"What's black and white and read all over?"

Saturday, December 24, 2005
Posted 10:13 AM by

Merry Ralismas

My dad and stepmom, Bobbie, at Pompeii. He and Vesuvius had equally violent tempers, but both are mellowing with age.I'm not saying my dad has a God complex or anything.

It's just that he was born on Dec. 24, has a Hebrew name that literally translates to Jesus and has actually thanked a neighbor for putting up the sign "Happy Birthday, Jesus."

Another neighbor was often quoted as saying, "What would Joe Ralis do?" when addressing a problem.

It's his cross to bear I guess.

Happy Birthday Pop! You're 69 (his age you sick, sick puppies) and still going strong. Many happy returns.


Friday, December 23, 2005
Posted 5:11 PM by

Dr. Death dying?

The magnificent middle aged physician and his suicide machine. How many other doctors do you know made house calls without an extra bill?It looks like Dr. Jack Kevorkian, aka Dr. Death for his pro-active stance on assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, may die in prison soon.

A Michigan state parole board rejected a request this week to pardon the 77-year-old or commute his sentence, despite warnings that he is in grave condition.

His lawyer, Mayer Morganroth, warned last month that Kevorkian was in "dire shape" and might not live that long. Kevorkian suffers from high blood pressure, arthritis, cataracts, osteoporosis and Hepatitis C, the lawyer said.

"I think the parole board is acting irresponsibly and outrageously," Morganroth told the Associated Press. "The doctor in the prison keeps telling us, `What can I do to get him out? He shouldn't be in here.'"

Kevorkian is serving a 10- to 25-year prison sentence for murder for giving a fatal injection of drugs in 1998 to a man with Lou Gehrig's disease. He isn't eligible for parole until 2007.

How fitting it is that Kevorkian's punishment is to be kept alive, despite past hunger strikes, when his crime was helping others to end their lives. Thanks Doc for teaching us all that the way we die is just as important as the way we live.

If they really want to torture him, authorities should treat all of his medical conditions with the very best care money can buy. Keep him alive at all costs, even if he is gruesomely disfigured, unable to move or speak and loses all sense of dignity.

If they want to treat him with the dignity and respect that all human beings deserve, they should either free him or give him his old machine and turn their backs.


Thursday, December 22, 2005
Posted 5:18 PM by

Censure Bush? Try impeachment

U.S. Rep. John Conyers may be alone in his drive to impeach George W. Bush, but is he a crank? Bush's behavior in office is far more aggregious than Bill Clinton's, and Clinton was impeached.Can Democrats in Congress even fight their way out of a paper bag? We may be about to find out.

Acting alone, U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, has introduced several bills that call for an investigation that might lead to the impeachment or censure of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for misleading America into war.

"In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration," Conyers, a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday.

"There is at least a prima facie case that these actions that federal laws have been violated - from false statements to Congress to retaliating against Administration critics."

Let me get this straight, Bill Clinton has oral sex with a White House intern and gets impeached for lying about it. But he gets acquitted and censured.

One group of 'Progressives' is already selling an 'Impeach Bush' button for a buck. Darn Capitalists, I mean Liberals. I guess the buck really does stop there.Bush misleads both Congress and the American people into a war in Iraq and the only guy in power calling for him to be investigated three years later looks like a lone crank? His bills had no co-sponsors - not even among his fellow Democrats - but are slowly adding them, according to

It seems more than a bit presumptious, though, for Conyers to call for censure before a full investigation is conducted, especially so considering the Republicans now control the House, the Senate, the White House and the Supreme Court.

In light of this dangerous one-party monopoly, neither of his measures are likely to see the light of day, let alone a vote on the floor.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Posted 5:30 PM by

Crazy week, nutty people

My old pal Carl Singley made news this week, when he called some white jurors 'Crackers' after they found four white guys were discriminated against by the Philly school district. Compared to everybody else this week, though, Singley almost seems sane.So much stuff, so little time to blog. Well, here goes:

Concerned about maintenance and other issues, Gov. Ed Rendell has offered to buy Valley Forge National Historical Park back from the federal government.

The state, which sold the park to the federal government for $1 in 1976, is also upset about the failure to approve plans for a new museum. Last week, Gov. Ed Rendell sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton offering to take back the park's operation.

I'm pretty sure Rendell failed to mention the interest expressed by at least one prospective slots parlor in using some of that hallowed ground/tourist attraction. I can just see the ads, "Come lose your money where Washington's men slept and died in 1776."

Speaking of bad gambles, the jockeying for slots license continues unabated. Scranton-area businessman Louis A. DeNaples said Wednesday he filed a formal application for a gambling license to operate a slots parlor on the property of "beautiful" Mount Airy Lodge in Monroe County, a once-thriving facility that has been vacant since 2001.

Another slots parlor hopeful is promising to build the Pittsburgh Penguins a new arena for free as long it gets a license and keeps all the revenue.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Mike Veon, the architect of both slots gambling and the failed legislative pay raise, keeps complaining that horse racing commissioner Richard J. Bolte Sr. shouldn't get to rule on a racino in Centre County, Veon's district. His reasoning - horses the commissioner's wife owns and races in Pennsylvania represent a conflict of interest.

I guess Veon feels like a horse's ass now for sneaking the 120-page slots law into a bill two paragraphs long that required the harness racing commission to do background checks on employees.

All this, and the frickin' Legislature still hasn't figured out how to use its share of the revenue to lower property taxes for homeowners without overly burdening the working poor who rent. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.

In Congress, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Philadelphia, is pushing for hearings in January on whether President Bush violated the Constitution by conducting wiretaps on overseas phone calls placed by Americans. At the same time, however, Specter bizarrely continues to push for passage of a bill that would continue the Patriot Act.

Just how much of Specter's brain did the docs scoop out to get that tumor, anyway?

Finally, talk of brainectomy victims leads me to this week's top brainless comment from my old pal Carl E. Singley.

In 1985, I got Singley, Temple University's first black law school dean, fired from that post during my freshman year when I wrote in the Temple News that he was having a private war with several faculty members and arbitrarily placed letters in students' files saying they shouldn't be allowed to sit for the bar exam.

Apparently that minor setback didn't stop him from becoming a solicitor for the Philadelphia School District. But his comment in an elevator just might.

It came after four white men fired by the district - yes, I said white - won a racial-discrimination lawsuit when a federal jury awarded them nearly $3 million in damages last Friday. After the verdict, Singley exchanged words with some members of the all-white jury as they rode a courthouse elevator, calling them "crackers."

Within 30 minutes, Singley and the jurors were back in the courtroom where a judge forced him to apologize.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Posted 4:48 PM by

Doh-ver, Pa., board loses intelligence test

The brains behind the decision to include Intelligent Design as a theory in high school biology classes in Doh-ver must have evolved differently from the rest of us.U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled Tuesday against the Dover Area School Board's push for "Intelligent Design," saying the district violated the Constitution when it ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause.

All I can say is Thank God, Jones and the voters in Dover, Pa., who have already ousted most of the board that started this ruckus in the first place.

Jones went beyond the pale in his 139-page ruling, saying, "The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

His honor may not be the best writer, but he does make his point pretty clearly that this case was a total waste of time and effort.

"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge," Jones wrote. "If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

To read Jones' complete ruling, click here.


Monday, December 19, 2005
Posted 5:10 PM by

Praying for an 'intelligent' decision

Dear God, please don't let those Bible-thumpers in Dover, Pa., be related to me. Bless the movie King Kong, and if it's not too much, can I have a banana?Plaintiffs' lawyers and scientists who worked on the federal "intelligent design" trial say a ruling in the landmark case will likely come Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

The Dover Area School Board voted a year ago to require students to hear a statement about intelligent design before learning about evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and it refers students to an intelligent design textbook for more information.

Eight families sued to have intelligent design removed, contending that it is biblical creationism in disguise and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Judge John E. Jones III's response to six weeks of testimony could determine whether the concept - which attributes the origin of life and the emergence of highly complex life forms to an unidentified intelligent force - can be mentioned in public school science classes.

Lord knows, I've made my preference clear.

Here's hoping Jones makes the right call here. If not, students in Pennsylvania and New Jersey may one day be handed a bible to dissect in biology class, instead of a frog.


Sunday, December 18, 2005
Posted 5:40 PM by

Perzel not only stumbling block to reform

An interesting editorial moved today on the AP wire, one week after it was first published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The newspaper called on state House Speaker John Perzel to get the heck out of the way and allow a vote on a lobbyist reform bill.

"In John Perzel's state no one except the media, according to him, wants a lobbyist disclosure law - assuming you overlook the 87 percent polled in Pennsylvania this year who said they wanted a law requiring all lobbyists to outline their spending.

That is the state of unreality that our House speaker inhabits, but no one else lives there. ... The way we see it, Rep. Perzel has five months between now and the May primary to let reform bills come to a vote. Unless, of course, he'd rather seek job-hunting tips from his fellow Philadelphian, Justice Russell Nigro."

I couldn't agree more with that statement. But I'd also go a bit further.

All elected state officials and employees are required by law to fill out a statement of conflicts of interests annually. But not all of them can be found at the State Ethics Commission.

For instance, public officials and public employees of local governments including but not limited to school districts, townships, municipalities, authorities, etc. are filed only with the respective local governments.

Anyone "interested in viewing a Statement of Financial Interest for these officials/employees should contact the respective local governing body," the commission's Web site says.

Meanwhile, similar records for employees of state agencies are filed with their respective agencies, NOT the Ethics Commission. "Parties interested in viewing these Statements of Financial Interest should contact the respective agency human resources office of the employee."

As a reporter, I knew where to get those records. In fact, I made copies of them every year for the county I covered and made them available to everyone in the newsroom.

But taxpayers don't know those rules and should not have to play detective, nor face potentially embarrassing questions, just to look at a piece of public information.

I'd recommend any reform movement include requiring local and state agencies to submit copies of those records to the commission annually. I'd also force the commission to make them more easily searchable.

Right now, those records exist solely as pdf files on the commission's Web site and finding the one you want to see is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Their titles are a list of filing numbers only, they're not listed alphabetically by last name nor does the site's search cover those files. It's almost as if they don't want you to find the information you're seeking.


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