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James Brown sang that he felt good like he knew that he would.
James had health insurance.
As for me, I feel bad like I knew that I would. And I’m alive and well with health care insurance.
I’m no lawyer, scholar, doctor, insurance company bloodsucker or any other kind of expert in the health care field. I’m a 61-year-old white male in excellent – for now – physical condition who has a full-time job and full-time health care benefits for which I contribute cash from my paycheck.
My company changed providers, by the way, and I’ll find out down the line whether my health care program treats me compassionately, fairly and professionally. The outcome might one day save or take my life. But at least I have health care.
Now, since the U.S. Supreme Court this morning upheld the mandate for most Americans to obtain health care insurance, most Americans will have health insurance, too.
My confusion, however, is what the Health Insurance Reform Law will do to people – not for people - who still simply cannot afford to buy what they must now buy.
A tax penalty will be levied against offenders, according to the law. You will be penalized. But what if you still can’t afford it?
Debtors’ prisons no longer exist.
How about medical prisons - for-profit medical detention camps for vulnerable people who are too sick and too poor to care if they get locked up because they do not follow America’s orders to turn over their pennies to for-profit corporate millionaires who not only want to feel their pain but profit from it as well.
What do they have to lose?
Medical prison camps will feed, clothe and treat these despicable social offenders.
Millions of these traitorous American citizens who have the nerve – assuming their nerves are not beyond repair because of untreated disease – will now become a burden on the system rather than good capitalists paying their own way on the road to insurance company heaven.
But, as a patriot, I have faith that the free market will prevail.
We will build more prisons.
We will hire more Americans to work these frail farms where massive paupers’ graves will turn into compost fields where the bodies of criminal citizens will at least help fertilize the soil and grow broccoli and other vegetables to feed the prisoners – and the help, as well.
Our nation will become stronger because the weak will be out of the way.
As many a good Third Reich doctor said, “We “vill” treat your sickness. Today, in America, you “vill” carry your papers. And you “vill” do as you are told or suffer the consequences.
If today’s so-called victory for Barack Obama and his administration is about anything, it is about suffering.
National, good-government medical care is what America needs and deserves. We can do without insurance company executives who have turned human rights into beach house vacations for themselves and the one percent who dictate the rule that the general bad will overwhelmingly overpowers the general good.
As bad as anything, single-payer health care - Medicare for everybody - is dead on arrival. No hope exists for a crucial system where American duty to Americans loses to American duty to the free market.
I see no difference between selling your kidneys on the black market and Obamacare. Poor people will still face holding hoagie sales to finance body parts for their children.
The justices – including the so-called four liberals – sold out countless needy people. Granted, fewer people might suffer and die than without the mandate. But Obama did not do nearly enough to help save lives of the people he swore to protect and serve.
Citizens in civilized nations, those with sound economies even in the face of depression, will continue to give thanks that they do not live and face death in the United States.
Obama will never risk fighting for the real poor and the real sick now that he has won this benefit for some people who needed help. America is liberty and justice for all, Barack, not liberty and justice for some.
We wait to see how jurors in the Jerry Sandusky child sex assault trial react to the prosecution witness testimony – eight young men who one after the other swore under oath and under threat of perjury that the former Penn State football coach raped and forced oral sex and otherwise destroyed childhood for them when they were young.
Although I did not attend the trial and know all about the danger of shaping opinions in the absence of all the facts, I read account after account in the best newspapers in the country that convinced me that the prosecution witnesses told the truth.
I also believe the defense witnesses.
Maybe Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, didn’t know what went on when the lights went out in the basement of her State College home when Jerry tucked the kids in before they drifted off to visions of devils dancing in their heads.
Still, guilty as charged.
That’s my verdict.
And, ladies and gentlemen of the jury in the court of public opinion, I am not alone. Most of us see the case for the terrible trauma, tragedy and terror for everybody that has played out in court for the past two weeks.
But even when it’s over it’s not over. Even if Sandusky is convicted and spends the rest of his life behind bars, we must not rest and just let it go at that. As long as Penn State is Penn State we must remain Penn State proud.
I’m not talking the way university trustees want me to talk, though. I’m not buying the pep rally mentality and cheerleader blue and white pompoms. I’m not talking “We Are because He was,” like Joe Paterno was god instead of a self-absorbed pigskin millionaire who ignored a plea for help from a graduate student coach that could have saved a child’s life.
