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Posts from July 2012

Making Do With Less In Moosic
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Moosic police say that in the moments before a vehicle slammed into Jared Coleman in the middle of a busy June 29 afternoon on Birney Avenue, the 23-year-old Moosic man was picking up cigarette butts along the road and trying to jump on cars.

Yet dispatchers received no 911 calls, Moosic police say.

Daryl Bennett, 40, a Scranton woman on her way to work at a Wilkes-Barre hospital crashed into Coleman, who died the next day. Moosic police officer James Giehl said he did not ask Bennett to perform a field sobriety test. No breathalyzer or blood test, either, because she showed no sign of drinking and said she was not using any prescription medication.

Still, no proof exists that she was telling the truth even if she was.

Witnesses told police they saw Coleman walking in the right lane of the busy highway before he stepped into the left lane as Bennett tried to miss him and go around, Giehl said this morning in a telephone interview. Other drivers tried to miss Coleman as well, Giehl said.

Bennett was “hysterical” after the accident, Giehl said, and after a 30 minute interview her husband arrived at the scene and took her home. Police impounded the car for a few days to see if any kind of recording device might have captured the accident. But no such device exists on the car, Giehl said.

“Others were honking and beeping at him,” Giehl said. “We didn’t know what the story was with him.”

Police interviewed Coleman’s mother and father, with whom he lived, Giehl said. They provided answers to questions police had about his “mental state” and psychological condition, Giehl said.

“We got the answers we were looking for,” Giehl said, although he declined to share those answers.

Police now believe they know Coleman’s story and closed the case on July 2, ruling it a case of accidental death after deciding not to file charges against Bennett.

Coleman’s family secured the services of an attorney who sent a private investigator to interview Moosic police and others, Giehl said.

I will have to file an open records request to see what documents, if any, I will be allowed to review. Giehl said the borough manager will decide what to release and what not to release.  Witness statements, the results of interviews with Coleman’s parents and other information are included in the official report, Giehl said, and a determination will be made as to what is considered public.

Frankly, I expect official resistance. And that is part of an ongoing erosion of the public trust and what I believe to be an increasing distrust of police and other public safety officials.

When I called Moosic police yesterday I spoke with Chief Charles Maurer, who told me he would likely not release the report to me because “you’re not involved.”

I explained that I’ve been involved for about 40 years in trying to inform the public about life and death matters that shape our community and that I will continue to be involved.

“We're not covering anything up,” the police chief said.

I told him that I didn’t say he was.

“That’s what you’re insinuating,” he said.

No, that was not what I was insinuating. I was simply asking for facts about a young man who died after being crushed by a moving vehicle on a bright afternoon in the borough where Maurer is paid to protect and serve.

And now I’m asking for more information about what put this same young man in harm’s way, and whether his “mental state” might have had anything to do with it. I’m asking for facts about the life and times of a man who Moosic police are “insinuating” suffered from a “mental state” that might have contributed to his death – a mental state that more and more young people encounter as community programs and professional help disappears and government officials slash crucial mental health funding.

I, too, am asking for help.

I’m asking that a great society that once took seriously our duty to help our most vulnerable citizens quickly reconsiders the outcome of so-called austerity programs that force already troubled people to make do with less.

The Coleman family understands this public policy all too well.

They are making do with less, all right.

They are making do with one less family member.


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"Manhandler Murphy" To The Rescue?
Thursday, July 26, 2012

If you’re lucky, you get the drunken violence out of your system by the time you’re in your 30s.

You stop slapping and punching people. You stop driving under the influence of alcohol before you marry and have children, when you take on the responsibilities of looking out not just for yourself but for others. You stop conniving and living a lie.

If you’re lucky, you wise up.

At 46, state Rep. Kevin Murphy is old enough to know better.

But he’s definitely not lucky.

Murphy isn’t too smart, either.

Scranton’s wild lawmaker is dangerous - a menace to himself and others, including his family and the taxpayers who pay his wages and expect him to behave in a civilized manner.

Murphy is crashing and burning before our very eyes.

Scheduled for a Monday court hearing on assault charges against his wife and her friend, Murphy recently told a newspaper reporter that the allegations his wife made against him in her successful application for a protection from abuse order are false. As expected, Murphy refused to get into the details about the Friday night incident that sent shock waves through an otherwise safe neighborhood.

Police accuse Murphy of attacking his wife, viciously slapping her in the face and then manhandling her as he pushed her head to the floor of a car. Murphy then punched his wife’s friend in the face as he tried to help, eventually putting the man in a choke hold.

Neighbors described Murphy to police as being “heavily intoxicated.” The lawmaker then fled in his car, launching an overnight manhunt for a fugitive who disappeared until the next day when Murphy turned himself in.

Now Murphy tells us in his practiced legislative tones that he is looking forward to defending himself. He says he was looking out for the best interests of his young children who he claims called him for help because they were home alone.

Murphy to the rescue? I don’t think so. If witnesses are right, Murphy arrived drunk and disorderly. That’s looking out for his children? Did he plan to put them in his car and drive them in a drunken blur to safety?

I pray that Murphy takes the witness stand Monday to tell us his side of the story. I expect him to do just that. And I hope prosecutors will be ready for him.
Murphy is not a very good liar. I caught him in a career-ender the day before the April 24 primary election when I asked him if he really had the degree from the University of Scranton that he had claimed for more than 20 years.

Murphy possessed no degree. Yet his dance of deception began. But Murphy had two left feet. I immediately saw through his desperation. Seeing a sad, new side of this otherwise confident and competent legislator whom I had grown to like, I felt betrayed by his lies.

So did his constituents.

Murphy lost the nomination to a former profession boxer and cage fighter whose own heavy character baggage will follow him into the General Assembly.

But Murphy still carries the heaviest load.

Murphy once told me that he was contemplating not running for re-election because his wife was ill. Now he stands accused of slapping this same woman in the face with that big, meaty paw of his that he once raised when he swore on his honor to uphold the public trust.

Like his political career and his marriage, Murphy’s honor is a thing of the past. Although I’ve seen local legislators lose their prestige and power at the polls, I’ve never seen anything like this.

Murphy could get better.

Murphy could get worse.

But based on the shallow interview he gave the newspaper reporter, Murphy is already manipulating and trying to squirm his way out of this terrible dilemma.

If police and witnesses are right, Murphy should plead guilty, beg for forgiveness from his wife and children and throw himself on the mercy of the court.

If convicted, a county prison sentence is in order. While he’s serving his time, Murphy should attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and hope that he’s strong enough to start all over again. Redemption is not beyond his reach. But as long as Murphy continues to try to play everybody for a fool, he will fail time and time again.

To begin to get better, Murphy must face himself.

Murphy must once and for all admit that he is the biggest fool in the room.

Tags :  
People: Kevin Murphy

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God Is Not A Penn State Fan
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Don’t let the blue and white sky fool you.

God is not a Penn State fan.

Satan luvs ya, Lions.

Former football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex assaults against children and the subsequent cover-up by the most powerful men on campus, including disgraced legendary coach Joe Paterno, turned University Park into a hell on earth for countless young boys who suffer to this day.

Instead of protecting the innocent, Paterno willingly shook hands with the devil.

And now Penn State must suffer.

Paterno’s legacy will forever remain demonic. Paterno’s defenders will forever remain delusional. Paterno’s name will forever remain synonymous with dishonor.

Cast into the fire of eternity, Paterno is beyond redemption. But what about the rest of us? Does hope exist for us? What about salvation? Can anybody save Penn State? Will anybody redeem Penn Staters?

As a graduate, I am not Penn State proud. Yet I am willing to fight for what is right, what Paterno called “Success with Honor,” as we struggle to battle our way back into the good graces of civility, accountability and achievement.

Such progress is slow, particularly for Sandusky’s victims who also are victims of a massive system run amok, a kingdom of darkness that encouraged Sandusky to flourish – a system led by Paterno and his out-of-control ego that charged from the tunnel of self-absorbed privilege with his index finder raised to the heavens.

We’re no longer number one. We’re nothing. We’re zero. We’re in a Penn State purgatory that could hold us hostage forever. So where do we go from here?

First stop for me is the Creamery, that wondrous Main Campus oasis of ice cream that is the first stop for so many wide-eyed children who find their way to campus. The ice cream is fresh and cold and wonderful. But one flavor is poison and must go. Nothing peachy exists in the “Peachy Paterno,” a left-over flavor from another time when too many believed the myth and succumbed to the black magic that cast a spell that killed children’s dreams.

Creamery officials say they will continue to sell Peachy Paterno and donate the proceeds to an unnamed organization that works with the issue of child sexual abuse.

If that happens, ice cream money becomes blood money. Healing cannot and must not be in any way tied to the name of a man who turned away from desperate lost boys who screamed for help that Paterno did not provide. If university officials refuse to dump the Peachy Paterno the way university officials dumped the pathetic Paterno statue in front of Beaver Stadium, weekly pickets must be set up at the Creamery entrance until they acquiesce.

No room exists here for negotiation.

Nor does negotiation exist for the future of Northeastern Pennsylvania political power-broker Keith Eckel, a millionaire businessman and member of the Penn State board of trustees who refuses to speak publicly about the sanctions against the university and his role in the scandal.

When I reached the Clarks Summit celebrity farmer and agricultural wheeler-dealer several months ago, he curtly replied that he would have no comment. When a reporter reached him yesterday, he directed the press to contact university public relations staff members who, at best, are lackluster and shallow Penn State parrots.

