SANDUSKY SCANDAL MOVING, AT LAST, TO RESOLUTION
The word "closure" is one of those soggy cliches overused by the media, and it's sure to be trotted out the next couple of days in reference to the nearly $60 million Penn State is paying to victims of Jerry Sandusky's long-running horror show of sexual abuse while university officials looked the other way.
When the 26 separate settlements were announced Monday, Rodney Erickson, Penn State's president, declared the payout was "another step forward in the healing process" and the university "cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure that it never happens again." University officials also offered assurances that Penn State's students would not have to shoulder the burden of the settlement through increased tuition, with the money coming instead from liability insurance policies.
Of course, substantial dollar amounts being funneled to 26 individuals, coming to about $2.3 million per person, will not be sufficient to ease the suffering of Sandusky's victims, many of whom are likely to need many years of counseling. As an attorney for one of them told The New York Times, "You can never make whole anyone who is raped by another individual."
With Sandusky, a former assistant football coach and Washington native, now safely stashed away at the state correctional institution in Greene County and unlikely to ever take a breath as a free man again, the remaining chapter in the whole, stomach-churning saga will be written when former athletic director Tim Curley, former president Graham Spanier and former vice president Gary Schultz are tried on criminal counts that they knew about Sandusky's activities and sought to cover them up for the sake of the football program's reputation.
Once the fate of Curley, Spanier and Schultz is decided, perhaps then there will finally be a sense of resolution in this whole sorry scandal.
EXTEND LEGAL GAMBLING TO PENNSYLVANIA TAVERNS? NO THANKS
In one sense, Pennsylvania legislators have about 150 million reasons to expand gambling into taverns. That's the amount of new gambling income that could flow into the state budget, if two thousand or so drinking establishments are allowed to get in on the gambling action with pull tabs and raffles.
The state Senate and Gov. Corbett are already on board with the necessary legislation. The only remaining hurdle is approval by the state House, where the measure has stalled.
Hauling in money from gambling is an easy out for politicians. It lets them avoid making tough calls - either holding back spending or collecting more money through taxes.
Gambling, the argument goes, is a voluntary activity—unlike paying taxes, nobody is forced to do it. So why not keep tapping this form of "entertainment" to pay more and more for government services?
But the more government expands legalized gambling, the more it exploits vulnerable people—compulsive gamblers or those who are stuck in lives of poverty and desperation.
The social harm from that must be weighed against the view, certainly valid, that gambling is simply a form of entertainment for people who don't mind losing money and can keep it within affordable bounds.
As with alcohol, gambling is one of those human activities where pitfalls lurk on either extreme of the law. Try to prohibit it altogether, and many people will gamble illegally. Besides creating fertile ground for organized crime and related violence, and diverting police from protecting the law-abiding public, prohibition simply doesn't work.
But open the legalized gambling door too far, and too many compulsive gamblers will drive themselves and their families into bankruptcy and homelessness. Even more poor and desperate people, instead of saving money to get ahead, will throw it away in hopes of a big payday. As big money moves in to take advantage of liberalized gambling rules, millions and millions of dollars will flow into a part of the economy that does nothing productive but move money from one person's pocket to another.
So the challenge for politicians is to find the right balance: Keep gambling out of the criminal underworld, while limiting the number of people who fall into self-inflicted ruin.
The latest call to expand gambling would benefit a politically appealing constituency: mom-and-pop taverns. Their owners are the kind of small-business people politicians listen to.
But when you expand gambling to a couple thousand new sites, it's difficult to ensure proper oversight. The easier you make it to gamble, the more money the state gets, but the more problems it creates.
From 2009 to 2012, Pennsylvania took in $5.4 billion from casino gambling taxes - more than New Jersey and Nevada combined. Pennsylvania casinos gross some $3 billion a year, more than any other state.
Pennsylvania also has the lottery, which sells $3.7 billion of tickets. The lottery nets $1 billion a year for programs serving senior citizens.
There is plenty of gambling here in Pa., and plenty of gambling money pouring into the state treasury.
Tempting as it is to cut taverns in on gambling action, they already serve a clientele where one type of addiction is an issue. Expecting them to properly police those with another type of addiction is asking for more trouble—trouble that the state isn't prepared to handle.
If Pennsylvania politicians would set aside their selfish interest in looking for easy spending money, they would ask this question:
Do we think Pennsylvania lacks enough ways for people to gamble?
Asked that way, the answer is clear.
FROWN ON 'BLACK THURSDAY'—STAY HOME
Here's one holiday tradition we could do without—stores creeping their black Friday openings ever earlier.
It used to be retailers kicked off the Christmas shopping season bright and early the Friday morning after Thanksgiving.
And diehard shoppers braved the crowds, lured by promises of deep discounts offered for one day and one day only.
Over the years, however, morning became midnight, and now more and more retailers are offering door busters before the Thanksgiving plates are even cleared. Macy's was the latest to enter the fray, announcing recently its West Manchester Mall store would open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, enabling shoppers to find deals "after families across the country have finished their holiday meals and celebrations."