No, I’m talking real Penn State proud in the sense that everything I learned in my classes on the University Park campus must be put to good use to protect children and adults from violence, abuse of power and inequality.
My 1974 Bachelor of Science degree says “Community Development.”
Penn State professors Bob Sebring, Peter Meyer and others taught me to challenge authority and take direct action to remedy wrong and do my best to make it right.
Timid alumni brokers want us to forget, to move on and put the bad times behind us like a losing football season. Personal ego trainers want to manipulate what’s left of Penn State power and strangle the pursuit of truth. Callous coaches of cruelty want to disregard compassion because it gets in the way of winning, which, as the locker room mantra goes, isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Luv ya, lions?
Not so fast.
In the past few months, every Penn State official I called refused to take or return my calls. The new president, the new athletic director and even the supposedly sociable public relations flacks refused to respond to legitimate inquiries or come on the air with me to talk live on WILK News Radio.
The national head of the alumni office did return my call but he didn’t realize who I was. I had received a form letter from him at my home telling me how important I was to the Penn State family so I called to thank him. Then I invited him to come on my show and talk about the impact of the chamber of horrors that a Penn State locker room had become. The guy stammered and said he’d have to check his schedule. Of course he never called back.
I am not Penn State proud.
I am Penn State peeved.
And I’m speaking as a good citizen and role model who practices what I preach, somebody who even watches my language as I try to contain my emotion and not let my impulses control my next move – discipline I began to learn in my community development classes. Don’t look for me sitting back and suckering for an army of apologists and mealy-mouthed manipulators who want to sweet talk us into ignorance and a lethargy that only awakens at kickoff and dies when the game clock runs out.
This is not a game.
So we wait. And while we wait I become more and more of a Penn State pest who calls the university president and challenges the power structure princes and princesses to remind them that the best tradition builds on hard core reality. I’ll continue to take it to the man, or the woman, or the team or whoever stands in the way of honor and intellect.
I’ll wait all right, but not for long. Just until I regroup and decide what else I must do to help fight a savage system and help restore public trust and civilization in my alma mater.
Then I’ll do what I can do come hell or high water tunnel.
While you’re at it, esteemed members of the board of trustees, how about restoring my Community Development major in all its pure counterculture glory. At Penn State, you need all the power to the people community development you can get.
Returning my call from Pittsburgh, where he was appearing at a signing session for his book, “A Nation Of Wusses,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said yesterday that he didn’t recognize the notorious gangster when the admitted criminal showed up at a Wilkes-Barre book signing the previous Friday night.
Convicted federal felon Rob Mericle stood in line holding his book and spoke to the governor when his turn came. Rendell said he only recognized Mericle when the multi-millionaire hoodlum and one-time almighty political campaign contributor introduced himself.
Mericle is unrepentant and simply can’t be trusted as he awaits sentencing for his role in the “kids for cash” scandal that condemned children into penal slavery in exchange for profit for two Luzerne County judges whom Mericle bankrolled in exchange for doing business with the public trust.
Mark Ciavarella is serving 28 years in a federal penitentiary for his role in the child slave trade. Partner in crime Michael Conahan is serving 17 for his role in that despicable enterprise.
But Mericle is still a man about town, standing in line waiting to recall the good old days with a Democratic Party powerbroker who figures prominently in the re-election bid of President Barack Obama.
The U.S. Justice Department continues to pamper Mericle because prosecutors say they need him to make the case and supposedly testify against another once famous state Democrat, former Sen. Ray Musto, whose trial on public corruption charges has been postponed three times because of his poor physical condition.
Musto didn’t seem all that sick when I reached him on the telephone after the second postponement and the 83-year-old former U.S. congressman argued that he had every right to stop by the local gambling casino with his wife one night when people seemed awed enough by his appearance to call and tip me off.
But that didn’t stop the nice federal judge from granting Musto yet another favor.
Favors, both legal and illegal, constitute a big piece of our political problems in Northeastern Pennsylvania’s culture of corruption. If you’re connected, and every elected and appointed public official caught in the ongoing federal public corruption probe is connected, you have privilege.
But nobody here seems to have privilege like Mericle.
When Vice President Joe Biden stopped by Duryea after the September flood that hammered the sad little town, he singled out Mericle’s company by name and complimented its deep community commitment.
Standing in the street listening to Biden, I was stunned. It takes a lot to daze me but I was downright bewildered. Duryea’s mayor later told me that he had put the bug in Biden’s ear because Mericle is a friend of Duryea and that I should lay off the friendly businessman.
I told the mayor to stick it.
Biden’s staff later claimed that Biden had no idea that Mericle had admitted to shredding federal law and ripping off people who deserve far better than the political clout that Mericle money can buy.
We know that Mericle money bought judges and maybe a senator.
But who else wears a price tag?
That’s the big question?
That’s also why I have to laugh whenever I see Mericle show up at one event after another, smiling and waving and being treated like royalty by the licentious lap dogs that will always lower their noses to sniff the wallet pocket of a potential benefactor.
I laugh because I wonder if Mericle is wired.
Neither prosecutors nor Mericle have acknowledged whether Mericle is cooperating with law enforcement agents in the continuing federal investigation that has thus far netted about 40 corrupt public officials and their benefactors.
But everybody seems to agree that Mericle will be the star witness against Musto.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rat goes on about his big business, continuing to cut deals and receive special government treatment with tax breaks and public perks for his spacious commercial development.
Mericle recently showed up at the YMCA ribbon cutting in downtown Wilkes-Barre and got his picture in the paper posing with the other “dignitaries.” He did it again in Lackawanna County as he dug into the earth with a golden shovel to break ground for another project. Lackawanna County Commissioner Pat O’Malley and Chamber of Commerce head Austin Burke posed with other “model citizens” holding their own shovels in the same picture as they smiled and helped bury the public trust.
The community “leaders” whom embrace Mericle enable the next generation of white-collar criminals to blossom. Either they can’t see the damage they do or refuse to acknowledge the harm to the community they foster.
Worse, is that some of these louts might actually revel in the conspiracy, consciously taking pride in developing future gangsters in our community who might one day line the pockets of their crooked descendants.
Like father like son?
It’s no coincidence that organized crime is comprised of families. When it comes to lawbreaking, political parties, corporations, outlaw motorcycle gangs, the Mafia and other savage tribes are ultimately all the same.
Never forget that jailbirds of a feather flock together.
So the next time you see Mericle, I suggest that you go the other way. It’s only a matter of time before he’s pecking crumbs in a prison yard. And you’ve got to wonder who he might want to take with him.
I’d treat every conversation with Mericle like it’s being recorded.
And for that reason alone – the mere, and so very clear, appearance of impropriety – U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani should remove himself from presiding over the public corruption trial of former Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit Executive Director Fred Rosetti.
If the rookie federal judge balks, arguing as expected that he, of course, can and will remain impartial, his bosses should remove him from the case and assign another federal judge - preferably somebody from outside the inner circle of Lackawanna County/Scranton Democratic Party politics that regularly strangles fairness and enables the continuation of our culture of corruption.
We are still in the midst of an ongoing federal investigation into that culture of political corruption. We are gasping for air as we struggle to believe in the system of law that must provide the heart of our nation. The sweet public trust is again about to be abandoned.
Around here, you always have to wonder if the fight is fixed because it usually is. The deck is always stacked, the imbalance of power rests in the hands of supposed good guys turned bad and criminality is just another unholy communion breakfast for generations of thugs who use public service to benefit themselves, their families and their friends.
Much is at stake here whether Mariani and his power-tripping colleagues on the bench for life know it or not.
Northeastern Pennsylvania political kingmaker and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey nominated Mariani after he successfully went through the cheerleading camp interview process that separates the beautiful people from those with hot backgrounds – people like Lackawanna County Judge Terry Nealon whose father has the federal courthouse named after him and who figured that junior would easily pick up the federal gavel.
But poor Terry got sent packing because of the political baggage he carries everywhere he goes - suitcases packed with poor judgment, including his bigoted “leadership” at the segregationist Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a group of Irish-American gender gangsters who exclude women from their annual dinner where Nealon, his father and other federal judges join other men and men only – including political candidates – to congratulate each other on their political and business success.
Pity the poor female political candidate who dares to think she might be welcome into the fold where no women need apply. So far, though, no female has been brave enough to challenge the big boys.
Mariani made the judicial candidate cut. When I called his law office a few months ago, he instructed a woman to return the call to tell me that he does not belong to any ethnic club that discriminatory against women.
