of Florida will be just as compassionate and humane toward Betsie Gallardo as they were to all the other fine folks you read about here today-and with your help we’ll be able to write a happier ending to what has been, so far, a rather unhappy story.  

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The 11th SD Special Election

There’s speculation already about the special election which will be necessary to fill Mike O’Pake’s  State Senate seat.  Daylin Leach is in charge of the Senate Campaign Committee so perhaps a better effort can be done than those done by Democrats in the two previous efforts.  Neither of those garnered more than around 35% of the vote.  I don’t see that record being broken here unless former Berks Commissioner Judy Schwank runs.  Democrats in Reading simply don’t vote and in a special election turnout will be beyond dismal.  On the other hand Republicans remain energized and motivated.  Outside Reading, Mt. Penn and Muhlenberg this is a GOP district.  Erase the voters in Reading who’ll remain home and this bodes ill for Dems.

The entire district is within Berks County so only that County Committee will determine the candidate.  There is no set procedure for filling seats so it will be up to County Chair Tom Herman who rides roughshod over rules, procedures and opponents.  Tom Caltagirone and Mel Fishburn of IBEW really run things behind the scenes and no candidate will get approved unless they fell they’ll control him/her.  Should someone outside wish to run they’ll simply determine a process which will freeze them out.  I expect the Executive Committee, restructured to be Herman’s Duma, to rubber stamp a nominee and disenfranchise the Committee as a Whole.  This will create even further dissension in a Party which Herman has already decimated.  What remains of the Democratic Party in Berks is a small coterie of people the Toms control.  They’ve driven everyone else out so this special election will be an enormous embarrassment for Democrats accustomed to cruising to 70% totals in this race.

Here’s a map of the district I pulled from the Senator’s web page:

Reflections on Mike O’Pake

I got a call a little while ago that my State Senator Michael O’Pake passed away.  I knew he was close to leaving us following heart bypass surgery last month.  I saw Mike in the Capitol shortly after the election and he looked fine.  He didn’t mention any problems with his health and he looked fine in an argyle cardigan under his sport coat.

I’ll miss Mike.  In addition to being a fine Senator he was a gentleman.   After one of my early blog contributors outed him for voting against his own rights he was a gentleman to me.  He always seemed to think I was the one who wrote the article but I wasn’t.  He was a staunch supporter of Berks AIDS Network in spite of his closeted status.  

The Senator will be sorely missed in Berks County where he was an engine for economic development due to his influence and seniority in Harrisburg.  Some friends work on his staff and I hope this won’t mean the end of their careers serving the people of the 11th District.

The process for filling the seat will likely go to a special election.  Democrats have fared very poorly in the last two special Senate elections because of dismal turnout.  There’s no reason to believe Democrats in Reading will vote in this upcoming election meaning the seat will likely flip.  That opportunity might spur a crowded field on the GOP side.  Democrats have no likely successor because they fail to develop anyone in this county.  The lack of any farm system coupled with no set procedure for selecting a candidate bodes well for back room manipulations and control by the County Chair who has recently bestowed kingly powers upon himself.  Tom Caltagirone and IBEW head Mel Fishburn run Berks County Democratic politics and will determine who gets selected by the Party.  I smell upcoming shenanigans and we’ll be here to expose any such machinations.

Rest in peace Mike I’ll miss our conversations.

Update:  Information on services is now complete:  A viewing will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday at St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church, 925 Centre Ave., Reading. A funeral Mass will be held at noon Monday at the church. Burial is private.

Breaking News in PA State Government!!!

I just got back from some middday errands to find the following story:

Senator Michael O’Pake has died

Apparently, he’d been suffering complications from a recent heart bypass surgery and succumbed from them, according to the story.

He was a true representative of the public and he and his staff were generally willing to listen to the complaints and issues that affected the voters and citizens of his district.  

He began in a day and age when being a public servant was not something people took for granted or used as a means to get whatever they could for it.  

He graduated from Reading Central Catholic High School the same year as my father.  They had recently had their 55th high school reunion.  

He leaves big shoes to fill in Harrisburg and in the district.  I pray that the county Democratic Committee will be judicious and careful in selecting and fielding a candidate to run for his seat.  As an unaffiliated, non-partisan voter, I would be happy to seek to fill his seat, because my personal and professional life thus far has been spent working with the same public he was elected by and served all these years.  I would work hard to continue on the legacy that he began and to bring sanity back to PA state government for the people of this Commonwealth.  

Mike will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by many.

Another Year…Another Resolution?

Do you make a New Year’s Resolution? Do you make the same one every year? Do you rotate through a group of resolutions?

Why do we make resolutions? In the most basic sense it’s because we want to do or not do, whatever we are resolving to make ourselves or those around us better or healthier.

Most resolutions revolve around losing weight and quitting smoking. Only about 2% of people who make resolutions about these 2 subjects ever make any headway in fulfilling them.

Only 5% of all resolutions made ever have steps taken to fulfill them.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’ll join a gym”…and they do but then they never go to the gym. Next year the resolution will be to cancel the unused gym membership and save the money and even that won’t get done.

“I want to quit smoking”…I’ll sell my RJ Reynolds stock.

“I will be more organized”…I’ll call Style TV’s Clean House

“I will lose weight”…that means you have to reduce your intake of food.

“I will volunteer time to a worthy cause”…Which cause? “I haven’t decided yet.” Uh huh.

“I want to save more money.”…let me guess, by quitting smoking?

“I’m going to start an IRA.” You’re 75…it’s a little late now.

“I’m going to be a nicer person”…have you heard the adage about a leopard not changing it’s spots?

“I’m going to be more assertive.”…get me a snack…”OK”

“I want to drink less.”…in general or were you thinking about some specific liquid?

“I want to eat more healthy food.”…can you even name a ‘healthy food’?

“I going to stop letting people annoy me when driving.”…stay off the road.

“I want to learn to use the computer.”…you can barely turn the television on and off.

“I want to help others.”…which others?

Do I have a New Year’s resolution? Yes….I want to find a new job because my boss is 1/2 of Beavis and Butthead and he ain’t Beavis.

Do you have a New Year’s Resolution?

Do you have any illusion at all that you’ll achieve it?

Happy 2011!

On Death And Clemency, Or, Here’s A Real Christmas Story

There are many gifts to be given and received this holiday season; some that you can wrap and put under a tree, and some so intangible and ethereal that they cannot be held within the boundaries of paper and ribbon.

Instead, they exist within the boundaries of our hearts.

Among those intangible presents, few matter more than the chance to be with those we love-and at the time of our death, it’s the most important thing of all.

We have a chance to bring all of this to a dying woman and her family-but the only way it can happen is if we convince the Florida Department of Corrections not to kill her first.

It’s not a tale of light and joy-but if we get lucky, there could still be a happy ending.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

–Matthew 25:31-46, as presented in the New International Version of the Bible

Betsie Gallardo was born in Haiti in 1983-and if being born into a Haitian slum wasn’t enough of a disadvantage to a baby girl, she was also born HIV positive.

As a child, she became the playtoy of a local cop…but opportunity came to her doorstep when she and her sister were adopted by Jessica Bussert, an Indiana missionary who was working in Haiti at the time.

Over the years she created a better life for herself, including a chance to fulfill her desire to be a ballet dancer.

She moved to Florida, and in the course of the police responding to a car accident in which she was involved, she experienced a flashback that led to her spitting on a cop.

Because of her HIV status, the act of spitting on the police officer was considered to be battery with a deadly weapon; in November of 2009, convicted of both battery and resisting arrest with violence, she was sentenced to five years in prison.

(Are you thinking to yourself “you can’t spread AIDS by spitting”? You are correct, and people are being convicted for equally spurious “attacks” nationwide-but that’s a story for another day.)

Fast forward to today-and now Betsie is facing inoperable gallbladder cancer, which has spread to her colon.

This is causing an intestinal blockage-and that means she can no longer eat food.

