CorbettCam breathes and smolders and ignites and offers a heated respite from the same cold leftover television news features and alleged commentary that plagues our news at 11.
Television news gets dull and duller. So do the anchors, walking, talking personality disorders who are overpaid and way too impressed with themselves.
CorbettCam takes it to the streets.
News coverage is changing, of course. Online video is all the rage but when it comes to real rage, how many cute kitty cat tales can you swallow before your Youtube clogs and you take a choking fit on 21st Century technology? How much inane babble from young people so hip that it hurts can we take?
Hipsters are posers are inauthentic are doomed. College loan debt has turned them inward. Generation Device is one big dysfunctional app. Listening to them is enough to send anybody off the edge. So, for you young people (20 to 35) too hip for your own good and older people so dull, competitive and ego-driven that their hair must hurt, I bring you CorbettCam – alive and strong and breathing fire from the mountain.
The new feature on WILK TV, accessed by going to wilknewsradio.com, brings you a very real look at the scene of the crime and the grime, a reality-based commentary with satire and action shots, interviews and, of course, my personal brand of commentary that is unlike anything you have ever seen.
That’s why I’m Corbett, painful as my identity can sometimes be. But I’ve worked all my life to become what I am today, for better or for worse. For 62 years I’ve cultivated and reshaped myself so I can deliver local news, commentary and analysis of our community in ways that sometimes even surprises me.
For most of the decades of my journalism career I’ve relied and depended on the written word.
In this new medium, I am spoken word – a cross between a poet and a pirate, a media messiah with a message the powerful often don’t like to hear. Holy CorbettCam, do I like that characterization. Come to me little degenerate corrupt politicians.
Political commentary is, in fact, sacred.
My mission is a crusade.
And you’re part of the drama.
The first CorbettCam adventure, with intrepid videographer to the stars Karel Zubris and Hulk Hogan look-a-like producer/bodyguard Crockett, captured our journey to find the next Scranton mayor.
The race was coal country nasty, pitting Jim “Kiss Me I’m A Deadbeat” Mulligan” against black belt karate “Grand Master” Bill Courtright who absolutely refused to divulge the deep West Side secret teaching that resulted in his alleged 8th degree martial arts ranking.
The video is an award-winner and will be entered in this year’s Canned Film Festival in South Side.
Last week’s video took us to the dark side of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport where landing passenger jets has become a possible “lights out” operation that one day could result in a crash and burn that kills everybody on board because the bad weather landing lights have been out and have not been replaced for at least nine months.
The Federal Aviation Administration, by the way, failed to get back to me o that one.
As financially unstable as Northeastern Pennsylvania has become, the FAA could at least send body bags.
Next week, we’re headed to the sewer for a national Boycott Yuengling beer protest. Or maybe to a homicide scene in Wilkes-Bare – we have 13 so far this year so take your pick. Maybe we’ll visit my fragile Democratic congressman Matt Cartwright to ask why he won’t talk to me anymore after I was his biggest media supporter during the campaign when even powerful Democrats like U.S. Sen. Bobby Casey rooted against him. Or maybe we’ll hunt down federal convict Bob Mellow as he relaxes at the halfway house on our dime.
With CorbettCam, anything is possible.
But I need your help. Let me know where you’d like to send CorbettCam next. If I take your suggestion, I’ll give you a free CorbettCam “You better Listen” t-shirt and you can come to the Canned Film Festival in South Side.
OK, so the festival is still in the planning stages. How about a canned ham? Or canned Spam? Or better yet, canned yams?
So far we’ve got two CorbettCam episodes under our belts. I foresee so many successful future adventures that we’ll be able to run them around the clock on a CorbettCam channel.
Even young people, tweeters as I call them, will one day accept the truth that CorbettCam shall set them free.
As of Tuesday, Election Day of all days, Bob Mellow is on the loose.
Even living in the federally- supervised Scranton half-way house he checked into this week, the admitted federal gangster and degenerate convict poses enough of a public threat to assign a squad of undercover marshals to watch the facility’s doors and windows day and night.
The decision to release the Democratic warlord and former powerful state senator to a facility in the heart of his one-time political kingdom is reckless, foolish and loaded with potential for abuse and, yes, corruption. Mellow once ruled these same streets, reaching his toxic tentacles from the political sewers and gutters of our lives and through the windows and doors and air vents of every city, county and state office building in Scranton.
Now Bob Mellow’s back in town, flashing his feeble pearly whites. Sick as his lawyers claim he is, Mellow’s ready to sink his teeth into everybody and anybody who helped put him in prison or failed to write an letter to the judge when he was ready for departure.
Mellow is still dangerous.
So are his politically-connected lawyers.
Make no mistake about it, even if you see Mellow sweeping floors at St. Peter’s Cathedral up the street from the half-way house, Mellow wants vengeance - no matter what the Lord says.
Only one big obstacle exists. Mellow faces state public corruption charges and is scheduled for trial next year. If convicted, Mellow, 70, could spend the rest of his miserable life behind bars. We’re talking state prison, too, not the soft land of minimum security white collar bottom-feeders with whom Mellow spent his leisure tine in Georgia. We’re talking Philly stick-up men, biker enforcers and psycho rapists – even the occasional demented one-time Harrisburg silk tie wearer.
Mellow actually knows a couple of current cons inside because at least two one-time big-time Democrats from Mellow’s gang of fools are serving time carving ballots out of bars of soap for their own vicious assaults against the public trust.
But who cares about them?
Our Bobby’s home and that’s all that matters.
I wonder what Scranton-native and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane thinks about Mellow’s new mailing address? If you remember, Kane once challenged Mellow for his seat in the Senate. But she quickly crawled on bended knee with a tear in her eye to beg forgiveness for ever thinking about humiliating him with such a threat to his power. I wrote a column about Kane’s secret meeting with Mellow last June. Then I sent the column to the Capitol press corps after sounding the alarm that Kane’s behind-closed-doors meeting with the man whose prosecuting she now leads could derail the case long as Mellow knows what she and he discussed and her own prosecutors don’t. One reporter responded to my emails but nobody wrote about the story.
Kane’s husband’s family still holds the multi-million dollar state liquor contract that they worried Mellow might torpedo if Kane continued with her race to unseat Mellow in the Senate. But Kane got scared and quit. And the champagne bubbles exploded from Scranton to Harrisburg and back again for the politically-connected Kane family.
Even Kane’s PR flack, Joe Peters, a former federal prosecutor and self-proclaimed Mafia buster refused to respond to my concerns. That’s because he’s now part of the problem rather than part of the solution. More people in Scranton are part of the problem than part of the solution that there are made men in the Mafia.
In the absence of attention elsewhere, I’m planning to send my Kane/Mellow column to the judge in the Kane/Mellow case. Rich Lewis knows me from my days raising hell with weekly newspapers in Harrisburg. He was a crack district attorney in Dauphin County so maybe he’ll pay attention.
In the meantime, Mellow is housed in the same building in downtown Scranton that housed former reputed Mafia boss Billy D’Elia, who, after becoming a rat, took a job as an Exeter ice cream scooper when he was released into half-way house custody – or custardy, if you like.
So what kind of job will Mellow take to help pay his debt to society while he lounges at our expense in the Scranton federal frat house? The cathedral sweeper gig sounds lovely. Maybe he can answer phones in the office of his former understudy and now state Sen. John Blake. Maybe Mellow can serve as a political consultant to Scranton mayor-elect Bill Courtright, who says he’s already met with Blake.
In Scranton, where anything can happen and usually does, anything is possible.
By the way, who do I see about getting tickets for the welcome home clambake?
If not, the martial artist who has achieved that rank dishonors the spirit of the practice and must be dealt with. Depending of the degree of the infraction, the offending black belt could lose his or her rank. Honorable teachers have been known to exile outlaw students who have dishonored the style, system or school.
Scranton Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Courtright claims to hold several black belts in various martial arts. As an “8th degree” black belt, Courtright, who owns and operates a karate school in West Side, claims to be one of the highest ranking Tang Soo Do practitioners in the nation.
Karate legend Chuck Norris holds the same black belt ranking as Courtright. Aikido master Steven Seagal holds a 7th degree black belt, one degree shy of Courtright’s accomplishments.
That’s very impressive, sensei.
In his campaign literature and on roadside billboards throughout the city, Courtright stresses “integrity.”
In a city as dishonored by corrupt politicians as Scranton, integrity matters as much as intelligence, organizational skill and governing acumen. Integrity, or the lack of integrity, shapes leadership for better or worse.
But Courtright has refused to respond to my attempts to find out who promoted him to such a high-ranking position in the international karate community. He refuses to name his teacher(s) or provide detail about when and where he received his prestigious ranking.
The questions are simple and relevant, not only to his bid for public office but in his bid for credibility in his business as well. Martial arts students have every right to expect a teacher to be exactly what he or she claims to be. Students are customers and consumer reassurance is the mark of good business. Some karate instructors have been known to defraud students as a way to increase class size and, of course, personal profit.
That’s why, as a long-time martial artist, I advise all martial arts students to verify before paying. Many truly qualified, honorable, teachers exist. So do many dangerous frauds.
Is Courtright the karate expert he claims to be?
Only he can prove the truth.
Yesterday I called a Tang Soo Do teacher near Philadelphia to inquire about rank. He said he has been practicing for about 35 years and teaches as a master – Courtright claims “Grand Master” status on his website, by the way.
The man said he knows many people in the Tang Soo Do community yet he has never heard of Courtright. He referred me to a friend who teaches in Northeastern Pennsylvania and who is a national Tang Soo Do expert, a 6th degree black belt who runs a few dojangs or schools not far from Scranton.
I called that master yesterday and left a message..
Another 6th degree Tang Soo Do master, a well-known and well-respected teacher in Tunkhannock, called the show Tuesday to say that he is concerned about Courtright’s claims. He said he also is concerned that few black belts or anyone else for that matter will call out martial arts instructors who promote themselves or add illegitimate rank to the already crowded notches in their belts.
Such fraud defines dishonor in the martial arts.
Northeastern Pennsylvania is loaded with overblown martial arts egomaniacs. They promote themselves or their friends promote them and they in turn promote their friends. I know one local teacher who promoted one of his dedicated students to a rank higher than the rank the teacher holds.
Impressively-ranked teachers mean more students, more money, more prestige and more power.
But how do students – especially children and their parents – know that they’re receiving the real deal and are not abused.
Politely demand proof.
That’s why Courtright’s refusal to answer my questions sets off alarms about his ability to lead the city let alone his own dojo.
As a “shodan,” a first-degree black belt in aikido, I can and will provide you with my teacher’s name, phone number, email and street address at Full Circle Aikido in Grover Beach, California. If you have any questions about my black belt claim all you have to do is contact my teacher. In fact, I plan to email this column to him as a heads up that he might be receiving inquires.
My teacher’s qualifications and aikido lineage that goes directly to aikido’s founder are easy to obtain as well. Man of honor that he is, I expect that 6th degree aikido instructor Steven Steger will answer all your questions and even tell you that Jesus loves you before hanging up or signing off.
Integrity means everything in martial arts and in life.
That includes the “warrior” who hopes to be the next mayor of Scranton.
Something as seemingly simple as two basic facts still must be investigated thoroughly so that no dispute exists as to the circumstances of Garay’s death.
Perhaps he rolled over on the loaded gun and it misfired. Maybe he shot himself. Maybe somebody else shot hm.
All hypotheticals, each scenario, must be investigated in depth.
This is a matter of life and death.
What is not hypothetical is the stark accusation that police executed Garay, as told by his sister, Veronica, who called “Corbett” last week to make her shocking claims.
Veronica said her brother was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and that he was, indeed, armed the night of his death.
So police were immediately out of line when they say they noticed him with a gun in his waistband and “grabbed” him, according to published reports and attributed to police.
In our Northeastern Pennsylvania gun culture where far too many people are walking around carrying loaded firearms thanks to lax concealed weapons permit policy, would police have grabbed anybody else? Would police have grabbed a white Chamber of Commerce member, a soccer mom or even a militia man with an open carry sidearm walking around in public like he’s living in the old wild West?
I doubt it.
Police can and should usually approach a man or woman with a gun without pulling one. To the best of my knowledge that is standard operating procedure in a gun culture where those who carry guns legitimately argue that they are mostly law-abiding citizens there to help when times turn violent and bullets fly.
Veronica said that she possesses a surveillance video – a video she gave to friends for safe keeping because she fears retribution - that shows her brother walking into her mother’s house alone. The video, she said, then shows an officer coming through the gate and walking into her mother’s house without announcing that police were on the scene or asking permission to enter.
Veronica said her mother witnessed her son’s killing as police fired a second bullet into his head as he lay dying in his mother’s arms. Garay’s mother suffered a heart attack last week in the aftermath of the madness, Veronica said.
District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis has told the press that she expects to have the results of the police investigation into the fatal shooting by Friday.
I wonder if that’s not too soon.
Tension grips Hazleton in the wake of Garay’s death in a city already much too tightly wrapped because of the well-deserved reputation city officials have as being less than sensitive to its significant and increasing Latino population.
Garay was of Puerto Rican heritage.
I don’t know the police officer’s race but in Hazleton it’s fair to say that he is not Latino, African-American or Asian. The cop is likely of Western European heritage – a white cop in a white town that resists change – sometimes to the death.
Latinos in Hazleton already get the brunt of unfair criticism for an increasing crime rate. People tend to forget when La Costra Nostra organized crime ruled the city and other Western European ethnic groups contributed to drunk and disorderly violence, including murder.
People should always remember that a 16-year-old boy died not that many decades ago in a Hazleton car bombing when he was mistaken for a mobster.
But a police shooting is always different. People who already do not trust police deserve to be reassured that police are on their side, that the search for justice is part of the community conscience and that cover-ups, bribes, kickbacks, unconstitutional public policy and overt threats and intimidation of good people is a thing of the past.
A public meeting might help. The good people of Hazleton need to speak up about their fears and concerns.
Veronica said that her brother did not have a police record. And, if he did possess a government issued concealed weapons permit, that fact alone should attest to his clean record.
Jonathon Garay, according to those who knew him, was the kind of person who would have attended a public meeting to address a growing crime rate and violence in his city and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with those who want peace. But he won’t be at the meeting if one is held.
About eight months ago Pittston Township police confirmed for me that they had confiscated about 50 pounds of marijuana from a nationally branded warehouse in a local industrial park.
An alert news source of mine who was listening to a police scanner heard the call and let me know about the dope.
A nice township police officer even stopped by WILK News radio to confirm the find and tell me that the investigation was continuing.
The war on drugs continued and I slept soundly that night knowing that township police were on the job.
I also figured that this was as good a time as any to do something I’ve wanted to do for decades – track the confiscation and disposal of drugs by police who are frontline public servants with great responsibility to uphold the public trust.
And fifty pounds of weed is a great test of the public trust.
So I waited. And about a month ago I called the new Pittston Twp. police chief and asked about the marijuana. Yes, he said, he remembered hearing about the case and the confiscated “52 pounds” of marijuana even though he was not on the job when the bust went down. And, yes, the chief said, he would have the investigating officer call me to bring me up to date on the case and the marijuana.
The officer never called.
So I called the chief and left a message.
The chief never returned my call.
We originally had a nice conversation. He said he was a retired trooper with the state police and we talked about raising standards in police work and other niceties about an often grueling and deadly job.
I thought it very odd that he didn’t return my call – or the three subsequent calls and messages I left for him with a dispatcher and on his voicemail.
In my last message I informed the chief that I would have to take my inquiry to a higher level.
Still, no response.
What was going on?
Did police still possess an intact “52” pounds of marijuana? Why was it so difficult to tell me that they had the drugs and that I could stop by and see the bale? Why create questions in an already mysterious situation? Was something awry?
Maybe somebody in the Pittston Twp. government told the chief not to speak with me, I thought. I have not had the best relationship with former township police chief and current supervisor Steve Rinaldi, who once told me he had acted as a personal concealed weapons permit reference for a reputed Mafia don because “he’s my friend.”
But the new chief came highly recommended. A longtime law enforcement source told me he was a good cop and a one-time solid boxer..
OK, so why cut off my good faith inquiries? Satisfactorily answering my questions would only make the department look good - assuming everything was on the up and up with the weed, that is./
I’ve heard in the past week or so that the chief requested a Luzerne County court order that is required to destroy the marijuana. But when I called the county courthouse recently nobody could find the order.
An attorney with whom I spoke said township officers could hold onto the “evidence” as long as the case is an open case, which I understand the case to be. To the best of my knowledge nobody has been charged in the case and nobody knows who sent the dope or who was supposed to pick it up.
But if the case is open and township police have held on to the marijuana for eight months, why request a court order to destroy it about the same time I started asking questions?
No newspaper story appeared about the big haul, either. Local cops love to spread illegal drugs across a table and pose in their best paramilitary gear with the evidence like they’re international drug agents whose lives should be portrayed on the big screen rather than local cops stuck in a musty police station in hard coal country.
What’s going on here?
I thought about calling the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA keeps an office in Scranton. But I don’t trust the DEA. A Wilkes-Barre local cop assigned to the local DEA office wrote a letter trying to influence a federal judge to go easy on an admitted criminal former cop buddy who pleaded guilty to public corruption charges.
DEA “standards” leave a lot to be desired.
So I plan to call Luzerne County District Attorney Stephanie Salavantis. I’ll also email her this column and ask if I need to file a complaint in order to find out where 52 pounds of marijuana worth almost $100,000 happens to be.
I want proof, too. I’m sorry to say that it’s no longer good enough to take police at any level at their word. The public trust in Northeastern Pennsylvania has all but destroyed and restoration efforts are not going well.
Show me the marijuana.
Let me photograph it, weigh it and get confirmation that it is in fact marijuana and not oregano.
Then please explain why I had to jump through hoops in order to simply tell good, law-abiding citizens in our community that they can trust the Pittston Twp. cops.
The photograph on the front page of the Sunday Times People page immediately caught my eye.
Standing and smiling, West Scranton High School’s teenage “Miss Invader” posed in the uniform she wears for school spirit activities during her school’s football games. The concept of Miss Invader is a time-honored “tradition” in West Side that is meant to instill school spirit and encourage support for the home team.
The child in the picture clutched a gun.
The rifle was a mock gun, of course, sculpted the way wooden rifles have been shaped for generations of high school band front twirlers who show off their hand-eye-coordination skills to stands full of cheering fans.
The band front girls in their white boots held wooden rifles at my high school when I played football in 1968.
But that was then.
This is now.
In the meantime, dozens of children have died at schools across the nation as a result of real guns fired by real invaders who assaulted everything that’s holy in America.
The age of innocence has left the high school field.
As carnage and gunfire once again erupted yesterday at an American military installation on American soil, we faced the grim spectrum of what to do in the aftermath. That means fighting the glorification of guns in all aspects of our culture. That also means prying little fingers from toy guns as a way to try to spread the appeal of non-violence over weapons.
As the impact of yesterday’s slaughter spread, I tried my best to hold a reasonable discussion about the impact Most people had little to say about the attack at the Navy Yard that killed 12 and gravely wounded others. But when I brought up Miss Invader, you’d have thought I had launched an assault against West Side all by myself.
“How dare you!” read a text message. “The bodies aren’t even cold in DC and you’re attacking our children. How dare you!”
I wasn’t attacking anybody.
I was challenging adults – school board members, principals, teachers, parents and other concerned citizens who are responsible for supervising and guiding our children in the face of a continuing madness fueled by arms and ammunition. I was asking grown men and women in charge of our schools to reflect on the terrible times in which we live and do their best to wisely shape young, impressionable minds. I was holding up a broken mirror to a hard community that needs to think a little deeper about the message we provide to children about what is right and what is wrong
And putting a fake rifle in the hands of a young girl is wrong.
But she never points the gun at anybody, said a caller in defense of Miss Invader.
That’s reassuring, I said.
She just dances with it, the caller said.
She just dances with it, I thought.
In this day and age, how could school administrators approve the appearance of an impressionable child on the 50-yard line to dance with a blue stars and sequin-covered rifle as a show of “patriotism” and school spirit?
Another caller said he simply hadn’t thought about the matter before.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
I’m thinking about it and want you to think about it
Reconsider the “good old days” (that weren’t all that good for countless people) when you played in the band or strutted or cheered or played high school football and America somehow seemed innocent – even though innocence has never blessed America.
How dare you not rethink your position?
I asked a caller yesterday if he thought the children at Columbine would appreciate gun-dancing school spirits at their next home football game.
“They’re all dead, aren’t they?” the caller responded with senseless bitter arrogance in his voice.
Put down the gun, West Scranton.
Arm yourself and your children with an abundance of peace and love and real education – the kid of learning that leads to thinking and feeling and living – the kind that stops abruptly in a flesh and blood spatter as soon as a shooter puts a bullet in the head of the next vulnerable school child.
Except for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s – for that matter the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s - pathological pattern, our history of heart-stopping, political and public corruption, I have no evidence to support my worrisome theory.
Nonetheless I worry that admitted federal felon and degenerate criminal Rob Mericle will never see a day behind bars, wire or any other kind of protective barrier intended to teach him and us a lesson.
I worry that somebody up there is protecting him.
And I don’t mean God.
If a supreme being exists, that mighty force would strike somebody down, refusing to stand for the delay in sentencing Mericle, a mult-millionaire industrial real estate baron and politically philanthropic/philanderer who seems to get richer each day.
More than ever before, Mericle’s cache of credibility grows among our supposedly best and brightest business and “public service” leaders.
They all know he’s a gangster.
But their own greed deludes their thinking, poisons their integrity and challenges the rest of us to say and do something about it. Most people are powerless in the face of such an attack. I wield some power to influence thinking and inspire action but not enough to translate into much of anything that will put Mericle in prison.
I’m also concerned that former state Sen. Ray Musto will also escape justice because of his political and business connections. Federal prosecutors reassure us that they need Mericle to testify as a star witness against Musto, a one-time powerful political warlords and benefactor to many.
I worry that somebody up there, and I don’t mean God, is looking out for his – not our - best interest.
Musto, ever since a grand jury indicted the eighty-six-year-old Depression-style hustler on political corruption charges, has maintained his innocence. He howled that he wanted his day in court. He told me in a hallway at the federal courthouse in Scranton that he would love to sit with me and talk about what led him to this terrible place and that one day we could do just that.
When our paths crossed years ago, Musto would always tell me to give him a call or just stop by his Pittston office and maybe “we could have a sandwich.”
The last time we talked, though, I called his house and asked why he was spotted smiling, shaking hands and offering hugs all around at a local gambling casino when his lawyers were filing briefs claiming that a courtroom appearance would kill him because he’s too sick and feeble to withstand such an emotional ordeal.
We haven’t spoken since then. I believe he’s changed his telephone number,.
I know of no other way to say this but I worry that somebody in the highest reaches of government and business – which, in hard coal country is the same – is protecting Mericle and Musto.
Somebody doesn’t seem to want either man to go to prison – assuming Musto is convicted, of course.
And I have to ask why?
What do they know that could hurt others? What skeletons are they preparing to bring into the open? Who can they sink?
I am not alone in worrying that the deck is purposely stacked in their favor. But the odds do not seem to favor law-abiding citizens who are fast losing faith in the system and in the supposedly sacred public trust.
Mericle, far more than the still beloved Musto, has achieved a kind of acclaim in the face of disgrace that I have never seen.
The once-prestigious Wyoming Seminary in Kingston – just blocks from where the late Mafia boss Russell Buffalno lived, by the way – recently accepted Mericle’s help in building a new athletic field and were so grateful that they named the field after him. A grand ceremony is planned for later this month to honor his good character and community service.
So while Wyoming Seminary’s elite supposedly shapes young minds to help shape a better future, they choose to overlook Mericle’s central role in the “Kids For Cash:” horror where two Mericle fiends/ friends, sold children into slavery for money – two million dollars of which came from Mericle.
A “finder’s fee,” Mericle and his lawyers call his contribution. Yeah, it was a finder’s fee all right – Luzerne County gangster judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan found children crying and afraid and sold them into a lifetime of despair – at least one of which ended in suicide.
Ciavarella and Conahan went away - 28 and 17 ½ years respectively.
Mericle walked away.
Now, at the annual Wilkes-Barre family YMCA dinner, where sitting Luzerne County judge Bill Amesbury – elected to help us heal in the aftermath of the terror that went before – shares a seat with Mericle on the board of directors, more dangerous fools prepare to present a “leadership” award in Mericle’s name.
Four years after pleading guilty in federal court, in the eyes of too many people who should know better, Mericle is more of a model citizen than ever.