Now that he’s a judge, I expect him to see the great divide that exists in public perception and public behavior. So I called his chambers last week to ask if he ever made campaign contributions to former state Sen. Bob Mellow, who has pleaded guilty to public corruption and awaits sentencing in federal court – the very federal court where Mariani is paid to do the people’s business. I also asked if Mariani ever attended any of Mellow’s famous annual clambakes, the massive political picnics that hosted governors and senators and served as Mellow’s main political fundraiser that fueled his always successful re-election campaign.
Mellow has admitted to using state Senate staffers to help him raise cash at political fundraisers when they were on the clock and supposedly performing public service for the people they were paid to serve.
But Mariani’s assistant, who relayed my questions to the judge and the judge’s answers to me, said Mariani would not speak with me. The assistant, who refused to give his name when I asked, said Mariani would not talk about a specific case. I said I didn’t want to talk about the details of the Rosetti case. I wanted to talk about the details of whether Mariani had a conflict that should keep him off the case. The judge again refused to talk.
Mariani served on the Scranton School Board when Rosetti taught in the Scranton School District. And, Mariani served as board president in 1980. As such, he played Democratic Party politics as much as anybody. Around here, Mellow was King of Democratic Party politics.
Mellow is also Rosetti’s blood first cousin. Mellow, Rosetti and Mariani all come from the same Democratic Party stock that in our Pennsylvania hard coal country is as thick as thieves – and I mean literally.
To make matters even more confusing – and potentially untrustworthy - U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Peter Smith, who is overseeing the entire public corruption investigation and Mariani share the same powerful Scranton political sponsor.
Casey nominated both men to their current jobs.
Smith and Mariani should not be in the same courtroom in any public corruption case that stems from the ongoing investigation.
Don’t look for Mariani to do the right thing. Don’t look for his bosses to use common sense, either. Look for them to hide behind the nuance of “law,” which they use mostly for their own benefit rather than to strengthen the precious public trust that suffers irreparably at their hands.
If you’re inclined to believe the first witness in yesterday’s opening day of the Jerry Sandusky child sex assault trial in Centre County – and I am – the Pennsylvania State University might never fully recover from the chamber of horrors that prosecutors allege operated on its main campus in State College.
My alma mater’s future pales in comparison to the future of the alleged victims.
The fate of at least ten young men who were boys when they claim the big time Penn State football coach abused them in torturous ways hangs in the balance of the trial. Like the scales of justice, their lives can tilt either way. If they are proven to truly be victims, they deserve every chance in life and all the encouragement we can offer so they can move on and heal – if that is ever possible.
Yesterday’s first witness offered grisly testimony. He described Sandusky in terms that exactly fit prosecutors’ charge that the former big man on campus is a “serial predator” who stalked vulnerable child targets with the fierce depravity and savage violence of a wild king-of-the-beasts jungle animal.
If the first witness, now 28, is any indication of what is to come, Sandusky’s lawyers will earn every penny they receive for trying to defend him and his alleged predatory past. In desperate terms, they will try to portray him as the only target in the case – a good and innocent man whose only crime was love, a naïve man-child who offered children the gift of kindness and found himself targeted by money-hungry opportunists and reckless cops and prosecutors.
Sound familiar? Sound like you-know-who? Just look over your shoulder. He’ll be there.
Michael Jackson set the standard for high-profile child molestation show trials in America. And after a trial that spanned months, a jury acquitted him on 14 terrible counts related to the molestation of one boy.
Yesterday’s witness testified that Sandusky blanketed him with attention and gifts, offering smothering affection that made him think he was the only one.
Jackson did the same.
I’ve walked both the Penn State campus and the spacious grounds of Neverland, Jackson’s sprawling fortress-like fantasy estate in Central Coastal California.
Jackson invited me and other media representatives to his fantasyland when he tried to court us before his 2005 trial that I covered for Sky News in Europe and the daily newspaper where I worked in Santa Maria where the trial took place.
I know the appeal of both places. But I can’t begin to imagine the excitement in the heart of a weak child with no family or friends of means who were unable to give him what Sandusky and Jackson gave their “special friends.”
That’s what Jackson’s prosecutors called his alleged targets – special friends. That’s also what child molestation experts call a classic grooming technique designed to isolate and set up the next mark as the next piece of meat for a hunter.
