Northeast Times
  • Opinion

Editorial: Party of just a few

Once upon a time, Northeast Philadelphia was home not only to lots of cops and firefighters, but a good number of Republican officeholders, too. Ah, the good old days.In the wake of last week’s huge election, two things are perfectly clear: One is that President Obama proved to be very popular in the Northeast, capturing 68 percent of the Northeast wards en route to winning the entire city with 85 percent of the vote.The other lesson from Election Day is that something is wrong with whatever is left of the Philadelphia Republican Party. Aside from three key positions guaranteed to the Republicans by the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter — two at-large seats on City Council and a lone seat on the city Election Commission — Far Northeast Councilman Brian O’Neill and lower Northeast state Rep. John Taylor are the Republican Party’s only bright spots. Both men are capable public servants, but why on earth are they two of just a handful of Republicans holding high office in the city?Not too long ago, Northeast Philadelphia had a healthy chunk of Republicans joining Rep. Taylor in Harrisburg — state Sen. Hank Salvatore and state Reps. George Kenney, John Perzel, Chris Wogan and Dennis O’Brien (who now sits in one of the guaranteed at-large Council seats). Their electoral success reflected a tendency of Northeast voters to split their tickets every election day. That healthy streak of independence was great for democracy.There are plenty of issues that contrast Republicans and Democrats, but the city’s Republican leaders can’t seem to capitalize on them. Perhaps the keys to the party success will flow with some new blood.Send letters to:

Letters to the editor: Nov. 14, 2012 edition

His spirits are dashed by PhiladelphiaI watched with disgust at what went on in this city during the recent election season.The abuse of a young girl who simply wore a Romney T-shirt to school, Black Panthers (again) lining up outside the polls, city officials like elections commissioner Stephanie Singer abusing her office by politicizing what is supposed to be public service.The national news was filled with stories about Philadelphia buffoonery on Election Day, like those poll watchers thrown out of voting places.I volunteer in my community, clean up after my neighbors, and have given hundreds of hours to public service, even while I have been ill. For what end, to serve the corrupt political process and lazy people of Philadelphia?No more for me. No more charity, no more help for community groups, no more public service.I hope for the day I can move out of this city, and I know I am not alone.One thing Philadelphia is good at is destroying the spirit of the best and brightest people, the very people so needed to make communities work.Richard IaconelliRhawnhurstWith the election over, it’s time for hopeThe election is over, with Obama getting 50 percent of the vote and Romney 49 percent. Clearly the nation is very divided. But there is hope. Hurricane Sandy provided an opportunity for both Democrats and Republicans to cooperate, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and President Obama came together, praising rather than insulting each other, both working to benefit those who were suffering. That is how our elected representatives should act.Rush Limbaugh said of Obama on Jan. 16, 2009, before he even took office, “I hope he fails.”Congress squabbled and did its best for the past four years to make that happen. For both parties, it seemed that personal power and party loyalty trumped the vital interests of the American people, and the middle class paid the price, many of whom slid into the poorer class.No wonder Congress has only a 17 percent approval rating. Now, post-election, promises of cooperation are being made. Let’s make sure they’re kept.Mel FlitterFox ChaseHe’s lost all hopeWhen a nation rewards failure at the highest level, how can there be any hope?Joseph A. BreenFox ChaseA path to victory for TaubenbergerRepublican Al Taubenberger just lost another election. This time he ran for a state representative position previously held by John Perzel. He has run for almost every elective position there is.I have done an extremely detailed analysis of the elections he participated in and came up with a solution for him. He may win when he is unopposed.Mayer KrainModena ParkAmerica needs three separate nationsSome random thoughts on the presidential campaign: The post-election map actually shows the embryos of three separate nations: a near-solid GOP south and Midwest (which remain true to the conservative values and beliefs upon which America was founded), and two emerging Soviet socialist republics, one on the West Coast (term this the Nation of the West Coast, which, led by California upon independence, I think would soon join the ranks of the other Third World banana republics) and what might be called the Northern Liberal Bastion.May these embryos come to term!While it may appear strange that a conservative like myself would actually applaud the creation of two new socialist states, the intent is to teach, via hard, real-world experience, the folly of socialism to the naïve leftist ideologues amongst us. Incapable of persuasion by normal means, given over as they are to an intellectual arrogance that springs from adherence to false values and falser political myths, this strong medicine is indicated. I have every confidence that these two nations-to-be, controlled by leftist elites supported by an electorate no longer skilled in the duties and responsibilities of citizenship and self-government, would go the way of the old Soviet Union in a generation or two.Composed of leftists comfortable in their beliefs in a worldly and secular paradise in which the almighty state will ensure no one need work anymore, and all bow before the twin gods Equality and unrestrained Eros, it will take a hard dose of reality to rouse them from the ideological slumber they fell into since the 1960s.My fellow conservatives, let’s get to work on this project, just possibly the grandest experiment in government ever contemplated for the North American continent!George TomezskoFox ChaseThe Republicans will learn a few lessonsThe ultimate lesson of the election of 2012: A party cannot win by lying, buying, hating or stealing, and in case Republicans don’t learn that lesson, in the 2014 mid-terms, they may well become the minority party in the House AND the Senate, and nowhere to be found near the White House.I’m not suggesting that the Republican Party will cease to exist should it fail to adapt; I am suggesting that it will render itself virtually ineffective, minimally powerful and incapable of winning elections with the possible exception of local elections where the electorate is comprised of older, white, poorly educated individuals.The bigoted and somewhat veiled red meat “ideas” such as “We’re taking back America” in this election were largely understood for what it says between the lines, as many Americans took it for its underlying meaning, that being, “We, the party of the (primarily) white male, by electing Mitt Romney and our radical tea party candidates, will take the country back to when white people had all the power.”Throughout history, in spite of the evolution-deniers, both biologically and socially speaking, there have been paradigm changes; the universe is not geocentric (as Galileo demonstrated), the world is not flat, people of different races can marry one another as can people of the same gender — and life goes on.It’s Darwinian, like it or not, accept it or not. Ultimately, reality calls the tune and the Cosmos writes the rules, by the process of natural selection, an environment will boot those who either resist or who are incapable of yielding to truth. One will either adapt, or perish.Arthur GurmankinBustletonCity’s going after the wrong litterbugsI can sympathize with Hezakiah Levinson’s gripe with Philadelphia fining him for putting his trash out early (A fifty-buck love letter from the city, Oct. 31). The same thing happened to me.I tore down my old yard shed recently. I called 311 to ask if the Sanitation Convenience Center at State Road and Ashburner Street would take shingles. I was told yes. I drove there on a Saturday with shingles and plywood. The attendant stated, “No shingles.””But I called 311 and they told me you’d take them,” I said.“311’s got nothin’ to do with us,” was his reply.I dropped off the wood and went home. I bundled up the shingles and left them at the curb. In the mail came my $50 summons. All right, I did it. I’m guilty. I paid the fine.My problem is the fact that this law has been on the books for more than 25 years, I’m told, but it has never been enforced.When the city put cameras up at Grant and the Boulevard and other locations, they gave you 90 days notice before they started writing tickets. Couldn’t a warning have been placed in my mailbox?I’m close to retirement and will soon be on a fixed income. How about going after the city residents who throw their trash in the streets instead of putting them at the curb? They don’t wait until 6 p.m., either.Tom HollandBustletonSuggestions for a cleaner PhiladelphiaTo help Philadelphia become a cleaner city, one place to start would be with public schools. School principals could disseminate notices to all teachers to bring up the subject (teach consciousness awareness of littering) and encourage students at after-school dismissals to hold onto trash, i.e. drink cups and wrapper bags after leaving, for example a Wawa, 7-Eleven, Burger King, McDonald’s, etc., until there is a nearby trash bin, or simply hold onto refuse until arrival at home (placing it in a school bag, or one’s pocket, etc.).Formerly a resident of Queens, New York, I recall the late mayor of New York City, John Lindsay, who started a “Don’t be a Litter Bug” campaign way back when I was in grade school.My school teacher discussed the mayor’s campaign, and it stuck with me ever since; even to this day at age 70, I actually pick up trash along my street where I live in the Burholme section of Northeast Philadelphia, often when no one else will.Mayor Lindsay posted billboards and little street signs all around the five boroughs of New York City with the slogan: “Don’t be a Litter Bug,” which is where I am from, as I have settled in Philadelphia some 30 years ago. I do believe he utilized the radio media, too.A sensitive approach to this subject can win over our youth on this important subject. Note: Sometimes some folks believe they are doing the right thing when they push trash down a sewer inlet. Many do not have a clear idea where the sewers go — i.e., the Delaware River.A short lesson on the city’s infrastructure when it comes to water and sewer drainage can be creatively done: We have storm drains and sanitation drains.A representative from the Philadelphia Water Department may be interested in making guest appearances at schools to explain how this all works. Visual aids would hold the attention of those in attendance. This can impact our environment for the better if some time was taken in the classroom on this matter. Perhaps this would even spill over to adults/parents who would be exposed to this educational project.The classroom, billboards, street signs, and local papers such as the Northeast Times are all good places to go with this project. Some schools may need a few additional trash receptacles bordering the schools’ corner locations.One of a few real eyesores I have located are at Lehigh and Aramingo avenues just under the train overpass in a fenced-in grassy area on the west side of the street. Another is on Tyson Avenue just east of Castor Avenue, north and south curbsides for three or four blocks or so. Another is on Dungan Road, just south of Rhawn, on the east side of the street along the curbs bordering several garden apartment houses (opposite the Police Department’s internal affairs building).Having neighborhood ‘spotters’ to alert the sanitation department of certain locations that may be passed over by various city departments that I am sure have plenty to do already, can help make their job a little easier. I would gladly do it, and there is no salary involved. It’s volunteers, based on neighborhood pride.I hope this helps trigger a response, soon.Paul Bogosian

