Saturday, May 29, 2010

Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice Recommendations

Rarely do I post an entire article but I believe theTimes Leader won't mind the trackback to its article and the importance needed to get the message out.

Mark Guydish
HARRISBURG – Call it the state’s “Justice To-Do List.”

The Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice’s report is more than 60 pages, but the commission included a summary of recommendations.

Here’s the list, simplified:

•Create a statewide Juvenile Justice Victim Advocate Office.

•Restore the Victims of Juvenile Offenders program funding to 2005 levels.

•Create a Luzerne County Victims of Juvenile Crime Restitution Fund.

•Re-examine the Code of Judicial Conduct’s ethics and reporting provisions.

•Revise Judicial Conduct Board Internal Operating Procedures.

•Review the role and independence of the JCB staff in relation to the JCB members.

•Revise JCB annual reports.

•Revise the JCB website.

•Ensure judges and lawyers are aware of ethical responsibility to report misconduct.

•Review the state Constitution to ensure the JCB is accountable.

•Create educational programs to ensure lawyers and the public understand what constitutes attorney misconduct.

•Revise the attorney disciplinary board website.

•Increase attorney continuing legal education ethics requirements.

•The commission endorsed training standards adopted by state associations for district attorneys and juvenile defenders; the groups should develop continuing legal education courses for prosecutors and defense counsel.

•Continuing legal education should be mandatory for juvenile court judges.

•Emphasis should be placed on the importance of work in juvenile justice.

•The proposed standards for prosecutors in juvenile court should be implemented and resources to achieve them funded.

•Create a state funding stream for defense of indigent juveniles.

•Create a Center for Juvenile Defense Excellence.

•Ensure access to counsel by all indigent juveniles, restrict the right to waive counsel and require stand-by counsel for those who do waive the right but decide they have legal questions.

•The Chief Juvenile Probation Officers Association and all county probation departments should adopt standards of conduct and rules prohibiting partisan political activities by employees.

•The Court Administrator of Pennsylvania should conduct a national review to determine best practices for hiring policies.

•Continue State Supreme Court oversight of the Luzerne County juvenile justice system.

•Ensure adequate resources for the Juvenile Court Judges Commission to collect and analyze data.

•Enhance data collection and sharing among relevant agencies regarding the juvenile justice system.

•Require judges to state on the record how a juvenile disposition furthers the goals of state law.

•Study ways to reduce or eliminate shackling in juvenile courtrooms.

•Implement the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative model.

•Modify the standards governing the use of secure detention.

•Expand as a pilot program the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory risks/needs instrument and employment of valid research and other evidence based risk assessment.

•Create a form advising juveniles of appeal rights.

•Develop Internet-based resources explaining how the appeals process works and how to get assistance.

•Expedite appeal reviews.

•Create a statewide office to assist in juvenile appeals.

•Enhance the allowance of nunc pro tunc (now for then) relief.

•Encourage county commissioners to attend the Academy for Excellence in County Government.

•Enhance understanding of roles and obligations of county court and executive officials.

•Discontinue zero-tolerance school policies.

•Enhance understanding of roles, obligations and cooperation among educational, law-enforcement and juvenile justice stakeholders.

•Keep the juvenile justice status of students confidential.

•Review educational curriculum for children in placement.

Mark Guydish, a Times Leader staff writer, can be reached at 829-7161

Friday, May 28, 2010

Experts: Sestak Story More of Politcs As Usual

By now everyone knows that Bill Clinton and Rahm Emmanuel are responsible for the offer to Joe Sestak to get out of the race against Arlen Specter. Larry Kane broke the story and here is his autopsy of the entire episode.

How many times did you hear Candidate Barack Obama say "Our country cannot afford politics as usual".

Remarks by the President on the Budget: Finally, changing spending-as-usual depends on changing politics-as-usual

State of the Union: President Obama's Speech But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people..So no, I will not give up on changing the tone of our politics

The American people... want change. They want big ideas, big reform.
Rahm Emanuel

Yeah right! When do you think Obama and Emmanuel mean what they say? It's all about the winning and not honor.

Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice Report

Report: Judges, lawyers failed juveniles
By Dave Janoski and Michael P. Buffer (Staff Writers)
Published: May 28, 2010

In testimony before the commission, current District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll and her predecessor, David W. Lupas, who is now a county judge presiding over juvenile matters, "incredibly conceded that they had never set foot in a juvenile court throughout their entire careers," the report said. Lupas and Musto Carroll "demonstrated no initiative, interest, or concern with what was occurring in juvenile court."

Long-time county Public Defender Basil Russin, who resigned earlier this year in a pay dispute with the county commissioners, failed to properly supervise the assistant public defenders who appeared before Ciavarella, the report said.

It took over a year and four months plus thousands of dollars for this panel to reach the same conclusion SOP did back in January, 2009.

Judge Lupas- Lets Ask You Questions

DA Jackie Musto Carroll- Lets Ask You A Question

The report did note that Russin and Musto Carroll initiated reforms in their offices once the scandal came to light and that Lupas, as a juvenile court judge, has made sure juveniles have representation and full hearings. Lupas has reported that detentions are down 70 percent since he took over the court. Nothing like letting the horse out of the barn then fixing the gate.

Click here to read the report

In a credit to Senator Lisa Baker's efforts on this juvenile mess she was quoted on the following statements.

State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, said in a press release issued Thursday that she will introduce bills to begin debate on the recommendations that require legislation.

"This report is a clear call to action," Baker said. "None of this can be treated casually, in the sense of 'it might be nice to do something someday if we have time or find money or the spirit still moves us.

The Great Train Robbery- Part 2

Market Street Square- 1984

Continued from Part 1.

Back in 2005 this article appeared in the Jersy Central Lines. It starts off with an observation that should never have gone unnoticed.

The CNJ Station Wilkes Barre

Luzerne County officials may be so passionate about Wilkes-Barre and Scranton being connected by passenger train service they are ready to wager millions of federal funding on its success.

The application will be approved at the June 17 meeting and forwarded for federal approval, Commissioner Stephen Urban said Friday. The amount the county will try to borrow has not been determined. County officials hope to use proceeds of the "Section 108" loan to acquire and restore the Market Street Square complex owned by Wilkes-Barre City businessman Thom Greco.

Elected officials have a fiduciary responsilibity to their constituents and it doesn't include treating county funds as if they are expendable at the Mohegun Sun. The next part begs the question, where was the advice from solicitor Joseph Blazozek?

A "Section 108" loan carries great risk. If the county is unable to make payments, the federal office could deduct funds from the county's annual $6 million Community Development Block Grant. Block grants fund local projects, like street paving and playground renovations, in the county's 72 boroughs and townships.

The most prophetic statement from that article came from former Luzerne County Commissioner Todd Vonderheid.

Todd Vonderheid said options and cost benefits of acquiring the complex are still under discussion. He added that it was premature to talk about a sale. "It's unfortunate that Commissioner Urban chooses to reveal the details of a deal that's still in the negotiation stages, and potentially jeopardize the success of that deal," Vonderheid said. "Greg (Skrepenak) and I are more concerned about improving the quality of life in Northeastern Pennsylvania than seeing our names in the newspaper." He could never have imagined the amount of times names were going to appear in the newspaper and Urban's would be the only one that would end up in a positive fashion.

David Janoski over at the Citizen's Voice chronicled in his article that Wilkes-Barre nightclub owner/restaurateur Thom Greco faces up to three years in prison for failing to provide information about illegal payments made to an elected official.

