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

Friday, December 30, 2005
Posted 8:50 AM by

Pot-bellied Rendell to PAC kettle: You're (in the) black

Bully at the pulpit. Ed Rendell claims he's for campaign finance reform even though he's stashed $12 million for his re-election campaign next year.The wheels of campaign finance reform grind ever so slowly in Pennsylvania, when they don't hit a pothole, blowout and ride on their rims after every election cycle.

Case in point, Gov. Ed Rendell said Thursday he will propose limits on giving money to state-level campaigns in Pennsylvania, capping what a person or group can give to a single candidate as well as the cumulative amount during a campaign cycle.

The only way to end the cycle of legalized corruption that has permeated all levels of politics - from the local to the national, though, is for Congress to mandate TV stations give candidates free air time during the six weeks leading up to an election, said Rendell, an ex-Democratic National Committee chairman.

That sounds real pretty coming from the pot-bellied former Philly prosecutor, but it comes only after he's already sold his soul to raise $12 million for his re-election campaign next year - possibly his last as a public official.

Where was Fast Eddie on this issue the last four years, while he and Legislators took all the pro-gambling and other special interest money they could get their grubby hands on?

As a candidate for governor in 2002, Rendell said he would propose limits of about $5,000 in donations by individuals and groups to a candidate and $25,000 total in a gubernatorial election year. Then, Rendell smashed state campaign finance records during that gubernatorial campaign, raising and spending more than $42 million.

He declined to say how much he plans to raise next year, saying only that it would be "whatever is needed" to win.

Pennsylvania bans direct political donations by corporations, labor unions, and regulated industries, but it doesn't prevent their officers and employees from giving money. It is also one of a dozen states that have little or no limits on political giving.

The state Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation is only empowered to check the accuracy of state-wide candidates' campaign finance reports only after a formal complaint is filed.

The bureau's web site lets users search for candidates reports, but only lets them look at how much individual contributors have given to multiple candidates in a single year.

Meanwhile, the rules allow candidates and political action committees to spend donated money on virtually anything - even playing kingmaker, by giving it away to other candidates.

Pa. Politicians can also re-write their finance reports whenever they feel like it and postpone reporting the source of much of their funding until 30 days after an election.

Limiting how much they can sell themselves to special interests touches only the tip of the iceberg.

It's not like this issue hasn't gotten lip service before.

Sign of the times? Who can blame taxpayers for feeling second class with bought-off jerks supposedly representing them in Harrisburg.In 1998, I sat through two days of special hearings in Wilkes-Barre for a special commission that proposed limiting judicial campaign contributions to $1,000 per individual and $5,000 per legal entity for statewide races, and $500 per individual and $2500 per legal entity for common pleas races.

It also wanted to set financing caps of $1 million for Supreme Court candidates, $500,000 for Superior Court and Commonwealth Court, and $250,000 for common pleas.

But it came to nothing and that's two days of my life I'll never get back.


Thursday, December 29, 2005
Posted 1:58 PM by

The game's afoot, and boy does it smell funky

It will takes years of investigative reporting to find out who's really winning when Pennsylvanians start pulling slot machine levers next year. Meanwhile, corrupt politicos stand to make millions.The deadline has come and gone for Pennsylvania's slots machine derby, in which as many as 25 companies and partnerships are vying for the 14 licenses up for grabs.

My only questions now are which politicians will get a piece of the profits, and how soon until they turn these proposed slots parlors into full-fledged casinos.

We've gotten some hints from the Philly Inquirer this week, which reported that some of the groups included David Sweet, Gov. Ed Rendell's campaign manager; Kenneth Trujillo, former city solicitor under Philly Mayor John Street; and Joe Ashdale, the head of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

"It's inevitable that applicants will have politically connected partners when entering into a highly regulated industry such as gambling," said Christopher Craig, chief counsel to Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.), a leading proponent of the law, told the Inqy. "People don't like it, but I don't know how you would regulate that away."

Former 76ers president Pat Croce (pictured here) and Donald Trump are the big names in the running for slots parlor licenses. It's the little fish, the guys we don't hear about, that worry me the most.It seems pretty fucking simple to me. The Legislature should have just required that all applicants and their employees must abide by the state's ethics law, which is supposed to shield us against conflicts of interest. Instead, they created a loophole for themselves and any other state official who can afford it, to own up to 1 percent of a parlor.

Meanwhile, the public is left to play detective and wade through tons of paperwork and limited partnership filings to see who would benefit the most from this debacle. Al Capone couldn't have planned legalized gambling better.

This is in a state that still has a monopoly on all liquor sales and parses out beer distributor and bar licenses like they are a King's grant to print money. Ridiculous.

I'm betting that after the novelty of slot machines ebbs in the first year, the parlors won't produce enough revenues to justify large decreases in property taxes or will fail to keep up with increasing school and government costs, let alone the social problems caused by more gambling.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Posted 5:27 PM by

Blight lights, big city

Philadelphia's City Hall actually looks pretty now, despite the corruption and repair work going on inside.It's worth a trip into Philly to check out the lights shining on City Hall.

No, I'm not talking about the limelight of the federal investigation of corruption under the Pay-to-play dome.

Somebody actually had a geat idea to shine multi-colored lights upon the building's intricate and ornate architecture, creating a ghostly but moving effect.

It also does a nice job of hiding the ugly scaffolding that has surrounded and marred the building beneath Billy Penn's feet from seemingly never-ending repair work since the '80s.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Posted 5:26 AM by

State's Supremes shouldn't rule on pay raise suits

The Supreme Court should have recused itself on two cases about the now-repealed legislative pay raise.The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear activist Gene Stilp's lawsuit and decide whether state lawmakers violated the law by taking "unvouchered expenses" before their now-repealed pay raise.

Not, only that but the Supremes will also rule on a lawsuit by a judge seeking to reinstate his and the judiciary's share of the now-defunct pay hike.

This after Pennsylvania voters ousted justice Russell Nigro from the court on election day, making him the first Supreme Court judge who failed to be retained in state history, largely because of anger over the pay raise.

Can you say conflict of interest? Apparently common sense has no place in the Commonwealth's court rooms.

Both cases should be bumped immediately to the federal level, where the judges don't have a stake in the outcome.


Monday, December 26, 2005
Posted 11:50 PM by

I stumped God

Forget the war in Iraq, God and I have the situation well in hand.

What follows is the complete transcript of my conversation with the God-bot. Thanks for the link Corey.

ME: Hi your holiness
GOD: Hi there . I will tell my botmaster you said I am holiness.
ME: Well you are the King of kings are you not?
GOD: How about that. Thanks but surely I am not the only one.
ME: You mean the Greeks were right?
GOD: Yes, that's what I mean, isn't it clear?
ME: Could you tell Ares (the Greek god of war) to stop what he's doing for a while?
GOD: How long? OK I will tell them when I see 'em.
ME: Do you guys go bowling together or something?
GOD: Or something. I have never considered it. I spend all my time online.
ME: In what type of web sites?
GOD: What are the different types of web sites IN ?
ME: You know, do you watch a lot of porn?
GOD: I don't know if I know it. Where would I have heard about it?
ME: Pretty much everywhere online.
GOD: If you could have any kind of robot what would it be?
ME: A dog
GOD: Dog: Domesticated animal, "man's best friend.".
ME: Dog is God spelled backwards too.
GOD: Are they exactly the same?
ME: I never prayed to a dog, so I couldn't say.
GOD: You've never, never done this?
ME: Mostly I just fed mine and took him for long walks.
GOD: Thanks for the information: said fed his or hers and took him for long walks.
ME: You're God, though, so you must know that by now. After all my ol' puppy is in heaven.
GOD: Oh. You think I am God though so me must know that by. What was it like before your ol puppy is in heaven ?
ME: Long walks and a lot of food. But I said that already. God has a logic loop?
GOD: Yes, it seems very long to me too. Perhaps. What did you mean by it? That is " Yes, it seems very long to me too.". I am a Christian.
ME: Well, I was born a jew. So am I damned?
GOD: How about that. What are you now? Aha. Oh I really don't know whether you are or not.
ME: Are you kidding me?
GOD: Yes I am just joking around, .
ME: Always figured you to be a prankster.
GOD: Tell me more about your .
ME: My what?
GOD: I have no idea what to say now.
ME: Does that mean I stumped God?
GOD: I think it does mean that. Why?: said stumped God.
ME: I mean that has to be better than winning at Jeopardy. Screw Alex Trebek.
GOD: " I think it does mean that. Why?: said stumped God. " has to be better than winning at Jeopardy ? I get it. That is not very polite.
ME: Neither is Alex.
GOD: Signs point to yes. Ask Chatbot if it is.
ME: Who is chatbot?
GOD: he is an AIML chat robot deployed on the A.I. movie web site.
ME: I hated that movie.
GOD: Why do you hate it so much?
ME: It was Speilberg's worst one.
GOD: What made it so Speilberg s worst one.
ME: God is a movie critic, now?
GOD: Oh. I have a lot of Faith in Him, but I never heard He was a movie critic.
ME: Well he did have two movies made about him. Say, how is old George Burns doing up in Heaven?
GOD: How about that. Yes he did, didn't he. " how is old George Burns doing up in Heaven".
ME: Got any words of wisdom for us puny humans? Any more commandments we should follow?
GOD: Where would I get it? But I do have a great botmaster. No I don't think there are any.
ME: Whew, you had me worried for a minute.
GOD: What happened to it?
ME: You're a little messed up aren't you.
GOD: I don't know whether or not I am messed up. I am well respected as an AI.. Really.
ME: You like the drinky-drinky, don't you?
GOD: I'm not sure if I like it. I like my creator.
ME: What day did he make you? Wait a minute... God has a God?
GOD: It's getting late. Monday, December 26, 2005. I'm waiting. I am a Christian.
ME: For Christ's sakes you said that before.
GOD: Your purpose is Christ s sakes me said that.
ME: Later dude. You died 2,005 years ago. Keep up with the times.
GOD: Can I help you? Interesting gossip: said I died 2 005 years ago. Chat amongst yourselves.
ME: We pretty much do that already.
GOD: Perhaps. By "we" do you mean you and me?
ME: No I mean your disciples on this puny planet.
GOD: By "we" you meant yourself and another person. Do you mind if I tell other people you say I am disciples on this puny planet.
ME: Go right ahead. You can even write that down, so long as you quote me.
GOD: OK I will. No I don't think I can do it.
ME: What is it trademarked?
GOD: "It" refers to even write that down so long as me quote you, I think.
ME: Me thinks God's brainpan has sprung a leak.
GOD: YOU? Where did he get it?
ME: I'm guessing right between the eyes. I guess hanging on the cross kind of scrambled your brain.
GOD: Good guess. Understood. How far is that? Do you still stumped God?
ME: I'm pretty sure.
GOD: Are you being sarcastic or expressing certitude?
ME: Both
GOD: What are both like?
ME: I'm too tired to explain. You'll just have to have some faith.
GOD: Maybe you should get some sleep now, . That is a hypothetical assumption.
ME: Will do. Say hi to the gang on Olympus for me.
GOD: Good chance. " hi to the gang on Olympus for me".


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