Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with old, in with the new

I'm not going to do a top 10 list of 2011 stories but highlight some of the things that happened this past year that will carry over into 2012 that interest me. LuLac and Capitol Ideas have great recaps of the year's top stories in numerical order.

In no particular order with omissions that I'm sure you correct me on dear readers they are Luzerne County Government, Redistricting, the latest flood and the local blogosphere.

I usually don't do multi-subject posts but may start doing it the future like the quick hits of Pennsylvania Progressive and NEPartisan.

Luzerne County Government

The 3 Commissioner 3rd class county code form of government with 127 row officers has come to an end. It is being replaced by a system that is used by many county governments across the country. There will be growing pains and squabbles but I hope the news system works better than the old one.


Wilkes-Barre has been the anchor of the 11th Congressional District since Pennsylvania became a state but will now be part of the 17th CD. It looks like incumbent Democrat Tim Holden will face a primary challenge from Matt Cartwight. No Republican has announced a run yet. In the 11th CD the salons in Harrisburg have taken care of Lou Barletta but Bill Vinsko vows to take him on even though they drew the lines right around his house to keep him out of the district. Tom Marino looks safe in the 10th CD. Former Congressman Chris Carney teased that he would run again but that has fizzled out.


Expect more as the polar ice caps continue to melt putting more moisture in the atmosphere. I roll my eyes at the people who say climate change can't be real because it still snows.

Local Blogosphere

DB Echo has a nice summary of the resurgence of NEPA Blogs. He and Michelle have done a great job of identifying local bloggers and most of them don't have anything to do with politics. Even when I come across a new political blog one of them has it listed before I get the chance. NEPA Blogs has turned into a multimedia operation with a Facebook page, Twitter account and radio and TV appearances. A few local political blogs popped up and withered shortly thereafter although 2 sites devoted to Wilkes-Barre politics have been updated regularly with claims of corruption by city officials.

The local media is starting to notice that political bloggers are not some kids banging away in their mother's basement wearing pajama's eating Cheetos as the early stereotype depicted but are people who have experience in campaigns, government and media. Certainly as well (many times better) informed as the Captains Obvious college professors they so often run to analysis.

Joe Valenti of Pittston Politics punishes himself by going to school board meetings and constantly breaks news in the Wyoming Area and Pittston Area school districts. The CV picked up on his reporting about the solicitor controversy in WA. LuLac Political Letter editor David Yonki was spot on in his prediction in the recent Luzerne County Council race and is a regular on the radio and WYLN's public affairs broadcasts. Even I got in on the electric media recently when Tiffany Cloud invited me to be a guest on her show Storm Politics to talk about the impact of political blogging. And we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Blogfather for his work at Wilkes-Barre Online that broke one story after another that was latter picked up the newspapers often without attribution.

Blogfest was a hit again this year and I expect the spring edition will be the political event of the season like it has been the last 4 times we did it. I was flabbergasted by the turnout for the first one and many people tell me that it is their favorite political gathering. This year the primary is April 24th because of the Presidential election so it presents a scheduling dilemma. We always do it on a Friday but Good Friday is April 6th so that leaves either April 13th only 10 days before the primary election or March 30th. I think March 30th would work but we need to nail down the date. I usually invite all sorts of big shots to Blogfest and some of them even show up. We need to set a date to give a heads up to the statewide candidates for US Senator, PA Attorney General and Auditor General plus the local hopefuls for Congress, State Senate and House.

1000 words

You Tube weekend

Arlen Specter, stand-up comic

A quirk in the calendar


Analysis by Pope George Ringo

The Constitution of the United States provides for very simple instructions concerning the Inauguration of the President-elect of the United States, or should I say a very simple instruction: The President-elect shall take the oath at noon on the 20th of January that follows the previous November election. That is all. It does not provide for the Chief Justice to administer the oath nor does it require the oath be taken on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. IN short, the majority of Inauguration day is more traditional as opposed to constitutional. Which leads us to a very tricky situation should Barack Obama lose next November’s election to his Republican opponent.

Next year, January 20th, the day of the Presidential Inauguration, falls on a Sunday. The traditional Inaugural ceremonies, with their pageantry, parades and celebrities have been held on every day of the week over the years—except Sunday.

Several incumbent Presidents have found their Inaugurals falling on a Sunday. In 1957 Dwight D. Eisenhower took the oath in a private ceremony in the White House as did Ronald Reagan in 1985. Both Presidents were completing their first terms and the following Monday went through the a traditional ceremony with a trip to the Capitol and the parade afterwards (though Reagan’s was marred by extremely cold weather—he took the oath under the dome in the rotunda of the Capitol).

Both Eisenhower and Reagan won their respective second terms with landslide victories thereby leaving moot the question this writer shall put on to the table. Interestingly enough, the issue has not been brought up on talk shows but perhaps only because it is too early in the game.

What happens to Barack Obama if his term expires on Sunday, January 20, 2013? Does he have to vacate the White House and move over to Blair House across the street? Does President Romney move into the White House that Sunday? And then come Monday morning, does Obama drive from Blair House to the White House to escort the new President—one day in office to the mock ceremony at the Capitol? This would surely be a first in history.

Or, does Obama become the first U.S. President to experience a democratized “house arrest”. In other words, after Romney is administered the oath at noon, will Former President Obama be permitted to reside in the White House yet, barred from the West Wing ?

All of this may sound trivial, but it is in fact a relevant curiosity.