Is some judge or prosecutor or elected official protecting him? Is somebody protecting Musto? Is somebody protecting them both?
The restoration of the public trust remains the biggest obstacle to progress in Northeastern Pennsylvania. As far as hurdles to a better future are concerned, this one might be insurmountable.
Neither President Barack Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden ventured anywhere near addressing our toxic political corruption when they grinned their way through flat speeches last Friday at Lackawanna College.
Biden didn’t even seem to realize that he wasn’t at a real “community college,” but at a college in the community – a two year football factory whose benefactors and “leaders” are as mired in political patronage, cronyism and corruption as you can get.
Former state Sen. Bob Mellow, the honorary father of the college and mentor to the former and current college president, is currently in federal prison awaiting trial on new state charges that could lock him away for life.
Other than the organized crime of illegal sports betting, political power among the connected remains the cornerstone industry in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and all the little one-time coal patch towns in between. As smart as Obama and Biden are presumed to be, they either don’t know or choose to ignore the ongoing attacks that corrupt business and political armies launch against our future.
The Mafia, violent labor unions and crooked congressmen shaped our destiny. In the “good old days,” when the Italians, Irish and Polish openly hated each other and factories offered oppressive jobs that at least paid the bills, we united in our common dislike of foreigners, blacks, “Japs”, hippies and anybody else who didn’t welcome the Blessed Mother as the only acceptable female CEO - as long as she knew her place and didn’t try to sneak into the male-only Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick’s dinner.
For the record, Biden once attended.
Yet, hope reared its ugly head in 2011 when “liberal” congressional candidate Matt Cartwright announced his intent to face off against the conservative Democratic status quo that divided and ruled our lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
In a stunning upset, Cartwright toppled a longtime incumbent.
Then, almost overnight, Cartwright turned company man.
In a simple, yet crucial request for his help, we asked Cartwright to stand with us in stripping Mellow’s name from a public park. The Democratic Party warlord is still feared and held in high esteem by many of those he betrayed, people who understood how Mellow controlled politics in the coal fields and beyond for decades. To this day, nobody more than Mellow embodies the spreading poison that defines hard coal country politics.
But Cartwright turned down our simple and noble request. All we wanted was for him to publicly stand with us and say that the restoration of the public trust matters immensely, that removal of the offensive name of a gangster from a park where children play is the right thing to do.
But Cartwright is a hustler lawyer who clearly understands that if he expects to be re-elected he will need cash campaign contributions from the very same powerful business and political “leaders” who backed his opponent and opposed him in the primary, people Cartwright now considers his friends, mind you.
They matter more than us - perhaps an unforgivable sin.
Even Mary might have a tough time swallowing Cartwright’s weak-kneed stunt.
Us vs. them remains the name of the game.
Yet, after more than 30 pillar-of-the-community-model-citizen-elected-and-apppointed-public officials either pleaded guilty or were convicted after federal jury trials, people tell me they are worried about more of the same.
Peter Smith, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, has seemingly abandoned us. OK, maybe future indictments are in the works. But it’s very difficult if not impossible to obtain simple updates when we ask about cases, the task force probe or offer tips for future inquiries.
People tell me that they once again feel lost, forsaken and used, there for the taking by a new generation of thieves and political cartel members. The public trust, rather than coming back to life with a vengeance, is dying a slow death,
Expect multi-millionaire real estate developer and admitted federal felon Rob Mericle to take a VIP seat at the funeral.
Four years have passed since Mericle pleaded guilty to political corruption for his role in the internationally infamous “Kids for Cash” scandal in which Mericle’s county judge friends sold children into slavery for profit.
Federal prosecutors claim they need Mericle to testify against Ray Musto, another allegedly corrupt former state senator who is, of course, charged with political corruption, and argues that he is innocent, wants his day in court but is too old and sick to go to trial.
As hard as it might be to believe, Mericle’s reputation in powerful political and business circles remains golden. Mericle has yet to be sentenced and remains a bigger wheeler and dealer than he was before he got busted.
The message is clear that crime pays and indictment is just the cost of doing business in our rough little part of America. Most of our political gangsters don’t get caught. Those who do,
even with a prison sentence, get canonized by locals who believe that if they stole they stole for us.
Assuming that Mericle one day does get sentenced, don’t be surprised if he asks the Blessed Mother to write a letter to the judge on his behalf.
Will she comply?
As the late legendary local Mafia boss Russell Bufalino once said, “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might tend to incriminate me.”
We in Northeastern Pennsylvania have been treated - or mistreated if you like - to more than our share of appearances by Barack Obama and his faithful goofy sidekick, Joe Biden.
We who live in Scranton – five generations on my father’s side of the family walking the streets – are even more fortunate – or unfortunate, if you like.
I’m tired of this deceptive dynamic duo coming to town. Obama and Biden are more dangerous than zombies at an Irish wake, more boring than a Lackawanna County commissioners’ meeting and far more expensive than a roomful of hookers in the old Central City red light district.
No madam ever had the regal comforts of Air Force One and Air Force Two waiting on the tarmac after a full day of tricks. But our celebrity tricksters will fly off into the sunset after whatever damage they inflict on our common sense.
Still, duplicity can be fun.
You’ll survive tomorrow’s visit by this pair as long as you understand what Obama and Biden are doing to us and not for us.
They’re here for themselves and not for us. They’re here to use, abuse, manipulate and wield power for a select few who will likely flank them on the stage -fellow Democrats such as rookie U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (up for re-election) and whatever gaggle of local pathological Democrats the party faithful can line up.
All will curtsy at the appropriate moment and kiss the ring that is offered, making this reunion a cross between meeting the Queen and the Pope. Some Scranton Democrats consider Obama and native son Biden more lavish than royalty and papal authority put together.
I, too, consider them royalty all right – a royal pain in the arse.
And I’m a Democrat.
Not all of us fall for the sad road show that has played here time and again – a staged appearance by professional hucksters who have more in common with the robber barons of old than with the people whose ancestors toiled in industrial era factories, worked sweltering iron furnaces and dug coal in the black hell holes.
Obama and Biden are masters at playing the middle and working-class for suckers, lining up gullible union officials and other pasties who believe with all their heart that they can find the pea after Obama shuffles the shells.
I’ve seen it all before.
After I became progressively more critical of Obama during the 2008 primary, his handlers kept me out of a campaign rally at a local factory. They could have easily let me in but told me I was a few minutes late. Then they let the guy delivering sandwiches through the press gate.
But Biden’s unforgivable behavior put me over the top.
After the 2011 hurricane, he embarrassed a flood victim in his own Duryea home, ordering the man to rebuild his home after the man made one of the most difficult decisions in his life. Jimmy Pliska decided to walk away from the family homestead because he had rebuilt before and the money wasn’t there and his family had already been through too much.
Noticing my glare, Biden told me it was OK to smile and called me “Dr. Death” because of the grimace I wore that paled in comparison to his capped toothy trademark grin and his delusional sense of reality.
The local scene remains no laughing matter.
Northeastern Pennsylvania maintains the highest unemployment rate in the state. Our colleges and universities – including private two-year Lackawanna College a political nest of patronage and other ethics breaches where Obama and Biden will appear - are graduating students who are not equipped to even comprehend the road map on their way out of town to find work that will take them and pay a living wage.
Biden’s father even fled the area after failing to find work in the years following World War II.
When it comes to wages and opportunity, life has become worse for too many people in the ensuing 60 or so years after the war to end all wars.
But Scranton is supposed to welcome Barack and Biden with laughter and a humble peasant smile that displays great appreciation for their thinking enough of us to come and use us once again for their own nefarious purposes, groveling before the rulers in exchange for whatever moldy crumb of hope and change they might provide.
By the way, I believe Biden still owes my cash-strapped city that is on the brink of financial ruin money for the extra security the city police provided when he showed up to ruin the July 4 fireworks last year.
Biden didn’t even stay for the display.
That’s gratitude for you.
So don’t expect a welcome home from this lad, whose grandfather immigrated to Scranton from Ireland to mine coal. I’m still waiting for Biden’s apology for lying about having family members who worked in the coal mines.
As for Barack, I’m concerned that his ego might motivate him to order a drone strike on the college.
If he does, he knows that some Scranton Democrats will applaud his vision in wiping out potential delinquent college loans.