Editorial: Do actual collecting

   If you voted yesterday, you get a gold star for citizenship. If you didn’t vote, shame on you. Blame the guy in the mirror if you get the government you didn’t vote for.    Now it’s time for Philadelphians to focus on an issue of equal, and maybe even greater, importance: The city’s very broken property-tax system. After years of delay and cowardice by elected officials, the city is finally trying to institute reform by taxing properties at a percentage of what they are actually worth.The plan is called the Actual Value Initiative, and while it’s long overdue, it should not go into effect until Philadelphia gets its fiscal house in order by eliminating waste, maximizing municipal employees’ productivity, and finding cheaper ways to deliver city services, including privatizing trash collection by giving the job to the qualified lowest bidder and requiring the winner to retain the current workforce.   Under no circumstances should Philadelphia residents or merchants allow the city government to collect another dime in property taxes until it gets its act together and collects back taxes. That means Mayor Michael “I’ll Reform City Government” Nutter must instruct the commissioners of the Departments of Revenue and Licenses & Inspections to get together with the city solicitor, who runs the Law Department, to crack down, IMMEDIATELY, on tax deadbeats.   “Philadelphia has over $500 million in delinquent property taxes but no new plan and very little discussion about how to collect what is alreadly owed. We’re also still waiting for the revenue numbers from the reassessment to come in,” says Northeast Philly state Sen. Michael Stack. “These are the issues we need to tackle before we talk about AVI and city property taxes.” Amen.Send letters to the editor to:

Letters to the editor: Nov. 7, 2012 edition

A stunning byproduct of Hurricane SandyWhen the 99 percent marched in protest for decent paying employment and rebuilding of the infrastructure in our city, none of the officials would take our concerns seriously.Since the devastation of Hurricane Sandy has hampered the functions of the East Coast, we will hang up our Willing to Work signs, as it is time to roll up our sleeves and repair all damage caused by the storm.Hurricane Sandy has wiped our shores clean of all the greed and corruption that the 1 percent has inflicted on the middle class.To think that an act of nature could affect everything that is rotten in our country and bring the mighty down from their ivory towers has me stunned.My main objective for participating as an activist was to ask the mayor and city officials to let us have a fair share of earning a living in Philadelphia. Was it too much to ask for?Anna KauffmanLawndalePlease help get winter coats for our veteransEffective immediately, I am collecting new and slightly used winter coats for homeless veterans who are served by the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center in Philadelphia.Our veterans badly need these winter coats to protect them from the upcoming winter weather. Both casual and dress coats are appreciated, as many of our veterans need dress coats to wear on job interviews as they transition back into the workforce. Winter coats are needed for both men and women. The coats can be dropped off in my district office at 19 S. York Road in Hatboro. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our veterans.  Rep. Thomas P. Murt152nd Legislative DistrictDrop the DROP: It’s hurting the taxpayersTo letter writers Harry Parfitt Jr. and Robert F. Burns (It’s not nice to pick on our city workers, Oct. 31 edition), you should remember that my earlier letter was in response to a city worker crying the blues.The DROP program, which was never meant for any city worker but rather, high-ranking police and firemen, is a crime against all taxpayers and is found in only a few cities in the country.I like how Harry comments about getting some interest on his DROP money. I think it is over 3 percent. The rest of us get .05 interest on our money.Since my last letter, I was informed that other high-ranking agencies routinely ask their retirees who collected DROP money to come to work!As a property owner, I pay every city tax there is, and that gets me my trash collected. Period. I pay for water and sewer service.Those city workers who may be doing nasty jobs are doing jobs they applied for, and they are well compensated in every way. A trash truck driver makes more money than the average college graduate, without college loans to pay back!Being in the private sector, I get no paid holidays and have had all my vacation, sick and personal days taken away from me. I have had my salary reduced by one-third. While I can live with that, I don’t want to hear city workers complaining!Oh, and no writer has yet to include in their letter how much they got in their DROP goodie basket.Ron KallBustletonCity’s trash fine is a real stinkerWell finally the issue of the $50 trash fine is being stirred up. Let me just say that last year while I brought my husband in the house from the hospital, and nurses and therapists were scurrying around making him comfortable from a massive stroke, these do-gooders with the camera and fines were outside photographing my trash.Needless to say, I realize the city of Philadelphia has to find ways to make money, however, it shouldn’t be at the expense of senior citizens who have more important things to do.I always put our trash out late, except for that one day when a good neighbor helped me out. Yes, I paid the fine and wrote a letter to be forwarded to Mayor Nutter. I wonder if he ever got it?I don’t agree with anyone putting their trash out in the dark, especially in the icy winter anywhere in Philadelphia.Elizabeth ZinkMillbrookStop school bullyingBullying is a real problem in our society. It happens in our schools and it has to be stopped. Research has shown that the long-term effects of bullying can be harmful to a child’s well-being. We can’t accept this behavior. It is important to educate our children on how wrong bullying is.The children don’t deserve this, and it needs to be handled and addressed by parents and school officials. Law enforcement officials need to get involved if necessary. It is a problem that needs to be solved to help our kids. To help, I created a Facebook page called Stop Bullying. The goal of this page is to inform people of bullying and help prevent it. If you’re a Facebook member, search Stop Bullying and hit the “like” button. It is an important issue and we can stop it.David LeeMillbrookMore brouhaha from letter about city workersRegarding Ron Kall’s letter in the Oct. 17 edition (Our city workers don’t have it so bad): In my Oct. 10 letter (Don’t blame the workers, says recent retiree), I didn’t accuse anyone of stealing from the city, nor was I complaining. I simply stated facts as to where and to whom and how much of our tax money was being given and spent and how unfair it is. Let me address some of the statements in your letter, with facts, about our benefits.I did participate in the DROP program. The misperception is that the city GAVE me the DROP money. The fact is, the city took the pension money I PAID into my pension fund for 34 years and invested it. After four years of that investment, I received a return on MY OWN money and not our tax money.Did you know the city’s work force has declined? In 1999 there were about 2,400 sanitation workers. At present there are 1,200 sanitation workers. That’s half the number who were working in 1999.In order to help ease the fiscal problems the city was having, District Council 33 agreed to have larger trash trucks, which hold more trash, in its fleet — thus requiring fewer employees. The amount of trash hasn’t lessened, just the number of laborers doing the job. Try throwing a load of trash or cleaning out sewers for a day, Ron.The workforce of fleet management in 1999 was around 550 employees. Today there are around 345 employees repairing more vehicles than before, with fewer employees. As you pointed out in your letter, the lion’s share of our tax dollars goes to these and other blue-collar workers. What you neglected to point out in your letter is the fact that these same blue-collar employees perform the lion’s share of the work. Yes, city workers do get more days off than the private sector. We also make a lot LESS money than the employees in the private sector doing the same jobs. During the 38 years of my employment, DC33 and DC47, along with the city, negotiated contracts where it was cheaper for the city to give us these benefits than it was to give us a raise.DC33 and DC47 agreed, through negotiations with the city, to change the pension plan to a less expensive plan and employees now also earn less sick time and must work longer to collect a pension. Neither the police nor fire unions negotiate their contract; they are subject to binding arbitration.Funny thing about those binding arbitration awards — neither the police nor fire unions took the city to court because they didn’t like those awards; those union leaders and members had the integrity to accept the contracts they were awarded. Can’t say the same about our mayor. Why is it that when a politician needs to balance a budget or make budget cuts, the fiscal burden of those actions fall on the workers’ backs?Twenty-eight people, Ron. That’s how many people took the mechanics test for city employment the last time it was given. Why do you think there was such a poor showing for such a desirable position? Is it that the city does not pay as much as the private sector? Are the benefit packages not as lucrative as you seem to believe? Ron, feel free to fill out an application for a city position. Take the test, pass the test, be interviewed, pass a physical and a drug test, and then pass a background check.Don’t know if you are pro-union or anti-union, Ron. Know this: Without unions, working people would be working under the same conditions as the coal miners in upstate Pennsylvania had to endure. Remember, unions built this country. Unfortunately, there are some politicians and CEOs of big companies trying to tear the unions down and destroy them. SCREW THEM!Mike LinahanModena Park

Letters to the editor: Oct. 31, 2012 edition

Pick a kitty this weekend This weekend, Forgotten Cats is having its Second Chance For Love, in the adoption center of PetSmart at 901 Old York Road in Jenkintown. There will be adorable adoptable cats and kittens. The kitties are vetted, neutered and ready for a family of their own to take them home. What better way to express love than to adopt a little one that truly needs you! Please come and visit this weekend! Someone is waiting for you! Gina DeNofa NormandySupporters don’t know the real ObamaTo those of you who responded in last week’s Northeast Times to my letter to the editor published in the Oct. 10 edition (Don’t fall for the scare tactics from the Obama campaign), thank you.However, it saddens me that not one of you told me WHY you would vote for Obama. Instead, you chose to bash Romney based on a bunch of lies by Obama and his administration.It just showed me and the general public that not one of you really know the real Obama.This, my friends, is what’s scary.Diane McDowellParkwoodA bunch of twenties for one lucky dealerCongratulations to the auxiliary at Aria Hospital Torresdale for another fantastic flea market. Rain or shine, it’s always a pleasure to shop at this well organized event. Saturday, Oct. 13 was particularly exciting. I picked up a 1950s-era tablecloth from a pile on the ground. Just as I was asking the dealer (Peg?) how much it cost, a cascade of $20 bills fell from inside the tablecloth! So now the dealer has about $1,000 she didn’t even know that she had. I have a vintage Christmas tablecloth and a “what would you do” type of story to tell.Vikki JupinWissinoming

Editorial: Speak up on Tuesday

Leave it to Mother Nature to get her daughter, Hurricane Sandy, to help the Republican Party get its wish to shut down government and cast further doubt that Barack Obama will get re-elected on Tuesday.Frankenstorm crippled much of the East Coast Monday and Tuesday, closing state, local and federal government offices and putting power companies to the test. It also canceled early voting in a few states.Curbing government and making voting difficult are music to the ears of many in the Republican Party who despise President Obama, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said his top legislative priority was to deny Mr. Obama a second term. His party’s senators have used a record number of filibusters to block votes on virtually every economic-development and jobs bill supported by Mr. Obama — just to make him look bad to the nation.The Not-so-Grand Old Party is also home to Senate candidates who {a} think women who become pregnant from rape should not be allowed to have abortion because the pregnancy is God’s will (Richard Mourdock in Indiana) and {b} think women who are raped can’t get pregnant (Todd Akin in Missouri); a vice presidential candidate who thinks rape victims should not be permitted to have abortions and who this year tried to cut $10 billion a year in federal disaster aid (Rep. Paul Ryan), and a presidential candidate who wants disaster-relief responsibilities to be stripped from FEMA and given to private industry (Mitt Romney)So, ladies and gentlemen of the voting jury, if you’re thinking of not voting next Tuesday because you don’t care about politics or you think your vote doesn’t matter, think again. The recovery from Hurricane Sandy is just one reason you need government in your lives. Don’t you dare sit on your hands on Election Day.Send letters to the editor to:

Letters to the editor: Oct. 24, 2012 edition

Councilman: School gym issue will be fixedThis is in response to Bill Rubin’s letter in last week’s edition: One of my highest priorities has always been the youth organizations in my district. Upon learning about the School District’s plan to charge volunteer youth organizations for the use of school gyms, I immediately began fielding calls and meeting with athletic directors, coaches and parents.I am working with my Council colleagues to come up with a solution, as we have done in the past. I will never tolerate any youth organization paying to use city facilities.I do appreciate Mr. Rubin reminding my constituents that I have never voted for a property tax increase, including the last three consecutive years.I am optimistic that this school gym funding issue will again be resolved, hopefully for the last time.Brian O’NeillCouncilman, 10th DistrictEditor’s note: Mayor Nutter and the school district on Tuesday announced an agreement to maintain programs at school gymnasiums while altering schedules or locations to save costs.

Editorial: Pay to play? No way!

Only in Philadelphia could the public school system get away with making community athletic groups pay what essentially is an extra tax to play games in public school gymnasiums after school hours. Or can it? The School District of Philadelphia’s plan to impose user fees at nights and on weekends is not a done deal. With three consecutive years of property-tax hikes and a not-so-temporary hike in the sales tax, Northeast Philly parents, already taxed up the wazoo, must say “NO!” Much of the blame for the school district’s poor fiscal condition lies squarely in the laps of past members of the School Reform Commission, which a year ago inexplicably gave $905,000 to inept ousted Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to buy out her contract. That $905,000 could have paid for many hours of after-hours play time at school gyms throughout the city. City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who has the statutory power to withhold questionable or otherwise improper city payments, should have tried to block the Ackerman fiscal fiasco. City taxpayers should tell Mr. Butkovitz, who is likely to seek re-election next year, to join City Council members in instructing the school district — and if necessary, the city recreation department and the entire city government — to forget about charging taxpayers to use public facilities already financed by their (public) tax dollars.Philadelphia residents and merchants must also demand the city crack down on tax cheats and finally collect the $515 million owed to the city and school district. If it does that, there will be plenty of money to keep school gymnasiums open for kids who just want to play ball.There was good news on Tuesday when Mayor Nutter granted a partial reprieve for the clubs as he announced that the city would pay $338,000 in gym fees. The money will fund court time at 25 gyms until 8:30 on weeknights and all day on Saturdays for five months starting Dec. 5. Here’s the bad news: The athletic groups will still have to pay-out-of-pocket if they want to use any of the other 80 school gyms after 7:30 on weeknights or on Saturdays.Send letters to the editor to:

Letters to the editor: Oct. 17, 2012 edition

The double standard is in black and whiteI have been paying public school taxes since 1950, and although I never had a child in a public school and I retired 18 years ago, the beat goes on. I’m shocked to read that some schools are “Democrat” and a student wearing a Romney/Ryan shirt was compared to a teacher wearing a KKK shirt.Do we also have Republican schools where a student wearing an Obama shirt would be ridiculed and threatened and afraid to return to school? Of course not, as that would be racial intimidation and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson could go nationwide with it.If this teacher wants a real cause celebre, she should ask why we can have black student council, black clergy, black caucus and hundreds of others, who by their very titles are discriminatory.If we have any groups that start with “white,” I’ll apologize, as I’ve never heard of them, and it was years ago that country clubs, swim clubs, etc., had to integrate or lose their charters. If there is a difference between “whites only” drinking fountains and “Democrats only” political shirts, I can’t see it, except to say, wake up, Philadelphia — we’re paying for these schools and teachers, and look what’s happening!Jim LavertyParkwood

Editorial: Rebel with a cause

When he was laid to rest Tuesday afternoon in a cemetery in Lower Moreland just across the border with Somerton, Arlen Specter left a legacy that likely will remain unmatched by 99.9 percent of American politicians.While most politicians are quite adept at talking the talk and saying and doing a whole lot of nothing in a whole lot of words and time, Mr. Specter — Pennsylvania’s longest-serving U.S. senator who passed away Sunday morning — actually walked the walk with common sense, decency and true public service.The accolades that poured in following word that Mr. Specter had succumbed to cancer were more than just the obligatory lip service that mourners typically give to the recently departed. The good things that politicians and regular people alike said about the former prosecutor, defense attorney and senator were genuine.Sen. Specter’s fierce independent streak, often misinterpreted by skeptics as political opportunism, benefited folks in Pennsylvania and the entire nation more than they probably realize.If most politicians had emulated Sen. Specter by thinking for themselves instead of thinking for the bosses and extremists in their political parties, America would not be in the political and fiscal sinkhole that it currently finds itself in.In the end, Sen. Specter relied on stand-up comedy to help him through his illness, and that should inspire all of us to take our cue from him, especially in trying times. The moral of the Arlen Specter coping story: A hearty dose of laughter is life’s best medicine. ••Send letters to: