News & Notes May 19, 2012

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court finally suspended Justice Melvin after she turned herself in on nine criminal charges Friday.  She will continue getting her $195,000 salary plus benefits.  Included in the counts is one for official oppression, perhaps the most serious charge a Judge can face.  It means she abused her position of power against another person.  Staffers testified about being fired or shunned after refusing to do political work on state time.

Justice Melvin cleverly wore a flag pin and cross for her day in court.  Never trust anyone who feels they must display their faith or their patriotism.

Former State House Speaker Bill DeWeese was released from prison pending his appeal.  He was convicted of using state resources for political work, a practice which was all to common and has sent many politicians to jail.  Joan Orie Melvin and her sisters ignored all the high profile prosecutions for this while they assumed they were above the law.  How the mighty fall who are filled with arrogance and hubris.

Another example is that of former presidential candidate John Edwards.  His case went to the jury this week.  I doubt he’ll be convicted:  not enough evidence was provided that money to pay off his pregnant mistress actually went through his campaign finance accounts.  That would have to be proven for charges to stand.  Still, the man did some despicable deeds.  His campaign message of Two Americas and his focus on the plight of poverty in this nation were commendable and preceded the Occupy movement.

Facebook stock went on sale yesterday.  I have to admit I’m a facebook addict.  I get much of the material for these columns via social media.  Those standing to become very, very rich from the IPO took measures to insure they didn’t pay their fair share of taxes and that got the attention of Sen. Bob Casey Jr.  He and Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced legislation to prohibit people like Eduardo Saverin, who renounced his citizenship to avoid paying those taxes, the right to re-enter the country.  It’s all about rights and responsibilities…

Another Birther Congressman claims, after being caught, he simply “misspoke.”  Maybe he should have “thought” first.  The problem is that requires an ability to think critically and requires some degree of intelligence.

Birthers got up in a huff this week after (of course no one can trust anything posted their for factual value) published a memo from an Obama publisher.  The memo said he had been born in Kenya.  A bit of fact checking would have found this:

“This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me — an agency assistant at the time,” Miriam Goderich, who worked for the literary agency Acton & Dystel, told Yahoo News. “There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii.”


On the bright side if all these conspiracy theorists keep spending their time trying to prove the unprovable they aren’t trying to convince us to invade more countries based on lies.

Here’s the danger for conservatives who try and drag Rev. Wright into the presidential campaign again:  it makes Romney’s Mormonism fair game as John Aravosis did yesterday.

The OAG hasn’t had much scrutiny despite some missteps, especially in the Sandusky case.  The Pennsylvania ACLU is taking Attorney general Linda Kelly (she replaced Gov. Gasbag) to task for not investigating the NYPD for civil rights violations against PA Muslims.

The AP reported that the NYPD had monitored about 250 mosques, universities and businesses, without any evidence of wrongdoing.  In February 2012, the AP reported that the NYPD was monitoring Muslim college students at over a dozen universities far beyond the New York city and state limits, including at the University of Pennsylvania.  In light of these disturbing reports, the ACLU-PA, in coalition with 20 civil rights, student, faith-based, and civic groups, sent a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly requesting that her office undertake an immediate investigation of the NYPD’s surveillance of law-abiding Muslim communities in Pennsylvania.

The Attorney General refused our request.

Here’s a refreshing look at equality:

Congressional Republicans broke their budget agreement with the White House by passing an alarming defense bill.  Why we’re spending gargantuan amounts on the Pentagon while cutting programs for the poor is defenseless (pun intended).  Breaking an agreement they required after holding the country’s debt hostage shows they cannot be trusted.

A bit of reality talk about the economy and “job creators:”

No consumers (meaning people with good jobs and discretionary income)=no jobs.

More on the economy:

News & Notes May 18, 2011

Rick Santorum thinks John McCain doesn’t understand the value of torture.  It’s too bad McCain isn’t running this year because I’d love to watch the 2008 nominee turn to Santorum and say “I know torture, I’ve been tortured, you know nothing about torture or what it does.”  It would be a classic put down moment.  How stupid is Rick that he’d say something like that?  Did he forget McCain was tortured in North Vietnam?

Republicans succeeded in blocking passage yesterday of those oil industry welfare programs being halted.  President Obama targeted the $4 billion in taxpayer breaks given to giant energy corporations making billions while paying no taxes.  The GOP filibuster succeeded.  The tax breaks remain.

Today’s video is about protesters crashing the JP Morgan Chase shareholders meeting:

DEP actually fined Chesapeake Energy over $1 million for the Bradford County well explosion.  These “accidents” are the reason the Susquehanna River replaced the Delaware as the nation’s most endangered waterway.  In yet more Marcellus news DEP is citing Cabot for continuing problems in Dimock and Sen. Joe Scarnati is proposing that each well drilled be assessed a $10,000 impact fee.  Don’t confuse that with an extraction tax.

In litigation news an Appeals Court will not step in and void the settlement in the famous facebook case.  The Harvard twins who claim Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea settled for $20 million but aren’t happy.  I think I could be happy with $20 million.

In some election news yesterday Tom Caltagirone’s hand picked candidate for Mayor of Reading came in third in the Democratic primary.  This from the man going around telling people that he is the only Dem in the area who knows how to win elections?  His DJ candidate Judge Deb Lachina also lost.

Judge Michael Leonardziak never called me after I found two of his poll workers acting illegally at different polls yesterday.

Voters in Philadelphia actually cast ballots for a convicted criminal for Mayor.  In that crooked city it seems like poetic justice.  Michael Nutter still beat Milton Street however with 76% of the vote.   Not everyone there is insane.

In Northampton County a referendum on privatization of Gracedale, the county nursing home, was 3-1 in favor of keeping the facility public.

In Allegheny County Rich Fitzgrald beat Mark Flaherty for County Executive in the Dem primary and State Rep. Chelsa Wagner, the Auditor General’s niece, won the race for the County Controller slot on November’s ballot.

The Democratic race for Judge of Commonwealth Court is very close.  With most precincts now reporting Kathy Bookvar is slightly ahead 306,819 to 304,766 for Barbara Behrend Ernsberger.  This will likely go to a recount.

A gay activist threw glitter all over Newt yesterday.  Is he trying to make the man look good or something?  Sorry but that’s impossible.  I had Gingrich had his pants zipped this time.

The Beeper Cacophony

This is a guest column by Walter Brasch.

by Walter Brasch

           Barack Obama was determined that the only way anyone was going to take away his BlackBerry was if they pried it from his cold dead hands. Or, something to that effect.

           The President justifiably relies upon his BlackBerry, but many rely upon electronic communications as a status symbol or as a crutch so they don’t have to make decisions or engage in face-to-face conversations. Such was the case at a party I thought I might have attended.

           It might have been an enjoyable party, but I didn’t experience much of it since pagers, cell phones, Palm Treos, and BlackBerries were going off all evening, and all I heard were excuses of why used car salesmen, real estate agents, and grocery store clerks had to break off conversations to answer the calls of nature.

           “So, what’s your sign?” a striking brunette asked me, only to excuse herself when one of her cell phones chimed some hip-hop music. Apparently her sign was Ice-T, with AT&T rising.

           The knock-out redhead and I talked for three minutes before she got an urgent text message to alert her to call her service which relayed a poke from her boss who wanted to know what color dress she was wearing to work the next day so he’d be able to color coordinate his staff. At least that’s what I think she said, but I wasn’t sure because she was text-messaged 13 words into our conversation and spent much of the evening exercising not her mind but her thumbs.

           The junior high school English teacher was paged, unleashed his cell phone, checked something he called an “app,” and told his friend that his Treo just informed him that the temperature in Phoenix was 86.

           An attractive blonde in the corner lusciously smiled at me, teasing me with a come-hither look. I was about to come, but she got tweeted. I had no idea whether that’s sensual or not, but it compelled her to rush off into a dark corner and twitter back. I think she kept twittering until a failed whale shut down her system.

           While waiting for a movie usher and waitress who simultaneously excused themselves when they were tagged by a Facebook request, I overhead three people by the bar ask each other what our hostess must have been thinking to have actually invited someone so low on the prestige scale that he wasn’t wearing any electronic devices.

           “Could be a diversity thing,” said one politically correct matron. “You know, we invite a Black and a luddite columnist to our party.”

           Feeling alone and needing a drink, I asked the bartender for a virgin piƱa colada, but before she could crush the ice, she received a text message from Starbutt across the room who needed two whiskey sours with a twist of lemon. When Starbutt, Bartender Jo, and 832 of their closest friends finished texting each other, I got a glass of diluted pineapple juice with a trace of coconut.

           After an hour of watching the Information Age, I noticed another soul all by himself.

           “Interesting party,” I said opening the conversation.

           “Yeah,” he mumbled. “I just hope I get some action tonight.”

           “Since everyone’s poking everyone else,” I said. “I doubt there’s much action anyway, especially when everyone seems to be so Linked-in that they have blurred the lines between business and personal lives.”

           “That’s what I mean,” he said. “It’s now been 27 minutes, and no one has called or IM’d me. It’s so humiliating.”

           Not having done my good deed for the day, I sighed, and shuffled off to find the only landline telephone in two counties. He answered his cell phone and chatted with me about the price of kumquats. He was most thankful, especially when I didn’t try to talk to him again so he could carry on simultaneous conversations with the striking brunette, the knock-out redhead, and some guy who was selling life insurance.

           About the time I was ready to leave, the hostess told me I had a telephone call. It was Marshbaum wanting to know if I needed him to come in early the next day. “How’d you find me?” I asked.

           “I was driving along Route 11 finding dumb things for you to write when I thought I should check in. So I called Horsehide who paged Littany who text messaged Bullnose who poked Chartbound who said you were at some muck-a-muck’s party, so I called Ringtone.”

           “You have a car phone?” I asked.

           “Car phone? Don’t be ridiculous. That’s so ’90s. Got a G3 cell with Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, PDA, MP3, MP4, 6 gig Mpx, and packet switching. Also a pager, FAX, laptop computer, and portable satellite dish. Also running a CB, good buddy. Gotta be on top of things in case you need a dumb statement at a moment’s notice.”

           “When’s the last time I needed you moments from deadline?” I asked.

           “Makes no difference,” he said. “Sometime you may, and you’ll be happy you could get to me.”

           “That’s all well and good, but I don’t have any of those communications devices.”

           “Check your office in the morning, Boss. Got some nice units for you, too. It’ll only cost you a thousand or so a month to find me.”

           “Marshbaum!” I shouted, “I don’t have an extra thousand a month to pay for cellular phones, paging equipment-”

           “No problem, Boss. Got a great two-year plan, and it’s all deductible.”

Walter Brasch is professor of mass communications and journalism at Bloomsburg University. He says he communicates with news sources the old-fashioned way-he shows up on their doorsteps early in the morning, and unstrings a series of questions before they get their first cup of coffee. You may contact Dr. Brasch at or through his website,