The name of the official and the nature of the payment were not released by prosecutors, but sources familiar with the investigation say federal agents have been probing Greco's possible role in providing televisions to a now-closed city sports bar owned by the father of former Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak.

According to sources Greco was asked to purchase something of significant value, possibly televisions, that ended up at the sports bar. When Greco presented the bill for payment it is rumored that he was told the bill was on him and tied to the Redevelopment Authority purchase of Market Street Square.

Big Ugly's on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, closed in February after the elder Skrepenak testified before the grand jury probing corruption in Luzerne County.

Skrepenak Sr., 67, owned Big Ugly's, a sports bar located at 165 N. Wilkes-Barre Blvd., Wilkes-Barre.

Big Ugly's was located on property owned by Michael and Arlene Pasonick.
In October, 2009 Pasonick was identifed as the businessman who paid a $1,400.00 bribe that ensared Gerald Bonner and William McGuire, both of whom served on the Luzerne County Housing Authority.

At the time Attorney Michael Butera had this to say about his client.

"Jerry Bonner did not commit any crime. I don't know how the government could prove that he did commit a crime," Butera said. "They are going to have to prove every single word of that indictment. Jerry Bonner was not corrupt and he didn't corruptly receive any award or bribe." Of course Gerald Bonner plead guilty in December, 2009.

The original post talked about a "band" of outlaws and trains. Although the trains weren't robbed in this story many were swept up like beached whales in the undertow from one property deal.

It is appropriate that former Wilkes Barre City Councilman described the deal for Market Street Square in this manner.

McCarthy said he questions the wisdom of the public purchase because the property has become “like a great beached whale” that attracts vandals. Evidently the "beached whale" attracted so much attention the feds decided to "inspect the beach for more casualties."

The Great Train Robbery- Part 1

In 1903 there was a film called The Great Train Robbery. It was the first narrative film in film history. The film was originally advertised as "a faithful duplication of the genuine 'Hold Ups' made famous by various outlaw bands in the far West."

Rolled the "film forward" to 2005 in Luzerne County. There was a proposed rail line between Scranton and the greater New York. Congress approved a $286 billion transportation bill that includes authorization for $120 million for the project. According to a Times Leader article from 2005 Paul Kanjorski had this to say about the project.

But the passenger line remains years away, said U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke.

"This is not a high priority for the New Jersey transit authority,"
Kanjorski said.

An environmental study for the rail project is nearly completed, he
said, and the type of rail service -- either regular or high-speed -- is
still being discussed.

The rail link between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, however, is not
included in the language of the transportation bill.
It seems like someone was in a big hurry to purchase property when the prediction from the funding source is that reality is a long way off.

Why do I bring all of this up? More from that same article.

The Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority is buying a historic train station downtown with the hope it will someday serve again as a terminus on a passenger rail line connecting Northeastern Pennsylvania to Hoboken, N.J.

Authority officials authorized an agreement of sale with Thom Greco,
the owner of the 6.5-acre Market Street Square property on Monday. The
authority will pay $5.8 million for the land, which includes the vacant train station along Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.

"It's going to tie into all the downtown projects," said Allen Bellas, authority executive director. "It's obviously going to help out the passenger rail service."

Mr. Bellas was charged by the feds with accepting a $2,000 kickback in 2009 for an unrelated matter. However, his arrest demonstrates the intertwining of the players by the charges filed yesterday against Thom Greco.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Economic Mess In Pictures- Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas highlights a chart by Jake Towne for Congress that shows dramatically what Nancy Pelosi and Paul Kanjorski created with their lack of stimulus package and the TARP bailout. It mirrors the information I supplied in an earlier post today.

Family Court Building In Philadelphia Creates More Controversy

Family Court development deal canceled
By Joseph Tanfani and Mark Fazlollah


After spending 18 months and more than $10 million, Philadelphia courts administrators under the supervision of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille have canceled their no-bid development deal on a new Family Court building.

Castille decided to dismiss developer Donald Pulver after The Inquirer disclosed that Pulver had made lawyer Jeffrey B. Rotwitt a partner in the project - at the same time that Rotwitt was being paid as Castille's representative.

Castille says Rotwitt never told him about what he calls a possible conflict of interest. Rotwitt insists Castille knew about it all along, and says he has no conflict because he wasn't acting as a lawyer in the deal, but a broker.

The terse termination letter, sent Wednesday, says that the courts are exercising their option to cancel Pulver's deal in three days.

The state Division of General Services, not Pulver, now will supervise the construction of the $200 million project at 15th and Arch Streets, one of the largest public works projects in the city in a decade. There will be public bids for the construction contracts.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority, which owns the land, also is preparing to cancel Pulver's development rights.

But the courts, on Castille's direction, have already paid out millions in fees to Pulver and Rotwitt, nearly emptying a fund collected from a surcharge on all Philadelphia Family Court filings.

Castille personally spearheaded the project, meeting with politicians and architects and signing off on the fees to Pulver and Rotwitt. He said he authorized the payments, even though there was no signed development agreement, in a gamble to keep the project alive.

PennDOT 35 Person Unit Criticized By Grand Jury To Be Disbanded

The Legal Intelligencer is reporting that Gov. Ed Rendell is disbanding a special unit of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that a grand jury said exists only to expedite paperwork for legislators seeking to win favor with voters.

The panel that investigated the state legislative corruption scandal criticized the 35-person unit in a scathing assessment of the Legislature released this week.

Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma said Wednesday that the unit will be disbanded in the next few days and the employees reassigned elsewhere in PennDOT. However, he says they'll continue to help legislators with constituent requests.

The report also says the House Democratic and Republican caucuses employ — at a cost of nearly $900,000 a year — dozens of people to expedite processing of mostly routine PennDOT paperwork for businesses and other constituents.

Here are Brett Marcy two statements in the past week.

"We have worked hard to trim costs and find ways to improve efficiencies," said Brett Marcy, press secretary to House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne.

On the grand jury report:

House Democratic spokesman Brett Marcy was critical of the report, saying it "seems to be based largely on the past and incorrect assumptions about the legislative process, rather than an accurate reflection of today's legislative operation."

Brett, now let me get this straight. Governor Rendell is disbanding a crew of 35 who serve the only purpose to expedite paperwork for legislators seeking to win favor with voters and you said what about the accurate reflection of the legislative operation?  On top of that the House Dems and the Republican caucuses are wasting another $900,000.00!! What a buffoon. Hanging around with Kanjorski teaches you how to stretch the facts.

Website ranks Pennsylvania among top 10 corrupt states

We shouldn't be proud. Here is the link at the Patriot News.

A analysis by the Daily Beast of the most corrupt states in the country based on arrests and convictions for public corruption, fraud and more ranked Pennsylvania No. 8. Tennessee was ranked No. 1 and New Hampshire 51st on the list that includes the District of Columbia (No. 36). Nevada is 7th, New Jersey 21st, New York 24th and Maryland 23rd

Nancy Pelosi And Paul Kanjorski- Where Are The Jobs?

Back in August, 2003 Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi wrote this press release about the jobless rate which remains on her site.

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' announcement that 470,000 people abandoned their job searches in July and that 3.2 million private sector jobs have been lost since President Bush took office:

“The fact is that President Bush’s misguided economic policies have failed to create jobs. Since President Bush took office, the country has lost 3.2 million jobs, the worst record since President Hoover. And today we learned that in July nearly half a million people gave up looking for a job.

