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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

More leftovers
Dead have more say in Pa. than the living

Every once in a while, I think it's healthy to go back, look at what I wrote weeks before, laugh or cringe, then update you, dear reader, on some recent developments:


Pennsylvania is inching closer to a statewide registry of voters, but for now only 23 of the state's counties are participating in it.

State agencies are expected to use the electronic registry to notify the counties about related official developments, such as address changes and deaths.

Right now, state motor voter law prohibits counties from purging their registration records and occassionally, dead people vote with the help of the living.

"I am seriously worried that we could have another Florida here in Pennsylvania," Gov. Rendell told the Associated Press last week, referring to the drawn-out presidential ballot recount following the 2000 election.

But that didn't stop state officials from postponing the deadline from the April 27 primary to at least the Nov. 2 general election.

Geez, and you wonder why I don't vote any more. Like I said in my Nov. 3 column "Don't write me in", I did try to use the motor voter box on my car license address change form to re-register when I moved back to Bucks County from up state, but somehow the state managed to screw it up.

Oh well, it's time to renew my driver's license, so I'll give it another try.


If Pennsylvania is inept at a basic constituent service like registering its residents to vote, do you think the state is ready to responsibly use a database to keep tabs on more vital information about all of its citizens?

At least one person thought so.

And because of it, Pa. continues to plod ahead as of one only six states - Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania - to participate in the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (Matrix) project.

Georgia was going to participate in the database, but it's governor nixed the idea last October after discovering it would contain credit histories, marriages, divorces, even fingerprints and Social Security numbers of law abiding citizens, not just criminals.

Yet, despite Gov. Sonny Perdue's order, Georgia continued sending information to Seisint Inc. - the private company running the Matrix - for three more months, until AP reporters confronted state officials two weeks ago with proof the state's involvement was ongoing.

Also two weeks ago, Utah's public safety chief Robert Flowers pulled the plug on his state's involvement with the program until questions about security and privacy are answered.

As I wrote in my Oct. 27 column "Enter the Matrix", law enforcement officials and politicians in Pennsylvania and other states have repeatedly abused a similar federal database, NCIC, that's supposed to track only criminals. The founder of Seisint, Hank Asher, was also implicated as a drug trafficker in the 1980s, according to the Associated Press. Since that AP report last year, Asher has quit the company and placed his shares of stock in trust.

Jane Mills, a Connecticut reporter for the legal newswire Courthouse News Service, e-mailed me recently after reading that column online.

"I have had three experiences with what likely was NCIC abuse," she wrote. "The sense it has left me with is that the stuff is just out there for anybody with a buddy over at __ (fill in the blank) and gets passed around."

Mills expressed hope that Connecticut legislators would begin scrutinizing that state's involvement after holding a public hearing on the program.

The Connecticut Legislature's Public Safety Committee held that hearing last Tuesday. During the session, the state's top cop, Col. Timothy Barry, told lawmakers that without the Matrix, "It's kind of like fighting with one hand behind your back." Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has questioned the privacy implications of his state's involvement, did not attend.

Pennsylvania lawmakers never voted to join the Matrix, nor have any public hearings been held in this state, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The decision for Pennsylvania to join the Matrix was made by just one person on Oct. 7, 2002 - then-state police commissioner Paul Evanko, according to the Pennsylvania State Police's response to a Sunshine Law request filed by the ACLU. (The response is lengthy and heavy - 1.4 MB in a PDF format. To read it, click here.)

To tell Gov. Rendell, via e-mail, to pull us out of the Matrix, click here.


After my trip to the Philly Soul's media day, Feb. 2 "Soul survivor", I've come up with 10 tips on how to improve arena football. Are you listening Jon Bon Jovi?

10. Turn the heat on in the Spectrum. That place, which always had the feel of a dungeon anyway, is a regular ice box in winter.

9. Swag, swag, swag. Nothing says 'We're new' like giving away free stuff, especially to reporters.

8. Take a tip from the movie "Slap shot," pay the city medics at the game to drive around in an ambulance at the front of the building.

7. Find a permanent spot for the cheerleaders during the game. Having them go in and out of an end zone between plays is too confusing and people on the other side won't see them.

6. Better explain Philly's connection to Soul music. Just because you like the name, Jon, doesn't mean it fits the area or that anyone else really understands it.

5. Get the guys out on the town. Have a cheesesteak night at Pat's. Hit South Street in uniform or the Gallery, heck, even the Kimmel Center.

4. Recruit from the Big 5. Nothing says "We're the home team," like having at least one native on the roster.

3. Have the AFL form some kind of formal tie to the NFL. Right now, it's an official feeder, supplying only about 20 NFL players like Rams QB Kurt Warner. Once they get to the Big Show, make sure they tout the arena league.

2. Reverse the scoring to reflect the tough job kickers face trying to thread a needle between those big nets. Make a touchdown worth 1 point and the kick-after worth 6 points.

1. Win. If they hadn't won the USFL championship, I doubt anyone would still recall or even miss the Philadelphia Stars.


It didn't exactly make big headlines, but ESPN finally buckled under to pressure from the NFL and team owners and killed their hit drama, "Playmakers."

And so far, no other cable station has stepped up to give the fictional football team a sophomore season like I suggested in my Nov. 17 column "'Playmakers' the thing".

It's not that the show was so bad, but that it was being broadcast by the same station that gives the broadest coverage of the real game that drew so much ire.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

Feb. 16, 2004