It is possible to provide nutrition through intravenous feeding, but the State of Florida has decided not to do so…which means Betsie is going to be starved to death for the crime of spitting on a cop.

(I’m told by The Girlfriend, who is a nurse, that starvation is an especially gruesome way to die, both for the dying person and the medical staff who is involved in the event.)

Jessica Bussert is fighting to have her released on humanitarian grounds, based on her current medical condition.

There are two ways this can happen: the Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, chairs the Executive Clemency Board, who has the power to release her so she can die at home, or the Department of Corrections (DOC) can release her based on the authority of the Florida Parole Commission, who could give the go-ahead during their February meeting. (The Commission refused to release her in October, despite the fact that the DOC recommended they do so.)

How can you help?

We’re looking to apply public pressure, once again, on both the Office of Executive Clemency and the Florida Parole Commission. Here’s the contact information for the members of the Executive Clemency Board:

Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida

(850) 488-4441


Bill McCollum, Attorney General

(850) 414-3300

Click here to e-mail Mr. McCollum  

Charles Bronson, Commissioner Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

(850) 488-3022

Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer Florida Department of Financial Services

(850) 413-3100

So how about that?

What might be the greatest gift that you can give this year costs virtually nothing, doesn’t require you to fight the crowds at the Post Office and the mall, and, if it’s regifted, it makes the world a better place.

Go and give something of yourself this year…and if we get lucky, we’ll make it possible for a young woman do die with a bit of dignity, at home and surrounded by those who love her, instead of starved to death in prison by those who apparently couldn’t care less.  

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News & Notes December 23, 2010

The census report came out this week and Pennsylvania, again, will lose a Congressional seat.  It seems that every ten years our national influence dwindles by yet another electoral vote.  Speculation has been that the 12th CD will be written out by the Republicans who now control the entire redistricting process.

Gov. elect Corbett is beginning to fill out his cabinet and the Banking Secretary comes from my area.  He was with national Penn Bank which used to be the National Bank of Boyertown or as I affectionately called it the National Bank of Embezzlement.  Lets hope he safeguards us better than he did his customers.

House Democrats announced their Committee Chairs today even though they aren’t Chairs since the GOP controls the House.  Rather they are ranking members.  Rep. Daryl Metcalfe will be Chair of the powerful State Government Committee with Rep. Babette Josephs as ranking member.  By the way her campaign staff really screwed me.  I loaned them some video on an 18 GB flash drive and they returned a 625 MG drive in its place.  Ouch!

With Metcalfe as Chair expect an Arizona type of law to pass soon here.  He sponsored such a bill in the last session but now has the votes to get it through Committee.  With his good buddy John Eichelberger in the Senate this should reach the Governor’s desk and Pennsylvania will be the latest state to get sued.  I know if any cop demands to see my proof of citizenship I’ll demand to see their ICE ID.  Without that they’ll be the lead defendant in a federal civil rights case.  Just sayin…

Gov. Rendell is hosting a party for his supporters headlining The Beach Boys.  With all his weight loss Fast Eddie may show up in a speedo.  No, no just kidding folks.  I’m sorry I gave you that visual just after lunch.  For some odd reason (maybe my disagreements with him over the years) my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.

The Turnpike Commission got into hot water when they printed new toll tickets without fares.  I suppose this was really so they could raise fares any time but they claim otherwise.  Now they’ve capitulated and are printing new ones.  There’s another 4120,000 down the drain.  I wouldn’t mind paying Turnpike tolls if everyone in the Commonwealth paid their fair share but they don’t.  Why should my dollars go to fix roads in northern PA when those folks refuse to pay?  I’m sorry but this is patently unfair.  Toll I-80 people!

While municipalities across our state are passing laws protecting members of the LGBT community the legislature is still refusing to.  Housing and employment discrimination occurs all the time but there are no legal protections in place.  Lancaster County recently disbanded its enforcement agency against discrimination.  If you hate the Amish head to Lancaster County and throw some eggs at the buggies, no one can investigate you now that their Human Relations Commission is gone.  Gee, I guess the County Commissioners never considered that possibility…