Saturday, October 17, 2009

Judge Peter Paul Olszewski

I have been very reluctant to talk, let alone write about what I am about to tell you. In light of the controversy now swirling around Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., I feel it is incumbent upon me to break a more than decade old silence.

On March 31, 1999 while I served as the Director of Voter Services for Luzerne County, I was asked to commit a crime. The crime was the anonymous gifting of a contribution to the campaign finance committee of two candidates for a Luzerne County office. It is not illegal to contribute to a campaign. The contribution however, may not be made anonymously.

Within an hour of the solicitation, I contacted then District Attorney Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr. to ask for a meeting. Two hours later, I reported the solicitation to Mr. Olszewski and First Assistant District Attorney Daniel Pillets. Mr. Olszewski told me that because he was a candidate for Luzerne County Judge, he would refer the matter to an outside agency to avoid even the slightest appearance of a conflict of interest.

Within days of that meeting I met (on separate occasions) with representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

I co-operated in an investigation.

For a number of reasons I will not go into here, the investigation did not succeed.

If you understood the ramifications of this investigation, you would know that Mr. Olszewski guided me through this process at enormous personal, political and professional risk.

In the interest of full disclosure, before he became District Attorney, Mr. Olszewski represented me in a civil matter.

For these reasons, I will vote "yes" to retain Judge Peter Paul Olszewski as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Beer Summit

Much has been written and said about "The Beer Summit" held at the White House this week. Much curiousity surrounds the attendance of Vice President Joseph Biden. Much ado about nothing. The Vice President wasn't there to offer perspective or even to support his boss. He was there for one reason and one reason only. Without him the picture would be of two black men and a white guy. And because those black men were the first African-American President and a celebrated African American scholar and professor and the white man was a working stiff cop, well you can figure out the rest. Vice President Biden was added for balance, Plain and simple. Because that is the REAL reason for Mr. Biden's appearance, we still have a long way to go.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Don't Quit Your Day Job.

Dear Mr. President, I didn't vote for you, but I support you and unlike some of the other people who didn't cast their vote for you, I really want you to succeed. I watched the Baseball All-Star Game last night and I saw you throw out the first pitch. I did so with much anticipation. Mr. President, with all due respect, please don't do that again. You throw like a girl, a nancy, a big time sissy mary.
It was pretty apparent that FOX had a clue this wasn't going to be pretty. Instead of shooting the pitch from the center field camera, we saw a close-up of you; field level third base side. We at home weren't sure your pitch made it to home plate. But then you pumped your first and well everything was OK.
But it wasn't.
I was on the phone with my son KC almost immediately. He too was surprised we didn't see the pitch to the plate. And then we found out why.
Your pitch didn't make it to the plate. A very gracious Albert Pujols plucked it off the ground with an out stretched glove.
Two things bothered me deeply. First you said you practiced in the Rose Garden of the White House. With whom did you practice? Was it a newly appointed Baseball Czar? Did the Czar tell you, you were ready. You may want to reconsider that appointment. You weren't ready.
Secondly, on your way to the game in St. Louis, you stopped in Michigan and picked up Willie Mays to take him to the game.
The Greatest Living Baseball Player WILLIE MAYS!
He gave you advice. He said, "Follow through." You got advice from Willie Mays and didn't take it. You couldn't have. That pitch was just terrible.
Now you did have some big shoes to fill. President George W. Bush threw a bee-bee to the plate to start the 2001 World Series in New York. It was a seminal moment for baseball and the country after 9/11. He threw a perfect strike. And he was wearing forty-five pounds of body armor under his jacket. Don't tell me he had an advantage because he used to own a baseball team. Like your pitch, "that ain't gonna fly."
And while I'm at it, what was the deal with the White Sox jacket? It did give the spinmeisters a reason to blame the smattering of boos on the jacket. But let's face it, we all know better.
Mr. President, if you get a chance to flip the coin at the Super Bowl, do it. Drop the puck on the Stanley Cup Finals, yes sir. You could even shoot threes at the NBA All-Star Game. But please Sir, I beg you. Don't throw out the first pitch at a baseball game ever again...ever.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ed, Farrah, Michael

They say these things come in threes. Isn't it ironic that in a week that should have been his own, Ed McMahon will end up playing "second," if not "third banana?" Say the name "Ed" and you wouldn't think of McMahon. But say, "Johnny and Ed" and there is no doubt about whom you are talking. "Farrah" stands on her own. Say, "Michael" and this generation is likely to think "Jordan" not "Jackson." I was a little too old to get caught up in the Farrah frenzy. I liked the Jackson Five more than Michael Jackson. If I had to count which of these three performers put a smile on my face time and time again, I'd have to go with Ed McMahon.
Yes Virginia, I'm getting old.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Bailout!

From MSNBC...Senate Democrats defeated a Republican effort to kill a $1 billion "cash for clunkers" program that provides government incentives of $3,500 to $4,500 to car buyers who trade in old gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles. But in passing the bill on June 18 as an add-on to funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democrats also defeated the "green" wing of their own party, who wanted to do much more to favor the purchase of passenger cars over pickup trucks and SUVs. The bill, which President Barack Obama is expected to sign, will enable many consumers who take advantage of the program to buy trucks that are barely more fuel-efficient than their old guzzlers. If this idea sounds familiar, may I refer you to a post on this blog from November, 2008. ( The program was right. The amount was wrong. If Congress needs any additional help, please use the e-mail address listed below

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Fallen Hero

On Friday, Northeastern Pennsylvania said good-bye to Pennsylvania State Trooper Josh Miller. Trooper Miller was shot and killed in the line of duty.

I was able to watch and listen to much of his funeral service. It was most impressive.

I was struck by the generosity of his family. They allowed us in. They allowed us to share their grief. Perhaps it was their way of allowing us to share the burden.

On my weekend rounds, I drove Exeter Avenue in West Pittston. There I found American flags lining the street. It was just a small part of the route Trooper Miller took to his final resting place. There were hundreds of flags. Maybe thousands. Young people from Wyoming Area High School decorated tree lawns on Thursday as a tribute to Miller.

Isn't it interesting that one symbol, the American flag, is used to illustrate our greatest pride and our deepest grief.

On this Flag Day we remember, lest we forget.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Frank Harrison 1940-2009

Above: Frank Harrison, M.C., Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Speaker of the House, Your blog editor.

Attorney Frank Harrison died this past week. He passed away in Galveston, Texas. Frank came out of the 1982 Primary as the Democratic nominee for Congress in Pennsylvania's 11th District and easily defeated Jim Nelligan in that year's election. Harrison was defeated in the 1984 Primary by Paul Kanjorski who serves in the congressional seat to this day. Frank became the "fair haired" boy of the Democratic Freshmen Class of '82. Because of it, he was able to bring in the "big guns" for his re-election effort. One of those guns was Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the House. The above picture was taken in the backroom of the Peking Chef Restaurant on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre during a live shot on WBRE-TV 28.

I got to know Frank while I was the News Director at WILK-AM. Each Primary and Election, Harrison would co-anchor our election coverage with the late, great Dr. Roy E. Morgan. In 1980, the Luzerne County Commissioners decided to end the long standing practice of tabulating results on Election Night. WILK Engineer Ron Balonis developed a computer program and WILK tabulated the results. Using those results and Frank's bellwether precincts, WILK was the first to declare an upset win by Republican Jim Nelligan in the 1980 11th District Congressional race. Before you go saying, "so what," remember this was 1980 and computers just didn't do then what they do now.

Harrison was always a gentleman and always brilliant. One lousy campaign in 1984 sealed his fate and I often wonder what things would have been like if Harrison had been re-elected. Would Frank Harrison have been the man standing in the middle in the picture above?

RIP, old friend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

And Justice For All...

First let's put to rest the argument that the way we elect Common Pleas Court Judges in Pennsylvania is non-partisan. It is not. It's bi-partisan. That's a big difference. The Democratic and Republican Parties chose their nominees for Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge in yesterday's Municipal Primary. Three candidates, William Amesbury, Tina Polachek Gartley and Richard Hughes will face off in November's Municipal Election. (By the way it's a Municipal Election, not a General Election.)

Only voters registered in the Democratic and Republican Parties could vote for the nominees. Voters registered in other parties could not vote for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.

When you look at the total vote cast in the Primary, a slightly different picture emerges. Here is the order of finish combining the entire vote for each candidate.

1. Amesbury 15, 087
2. Gartley 11, 620
3. Sklarosky 10, 695
4. Musto 9, 779
5. Zola 8, 394
6. O'Connor 8, 148
7. Sperazza 8, 124
8. Hughes 7, 343

Rogers, Marsilio, Buffalino, Mirabito, Blazick, Terrana, Lumbis, Menn and Pendolphi follow in order.

Here's a suggestion on how to improve the process so that it more accurately reflects the will of the electorate. Eliminate the bi-partisan Primary. Replace it with a non-partisan runoff open to ALL voters.

