Northeast Times
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Editorial: Voter ID is fair

Unless Pennsylvania’s so-called Voter ID law is struck down by the courts before The Big Day — the general election on Nov. 6 — every eligible voter in the Keystone State will be required to show poll workers valid photo ID before they’re permitted to enter the voting booth, thanks to the Republicans in Harrisburg.People who buy the argument that Voter ID is NOT an attempt by the ruling Republicans to suppress the votes of urban Democrats and help presidential candidate Willard Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania also believe that the moon is made of cheese. Mike Turzai, the Republican majority leader in the state House of Representatives, admitted the GOP’s motives just last month.Aside from the Republicans’ obvious ulterior motives, however, Voter ID is a good idea. As proponents point out, citizens must show photo ID in order to purchase alcohol or gun, drive a car or get into the screening line at the airport. Showing valid ID will protect the integrity of the vote by virtually eliminating fraud at the polls.There’s still ample time for unregistered voters to find the necessary documents required to obtain a state-issued Voter ID card. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, and PennDOT can do their part to get folks registered — thereby helping to increase voter participation and aiding the cause of democracy — by sending staffers with mobile electronic machines that verify required documents to senior centers, nursing homes, etc., to sign up voters on the spot.Election Day is more than three months away. May the best-organized political party win.

Letters to the editor: August 1, 2012

He yearns for mild gun-control reformsThe mass shooting in Colorado should motivate our legislators to come together and make sensible reforms to our gun laws. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen.I predict gun-control advocates will make reasonable proposals like an assault weapons ban and a “one handgun purchase per month” law. But then they’ll overreach and advance unwise laws that do nothing but inhibit law-abiding gun owners from protecting themselves — for instance, designating so many so-called “gun-free zones” that legally carrying a concealed weapon becomes impracticable.On the other side, the gun lobby and the politicians beholden to them will refuse to budge on anything. The mildest reforms will be decried as an assault on fundamental liberty — as if the right to buy 30-round magazines for Glocks belongs on the list of unalienable rights endowed by our creator.Debate will be filled with the same tired bumper-sticker logic and nothing will change. This process will repeat itself after the next massacre and the next one after that.Of course, I hope I’m wrong. I want to see someone step up and say, “I can work with you on no assault weapons and one handgun a month; but now we need to get something done about concealed carry reciprocity.”I yearn for compromise and reforms that hamper madmen and strengthen the citizens to stand up against them. I yearn for politicians who are reasonable enough to make it happen.Matthew McGrathBrookhaven

Letters to the editor: July 25, 2012

Silence is deafeningOn hearing the news concerning Monsignor Lynn’s sentencing, my first thought was to turn to the Catholic Standard & Times and send a missile to them about my thoughts. However, that institution is history. My theory of sending a letter to the CST was to get the big guy’s attention, the chief of the diocese, Archbishop Chaput. I wonder why he, the shepherd of his flock, including his own priests, would be so silent during the trial of Monsignor Lynn and all days leading up to his sentencing.The bishop is in charge of the diocese and is an extension of the pope in Rome —  the head bishop. He, the bishop, is to tend to his flock, being pastoral, supportive, understanding and just. He might have pulled the wampum over many of the parishioners in the diocese as well as some of his priests, but his silence and inactivity around the Lynn debacle is disgraceful and doesn’t even come close to being just.Hiding behind his collar, his bishop’s miter and staff is cowardly. He sat there day in and day out and pretended that the Lynn trial was so removed from his responsibility that I think at times he thought the trial was happening in some other state. Did he walk into a mess when he accepted the keys of the Philadelphia kingdom? Indeed. Did he attempt to try to support Lynn in any way, at any time, in any manner? NEVER.Every priest, bishop, cardinal and yes, even the Holy Fathers through the ages knew this was happening and many closed their eyes to some of the vilest of acts and closed their ears to the screams of abuse as well as ways to stop the sickness.How can those clergy, no matter what level of the hierarchical ladder they are standing on, sleep at night?Stephen T. FerryBustleton

Letters to the editor: July 18, 2012

Penn State isn’t the only cover-upIt sickens me to see the hypocrisy around the media’s non-stop assault on Joe Paterno. He is surely one of the most vilified Americans of our time, more so than the actual child abuser, Jerry Sandusky.One needs to remember that as the Jerry Sandusky abuse story broke, a parallel story also broke. Hall of Fame sportswriter Bill Conlin (sadly, a childhood hero of mine) was also accused of child abuse. He immediately retired, moved to Florida and will not speak. The story was briefly reported, but the media then quietly dropped it.Readers, use some logic. Bill Conlin worked at the old Inquirer/Daily News building for 40 years. He was known by reporters all over the country. And none of these people (who are trained to dig out stories) knew something was rotten in Philly?One has to believe, either every reporter was completely fooled by Conlin’s behavior, or that a few of them KNEW something was wrong but refused to investigate or say something. Why? Maybe like “JoePa,” this was out of shame for one of their own.The media crucify Paterno, but are they likewise running away from another big child-abuse story? They demand the Paterno statue be torn down, that Penn State football be suspended, yet one of their own, Bill Conlin, remains in the Hall of Fame. I have called and written to the Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News, asking them about why they attack Paterno but Conlin gets a pass. No one ever responds and my letters go unpublished.I hope someone has the courage to publish this letter.Richard IaconelliRhawnhurstOfficer Brian Lorenzo, we salute youToday our city says goodbye to a heroA life that touched so many is now goneWe are left to move on without your graceBut we’ll never forget the smile on your faceThose who had the chance to walk with youKnew you as a man with a heart of goldAnd a smile that would take your breath awayBut today Heaven has taken you from usWe are never given enough time to thank someoneLike you, Brian, for the sacrifices that you’ve madeThe lives you’ve changed and the joy that you gaveEach time we were all graced by your smiling faceToday all of our city will shed its tears togetherFor the loss of someone who made us all betterHeaven opens its gates to allow your soul throughOur Dear Officer Brian Lorenzo, we salute you John J. RuppertMayfair

Letters to the editor: July 11, 2012

Fourth of July entertainment was garbageI cannot believe that Mayor Nutter thinks Philadelphia should have national coverage for our Welcome America concert and fireworks.The city of Philadelphia will never receive national coverage when they continue to provide horrible entertainment year after year. When will the city get some class and provide entertainment meant to celebrate our nation’s independence? Just look at the other major cities and what they provide on the Fourth of July — Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. If I’m not mistaken, Philadelphia is the birthplace of America. We should act like it. Get some class entertainment next year. Year after year it is the same old garbage.Happy birthday, America!!Mark PuckerRhawnhurst

Editorial: Victory for America

In the lead-up to the March 2010 passage of what is sure to become President Obama’s legacy, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most normal Americans — i.e., Americans who are not members of Congress and who do not have deep hatred for Barack Obama — knew something was terribly wrong with the nation’s health care system.Mr. Obama did a rotten job selling health care reform to a skeptical nation. He should have used his bully pulpit — the presidency is supposed to be the most powerful, most influential position in the nation and much of the free world — to highlight the great parts of the bill. He should have crouched into the political gutter to verbally bash the contrarians, the naysayers, the folks who said Obamacare is socialism, including right-wing wacko Glenn Beck, who now is selling T-shirts that have a picture of Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion upholding health care reform, with the word “Coward” beneath it.Mr. Obama should have taken to the television airwaves far more frequently to look Americans squarely in the eye and tell them what was in the bill. He should have insisted that all of the provisions in the bill go into effect two years ago, not two years from now, and that illegal aliens be ineligible for free health care.He didn’t do any of that, but still the law passed, no thanks to Republicans, and now, tens of millions more Americans will participate in, and pay their fair share for, universal health care. That includes the many elderly folks in Northeast Philadelphia who comprise one of the largest percentages of senior citizens in the nation, and whose lifeline known as Medicare will only be strengthened.It’s about time. Send e-mails to:

Letters to the editor: July 4, 2012

Happy birthday to America the BeautifulAs a former federal worker with 26 years of service at the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration, the Fourth of July, our nation’s 236th birthday, is an important day for me. I love the parades, barbecues, pool parties and mostly fireworks commemorating this day. Since the dawn of our nation, federal workers have played a significant role in America’s achievements.The contributions of federal workers will be very much in evidence this week as Americans prepare to celebrate our nation’s birthday. Millions of Americans will check a weather report prepared by the National Weather Service, grill meat inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and flyin skies kept safe by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration.Others will enjoy time outdoors in our national parks, travel with children protected by car seats inspected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and visit post offices to mail letters and packages to loved ones serving in the military.My fellow federal workers and I are proud of the jobs we’ve done for America for the last 236 years. We wish you, and the nation we love, a Happy Independence Day.Gloria SpeerEast Torresdale

Editorial: The sins of the Fathers

As Monsignor William Lynn awaits a Common Pleas Court judge’s decision on whether he will get out of jail and spend some time as a free man at home until he is sentenced in August for his role in the clergy sexual-abuse fiasco, he should thank his lucky stars, and The Man Upstairs, that he was allowed to get away with his sins as long as he did. They were the sins of omission and ignorance.Upon his conviction Friday of one count of endangering children, Lynn officially became an enabler in the clergy abuse scandal. Although he has not been accused of engaging in sexual activity with children, he earned a tremendous amount of blame, for he allowed perverted priests to remain in the presence of children. He is the first official of the nation’s Roman Catholic Church to be convicted in a sex-abuse case, and there should be hell to pay for that.Lynn faces a maximum of seven years in prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 13, but he likely will get much, much less, and that, itself, is a sin. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina hopefully will throw the book at him, and if there is justice, District Attorney Seth Williams will retry Lynn’s co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was the beneficiary of a jury that was deadlocked on charges of attempted rape and child endangerment.The conspiracy of silence from high-ranking officials in the church is as debilitating as the disgusting, sick acts that Penn State’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of the same day. Let all Catholics and non-Catholics be on notice: The days of see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil are over. If you have a heart and/or a soul and you see or know of a child getting sexually abused, you MUST report the evil act to the police. ••Send letters to the editor to:

Letters to the editor: June 27, 2012

Two verdicts, a single messageAs I See ItBy Marci A. HamiltonOn Friday, June 22, 2012, two systems collided: the good old-fashioned American justice system and the till-now unaccountable Roman Catholic diocesan system of mishandling child sex abuse by priests. It was the first time that a member of the Catholic hierarchy has been held responsible by the criminal justice system for the abuse of children. The system spans the globe, and the pattern of the cover-up is persistent across dioceses. So this lone conviction matters in all states and even all countries with western-style justice.The Northeast was at the epicenter of the historic trial of Monsignor William Lynn of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Defrocked priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child and conspiracy to endanger children immediately before the trial; Lynn was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child in the context of Avery’s crimes.  The Archdiocese knew that Avery had abused boys before, but still placed him at Nazareth Hospital as a chaplain, which meant he lived at the rectory at St. Jerome’s parish. There, he had access to the victim who testified against Lynn at trial.On the same date, Penn State football defensive coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 out of 48 criminal charges for sexually abusing boys, which he snared through his charity Second Mile, and whom he seduced with the wonders of the Penn State football universe. These two convictions on the very same date turned a single-note message into a chorus: If you want to protect children, wake up!All of the adults in these scenarios bear some responsibility for the devastation of these children’s lives. The sexual predators deserve blame, to be sure, but they cannot operate to reach so many children without other adults assisting them.  It is sheer naivete or persistent self-delusion to try to lay the blame for these systems of abuse solely or even primarily at the feet of the compulsive pedophiles.Their employers are responsible for the children in their respective universes. In both the Penn State and the Philadelphia Archdiocese contexts, children are expressly invited. In the Archdiocese, they attend parochial schools like St. Jerome’s, participate in CYO, serve as altar servers, and attend Mass. At Penn State, they attended summer football camps and worked out and showered in Penn State facilities.  The Philadelphia Archdiocese created the danger for children by plunking known predator Avery smack dab in the middle of one of its arenas where children were expressly invited. Penn State created the danger by giving Sandusky free rein even after he had retired, following the 1998 investigation into charges of sexual abuse, and by not reporting other reports of abuse to the authorities. Both institutions made choices that endangered children. The parents are responsible for vigilance with their children, but until recently few knew that patterns of abuse existed, that children often don’t tell, and that the men in power they idolized could subjugate the welfare of children to the institution’s reputation.  Many now suffer the hell of understanding what was done to their children. All parents in the future must understand that they have a responsibility of hyper vigilance for their children, because pedophiles are masters of manipulation and work tirelessly to obtain parents’ trust so that they can get their children alone to abuse.  One important lesson all parents must learn from these verdicts is that just because an institution invites children does not mean that institution is taking full responsibility for their protection. Universities everywhere host summer sports camps for childen, but have questionable or no policies for their protection. Penn State is not alone in this scandal. The Citadel is facing similar summer camp issues.The other adults who bear responsibility are our elected representatives. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office stepped up first when D.A. Lynne Abraham convened the first grand jury to investigate the archdiocese’s policies a decade ago. Seth Williams has kept the focus on child safety and welfare with the Lynn trial.Pennsylvania’s legislators are also ultimately responsible for the welfare of children because they pass the laws that create the system of justice. They know full well that the existing statutes of limitations for child sex abuse — until recently — shut out the vast majority of victims. In the Lynn trial, only two victims were within the statute.  Evidence regarding 22 others, whose claims fell outside the statute, was permitted, because it was relevant to the conspiracy charge, but criminal charges cannot be filed in any of  those 22 cases.  Right now, a victim has until age 50 to file criminal charges, and until age 30 for a civil claim.What is needed, though, is a window that would permit the thousands, likely millions, of expired civil claims in Pennsylvania to find their way into court.  Expired criminal charges cannot be revived under the federal Constitution, but expired civil claims can be revived and the only way we can catch up on the injustices the system visited on victims is through a window. The Catholic Conference, the lobbyist for Pennsylvania’s bishops, is expending parishioners’ donations on fighting child sex abuse victims in Harrisburg.  Rep. Ron Marsico tried to block all statute of limitation reform for their benefit, but felt the heat enough to report out of his House Judiciary Committee a bill that would eliminate the criminal statue of limitations, and extend the civil statue to age 50. Those are great developments, but they leave the vast majority of existing victims in Pennsylvania with no legal recourse.  As we learned last Friday, the justice system is the best, and often the only, route to child protection.Marci Hamilton is a resident of Bucks County; a law professor at Cardozo School of Law; and a lawyer for victims of child sex abuse.

Editorial: Keep on teaching

The School District of Philadelphia is not exactly held in the highest regard these days, but parents and students have at least one thing to brag about: they have not been crippled by teacher strikes in a long while.To ensure that Philadelphia public school students, and those throughout the Keystone State, don’t get shortchanged by a greedy, selfish teachers union — as their counterparts in the Neshaminy School District were on several occasions during the school year that just ended — movers and shakers in Harrisburg should once and for all step up to the plate and win one for the masses.If Pennsylvania’s Republican governor and the GOP-controlled legislature want to do something constructive while they try to hammer out a budget before the June 30 deadline, they will enact a law that bans school strikes in the state. Only 13 states allow teachers to strike, and Pennsylvania should not be one of them.When you look at the big picture, teachers are every bit as important as police officers and firefighters, who are not permitted to strike. When teachers go out on strike, they shortchange taxpayers and create bedlam for working parents, but far more important, they disrupt students’ schedules and stymie their progress. Teacher strikes hurt society’s junior citizens. They are reprehensible and should be illegal.Pennsylvania lawmakers should enact a package of common-sense measures that ban teacher strikes, allow for binding arbitration involving teachers and school boards, and allow voters to use the power of the ballot box — via referendum — to decide on teachers’ salaries and benefits.Pennsylvania can earn itself a big, fat A+ if it does the right thing for the children.Send letters tol: