e CommonSense: May 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Paris suburb names street for Mumia Abu-Jamal

We have lots of police officers in our family and among our friends, and this disgusts us:

Paris suburb names street for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA - A street in a Paris suburb has been named in honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

"In France, they see him as a towering figure," said Suzanne Ross, co-chair of the Free Mumia Coalition of New York City, who was part of an April 29 ceremony to dedicate the Rue Mumia Abu-Jamal in the city of St. Denis.

Ross said the street is in the town's Human Rights district, which includes Nelson Mandela Stadium.

Abu-Jamal, a former radio reporter and member of the Black Panther party, was sentenced to death in 1982 for the shooting of 25-year-old Daniel Faulkner. He has maintained his innocence. His writings and taped speeches have made him a cause celebre among Hollywood activists, foreign politicians and some death-penalty opponents who believe he was the victim of a racist justice system.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year agreed to consider three counts of Abu-Jamal's appeal, allegations that there was racial bias in jury selection, that the prosecutor gave an improper summation and that a judge in a previous appeal was biased.

Faulkner's widow, Maureen, called the street dedication "disgusting" and urged Philadelphia residents planning a visit to Paris this summer to cancel their trips. In 2001, the Paris City Council made Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen.

"This is so unnerving for me to get this news," Faulkner said from Los Angeles, where she lives. "It's insulting to the police officers of Philadelphia that they are naming a street after a murderer."

Daniel Faulkner has been honored by a memorial plaque installed at the scene of the shooting at 13th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Succession Planning

It's what every smart corporation does so that when your CEO starts to act a little funny and you think that maybe an overseas assignment - say, perhaps, to Russia - would be good for him and the company, you have his successor all spruced up and ready to go.

Some of us here at DelcoTomPaine saw Andy Reilly on Action News last week, and we all thought the same thing: the man looked - dare we say it? - downright Congressional.

Aw Shucks . . .

The folks here at DelcoTomPaine are blushing bright red, what with all the attention that Peter Porcupine is getting . . .

Editorial: What’s bugging Clouse? Who knows?

People love to gossip - especially about the famous and beautiful and those in positions of power. People like business tycoons. And movie stars. And mayors and governors. And judges.

That’s why some eyebrows were raised in the county seat when it was revealed last week that Delaware County President Judge Kenneth Clouse hired two former FBI agents to sweep the courthouse for bugs. Clouse spent something less than $2,000 to have the sleuths determine whether courthouse phones were tapped. His reason? "There was sensitive personnel information and all kinds of things that were leaked out," he said. "They were either leaked or the phones were tapped."

He also cited "confidential" information about the ongoing contempt-of-court case of jailed lawyer H. Beatty Chadwick. Clouse would not disclose what the agents found, saying only, "We’ve remedied some suspicious areas."

Clouse’s move came as a surprise to high-ranking county government officials. "This is a joke, right?" said Delaware County Council Chairman Andrew Reilly.

Reilly wasn’t laughing when he was assured it was not. After all, he’s in charge of funding the court system, and county council and Clouse have butted heads bitterly over budgets in recent years - to the point where the judge was threatening to sue for more money. While Clouse did nothing wrong in spending the money to hunt for bugs, Reilly didn’t seem happy to find out about it - from a reporter.

But why would Clouse be concerned about security in the first place?

Well, his professional and private lives have been in the spotlight for some time. He drew considerable attention as a Republican rebel and then political insider in the contentious world of Haverford Township politics.

Controversy followed him to the bench. Clouse was even the target of courthouse pickets in 2004 by those who claimed he misrepresented his marital status to avoid paying about $3,000 in real estate transfer taxes in 2002. Clouse later paid the money and an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.

Most recently, a local political blogger dubbed "Peter Porcupine" has written extensively about Clouse and the county courts system on his Web site, CommonSense. [Look, Ma! That's us!] It’s a fascinating blend of fact, rumor and speculation that’s as impossible to resist as slowing down to gawk at a car accident. That would be a fair description of the blogger’s opinion of Clouse’s tenure as president judge, by the way. [Actually, the term "train wreck" is what comes to mind.]

But everyone has opinions, right? And dealing with that is part of being a public official. Ken Clouse has certainly been one of the most interesting president judges in recent county history.

As long as he holds that post, he must know that people are going to be watching what he does and listening to what he says. And then talking about it. However distasteful that may be, it’s certainly no crime. Case dismissed.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

We're famous!

This story was on Channel 6 Action News last night!

Courthouse Conspiracy?
Judge Takes Controversial Action

May 6, 2006 - The Delaware County's top judge wants to know how sensitive information is getting out, so he's taken matters into his own hands.

Fears of espionage at the Delaware County Courthouse...now revelations that the president judge had the building swept by ex-federal agents looking for bugging devices. Judge Kenneth Clouse has confirmed paying 2 former FBI agents nearly 2-thousand dollars to see if courthouse phones were tapped. Clouse, who was not available for comment, told a hi-level county official that too much sensitive information has been leaking out.

The judge's anti-bugging operation was done without the knowledge of the county council, which controls the purse strings, but does not monitor all the court's day-to-day business.

Judge Clouse has been under fire from a county political blog, which regularly rips republicans and Clouse in particular, on cases over which he presided and has included comments about his private life. Was he trying to shut down the leaks to a blogger known as Peter Porcupine?

Chairman Reilly and the president judge have clashed before and Reilly is not ready to sign off on this use of taxpayer's money.

2 thousand dollars out of a county budget of 400 million dollars may seem like a drop in the bucket but his story about leaks does provide a window into the kind of political gamesmanship and paranoia that are legend in Delaware County.

(Copyright 2006 by Action News. All Rights Reserved.)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Does Clouse suspect that federal agents have wiretapped his chambers?

Clouse downplayed the significance of the courthouse sweep, saying, "it’s done all the time by all types of government agencies."

Hmmmm. The last time we remember hearing about a government agency sweeping for bugs, it was John Street, and he found one, because the federal government was investigating corruption in his administration, by Ron White, Cory Kemp, etc.

Kind of makes you wonder.

Question for Judge Clouse

Who leaked to William Bender the story about you having the courthouse swept for bugs?

Question for Andy Reilly

"This is a joke, right?" asked county council Chairman Andrew Reilly. "I can tell you I will be following up with him to talk about it because it does raise some concerns from my standpoint," Reilly said.

We have a concern, too. Do you think this FBI agent only swept the courthouse? With his level of paranoia, we think he probably had his house swept, too. Maybe even both of them. Or even all three of them.

Sometimes you're just paranoid...

We were taking some time off from blogging - life interferes sometimes - but this article was brought to our attention, so we think it's time to get busy again! If you have anything you would like to share with us, please email us at delcotompaine@gmail.com. Complete confidentiality assured!



By WILLIAM BENDER wbender@delcotimes.com

Acting at the behest of Delaware County President Judge Kenneth Clouse, two former FBI agents performed a sweep of the courthouse to neutralize what Clouse had deemed a security breach. It is unclear when the sweep took place, but Clouse said Thursday that the former G-men were paid less than $2,000 to determine if courthouse phones were tapped.

"There was sensitive personnel information and all kinds of things that were leaked out. They were either leaked or the phones were tapped," Clouse said.

He also cited "confidential" information concerning the case of H. Beatty Chadwick, the Main Line attorney who has been in jail for more than a decade for refusing to reveal where $2.5 million in marital assets are hidden.

Asked if the problem had been resolved, Clouse said, "As far as we know, it has been. These fellas should know what they’re doing. They’re former FBI agents."

The judge would not disclose whether any phone lines were, in fact, tapped.

"We’ve remedied some suspicious areas," he said, declining to elaborate.

The judge’s "security measure" was apparently authorized without the knowledge of county council, which provides Clouse with money to run the court system, but does not monitor all the day-to-day operations.

"It’s not something that I’ve heard of," said county Executive Director Marianne Grace.

"So Judge Clouse swept the courthouse?" county Solicitor John McBlain asked. "That’s a new one."

"This is a joke, right?" asked county council Chairman Andrew Reilly.

"I can tell you I will be following up with him to talk about it because it does raise some concerns from my standpoint," Reilly said.

Clouse would not say if he hired the agents to stop the flow of information to CommonSense (http://www.delcotompaine.blogspot.com/), a county politics blog that was launched last August. The author writes under the pseudonym Peter Porcupine.

The site is "intended to be a forum for discussing Delaware County government, and how it can be improved to the benefit of the taxpayers." It has been critical of county Republicans, particularly Clouse and his handling of the Chadwick case.

Clouse’s longtime companion, Lynn Cohen, is also a frequent topic on the site.

In 2004, the judge was targeted by courthouse demonstrators who claimed he had misrepresented his marital status to avoid paying about $3,000 in real estate transfer taxes in 2002. Clouse later paid the money and was cleared of any wrongdoing by the state attorney general’s office.

The site’s most recent posting is dated March 10 under the heading "Wedding Bells Are Ringing?" It asks, "Is it true that wedding bells will soon be ringing in the President Judge’s chambers?"

The blog’s operator did not respond to e-mail Thursday.

Clouse downplayed the significance of the courthouse sweep, saying, "it’s done all the time by all types of government agencies."

McBlain said he was not aware of any phones being checked in the adjacent government center, nor does he suspect that they are tapped.

"If somebody’s listening, they’re going to be awfully bored," he said.