“Job losses are taking a real toll on the financial security of American families. While Democrats are fighting for opportunity, jobs, and economic security for working families, Republicans continue to focus on helping those who need help the least.

“According to today’s survey, while the national unemployment rate dropped slightly, it still stands at a near record high. In addition, the unemployment rate for African Americans was still over 11 percent in July, and the unemployment rate for Hispanics was 8.2 percent in July.

“It is time for President Bush and the Republicans to get to work for all Americans, not just the elite few.”

Here are the statistics for April, 2010 from the United States Department of Labor.

In April, the number of unemployed persons was 15.3 million, and the unemployment rate edged up to 9.9 percent. The rate had been 9.7 percent for the first 3 months of this year.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for whites (9.0 percent) edged up in April, while the rates for adult men (10.1 percent), adult women (8.2 percent), teenagers (25.4 percent), blacks (16.5 percent), and Hispanics (12.5 percent) showed little or no change.

Where is the public outcry from Nancy Pelosi and Paul Kanjorski for THEIR President to take action? Hypocrisy is not the word for Nancy and Paul. Obama's failed policies have failed to create jobs.  More information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) continued to trend up over the month, reaching 6.7 million. In April, 45.9 percent of unemployed persons had been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

Long term jobless is over double the jobs claimed to have been lost by Bush in 2003 yet the Pelosi/Kanjorski team, and particularly Paul wants to make the claim the Democrats saved the economy from collapse. Please stop, we can't take much more of your saving! Our college graduates will be the next great big default if job creation doesn't occur soon. Maybe that is the real reason Obama took over the federal student loan system.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

PA House Dems Ram Through Tax Hike


PA House Democrats Try to Ram Through Tax Hikes

May 25, 2010--Last night, the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee -- on a straight party line vote, with only Democrat support -- amended into a bill (HB 325) related to volunteer firefighters' tax status a $330 million tax increase. House Democrat leadership is trying to fast-track this bill for a vote on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, even though some of the proposals have yet to be publicly debated by the House.

HB 325 would impose a severance tax of 8% of value plus 7 cents per thousand cubic feet, on natural gas extraction, giving Pennsylvania the highest comparable severance tax rate in the nation. The majority of states with a natural gas severance tax also delay implementation, offer tax exemptions, or discount the tax in hard-to-drill areas (like Marcellus Shale) to encourage drilling. For example, Texas and Arkansas reduced their severance taxes for high-cost gas wells by nearly 80%.

The House Democrats' proposal is higher than Gov. Rendell's proposed 5% tax on value plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet. "Gov. Rendell's proposal was already economically detrimental to the development of this clean, affordable, and safe energy source, but the House Democrats' irresponsible actions last night just doubled-down on bad economic policy," said Matthew J. Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation. "Instead of finding a way to curb their over-spending habits, they have unfairly targeted one of Pennsylvania's greatest economic opportunities for job creation and prosperity in decades."

The legislation would also impose a new tax on smokeless tobacco, and would raise the cigarette tax another 30 cents per pack. The smokeless tax would also harm Pennsylvania's tobacco industry - most notably small farmers, including Amish and Mennonite - another growing sector (indeed, Pennsylvania is one of the only states where tobacco farming is expanding).

Based on the Pennsylvania State Tax Analysis Modeling Program (PA-STAMP), designed by economists at the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, the Commonwealth Foundation estimates that these tax increases will result in 4,200 fewer private sector jobs in Pennsylvania next year alone.

1. Please sign the petition for a "Taxpayer's Budget" ... and forward this email to friends, family, and coworkers and encourage them to sign it, too.

2. Contact your state legislators and urge them to support a "Taxpayer's Budget" that meets three criteria: Reduces taxes on working Pennsylvanians and job creators; eliminates corporate welfare, WAMs/pork-barrel projects, and special interests spendin; and balances the budget without accounting gimmicks, shell games, or new debt.

3. Write a letter-to-the-editor urging the General Assembly and the Governor to adopt a "Taxpayer's Budget."

REMEMBER: The Commonwealth Foundation will crown one Pennsylvania resident the 2010 Grassroots Champion, and award that person $500. For details on how to qualify, click here

Did Eachus Make Himself Vulnerable?

House Majority Leader Todd Eachus spent time away from constituent work to campaign for Tom Leighton. Evidently the Grand Jury was right in its recommendations about government reform in Pennsylvania. If Eachus has enought time to campaign for Leighton instead of performing consituent work while he was back in his district maybe his position isn't really all that important.

Mayor Leighton was running against Rep. John Yudichak, a member of the House Democratic Caucus for the senate seat in the 14th district created when Senator Ray Musto announced his retirement earlier this year. Eachus is leader of that caucus. Both Yudichak and Eachus are members of the Northeast PA Democratic Caucus.

Acoording to this article by Robert Swift from November, 2008 Yudichak and Eachus at one time worked in unison as part of the Northeast delegation.

But there is something in that article that is germane to the picture above. Bill DeWeese was mad as hell when then Democrat Tom Stish switched to Republican which changed the balance of power in the Pennsylvania House. He enocuraged a young Todd Eachus to run for the seat against Stish. Of course Eachus won. Basically over a defection DeWeese intended Stish's defeat as an object lesson on the perils of party- switching for incumbent lawmakers.

At 48 one would think Eachus should have kept that life lesson in mind. Just as the Leighton supporter trashed his sign did Eachus trash himself by going out front for Leighton within his own party?

It is no secret that Yudichak didn't support DeWeese or Eachus for leadership positions within the Harrisburg caucus. Yudichak supported Rep. Frank Dermody from western Pennsylvania in an attempt to break with "business as usual" in Harrisburg. From Robert Swift's article:

Yudichak voiced concern Monday that Eachus' election would mean a continuation of the legacy of current Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-50, and former House Minority Whip Michael Veon of Beaver County. During the past weekend, DeWeese dropped out of the heated race for the majority leader's post and threw his support behind Eachus.

The ongoing Bonusgate investigation into whether lawmakers and staffers illegally did campaign work on public time has cast a shadow over the leadership elections.

Veon is among 12 individuals associated with the Democratic caucus who have been charged with theft and conspiracy in connection with the Bonusgate probe by the state attorney general's office.

Yudichak is among a dozen Democratic lawmakers who called for Mr. DeWeese to step down as majority leader after those indictments last summer.

Yudichak also supports the candidacy of Rep. Keith McCall, D- 122, of neighboring Carbon County for House Speaker.

Yudichak was right on the money with what he saw in the Democratic caucus. He was replaced as chairman of the Northeast Caucus by Neal Goodman. In this document from the Bonusgate trial Jennifer Brubaker is caught writing this email about John Yudichak to Vicki DiLeo, frequent players in the Bonusgate scam to do political campaign work on the taxpayer dime. Go to page 7. "Yudichak is not exactly the type of guy I would want to work with." She was talking about the executive director position of the Northeast PA delegation.

In this article it is more than apparent that Brubaker was a Veon disciple.

According to Mr. Lawrence, office director Jennifer Brubaker said to him, "'You didn't lift a finger for Veon, and I don't need to keep you around if you aren't going to support our guys getting elected."

Eachus unilaterally paid off Mike Veon's campaign debt. The Tribune-Review reported Thursday that three of the four top leaders of the House Democratic Campaign Committee said they didn't know about the payments toward the Veon campaign's debt. Reps. Joe Preston, Dan Frankel and Jennifer Mann -- apparently had no knowledge of the two payments. How he squares that action with acting in a responsible and ethical manner is a huge question only he can answer.

In the race between Leighton and Yudichak Paul Kanjorski was convinced to contribute $20,000.00 to Leighton's campaign. Eachus made a taping for Robo calls on behalf of Leighton. The full course press was on and failed. They thought they had a hockey power play and lost. They convinced themselves that their seniority and positions were unbeatable. One has to wonder whether this will be their office after the November elections.

"Mad As Hell" Grand Jury- Pennsylvania

Tracey Mauriello of the Post-Gazette characterizes the report developed by a grand jury investigating the misuse of taxpayer money commonly referred in the media as Bonusgate as a "mad as hell grand jury".

A "mad as hell" grand jury that investigated the Bonusgate scandal issued a list of recommendations improving a state Legislature they condemned as "broken," but was skeptical that any of the proposals would ever occur in a system so rife with corruption.

"The current operational structure and ingrained procedures of the Pennsylvania House Democratic and Republican caucuses are irretrievably broken and in desperate need of systemic change," the grand jurors wrote.

The self-serving culture of the Legislature's caucus system and patronage is so entrenched, the grand jury wrote, that the only way any change might take place is through a constitutional convention.

"The grand jury has determined beyond any doubt that the General Assembly, if left to its own devices, is utterly incapable of reforming itself," the report said.

The wide-ranging recommendations, filed Monday in Dauphin County Common Pleas Court, call for eliminating partisan caucuses, reducing a bloated staff and even changing the kinds of constituent services handled in district offices.

The grand jury found that legislative employees spent "an enormous amount of time working on political campaigns when they were supposed to be performing their legislative duties." They said "all campaign work on legislative time must be eliminated."

In a filing that accompanied the report, Judge Barry Feudale, supervisor of the grand jury, said grand jurors were "mad as hell" to hear from numerous witnesses that "no one's guilty because everybody does it."

Link to Grand Jury Recommendations at Post-Gazette

Come November lets see if the voters are as angry as the grand jury members and have the courage to oust those in power.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pennsylvania Grand Jury Recommends Sweeping Government Overhauls

In this report out of the Associated Press announces sweeping findings from the Grand Jury empaneled to investigate the misuse of taxpayer money commonly known as Bonusgate.

Despite dissemination of this report Todd Eachus's state site contains no mention of it.

A grand jury that investigated the state legislative corruption scandal known as Bonusgate wants the General Assembly to make sweeping changes, from how it hires and supervises employees to how it provides constituent services and even the way it debates passage of the annual budget.

A 34-page report obtained Monday by The Associated Press describes the Legislature as bloated with unnecessary staff and living in a time warp that reflects practices other states outlawed decades ago.

“This grand jury concludes, without any hesitation, that the current operational structure and ingrained procedures of the Pennsylvania House Democratic and Republican caucuses are irretrievably broken and in desperate need of systemic change,” the jury wrote.

“In the eyes of this grand jury, it is beyond dispute that numerous legislative employees have for years spent an enormous amount of time working on political campaigns when they were supposed to be performing their legislative duties,” the grand jury wrote. “All campaign work on legislative time must be eliminated and this will result in a surplus of legislative work unless rapid, meaningful change occurs.”

The 2,800 legislative employees amount to nine for each representative and 17 for each senator, the jury said.

“Despite the best efforts of numerous witnesses before the grand jury, nobody was able to justify such a large number of employees for this body,” the jurors wrote.

Among other reforms, the grand jury said the Legislature should:
— Eliminate, or at least make more transparent, the special leadership accounts that give House leaders millions of dollars in discretionary spending to control.
— Stop per diem payments to lawmakers, or at least tie them to actual expenses.
— Convert the General Assembly to a part-time body, impose term limits and give House members four-year terms.
— Combine the House Democratic and Republican print shops, information technology departments and personnel offices. Hire based on “standardized, published job descriptions.”
— Cease constituent service work related to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, described as a giveaway to businesses and a wasteful means of currying favor with voters at taxpayers’ expense.
— Impose tougher ethics practices, halt all payments and benefits to staffers on leave to campaign and ban compensatory time. Keep legislative employees from entering campaign offices during work hours.
— Prohibit using the same vendor for legislative and campaign purposes.
— Revamp the state budget process, making line items more descriptive and halting per diems if the budget is not passed by June 30.
— Eliminate taxpayer-funded political caucuses.

The report also called for a limited constitutional convention, saying it was concerned that the General Assembly “will remain in its ’time warp’ and meddle with, obfuscate, ignore or kill every recommendation.

Let's see if Eachus knows what the term leadership really means. Let's see if he rises to the occasion or serves us more slight of hand. Let's see if Brett Marcy can spin his words more.

Just today the AFL-CIO was demanding that there be no more cuts to Pennsylvania to preserve their member jobs which include doing campaign work on legislative time according to the Grand Jury.

This post is the facts..get ready for the fiction.

AFL-CIO Wants You To Pay More Taxes

In a bold statement the AFL-CIO, part of the newly formed Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenue, representing 1.1 million Pennsylvanians wants us to pay more in taxes to protect their lucrative jobs and retirement. In this report from Jan Murphy of the Patriot News the unions position is very clear.

Labor unions representing Pennsylvania state and school employees are banding together to urge the state Legislature to look at raising revenue to balance next year’s budget instead of cutting employees and services. “We think the cuts have gone far,” said Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President-elect Rick Bloomingdale.

They make the outlandish claim that Rendell's budget would eliminate half the government workforce. Not even close.

Signor Ferrari Reveals Himself

Anyone who is anyone in the blogosphere knows about the website. Today Signor Ferrari, a frequent contributor to the site revealed himself as Rep. Rick Taylor,  You may recall the fight between AG Tom Corbett and Casablancapa by issuance of a subpoena for records belonging to the site. Of course Corbett withdrew the subpoenas.

Not to entirely let Rick Taylor off the hook">here is some of his campaign statements.

We should have good government, devoted to public service rather than self-interest. So Rick, are you telling me you don't take per diems?

We should have representatives with our best interests at heart, who believe in quality schools, solutions for our seniors, and reasonable property taxes that don't place an unfair burden on homeowners. So Rick, did you know that we pay more Pennsylvania taxes since you were elected in 2006. How about that property tax relief we were promised?

From his campaign website:

I ran for State Representative to bring real change to Pennsylvania...from expanding affordable health care, to bringing professionalism and integrity back to state government and fighting to make college affordable, I'm proud of the progress we've made, but there's still work to be done. many Democrats have been arrested in connection with the misuse of taxpayer funds since you were elected? Is that your measurement of progress to bring integrety and professionalism back to state government?

Philadelphia Courthouse Building Questions

In a developing story coming out of Philadelphia over a new courthouse building Democratic candidate in the 103rd district- Gene Stilp filed complaint against Chief Justice Castille in the Philly Courthouse bid scandal according to RoxburyNews.

Over the weekend the Philadelphia Inquirer penned this edtiorial concerning its eleventh-hour disclosure by an Inquirer investigative team that a courthouse consultant holds what appears to be a conflicting role as codeveloper of the project, casts doubt on the fairness of the $200 million price tag.

In this story published May 21, 2010 by staff writers Joseph Tanfani and Mark Fazlollah the reporters discovered that real estate lawyer and developer Jeffrey B. Rotwitt was working both sides of construction project to build a $200 million courthouse. He was paid $3.9 million as fees on the project from the courts.

But Rotwitt found a way to make even more money from the courts project, a 14-story tower planned for 15th and Arch Streets. It would be the largest current public works project in Philadelphia after the Convention Center expansion.

He made a separate deal with Donald W. Pulver, the Conshohocken developer who has development rights at the site. For more than a year, he and Pulver said, Rotwitt has been splitting the monthly development fees paid by the courts, fees that Rotwitt proposed in the first place. So far, that arrangement has earned Rotwitt close to $500,000.

"It was all open and above board," Rotwitt said.

State Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, who has been working closely with Rotwitt on the courts project for two years, said he had no idea about that arrangement until The Inquirer's architecture critic, Inga Saffron, reported it and started asking questions about how Rotwitt could be on both sides of the deal.

Because he was relying on Rotwitt's advice, Castille said in an interview in his Philadelphia office, there's no way to know whether the public has gotten a good deal thus far on the $200 million Family Court project.

After the story broke Governor Rendell came to the rescue with an announcement that he would release the $200 million for the courthouse project but only with competitive bidding.

Rendell said he would release the $200 million for the huge courthouse at 15th and Arch Streets, but would require competitive bids, even if that means delays, to make sure the project is scrubbed of any conflicts of interest.

Rendell's announcement means the apparent end of the court system's two-year-old development deal with Donald W. Pulver, a developer from Conshohocken.

The Inquirer reported on Friday that Jeffrey B. Rotwitt, a lawyer the courts hired as a real estate consultant, has also been collecting fees on the other side of the deal as Pulver's co-developer.

"The commonwealth always looks at potential conflicts of interest, particularly when it comes to the taxpayers' money," Rendell said. "We will make sure there is no conflict of interest in this deal, even if it means slowing it up."

Rendell, joined by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and Mayor Nutter, appeared at City Hall to announce the funding for the 14-story, 29-courtroom building. Family Court handles some of the most sensitive cases in the justice system: juvenile crimes, divorces, child-neglect hearings.

On Tuesday, lawyer Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. of the firm Ballard Spahr, which represents the courts and Castille, sent Pulver and Rotwitt a letter asking them to detail their partnership and list everyone who received any money from the courts.

Rotwitt did not respond. Lawyers for Pulver did not provide the information, but said, "We previously advised your firm of the involvement of Deilwydd Property Group L.L.C. and Mr. Rotwitt in this project months ago."

Feeley declined to comment on Rotwitt's dual roles, other than to repeat that documents showed that court representatives knew about his work as developer.

Stilp's complaint isn't the first time he and Castille have clashed over an issue. As reported by John Micek at CapitolIdeas on January 15, 2008 after he was sworn into office yesterday, new state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille got hit with a disciplinary complaint from professional gadfly Gene Stilp.

In what we're pretty sure is Stilp's millionth court filing since the short-lived 2005 pay raise, the Dauphin County activist and onetime Nader Raider claims that Castille ran afoul of disciplinary rules when he told Philly Daily News columnist John Baer late last year that he was soon going to allow a grand jury probe of casino owner Louis DeNaples to proceed.

According to Stilp, that action violated Canon 3 of the judicial code of ethics, which says "judges should abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding in any court."

To quote John Micek "Here we go again".

Kanjorski- Don't Celebrate Just Yet

Jack Kelly at the Post-Gazette wrote a post today about the meaning of the primary results for Democrats.

Democrats: no reason to celebrate

There were also more votes in the Republican primaries than in the Democratic primaries in the districts represented by Democrats Patrick Murphy, Chris Carney and Tim Holden, and in the district currently held by Rep. Sestak.

Rep. Kanjorski could muster just 49.3 percent of the vote against two opponents in his primary. For an incumbent, that's a recipe for toast come November.

Do The Facts Support Brett Marcy's Statement?

The more one pays attention to Todd Eachus the more the bogus claims become evident. This press release is located on

Legislative leaders trim salaries of top staffers

It is based on this original article written by Tracie Mauriello of the Post-Gazette.

The bogus claim-
"We have worked hard to trim costs and find ways to improve efficiencies," said Brett Marcy, press secretary to House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne.

The fact- Back in February Eachus announced the selection of Laura Kuller as the Democratic Caucus chief of staff. On March 9, 2009 Capital Ideas John Micek wrote this blog "Working For Mr. Eachus".

In February, Eachus announced that he’d hired Harrisburg lobbyist, and onetime Democratic employee, Laura Kuller as his new chief-of-staff.

Kuller will earn $161,000, or nearly $24,000 more than the salary paid in the last legislative session to Sandra F. Williams, who served as chief to then Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene.

Eachus’ new counsel, former Rendell administration senior lawyer Nora Winkelman, is being paid $149,900, or $16,781 more than the $133,119 salary paid to DeWeese's top lawyer William Martin Sloane last year.

He raised Kuller's position pay by almost 18%. But it doesn't stop there.

Eachus’ new counsel, former Rendell administration senior lawyer Nora Winkelman, is being paid $149,900, or $16,781 more than the $133,119 salary paid to DeWeese's top lawyer William Martin Sloane last year.

As further evidence of the facts not supporting the claims to the public look at this PDF file compiled by Mauriello.

Susan Schwab was hired as "legal council to the floor leader". Her salary is $132,522, an expense that wasn't there in 2009 according to the document. Patti Glasser was hired as Director of Administration with a salary of $125,684, another expense not listed in 2009. Arthur McNulty was hired as Democratic Committee Exective Director at a salary of $110,006, nada in 2009. That's $368,212 in extra expenses for 2010 alone. Is that what Brett Marcy meant by trimming expenses?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend Tidbits On Specter's Loss

Specter doomed Specter in the Times Leader.

Specter defeat adds to state seniority loss Only Borys would do a piece about seniority and forget to mention Senator Ray Musto's 40 years of service in this Times Tribune piece. A little to far north to remember those in the south aye Borys?

What Do We Mean When We Blame Big Oil?

Notwithstanding the disaster developing in the Gulf of Mexico over the explosion of the leased rig by BP, I hear so many people blame the big oil companies for jacking up gasoline and heating oil prices. This chart may come as a shock but even the big oil firms are small potatoes when compared to government operations. In this article from the Wall Street Journal it points out that Saudi Aramco, Gazprom (Russia), China National Petroleum Corp., National Iranian Oil Co., PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela, Petrobras (Brazil) and Petronas (Malaysia) are all larger than ExxonMobil, the largest of the multinationals by a wide margin. These players are the ones really controlling market prices.

Collectively, multinational oil companies produce just 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves. State-owned companies now control more than 75% of all crude oil production.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

They Call It A Vole But What Would Gibbs Know

“Where I’m from, that’s a rat,” press secretary Robert Gibbs declared Friday,

Which one was he talking about??

To Those Who Blame Republicans For The Mortgage Mess

Refer to this New York Times article from 1999.

Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

But Paul Kanjorski will try to tell you the Democrats saved the economy. Where's the liberal press asking Kanjorski to explain that statement from their own liberal publication?

National Taxpayer's Union- Kanjorski Gets An "F"

See Tony Phryillas's post.

Kanjorski Staffers Ensnared In Ethics Controversy

The Pocono Record is publishing a report by David Pierce.

Rep. Paul Kanjorski's staffers may have violated House ethics rules by using a list of congressional interns to recruit election workers for his 2008 re-election campaign.

House rules prohibit using official government documents for electioneering.

Kanjorski Legislative Director Kate McMahon used her House e-mail account to send an attachment listing interns who had worked in the Democratic congressman's office from 2004-08. "Volunteer potential" was the message sent along with the list.

A copy of the e-mail was mailed anonymously to several publications including the Pocono Record. According to Politico, in a story published early this week, a Democratic source obtained a copy of the correspondence in an e-mail chain.

Kanjorski campaign spokesman Ed Mitchell said he couldn't verify the authenticity of this or other photocopied e-mails sent to the media. He noted some were sent on campaign-funded BlackBerry devices, which is allowed by campaign rules.

None of the interns performed campaign work on government time, he said.

"They were asked if they wanted to work in future campaigns and volunteered to do so after they left government employ," Mitchell said in a written statement to the Pocono Record. "We have implemented a new, compliant policy.".

Just a thought. Usually one issues new rules after discovering actions that need correction.

Brett Cott Sentenced In Bonusgate Conviction

Democratic aide Brett Cott has been sentenced to 21-64 months in prison for his role in the Bonusgate scandal that rocked Harrisurg, Pennsylvania's capitol according to Brad Bumsted.

Citing a "clear violation of the public trust," a Dauphin County judge today sentenced a former aide of ex-Democratic Whip Mike Veon to 21 months to five years in a state prison for stealing taxpayer resources for political campaigns.

Cott was handcuffed and led away by sheriff's deputies after Common Pleas Judge Richard Lewis denied bail. He was to be taken to Dauphin County Prison to be transported to Camp Hill State Correctional Institution for processing into the state prison system.

Defense attorney Bryan Walk said he will appeal the conviction and the sentence. He called the sentence "excessive" and said there are drug dealers prosecuted by the attorney general's office who get less time.

The sentence was harsher than even prosecutors recommended. Tom Barnes of the Post-Gazette wrote:

The judge said Mr. Cott spent most of his time that was paid for on taxpayer dollars "orchestrating and mastermining political activity." The judge said "public money was used like monopoly money to run campaigns. Some potential candidates were scared off by this taxpayer funded juggernaut. The public was also victimized."

He said probation was not an option because that "would demean the seriousness of the crimes."

In a related story AG Tom Corbett withdrew his subpoenas of Twitter accounts seeking to find the identities of two users who have been critical of Mr. Corbett on the social networking site.

Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said today the attorney general's office had no intention of violating anyone's First Amendment rights to free speech by issuing the subpoenas -- he said they were issued for "legal reasons, allowed by law. They had nothing to do with bloggers or tweets of people."

He said the state was trying to show that harsh, negative criticism of Mr. Corbett, especially in the blog CasablancaPA, was "part of Brett Cott's demeanor,"' and showed that he had no "remorse or contrition" about what he'd done. He said Mr. Cott's demeanor was a proper subject to be considered at sentencing.

In the attorney general's memo given to the judge before the sentencing, 17 "aggravating factors" were listed, showing that in the state's opinion Mr. Cott deserved a strong punishment.

One paragraph reads: "Defendant has extensively and anonymously utilized a blog entitled 'CasablancaPA, Exposing the hypocrisy of Tom Corbett,' to deflect blame and deny responsibility for his criminal conduct, and to attack and malign the investigative and prosecutorial process which resulted in his conviction."

Most in the blogging world including SOP scoffed at Corbett's strategy on this one. Cott was convicted and awaitiing sentencing. "Squishing the bug on the ground a little more" wasn't going to serve a greater purpose for society. With Pennsylvania's budget woes due to a loss of projected income meant that AG Corbett should have been a better steward of the resources provided to his office. He may make the claim that these people weren't paid anymore money to file the subpoenas. But most know that there are only so many hours in a work week. If one spends time on this issue another more pressing matter is being forgotten or put aside. Next time Tom use your head.

Democrat Brian Kelly Backs Lou Barletta In Congressional Race

Democrat Brian Kelly, a newcomer to politics, was defeated in his bid to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Representative of the 11th Congressional district.

Actually Brian Kelly won his race in a different way. He had no money to speak of and didn't accept outside contributions. Despite accepting no outside contributions he garned 17 PERCENT of the Democratic vote. To those outside of politics that number is huge. It suprised the even most seasoned political observers. Kelly's showing mirrored the sentiment that sent Arlen Specter packing and out of Washington.

Mia Light of the Citizens Voice is reporting that Brian Kelly is throwing his support behind Lou Barletta for the fall matchup between Barletta and too longtime incumbent Paul Kanjorski.

"A Barletta victory in November is as close to a Kelly victory as we can get," Kelly said.

He said he would lend his support to the Republican because, "My father always said, 'Vote for the man' and Paul Kanjorski is not that man."

Barletta campaign spokesperson Vince Galko had this to say about Ed Mitchell's response to Kelly's announcement.

"Paul Kanjorski's campaign response is predictable. If you are not in bed with Wall Street bankers or if you haven't spent more than 20 years in Washington, you just don't matter to Paul Kanjorski," Galko said.

Kanjorski's campaign contributions detail a trail of allegiance to an industry despised by most in this country at the moment. Foreclosures continue and banks aren't lending money in any appreciable amount to help the economy rebound. Therefore jobs are still and will continue to be a problem for the forseeable future.

Kanjorski's failed ability with Sallie Mae and the loss of 2,500 jobs associated with his vote on healthcare reform only serve to compound the misery Americans experience.

According to the stimulus package that Kanjorski supported only brought 2.64 jobs to the 18702 Wilkes Barre zipcode so far. If one types in Hanover Township's 18706 zipcode the amount of jobs created so far is only 8.11. HOever Sallie Mae in Hanover Township is giving up 100 jobs. Paul Kanjorski please explain your rationale?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kanjorski And Sallie Mae- When A Handshake Means Nothing

A press release in April, 2009 by Paul Kanjorski talked about jobs coming to Sallie Mae in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski called it the best kind of economic stimulus: new jobs.

Kanjorski and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey joined Sallie Mae Chief Executive Officer Albert L. Lord to brighten an otherwise dreary Monday by announcing the work force at Sallie Mae will nearly double over the next 12 to 18 months.

The three said Sallie Mae is returning to the United States about 2,000 jobs from its overseas operations, with 600 of them coming to the facility in the Hanover Industrial Park. The hiring process is expected to begin immediately.

Kanjorski said he had a meeting with Sallie Mae managers and employees on the day before the 2008 general election. He said it was a difficult meeting and he had to bite his tongue because he couldn't reveal discussions were already under way about bringing jobs back to the United States.

"That's why I couldn't wait to get back here today to make this announcement," he said, noting that Sallie Mae will become one of the top 10 employers in the region.

(A little pun here, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away).

In this press clip from the Labor and Industry Press Office there is a Times Leader article from 11/07/2009 talking about petitions Sallie Mae supporters were circulating in trying to save 1000 Sallie Mae jobs.

The petitions were circulated to protect the 1,000 local jobs that could be lost under a proposal to have the federal government originate all federal student loans.

Grass-roots organizers such as Lisa Dougherty of Hazleton, an 11-year Sallie Mae employee, coordinated the petition drive that took her and others to Philadelphia two weeks ago. They boarded a busa and went througout stadium parking lots to get signatures. That was an extraordinary effort.

The effort pleased Al Lord, chief executive officer of Sallie Mae, who traveled from the publicly traded company's headquarters in Reston, Va., to say thank you.

(here's an ironic twist to the story) Lord thanked (at least it wasn't The Lord thanked) U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, for sticking up for Sallie Mae. The company's political action committee has contributed thousands of dollars to Kanjorski's campaigns, including $11,000 in 2007 and 2008.

"That took courage. There's a lot of pressure to vote in a given direction because this is a favored bill of the administration."
Little did Lord know how soon that courage would turn to cowardness.

A Big Fat Slob wrote about Paul Kanjorski, healtcare reform, and Sallie Mae back in March, 2010. Kanjorski claimed he was undecided at the time over voting for healthcare reform and refused to commit that he was going to support Obama on the bill.

A source with information received directly from the White House has told us that Kanjorski has told the President that he is firmly in the Republican column on the health insurance reform initiative. [See UPDATE below] Contrary to recent reports in the Washington Post , Firedoglake, and Ben Pershing's Blog, among others, Kanjorski reportedly told the President there was little no room for movement on his vote.

Kanjorski's movement to the "No" column was NOT the result of the faux abortion issue. Instead, Kanjo's decision to oppose health insurance reform was dictated by the interests of the large private student loan lender, Sallie Mae, which has a facility in his district. Kanjorski has long-ties with the folk at Sallie Mae, something he's boasted about in the past. A 2008 piece on Kanjorski's deep-ties to Sallie Mae laid it out pretty well:

Sallie Mae has rewarded Kanjorski for his support in other ways as well. According to federal campaign finance records, the loan giant has contributed, through its PAC and from individual company officials, nearly $70,000 to the Congressman's campaign coffers over the last decade. In addition, the Sallie Mae Fund, the company's charitable arm, has made generous contributions to one of the Congressman's pet causes: donating $1 million in 2003 to the Wilkes-Barre Catholic Youth Center, which provides daycare and overnight care to children from primarily lower-income and minority families. Kanjorski has long championed the center and fought to get federal funding for it. In Sallie Mae's news release, the center's executive director "expressed deep gratitude" to the Congressman for helping to secure the loan company's donation.

Stephen Burd, The Higher Ed Watch Blog. The House added "The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act" to the reconciliation bill on health insurance reform. The reform measure allows students to borrow directly from the federal government instead of from Sallie Mae or other lenders. Currently, the federal government loans money to Sallie Mae, which in turn makes a tidy profit by re-lending our tax dollars to college kids.

Kanjorski, by supporting one of his large corporate financial backers, is threatening to turning his back on the rank and file, the middle class, the laborers, and all of the individuals suffering for lack of access to health care.

As well all know Kanjo went on to ultimately vote for the healthcare reform bill but with a handshake that Sallie Mae jobs in his district would be spared from the provisions in the bill that turned students loans over to the federal government, not that the ObamaStatesofAmerica isn't big enough already.

In this interview on WILK posted Sunday March 21, 2010 Paul Kanjorski talks about his YES vote on healthcare reform. The caption underneath the broadcast states 11th District Congressman Paul Kanjorski tells WILK in an exclusive interview that he will be voting YES on the healthcare reform bill after getting some assurance on the security of some 1100 jobs locally through Sallie Mae.

The Times Tribunes published this article by David Falcheck on March 31, 2010- Changes in federal student loan program could put local Sallie Mae center in jeopardy

The law would put an end to billions of dollars in federal subsidies to lenders originating student loans and make loan originations directly. But the government will need companies such as Sallie Mae to service the loans.

That's what U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski said he expects to happen. To convince him to vote for the combination health care and student loan reform legislation, he said he insisted on assurances from the U.S. Department of Education that Sallie Mae jobs would be preserved.

It's May 20, 2010 and here is today's headline in the Times Leader-

Sallie Mae letting 100 go in July

One hundred customer service workers at the Sallie Mae center in Hanover Township have been informed that they’ll lose their jobs July 16.

The news wasn’t unexpected. Just last month the Reston, Va.-based student lending and loan processing company announced that 2,500 total workers will be let go by the end of 2011, including all 1,200 workers at the company’s centers in Killeen, Texas, and Panama City, Fla.

Conwey Casillas, Sallie Mae’s vice president of public affairs, said, “The company’s focused on our future and our future in Pennsylvania is highly dependent on the amount of direct loans we service.”

He declined to discuss the layoffs or comment changes in student lending approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March and its direct impact on the announcement made Thursday

The change is expected to save at least $60 billion. But it will also mean a drastic reshaping of Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student lender.

In the course of one year and one month Northeastern Pennsylvania went from securing 2,000 jobs to losing 100 jobs all due to Paul Kanjorski's vote for the government takeover of the student loans.  The handshake he recieved as assurance for their jobs wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

When Arlen Specter toured the Innovation Center with Paul Kanjorski he had this to say "It is very helpful to have people with seniority and experience and clout," .

In Kanjorski's interview with Roderick Random aka Borys he had this to say
"It's taken 25 years to get to the seniority position I have and the power position I have," he said. "Nobody who replaces me will get there in one, two or three terms."

If seniority matters so much, why did Mr. Kanjorski bring home fewer dollars in the 2010 federal budget than Rep. Chris Carney, D-10? Mr. O'Brien asked.

Right now there are 2,500 people at Sallie Mae asking the same question.

Sexting-Students Privacy Rights Flexing Muscle On Issue

Ting-Yi Oei And His Wife

The Legal Intelligencer is reporting on a case unfolding in Wyoming County over an issue involving sexting and the contents of a student's confiscated cellphone. The student claims her constitutional rights were violated when her principal, Gregory Ellsworth, at Tunkhannock Area High School confiscated her cell phone, found nude images she had taken of herself and turned it over to prosecutors.

According to that suit, school officials turned over the students' phones to former Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr., who responded by targeting 13 girls and three boys with threats of criminal charges if they did not agree to take a class he had designed on the dangers of sexting.

Most agreed to take the class to avoid prosecution, but three of the girls and their parents instead enlisted the help of the ACLU to challenge the threatened prosecutions. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania won an injunction from U.S. District Judge James Munley that was later upheld by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Now, in a second suit, a student identified only as "N.N." claims the school officials and prosecutors illegally searched the contents of her phone even though she intended the racy photos to be "seen only by herself and, perhaps, her long-time boyfriend."

Listening to Webster and Nancy this morning on WILK on the subject I was almost swayed in their argument that the prinicipal had the right to confiscate their phone but didn't have the right to drill down with its keyboard to find out what information including photos were saved on the phone.

Take a look at this case from Virginia fedatured on Wire which almost branded assistant principal, Ting-Yi Oei, at Freedom High School in South Riding as a child pornographer. In that case Mr. Oei was charged with possession of child pornography and related crimes after he had been asked to investigate a rumored sexting incident at the high school where he worked. Upon finding a student in possession of a photo on his phone that depicted the torso of a girl wearing only underpants, her arms mostly covering her breasts, the assistant principal showed the image to the principal who instructed him to preserve the photo on his computer as evidence, which he did.

A Virginia court threw out the case but only after Mr. Oei took out a second mortgage on his home and spent $150,000.00 to clear his name.
"These charges are so toxic and incendiary," says Diane Curling, a former teacher and Oei’s wife of 35 years. "Children need to be made aware of the dangers of sexting, but to intimidate public education officials and try to make it a felony to even touch something like this is terrifying. . . . If we are not careful, we will find ourselves with a new McCarthy era. "

Getting back to the Tunkannock case: The plaintiff is one of the girls who took Skumanick's class to avoid prosecution, but now claims that the initial search was illegal.