In the non-partisan runoff all candidates would run on one ballot. There would not be a Democratic ballot and a Republican ballot. The number of nominations available would be twice the number of vacancies. In Luzerne County's case, the field would be narrowed to four candidates in the Judicial Primary runoff. There would not be Democratic or Republican nominees. There would be four candidates facing off in the Judicial Election runoff; the top four finishers in the Primary runoff.

The candidates would appear on the ballot with their political party registration. For example; Amesbury (D), Hughes (R). Candidates who do not belong to either of the major parties could also file nominating petitions for the Primary runoff. A candidate from the Green Party could be on the ballot providing she or he obtained the signatures of Green Party registered voters. The number of signatures would be the same for all candidates.

If this procedure was followed in this primary, four candidates would have emerged; Amesbury, Gartley. Sklarosky and Musto. With what could be three vacancies on the Luzerne County Bench in 2011, candidates Zola, O'Connor and Sperazza could make strong cases to Governor Ed Rendell for the interim appointments to the Court. The big asterisk in all of this of course is adding in the votes of those who were unable to participate yesterday because they were not registered as Democrat or Republican.

The runoff Primary could and should be used in School Board and Magisterial District Judge races as well. Double the number of vacancies to get the number of candidates who would square off in the November Election. Five School Board vacancies? Ten top finishers in the runoff move on.

The runoff could even be used in municipal races for Mayor, Council and Township Supervisor. The argument would be made that in towns where one party dominates the registration, you could see all Democrats or all Republicans squaring off in November. Sure the possibility exists, but in all likelihood the process would open up for minority party and even third party candidates.

Those seeking office would have to seek the popular vote and not just speak to the voters of their party.

Perhaps by counting all the votes, we could achieve justice for all.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dr. George "Middle Initial E" Hudock

I've searched the web for a picture of Luzerne County's late Coroner, Dr. George E Hudock to add to this. Couldn't find one. The title of this post comes from "Doc's" testimony in any number of cases. When being sworn in, Doc would be asked to state his name. "Dr. George, "middle initial E" Hudock."

Reading a post by fellow blogger and friend Vince Sweeney triggered this memory.

The year was 1973 or 1974. I was working as the weekend newscaster at WILK-AM in downtown Wilkes-Barre. A call came over the police radio for a body found on the sidewalk outside the Hotel Sterling. I hadn't covered many stories first hand and this was an opportunity, so I grabbed my trusty cassette recorder and ran the one block down to the Sterling.

Arriving, I saw a body covered with a cloth. And there stood the Luzerne County Coroner Dr. George Hudock. It was the first time I saw him in person. Over the years, we would meet hundreds of times. I fact, a posting on YouTube of a WDAU-TV promo includes tape of me at a crime scene with Doc and Wilkes-Barre Police Chief Joe Coyne in the background. (But I digress.)

The body that was covered was that of an elderly woman who had apparently jumped to her death from a window.

I introduced myself and asked Doc for an interview. He didn't know me and asked if I was new. Of course I said yes. He smiled.

I then started my tape recorder and began asking questions.

"Doctor, can you tell me the cause of death?"

"Well, I've narrowed it down to deceleration trauma or concrete poisoning."

As my tape recorder rolled, I began writing "deceleration..."

A couple of police officers standing nearby began to laugh. I realized then I was being had.

Doc never broke.

"So," I said, "You're saying she died from the fall?"

"No." Doc said, "She died from the landing."

True story.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Forgive me, but the next couple of days are going to be all about Harry Kalas. I've cried like this two other times in my life; when my Dad died and when Terry McNulty died. Then I smiled and laughed today when my friend Andy Palumbo e-mailed the above. Thanks AP.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry the K

"We have lost our voice," said Philadelphia Phillies President David Montgomery. Harry Kalas has died. He was 73.

My son KC called with the news. His voice cracked with emotion. Baseball is our great love and we shared a love of Harry Kalas. He knew the news would hit me hard and it did.

I didn't know Harry. I met him once in 1980 at the Phillies Caravan in Wilkes-Barre. I asked for an autograph. Harry signed a picture of those participating in the Carvan and asked, "Who can I make this out to?" Too embarassed to say it was for me, I asked that he make it out to my sister. He was very kind.

When you love baseball and love a team, you cannot help but be drawn to that team's broadcasters. I loved listening to Harry and Riche Ashburn call Phillies games. I was fortunate to meet Ashburn too. When I interviewed, "Whitey," I asked him about his relationship with Kalas. Ashburn broke into a wide smile and said, "We're something else aren't we?" We both laughed.

For Christmas, KC gave me the Phillies 2008 World Championship DVD. Harry called the final inning. As I write this, the Phillies Radio Network is replaying that call. I'm blubbering like a baby.

Yesterday, I switched between the Phillies game and the Masters. I heard Harry call his final game; The Chase Utley home run, the Matt Stairs home run. I am grateful.

Phillies games will never be the same for me. Of course I said that when Ashburn died. But I had Harry the K to hang on to. Now he's gone.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Uncommon Decency

When WYOU-TV 22 pulled the plug on its news operation last week, several lost their jobs. You could understand how some would be bitter. The man who served the longest was the one who was least bitter. Of all of the surprises of the last week, David DeCosmo's reaction was the least surprising.
I met David in 1973 when he hired me to do the weekend news on WILK AM. I was inexperienced, but Dave took a chance on me. I am forever grateful.
We parted professional company a few years later when David moved on to another radio station's management, only to be reunited at WYOU in 1986. I was fortunate to learn at the feet of a man who has forgotten more news than most in this market could ever hope to know. I could write a book on what Dave taught me.
There's a reason the Professional News Media Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania recognized him with a Lifetime Achievement Award almost three decades ago. David DeCosmo is a pro.
There is something that David could not teach. Something you would have to learn by watching. That something is decency; uncommon decency. I cannot write an adequate description of it. Anybody who is fortunate enough to know him and his family understands it.
In a business sometimes overwhelmed by massive egos, Dave was the one guy who kept it all in perspective. He was NEVER bigger than the story. The story always came first.
In all that's been written in the last week, the thing most striking to me is Dave's concern for his co-workers; not himself.
He's been a colleague, mentor and friend and my life has been forever enriched by knowing him.
I am sorry that Dave didn't get a chance to bow out under his own terms and allow his friends and fans to pay tribute to him.
Maybe that's because he hasn't yet written his sign off.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


WYOU-TV News (nee WDAU News) of Scranton, a once proud beacon of broadcast journalism in Northeastern Pennsylvania, died not so unexpectedly on Friday April 3, 2009 at 2:00 PM in Wilkes-Barre.
It had been in ill health for years.
Born in Scranton on June 7, 1953, it attended most of the major news events of the last half century including the Knox Mine Disaster, the Agnes Flood Disaster of 1972, the George Banks Murder case and most recently the Luzerne County Courthouse Corruption Scandal.
It fell victim to federal deregulation of the broadcast industry in the 1980s. It was so sick, in fact, that it was unable to report its own impending demise.
It was preceeded in death by WGBI News and WDAU News.
Surviving are fourteen former colleagues, numerous former employees and WBRE-TV, with whom it lived.
Funeral services will be private. There will be no viewing.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Three Greatest Words in the English Language.

It's that Weekend. Yes that one. The one where there is no baseball. There is no football.
(Please don't try to argue that the Pro Bowl is football!)

Enthusiastic baseball and football fans plan for this weekend. It becomes the time when long 
put off projects rise to the top of the to do list. We suddenly have time to fix that toilet
that's been running constantly since the third game of the World Series. It's time to caulk those
drafty widows. It's time because there is time.

There is no football. There is no baseball.

Don't tell me about basketball and ice hockey. Both cannot be watched on television with the
same level of excitement of baseball and football. 

So that brings us to our headline, "The Three Greatest Words in the English Language."

"Pitchers and catchers," baby. "Pitchers and catchers."

For baseball fans, Winters doesn't start on December 23rd. It starts the moment of the final
out of the World Series.

When the Phillies' Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske of Tampa Bay to clinch the Series for
Philadelphia. There was pure ecstacy and at the same time deep despair. For in Winning, there is 

The season ends and thus begins the long winter of our discontent.

While meteorological winter won't end for six weeks, the hope that abounds with a new season is merely
days away for baseball fans. It will come not when Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig arises from his
burrow to announce six more weeks for Barry Bonds. It comes when one dares to utter the words,
"Pitchers and catchers."

The start of baseball's spring training is just days away. The first players to report will be pitchers and
catchers. Soon after position players will report.

The cold will be just as cold. The snow will continue to fall. But it seems just a bit easier to cope
when you know that in Florida and Arizona, grown men have begun practicing the game of boys.

For fans of teams that both won and lost last season, hope springs eternal with spring training.