But it doesn't leave much family time for shoppers and store employees.
Talk about eating and running.
In fact, said 67-year-old York Township resident Janis Pichtel, "When 8 p.m. rolls around on Thanksgiving, I'm drained. The last thing I want to do is go to a store."
Last year, Kmart, Sears, Toys R Us and Walmart opened at 8 p.m., and Target opened at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
The move paid off big for the retailers, which reported record black Friday sales in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. Retailers raked in $59.1 billion in sales, compared to $52.4 billion spent in 2011, the trade organization reported.
Not everyone, it seems, frowns on holiday shopping on a holiday.
"I'll go whenever they open, even if I have to eat my dinner in the parking lot," said Nicole Buchar, a 35-year-old West York resident.
With that kind of dedication, what incentive is there, really, for retailers to reverse course?
They'll keep selling earlier and earlier as long as buyers keep showing up in droves.
If some find that offensive or insensitive, they should stay home.
No one is forcing them to leave their families in search of discounts.
Now, if enough people did that, retailers just might return Thanksgiving to their customers.
— York Dispatch
WHO SAYS ELECTIONS ARE BORING? MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT NEXT WEEK
If you've had occasion to read our three recent stories profiling the candidates for controller, coroner and prothonotary/clerk of courts in Northumberland County, we think you'd agree there's more than meets the eye to the operation of these "row offices."
The prothonotary/clerk of court's office, for example, is an important revenue generator, besides its primary function of record-keeping for the civil and criminal courts.
The coroner's role is about more than responding to fatal vehicle accidents; there's a lot of paperwork involved, including a signoff on every cremation in the county regardless of the cause of death.
The controller has more than just the auditing of the county books to be concerned with; the office also monitors the county's $77 million in investments.
With these things taken into consideration, who can say elections are boring - or that it doesn't matter who gets elected?
The three county races highlight the local election ballot one week from today. There is added interest in these otherwise mundane county positions in light of the recent 2-1 vote by county commissioners to cut the salaries of five of six row officers by 42 to 48 percent. The prothonontary/clerk of courts and coroner who are elected Nov. 5 will be paid by the new rates come Jan. 1.
There are plenty of local races, too, including school boards, borough councils and township boards, to consider next Tuesday.
We'll be offering our pros and cons for the six candidates involved in the three county races in this space in the next few days. Short of endorsing any candidates, we'd rather offer what we see as their strengths and weaknesses, and let voters decide for themselves who it is they'll vote for.
In the meantime, here's a reminder for all registered voters to make the most important choice on election day - to get out and vote. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Prepare now by becoming informed. Then get to your local polling station next week and be sure you play a part in the outcome of the election.
— (Shamokin) News-Item
CAMPAIGN OF CONFUSION
In its relentless effort to justify the boondoggle that is Pennsylvania's voter-ID law, the Corbett administration is wasting $1 million in taxpayer funds on a media blitz that at best will annoy voters and at worst will disenfranchise them.
This is happening even though Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley, who is considering a challenge to the voter-ID law, ruled in August that it would not apply to the Nov. 5 election. Nonetheless, the voter-ID ideologues have produced a 30-second television commercial that's confusing enough to create the mistaken impression that official photo identification will be required to vote next week. At one point in the ad, an announcer says voters won't need an ID but then abruptly goes on to explain how to get one.
Proponents of the law, enacted in March 2012, say they want to wipe out voter fraud. But the voter impersonation the law would prevent is so uncommon that the state was unable to produce a single verified case of it. That doesn't mean it never happens, but it does mean that this approach to preventing it is like using a wrecking ball to kill a gnat.
Democrats have criticized the law as an unnecessary obstacle designed to hamper their likely supporters, including the elderly, minorities, students, and people with disabilities. About 500,000 Pennsylvanians could be denied the right to vote if the law goes into effect.
During a three-week trial this summer, those challenging the law pointed to numerous instances of legitimately registered voters being needlessly hindered. A Beaver County woman testified that her daughter had to take her on a 2 1/2-hour round trip to get a qualifying ID, only to be forced to make several repeat trips. A Berks County woman had so much trouble getting an ID that she gave up.
State workers admitted sending out inaccurate information about where and when individuals could get photo IDs. Internal memos showed bureaucrats so concerned that elderly voters wouldn't be able to get IDs that they suggested letting them all vote with absentee ballots.
And now, rather than letting people vote in peace while the law is on hold, the administration is responding with an ad campaign that's bound to keep the confusion going.
Soon after the legislature passed the voter-ID bill last year, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) famously admitted that it was intended to help Republican Mitt Romney carry Pennsylvania in the presidential election. Fortunately, the courts kept the law from being implemented in November.
Gov. Corbett's own reelection bid will culminate next fall, and polls indicate he is in trouble. He could help himself out of it by asking the legislature to repeal this cynical law. State Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia) has already introduced a bill to do just that.
Instead of voter ID, Corbett should be focusing on properly funding education and transportation and shoring up the state's economy. Meeting those challenges is harder than confusing voters, but it's more worthwhile.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer