HEY, PENNSYLVANIA. We need to talk.
Before we get started, let's take a moment to get centered, Mr. Miyagi-style, with a quick deep-breathing exercise.
There, that's better. So here's the deal: after another week of embarrassing episodes - the Inquirer caught state Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin trying to have a supporter appointed to the Court of Judicial Discipline, and state legislators continued their useless pissing match over the state budget - we got to thinking about the state of, well, our state.
Remember all of the Port-A-Potties that lined Center City during the recent papal visit? Imagine them burning. The sight, the smell, the horror. That's Pennsylvania.
A Senate committee is taking steps to possibly remove state Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office. She still has to face a criminal trial - won't that be fun? - but is devoting her energy in the meantime to tearing down the infamous good ol' boys network that is wrapped up in the never-ending Porngate email scandal.
Elected officials in Philadelphia continue to hound District Attorney Seth Williams over his refusal to fire prosecutors Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Patrick Blessington for having received - and in Fina's case, sent - some of the smutty, racist and misogynistic emails while they worked for the Attorney General's Office years ago.
And the state's reputation is getting run into the ground . . . more so than usual.
Don't want to take our word for it? Fine. The Center for Public Integrity last month gave Pennsylvania an "F" on integrity-related issues like judicial accountability (cough, Eakin, cough), legislative accountability (cough, we don't have a budget but the legislators are still getting paid, cough) and ethics enforcement agencies (we're all out of coughs, man).
So, our proposal: it's time to hit the pause button on Pennsylvania. Maybe demote it to a probationary "state-in-training" status for a couple of years, and reboot the political, judicial and prosecutorial system from scratch. In the meantime, the reigns could be handed over to leaders from a state that ranked at the top of the Center for Public Integrity's list, like Alaska.
Admittedly, our only non-Sarah Palin point of reference for Alaska is the horror movie "30 Days of Night." The film was about a horde of bloodsucking vampires who preyed on the decent people of a small town there for what seemed like an eternity.
Come to think of it, this might be a perfect match.
Conspiracy or incompetence?
Speaking of things-being-totally-screwed-up, we hear state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams has filed a complaint with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, alleging a "conspiracy" to whitewash the Eakin email investigation.
Williams wants the board to suspend the law licenses of Judicial Conduct Board Chief Counsel Robert Graci, former Supreme Court special counsel Robert Byer and First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer.
Don't know who they are? It's a long story, but those are the guys who were involved in clearing Eakin of wrongdoing last year and announced that the whole dustup was no big thang. (And Graci, as the Daily News reported last month, failed to publicly disclose that he is a longtime friend of Eakin's who work on his 2011 re-election campaign. Minor detail.)
We got a hold of some of the emails a couple months ago and thought otherwise. On Tuesday, the state's Court of Judicial Discipline agreed, filing misconduct charges against Eakin and saying that he "engaged in conduct so extreme that it brought the judicial office into disrepute."
The question we're still asking: Was it really a conspiracy to protect a Supreme Court justice? Maybe Graci, Byer and Beemer just didn't see all the emails. Maybe they didn't want to see them all and didn't make a good-faith effort to get them. Maybe they just didn't think they were that bad.
We wouldn't mind some answers here.
- Staff writers David Gambacorta and William Bender
contributed to this report