A spokeswoman for Vice President of the United Stated Joe Biden told me Friday that our scrappy kid from Scranton does not have time to talk with me on the air for 10 minutes today or tomorrow about the Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner, where Biden is scheduled to be the featured speaker.
Tuesday's annual event is the 110th gathering of this gang of well-heeled, well-connected men of means and privilege – and the third time for Biden - who exclude women unless they are serving heaping plates of ham and cabbage to the men.
Biden will likely share the elevated VIP table with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, my senator and neighbor who lives down the hill from me in the hometown we share, the town of Biden's birth.
Like Biden and Casey, the Friendly Sons refuse to talk with me. I've been fighting their discrimination against women for about 25 years and have reached out to them as I reached out to Biden and Casey.
My argument is simple. As a descendant of an Irish immigrant Scranton coal miner I want women to share the same American Dream that welcomed my grandfather. I want women to have the same equal opportunity that continues to draw immigrants to our small piece of the world.
But women are denied that opportunity at the dinner. Even female political candidates are barred. I recently spoke about the Friendly Sons dinner with a woman who is running for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She cannot attend and campaign, network, shake hands, develop her voter base or make friends and influence people the way male candidates can and will.
Male candidates always show up to campaign. That strikes me as particularly unfair – maybe even illegal. I wanted to ask Biden – as I tried to ask Casey - if he would help me fight for women's rights. But Biden can't find the time.
I understand why the law allows private clubs for men and women and why religious groups can legally discriminate against women. I support women's colleges and don't want to open the Girl Scouts to boys.
But I do want to open the world of business and politics to equal opportunity for women. That's why I wrote this proclamation and handed it out on the street as I picketed Casey's Scranton office last week with a seven-foot shamrock-shaped protect sign that quoted Casey's big lie.
If Biden and Casey won't join my fight maybe you will.
We will be better for it if you do.
Proclamation of Equal Opportunity
The sacred 1916 proclamation of Irish freedom begins with the words "Irishmen and Irishwomen." The British government sentenced about 50 of those women to die for their part in the Easter Rising.
So as we prepare to celebrate St. Patrick's Day we must respectfully pay tribute to the Irish women who helped shape the immigrant legacy and the American dream of our ancestors.
Freedom matters. Equal opportunity matters. Women matter.
Yet here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, women matter far less than men. And one of the worst offenders of gender discrimination is U.S. Senator Bob Casey, an Irish-American who should know better. That's why I'm picketing Casey's office here in Scranton. As a male chauvinist Paddy's pig Casey wields great power to help rather than hurt. That's why I was proud to hear Casey recently tell the world in Oslo, Norway, that "women's rights are non-negotiable."
But Casey is not telling the truth. In fact Casey will join Vice President of the United States Joe Biden – a Scranton native – on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, for the sexist, segregationist Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick annual dinner, a male-only gathering of about 1,500 of the most powerful male leaders of business, politics and law. Three sitting federal judges in Scranton are former Friendly Sons presidents.
No women need apply. Women and dogs keep out.
I asked Casey for a meeting to try to change his mind, but he refused to see me. I asked for a statement but he ignored my emails. So now I march up and down for freedom, for equal rights and for all of us who value fairness and justice. We must sometimes take a public stand. We must always stand on principle. We must never allow even the most privileged and powerful to oppress and subjugate in our name.
Mysterious Ireland beckons us for our next Irish adventure as sure as that young woman by the lake beckoned me that soft Irish night so many years ago – 43 years to be exact.
I sometimes see her when I close my eyes on stormy nights, when wind howls like the banshee and rain crackles against the window like green emeralds spilling from a captured leprechaun's treasure chest. I cannot hear her voice because she never spoke - just a smile, a gesture inviting me to join her by the lake. I was 21, she about the same. This was my first trip to the land of my ancestors, a place filed with as many unknowns as knowns, a magic place where time can and does stand still.
Don't ask me why, but I turned and walked away.
I've only told the story to a select few. Those who understand the power of fate know that soft temptation sometimes calls us in more ways than one. But if you come with me this October 9 through 17 as we explore Irish pubs and the deepest reaches of Celtic folklore, myth and legend, I promise to share my tale and ask you what it means.
Perhaps you won't believe my story.
Perhaps you will.
But what I saw that dim twilight by the lake, Loch Corrib, near the small village of Cornamona where my grandfather was born, provided me with a haunted lesson of youth that might take root in your mind and guide you to safety as it has guided me.
Ireland is a great teacher, a scholar to those who want to learn. And this trip through AAA North Penn – 570-348-2511 for details – affords us all the opportunity to learn more than we can handle.
Maybe I'll tell my tale that first night in Dublin, as we share a pint of the creamiest Guinness you will ever drink, as we look over the ancient city from a pub high atop the world-famous brewery. Or maybe I'll wait until the last night of our trip, as we return to Dublin and share ghost stories at Ireland's oldest pub, The Brazen Head, a safe haven of good food and drink and talk for weary travelers such as us.
Either way, I'll tell the tale. I promise. Oh, will I ever tell the tale. Remember, I'm Irish.
In between, we'll visit other pubs and sacred places – Blarney Castle and the Waterford Crystal factory. We'll drive through scenery unchanged by time, sense the presence of early Christian monks and taste a drop of whiskey, if you like, at Kilbeggin, Ireland's oldest distillery. The Cliffs of Moher, Achill Island, famous actor Richard Harris' "Field," the Dingle Peninsula, Kate Kearney's Cottage dinner and so much more awaits us.
But back to the lake.
When I walked into the small cottage where I was staying with my cousin, I encountered neighbors from the village awaiting my return. I had simply gone out for a walk, to feel the Irish countryside beneath my feet and make the connection that only Ireland can provide.
They knew I was safe. And they were glad I was home. That's even what they said when they first met me. "Stephen has come home."
Puffing their pipes, sipping their tea, they sat in silence as solid country people often do, enjoying each other's company and the knowledge that they were all part of the same life in a place unlike any other. Being American, I sometimes found the long silences awkward.
So I spoke.
I told them about the young woman by the lake.
An old man quickly took his pipe quickly from his mouth. An older woman put her hands to her mouth,. Another blessed herself. Another stood open-mouthed. Even the poor dog took cover under the chair closer to the warmth of the stove.
Wind suddenly wailed outside.
"It's her," an old fellow said. "It's her."
"She wanted you to come with her, Stephen," he said. "She wanted you to accompany her forever as a replacement for the young man she lost - an American, like you. A wedding was planned and then he died in an accident. They were so good together and she could not bear the loss. She walked into the lake one night and never came home."
Now I stood open-mouthed as sparks from the open turf fire danced like lost bridesmaids at the wedding of a friend and they told me how lucky I was.
Ten years earlier an American tourist disappeared after last being seen by the lake. Twenty years ago another Yank had gone missing. He, too, had taken a walk by the lake.
The green clenched fist at the center of a white triangle mountain makes it clear that the fight is on. The powerful symbol of “Friends of Lackawanna” says they’ll defend their community and go one more round no matter how long the battle takes or how fierce their opponent.
The power of the people has taken root in anger, responsibility and commitment. The power of the people has come of age in a new generation gathered to lead the old. The power of the people has helped empower their decency and help them take a stand.
Their green clenched fist belongs to us all. Designed by leaders of the non-profit organization (your contributions are legally tax deductible) its members are, indeed, friends of Lackawanna.
The group’s core members are parents and professionals, singles and working class, privileged and not so much so. And we all can be friends together – united in our desire to fight for a sound quality of life we can be proud to leave as our legacy.
That means the days of the Keystone Sanitary Landfill are numbered, that the garbage dump that too often defines Dunmore will go - that, finally capped and quiet, the trash mountain and accumulative toxic juices will go quietly into that good future of promise rather than plague.
Friends of Lackawanna want to be reasonable, and, of course, they are. As a veteran community development agitator I worry that they are sometimes too reasonable but am willing to chalk up their strategy as a difference of opinion in the revolution. Assertive aggression is more my style.
But then, I’m not calling the shots here. We can all learn from each other.
Different action plans might very well help keep the status quo off balance – a normally impenetrable power structure that combines elected political hacks with the seemingly endless supply of corporate cash that always fuels Northeastern Pennsylvania politics – particularly Dunmore and Lackawanna County politicians and their bagmen.
The landfill bosses are not used to being challenged. And the challenge posed by these mostly younger people who are supposed to do as they’re told must drive the bosses and their lackeys wild.
This perceived insult makes the bosses particularly dangerous because ample money and power is at stake. Being pushed into explaining themselves makes them desperate. The bosses are not used to explaining themselves. The bosses tell people what to do. And, like a garbage gull on a cold French fry, the “peasants” are supposed to behave predictably and do as they’re told.
Friends of Lackawanna leaders broke new ground in NEPA power politics when they went to the landfill, met face-to-face with the big bosses and told them that they planned to shut them down, not help them expand and build a mountain of trash higher than the Statue of Liberty.
Such courage is rare in hard coal country.
And, no matter what happens, that victory will fuel future action by future activists and, hopefully, future generations.
In this regard, Friends of Lackawanna have already won.
If for no other reason than to support these good citizens for taking a stand in favor of principle, go to the Department of Environmental Protection public meeting tonight, Feb. 25, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Dunmore High School, 300 West Warren Street, Dunmore.
And, if you can, take a stand yourself. Be free for a change. Freedom makes us stronger. Freedom helps us breathe and think and live and be better friends of Lackawanna and the world.
In a voice soft with contrition, Father Leo McKernan confessed.
“Poor judgment on my part,” he said when we spoke on the phone.
Now the good people of the parish of St. Monica in West Wyoming must decide whether to forgive this man known for his rabid anti-abortion views and dedication to what the church calls “pro- life.”
The Roman Catholic priest from the Diocese of Scranton admitted he was wrong to approve the showing of a 14-minute “movie” to a religious instruction class of 11-year-olds, sixth-grade innocents who will shape the soul of the Church for generations to come.
No one asked the chidren's parents for permission, either.
Although a disclaimer at the beginning of "To Be Born" warned that the movie might not be appropriate for a young audience and sensitive viewers, the woman who taught the “CCD” class allowed her “zeal to overcome her common sense,” the priest said.
Parish parents know her well. Some accuse her of sharing McKernan’s zeal as an enemy of abortion, a Constitutionally-protected right that she and he call murder. One parishioner said he and his wife regularly become uncomfortable during Mass because the priest works his hatred for abortion into his sermons whenever he can.
If, though, the priest and the “teacher” truly respect the sanctity of life, why inflict a gruesome, bloody and violent dramatization of an abortion into the lives of the most vulnerable – the very children they claim they want to save and protect?
One child sat stoically through the film, facing a wall and refusing to look, her mother said when she called WILK to talk with me on the air. A little boy came home and opened up about what he saw, adding that the teacher had also once passed around plastic figures of a fetus in various stages of gestation, his mother said.
Father McKernan said he gave the movie a quick look before signing off on its showing.
Even a quick look drives home the gore of what the movie’s director even admitted was an “exaggerated” portrayal of an overwhelmingly safe medical procedure.
The scene shows what turns out to be a horrific dream sequence of the procedure in living color, with flashing lights, gleaming sharp silver instruments, bloody doctor’s gloves and a grotesque intensity that is unsettling to many adults – even those who oppose abortion.
Some parents worry that their children might have nightmares or even experience diagnosable trauma that could follow them deep into their lives. One mother said she and her husband had to talk with their daughter about issues she was just not prepared to handle.
Father McKernan said he realizes that some of the children subjected to the movie might have been harmed. He “made an honest mistake” and would like to talk with parents.
Some parents, however, said they already spoke with McKernan and that he seemed pleased with the movie and less than impressed with their complaints that if all life is precious, as the church teaches, why their children’s lives were assaulted with an emotional attack that even they would not want to face.
After I called the Diocese of Scranton and left a message, asking Bishop Joseph Bambera to speak with me about the movie and the impact on the lives of the parish children, Diocese Executive Director of Communications Bill Genello responded with a statement more suited to a stockholders' meeting than to a group of loving parents who believe the church abused their children.
“The Diocese respects the concerns of parents regarding a film that was shown to a CCD class at St. Monica Parish. The intention to educate students about the dignity of all human life and the need for us to protect life at all stages is worthy. As efforts are made to accomplish this, the age and maturity level of those who receive the message must be considered. The Diocese has responded to the concerns expressed by parents and the circumstances in this particular case are being addressed. The Diocese will continue to offer educational programs that are appropriate for their intended audiences.”
Despite the leg irons, Bob Cordaro strolled into a Wilkes-Barre federal courtroom Monday like he was heading into the Playboy Mansion for the Dean Martin roast.
Bearing the weight of the 11 year federal sentence he’s serving at a Ft. Dix, New Jersey prison, the 53-year-old former Lackawanna County commissioner flashed his trademark, toothy smile at supporters, showing family and friends that he’s still got it – the handsome ego, the bull-headed arrogance and the kiss-my- law degree bravado that helped slam the cell door on this once powerful wise man of means.
Defense lawyer William Costopoulos, who helped get him convicted, wasn’t smiling quite as broadly. In the 40 or so years I’ve known “Wild Bill” and followed his staged macho Harley-riding, custom-suit sporting, hand-tooled cowboy boots stomping, self-absorbed legal act, I have never seen him so pensive.
I can only attribute his soft demeanor to embarrassment and fear.
Costopoulos had finally met his match. Another lawyer - a smarter, younger lawyer - had called his bluff. And Wild Bill seemed ready to fold. During the evidentiary hearing for a new trial, Cordaro’s new lawyer, Brian Kelly, peppered his adversary with one pointed question after another, using his superior knowledge of the law to put an alleged master defense lawyer on the defensive.
But, like a small, wounded animal, Costopoulos relied on primal instinct to guide him wherever fate might lead. In this case, though, the rule of law, rather than the law of the jungle and luck, must be the judge’s guide.
Costopoulos relied on his training and experience. Recalling his Harvard master’s thesis about using psychology to gain an advantage in court, he seemed to have lost his edge. Instead of the legal gunslinger he always fancied himself to be, Wild Bill now was a puffy shark in a lost saloon, playing a final faded card from a worn and tattered deck.
Cordaro’s bid for a new trial accuses Costopoulos of ineffective counsel. Kelly calls Costopoulos incompetent. That means Costopoulos was simply not up to the job. For a well-known criminal trial lawyer, that’s the ultimate insult, a pointed suggestion that you’re better suited to throwing on a leather jacket and riding your chopper to Vegas than mounting a smooth, polished defense for any client – rich or poor.
In other words, stay out of the courtroom, Captain America.
Until he represented Cordaro, Costopoulos admitted that he not represented a client in a federal jury trial for 14 years. A lot changes in 14 years, Kelly said. Costopoulos admitted that, in fact, is true.
The law requires a vigorous defense. The criminal justice system, when it works, guarantees a defendant the right to a fair trial. A defective lawyer interferes with the sacred principle of liberty and justice. Such behavior helps gut democracy the way a mountain man guts a carp.
Kelly’s claim is that during Cordaro’s trial, Costopoulos wielded a fish knife rather than a golden-bound law book. Costopoulos failed – which, incongruously, he admitted under oath in court on Monday morning. Responding to Kelly, Costopoulos recalled an exchange that two men had during preparation for the hearing.
“I do recall telling you where I failed him,” Costopoulos said. “I do recall telling you where I failed Bob Cordaro. And I did.”
As Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo deliberates whether to grant Cordaro a new trial, he must think long and hard about the severe implications of Costopoulos’s admission.
How can any defendant receive a fair trial if any lawyer admits failure while representing the defendant? How could Cordaro have benefitted from the aggressive advocacy he is guaranteed by law if his own lawyer burned holes in his boots by dragging his feet in court? If Costopoulos “threw up his hands” in defeat after Cordaro rejected a plea agreement, as Kelly charges, how could the system punish Cordaro to the extent to which he is now being punished?
Fairness is a crucial component of justice. Even the most heinous criminal must be afforded fairness in order for justice to survive. In our nation of law, no less is ever acceptable.
The American way must remain something to smile about.
The director of the FBI in Washington calls his special operations team into his office because he’s heard rumblings about political shenanigans in Scranton.
“So what else is new, boss,” the agents say.
Grizzled, smelling of non-filtered Luckies and reeking of bad grooming and Jade East cologne, the agents smirk, slap each other on the back and pass around a bottle of Paddy whiskey.
“Knock it off,” the boss says. “Who knows anything about the mugs on the Scranton school board?”
The agents freeze.
“No, boss, please, not them. Don’t send us up there to deal with them. The school board president is meaner than Dillinger with hemorrhoids. Ma Barker wouldn’t let her kids go to school there. Even the school district PR flack, “Baby-Faced Justin,” lost a loaded gun on the street near an elementary school, a piece he borrowed from his moll while she was running for mayor.
“Hey, knock it off,” the boss says. “We’re the FBI. What’s our motto?”
“We ain’t ascared of no Scranton.”
“That’s the spirit.”
“Now, what’s the story on this school board president Cy Douaihy?” the boss says.
“He publicly disowned his own cousin,” says Agent Y. “Says he doesn’t even know where Lebanon is? Down near Lancaster, he says?”
”Yeah, but she’s still his cousin,” says Agent Z.
“Slick,” the boss says. “Real slick.”
“They claim they did a national search for the school superintendent’s job, $150,000 clams a year, and who turns up as one of the finalists? Douaihy’s long lost cousin. But he swears they’re not related. Then he gets mad at everybody who says she is. His buddies on the board play dumb – and some of them are as dumb as a slate blackboard as it is.”
“Cy even hand-picked the interview committee,” says Agent X.
“Nice touch,” the boss says. “I hear they whittled the finalists down to three. And guess who’s one of the three?”
The special ops agents laugh so hard they almost convulse.
“No, Cy’s cousin.”
“So here’s what we’re gonna do,” the boss says.
“Convene a federal grand jury? Subpoena the whole school? Even the thousand or so politically-connected janitors who work part time?” asks AgentY.
“Convene a state grand jury and subpoena all the guys selling football tickets and taking bets on school property?” asks Agent Z.
“If we can persuade the local DA to take the case.”
“What else, boss? What else?”
“Find out if it’s legal to wire up a Scranton school director. Then send the goof everywhere wired for sound, meeting with vendors, teacher’s union officials, other board members and administrators.”
“Whoa, like shooting fish in a beer barrel,” says Agent X
“Exactly,” the boss says. “Even if we can’t wire somebody we float the rumor that we did, that we wired up three school board members whether we did or not. Before every board meeting these esteemed public servants will all be hugging each other like real cousins, patting each other down, trying to feel the wire, just like in a cheesy Paul Sorvino mob movie. If nothing else they might be petrified to try to pull a fast one.”
“And the people benefit.”
“Yeah, and we will have done it for the children,” the boss says. “Just like real school directors are supposed to do.”
“But maybe we’ll get lucky and really reel somebody in, boss,” says Agent X.
“Reel justice?” says Agent Y.
“That’s already been used,” says Agent Z.
“So we recycle?”
“Right,” says the boss. “Speaking of recycling…” Aw, never mind, that’s a whole other investigation. Okay, lads, hit the streets. See you in Scranton.”
Pennsylvania’s new governor gets pale and weak-kneed at the mere mention of speaking off-the-cuff with newspaper reporters, editors and columnists as well as radio and television broadcast journalists. This dull terror bodes poorly for his - and our - success on the big stage of public service opportunity and, hopefully, state prosperity.
Wolf’s fear is puzzling. Did his timidity contribute to his multi-million-dollar wealth and power? Did paranoia and trembling help him win a heated Democratic primary and eventual victory over a mean-spirited former federal prosecutor and burly governor?
Looks like it.
So imagine what a powerhouse Wolf could become if he develops the chops to take it on the chin when necessary, laugh it off and ask if that’s all we’ve got. Put some teeth in Wolf’s style and maybe he can help us gnaw our way out of a Pennsylvania prison of despair and lead us toward renewal and even good government in the Commonwealth of Corruption.
That’s why I’m inviting Wolf to Corbett’s Gym, a bust ‘em-up, rock ‘em sock ’em training camp for political pugs who truly want to serve the public and help restore the public trust.
Wolf’s absence from the WILK News Radio airways during the primary as well as the general election remains seriously troubling. Wolf ran from us all – my Democratic as well as Republican colleagues. Not once did he call the show or respond to our many invitations to appear and speak to the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania he now represents.
One day when Wolf showed up at a hastily-called gathering in Wilkes-Barre, he high-tailed it from “Karel On The Street.” What did WILK get for Karel’s trouble? I got a weird on-air interview with “Bowzer” from Sha Na Na, who had showed up at the rally in emaciated oldies but goodies character to support Mr. Milquetoast.
C’mon, Wolfie, let the good times roll.
Pennsylvania deserves a leader who’s not afraid to go off-script.
I realize that a cardboard campaign cut-out has more personality than the real deal, but hiding in the back seat of his Jeep will seriously harm Wolf’s ability to do battle with government business sharks, crooked union bosses or special interest lobbyists out to fleece taxpayers and the needy while their profit margins swell with public cash.
That’s why I’m willing to get Wolf in the ring and help teach him all I know about public speaking and even public relations.
First, fire the new press secretary. This is the same guy who blew off and disrespected the press during the campaign. Bowzer would make a better PR flack. Next, make some calls to members of the press – including me – and take whatever heat the most aggressive among us throw at you.
Then take the reins in an aggressive, yet polite, manner. Tell the gas drillers that you’re coming for our money. Jump in the Jeep with a video crew. Drive to Dimock. Wave your boney little fist at a gas rig. Better yet, wave it at a roughneck. And kiss a baby even though the campaign is over. Tell the little bundle of indigestion that he or she will breathe easier now that you’re there to save the day. Tell the rich that you’re one of them but expect you all them to pay. Act like a heroic Bavarian chieftain of old who prefers the peasants over the feathered finery of your peers. Tell the gentry that you’re there to help the poor. Wear a sword if need be.
The press will go wild. I’ll go wild. I’ll even accompany you to gas country in case one of those Confederate roughnecks acts up and you need a Yankee coal cracker to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you on behalf of Pee-Ay people.
Am I dreaming?
You won’t call. You won’t take the jeep to Dimock. You won’t fire the press secretary or stick it to the rich. Your bashful song and dance will likely define you and us as we drift into an uncertain future.
The Scranton School District (SSD) board president must be upset that he won’t get invited to the next family reunion because he says he doesn’t recognize his own cousin. If that isn’t bad enough, Cy might have jeopardized her shot at a fat school district salary and benefits that could help her relocate from Georgia and come home to hard coal country.
That Cy, he’s a real peach all right – the king of hard head country.
Fuming and sputtering that the selection process is now tainted because word leaked that his distant cousin through marriage is a finalist for the job, Cy blames young board member Robert Casey for calling the process corrupt – which it is.
Casey says the selection process is tainted and should start all over again. Since I recommended the very same move on the air Wednesday night, of course, that suggestion sounds good to me.
After suffering more than his own share of tainted integrity, young Casey is now back in the driver’s seat. The last time our young hero found himself in the driver’s seat he rolled a car that didn’t even belong to him and agreed to enter a first-offender’s program for driving under the influence. The kid didn’t even have a driver’s license.
Rehab looks like it might be working for the 24-year-old recovering school board member who should have resigned his seat but chose to stay the course.
The latest dirty SSD joke broke wind about a month ago when the rumor mill kicked into high gear with word that Cy’s distant cousin through marriage was a lock to get the new super’s job. I received a dozen emails about how sides on the board were at each other’s throats and how Cy was throwing his weight around like he was a thick defensive tackle on a bad high school football team trying to bully his way through the line of scrimmage.
So, on January 5, I emailed Cy.
Here’s what I wrote:
Is your cousin from Georgia a finalist for the superintendent’s job? Have you in any way, formally or informally, discussed increasing the superintendent’s salary? Have you spoken with your cousin about this position? Have you spoken with any board members about your cousin or a salary increase for the position? Did you know your cousin applied for the job? Did you encourage her to apply for the job?"
Here’s Cy’s reply:
Neither I nor any other member of the Board is a relative of any of the applicants for the position of Superintendent of Schools. Nobody. As to your other questions; I have had absolutely no communication with any of the candidates. The Board has not discussed the increasing of the salary for the Superintendent's position, and I would be opposed to that move as we are no position financially to do so."
Now that the truth that Cy tried so hard to hide or didn’t understand in the first place has oozed from the inner sanctum of the SSD, he cannot have anything to do with the selection process involving his cousin – or whoever that woman from down south happens to be.
A state ethics investigation at the very least is warranted. Each school board member also must be asked on the record when and how he or she first learned that Cy’s cousin was a candidate for the public service job that pays close to $150,000 a year.
By the way, Cy, as a Scranton taxpayer and property owner, I’m angry too. Lots of people are angry, Cy. And I’ll match a righteous anger produced by the power of the people against your sleazy windbag anger any day.
Raising our glasses that night in an East Scranton bar, we toasted “our Kathleen” Kane and her future political success. Smiling that big black Irish smile of hers, she seemed confident, smart and gutsy enough to pull off the upset we all believed she could.
Not long after that informal meeting, I attended a party loaded with Kane supporters willing to work to help her win state public office. About 100 people cheered when she walked into the room. What a grand campaign it would be.
No, I’m not talking about Kane’s successful run to become Pennsylvania’s first elected Democratic and female attorney general. I’m talking about Kane’s rarely discussed failed plan to take out Democratic Party warlord and veteran state senator Bob Mellow, long before he got indicted, pleaded guilty and went to federal prison.
Just six of us gathered that night in the neighborhood saloon to encourage Kane to challenge Mellow in 2010, supporting her challenge to the feared powerbroker who few people in Northeastern Pennsylvania challenged about anything. Our Kathleen promised she would take the fight to Mellow.
Oh, she had a good reason. Eventually she told a small circle of friends that her husband’s side of the family (the truckling company side) leaned on her because they feared losing a multi-million dollar state liquor hauling contract if she stood against Mellow, a malicious sucker puncher known for getting even at the slightest insult.
But that night of sparkling promise marked my first experience with what has become a pattern for Kane – a desperate political hustler who says one thing and does another – that clouds her judgment and eventually sends her close to the edge.
Kane is walking that edge right now, teetering and staring into the abyss. If she falls, I worry that she’s willing to take us with her. The good citizens she is paid well to represent deserve better. So does her political party.
So I’m asking Kane to resign, leave quietly and come home.
Seek help, maybe counseling – and I don’t mean huddling with crisis manager and celebrity lawyer Lanny Davis or one of the late Mafia don John Gotti’s lawyers, both advisors who have checked into the Kane camp, whom she says she’s personally paying for guidance. Save your money, Kathleen. With the divorce for which you recently filed, you’ll need it. I’m giving you my best advice for free.
I felt sorry for Kane when her family pressured her unfairly. I felt sorry for her that night she walked into the room to rousing applause. Standing by her father, she looked lost, weak, and afraid. Some people have good reason to believe she had already met secretly with Mellow and on bended knee with a tear in her eye promised the vengeful political fixer to never challenge him about anything – not a good sign for a future corruption buster.
Granted, after becoming attorney general she charged Mellow with public corruption in a Turnpike case but a county judge called the case feeble and Kane did not protest. Had the case gone to trial, Mellow’s lawyers strongly hinted that they hoped to capitalize on her past relationship with their client and cite her quest for revenge against her former nemesis.
I feel sorry for Kathleen now. After getting everything she supposedly wanted – power, status, privilege, money and more - she still has very little good to show for her trouble. Divorce, public humiliation by smarter prosecutors, possible indictment, an alleged concussion in a mysterious early morning car accident and maybe even a perp walk if she gets arrested for leaking grand jury testimony all shape a dismal future for her and for us.
If Kane truly cares about Pennsylvania, her hometown West Side Scranton neighborhood where she grew up and even her own sense of self-worth, she should step aside as gracefully as possible, work on healing her paranoid character flaws, commit to getting a simple life back together again and return to the tribe where she still has support. Some loyal neighbors still embrace an old-fashioned image of the woman they call Kathy - lovable, valuable and nice.
At 48, maybe she can salvage some last vestige of innocence in her life.