"I was absolutely horrified and humiliated to learn that school officials, men in (the) DA's office, and police had seen naked pictures of me," the plaintiff, now 19, said in a statement released by the ACLU.

"Those pictures were extremely private and not meant for anyone else's eyes. What they did is the equivalent of spying on me through my bedroom window," the plaintiff said.

In Oei's case Oei says he showed the image to his boss, Principal Christine Forester, who told him to preserve a copy on his office computer for the investigation. A computer neophyte, Oei didn’t know how to transfer the image from the boy’s cell phone, so the teen sent the picture to Oei’s phone, and told him how to forward it to his work e-mail address. When the process was complete, Oei instructed the student to delete the image from his phone.

Since the Virginia court threw out the case before it ever went to trial it begs the question in this case "Does the prinicipal have the right to view information on the phone on grounds of a security issue or suspected child abuse?" In Oei's case the court dismissed the fact that he not only viewed a photo but downloaded it and didn't penalize him.

The National School Safety and Security Services points out some significant and potentially life threatening scenarios when schools allow cell phone use on their campuses.

Cell Phones Can Detract From School Safety & Crisis Preparedness

1.Cell phones have been used for calling in bomb threats to schools and, in many communities, cell calls cannot be traced by public safety officials.

2.Student use of cell phones could potentially detonate a real bomb if one is actually on campus.

3.Cell phone use by students can hamper rumor control and, in doing so, disrupt and delay effective public safety personnel response.

4.Cell phone use by students can impede public safety response by accelerating parental response to the scene of an emergency during times when officials may be attempting to evacuate students to another site
It will interesting how this plays out in Pennsylvania.

5.Cell phone systems typically overload during a real major crisis (as they did during the Columbine tragedy, WTC attacks, etc.), and usage by a large number of students at once could add to the overload and knock out cell phone systems quicker than may normally occur. Since cell phones may be a backup communications tool for school administrators and crisis teams, widespread student use in a crisis could thus eliminate crisis team emergency communications tools in a very short period of critical time.

It is somewhat amazing that it is mandatory to subject your cellphone to scan and search in the airport but one child believes her privacy was violated because she initially broke a rule and didn't like the consequences. It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in the courts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why Is Asking For Identification A Violation Of Civil Rights?

CasablancaPA Is Right On Target With This Post

Like Mike Veon, Brett Cott, or not read this post on their blog, Today AG Tom Corbett supoenaed the records of Twitter accounts allegedly belonging to the bloggers of this site. The defense against the request is right on target.

Incumbents Survive In Pennsylvania Despite Specter Loss

Who would believe that two incumbents under indictment in the Bonusgate/Misuse of Taxpayer Funds investigation by AG Tom Corbett would survive their primary challengers. First off it takes chutzpah to run in the face of an indictment. Secondly it is unbelievable that on both sides of the political aisle a Democrat and a Republican would prevail in their races.

In this report from the Pennsylvania Independent ERic Bohem writes State representatives Bill Deweese (D-Greene) and John Perzel (R-Philadelphia) easily survived primary challenges despite the fact that both are under investigation for public corruption.

He also chronicles that Pennsylvania incumbents running to retain their seats in the U.S. House of Representatives had a 100 percent survival rate, and few even faced opposition from within their own party.

It is amazing that corruption is so tolerated in Pennsylvania by both parties. However, the independents didn't have a voice. Couple that fact with an extremely low voter turnout, in some places around 20 percent, and the fall political season may have a few surprises.

AG Tom Corbett Goes On The Twitter Attack

Most bloggers are familiar with the site In a peculiar twist is reporting that AG Tom Corbett has subpoened the identity of two twitter accounts that seem to be related or linked to that website, @bfbarbie and @casablancaPA.

[Corbett] subpoenaed Twitter, asking that it hand over the “name, address, contact information, creation date, creation Internet Protocol address and any and all log in Internet Protocol address” associated with two Twitter accounts, @bfbarbie and @casablancaPA, which have only 68 and 123 followers, respectively [as of Wednesday night, 124 and 206].

UPDATE: The story has taken a new twist, with the Post-Gazette reporting that Corbett's office believes CasablancaPA is being run by Brett Cott, a former legislative aide just convicted in the unfolding Bonusgate scandal. In court filings, two assistant attorneys general argue the blog demonstrates that Cott is deflecting blame and denying responsibility for the crimes of which he's been convicted. They are seeking a longer-than-normal sentence and basing their argument on that.

Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley told Politico that the attorney general didn't issue the subpoena because the Twitter users have been critical of Corbett and said it was issued as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. But he declined to go into further detail.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has thrown itself into the fray, saying it will move to quash the subpoena if it can't reach a negotiated settlement with Corbett. And Allegheny County executive Dan Onorato, who will face Corbett in the fall gubernatorial election, has accused him of misusing his office.

From this blogger just an observation. Isn't there something more pressing than this particular issue facing Pennsylvania? This matter is not a win-win for Corbett.

For Donovan McNabb Fans

Kanjorski In Trouble

From CQ Politics:

Pa. Is Keystone in House GOP’s Path to Majority
By Greg Giroux, CQ-Roll Call

Roll Call’s current House race ratings include 10 of Pennsylvania’s 19 districts as among the 104 districts that will hold competitive elections this fall — the most in any state.

“Pennsylvania will be the ultimate bellwether this year, because we have more competitive congressional seats than any other state in the union,” said Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania-based Republican strategist. “Pennsylvania is, it’s fair to say in the red-blue continuum, a very purple state right now.

Another Pennsylvania rematch will take place in the Scranton-area 11th district, where 13-term Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D) will face Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta (R) for the third time in eight years. The congressman won their most recent race, in 2008, by just over 3 points.

Kanjorski’s weakness in the Democratic primary — he won just 49 percent of the vote against two challengers — suggests he will have trouble holding the Democratic base in a district that usually votes strongly for that party. Kanjorski will tout his seniority as helpful to Pennsylvania.

In this article by Charles Schillinger of the Times Shamrock the writer asks the question "Will Kanjorski face anti-incumbent fervor?"

About 17 percent of primary voters, 12,000 Democrats, cast ballots for challenger Brian W. Kelly, an unknown outsider running on a Tea Party movement platform who has no political experience, raised no money and said he did not do any door-to-door campaigning.

That voters from Kanjorski's own party were so willing to embrace an unknown over their senior congressman "should be troubling" for Kanjorski, said his general election foe, Republican Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta.

In a three-way race, Kanjorski won 49 percent of the vote - 15 percent more than his closest competitor, O'Brien, who received 34 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

For an incumbent who wants to tout his seniority he couldn't even capture half the votes of his own party in the primary. Kanjorski and Mitchell have more than homework to do. They have to figure out how to save their sinking ship. For Arlen Specter the agony is over. Kanjorski may experience a slow painful process.

Kanjorski makes the claim "Democrats have a lot of work to do to sell their message to their constituency," Kanjorski said. "We literally saved our country. When we do get that (message) out, we'll get the loyal response from the Democratic electorate.

What Paul is really saying is that our granchildren and their children saved our country. It is their money that he, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid used to triple the national debt. Our siblings will be stuck with the tab.