Eckel has outlived whatever usefulness he might have once served. He ought to go back to his conservative Republican philosophy that cuts social services to damaged children and strains credibility as it is, letting the future of Penn State up to people who are brave enough and responsible enough to truthfully answer the hard questions.

Without candid discussion, little promise exists for the school. Without Eckel, new confidence might be possible.

Too many demons exist in this passion play. Too many fiends still lurk in the shadow of the Nittany Lion, hoping not to draw attention to their own devious agendas so they can one day regain their ignoble stature and again do as they please at the expense of anybody who gets in their way.

My trust is in Penn State officials has been exhausted. Even the good ones, and good ones must exist, must now prove to those of us who want to believe in Penn State’s mission that they deserve our trust. I doubt that I’ll ever put faith in their power. But I will confront their secrecy, the bureaucracy and the gross incompetence of the Penn State masters. I will try to exchange what is wrong for what is right in the midst of a paradise lost, a pit overrun with monsters that willingly fell from grace to prowl classrooms, locker-rooms, hotel rooms and Old Main, embraced by a wealthy football culture that simply didn’t care.

Penn State vs. The World?

Try Penn State vs. the Underworld, a vile dirty place where evil prevails until it is stopped here and now, forever and ever, amen.

Tags :  
People: Jerry SanduskyJoe PaternoKeith Eckel

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We Live Here; Biden Left Here
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Stepping off the front porch I took a hard right at the rhododendrons in full bloom and headed down the path between our house and the house where my good neighbor has lived all her life.
She’s from Scranton.
I moved to Scranton five-and-a-half years ago by choice.
My family has five generations here that started when my grandfather came to work in the coal mines in 1902.
Joe Biden used to be from Scranton. But he moved away when he was ten and only recently developed an obsessive attachment to the town we love so well.
I do not doubt Biden’s sincerity. I do not doubt that he wants to pass on the legacy he took from this city when his family moved and his life forever changed for better and for worse. I do not doubt that he will feel great pride if he takes his seven-year-old granddaughter into the house where he lived in the Green Ridge section of town.
But I do doubt the wisdom of living in a fantasy that might have once been true for him but not for others. And I worry that he is hurting people who never felt the sappy good old days as he did and now live day-to-day in a life-and-death struggle right here in Scranton.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I live a good life here in Scranton and had the grand luxury of stepping off my porch this morning in bright sunshine. Carrying a big, red watering bucket, I headed down to the tomato patch, where I tend to the first tomatoes I ever planted in my life.
I wonder if Biden has a tomato patch. I doubt it, but even if he does, it’s not in Scranton – my home, not his.
Pining for what you used to have is never healthy, especially if you have all the means in the world to go home again, to buy a house in the same old neighborhood where you live in your mind in the past.
Nowadays, unfortunately, Scranton isn’t doing very well. My city is on the verge of financial collapse. The unemployment rate is high. Wages are low and the beautiful people of the Chamber of Commerce and other hoity-toity lace-curtain Democrats refuse to see the danger that lurks around every corner – even in Green Ridge – where houses remain for sale seemingly forever and foreclosures are not the rarity they once used to be.
Republicans in Harrisburg are slashing and burning social services and the unions are on hard times once again.
Don’t be surprised if somebody steals the huge statue of John Mitchell – champion of labor and defender of human rights – from its pedestal on Courthouse Square to dismantle and sell for scrap to feed their families.
Yet Biden picks today to come “help us celebrate” the Fourth of July holiday, according to an Obama/Biden re-election campaign press release. Today of all days, as most city workers look forward to a salary city that will pay them minimum wage, Biden decides to come back to the old neighborhood, visit the old house and watch the fireworks tonight with family and friends.
Self-absorbed to the point of dangerous delusion, Biden will relive his childhood, probably stop at Hank’s Hoagies and tell his favorite lies to an adoring audience who have more in common with cult members than frustrated city taxpayers. Biden will talk about how tough we are and how we never quit while some normally strong men and women hold back tears because they lost jobs, children and spouses in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and maybe even their homes to the predatory banking industry.
Scranton is on the ropes. Some Scrantonians are down for the count. Some people have given up. And others are ready to call it a day in Minooka, South Side, West Side, North Scranton, my sacred Hill section and other neighborhoods in this once glorious city that is not so glorious anymore.
I have my health, my happiness, my wife, my job and my tomatoes.
That’s why I’m siding with those of us who can fight, want to fight and will fight political opportunists like Biden, Obama, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett (the bad Corbett and no relation to me) and anybody else who uses the people of Scranton time after time, coming for votes and self-aggrandizement that benefit Biden and his kind before those countless poor souls who desperately need help.
We call Scranton home because it is home. And no matter what Biden says or promises or fabricates when he addresses the crowd this evening, I want you to remember one simple harsh fact of life.
We live here.
Biden left here.
Scranton forever.
Tags :  
Locations: HarrisburgObama
People: Bob CaseyJoe BidenJohn MitchellTom Corbett

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