Opinions need not be feared nor suppressed.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Pepsi machines

I was wondering, how’s all of that promised hope and change going so far?

I mean to say, for those of you who invested all of your hope and dreams in Barack Oblahblah, what do you think so far?

Gitmo is still open for business, still taking reservations. Not that I mind none too much. When I was in the 6th grade, they packed us up in yellow school busses and drove us to the Bronx Zoo in New York City. And what I learned that day (other than how to summon up enough courage to kiss a girl) was that animals do belong in cages when brought out of their natural habitats.

That promise of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq never did happen. But, even as an Oblahblah supporter, you knew that was just the inane ranting of an unaccomplished pretender, didn’t you? You knew that wasn’t going to happen, right?

Oblahblah criticized the prosecution of both the war in Iraq as well as the Afghanistan effort. And then we went and applied the very same strategy (the surge) used in Iraq in Afghanistan. What’s that? When in D.C., do as the former hated president, George W. Huffandpuff did?

He’s on record as saying he would use military force against an ally, Pakistan, but he gives the kid glove treatment to rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. An ally with nuclear weapons gets the tough talk, a not-so-veiled threat, but a declared adversary, an openly hostile enemy with nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them gets a mild behind-the-scenes scolding from Hillary Clinton?

The biggest knock on George W. Bush was his unchecked spending and record-setting budget deficits. But Oblahblah is to spending money we do not have what mean old Bush was to offering malapropisms. The former talked funny and spent too much. The latter talks oh-so-smoothly and spends like a plastic-carrying chick at a factory outlet going-out-of-business sale.

He says America cannot and will not condone torture. Really? If he’s serious about that, then she should order the FCC to immediately disband 1,000,000 of the approximately 1,000,030 television networks. It’s the surest way to prove he means business.

As for his recent nominee to the supreme court who’s name is of yet unpronounceable, I do not believe, as many republicans do, that she is a racist. Rather, it’s blatantly obvious to me that she is simply your average American female, in that, she was born and raised on misandry. Face it, she’s a misandrist. And since white males are now generally regarded to as being the absolute worst of the species, it only makes sense that her vertiginous nature be exposed but excused for what it is--normal.

And did you really believe that a democrat-controlled federal government would be a significant improvement over a republican-dominated government? The election is long gone and it’s time to sober up, you dummies.

No matter which party is currently in power, this is how the bedraggled system now works.

Congress has become little more than 535 lying, weaseling glad handlers scouring all of Amerika in search of under-the-table bribes. The explanation of which is as follows:

They are the Pepsi machines of democracy: Insert money, press a few buttons and out pops the legislation you wanted. And the president, despite all of his important-sounding and high-minded proclamations to the opposite, presides over the rampant corruption and signs it all into law. And that’s exactly why this country is fast being reduced to a mere pittance of it’s formerly great self. That’s exactly why it’s fast becoming a third world country not yet aware of it’s rapidly dwindling status.

And if I receive any rejoinder to that argument, I will immediately fear for the overall mental health of the sender.

The election is long gone and it’s time to sober up, you dummies.

Now, you might be wondering, why the lugubrious mood today, Markie? Who pissed in your Genny Light? (Get it? Beer for breakfast?)

I dunno. It all started this morning when I was reading the Times Leader article about the upcoming ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new River Common at Wilkes-Barre. I was picturing myself in a kayak. I pictured myself surrounded by hundreds of other brightly-colored kayaks and canoes. And I was picturing the throngs of people eagerly awaiting our arrival at Nesbitt Park. The festivities. The music. The boats. The displays. The food. The U.S.S. Dude, which displaces 46,000 tons (Iowa class) and to date, has made my arms approximately two inches longer in length after carrying it to the car one too many times.

And then it dawned on me that the entire three-day RiverFest event would be kicked-off with all of the politicos lining up for their share of the credit for the culmination of this grandiose project with shiny scissors in hand. And while it is certainly my personally sent indictment of some, but not all in attendance, the word “avarice” jumped up and clamped a hold of the long-dormant family jewels. Yep, as we’re gliding on by in our gleaming kayaks, I guess we’re supposed to mouth a heartfelt “Thank you” to all of the usually stodgy, crabby and unapproachable Pepsi machines waving back at us from the newly-crafted shoreline.

It’s just that, while they give you this, they take away all of that that was so near and dear to you. Namely, the country you grew to love. While they proudly deliver a few trinkets to the lot of us, they also (expletive) up all of that by way of their bicameral stuffing of deep pockets with ill begotten cash.

They gave me a beautiful new river amenity, meanwhile, they are also busily putting the final nails in this country’s coffin. For them, there is no love of country, only the love and enrichment of oneself. They do not “serve” me. They make no sacrifices for any greater good. No, pointedly put, they serve themselves.

As far as I’m concerned, what started out as such a great experiment in representative democracy has devolved into the single most blatant racket throughout the entire and sordid history of the world. To me, the Pepsi machines, no matter their proudly-displayed political stripe, have become nothing more than fraudulence on parade.

And before I depart from this electronic haunt of mine, to anyone who may be completely offended by the preceding circumlocution, I must remind them that borderline insanity is not yet illegal.

So, I will retreat to the safety and solitude of my trusty Hummer.

Bikeabout! has been declared.


Friday, May 29, 2009

The worm has turned or: I want to go drinking with Kevin Lynn

I haven’t been writing at all this week because I’ve had other, more important things to do.

First of all, last night we attended Luzerne County Community College’s 41st Annual commencement ceremony as my daughter Ebon has finished her days there and escaped with an associates degree in something or other. I’m tired, but I think it was sports science, or sports management, or some such thing. Some variation thereof. All I know is, she’s chasing her dream of being around competitive athletics for the entirety of her life. And a goodly part of me is jealous.

I like to kid her about taking three years to earn a two-year degree, but I know she’s been spread thin while working a part-time job, managing a summer camp for kids, working at the YMCA, coaching the GAR girl’s volleyball team and going to class.

When she resigned as the volleyball coach at GAR, I thought she would devote more time to her studies. But, true to form, she ended up coaching softball at Crestwood while also playing softball for L.C.C.C. this past season.

And while it may seem that she’s tormented by divided loyalties, nothing could be further from the truth, because everything she’s immersed herself in has been about two things: sports and kids.

So, she’s got two more years of schooling to go, and then she’ll be a certified leader of what I like to call, the big chicks. The chicks that play fast pitch. The chicks that train and play as hard as the boys. The chicks that leave it all where it ought to be left…on the playing field.

Sure, I’m proud of her. But more than anything, I’m happy for her.

I actually enjoyed listening to WILK’s Steve Corbett on Wednesday night while he was trying and failing to suggest that with the City of Wilkes-Barre investigating whether or not all of it’s employees are meeting the residency requirements as stipulated by their contracts is some sort of budding controversy. It was akin to listening to a toddler explaining the meaning of life.


He actually referred to it as “…this other corruption in Wilkes-Barre city.”

Other? Other corruption? What the hell is that jerk going on about now?

Yeah, he got in his perfunctory, introductory shots at our mayor with the following: “…the worst mayor in the United States of America,” and, “Pound for pound, the worst mayor in America.”

Blah, blah (expletive) blah.

So incorrectly redundant, he is. Predictable, in fact. And there’s nothing worse than being predictable. Boring. Steve. Note the progression there: Predictable...boring...Steve.

Yeah, and that useless barf comes from the worst radio talk show host in the history of Northeastern Pennsylvania, if not the entirety of what used to be the United States of America. Consider the apoplectic, henpecked source.

This was what he had to say to the employees of Wilkes-Barre who may not be meeting the residency requirements as per their collective bargaining agreements:

1. “You should be fired, you know what the rules are.”

2. “You’re running a hustle, you’re violating the public trust.”

3. “The names should be released, as far as I’m concerned.”

4. “You wanna be a cop in Wilkes-Barre? Live in Wilkes-Barre! That’s what they do in Scranton.”

Ah, and there it is. Scranton, Steve’s newly adopted sh*thole. Scranton, the model of perfection which all other cities the world over can strive to duplicate. Scranton, that city where the streets are paved with gold and lined with silver, where the cinnamon-tinged sidewalks are edible and where the rain converts to golden coins right before hitting the lush streams of milk chocolate flowing through the award-winning parks.

There is not, nor ought there be, nothing so exulted on the surface of God’s great earth, as that prince of cities…Scranton.

What a (expletive) deliberately half-blind maroon!

Scranton, where growing, crushing outstanding debts are ignored, where staggering debt service payments increase every fiscal year, and where the uppity mayor of the financially-distressed (Act 47) city sidesteps every single public meeting without Steve ever once calling him out on it. Scranton, that near total sh*thole of a place on a direct and inescapable collision course with financial insolvency borne of profligate spending. That place.

What’s really burning his fat ass is the fact that the multitudinous amounts of scandals in this county have not made their way to Wilkes-Barre’s City Hall. That’s what’s really burning his fat ass. That’s why he always refers to the troubles at the county courthouse as the “scandals in Wilkes-Barre. Because he is a prevaricator. He misrepresents the facts as often as he can simply because he has a personal vendetta going for Mayor Tom Leighton. He is willing to besmirch all of our reputations because of his illogical personal dislike of one man. For whatever reason, he finds Mayor Tom Leighton to be irksome, so we all must feel his apoplectic wrath.

Point blank, is it not enough that the City of Wilkes-Barre initiated the ongoing investigation without any outside help? As in, outside help from the F.B.I.?

Amazingly, stupidly, before going on to his next topic, he said the following:

“Scranton is rife with political corruption,” and “Lackawanna County is ragged with political corruption.”

Huh? This guy is to keeping his focus what I am to embracing people who jumped my country’s border. What a hapless, flailing, mentally indigent fool. Scranton is rife with political corruption, so through tireless repetition, he’ll create the illusion that Wilkes-Barre is rife with political corruption. Yet another argument for legalized abortion. Another aging, fading hippie who cannot let go of the turbulent, debilitating 60s.

And if this don’t beat all, if this doesn’t take the proverbial cake, while talking to Linda Stets about her once short-lived appointment to the board of trustees at L.C.C.C, she said, “I’m not politically connected.”


Did I miss something? Has Barack Oblahblah outlawed sanity and reason?

Her own hubby, a Luzerne County commissioner, recommended that she be appointed, and then he voted for her appointment.


She’s not politically connected? If she’s not, then who the (expletive) is?

I swear, if mental acuity were a prerequisite for those appearing on talk radio, we’d all be listening to Radar Love 24/7. You people are scaring me.

And it’s getting really bad of late. So bad, in fact, that WILK’s Kevin Lynn has been upgraded to my elongated list of people I could have a beer with. It’s gotten that completely bad. That proverbial worm from proverbs past has definitely turned on me.

Kevin, do you feel like meeting me at Grottos where we can slam back a few dozen or so and giggle ourselves silly at silly Steve’s expense? C’mon, man.

I’m buying.

Our republican county controller nominee, Walter Griffith, has himself a new Web address. Not a new campaign Web site, mind you. Just a new address.

Walter Griffith.com

Now you know.

With all of the political scandals now stretching from one end of this county to the other, my mind keeps drifting back to one thing. My thoroughly denuded but ever-expansive mind (figure that one out) keeps reexamining the same thing, and that same old question remains unanswered.

Let’s do it.

When then county controller Maryanne Petrilla won her election battle and ascended to the chairmanship of the county commissioners, why the hell did Governor Ed Rendell choose not to appoint her replacement over a two-year span? Why did he choose to leave that spot unfilled for so long, unfilled to this very day? Why is it that the county still has no appointed controller, only an acting controller who is basically doing just that--acting? Why no financial oversight?

With so many high-ranking county employees now disgraced, resigned, arrested and, or preparing for a lengthy prison stay, is it just an amazing coincidence that Luzerne County should go through this scandalous upheaval of a period without anyone in that most crucial of positions?

I really hate to carp like one of those effeminate-sounding democrats, but what did Ed Rendell know, and when did he know it?

What’s up with that?

Here’s one I penned.

What do our local school board members and prostitutes have in common?

If you want in, you ask them the very same question: How much?

Here’s one Gort and I collaborated on quite by accident:

What do former figure skater Tanya Harding and a current member of the Wilkes-Barre Area school board have in common?

They both convinced someone to take a lead pipe to a competitor’s knee.

Whoa! Can’t take much more, right? Me neither.

Here’s another:

How did Barack and Michele Obahblah first meet?

They were both dating the same Marxist rabble-rouser at the same time while in college.

Okay, lame. I know. But probably entirely true.

Try this one:

How many county commissioners does it take to bring transparency to our local government?

None of them.

Get it?

How do you spell “bald-faced liar?”

V-A-T (Value…added…tax.)

95%, my ass!

I tell ya, I get no respect.

Hey, I went to a Scranton city council meeting the other night, and a hockey game broke out.

Yeah, a Scranton council meeting. That’s where the borderline functional and arguably intelligent repeatedly chastise the unruly recipients of a minimally-invasive education.

But it’s still better than Wilkes-Barre, right Steve?

Keep telling yourself that, pal. Keep on repeating that same tired drivel. And when your uppity mayor finally gravitates up that political ladder that so tantalizes him and leaves you people up Scranton way holding the bag filled with hundreds of millions in outstanding debts, I’ll be calling you on your big radio talk show and your blood pressure will be a rising proportionately. I’m gonna use you like your off-the-tracks, drug-addled generation once used plastic (expletive) dolls, pal.

Yep, apparently Scranton is the financial model that Barack Obahblah copied. Act 47 got you down? Distressed city status bugging you? Are you mired in debt with practically nowhere to turn?

Well, then, spend your way out of it. Just keep spending money you do not have and convince yourself that you can indeed spend your way out of your fast-rising debts. Yeah, man. That ought to work. We’ll spend money we don’t have and call it progress. That is, until the entire financial house of cards finally implodes upon itself.

Good luck with that, Steve. Enjoy.

Yet another recipient of a minimally-invasive education.

Sez me,

Mark (expletive) Cour.


Monday, May 25, 2009

The vets that made it home

Today is the bonus day of our glorious three-day weekend, this weekend in which we officially kick-off the Summer season.

Scratch that.

This is that weekend, the weekend when we’re supposed to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for those who would come later…all of us.

But after two-plus days of scanner monitoring, I’m not sure we’re supposed to honor our war dead by getting ourselves arrested.

Honestly, it hasn’t been quite as bad as past years, as bad as it could be. There must not be a full moon overhead. Maybe it’s not quite hot and humid enough to get tempers flaring as high and hot as they could. Maybe the hiring of darn near two platoons of new police officers makes it easier to keep a lid on these predictably asinine three-day excursions into drunken stupidity, domestic violence, robbery and illegal fireworks displays. Maybe that’s what the difference is. And, yes, we had quite a few explosions rumbling through the Nord End yesterday.

Note to idiots: Save that sh*t for the 4th of July, the one day of the year when it’s practically legal to blow your fingers off.

End note.

It’s just that, I’d hate to think that if were one of those war dead, that this is what I was defending--the right to be drunk and rowdy and half-naked and stupid for an entire three-day weekend. I’d hate to think I took a round so some drunken moron has the right to beat the phlegm out of his steady squeeze simply because she would not relinquish control of the remote. I’d hate to think I took a round so some drunken moron has the right to beat the phlegm out of his former steady squeeze simply because she will not relinquish custody of their shell-shocked child.

And I could be wrong, I might get myself skewered via the e-mail inbox for suggesting as much, but, with so many of our police officers being veterans themselves, I have to believe that very many of them think Memorial Day is pretty much a joke.

While they may not have made that ultimate sacrifice, they easily could have. I don’t have any statistics at hand, but even during those rare stretches when peace breaks out, many members of our various branches of the military are killed during training exercises and the like. It’s an inherently risky business, whether blanks or high-velocity rounds are ringing out.

So, here they are veterans, here they are out there patrolling the streets over the Memorial Day weekend, and here they are dealing with the absolute worse that humanity has to offer--only drunker and dumber than usual. In addition, here they are having to deal with the normally sedate folks, all muscled-up on alcohol and behaving far worse than they normally do.

And to me, that’s patently unfair, if not just another small increment of the relentlessly incremental jading process. As I sort of said, I dunno.

Anyway, enjoy the big holiday weekend. Whoop it up. Blow off a thumb, maybe two. Barbecue some selected dead animal parts. Ingest copious amounts of fermented weeds. Melt a few marshmallows. Watch Jeff Gordon and the boys on the wall-mounted 100-inch video advertising box. Run out for some more canned fermented weeds.

And when you wake up in the hoosegow the next morning, all dazed and confused…try to remember those who laid down their lives to protect your right to be publicly drunk and stupid on Memorial Day.

And remember that the folks staring in at you from the other side of those metal bars--the vets that made it home--also risked their lives for you.

And still do.

That’s all I got.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Halliburton is here in Wilkes-Barre...

I ain’t read nothin’ this completely lame-brained since we had us that other mayor--old what’s his name. What was that guy’s name?

Ah, never you mind.

Businessman set to sue city, college

A North Main Street nightclub owner alleges his business and clientele are being unfairly targeted by the City of Wilkes-Barre, which has stepped up police patrols in the area following a rash of high-profile violent crimes nearby.

Thom Greco, the owner of The Mines and a long-time restaurateur, said he sent a letter outlining his complaint to city officials and King’s College, located across the street from the bar at 105 N. Main St.

City Administrator J.J. Murphy confirmed he had seen the Greco letter, which threatened a lawsuit against the city and King’s, alleging The Mines has been singled out from the rest of the Main Street bar scene because of the customers there on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Murphy denied Greco’s club was the target of discriminatory policing tactics. He said the city increased patrols at the behest of students and parents worried about crime in the area.

“We have deployed police officers in that area up and down Main Street,” Murphy said after Thursday night’s city council meeting. “There was a girl who was murdered on North Main just a few weeks ago.

“I thought Mr. Greco would advocate, as he has in the past, for a safe downtown.”

I have to say, that last crack kind of says it all.

But it gets better with this next one:

“My understanding is that the officers have been in front of all the establishments because of the rash of crimes in that area,” Murphy said. “And I know for a fact that the other businesses in the area have complimented the city on the (police) presence.”

Thom Greco can say what he wants, but what you have here is a business owner complaining about an enhanced, highly visible police presence in the area of his establishment.

And if that’s not one for the record books, if that doesn’t beat all, then we’ll have to wait for some businessman to be angered by the installation of new sidewalks and curbs near his shop to top this useless swill. How patently absurd.

All of which takes me back to a previous article on this growing imbroglio:

City’s emphasis on safety takes ironic turn

Safety is a crucial element for the North Main Street area and all of downtown Wilkes-Barre. As more and more area residents and visitors walk city streets at night, use downtown parking lots, attend movies and visit restaurants and bars, they need to feel secure.

It was not so long ago when very few walked in downtown Wilkes-Barre after dark. Now, with a frequent and obvious police presence, security has returned, and so have the crowds.

For local businessman, Thom Greco, it’s not that simple.

The police, Greco says, have been too heavy-handed with patrons of The Mines, his nightclub across North Main Street from King’s College. On a recent night, Greco counted 30 county, city and state officials patrolling his block. In a written complaint to the city, Greco says his club has been unfairly targeted, patrons have been turned away and his business is losing money. He has threatened to sue both the city and King’s College.

While the exact police tactics used near The Mines are still unclear, the irony of the situation is evident. Greco views the heavy police presence as his ruin, while having a large a number of police officers in plain sight has become the most important key to safety in the rest of the downtown Wilkes-Barre.

I have to say, that last paragraph kind of says it all.

Some intrepid reporter should hit the streets the next time the area is blanketed with law enforcement officials after dark and ask those college kids how they feel about recent events.

So what’s our biggest priority here? The profitability of a single bar? Or our dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of the general public?

And what of the ill-advised precedent Greco is trying to set?

What, we have to have him sign off before undertaking any future saturation patrols? We need his permission first? He determines the need for, the legality of and the overall fairness of any future police deployments en masse? That’s poppycock.

You know, if your guest counts are dwindling as the nearby police presence rises, what does that say about the character of your clientele?

Chief Dessoye…I say mush on with the clampdown.

Deputize me.

This is the gift of idiocy that keeps on giving.

Barrett appointed to Hawkeye board

WILKES-BARRE — City Council Vice Chairwoman Kathy Kane still has questions, but now she has someone to answer them.

For months the most vocal critic of Hawkeye Security Solutions — the nonprofit corporation overseeing Wilkes-Barre’s citywide surveillance camera project — Kane said Thursday night the appointment of a councilman to Hawkeye’s board was “a step in the right direction.”

“Do I still have questions? Yes,” she said during Thursday night’s back-to-back council work session and meeting. “But, I am very pleased administration has decided to work with council on this.”

Kane has criticized Hawkeye and members of the city administration for keeping council in the dark as the more than $2 million camera project moved forward. Mayor Tom Leighton and City Administrator J.J. Murphy, who is also on the board of Hawkeye and has taken the lead on the project, have denied her allegations.

Kane said Leighton called her this morning, offering her the ninth spot on the Hawkeye board. Kane initially accepted, she said, but then told the mayor that Bill Barrett would be a better choice for the public safety initiative. Barrett is a former city police chief and current director of campus safety and security at Luzerne County Community College.

“I trust the board members,” Kane said, “and now I know it (information) will come back to council. I thank the mayor for that.”

I mentioned before that I work all over this entire county. For instance, today I could be working in Wilkes-Barre, tomorrow in McAdoo, Noxen or Avoca the next day. And now they’re telling me my expertise may be needed in Lackawanna County in the coming weeks. Needless to say, I get around.

And my typical job lasts for hours on end, essentially guaranteeing that my customers and I will engage in some idle chit-chat at some point during my work day.

Quite often, they’ll ask me where I happen to reside. And when I tell them that I live in Wilkes-Barre…well, I get one of two reactions. The what-happened-to-that-town thing, or the things-are-really-looking-better-down-there remarks. The first coming from the people that do not visit this city very often, and the former coming from those who do.

As to those who stopped coming here at whatever point, when they give me that look, that look that spells Y-U-K, I always point out that the city is doing much better than advertised, and that it has responsible leadership in place. In short, the big comeback is well underway.

But, never will I suggest that having council people purposely going out of their way at public meetings to needle or to try to embarrass the City Administrator for no practical purpose passes as responsible leadership.

What’s this, like three meetings in a row, three consecutive months with the same quote, “I still have questions?” Really? Then something is seriously amiss. Something is not as it seems.

Here’s the scenario: I run for city council and win in a landslide. And then, I approach both the mayor and his administrator with some pointed questions about a fast-developing city project, questions they refuse to answer. At that point, I block their only means of escape, and the verbal battle of the elected titans is on!

You want some of this? You want out of here? What? You have a meeting to get to? Then answer the effing questions or I am exiting stage left, right over to the City Beat reporter’s cubicle.

What I’m saying is, only one of two possible explanations work for me. Either the city’s executive branch is not answering the questions, or the legislative branch hasn’t been forceful enough in asking them. And rather than have to read that same tired quote--“I still have questions“--the day after the next council meeting, I suggest that the adults act like adults and put an end to this needless, this childish-sounding nonsense coming from my…ahem, “responsible leadership.”

Or, as I am so frequently known to say, “Jesus H. Christ already!!!”

What I’ve been able to dredge up from my vast network of contacts is this:

According to an informed far left-wing South Wilkes-Barre minister, General Murphy is still employed by the U.S. military. And since the military answers directly to the Department of Defense, it has undeniable, but barely traceable links to former vice president Dick Cheney. And since Dick Cheney and Halliburton are inexorably one in the same, it only stands to reason that the Hawkeye Security Solutions contract was secretly awarded to Halliburton as part of a no-bid arrangement.

And there you have it. Halliburton is here in Wilkes-Barre, and is ready to spy on the good people of Wilkes-Barre. Damn that evil Dick Cheney!

Got any more questions?

Jesus H. Christ already!!!

I figure some of you need some advanced warning, or a reminder or something, so here it is.

The 21st annual Thompson Street Block Party is scheduled for Saturday, August 8, 2009. Pencil that one in on the calendar.

You can expect the usual eclectic mix. You know, average folks, dignitaries, surprise guests and Allah only knows. We’ll be doing some video this year. And we’re actually working on doing a “live” set of music.

Yes, Gort, you were right. I did get “stuck on the 80s” for a while there last year, but, you got legs, ain’t ya? Walk up on the porch and request something. Or sing for us. I got lots of karaoke stuff at my disposal.

Hold on. That’s an idea.

The 21st annual Thompson Street Block Party is scheduled for Saturday, August 8, 2009, featuring Gort 42 singing the music of Frank Sinatra, Roxy Music, Hazel O’Connor and The Clash.

Oh, and D.B. Echo with his special blend of grape Kool-Aid distilled just out back of the house.

Be there. Er, here.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Only in Luzerne County

Please excuse the typos and the like. I am beat, I am filthy and I am thoroughly annoyed.

The following picture shows how my day started:

Not too bad. Easy enough to follow. If you're into excavation safety, the blue paint left by the water company is telling you that a standard, one-inch water line is buried just beneath. Although, with that standard-issue water line comes an 18-inch tolerance zone in either direction. You see, utility line markings are approximations. So, if you drill on either side of that paint, but within 18-inches of the paint and rupture a water main...that's when the utility company points the finger of blame for the resulting flooding directly at you and your employer.

The yellow paint is telling you that this particular structure has no gas line running into it. So, we can breathe easier because no matter what you do, you will not cause a natural gas explosion, destroy the entire structure, or kill the inhabitants contained within it. Nice.

This next picture displays where I then spent the remainder of my day:

No, no, no you silly dummies. This isn't a partially flooded crawl space we're working in today. No, this is a crawl space permeated by the rank smell of raw sewage seeping into it. And yet, they wonder why I"m always half-cocked and ready to go off on whoever wants it?

When it comes to jobs such as these, I always think back to a line I heard in a war movie. I'm paraphrasing here:

The brave are the ones who are afraid to go, but go anyway.

While listening to WILK's Steve Corbett last night, I learned that, now that the primary election is all but over and in the books, now Pittston's Wil Toole wants to be the next Luzerne County controller. A lame-ass write-in campaign, I suppose.

Assuming there is actually something this guy is genuinely good at, I suggest that he go and do it, and never bother any of us again. Because running anything of importance in these parts are definately beyond his limited capabilities.

It just never ends in this backwards county of ours.

Oh, yeah! This is too good to pass up.

They tell me Kingston's Steve Urbanski made an appearance on the WBRE news, proudly displaying a literal sea of election yard signs displayed on his property. Coincidentally (yeah, right!), Norton the Blogger posted a picture of the very same sea of yard signs on his ill-fated blog. This is about what you should expect from those who engage in freelance idiocy.

It's funny how these two are practically tied at the hip, isn't it?

It seems that Norton/Steve is bright like I am functionally illiterate.


Then we have this issue wherein serving on the government study commission and also serving as the county controller could be a possible conflict of interest.

Frankly, I don't see it that way. Admittedly, I'm no solicitor, private attorney or supreme court justice, nor do I play one on any anonymously-written blog. But hear me out.

The 11 members of the study commission are charged with devising a new-and-improved system of county government, doing it timely enough to get it on the ballot in the alotted time, and then putting it to the voters as to whether they want it implemented or not.

No one person on that study commission can mandate anything. No one in that group can forward any suggestion to the voting public without first achieving a consensus among his or her fellow study cohorts.

The ironic part of this is, if I'm proven to be wrong, if a sitting member of a government being studied for improvements cannot also serve on the government study commission conducting the study...then what you're telling me is that the elected members of our county government are not allowed to seek out a way to make said government more efficient, more economical, more transparent, and more responsive.

In conclusion, if it really is a conflict of interest just waiting to grow some legs, if it is somehow wrong for those elected to manage the government to pursue better ways of prosecuting that mode of governance, then we are mere tadpoles swimming headlong into an inflatable dam. We are wasting our time, and it's time to move on to the next best available place.

Only in Luzerne County could it be a conflict of interest for the goverment to strive to be better than it currently is.

Only in Luzerne County.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Walter Griffith...the most dangerous man in Luzerne County

I was told he had no chance.

I was repeatedly told he could not win. To the point of absurdity, I was reminded that this was a county-wide race, not like the smallish city-wide race that twice previously did him in at the polls.

I was told he could not beat a certified accountant. I was told he could not best the young hotshot of a financial consultant. I was told he could not defeat the former county commissioner. And I was told he could not overtake the attorney with the party’s endorsement in tow.

And even when I talked to the candidate himself, never once did I get the impression that even he thought he would win. Yet, there he was last night, easily the top vote-getter throughout the entire county.

Admittedly, some of those votes were duplicate votes. Still and all, unofficially, damn near 30,000 voters bothered to seek out his name from the list of county controller candidates, as well as from the hellishly long list of Home Rule government study commission hopefuls.

The point is, Walter Griffith Jr. has steadily and tirelessly built himself quite a sizeable following among the simultaneously dispirited and angered electorate. And with him but one race away from nailing down the county controller’s seat, as well as being easily the most well-read of the 11 government study commission participants, put bluntly, Walter Griffith just might be the most dangerous man in Luzerne County.

Dangerous, that is, to the status quo. Dangerous to the good old boy network. Dangerous to the “machine.” Dangerous to those who govern in absentia. Dangerous to those who govern by way of backroom deals. And dangerous to those who govern as if the multitudinous amounts of tax dollars they are frittering away grow on flowered shrubberies on the hills overlooking Sugar Notch.

No, I’m not forgetting that he still faces a supposedly formidable democratic challenger come November, who ran uncontested last night. Yep, yet another hotshot financial consultant stands in his way. Yes, he still has another enormously huge hurdle to overcome. And, yes, I fully expect people much more learned than I to tell me this is the one hurdle he can not leap over.

Still, as evidenced by the sheer number of votes he received last night, it’s become obvious that his laudably tireless efforts as this county’s preeminent taxpayer watchdog have garnered him widespread public support. What the voters confirmed last night is that they not only see him as qualified to reinvent our government, they also see him as qualified to help to manage it much more economically.

And if he does manage to clear that final electoral hurdle, he would then be in the remarkable…the unprecedented position of being able to personally change our dysfunctional and now discredited county government not only from the inside, but from the outside as well.

And if that’s not the most dangerous man in Luzerne County, if that’s not the most dangerous man throughout this county’s entire sordid history, I’d sure love to know who is.

With all of that having been said, if the dreaded political “machine” in this one-party county of ours is to live on and embezzle another day, one way or another, the most dangerous man in Luzerne County will have to be taken out.

So, while Walter was on WILK radio today congratulating his vanquished opponents on collectively having run a clean and respectful campaign, expect anything but a clean and respectful next go-round if the late Summer polling data suggests he has a decent chance at winning come November.

Sez me.

Markie in Nord End


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I done my civic duty

This was my lone telephone treat last night:

“Hi. I’m Daniel Zola and I’m calling…”



While most polibloggers cannot resist the urge to dazzle you with political insights and the like on election day, I can and will resist that urge. Thing is, I don’t really feel like writing today. Not even a little. So, even though this does qualify as a blog post, I’d liken it more to a day off for Markie. I'm gonna snuggle up with the PC version of Civilzation IV, and waste a few hours.

I arrived at my polling place at 6:55 AM, got in line, and I was registered as Voter #8. Or as I said to WILK’s Sue Henry much earlier today: I voted early but not often.

Here’s the rundown (how I voted) on what I believe are the most crucial of votes:

County Controller: Walter Griffith

County Judge: Michael Blazick & William Amesbury

County Prothonotary: Carolee Medico Oleginski

Wilkes-Barre School Board: Harry Haas & Christine Katsock.

That’s right, I voted for two, and only two. As in…two neophytes.

Home Rule: Yes

Study Commission: Walter Griffith & Charmaine Maynard.

The remaining 18 people are complete enigmas, completely unknown to me, so I voted for only the two I know enough about, but who seem ultimately qualified.

And that’s it.

Good luck to all. And after tomorrow, we'll have nothing left to argue about. And a hell of a lot less to blog about.

Them’s all of my thoughts for today.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Fractional divisions thereof...

Unlike the people who call talk radio and make the absurd claim that the incarcerated have it too cushy, I’ve been in very many of the prisons on the eastern side of this state, and I’m here to tell you most unequivocally…prison life is anything but cushy.

And over the years, after reading story after story after story about idiots being remanded to prison in lieu of bail after committing what I call “chump change crimes,” I’d always tell Wifey the same thing: If I’m going to risk a prison sentence, I’m going for a kill shot.

Yep, if I were to risk a lengthy stay in any prison, the possible reward would have to be worth the huge risk. No drug ring. No burglary spree. No flattening elderly women for the contents of their purse. Nah, if I were to risk my precious freedom, I’d take an armored truck or two. Or, perhaps, kidnap the heir to a family fortune too large to even fit in an armored car or two.

Maybe I’d sell missile secrets to the Russians. I dunno. All I do know is, it would have to be the kill shot or nothing.

This is fun in a sad sort of way.

Breaking News: Former W-B school board president charged with taking bribe

Jim Height, the former Wilkes-Barre Area School Board president who resigned abruptly last week, has been charged with allegedly accepting $2,000 in cash for supporting a contractor's attempt to obtain business from the Wilkes-Barre Area School District.In a plea agreement filed simultaneously with the charge, Height, 53, of Wilkes-Barre, has agreed to plead guilty, U.S. Attorney Martin C. Carlson said.

$2,000? What, was $2,000 supposed to change his entire way of life?


And remember what these people always tell us when they want to be elected to a school board: It’s for the children.

What they don’t tell us is, it’s basically to benefit their children, not ours.

Tell me this isn’t right. Please tell me that this info is incorrect.

Here goes:

What I was told is, while the Luzerne County Controller salary is a measly, a pitiful, a woefully inept $38,000 a year, the current Deputy Controller earns in excess of $58,000 a year.

Now, I’m no expert on the county code and the like. But what I do know is that the general manager of a restaurant earns far in excess of what the assistant managers might earn. And I also know that warehouse managers, shipping, and receiving managers in such facilities earn much more than do the warehouse workers, the forklift drivers or the janitors.

So how in tar nation did the salary structure of our county government get turned so completely upside down? How does a court administrator earn more than a commissioner? How does the controller end up being envious of the assistant’s salary?

Forget Home Rule. Vote no.

And let’s start a petition drive to have the Pentagon add Luzerne County to it’s list of nuclear weapons testing ranges. I’m thinking a 50-kiliton air-burst detonation over the courthouse would make for a good start.


First it was the pederast park in the bushes just south of Nesbitt Park.

Then they clamored for, they outright demanded a skateboard park. Now we’ve gone and abandoned the surreal in favor of the sublime.

Dog owners group wants canine-friendly park in W-B

Since the fall, Wilkes-Barre resident Valerie Boler has been on a mission: she wants to build a space in Wilkes-Barre where her dogs can run without a leash. She wants a dog park.

After a Leadership Wilkes-Barre project group completed a dog park in West Pittston last spring, Boler has been inspired to complete a similar project in the city of Wilkes-Barre.

Boler said the West Pittston park is a great place to take her four dogs, but she finds it is too far from her Miners Mills home to make regular visits. Boler said a dog park in the city will give people who don’t live close to West Pittston another option.

“It seems like people have really enjoyed the one in West Pittston,” Boler said. “I’ll go everywhere with the dogs, but I just can’t do it on a daily basis.”

Boler and 19 others formed the Wyoming Valley Dog Owners group to build a leash-free dog park in Wilkes-Barre without cost to taxpayers. She is serving as the president of the group.

Hey, wait a minute! We’re going to tap into our finite resources for a stupid dog park? Well, then, listen to me tell it. I got stuff I like, too. My likes, my loves, my interests are just as important as any dog owner’s may be.

I demand that the administration of this city construct a mountain bike park. And since I really enjoy lighting up small animals with my Crossman 760 air rifle, I want a BB gun park. And for the avid bird watchers, how about a bird park? Ferrets, anyone? How about a cat retreat?

A dog park?

It must be me.

I like freebies. Do you like freebies?

If so, check out the “So Connected” program courtesy of Ruby Tuesday restaurants.

Happy Birthdays
Just let us know the date and we'll send you the gift of a special offer to mark the occasion.

End shameless plug.

Disclaimer: My son-in-law works there.

Somebody called WILK’s Sue Henry today and claimed that the Wilkes-Barre Area School District’s most recent budget topped out at $148,000,000 for the purposes of educating only 7,000 students.

Do the math. I’ll wait.

Nah, nothing bloated about any of that.

The caller also suggested that the number of students is steadily declining, and should be significantly lower just five years down the road.

The thing that piqued my interest in all of this is the rising Latino population here in Wilkes-Barre. Census data clearly indicates that the birthrate among Hispanics is noticeably higher than that of us born-and-raised Caucasians. So, with Latinos moving on in, and the frightened whites fleeing to the suburbs, how could the attendance of our city schools decline?

I don‘t get it.

We have a new business right across the intersection from here.

Yep, the heavily remodeled U.S. Gas opened on Friday, a combination gas station/store. I bopped in there on Saturday and was welcomed to the new place by an overly jovial Indian guy wearing a do-rag.

That’s a first for me.

And I’m eagerly awaiting the grand reopening of the relocating Ruth’s Place--a 24-hour homeless shelter for women--set to open directly across the street from this modest adobe any day now.

Police scanner on?


The 75,000-candlepower Streamlight flashlight is charged?


Back gate padlocked?


Everything of value chained down?


Let the games begin.

Trust me, I will happily play fly to the Ruth's Place excrement.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Harry Haas interview

For the purposes of blogging, today begins our AW period…After Walter.

I am currently enjoying the hell out of having two days off. Two days in a row, no less.

I came walking through the parlor on Friday night, only to catch this nugget from WILK’s Steve Corbett:

“Tom Leighton is the worst mayor in the history of Wilkes-Barre.”

Really? Maybe he ought to investigate the sub-par borderline malfeasance that passed as leadership from 1996-2004.

So much for accuracy in the media.

I also stumbled upon this nugget at Pittston Politics.com:

Feds target bloggers

No, I haven’t received a federal target letter - yet.

This past week in the bloggosspher, local blogger Gort 42, wrote there were target letters sent to area bloggers.

He was reporting the rumor from a Lehigh Valley blogger, Circumlocution for Dummies.
“A source familiar with the federal investigation into the Luzerne County judiciary has told me federal prosecutors have sent target letters to two local political bloggers advising them that they are being investigated and should immediately seek legal counsel,” the blog states.

So, according to Pittston Politics, I reside somewhere in the Lehigh Valley area.

I think Sue Henry of WILK is right when she so frequently says she questions the accuracy of a lot of the reporting that goes on.

So much for accuracy in the media.

I slumped out of bed yesterday, turned on this expensive electronic gizmo and checked the latest headlines from across these fruity plains of ours over a cup of tea. Nothing too eye-popping. The usual fare.

Man kills toddler. Man kills woman. Woman kills man. Woman and man molest small child. Man takes flying leap from highway overpass. Woman blames her obesity on (insert name of evil corporation). Man steals a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels and kills two while fleeing from the police. Woman marries woman. Man rapes man.

Good, nothing out of the ordinary going on.

And what happened next made me wonder why politicians can’t be added to the PA Do Not Call list.

“Hi, this is Senator Bob Casey calling about the primary election for Superior Court…”


What’s wrong with this picture? Telemarketers cannot call me, but a politician can? Aren’t they doing precisely the same thing…telemarketing? Dumb can’t call me, but Dumber can?


Here’s a tasty morsel secured from the office of the (acting) Luzerne County Controller, from A.J. Martinelli himself:

In 2008, Luzerne County spent $417,483 on employee cell phones. And as of this week, it has surpassed $40,000 in cell phone charges.

I dunno, how should we put this? Um, needless? Mindless? Ridiculous? Excessive? Wasteful?
Try this in the private sector.

A couple of months ago, I made two very short calls to my daughter’s home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Very short. And just about a month later, my immediate supervisor came to me seeking an explanation that he could pass on up the ladder to his boss. Two calls, and short ones at that. Calls that could not have greatly set back my employer.

I was apologetic, told him it was a momentary lapse on my part and that it would not happen again. And it didn’t happen again.

My point is, in the never-ending pursuit of controlling costs, my employer follows up on the rules and regulations it has put in place. And there are clear penalties for repeat offenses. And having once worn a white collar to work, I understand the need for all of that.

So, having easily surpassed $400,000 in cell phone charges in a single fiscal year, who’s controlling what, if anything, over at the courthouse?

Please, think long and hard before you vote for county controller.

This one cracked me up. I mean, at this point, it’s not only necessary, but probably a crucial part of the new process if we’re ever going to restore confidence in this county’s judiciary.

New computer randomly assigns cases to judges

WILKES-BARRE – Since Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Chester Muroski took the reigns of county court in recent months, he’s vowed to restore integrity and confidence in the court system.

That effort continued Thursday as court personnel demonstrated a new computer software program that randomly assigns judges to civil cases.

“This is a very important step toward restoring public confidence in our court system,” Muroski said.

The software, announced by Judge Joseph Musto and demonstrated to the public Thursday afternoon at the courthouse, selects judges for civil cases using a random computer generated number. That number is multiplied by the number of judges doing civil cases, and then each is assigned.

In effect, the people in this building are so completely untrustworthy, we are now reduced to adjudicating our court cases after playing an electronic version of pin the tail on the judge.

What you have here is the debilitating effects of voting that straight party ticket for decades on end.

And finally, the Harry Haas interview.

Harry Haas

As I alluded to a few days back, I really like this guy. He’s young, he’s bright, he’s involved, he‘s got his finger on the pulse of education at the ground level…what’s not to like?

When he knocked on my door, I told him as much, a reference to when he ran for mayor in this city some 6 years ago. And being “that guy,” that guy from Wilkes-Barre Online, I invited him to do this question and answer exchange as a way of getting some further exposure on the local internet.

Here’s a short bio I copied from his campaign Web site:

My Profile
Since 2002 I have lived in downtown Wilkes-Barre after returning from four years of teaching in Wahington, DC and Fairfax County public schools. I am currently the director of youth services at Huntsville Christian Church in Lehman and proudly teach world history to 7th graders at Dallas Middle School. In my spare time I take advantage of jogging on our riverfront trails and skiing on nearby slopes. My favorite past time is traveling to other cities and countries.

My Education Background
M.Ed. Secondary Social Studies and Special Education, The George Washington UniversityB.A. History with Minor Concentration in Spanish, The George Washington UniversityRotary Exchange Student to Madrid, SpainDallas High School Class of 1993

So, without further adieu, here are the results of that exchange:

1. The obvious question, the usual question is, why would you want to serve on a school board and receive no pay for having done so?

A: I look at serving on the board as a sacrifice, not some vanglorious post to boost my own ego or power base. All my needs are met: I love my job, my house, and my family. If I lose this contest, I will sleep very soundly on Tuesday night because I have plenty of other goals in my life

.2. Why now? With the persistent rumors (now resulting in arrests and resignations) about cash or premiums for contracts, under-the-table kickbacks, preferential hiring practices and whatnot being associated with being a school director over the years, why would you want to join a group that has seemingly always operated under a cloud of suspicion?

A: When I considered running last fall, none of these stories had surfaced. Now with all these stories breaking, it has only emboldened me to work hard and be a voice of honesty and decency amidst a "cloud of suspicion." However, I do think that there are decent people on that board, and as I get to know them I will change that opinion one way or the other. Regardless, I need to find at least 4 like-minded people at the table who feel the same way I do: that we live in urgent times and that real change must take place.

3. Why you? What differentiates you from the other candidates on the ballot?

A: 1) I have taught in the inner city and know some of the issues that are (and will be) facing our district.
2) I have an extensive teaching background across four states and several placements; I want to focus on education and what our kids need, not just a budget
3) I am not connected and/or related to any office holder, public servant, school employee, or even student in the district.4) I am the youngest (33 years old)5) I speak Spanish fluently.

4. Explain to me the growing overemphasis on aggregate test scores (in my opinion), while so many recent high school graduates working entry level jobs cannot make change for a dollar without the assistance of an electronic display on a cash register?

A: You are right about the overemphasis of test scores. Standardized tests are a politician's way of making education better. It fools the voters into thinking that something is being done to correct declining American achievement, and it satisfies the intellectuals because they get to play around with hard data. The fact is that the system, if anything, has gotten worse because of BOTH political parties pushing for the so-called "No Child Left Behind Act." What we see in classrooms across America is exchanging real instructional time with test-taking strategies and out-of-context ditto work. The only thing that our kids have gotten better at over the past several years is taking a 4-question multiple choice test.

5. In an increasingly illiterate society growing more and more dependent on government assistance for basic services and day-to-day subsistence, are you a staunch advocate of teaching the old-fashioned basics…reading, writing and arithmetic?

A: Any good school will do the basics well, but what made the Italian Renaissance explode with talent, passion, and wealth was intrigue with the sciences, the arts, the heavens, and the past. If we can excite our kids to be life long learners by teaching all the content areas, then they will want to read and write on their own. I don't think that you can teach the basics hard-core 24-7 or you'll tune kids out.

6. One of my biggest gripes with almost all aspects of public administration is the fact that when expenses soar and tax increases seem inevitable, nary a mention is made of trimming the budget to offset those confiscations of taxpayer dollars. With that said, is it really necessary to bus Wilkes-Barre Area athletes to every far-flung corner of the region for the purposes of conducting athletic events?

A: That's a general question and a specific one. First, the budget overall in my opinion is bloated. Several voters have shared with me about the lack of accountability with using funds for special events, grounds keeping, and infrastructure. That portion of the budget needs to be evaluated. I think with the cloud hanging over our local and county governments, now would be a perfect time to reexamine many components of the budget. As far as the buses to athletic events are concerned, I don't know how we can change that. High schools across the state compete, and I want our athletes to represent Wilkes-Barre well. If you combine the three high schools and we become a quad-A athletic program, then we will most certainly be traveling hours each way to play against schools of comparable sizes, which will cost money and cost travel time. It's just another reason not to close any of our high schools.

7. In my mind, we cannot do without the police, fire-fighters or the teachers of our future…our children. The one thing these three groups all have in common is that they are unionized public sector employees. Yet, only one of there three groups, our teachers, are allowed to go out on strike, thereby putting our children and their immediate academic and athletic futures on pause, holding the taxpaying public hostage and driving up the already dizzying cost of education. As a teacher yourself, do you think this trend should continue indefinitely?

A: No. Personally, I think teachers should be paid double for what they do, but I would do this job for free. Very few people in this field do this job for the money, but along with the police and firemen, teaching is an essential job for our community's welfare and future. Why do we pay pro-athletes and the actors so much money? Entertainment. Like it or not, teachers entertain every day. I'll let the reader in on a secret: the only reason why educators get up in arms about contracts is because before the late 1970s, a teacher could not make a livable wage. Most had to get after school jobs and work through the summer just to make ends meet. When you go to college for 4 years, earn a Masters in 2 more, struggle with high debt for becoming a professional, and perform perhaps the most important job in our society, it's a slap in the face to have to work at a Turkey Hill or dip fries in your off time. Regardless, strikes are not the way to solve this problem. I think electing fair board members and choosing decent union representation would go a lot farther than striking.

8a. Is an anti-nepotism policy too much to ask of our school board?

A: Nope.

8b. And, if elected, would you be in favor of crafting one, so that only the best and brightest of the applying bunch are hired and subsequently entrusted with our children’s academic futures?

A: This endeavor is the cornerstone of my campaign.

9. As my kids were growing up, as a form of punishment when punishment was clearly called for, I would think of a famous person from history, and then demand of the offending kid a 2-3,000 word report on that person. Basically, it was I that taught my kids American history, while the Wilkes-Barre School District did not. In your opinion, is the teaching of American history more, or less important than the teaching some new age, all-inclusive, recently revised recounting of past world events and how they related to this country’s development?

A: Our lack of understanding of our history is causing the unraveling of the United States of America. Historical revisionism is taking us down the past of a socialist society based on a total lack of absolute truth.

10. If the average high school student’s life depended on a question concerning world geography, how confident would you be of that student seeing another day?

A: Ha. I have a copy of an 1889 geography text book which includes chapter tests. I don't think Dora the Explorer could pass it.

11. With nonstop drug-dealing, an up tick in violent domestic crimes and a record number of open homicide cases dominating our recent headlines, do we really need to deploy a police officer in every school, even though the schools in question are essentially locked-down?

A: I would prefer to have parent/grandparent/community volunteers in our schools. The increase in crimes of every kind ultimately stem from a lack of a loving, secure home environment. We have a lot of incredible people in our area, and I think they would jump at the chance to invest in our young people who don't have the support at home.

12. With controversies swirling around at least two local school districts, what can be done to make the entire process of managing a school district far less translucent than it has been in the past and much more transparent in the future?

A: I would use "opaque" rather than "translucent." How about holding board meetings the same time every month and putting the meeting times on the website so that people who want to can actually attend a meeting every once in a while? Aren't we all on the same team: board, teachers, parents, kids, community?

13. What’s your favorite color?

A: transparent.

Like I said, a bright guy. Thanks, Harry.

I have to admit that the last question was just a gag I attached to be my usual weird self, a question I had no intention of publishing. But after I saw your response, there was no way I was going to delete it. Outstanding.

I think you kind of sidestepped the geography thing, but in the grand scheme of things, the mastering of geography is not an absolute must. I was more curious than anything, being that geography was always one of my few academic strengths.

Remember, this comes from a complete academic slacker, but, on a dare (for money), I once drew a map of the entire world and only neglected to include two countries. And that was after my team had won a hard-fought softball game, and we were well into tapping a rather large keg.
Real quick…name the four countries that border South Korea.

Again, thanks. I fail to see how any of your responses could hurt your chances of being elected.

Oh, and good luck on Tuesday.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Steve the Blogger

If I had a plug nickel for every time I complained about the anonymous doing what they typically do on the internet--talk all kinds of bombastic, libelous, slanderous and accusatory smack without any real fear of retaliation or recrimination--Donald Trump would be begging me to marry his ugly bitch of a daughter.

Every time I mocked those who ripped into people from the “safety of anonymity,” there were countless numbers of folks there to tell me...Well, Mark, what are you going to do? That’s the internet. Deal with it. Learn to live with it. Embrace it. Better yet, kwitcherbelyacin.

Yeah? Fu>k that!

As far as I’m concerned, the very worst of the anonymous assassins are the ones that go after candidates for elected office. We bemoan the fact that not enough people are willing to make that sacrifice, running for elected office. And we moan in unison when candidates run unopposed. Yet, when people do step forward and run for elected office, up step the anonymous cowards to savage them at nearly every possible turn.

As per my last couple of posts, I’ve had a reader reminding me that ad-hoc anonymous attacks of the most scurrilous nature launched from the safety of anonymity is just the way it is, the way it will be, all because it’s been going on since long before even oral varnishes for wooden teeth were invented. Again, what are you going to do, Mark?

Best I can tell, you should work to expose exactly who it might be who feels they must cling to their anonymity, while ripping into whomever they feel like ripping into at any given time, and for whatever reason. And in this case, expose who it is that played holier than though with not only one, but two candidates on the ballot next Tuesday.

First, "Norton the Blogger" at One Vote Counts gave us some noble sounding claptrap about doing the right thing when he smeared Walter Griffith, a County Controller hopeful. Then, he felt the need to expose what he saw as a convoluted conflict of interest or something on the part of judicial hopeful, Mike Blazick.

Interestingly enough, after Walter’s internet lumps were delivered from the safety of anonymity, somebody said in the readers‘ comments at One Vote Counts that “those who live in glass houses should not be throwing stones,” all the while forgetting that the most recently thrown stones were thrown from the most stealthiest of places…the safety of anonymity.

But then the cloaking device was done in by it’s own creator.

Yeah, Norton the Blogger went and published a picture on his ill-fated blog that he had very, very recently taken at a local eatery, a picture of judicial hopeful Mike Pendolfi and his smart-looking family.

Photo by Norton, er, Steve

When contacted and asked who had taken that picture, Mr. Pendolfi identified the photographer as none other than Steve Urbanski, a disbarred local attorney currently on probation with the Judiciary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

And immediately after being unknowingly “outed” by Mr. Pendolfi (an innocent bystander in all of this) some of us started posting comments on the One Vote Counts site, comments that were obviously just a little too close for comfort for the author of that blog known for hiding behind his purposely hung curtain of anonymity.

And as a result, said author instantly removed all previous comments posted there, and suspended any further capability for readers to post comments. Yeah, that’s right. No more comments are allowed. All of a sudden, Norton the Blogger isn’t liking comments from the occasional reader (since that’s all he has), especially those of the anonymous variety.

So, what we have here is a temporarily defrocked lawyer, a former law partner of Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty, playing god with other people’s lives. What we have here is an anonymous coward who’s glass house is as completely fragile as any of those he felt the need to very publicly throw stones at.


So, assuming that the blog is still there and functional on election day, and assuming that the ability to post comments by readers is at some point restored, at least now you know who to post your comments to.

No, not Norton the Blogger.

Say hello to Steve the Blogger. Or should I say, Steve, the soon-to-be former blogger.

So, would anyone else care to chastise me about how the internet works? Anybody else feel like bringing me up to speed? As I have frequently been known to say on whatever electronic pages I may have been saying it at the time, consider the source. The anonymous source, that is.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Anonymity revisited

I say again, I am not here to defend any of Walter’s angry words sent via e-mail.

But, being somewhat bored at this moment, I do feel the need to respond to a reader’s comment attached to my last post:

Anonymous said...

Just one question, if you advised Walter prior to not respond to anon attacks and he did then and did again in an ill tempered way, is it just an occasional flub or rather a pattern of immaturity? Like the original poster stated, it is one thing to lose your temper, but to write it down, read it over and then send it takes time, possibly enough time for a mature rational person to opt not to send it. And since he was advised by someone with blogging chops such as yourself and did not heed your advise on more than one occasion also perhaps demonstrates a lack of reason necessary for the job of controller. I don't think anyone is really worried about Walter being the next Steve Flood. He is emotionally not at Mr. Flood's level. As far as his concerns about his family, he should have been man enough to be upfront with them. Anon political attacks have been going on since the founding of the country. Jefferson financed newspapers under various names to attack Adams. This is nothing new in the internet age, it has been going on for not years, not decades, but centuries. Walter is a good man, however, I too am no reconsidering my vote. I have already removed his yard signs from my properties. I want passion, I want independence, but I do not want a controller who runs amok. I don't want a politician who doesn't realize that the only rules are, there are no rules. As I stated he should have been a man and been honest with his family. Anyone who knew this was out there should have known it was fair game. No one attacked his family, they went after a man who appears extremely self-righteous when he attacks others. He attacks character flaws in others, then goes off on a tantrum when his are exposed.As the original poster stated I too feel the same way. I don't care about the past. I care about the present and his response is not leadership. He had time, he had advise and he had a delete button... He chose to ignore all.

May 13, 2009 11:09 PM

I really thought we were done with this topic as of yesterday. Did I not say, “Vote your conscience, man?”

Vote, already. Do it. Why keep on belaboring this needless and pointless thing to death? It is what it is, whatever it is that it amounts to for you.

Although, I fail to see how there are any parallels between our founding fathers--wealthy men all--politicking on each other during the fledgling days of this country, and any current internet anonymous coward (who’s entire financial, emotional and personal outlay in this matter amounts to less than a pile of dried-up dog sh*t) going and smearing people in the name of his or her phony baloney, feigned, nonexistent “journalism.”

If there is an unmistakable historical context to what happens when you set about to fu>k with a man’s land, his treasure, or his women; it’s that doing so will likely get you savagely attacked at the very least, or killed at the absolute worst.

But to hear you tell it after you appointed yourself as an on-the-spot history professor, Walter had no right to be angered. Um, I really hate to say it, but that’s the worst sort of prevarication I‘ve had the misfortune of running across of late.

So, you tell me. Was the anonymous fool who set all of this in motion doing us a public service, or was he or she (it) purposefully trying to discredit one candidate for the benefit of an unseen, unnamed other? Was this all done on the up-and-up, or is this yet another glaring example of the bottom feeders rising up from the bottom of the internet sea of anonymity?

Jefferson? Adams?

High-minded, listen-to-me-tell-it-from-my-anonymous-soapbox gibberish all!

Tell me, do you admire those guys? And, if so, do you also admire those who endeavor to destroy others, while pretending to be something they are obviously not…a journalist? In your suddenly backward-looking mind trying to justify what ought not be justified, since it happened a couple hundred years ago, it’s perfectly justifiable even now? Is that all that you’ve got?

You’re basing your argument, you’re grounding your argument on the actions of our founding fathers, while trying to associate them with the actions of this area’s lone internet pariah? Man, I have to tell you, to attempt to do so is to disassociate your entire effort from reality. You have discorporated yourself from the conversation.

What you had here was a self-absorbed, attention-starved pussy long, long-tired of looking in from the edge of the periphery doing the bidding of yet another pussy. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Vote your conscience, man.


It seems that one David Foglietta is up to it again. “It” being his unrelenting mission to serious annoy the folks that toil away at WILK.

From the e-mail inbox:

Marc: The WILKies are threatening to sic the polizei on me again affter I called Corbett, et al., about his cousin, the illegitimate Trish, the Accidental Judge. I left some choice morsels on the voice mail of lynn, Corbett, and Nancy. I only used bad language with Lynn. Stay tuned....DEF

Be lenient to lobsters and ever kind to crabs....

Okay, Dave. I’ll be watching for a mention of you in the police blotter. Yeah, and remember to cover your face during your “perp walk.”

Keep up the good, um…work, Dave.

As far as my promised interview with a prospective school board member is concerned, I forwarded my overdue questions, my overdue interview along earlier today. So, I’m hoping to publish the response soon enough.

And with election day but hours away, I’d be shocked if that response took too long to come back at me. But, be warned, the questions I submitted were anything but cookie cutter.

Thing is, if this guy is as sharp as I believe him to be, he’ll handle those informational prompts with ease.

While the media and the populace seems totally focused on the courthouse and the numerous scandals that have erupted from within it’s walls, I got to wondering…

What of the Jamie Lake investigation? Yeah, what’s the latest on the authorities’ investigation of, and the unexplained disappearance of James P. Lake of JPL Investments fame?

As he always said on WILK, “It’s your money.”

So, where has your money gone?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gentlemen's rules or: How I learned to love anonymity

I snagged the following comments from a reader who was reacting to parts my “Local bloggers target of FBI probe” post:

Anonymous said...

on the walter thing.. i had no idea and i really would not have cared, but your post piqued my interest and i googled and found the blog you were refering to. if those responses really are walter's i am shocked. i never took him to be that way. it is with a genuinely heavy heart i am honestly reconsidering my vote for him.... i understand being upset, but as the controller of the county i would hope emotions would not rule one's actions... it is one thing to verbally lash out, but to take the time to write something and read it over and then hit the send button.... rationality would have said, getting in the gutter is not a good idea... walter should be well aware elections are not contested under "gentleman's rules" they are down and dirty and an extreme contact sport... to get involved means to have a thick skin... if this was common knowlege, no matter the outcome he had to know it was going to come out.... i am extremely sad..

May 12, 2009 5:44 PM

I, as well as a few others, have told Walter we felt it was a serious mistake on his part to take on the anonymous assassins of the internet world, a foolhardy, ill-advised battle that he could never hope to win. There’s "gentleman's rules." There’s that election period in which those rules usually do not necessarily apply to some variable degree. And as it pertains to anonymous attacks and those cowardly folks who conduct them, there are absolutely no rules at all.

As a matter of fact, I advised him against even reacting to vitriolic comments coming from the anonymous blowhards on local blogs some weeks ago. Advice, by the way, that he did not heed.

I too understand that he was upset. And I also think he let his temper get the better of him. All of which reminds me of some sage advice I received from a Times Leader reporter some years back, in which he strongly suggested that I should never, ever write in anger.

And make no mistake about it, I am not here to defend any of Walter’s angry words sent via e-mail. But when I talked to him when this unfortunate nonsense first began, his concern was not for his reputation, nor did it center on his chances of winning any election. Rather, he was pained that both his wife and daughter were not only startled by it, but rightfully upset over it. And what that suggested to me was, despite any growing warts he may have, his heart is in the right place.

As for his chances of winning next Tuesday, he’s still got my vote. The thing is, I’d rather have a temperamental controller subject to momentary lapses of reason than another do-nothing, no show politico who looks the part, talks up a good show, says the right things and then stands idly by as the corruption parade continues to march on by.

I’d rather have a controller who makes the occasional flub, admits said flub and then publicly apologizes for it than some go-along-to-get-along part-time phony of a political apparatchik who’s only real concern is his golf game at noon.

As for the “dirt” that was recently brought to light, all that the sudden unearthing of that suggests to me is that the half dozen or so boys from the Back Mountain, the boys with the big, big bucks who finance and control the flailing GOP in this county do not want Walter Griffith taking up residency in that courthouse. And neither do those long-entrenched purveyors of scandal, the democrats. And the question that you should be asking yourself is…Why?

Why? Because there’s an extremely good chance he’d be the next Steve Flood, only with hair. Well, some.

And that’s what I want in the next County Controller, someone who will question whatever needs to be questioned, even if it leads to lots of ill feelings coming from his or her counterparts. Even if it leads to the occasional dustup splashing all over Page 1 the very next morning.

So, on election day, do with Walter what you will. And if he’s truly blown his chances of winning based on his rationality and temper when his home life, his family life is being threatened by an unknown twit in league with heretofore unseen political assassins, trust me, you had better never vote for me.

Vote your conscience, man.

“Simply put; Will this be the best Riverfront in Pennsylvania?”--Kayak Dude

Could be. I truly suspect as much. Although, I ain’t seen most of Pennsylvania’s better riverfront amenities.

Be that as it may, the riverfront at Wilkes-Barre now has it’s own Web site, so it can’t be all that bad.

The River Common

An excerpt from the main page:


On Friday, June 19th, the celebration begins with the dedication and grand opening of the Wilkes-Barre River Common. This $30 million new park in downtown Wilkes-Barre includes a fishing pier and boat launch, a quarter mile of paved walkways, ornamental gardens, a 4000 person amphitheater with granite and levee seating, two portals through the levy that reconnect the park with the Susquehanna, and the water fountains at the Millennium Circle. Join us for this historic event that will feature live music, food vendors, a taste or downtown restaurants, kayaking demos, fishing clinics, painting of a community mural, artists and craft vendors, environmental and community groups, and an evening fireworks display.

RiverFest continues on Saturday, June 20th in Nesbitt Park from 1pm to 6pm with live music, exhibits, vendors, food, fun and activities for all ages. Enjoy the chance to view the live birds of prey and live mammals or take a guided hike through the historic Olmsted Park and riparian forest that adjoins the river in Kirby Park. Kids can look forward to pony rides, field games, a moon walk, kids tree climb, rock climbing wall, kayaking demos, arts and crafts projects, live animals, fishing & fly tying demos, and children’s bike safety program with free helmet give away.

If you want to see the valley in a different light, join the sojourn on Saturday, June 20th, and spend four hours on the river, paddling from Harding to Wilkes-Barre, or paddle from Nesbitt Park to Hunlock Creek on Sunday, June 21st. Paddling on the river affords you the chance to see bald eagles, egrets, Peregrine falcons, and river otters. In addition, the site of the historic Battle of Wyoming, remnants of the North Branch Canal, and the site of the Knox Mine Disaster are among the many historic features of the tour.

Whether your interests are in paddling the river or simply enjoying a beautiful day in the park, RiverFest is a chance to participate in the community while acknowledging the splendor and historical significance of the Susquehanna River and the River Common in Wilkes-Barre.

From the e-mail inbox:

Join us for the 10th Annual Wyoming Valley RiverFest on June 19th- 21st, 2009 at the Wilkes-Barre Riverfront Parks. The Wilkes-Barre River Common, a new $30 million park along the Susquehanna will be dedicated and opened to the public on Friday, June 19th. The festival continues on Saturday, June 20th in Nesbitt Park with live music, food, and fun for all ages. Join the sojourn and paddle down the Susquehanna on Saturday or Sunday.

Join me out there. Believe me, you’d be glad if you did. Plus, you’d get to meet the legendary, the infamous…Kayak Dude.

The Battle for the Susquehanna is now long since over. The ragged rebel forces comprised mostly of tree huggers, paddling enthusiasts and hardcore river rats of all ages and backgrounds vanquished the unthinking, unknowing pork-addled ground-based infantry hordes led by the local congressman and his mighty cardboard check.

And what even the hapless, totally unconcerned village fool understood, but the local congressman never could or would come to accept, is that dams degrade free-flowing rivers. But not here. Not this one. Not this river.

Viva la Susquehanna!

Or, as presented in the following slideshow, the tiny Maples defeat the mighty Oaks, and 444 miles of river remain free-flowing to this very day.

The Trees (4:59)


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

(Not so) good stuff

When I went out to my truck yesterday morning, I went through my usual pre-trip inspection. Safety first, kiddies.

Alternator firing. The emergency brake checked out. Horn? Yup. Then I checked the brake lights against the fence I was backed up very close to. And in the dew on my rearview mirror were the following words scribbled in by way of a fingertip, “Mark Core [sic] for Mayor WB.”

Yeah! That’ll happen. Wifey demonstratively rejected out-of-hand the insane notion some of my neighbors had about me running for a council seat the last couple go-rounds. Not even would she hear any noise about a council seat. Mayor? Maybe in the next lifetime.

Besides, I can’t take the pay cut.

Oh, great! Just what we needed, longer lines, longer waits for sutures.

From the Times Leader:

Jobs and services leaving Geisinger South

WILKES-BARRE - Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre will close its inpatient and emergency services departments as the hospital converts to a regional ambulatory campus in July.

As a result approximately 179 positions will be eliminated, according to a press release issued by Geisinger Health System.

Hospice Community Care will continue to lease space and operate its inpatient hospice program at the hospital. Plans call for moving Geisinger Wyoming Valley’s inpatient rehabilitation program to newly remodeled space on the GSWB campus this summer. They will be the only two inpatient services located at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre.

Geisinger Health System purchased the former Mercy Hospital in late 2005.

For the complete story read The Times Leader tomorrow.

Great! So now the greater Wyoming Valley and all of it’s satellite communities are reduced to all of two available emergency rooms. Wonderful.

The next time Junior’s out in the woods mutilating squirrels and accidentally jams grandpa’s old bowie knife through his palm, you are going to have to use one of your sick days to get his wound properly tended to.

Yeah, an emergency room visit. I’m thinking you’ll need a sleeping bag, a pillow, a half dozen Nutri-Grain bars, plenty to drink, an AM radio, spare batteries, a change of clothing and the latest issue of Paris Hilton Magazine.

Oh, yeah. And some rudimentary Spanish.

Good luck with that.

Or, you could just clean the wound, hit it with some antiseptic goop and then duct tape the heck out of it. I dunno. It always worked for me. The scars still turn out the same…cool looking.

Again, good luck with that.

This one is fairly easy to follow. And expensive, too.

Times Leader again:

W-B to pay Kadluboski $250,000

WILKES-BARRE – The city has agreed to pay tow truck driver Bob Kadluboski $250,000 to settle a lawsuit he filed that alleged his contract was improperly terminated, according to city clerk Jim Ryan.

Ryan said although the city agreed to settle the case, it does not admit to any wrongdoing. The settlement includes payment to Kadluboski and legal fees charged by his attorney, Bruce Phillips.

Kadluboski, owner of City Wide Towing, filed a federal lawsuit against the city in connection with its decision to cancel his towing contract in 2004.

The contract gave Kadluboski the exclusive right to tow all vehicles, such as those involved in car crashes, that were ordered removed by city officials. The city began reviewing Kadluboski’s performance after receiving complaints, including that he was rude and refused to provide itemized bills.

U.S. District Judge James Munley ruled in September that the city had violated Kadluboski’s right to due process when it terminated the contract because it failed to give him an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Okay, then.

So, somebody down at City Hall made a $250,000 error. And my only question is, who is responsible for making a $250,000 mistake? Better yet, who will be held responsible for that egregious and unforgivable mistake? A question, by the way, I figure we’ll never receive an answer to. Think about it. Heads only roll in the private sector.

Looks like Bob will be upgrading his overtired police scanner and buying himself an even bigger gun.

I feel safer already.

Check out this utter stupidity.

This is what WILK’s Steve Corbett had to say on his talk show last night. And I effing quote:

“Pound for pound, Tom Leighton is the worst mayor in the United States of America.”

No foolin‘?

Steve, you must have conducted years upon years worth of exhaustive, excruciatingly detailed researched to so proudly and loudly unleash such a definitive charge. Piles and piles of data, printed out stats and road trips up the proverbial sphincter, right?


I mean, you do have the volumes and volumes of extensive data to back that up, don’t you?

Or were you just being utterly and profoundly dense when you made that ridiculous and grossly off-target claim of yours?

Or was that just your personal animosity for the man further clouding your already questionable judgment?

Or is your oft-repeated charge that internet bloggers are reckless much more self-descriptive than you’d care to admit?


Breaking news:

One...more...time...The Times Leader:

James Height resigns from Wilkes-Barre Area School Board

James Height has resigned form Wilkes-Barre Area School Board. Superintendent Jeff Namey said he received a brief letter from Height this afternoon expressing regret but giving no reason.

No, there won’t be any speculation or conjecture going on as a result of this. Nah. He must want to spend more time with the grandkids or something. Must want to get in some more fishing. Or get back to playing some serious Pinochle three nights a week.

Who knew? After all these years, all those campaigns, all those positions sought after…Christine Katsock may actually get herself elected. By default, of course, but why split hairs?

We shall see on all of that.

This just in, Wifey says the pool is open as of this Saturday. While that’s all well and good, what that suggests to me is that bike about season is officially underway. Woo hoo!!!

I’ll see you out there somewhere.