IF Obama loses, we shall be witness to a unique experience on Inauguration day. Yet, if history keeps its path as it did for all other Sunday Inaugurals, we just may witness another incumbent President take the oath in private on Sunday afternoon and spend what will be the first of four more years sleeping in an East wing bed---comfortably.
God Bless You All.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Romney: Sesame Street will be brought to you by the letter Q and Viagra

From TPM:I like PBS,” Romney told a town hall in Clinton, Iowa Wednesday. “We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m going to stop that. I’m going to say PBS is going to have to have advertisements.”...“We’re not going to kill Big Bird,” Romney said. “Big Bird’s going to have advertisements, alright?”

This statement has caused unrest on the streets. Sesame and Wall.

The Teevee and print press is telling us that Mitt Romney is leading in Iowa with Rick Santorum becoming the flavor of the month. Andrew Sullivan has some fun with the headlines.

Headline Of The Day
"Romney tops Iowa, Santorum surges" - Reuters.
It's a Gay Old Party, innit?

Santorum Bubbling Up Everywhere
It's getting frothier and frothier in Iowa, according to Nate Silver. The brown line (yes, it's brown) on RCP's graph is suddenly close to vertical.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pennsylvania Auditor General

Auditor General has been a steeping stone to higher office in recent years. The incumbent is Jack Wagner who term limited and ran in the Democratic primary for Governor in 2010 losing out to Dan Onorato who was defeated by Republican Tom Corbett. Wagner has received good reviews for his work as the state's fiscal watchdog so expect to hear from him again in the 2014 governor's race.

Auditor Generals that have achieved higher office include Governor Robert P. Casey and his son Senator Bob Casey. Since 196o the Democratic candidate has won the office 11 out of 13 times with Barbara Hafer being the only Republican to interrupt that run. Hafer later became a Democrat.

So far there a 2 declared candidates for the office. Democratic State Rep Eugene DePasquale from York County and Republican Chester County Treasurer Ann Duke . DePasquale was one of 36 Democrats to vote for the Congressional gerrymander in the State House. See Pennsylvania Progressive for his explanation. The attitude that legislators are in Harrisburg, or Washington, for that matter, to vote their Districts is sad. If that were the case we wouldn't need elections or legislators. As Edmund Burke said:

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Somehow the abortion hotheads are mixed up in this race according to PoliticsPA. What the hell has abortion got to do with adding up columns of numbers?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One week until the Iowa caucus

All the attention this week has been on the 3 way battle between the front runners Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and the surging Ron Paul but my favorite Republican candidate Rick Santorum is still in the hunt.

Iowa has a history of surprising the political commentariat with Mike Huckabee winning in 2008 and Pat Robertson coming in 2nd in 1988. A little known former Governor of Georgia somehow spun his 2nd place showing to uncommitted in 1976 as a win making him a national candidate. Jimmy Carter then won the New Hampshire primary, beat George Wallace in Florida and defeated the field in Pennsylvania wrapping up the nomination.

A 3rd place or better showing by Santorum means his longshot candidacy would allow him to go on and camp out in South Carolina skipping New Hampshire hoping to become the next not Romney. If he wins or comes in a close 2nd in South Carolina it then would be a showdown in Florida. The political junkie in me wants the race to last until at least Super Tuesday, March 6th and I can hope against all reason that the Pennsylvania primary on April 24th will be the deciding contest like 1976.

Tempering my enthusiasm Rick's camp can't do the hard work of actually getting on the ballot in an important state like his home state of Virginia.

Santorum was born in Winchester, Virginia and moved to Butler County, Pa. as a child. He officially changed his residency to Virginia after leaving office.

Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will be on the ballot in Virginia. Even fellow Virginia resident Newt Gingrich failed to get enough signatures confirming that his campaign is an unorganized mess. Jon Huntsman, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry also failed to follow the rules.

Newt put out a bizarre ad staring an elf that is not Wil Ferrrell:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Seasons greetings


A Yuletide message from Mean Old Man

Well, here we go again with dumb Christmastime!!! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Jesus or his birthday but why does the holiday have to be all about giving presents to people (especially people you don’t even like). Now, if Jesus himself came back I would be happy to buy him a present. He’d appreciate it, not like my stupid kids or even stupider grandkids!!! To top it all off, I have to endure these ingrates all day long on Sunday, when I’d rather be down at the VFW shooting pool with my pals.

To make things worse, this year my pals aren’t even going to be around for our traditional Christmas Eve Jamboree at the VFW. Usually, around 1 in the afternoon on that great day we all head on down there to tip a few Stegs and talk about how crappy America has become what with its hippies and socialists running Washington. Then we shoot a few games of pool, play some darts (my buddy Gummo usually wins, despite the fact that he normally downs 12 bottles of Gold Medal and six or seven shots of Seagram’s) and we just have a plain damned good ol’ patriotic time! I always enjoy this day because it helps me to prepare for the nightmare of Christmas Day at the homestead. But it ain’t gonna happen this year.

For one thing, my pal Creep broke his leg when his dumb wife made him go do some sort of prissy ballroom dancing thing. MY buddy Birch is being forced (in my opinion) to travel to New York with his harlot daughter and moronic son in law to see some stupid tinker bell Christmas show at Radio City music hall. If my memory is correct, that place was built by the great J D Rockefeller who sadly spawned a son who became New York’s first commie Governor. OL’ Nelson Rockefeller kept that music hall open with his money, so in a way I have the commies to thank for not having a great American like Birch here for our tradition. Thanks Commies!! Finally, my good pal Gummo can’t make it because he has to babysit his nitwit four year old grandson while his painted faced daughter goes to an office Christmas party. Why on Earth does a four year old need a damned baby sitter anyways??? In my day we were already stoking the coal stove and stealing the coal that went into it from boxcars. And damned if we didn’t because good ol’ Pops would have (and many times did!) packed a shiner on our jaw that would make Joe Louis cringe!!!! Good ol’ Pops, I’m no funny boy, but I always get a bit misty eyed this time of year when I think about him. He was the best. I miss him a lot.

Anyways, I guess I’ll head on over anyway and have a shindig of my own. Maybe some of the Vietnam vets will show up and I can tell them how WWII was a real man’s war and all “they” do is whine all the time. And to top off the argument, “we won our war!”. Sadly, Birch, Creep and Gummo won’t be with me to beat the hell out of them (as we usually do).

Then on Christmas I’ll endure the stupid rantings of my dumb hippie sons Clay and Harlan, all the while listening to the nail on chalkboard voices of their wives. My stupid grandkids will be jumping all around making me nervous. The only good thing to come out of the damned day will be Thelma Jean’s prize turkey with cornbread stuffing topped off by her champion biscuits. Then I’ll make myself scarce upstairs until they all get the hell out and go back to their own houses.

So, Merry Christmas all you subversives. Enjoy your day. Maybe John Boehner will come over and give you a present and snatch it back just when you start opening it! As for me, I’ll be sitting back in my easy chair, smoking a Lucky (the cigarette that went to war—LSMFT), hoisting a Steg and listening to the soothing sounds of Nat King Cole (now there was a great African American!!!) singing “The Christmas Song”. Take that Commies.

Enjoy your day and by the way, I HATE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's December 23rd

Time to start my Christmas shopping.

Back in my bachelor days I usually waited until Christmas Eve to buy my yuletide gifts until one year I got stuck dealing with a minor crisis at the hotel I was General Manager at the time. When everything was finally under control it was after 9PM and went shopping to find that the stores had closed early. So I had to hide out for 2 days. I learned my lesson from that episode so now I start shopping on the 23rd because it's hard to hide from the wife for 48 hours. Not that I've got any better at gift buying.

So I will wander out today and do my best to stimulate the economy. After the black Friday thing starting at midnight on Thanksgiving I expect to see after Christmas sales to start at midnight on the 24th.

I'm not the only one doing some last minute shopping.

Obama, Bo sneak out of White House for shopping

Home alone at the White House, President Barack Obama headed on an impromptu Christmas shopping trip Wednesday with first dog Bo, searching for some holiday cheer despite the latest stalemate with Congress.

Of course the usual suspects objected to the President's shopping trip. Sometimes I think these people object to the fact that he is breathing the same air.

McCain to Obama: More work, less shopping with Bo

Cantor to Obama: First Dog Can Come to Negotiations

And The Corner drove way over the right wing cliff with this one. To their credit the commenter's shot it down.

Bo and B.O.

This may not be the biggest story of the year, and in all likelihood it probably isn’t even true. But did the president really order the first dog back from Hawaii to the White House to be a prop for a Petsmart photo op?

Just about every blogger with a knowledge of history compared this nonsense with the Fala idiocy of the 1940's. President Roosevelt may just have won the 1944 election with this speech:

"These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. [laughter] Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family don't resent attacks — but Fala does resent them. [laughter] You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I'd left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or 20 million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious. [laughter] He has not been the same dog since. [laughter] I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself — such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog! [laughter]"

Steve Bennen brings it up to date:

I recommend Obama go on TV and give the following speech:

Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Bo. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family don't resent attacks — but Bo does resent them. You know, Bo is Portuguese, and being a Portuguese water dog, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I'd left him behind on a Hawaiian island and had sent a 747 back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or 20 million dollars — his Iberian soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself — such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I'm constantly apologizing for America. But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mike Carroll voted for the Congressional gerrymander

I'm surprised that there has not been more outrage over the new Congressional districts approved by the state legislature in the print and electronic media. But the reaction has been "so what, that's the way it is." Much like the national press accepting that every bill in the Senate needs 60 votes to pass without pointing out that the filibuster was rarely used in the past. The only people who are kicking up a fuss are bloggers.

Pittston State Rep Mike Carroll (D-118) voted for the new Congressional map joining 36 other Democrats in the PA legislature and 128 Republicans to approve it. I only met Carroll once at the 1st Blogfest so I don't know why he wants Republicans to win more elections to the US House of Representatives. Maybe he is looking to run for Congress in the future in the now Democratic friendly 17th CD when/if Tim Holden retires.

In the next election the 118th includes my little burgh of Plains Twp. and I'm open to helping a real Democratic primary challenger and if that fails maybe even a (shudder) Republican candidate. I'm not a one issue voter like the abortion hotheads or gun nuts but this vote betrays his party and the people of the the 11th Congressional District.

See NEPartisan for a Lackawanna County perspective

Selling Out PA in NEPA: Ken Smith, Sid Kavulich, Ed Staback

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santorum surging in Iowa

In the latest PPP in Iowa my favorite presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-VA) is now in a dead heat for the lead of the also rans. Ron Paul has 23 percent, Mitt Romney 20 percent, Newt Gingrich 14 percent. Fourth place is a tie between Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry at 10 percent. Polling in a caucus state is not as reliable as it is in a primary but it bumbs along the horse race narrative.

I've worked in many election campaigns where it was hard enough to identify your voters and convince them to take 15 or 20 minutes out of their day to vote let alone try to get people to show up for a 3 hour meeting. Newt has been dropping like a rock in the surveys and I have been reading that he doesn't have much of an organization in Iowa. Ron Paul is surging and has an army of volunteers and dedicated followers that matters. If there is a blizzard on January 3rd he will win going away. Romney is spending big in the state hoping for a 1-2 punch with a 1st place showing followed by a win in New Hampshire.

Santorum has been working the state hard and yesterday he got the backing of two so called family values leaders. Rick has an organization and has visited all 99 counties.

Two Iowa conservative Christian leaders this morning endorsed Rick Santorum for president

One of them, Bob Vander Plaats, asked Bachman to drop out of the race. This thing is so much up in the air that it is not inconceivable that Santorum could be the surprise of the night finishing 3rd or better.

Yesterday Santorum reminded me why he is my favorite Republican candidate when he said:

HP: "They talk about income inequality. I'm for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risk, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality."

He then launched an attack at President Barack Obama. "President Obama is for income equality. That's socialism. It's worse yet, it's Marxism."

TP: A recent poll found that Americans’ fears about income inequality are growing, with two-thirds of likely voters saying the middle class is shrinking, and 55 percent saying that income inequality has become a big problem for the country. Santorum, evidently, thinks more of the same is what they need.

Just for fun

Adultery Dating Website Ashley Madison Endorses Newt Gingrich:

Extra-marital dating website has erected a billboard of serial adulterer and presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich in Bucks County, Pennsylvania that reads: “Faithful Republican, Unfaithful Husband. Welcome to the Era.”

They really wanted Herman Cain.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Matt Cartwright for Congress?

When I first read this speculation on Pittson Politics that someone from up our way could take on Democrat Tim Holden (PA-17) in the upcoming primary in the newly gerrymandered district I had my doubts. Holden is a long time member of Congress that has been able to raise gobs of campaign cash in the past and the calendar would work against any hopeful. The primary is April 24th with nominating petitions closing February 14th. That is a tight schedule when most Congressional campaigns in the past have started in the summer or fall the year before when the boundaries were known.

Taking Wilkes-Barre and Scranton and the towns in between out of the 11th CD depriving me the representation of Lou Barletta and the chance to vote against him in 2012 at first enraged me because it defied geography, history and common sense. Now the 17th is centered on W-B and Scranton by population with rest of the district consisting of chopped up parts of a few other counties so it presents new challenges and opportunities.

Looking at the new landscape a Lackawanna County attorney Matt Cartwright is looking at a challenge to Holden in the Democratic Primary according to Roderick Random in the Scranton Times. He takes a shot against Holden saying Congressmen are bought and paid for he's heard suggestions that congressmen should wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers with logos representing their special interest benefactors. He declined to directly criticize Mr. Holden. Then he says money won't be a problem for him "I don't think financing is going to be a problem," Mr. Cartwright said.
What stickers he would wear was not discussed. It might be an ambulance logo judging by his law firm ads.

"I have to say that I have not been satisfied with the job Congress is doing, and he's been in there," Mr. Cartwright said. He said he would "stand up to the White House."

"Somebody needs to do that for the Democratic policies and demand they take stronger positions with some of the things they don't now."

Tim Holden voted against the Affordable Care Act and is a sponsor of Stop Online Piracy Act which may put many of small online businesses out of business. I'm not so parochial to suggest that we should vote for our guy instead of a longtime Congressman but I'm open to suggestions.

LuLac throws out some names and Omeed backs Cartwright

Saturday, December 17, 2011

You Tube weekend

My good friend DB Echo sugested this one:

Inside baseball or is it blog-ball

After the all these years the Blogfather still slays me. He explains that he recently switched his ISP and has been busy posting a some YouTube videos. In fact a lot of YouTube so I left a comment "This Youtube access must be a new venture for you sir."

This had the desired effect and he responded with a post... let us not forget that I was the first local blogger to embed a YouTube video, as well as the first local blogger to embed a video featuring original content. While I may not give a hoot about being cutting-edge these days, remember, there was a time when most of you were playing catch-up. In fact, all of you were bringing up the electronic rear-guard.

Very true and I have always cited Mark as my inspiration to start blogging.

In the local blog-a-rama, what once was the ultimate in citizen activism has now morphed into being the endless pursuit of celebrity.

Just a few weeks ago he was praising our local bloggers foray into the traditional media.

NEPA Blogs: Worth the ether they are printed on

Somehow, Gort, Michele and D.B. Harold have built NEPA Blogs into a weekly television show. A brief television show, but a television show nonetheless.... Speaking of Gort, He and The Yonk once made an appearance on WILK’s Sunday morning Pennsylvania affairs show (the name escapes me) with Rusty Steele. And they were once both regulars on WILK’s election day coverage until one of it’s self-important hosts decided that bloggers that were invited to appear needed to be berated and belittled on the air.

The Yonk stills makes occasional appearances
on WILK, as well as appearing on Hazleton’s WYLN TV political shows.

Joe Valenti’s blog is mentioned every now and again on WILK, as well as in local print stories.

So what is it? Should we just bang away on our keyboards and be pure spurning any requests from local TV, radio and newspapers to comment on the issues of the day? Mark, you have been the subject of more print stories than any of us. Our otherwise excellent local political reporters have a bad habit of running to the local Captains Obvious college professors for a quote on an election which I think is lazy. Bloggers know what is going on in local races because we go to the events and talk to our neighbors. Reporters are pulled all over the place and college professors just spew the conventional wisdom. I was thrilled when the Yonk was quoted in this story.

Yes, I was recently on TV and maybe will be again. I don't think that is a bad thing as bloggers pay attention to what is going on and have a lifetime of experience to share.

But I also like YouTube especially Zappa

Friday, December 16, 2011

Blogger beware and fight back

Local blogger Justin Vacula was recently threatend with a lawsuit because he took issue with some of the claims of a local chiropractor in which he claims that he has information which can "gain victory over any health condition" including "cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, back pain, sciatica, fibromyaligia, and even weight loss"

If this guy can solve all those problems I want to meet him.

You Tube weekend

This is pretty wild. Madonna with a crown of thorns then on the cross.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Pet Blogging

Quincy is helping to decorate the Christmas tree.

And Ptolemy is waiting to tear it down.

Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting-Reaction

On my Facebook page:

2010 Republican GOP primary candidate David J Madeira "My house was redistricted out of the 10th"


2010 Phyllis Mundy campaign manager Omeed Firouzi "My house was redistricted out of the 10th District too!"


Me "My house was redistricted out of the 11th."

Here is a list of Luzerne County towns moving from the 11th to the 17th.
CITIES of Pittston and Wilkes-Barre and the TOWNSHIPS of Jenkins, Pittston, Plains and Wilkes-Barre and the BOROUGHS of Avoca, Dupont,Duryea, Exeter, Hughestown, Laflin, West Pittston, West Wyoming, Wyoming and Yatesville.

The Lackawanna County perspective comes from NEPartisan.

The 10th District, represented by Republican Tom Marino, used to be held by Chris Carney, a Democrat. Carney is still in the district, being from Susquehanna, but the district has gotten redder – it has lost upper Lackawanna County (Dem) and parts of Luzerne County to swing all over the place. It goes all the way to Mifflin, Juniata, and Perry Counties. Never heard of them? You wouldn’t. We’re from NEPA and that’s nowhere near here. Marino’s district, because of Republican efforts to stop Chris Carney from making a comeback, is now, geographically, the largest in the state next to the equally absurd 5th.


Lou Barletta just won the biggest political lottery of his life. The gods of gerrymandering and redistricting have smiled brightly on the fair haired (okay dark haired boy) from the Mountain City. Lou Barletta now loses the Democratic bastions of Pittston, Wilkes Barre and Scranton....Wilkes Barre and Pittston speak for themselves in terms of Democratic supremacy. No Republican has served in Wilkes Barre since the Council-Manager form of government in the 60s and no one in Pittston has served as a member of the GOP since the late 1950s

Bill Vinsko vows to stay in the 11th CD race

“I am running in the 11th and I am staying put right now,” he said. “Here’s why: the reason is that the issues do not stop at party lines and the issues don’t stop at boundary lines. And I want to be the Congressman for Northeast Pennsylvania and for Central Pennsylvania, and my concern is not the lines but the people...“I am not planning on moving at this time,” Vinsko said. “With a nine-iron I could hit a ball into the 11th from my yard.”

Wow, If Bill can hit a 9 iron across the river to Kingston or into Hanover he is much better golfer than I am. But then just about everybody is. I gave up golf after the last time they figured out my handicap and I got special parking.

The law does not require a member of congress to live in the district he or she represents, just in the same state.

Lou Barletta denies having anything to do with the new bounderies which is doubted by many people.

“My original and one of my only requests was that we keep Luzerne County whole and together because it is my home county, so I was disappointed in the fact that Wilkes-Barre and the Wyoming Valley and Pittston were not included.” ...The former Hazleton Mayor noted that he won Luzerne in 2010 by approximately 10,000 votes and in 2008 by about 5,000, and guessed Harrisburg Republicans were likely planning for the entire decade – not just him....“It’s a ten year map. While I have been able to do well in Luzerne county, it’s a county that I’m from. So, I don’t think the map was drawn specifically for me.”

The Pennsylvania Republican Gerrymander

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gort on TV

I was the guest of Tiffany Cloud on the WYLN show Storm Politics today. This was first TV show for me although I have been a on few radio shows before and as the old joke says I have a face made for radio. It was fun and Tiff was a gracious hostess who is also a long time reader of Gort42. I made sure I gave a shoutout to my blog buddies in NEPA.

The show can be seen on Service Electric W-B channel 7, Service Electric Hazelton channel 35 and Metrocast channel 7. It is not available to those of us who have Comcast but you can see it online at this link:

Or just go to the WLYN home page and click on Watch Online on the top bar.

Air Times:

Tonight 8PM

Thur 9:30PM

Sat 5PM

Sun 11AM

Mon 8:30PM

Tues 9:30PM

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting-11th

Up until 2001 Scranton was the anchor of the 11th Congressional District of Pennsylvania for over 100 years then it moved to the 11th to make it safer for Republican Don Sherwood. That worked out well for the GOP. Wilkes -Barre has been the anchor town in the 11th for even longer.

Now reports say both Wilkes-Barre and Scranton will be moved to the 17th in snake like district represenated by Tim Holden.

This goes against history, geography and common sense.

I asked Vinsko and Barletta's press guy for a statement. Vinsko hasn't responded yet and I got the usual mush from Barletta's spox

Representative Barletta will continue to focus on spurring job creation and economic growth, cutting wasteful overspending and overregulation, fighting systemic fraud and abuse, reforming the government so it is efficient, effective, and affordable because these issues are critically important right now, regardless of where constituents live.
Representative Barletta looks forward to serving his new constituents in the United States House of Representatives.
Running for Congress three times since 2002 means Representative Barletta has built lifelong friendships in all parts of the existing district, and those friendships will continue long after lines on a map are drawn.

Just after that popped up in my email I got a call from Congressman Barletta. He denied he had anything to do with the redistricting process and wanted to keep Luzerne County whole. Then we had a long conversation about inside baseball.

Monday, December 12, 2011

PA State House redistricting

Late this afternoon the new boundaries for the Pennsylvania State House and Senate were revealed. As usual Borys is on top of what it means for Lackawanna and Luzerne counties with a list of what towns will be switching districts. It's hard to visualize without a map to actually look at but I'm sure our local papers will have them tomorrow.

I don't cover Lackawanna County much so I will leave it to my friends at NEPartisan to analyze what this means to citizens north of the border with the move of the 115th to Monroe County and 117th and 118th that have been mostly in Luzerne County getting chunks of Lackawanna.

The 120th represented by Phyllis Mundy appears to have the least change picking up Edwardsville from the 117th which makes it a bit more Democratic as far a registration goes.

Mike Carroll's 118th seat has Monroe County towns taken out and is moving both north and south. According to this Plains Township will now be in the 118th despite being in the 121st for a long time and will now snake up to include some Lackawanna towns such as Moscow. I know both towns and they have different concerns. I live in Plains and we have more in common with W-B than Moscow or Pittston.

The 121st (Eddie Day Pashinski) will still be centered on Wilkes-Barre and W-B Township but will move south to include a part of Mountaintop, more of Hanover and throw in Laurel Run, Sugar Notch and Warrior Run. Ashley moves to the 119th ( I'm not sure how they pulled that one off) and the district makes into the Hazleton Area that has freshman Rep. Gerry Mullery objecting.

I only looked at 3 of the traditional 6 House Districts in Luzerne County and have yet to look at the Senate bounderies but is apparent that the people drawing the lines ignored geography, the common interests of the people invovled and common sense.

It may take 10 years but it would be good idea to take the redistricting process out of the hands of the politicians. Much as I advocate Judge's on Merit. Sometimes we need less politics deciding the ground rules.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Outgoing Commissioners leaving a mess

This is a guest post from Wil Toole. Wil held various administrative positions in the City of Pittston and was a candidate for the new Luzerne County Council in the Primary. When it comes to county/municiple government he is one of the most knowledgeable people around.

Merry Christmas, You're Fired!

The outgoing County Commissioner's have finally outdone themselves. They have prepared a budget that if adopted would bring county government to its knees and bring the business of the people to a shattering halt.
This budget is far beyond what could even begin to resemble a working budget and in my mind is nothing less than a parting slap in the face to every Luzerne county resident.
I will put the cart in front of the horse and comment on the real problem of county finances. Simply put, it is the debt. The debt service in 2008 was budgeted at just over $1 million dollars. It jumped to $21.8 million in the 2011 budget and for 2012 the debt services is listed as $24.8 million dollars. And there in folks lies the problem. The solution is to remove the debt service from the general fund and treat it as the separate animal that it is. The problem was not addressed properly so as a quick fix, it must be seen as a separate issue and a debt reduction fund must be created with millage dedicated for that purpose. The general fund millage would be adjusted to reflect this change. The next step would be to renegotiate the entire debt and to try the debt reduction plan I offered two years ago. The practice of creating future debt must stop post haste and not a dollar should be borrowed that does not affect the health and safety of our residents. NO MORE SPENDING!
As you look at the current proposed budget, there was no thought or effort put into it. If there was then shame on the mini minds that created it. I will state a few examples of why the budget is unworkable.
On the expense side the budget goes against logic and prevents various departments from operating and in some cases lock horns with the law.
An example of ignoring the law would be the Court Stenographers. The 2011 budget is listed at just under 1.1 million dollars. They have spent as of October $876,532. The new budget is $750,286 which is a cut of 44.45%. The problem is that a court stenographer must be present and create a written record of every action taking place in the court system. This line item is designed to fail.
The Prothonotary's office was cut from just over $1 million dollars to $607,793 for a 68.96% cut. This office is required for the operation of the courts and maintenance of various legal documents. The other Row offices have been cut to unmanageable amounts and the reasoning that they will no long be separate offices does not hold water. The Row Officers were removed from existence but not the duties of each office. Records are still required and the fact that these offices are located in three separate buildings has not even been considered. The cost of the individual Row Officer will be eliminated but there remains a need for management and supervision. How do you maintain control and effectiveness when the cost of doing so is removed from the budget? The Register of Wills budget was cut 50%, Clerk of Courts cut 57%, Treasurer 57% and the Coroner cut by 29%. These cuts are a budget directors dream come true but they are a manager's nightmare. The Department of Probation is cut 35% and it appears that the outgoing commissioner's must think that no criminals will be placed on probation, no fines and fees will be collected and restitution for victims will be forgotten. The Magistrates are cut 53.23% and I would think part of their logic is that one magistrate office might be eliminated. Flawed thinking because if that happens, it wont occur till 2013 so they must still operate.
The Commissioners have given no thought to the fact that there are contracts in place but union and business. Example, of the 17 Magisterial offices, approximately 10 have leases with local municipalities and these local governments are planning their budgets with these leases in place. The remaining office have private sector leases and I doubt that these landlords are willing to cut the leases in half. Other than that, please consider that many Magisterial offices only have two clerical people so if they are cut in half, that leaves one person to run the office. If that person is sick or on vacation the office must close, there are no backup staff. The deeper you delve into this fantasy budget, the more childlike it becomes.
This is just a brief overview of the expense side of the ledger and I didn't even mention other big ticket items such as the prison, Moon Lake, etc.
The lack of thought is pretty evident when you consider that insurance and benefits remain about the same and this is after the county workforce is decimated. Is that logical?
On the income side, there has been nothing done in the form of creative management and the lack of effort is obvious in the numbers as they currently exist.
Steps that can be taken is the restructuring of the county debt, increasing probation services fees, the more active use of home arrest vs incarceration. This would result in the criminals (non violent) paying the cost of the ankle bracelets and supplying their own health care, food and clothing. The county spends millions each year on health care for prisoners. There can be an attempt to renegotiate county leases and discussions can be held with the unions to accept a temporary pay freeze or renegotiate the amount of the contracted pay increases. Probation fees for both adults and juvenile offenders must be increased. Some of these fees have remained unchanged for a number of years.
The thing I must caution on is that balancing the budget on the backs of the employees is never a good idea and long term, it causes a negative impact on county operations. The county must offer an early retirement incentive but they must pledge to not fill the vacated positions and the unions must agree to allow for transfers to save jobs. Employees must be allowed to transfer within the system to fill job needs and avoid layoffs in one department and hiring's in another. It is also possible to consider voluntary short term layoffs. Yes the county is self insured but the amount paid on layoff would equal the net pay of employees, not the gross. The costs of Social Security alone would be significant.
This is a time for creative thinking, not the simplistic approach that was used to gut the budget and give no thought to the consequences. For those incoming Council members who have taken the NO taxes approach of the Tea Party mentality, there is a reality that government is useful and serves a purpose. The problem in Luzerne county is that in recent years, little thought has been given to economic management and taxpayer responsibility. Services must be provided and in many cases are required but the delivery system can no longer be based on careless spending such as the palm reading time clocks and patronage with little thought to required funding.
Taxes are a requirement for services delivered and thoughtful frugal management must be the foundation of responsible government.

And former State Rep Kevin Blaum weighs in with his TL column

Commissioners continue to cause damage Kevin Blaum In the Arena

With only 45 days remaining in their tawdry tenure, the county commissioners brazenly made two appointments to the Luzerne County Community College’s Board of Trustees and named two more to the often pivotal county planning commission...On Monday your Luzerne County commissioners voted to create a bi-county authority to run the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. The Lackawanna County commissioners followed suit, and each body gets to make three appointments to the board with each appointee serving a four-year term...Worse, the commissioners might be leaving behind a political budget document set to explode early next year, forcing the new council to raise taxes only a few weeks in or preside over a government that makes huge cuts in the office of a new district attorney and the new judiciary in which it functions.

So let us give thanks to Maryanne Petrilla, Stephen Urban and Thomas Cooney for reminding everyone why voters marched to the polls en masse to abolish the offices they hold and to establish a new, reform government that assumes its responsibilities on Jan. 2.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, December 09, 2011

Luzerne County budget

The good news is that it doesn't use fictitious revenue from land sales or borrow more money. The bad news is it includes personnel cuts in the court system and other departments that will not stand.

County budget includes deep cuts

The largest preliminary cuts from 2011 expenditure levels are: probation, down $1.2 million; prison; more than $900,000; magisterial courts, more than $800,000; district attorney, more than $600,000; domestic relations, more than $600,000; stenographers, more than $300,000.

Carolee is not happy

2012 budget down $3.5M

County Prothonotary Carolee Medico Olenginski blasted Urban and Petrilla after the meeting for cutting $419,000 out of her budget, saying the loss would reduce the revenue generated by the office and “sabotage the new government.”
“In my opinion, they are vindictive, evil people and are taking their last shot at me because I stood up to them and could not be compromised to stoop to their level of bad government."

Nor is Judge Burke

Burke: Lawsuit over judiciary budget cut may happen

"There is a mandate to fund the court system at the level of "reasonable necessity.' The current proposal would fall woefully short of meeting that standard, and the court will continue to review all budget matters over the next weeks with a goal of coming to a funding resolution with county officials," Burke said Monday.

Gort42 Luzerne County Courthouse special correspondent Ethel Price has some inside info:

Petrilla sent an email to all departments telling them to prepare a new departmental budget to conform with the budget figures the commissioner's prepared. She also advised them to prepare a list of positions that would equal the budget cuts.

The row officers sent her a reply pretty much telling her to go screw herself and they were not going to cut staff for her and she should do her own dirty work. Apparently Carolee told her in very strong terms how she felt about it.

Today I got my hands on the overall budget and to tell you it is a mess is a gross understatement. For example, Petrilla/Urban cut the magistrate offices by over 53%. They cut some of the rents in half. Now think about that ..... in many offices, there are only two clerks so if the remaining clerk is sick or on vacation, the office will have to be closed. There are leases with private landlords who will not sit and give up half of their agreed upon rents. Approx. 10 of the 17 offices are housed in municipal buildings and these local governments also have leases and they are pretty much done with their budgets using figures from their leases ......... now what?

This is just a small part...... the Court Stenographers budget is cut by just over 44%. How can that be? These stenographers are required by law and must be present for every court action. How will this be accomplished when the budget is cut almost in half?

The big thing here is that the cuts that were made were not made from the proposed 2012 budget. They just threw those numbers away and these are cuts against the 2011 budget.

This budget is absolutely unworkable. The cuts were made without regard to employee contracts or legal requirements.

It really is a cluster f***. Petrilla and Urban put their heads together on this and all they did was prepare a budget that kills balances. The debt is the real culprit and it is impossible to pay the size debt we have by balancing the budget on the backs of the employees. It just can't be done. Debt needs to be funded by special dedicated debt mileage and the budget must be addressed on a needs basis, not a wish list.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

David Freed for Attorney General

CarlisleIn the crowded lobby of the Cumberland County courthouse, District Attorney Dave Freed launched his bid for Pa. Attorney General Tuesday afternoon. He repeatedly emphasized his record as a tough-on-crime prosecutor.
“The vast majority of my career has been spent prosecuting criminals. I’ve prosecuted capital murder cases, run grand jury investigations, taken down child pornographers, locked up drug dealers, child molesters and arsonists,” he said.
Freed was flanked by several of his colleagues – District Attorney James Martin of Lehigh County; Tom Kearney of York County; and Shawn Wagner of Adams County – and introduced by Ed Marisco of Dauphin County. His
website boasts the endorsements of 20 Republican DAs from across the state.
He joins Pa. Senator John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), the only other declared Republican candidate.

When you look at the picture I posted and the banner he has on his website he appears to have Michelle Bachman eyes.


CasablancaPA has some information about both Republican candidates



And, unsurprisingly to anyone who is familiar with the Pennsylvania state legislature going back to, well, forever, Rafferty's staff received quite a few campaign reimbursements... Check it out for yourself here. If there is one thing we've all learned since 2007, campaign reimbursements have always led back to illegal campaign activities IF a prosecutor issues subpoenas and investigates.


Beyond merely surrounding himself with some of the largest beneficiaries of the legislative bonuses he abhors, Rafferty seems to have a more significant problem than just schizophrenic taste. How does it look for a candidate for Attorney General to hire as a leading member of his campaign team a current target of an on-going grand jury investigation? What signal does it send to the investigators at the OAG who are still investigating the Senate Republican Caucus' operations during Mike Long's leadership?



Will anyone ask Harley, the Office of Attorney General, or Governor Tom Corbett whether Leroy Zimmerman's son-in-law "obviously doesn't understand the law?" Or, was Harley just spouting nonsense on the taxpayer's dime to protect his boss politically?


Freed told Capitol Ideas that he will drop out if he doesn't get the backing of the PA State Republican Committee

"I will not run without the endorsement," he said. "I have no problem saying that."

The winner of the primary or endorsement contest will face one of 3 Democrats in the General election.

They are Dan McCaffery who is backed by Congressman and head of the local Philadelpia Democratic party Bob Brady. Scranton native Kathleen Kane who has been on Hardball discussing the Sandusky scandal.

Former Congressman Patrick Murphy has also been proposing protections for children in the wake of the scandal and stands up for fellow veterans. Murphy was the leader in Congress for the repeal of DADT. I was in the military in the 70/80's and we knew who was gay but didn't give a shit, all that mattered was if you could do your job.

Murphy made it to the last Blogfest which got major props from me and our local scribes. We will have another gathering before the April primary and expect even more statewide candidates in addition to the local hopefuls to attend.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting

A Capitolwire (subscription required) story yesterday about the latest plan for the gerrymandering of Congressional Districts got the chattering classes and candidates , well, chattering. The first 2 maps floated here and here will not look like the final version according to this story.

The Republicans want to chop up Luzerne County
"Since the weekend the biggest change has been adding Wilkes-Barre and Pittston to the district of U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-Schuylkill, along with Scranton and other Democratic areas. Republican advisors to Rep. Lou Barletta, D-Hazleton, did not want those two areas to stay in Barletta’s district, fearing they could help lead to his future defeat." And they want to add Wyoming County to the 11th CD so Barletta can be another voice in Congress for the gas drillers and help his fundraising.

Lou Barletta's press guy Shawn Kelly gives a politically correct answer to this speculation.

No Barletta in proposed area district
W-B, Scranton in zone with Easton

“Why wouldn’t Rep. Barletta want Luzerne County whole?” Kelly asked. “He won it twice, handily – by 4.8 points in 2008 and by 13.4 points in 2010. It’s his home county. It’s where he’s best known. Rep. Barletta wants to keep Luzerne County whole. Period.”

Bill Vinsko blasts the Republican creative map making


As has been widely reported over the last few weeks, the Congressional District Boundaries in Pennsylvania are being released this week. First, Lou Barletta got rid of the only county he could not win – Lackawanna County. Then he cut out the only county he won once – Monroe County.

Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Duryea and Dupont, and several other Luzerne County municipalities, have always been a part of the 11th Congressional District. Interestingly, Congressman Barletta, in an effort to avoid having a strong challenge from Bill Vinsko on November 6, 2012, is supporting a move tonight to surgically remove Wilkes-Barre, Pittston and several other Luzerne County municipalities from the 11th Congressional District. It seems now that he does not even trust the people who actually elected him.

We are calling on Congressman Barletta, the Governor and our state legislators to work to keep Luzerne County intact and put the people ahead of politics now! It is no wonder why people are fed up with Congress. Now, our own Congressional leaders are attempting to steal the election and take away the rights of the people.

The following is a statement from Democratic Candidate Bill Vinsko:

“If Congressman Barletta is afraid to face voters who live in the heart of his own District, then he should work harder to convince them by doing his job. Under this plan it’s downright wrong that Luzerne County will be broken into parts and the voice of our people will be muted in Washington for brazen political reasons. I call on Congressman Barletta to publicly ask the state legislature and Governor to keep all of Luzerne County in the 11th and to keep the voice of Northeast Pennsylvania strong and united in Washington,” said Bill Vinsko.

Capitol Ideas says that the whole thing will be pushed off for a week.

Former 10th CD Congressman Chris Carney is lurking around.

Christopher Carney Gauging Support for 2012 Bid

On Friday, Carney met with a dozen Keystone State political fundraisers, former donors and organized labor representatives to discuss a 2012 campaign, according to a source who attended the roundtable discussion at a downtown Philadelphia political consulting shop.