Jackson walked out of the courtroom a free man because prosecutors could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jackson was a pedophile. Sandusky prosecutors must take a lesson in loss from that case and establish a pattern of believable witnesses, one after another who remain unflappable in their accusations and, above all, believable despite their pain.
Will race play a role in this case?
I don’t know if the alleged victims in Sandusky’s case are black, white, Latino or a combination. But I will always believe that the mostly white jury in Jackson’s trial simply did not like the alleged victim, whose East L.A. Latino roots turned him into something the jurors not only couldn’t understand, but didn’t want to understand.
Jurors hated Jackson’s alleged victim’s mother, too. I might as well throw in his brother and sister, who corroborated their brother’s testimony.
That’s why I believe Jackson was guilty.
That’s why I’m already leaning toward a belief that Sandusky is guilty as well.
But we’ll see.
The trial will take a few weeks and then we’ll see if justice is served, as the popular cliché goes. But is justice ever truly served? Somebody is already hurt or dead or both by the time a case reaches a courtroom. And somebody always walks away more damaged when it’s over than he or she was when it began.
It looks like state Rep. Kevin Murphy finally got his college degree from the University of Scranton.
I say “looks like” because I still don’t have official confirmation that the two-term lawmaker finally completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice that for more than two decades he falsely claimed he possessed.
I’ll check with university officials this afternoon.
Just to be sure, you should, too.
We all depend on each other in Northeastern Pennsylvania because elected and appointed public officials here have as bad a reputation for deceit as anywhere in the country. So following up on facts is always required to keep them honest – or as close to honesty as we can get.
Murphy paid the price for his dishonesty.
I first asked him about his degree the Friday before the following Tuesday’s April 24 primary election. By Election Day, Murphy had told a number of conflicting stories about the degree and why he thought he had it, didn’t ask for it and would soon receive it.
Murphy mentioned money, confusion and misunderstanding. But the bottom line was that he said he had a degree that he didn’t have. He even acknowledged claiming the degree on an official state job application he filled out before successfully running for public office.
Murphy got that job.
Now he’s lost this one.
In large part because of the massive public controversy surrounding his degree, voters rejected Murphy, choosing a former professional boxer turned cage fighter with a police record and a magnum cum punchy degree from the school of hard knocks.
Murphy went back to the Capitol in Harrisburg, counting the months until he has to clean out his office and go looking for work elsewhere. But Murphy still didn’t come completely clean.
For weeks after university officials made it clear that Murphy did not graduate, he allowed incorrect biographical information about the degree to remain on the official state House of Representatives website.
I had to call the leader of the House Democratic Caucus to get the false information changed.
But the truth is the truth and state government has enough problems without a lawmaker using state resources to foster a lie. So somebody removed the lie and new biographical information characterized Murphy as having attended the University of Scranton rather than possessing a degree from the esteemed local university.
Until yesterday when a source called to say that the House of Representatives site once again listed Murphy’s degree – minus the year of graduation.
Responding quickly to my late afternoon email, Bill Patton, press spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, wrote that the university conferred Murphy’s degree last month and that the year was inadvertently omitted by the House webmaster.
Patton didn’t say if he or other Democratic leadership officials had confirmed Murphy’s degree with university officials or if they simply took Murphy’s word for it.
The lesson for good government advocates is to confirm everything possible that elected and appointed officials tell you. That goes for candidates, too, who are prone to boast and dance and deny to the best of their ability.
Another long shot winner in the Scranton legislative sweepstakes is Kevin Haggerty, who also unseated an incumbent – tax scofflaw Kenny Smith – and still refuses to detail the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Marine Corps. Semper Fi usually means more than always being faithful to your own ego and political aspirations.
But in hard coal country, political ego is as much an enemy to democracy as the Viet Cong or the Taliban.
Murphy’s troubles still might not be over because his old state job application should be on file somewhere in a dusty government drawer in Harrisburg. If he did list a degree that he didn’t possess to get the full-time public service job he got, will prosecutors consider this fraud to be a crime? If so, has the statute of limitations run out? Is Murphy subject to arrest?
After I check with the “U,” I’ll check with the state attorney general’s office and let you know.
If Murphy’s in the clear, maybe he can ask to get his old job back. If his bosses liked him without a degree, think what he might do now that he really has one.