Thursday, August 28, 2008

What the heck is boilo?

Boilo - Traditional Yuletide drink of the Coal Region
Boilo is traditionally made during the Christmas and New Year's holiday. It's great on those cold winter nights. Cheers!
Boilo recipe #1: Crock pot style
2 oranges (med-large size)
2 lemons
1 small box raisins (about 1 1/2 ounces)
8 oz honey
12 oz whiskey (or more, to taste). Use Four Roses, or Seagrams 7, or something similar. At least 80 proof (40% alcohol).
1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of any or all of these spices: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Caraway seed, Anise seed

Make this in a crock pot. It's easier than cooking on the stove and much less likely to overcook or scorch. For the quantities shown here, a small (1.5 quart) crock pot will do.
Peel the oranges and lemons. Cut up the fruit and squeeze them into the crock pot. A garlic press works, or you can use some kind of juicer or fruit squeezer if you have one. Put the remaining fruit pulp into the crock pot as well.
Add the raisins, honey, and spices. Stir.
NOTE: do not add whiskey yet!
Start the crock pot and let the mixture cook for about 2-4 hours. Stir occasionally. It's done when the fruit pulp gets "cooked-down".
Strain into a pitcher. Mash down the fruit in the strainer to get all the liquid. NOW add the whiskey to the pitcher and stir. If you cook the whiskey, even for a short time, the alcohol will start to evaporate (and who wants that to happen??). Taste, and add more whiskey to your liking.
Serve hot in shot glasses, espresso cups, or coffee mugs. After the first round, each individual serving can be heated in the microwave.
This recipe makes about 12 ounces of "virgin" boilo. Add 12 ounces of whiskey to this and you get 24 ounces of coal region nectar, enough for 12-18 servings.
Boilo recipe #2: Stovetop style
1 bottle whiskey (any relatively cheap, blended whiskey will do)
Several oranges. Quantity depends on how much you wish to make. Use at least 4.
Same number of lemons
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups of honey
2 cinnamon sticks

Boilo is traditionally made during the Christmas and New Year's holiday. It's great on those cold winter nights. Beware, this can knock you for a loop! Cheers!
Peel the oranges and lemons and cut into quarters. Squeeze the fruit into a pot, then throw in the remaining fruit pulp. Add some water (some people use ginger ale). Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the whiskey. Cook everything at a slow simmer, stirring constantly. This will take about 15-20 minutes. If necessary, add orange juice and a bit more water. The color should be a yellow-orange. Don't overcook; the name is misleading. You don't want to boil this. Then slowly stir in the whiskey. Be careful - this can catch fire if splashed on the stove. Keep adding whiskey to taste. It's not uncommon to use the whole bottle. Simmer for just a few more minutes once the whiskey is added.
Strain and serve hot in shot glasses (a regular glass may crack). Drink in sips. Individual servings can warmed later in a microwave.
Everyone's recipe uses pretty much the same ingredients, but the quantities on each vary greatly. You'll have to experiment to find what suits your taste. See also a traditional Lithuanian recipe.

Constable Probe about to boil over

- I was down by the river cooking up a batch of boilo when the call came through.

It was from one of my sources saying that something was about to break on the constable probe.

The constable probe is a super secret investigation into how Berks County constables are making scads more money than constables in other counties.

They all got the same pay raise in 2007.

Yet three Berks constables made $250,000 in 2007. No other constables even came close.

I've been writing about the constables since 2004 when I got one of those phone calls reporting that a constable was going around the district courts telling everyone he made more than $120,000 that year.

I checked with county Controller Sandy Graffius and she said she would check but assured me that it was unlikely.

She called back flabbergasted and told me to get up to her office because apparently my tipster had good information.

Graffius showed me the volumes of paperwork constables are required to submit to get paid for their work.

Constables typically transport prisoners from the county jail to district courts, provide security in the district court offices, serve summonses and other court papers and arrest scofflaws for unpaid parking and other violations. They also conduct evictions and serve papers in landlord-tenant disputes.

A fee is assigned and paid for each one of the services performed.

So, I asked, how does a constable make $250,000 per year?

Delaware County Constable Jack Esher, president of the Pennsylvania State Constables Association, said a constable working for a busy court can make a lot of money. But he admitted $250,000 was unheard of.

"They're not making it arresting people," Esher added.

Esher explained that when a constable arrests someone on a warrant, they have to bring them to district court and have them arraigned, fingerprinted and then taken before a judge to determine if they will be released on bail or imprisoned pending further court action.

"That all takes time," Esher said. "If you're arresting people you can't be doing something else at the same time."

For one thing, to make $250,000 you have to submit a ton of paperwork.

A 2006 audit by Graffius' staff turned up no evidence of wrongdoing and left me feeling like a blind dog in a meat locker.

If you know where to look, sources say, you can determine whether constables are double-billing for services.

One surefire way to catch cheating, I'm told, is to compare the sign-in sheets at Berks County Prison with the constable cost sheets.

If two constables submit cost sheets to Graffius claiming they both transported prisoners from court to the prison but only one of those constables signed in at the prison, it's a red flag.

I've been knocked as having it in for the constables.

The truth is that some of them are their own worst enemy. They've been telling people stuff they probably wouldn't tell their lawyers.

Some constables, sick of the funny business, have been telling the probers where to probe next.

But it's all very hush-hush right now.

Just like the location of my next batch of boilo.

Action coming in constable probe

The ongoing investigation into Pennsylvania State Constables working in Reading, PA, and Berks County, is about to produce results.

Word has it that at least one Constable has been offered a plea agreement and has been given the Labor Day Weekend to mull the offer.

Accepting the plea agreement would mean resigning the elected state law enforcement post and losing out on what has become a gravy train in recent years.

What once had been a low-paying, low-prestige job is now the highest paid elected post in the Commonwealth. Three Berks constables made $250,000 in 2007. That's more than Gov. Ed Rendell, the attorney general, judges, you name it. Nobody made more than a Berks constable last year.

Nothing will happen until after Labor Day.

So, relax and enjoy the long weekend and tune in here next week for updates.

You can also follow me as Geidas on Twitter, the instant messaging type social networking site that allows me to post breaking news immediately to the web and to your cell phone or other device.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Turnabout is fair play

This story is funny on a number of levels.
Basically, a 28-year-old man was beaten within an inch of his life after he began attacking his wife in a final act of domestic violence.
The man's neighbors, so frustrated by years of caterwauling and banging off walls, intervened and as many as eight of them beat the abuser into submission.
The beating took place in a public housing project, the Glenside Homes in Reading, Berks County, PA.
The man was taken to Reading Hospital where he later died.
Neil Thompson of the 500 block of Avenue A suffered multiple injuries in the attack early Saturday, Aug. 23, and did not regain consciousness.
Thompson was assaulting his girlfriend in his home about 3:15 a.m. when as many as eight people entered the residence and began to beat him.
No weapons were used to an autopsy has been scheduled to determine the exact cause of death.
There have been no arrests.

Back from the boobyhatch

I had been voluntarily incarcerated against my will in an upscale nervous hospital in Berks County, PA, when I received a dispatch from my colleagues advising me that things in Reading, PA, were going to hell in a hand basket.
They had the official announcement that a Doubletree Hotel and conference center, complete with its own parking garage, was coming to Penn Street. It'd be located across the street from the beautiful Sovereign Center.
They also announced valuable seed money had been set aside for the Goggleworks Apartments, across Second Street from the ever popular Goggleworks Center for the Arts.
Then they opened the R/C IMAX theatre complex at Second and Washington streets and the shit hit the fan.
Some genius in the marketing department had the clever idea of offering $1 admissions for the entire four-day weekend.
Well the natives got in there knowing they'd probably never be back and went apeshit. Throwing food, picking fights, letting their kids run around screaming and playing tag in the theaters while the movies were playing.
When the theater people try to expel the offenders they refused to leave and picked a fight with Reading's finest who were stationed in big numbers right outside the movie house. They had the mobile command center there for chrissakes!
The cops had to taser two kids and sprayed a mob of them with pepper spray.
What a bunch of ignorant slobs.
It was a disgrace.
A couple of short-sleeved assistant theater managers got fired in the wake of that debacle I'll tell you.
But that's peanuts compared to what's been going on with the Pennsylvania State Constables and how they've been raping the taxpayers for the past many years.
That's what really made me pull the IVs out and get back to work.
I'm told that three constables will be charged with theft on Wednesday, Aug. 27, and that the probe is ongoing.
The hope is, some of the constables, facing jail time and public humiliation, not to mention losing their elected positions, will roll over on the district judges who are masterminding the crimes.
This is not to say that all constables and district judges are bad. Far be it from me to utter that truth.
The question also remains as to the resolve of the investigators and their bosses. Do they have the stomach for a probe that touches on some of the biggest fundraisers in the Democratic party.
Let's see what unfolds on Wednesday and take it from there.