Opinions need not be feared nor suppressed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


And now, a message from our clueless, ahem, leader...

Ah, Barack, the all-knowing, all-seeing charlatan. It’s not a matter of his having been wrong. It’s more a matter of his never being right. He is the most well-spoken clueless asshole ever to have rolled into town pitching exotic snake oils.

Merry Labor Day. War is over. Well, one of them is.

A caller to Sue Henry today reported on breaking news from CNN.

According to the caller, Michelle Obama is pregnant and Barack Obama is blaming George W. Bush.

I can’t recall anyone on the local Internet ever having written a single word about talk show host Glenn Beck. I know I never have. Hell, I’ve never even happened across his radio show.

But after Glenn Beck put out his call to action, and after an estimated (spin it however you like) people showed up in Washington D.C., well, then Glenn Beck shot right to the very top of the vilification list. Yes, at least for a day or two, Sarah Palin was spared the rath of those who pray at the base of the stone tablets ensconced with the latest talking points.

Note to self: You’re either a flamin’ lib, or you’re against us.

Whoopee! No fooling? Freebies for everybody!!!

I attended the big blogger soiree some months back, and I will admit to being severely put off by the ratio of bloggers to politicians. Meaning, I was expecting more from the electronic end of the spectrum and far less from the self-centered and self-aggrandizing end.

So now the boys (whoever they are) want to do it again in a couple of weeks, and I will be making an appearance. But at least this time I’ll know better about what to expect. In other more acerbic words, I’ll expect an even greater preponderance of the conniving and lying variety.

I went to this Facebook event page and learned that Gort has invited damn near all of Luzerne County. And while perusing Tom Borthwick’s site, I found that The Borth has invited all of Lackawanna County.

Now, since these big get-togethers were started by the Northeast Blogging Council in conjunction with those Operatic Society snobs, and being that if even a fraction of those invited promise to attend, don’t come looking to me for any financial outlays when you guys need to rent the entirety of the Cherokee Sun Arena to pull this one off.

Oh, by the way, what do you think of this quote, Mr. Borthwick…

“There are people around here that write for the Huffington Post, in whom I put little faith, one in particular.”--Steve Corbett, 8-30-2010

Translation: Tommy, you suck.

As to the blogger/candidate love fest, scandal and fist fights have been hinted at. Sounds like a plan.

Either way, don’t much matter to me.

I’m still waiting on the details of Gene Stilp’s planned bus caravan to Harrisburg to protest the state’s next to nonexistent oversight of the Marcellus Shale fracking.

Depending on the date, I might just be in on all of that. But before anybody gets any goofy ideas fomenting and the like, I am not walking from Wilkes-Barre to Harrisburg.

Is everyone excited? Frothing?

According to outgoing Congressman Kanjorski, we “might” be getting a hybrid vehicle plant. And if that’s not exciting enough, we “could” be the recipients of 500-1,000 low-paying jobs as part of this 007 training facility.

Yes, you too can be a Fedrule Govmint janitor. Or if you’re really, really politically connected, a hair-netted cafeteria line worker.

Sure, you won’t get rich if you land one of these positions. But if the 007 facility does come to NEPA, and if you do know somebody, remember, these are Fedrule Govmint jobs meaning you can retire long before you’ll need Just for Men.

Then again, Paul Kanjorski is always full of empty promises as the next election grows near, promises that never materialize once those elections are in the rear-view mirror.

Inflatable cargo airport, anyone?

Inflatable water-jet technology?

Inflated ego despite the clear lack of results?

He hacks on Lou Barletta's stones over Hazleton’s unemployment rate? Really?

Well, after 26 years on the hill and all of that supposed seniority we keep hearing about at election time, what’s he got to say about NEPA’s unwanted tradition of having the highest unemployment rates in the entire state?

Oh, that’s right. He already said it. Again, that is.

Maybe, could be, you never know.


Monday, August 30, 2010

The "Walk"

I ain't been writing of late simply because I've been in a kind of dark place.

First of all, three weeks ago somebody got a hold of my debit card number and made sophistry of my checking account. Plus, I've been "om call" at work for two weeks, which means I've been held hostage to all possible emergencies. Oh, and a tooth blew up on Friday.

Fact: I had a call right in the middle of Gas Stock. Seems a skunk pulled a rather bulky ground nest of Yellow Jackets out of he mulch bed and onto the sidewalk in a very public place. And the rig did roll. Rats!

Three days from now, I'm making a financial move that will leave me 100% debt free. Yep, after the passage of a few business days, I will be beholding to no one from here on out. Basically, I'm prepping up for the double-dip depression. I've also been researching firearms.

I put together a slide show account of The Walk, Kayak Dude's now famous trek from Wilkes-Barre to Lehman. And just as soon as I uploaded it to YouTube, the music I embedded was flagged and muted. Pricks.

I figured by using a Lime wire file I would prevent that from happening, but these folks at YouTube do not want forgotten songs such as XTC's 'Senses Working Overtime' remembered. Whatever.

So I used the Audio Swap feature and settled on Musicshake's 'Being a Soldier.'


Anyway, this is the thingie I made.

The Walk to Gas Stock (5:08)


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gas Stock video

Gas Stock (2:52)
By Roxanne Pauline

Water is life

Monday, August 23, 2010


As I had previously mentioned, there has been a recent explosion of new blogs with one purpose…to oppose the hydro fracturing of our ecosystems.

I visited Kayak Dude’s blogroll just now because it links to every anti-fracking site this side of Europa. And there are only a handful of personal accounts from Gas Stock, the great majority of which were posted by locals.

I just can’t feature that. How could you have such a single-mindedness of purpose, and then go and miss the big anti-fracking get-together?

I do not get it.

I stayed up way too late last night because our fantasy football draft went down. Personally, I could care less what others have to say about fantasy football, because the fact is, I freaking love it.

So, I didn’t exactly leap out of bed this morning. This morning was one of those mornings where I would have been grossly late for work if I wasn’t married.

Anyway, I turned the radio on, turned this here ‘puter gizmo on and headed right to the Times Leader Web site. While I was reading, the radio served as background noise. But all of a sudden I heard, “Mark Cour is as hard-core as it gets,” coming from WILK’s Joe Thomas.

Whoa! What?

Needless to say, my hand lurched to the volume fader.

Here, Joe and Nancy were talking about Gas Stock and the fact that a few crazy people walked all the way from Wilkes-Barre to Lehman for the event.

So, I felt compelled to call in and give them my opinion of the relatively low turnout and all of that. I told them that many of the participants were swapping war stories, methodologies, email addresses, phone numbers and Web site addresses. In other words, regardless of how Gas Stock worked out, I think it was just the beginning of a more galvanized resistance. There will be more to follow.

And I also agreed with Joe’s opinion that people view blogging, calling talk radio or writing letters to the editor as protests, that’s why we’re seeing fewer boots on the ground when the call goes out. Anyway, I called.

Excepting my election day calls to Sue, I haven’t called WILK since Steve Corbett was doing Radio Free Corbett on Saturday mornings. And I truly miss calling Kevin back when he hosted all by his lonesome.

Man, did I ever get close to having him launch an F-bomb over the airwaves. This freaking close!

As far as the “hard-core” quip is concerned, as I have been known to say, I work hard but I play a helluva lot harder. And lately, Kayak Dude has been seeing to that.

A little know fact is that I wanted to name my only son Harding Cour. A name that came with a built-in nickname…Hard Cour. And the fact that his name is Marque and not Harding is proof of Wifey’s sanity.

As for my sanity, well…

Somebody posted the following comments on this site as well as Gort’s site. I want to respond.

Anonymous said...
I think the low turn out says a lot. Those that are interested, read blogs or listened to talk radio are a minority in all of this. People just don't care. Just because a few people scream loud doesn't make them correct nor the majority.

Even those that have been interested in the past have taken less interest in most topics. Mark Cour sometimes goes weeks between postings. Gort may go days without a post and then post a paragraph and Yonki's blog has been more cut and paste features than really any of his thoughts and insights. Over time people just get busy with life and lose interest in things they really have no control.

There are very few comments on blogs anymore. Except for Big Dan who can't seem to put a coherent thought down and posts 15 responses, there are rarely more than a few comments.
As far as talk radio. They may have a few thousand listeners and they have the same callers from day to day, sometimes from show to show.

Exactly! People get busy with life. And that’s exactly why I post when I want to, not when I feel I should. I feel no pressure to post. When I feel the need to, I do.

Thing is, I have a wife and a kid and a car and a house and a teenaged daughter with a see-through blouse who loves to grind and…

Forget that excerpted Zappa.

I have a job and a wife and a life and a pile-load of grandkids, in addition to my personal interests. And writing is way down there on my list of priorities.

But I will say this. The unending chorus of supportive honking horns in the Back Mountain proves that people do in fact care.

Somebody at Gas Stock asked me why I call Kayak Dude what I call him.

These days, practically everybody has their own blog. But back when I started writing on the Internet, that blog word hadn’t been penned just yet.

And when you consider that I was writing about local issues and local politicians in the most acerbic of ways, people were very reluctant to get involved with my creation due to their fears of retribution. And their fears were further fed by my documenting the many times retribution was visited upon me, only to be vigorously rejected by me.

But after a year or so, and with a rapidly growing legion of readers, some started to contribute to the site provided that their names wouldn’t be used. What I wanted to communicate to my readers was that even though they were reading or viewing the contributions from those who chose to remain anonymous, those doing the contributing were not unknown to me. So I gave those contributors nicknames if you will.

I’m not even sure if I can remember them all at this point, but we had Kayak Dude, Kings College Dude, West Side Dude, Private Sector Dude, Times Leader Dude, and the self-named Snake.

A couple of these people did not request anonymity, but I provided it to them as a way of shielding them from any possible retribution. And when you consider that our mayor at the time was called “The VLP (vindictive little prick)” by city employees, you can surely understand why I did so.

And in this corrupt area, political retribution was real. In fact, I don’t think any of the bloggers that followed me into the local electronic arena attached their real names to their sites until 2005, perhaps 2006. And even then they were few and far between. I figure they felt it was safe to do so since I hadn’t been killed or arrested up to that point.

Anyway, Kayak Dude was called what he was so as to protect him from the potential trouble that I alone created, and because he seems happiest when he’s in a kayak.

What I am to bicycling, he is to kayaking.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gas Stock

I was there, man!

Peace, love, Pananas, live music, grumbling about fracking and all, I attended Gas Stock earlier today. Save for the free sex, the illicit drugs, the alcohol, the quarter of a million participants and even more drugs thrown in for effect, it was just like ruining Yasgur’s farm all over again.

Sort of.

After a miniscule two and three quarter hours of sleep, my alarm went off at 4 a.m., and Kayak Dude was here at the modest adobe shortly before 5:30 in the morning. And within minutes the two of us were standing at the water’s edge in Nesbitt Park.

We had an American flag, a Gadsden flag, an upside-down PA state flag, as well as a couple of Native American flags, the nations of which escape me now in my abject exhaustion. KD hauled that purposely disrespected PA state flag all the way to the Luzerne County fairgrounds, while the others made it only as far as Kingston Corners.

I can’t remember ever having walked as far as I did today. And going in, I figured it would be a great idea to travel as light as possible.

Back at the Nesbitt Park boat launch in the pre-dawn light, we were joined by none other than Herb from the No Frack Mountain blog. And we were joined but minutes later by the author of the Faces of Frackland blog, a freelance reporter. And in the parking lot of the former Kings Department Store waited both of Kayak Dude’s daughters, who I will not name.

And that was the entire crew, the six of us. And our entire crew did walk the 10, 12 or 14 miles (whatever it was) to the big anti-fracking event on Route 118 just a stone’s throw from Harveys Lake.

Down here in the valley, we got mostly curious stares from the folks we happened upon. KD was sporting the flag, and Herb was holding aloft one of those No Frack yard signs. And we did hook up with the Luzerne to Dallas trail at the trail’s beginning in Luzerne, so we went a few miles almost undetected. But once we emerged from the forest and trudged along the streets of Dallas, the honking horns from the onrushing vehicles did start to sound like an unending chorus.

So I got to wondering about why that was. Do the folks down here in the valley not care about the drilling, since it seems to be an issue for the folks in the more bucolic reaches? Or does the drilling just not resonate with them even though their water supplies emanate from those same bucolic reaches?

By the way, that Back Mountain trail is the best I’ve seen to this date. We owe the people that made that happen a huge debt of gratitude. Those are the types of amenities our politicians should be funding, rather than the grandiose monuments to themselves that seem to be all the rage. Quality of life, people. Quality of life.

Anyway, I found myself another place to bicycle.

We arrived at Gas Stock right around 11, although, I did not look at my watch as we arrived. At that point, the attendance was sparse and remained that way for a couple of hours. Being on call, I started thinking about how I was going to make my way back to Wilkes-Barre just before 1, and it was about that time that the crowd started to grow more noticeably dense. A few hundred, I'd say.

Still, there seemed to be a general feeling of disappointment with the lagging attendance from within the ranks of the serious activists and the like. Perhaps the allure of sex and drugs would have been a good selling point after all.

The musical acts performed capably. There was just enough food selections. There was no shortage of Marcellus Shale information booths. Crafts and that sort of dust-collecting stuff. And early on, before the people started streaming in to some degree, it seemed as if every other person in attendance was a blogger, anti-fracking and otherwise. All of which had me uttering the words…Blog Stock.

There were many recognizable names on hand. Anti-fracking coalitions were on hand, as were representatives from many of the anti-fracking blogs. Some were from New York state. A contingent from Dimmock made the trip. Some came from southeastern PA. And of course, NEPA was well represented. A few people approached me after recognizing me as that no good sumbitch from this here site. One guy remembered me from the blogger get-together in Pittston.

I met and spent some time with the author of Fracked. Same goes for his sister. Good people, both. And how could I not like people who came bearing burned musical gifts? Only I came away from Gas Stock with Zappa bootlegs and some Frank Marino in hand. Sweet.

I spent a goodly amount of time gabbing with Tim Mullen, a candidate for state representative from the Libertarian Party. And we agreed that it is an offense to our sensibilities to have both the Republicans and the Democrats openly working to deny ballot access to Greens and Libertarians. Obviously, Carl Romanelli’s name came up.

Honestly, I liked the guy. And I think most of what he had to say made perfect sense. So I told him if I could help, he should contact me. Unlike the remainder of the partisan hard-left folks that blog in this area, I told him I wouldn’t give him some space on this site only to shoo him away when it truly matters--when next we vote.

Just as soon as my four eyes spied it, I happily plunked down $2.50 for an “Impeach Everybody” button. Yep, impeach everybody, as in, those 535 plus two jackasses in Washington D.C.

Yeah, after we tell them to seek asylum in Haiti or else, then we get around to flushing that insidiously foul cesspool in Harrisburg. Sez me!

Some guy wanted me to add my name, address and all of that to a petition demanding a drilling moratorium. And he actually got a tad mouthy after I declined by telling him that his petition was a couple of years late. Call me mentally incontinent if you must, but I haven’t seen anything that suggests that a moratorium is even remotely possible until the ranks of Haiti get to swelling in a noticeable way.

A women associated with un-naturalgas.org sat with a few of us and excitedly encouraged us to commit civil disobedience by way of affixing anti-fracking signs to highways and byways and the like. Yeah, that’s real cute and all right up until the state trooper pulls up right behind you while you‘re busily defacing public property.

Overall, I’d say the event was not what the organizers had hoped it might become. And that’s a shame because a wide array of concerned people donated their time, their equipment and their property to the event. And in our case, that spry gang of 6, we donated our time, our sweat, and in Herb’s case, even a drop or two of blood.

It was apparent that both the hosts from and the regular callers to WILK radio that were making most of the anti-drilling noise were nowhere to be found. Big surprise there. I figure if it won’t help their ratings in some way, it’s not worth their time. Yet, some of these same on-air talk jocks accuse others of being in it (business) for profit, profit and more profit.

I did not see any TV crews. But I did spot the print types, scribes as well as photographers.

Amazingly enough, me, the guy proudly sporting the “Impeach Everybody” button managed to get a lift back to Wilkes-Barre with none other than State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski. He was on hand to show support for the goings-on, and he was the only elected politician from all of NEPA that I encountered.

And after hearing him discuss the many nuances of the gas drilling issue with the huddled folks that were more than eager to fill his ear, it’s clear to me that he’s well-read whereas this potential disaster in the making is concerned. Having known the guy for many years, it didn’t surprise me none.

Herb asked if I was going to take in the blogger/candidate soiree scheduled for September, and initially I kind of shrugged my shoulders. But after a moment or two of deliberation, I told him I’d go if he’d go so we could down some beers and ignore all of the assembled politicians eager for some free “press.”

I’ll hang out with the bloggers. And I’ll certainly partake of the frosty cold agricultural amusement aids. As for those glad-handing politicians and their smooth-talking handlers, I’ll ignore the lot of them just like I did the last time.

The thing is, I will whore for a politician only if I steadfastly, unequivocally believe in them. And if I don’t, then they too can take a collective flying leap off of Mount Haiti.

Getting back to the people that bothered to make Gas Stock happen, I do not think even one of them should be disappointed about any aspect of it. You can only do so much. You can only do what you can do.

And if the perception is that NEPA failed to show up in sufficient numbers, then NEPA ought not come crying to any of us when their wells or their reservoirs end up contaminated by methane or any of the other proprietary carcinogens the outsiders feel they need to pump into our layers of shale by the millions of gallons.

If the politicians will not put even a temporary stop to it, and if the residents cannot invest even a single afternoon in the future of their potable water supplies, then there it is. Whatever it is, or whatever it turns out to be, some of us did try.

As for Kayak Dude, he sure knows how to tap into my unbridled spirit of adventure. First he had me, an aquatic novice, paddling thirty miles at a clip. And now he’s gotten me to practically walking to the moon and back. What might he have in store for me when next we feel motivated?

Well, he hinted earlier today that when next we get to sporting upside-down flags, protest banners and what have you, our adventure together just might be of the bikeabout variety. And if you know me at all, you already know that no arm-twisting will be required on his part.

As Ed Pashinski said to the folks who had his ear earlier today, “We need more people like you. You people are engaged.”

That we are. At least, some of us are. A paltry few.

And the way I see it, the apathy of the many should not dishearten or dissuade the engaged few.

Dude, thanks for the most interesting of days.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Real Housewives? Here?

Wifey watches these “Real Housewives of New Jersey” shows, so I tried watching a few episodes with her. And after taking in a few hours worth of that useless pap, I’ve decided that I’d rather arm wrestle the governor of Caulifornia than suffer any more.

I guess I’m the oddball because I really don’t see the need for more than a dozen or so television networks. She’s got her satellite dish and her 5,000 plus channels, but there’s rarely anything worth watching.

If any one of our state representatives (no matter how loathsome) championed an ala carte cable bill that actually passed into being law, I’d vote them in for life and offer myself in servitude.

Here’s my must-have list right off of the top of my pointy little head:

3. FOX (WOLF or whatever the frig they call it now)
4. CNN
5. FOX News
6. History Channel
7. Military Channel
8. Discovery I.D.
9. Any channel that televises the New York Football Giants
10. Any channel that televises COPS
11. AMC
12. NFL Network

And my ala carte cable bill would top out below 20 bucks a month, like in those more progressive states we usually look down our noses at.

Uh, any of you legislature types up for doing the right thing for your constituents just this once? There it is, bucky. Ala carte cable.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled sanity.

As for the Real Housewives claptrap, I might become a regular viewer if and when they produce The Real Housewives of Luzerne County. Hell, I’d volunteer to write for that series.

I’m picturing a group of babushka-clad middle-aged women huddled together at the St. Nick’s bazaar talking smack on some relatively attractive woman in the same age group tossing darts at colored balloons.

And what, pray tell, is their beef with her? Why the mean-spirited gossip and snickering? Is it because she’s married to a high-profile politico and all of her children have county ghost jobs? No.

Is it because said woman is not also afflicted with sagging boobs and a sagging caboose despite her advanced age? No.

Is it all over her weekend talk show on WILK in which she makes with the high and mighty sophisticate bit? No.

Perhaps it’s the matching BMW convertibles her and her hubby zoom around town in as if they haven’t a care in the world? No.

What’s got the real housewives in these here parts showing major claws and fangs is the fact that wonder woman herself won the blue ribbon in the St. Nick’s potato pancake cook-off three years running.

What a total bitch!

Kayak Dude tells me that cemeteries are now fair game for the invading gas drillers. No, I ain’t making that up. Go to his site and follow the link. Is nothing sacred anymore in the never-ending pursuit of the almighty dollar?

Did I say dollar? A moment of silence.

Feeling all reverent now?

Speaking of KD, I will be joining him on his trek to Gas Stock on Saturday morning, and before the Sun comes up no less.

Anyway, we’ll be walking from Nesbitt Park to the Luzerne County Fairgrounds, 13 miles by his calculations. I could do that walking backwards, but why show off, right?

He’s making this Trail of Tears-styled journey to raise both funding and awareness as the battle for our water supply rages on. I followed his link to the Trail of Tears story and found it to be educational, and quite frankly, shocking.

I knew many tribes of Native Americans were screwed over every which way. But I never knew that thousands upon thousands of them were literally marched to their deaths at gunpoint. In my mind, the descendants of these people should be at the top of any proposed reparation lists. Not that it matters none too much now.

Funny, though. There was not a single mention of Chief Muckamucka and the Muckaqoui Nation from out back of Sorber Mountain way. So I’m left to assume that the-then U.S. Army knew when it was facing an obstacle too formidable to move. I figure.

As far the trek on Saturday goes, I’d invite all of our fellow bloggers to come and tag along, but we really need to arrive on scene before the end of August.

KD made some mention of some film crew documenting the day’s walk, and I’m not sure what the latest is on any of that. I’m not going along to steal any thunder or to pretend that this is a two-man protest.

I’m going because he’s my friend, and because he’s my occasional partner in protest crime. And there is that other reason. The most important reason. The reason being, he proved that one man could derail a long-term congressman’s misguided pet project. And I proved that one acerbic jerk sitting in his mommy’s basement in his skivvies could help to derail an out-of-control mayor.

The thing is, you’ll never really know what you can accomplish unless you up and try, unless you up and get involved. As I so frequently quote, the only limit to your ability is your imagination.

And if he’s going, I’ll be damned before I see him go alone.

Damn the inattentive drivers. Full speed ahead!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Markie got an F

Should an Islamic mosque be built in the shadow of what’s left of the World Trade Center site, better known as Ground Zero?

Frankly, no.

Throughout the long march of recorded history, religions have divided people and led to war, famine, genocide, ethnic-cleansing, mass death and wholesale destruction.

What’s to like?

Real quick.

A county executive will be appointed by, in all likelihood, 11 unpaid party hacks?


Say no to Haggerty rule.

Speaking of history, my kids and I were rummaging through an old Charles Chips can, a scrapbook of sorts brimming with dated documents and the like.

Eventually, we ran across my son’s collection of disappointing report cards, which quickly got the kids to reminiscing about my occasional blow-ups at parent-teacher conferences. Okay, my frequent blow-ups. There, I said it.

Sorry, but was I supposed to take seriously some pompous ass who was promising to fail a kid with an 84 average because he was, as the pompous ass put it, a smart-ass?


If every teacher failed every 15-year-old smart-ass, most of society would be the proud recipients of a G.E.D.

What, I wasn’t supposed to blow a gasket?

At some point, my son found my 7th grade report card and started crowing about how the kettle was calling the water black? I had 2 Bs, an A, 2 Cs, a D and an F. And he was loving it.

The problem being that I received an F in Music, and the D in History. This from a kid who was a voracious reader of anything to do with either subject, and an audiophile extraordinaire. If there is anything that interests me more than music or history, I have yet to find these amazing gems.

What I asked of my kids was, how effective were these teachers?

I’d walk into music class on most days with a cop of Parade, a copy of Rolling Stone, and with a rock T-shirt on. My jean jacket had a KISS logo emblazoned across the back of it. And I almost always wore a bracelet of guitar picks.

Oh, but Mr. Music Teacher’s overriding quest was to prove to me the error of my youthful ways. Mozart he said. Beethoven he demanded. And to that I said, “Beethoven wouldn’t know how to operate a distortion pedal.”

And with that, I was cast off to Mr. Sallitt’s office for a good paddling all over again. I knew the deal. Wallet and comb on the desk. Bend over. Yawn!

He saw nothing he could tap into?

And then we had the history teacher, who seemed to feel threatened by the fact that I could spout off the final resting places of damn near all of our sunken World War II carriers, how many tons they had displaced and how many aircraft they had carried.

And he kept on reminding us that both the Germans and the Japanese had superior armaments and the like, a point I would not take issue with. My point was, we had more of them and we won. We had the industrial might. Bummer, teach.

He didn’t seem to like that constant haranguing. It seemed as if he wanted us to believe that the U.S., or the U.S. military was lucky or something,

Iowa Class: Wisconsin, New Jersey, Iowa, Missouri!!!

Displaced 46,ooo tons, could cruise above 30 knots, had 16-inch guns and the Japanese surrendered on the decks of one of these late entrants into the war!!!

I know, I know. Wallet and comb.

How could a teacher not manage to tap into that exuberance? And how could a teacher not appreciate the fact that a kid, a gangly kid could know any of that in the pre-Internet days?

Remember, before I entered junior high, I was finally told some part of the long elusive truth whereas my real father was concerned. I was told he was a weapons designer. And I was given a couple of faded IBM newsletters to prove as much.

Senior Design Engineer: Guided Missile Project.

And with that, I was off to the library to read all that I could about weaponry, airborne, land-based and otherwise. And I spent a fortune (for me) at the Book & Record Mart on military hard covers. What, just because I knew what a MIRV was and he didn’t, I was in need of detention? I could tell him what it was like to take in the world’s largest nuclear submarine base with my own eyes, yet he was flippantly dismissive?

Somehow, in his inner place, my enthusiasm for learning very targeted things (pun intended) was annoying.

So what I reminded my kids of was, teachers do not make you smart, nor do their arbitrary gradings of your performance foretell your potential IQ, your future or your eventual earning potential.

Sadly, their egos, their own peculiarities and their own shortcomings too often get in the way of further motivating kids who are interested in something or other. Every kid is interested in something. The question is, will that interest, that hunger to learn deviate from the prepared lesson plan?

I dunno.

Ask the professionals. Ask the professionals who prepare students for the next round of testing, rather than for the rest of their lives. Ask the folks who often mistake enthusiasm for bad behavior. Ask the pros who too often denigrate rather than motivate.

Anyway, I once got an F in Music class.

Figure that one out.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dan Emplit

I have linked (perhaps permanently) on my “Local Buzz” blogroll to Dan Emplit’s site, WB Fire Fighters Thoughts.

This is from his Blogger profile: A 17 year WBFD Engine 3 Driver. With 6 years Active Military service.

Noble enough.

I link to his site not as some sort of official endorsement of anything he has to say. I link to his site not as any admission on my part that his take on city issues is the take du jour. Rather, I am linking to his site simply because he has chosen to continually raise public safety issues that may or may not directly affect the residents of my city.

And I have decided that anyone who bothers to, 1. attend city council meetings, and 2., write about those experiences, deserves to reach the largest possible Internet audience.

At one time not so long ago, I was in total cahoots with the WBFD whereas political muckraking was concerned. But then, after the new administration took over, and after the 3-men to an apparatus mandate caused a serious riff between the administration and the fire department, I very, very quickly fell out of favor with the “Hose Dudes“ (trademarked?) for daring to side with the administration.

And that’s perfectly fine with me. I have no innate need to be treasured by all that I meet. Jeez, at this late date, I’d be beyond thrilled if my long-lost father was somehow found and begrudgingly admitted that he even remembered having a son back in the black & white day.

But I digress.

Being that City Council, seemingly out of the blue, decided to try to force at-large voting back into the mix, and being that Mayor Tom Leighton can take his 20-year retirement and walk away from the whole shebang relatively soon, I’m suspecting that this city may be fast-approaching a transitional period. A changing of the guard, if you will.

And if that truly turns out to be the case, if Wilkes-Barre is indeed in for a bit of political upheaval, I want every available opinion, good or bad, right or wrong, well-spoken or otherwise thrown into the oft-messy political mix. Enter Dan Emplit.

Do us proud, dude.


We, the people of the shale...

With recent history as my proof, as the next election cycle would draw near, new political blogs would sprout up on the local scene faster than weeds.

And much like their horticultural counterparts die as the seasons change, just as fast as the election cycle would pass into the history books, the great, great majority of those fledgling political blogs would quickly fade away.

With that typed, I ain’t seen nothin’ like this unique explosion of localized blogs looking to sway the public’s mood against the invasion of natural gas drilling outfits. Only a painstakingly obvious environmental conflagration in the making put upon a concerned public could cause such a remarkable phenomenon.

And what this suggests to me is that, Harrisburg…we, the people of the shale, have a problem. A big problem.

But, coincidentally, Harrisburg has a big problem, too. A big problem, as in, gross fiscal mismanagement.

The thing is, when you are reduced to wetting your prehensile lips and offering a warm, moist mouth to the genitalia of the gambling lobby and the gas drilling lobby as well, what that demonstrates is that there isn’t actually a coherent financial plan in place. Anything but.

There’s no 5-year plan, no 10-year plan either. All that there is the never-ending pursuit of new revenue sources to squander. New revenue streams that never seem to amount to financial solvency for the state or prosperity for the long-beleaguered residents of the state.

The long and short of it is, for the government to be able to continue to grow, and for it to be able to continue to shower increasingly untold riches upon those blindly loyal constituency groups that continually hang from it’s bloodied teat, that overgrown field next to your tool shed needs to be transformed into a heavy industrial site.

And your water supply? Ah, we can always truck water in. So shut up, pay your increasingly confiscatory levels of taxation and never mind that teachers as well as federal, state and local government workers can retire and collect their overly generous pensions long before they risk turning gray.

Point blank--Harrisburg spends far, far more than it “earns.” And because Harrisburg outright refuses to adopt fiscal sanity as policy, your potable water supply is little more than another roll of the dice to those who have turned the state’s capitol into what I deem to be a suitable site for low-yield nuclear weapons testing.

It’s simple. And I do like simplicity. They obviously don’t care about your general welfare, your overall safety. And at the risk of sounding as if I have upped and joined the Marcellus Maguires with an auto-loader in hand, why should I care about theirs? I say we nuke ‘em all and let Allah figure it out.

Short of nuking them for lack of popular support, how about if we vote out of office every single elected official that outright refuses to make a concerted, a definitive stand against this lurking, this ever-circling environmental disaster in the making is concerned?

Sure, Superfund sites can and do get made pretty close to whole and right by the outlay of enormous sums of money long after the indigenous populations have fled to safer and healthier environs. Love Canal, anyone?

But in keeping with the simplicity bit, why create a Superfund site in the first place? Why keep on repeating the same mistakes?

Why? Because Harrisburg desperately needs money all over again. And right after the further acquisition of and the further squandering of new revenue sources all over again comes the feigned concern for the general welfare of the walking, talking and now feverishly squawking revenue streams--namely us.

As for those growing multitudes of fledgling anti-fracking bloggers, whether the self-centered and self-aggrandizing buffoons in Harrisburg want to hear it or not, continue to make your voices heard loud and clear. Perhaps, even louder.

Tell them our water supplies should not be jeopardized so as to fill the coffers all over again, only to have those engorged coffers drained all over again.

Tell them that our future generations should not be saddled before they come of age with the gargantuan costs associated with making the environment somewhat palatable again.

Tell them, we, the people of the shale demand our remonstrance!

Tell them, man.


Different time, different mayor, different police chief

Too many years ago to count, a county commissioner got himself good and drunk and then drove his car into a light standard in the local Toys R Us parking lot. The onlookers at the scene called 911. A WBPD patrolman did arrive on the scene. And that’s when Scanner Land quickly became Bizarro World.

It went something like this: The patrolman requested that the watch sergeant 10-25 (report) to the scene. The sergeant arrived, took one look at the drooling commissioner and requested that the lieutenant come to the scene. And after he arrived, the calls went out for Command 100--the mayor.

Somebody, ahem, somebody at that bent and haggard light pole decided that it would be best if the commissioner were shuttled home so that no one would be the wiser. But when the word finally got out and the political excrement hit the fan, the police officers that responded that day were either terminated or suspended.

How do you say it? Damned if you do, damned if you don't. That's where police officers find themselves when even a routine DUI call becomes politicized. And that's exactly why they should just do their jobs while ignoring political pressure to do otherwise. At the end of the day, even if they become the fall guy for some meddling politiciain, at least they'll have their dignity and reputation intact.

Ah, different time, different mayor, different police chief.

When the following story--W-B officials’ son in vehicular wreck--appeared out of virtually nowhere, I was not surprised by it as I had heard the entire sordid affair some days earlier while visiting Scanner Land. Oddly enough, I was under the influence of alcohol while busily taking notes.

And despite my complete faith in my police department, I could not escape the niggling fact that I reside in a county that could and probably should be the future home of the Corruption Hall of Fame.

It had nothing to do with the names of the players, it had more to do with the modus operandi here in Culm County, so my reflexive reaction was to fear that pressure would be brought to bare on the police department to make this thing go away.

I had seen it play out before thanks to my trusty police scanner, and I wanted to believe that those days were finally behind us here in Wilkes-Barre. Still, I made a fleeting and vague reference to the incident so that the ‘powers that be’ would know that they had no exclusivity whereas the accident was concerned.

But in my heart of hearts, I believed that the right thing would ensue only because of that aforementioned quip of mine: Different time, different mayor, different police chief.

But with all that’s gone on in the last year and a half, you cannot fault the hoi polloi for being jaded, distrustful and accusatory at the drop of a proverbial hat around these here socially and economically demented parts. It seems that under practically every rock and pebble in this county lies corruption of some twisted sort.

When that Times Leader story appeared, the folks that commented on it at the Leader’s Web site clearly displayed that venomous distrust of the system. Here’s a representative sampling of their premature ire:

ScottG said...
Let's just see how this gets swept under the rug! Guaranteed. There will be no BAC testing, no charges and actually it will turn out to be the parked cars fault. Like mother, like son.

Same old, same old in this county! Surely the police wouldn't have the nerve to order the blood alcohol test and tick off their "bosses". Mommy is a councilwoman and daddy the judge. The right thing would have been to bring in the State Police to handle this one, IF you wanted to avoid the appearance of any special treatment. But, no, this is Luzerne County and the city of Wilkes-Barre, where the good ol boys network is alive and well.

Same Old Thing said...
I bet they'll sweep this under the rug to. What about the BAC TEST? Isn't there anyone to look into this? Wilkes Barre protects their own.

While I absolutely loath the enabling of anonymous commenting on news sites as well as on blog sites, you really can’t blame the anonymous assassins that figured the fix was in in lieu of facts and patience. And if you’d like to take issue with that statement of mine, first remember where you live.

But here in Wilkes-Barre, at least in this case, the right thing was done. What started as a Scanner Land red flag ended in charges being filed against someone with the right last name. And that’s the way it should be no matter what name was assigned to anyone when first they drew a breath.

While I’m not so naive as to put my complete trust in anyone who toils away for votes, this unfortunate incident reconfirms for me that I have a professional and motivated police department here in Wilkes-Barre.

While the unfolding corruption saga taints seemingly every bucolic corner of this county, and while it has spread into a neighboring county, it has yet to attach itself to anyone currently paid by the City of Wilkes-Barre.

And I truly hope that fact becomes a long, long-running trend. The ‘norm, if you will.

As far as this ages-old driving-under-the-influence plague is concerned, the cure--sobriety--is all too often worse than the disease-death, destruction and jail--for far too many of us.

Some of us, no, many of us need to work on that.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

2001: A star was born on WILK

Way, way back in 2001, then returning NFL hero--Greg Skrepenak--appeared on WILK’s Fred Williams Show.

In short, I was appalled by what I heard that day.

Fred Williams, the tireless and gregarious and cantankerous anti-courthouse patriot was virtually spellbound by the then-young local philanthropist-in-the-making. And while I had no problem with the unchecked adulation Fred gushed all over Skrepenak, my tattered red flag went straight up when Fred started encouraging, almost demanding that Skrep get involved in local politics by running for an elected office.

As we (?) say in the trade (?), RUTRO!

Fred was usually spot-on whereas the local scene was polluted by corruption that always seemed to float just under the surface and just out of our flailing grasp. And his prescribed solution to that? Put a storied football player in charge?

To that, I reacted like a mother bear would likely react to a German Shepherd loudly menacing her trailing cubs. Stated good intentions aside, I was having none of it.

But the callers, the callers gushed with excitement. The callers to that long-ago show practically begged Skrep to seek political office and therein (as the illogic of the day went), help to change the political culture in these backwards parts. They loved him. They encouraged him. Some even begged him. They said, as if it was a prerequisite to future greatness, “What a nice young man.”

Aghast, I was.

And there were subsequent call-in appearances by Skrep. And the on-air staff and the following of WILK glowingly encouraged his political ascendancy at every turn. They, WILK, wrote the blank check that was an in-kind political contribution, and he cashed it in spades. A star was born on WILK and he was off and running.

When the Makowskis and the Pizanos and the Crossins of the political oligarchy were eventually replaced by the former offensive lineman and others, I figured we couldn’t do worse than what we previously had. Right?

Ironically, while Fred’s stated enemies at the courthouse were eventually dispensed with, and while Fred’s shining star of a political neophyte eventually became the majority commissioner, public corruption as we knew it or as we had suspected it would be taken to dizzying new heights in what now seems like a horribly foreshortened fortnight.

Going in, I’m supremely confident that there was not a corrupt bone in Skrepenak’s hulking body. But his exit interview suggests that something went horribly wrong, not only for us, but for him as well. I'll not speculate.

I paint him as anything other than a victim. But I still remember that, perhaps, fateful day when Fred’s usually shrewd political instincts failed him, and through the short course of time, failed all of NEPA.

And now WILK proudly covers Skrep’s tragic political demise wall-to-wall. Excellent coverage, by the way.

But many, many moons ago, weirdly enough, Skrep’s political star was born on none other than WILK.

And what should we take from that?

Having a microphone at your disposal makes you an expert at nothing. Having a microphone at your disposal makes you a much higher profile and much sexier version of a well-read poliblogger. And having a microphone at your disposal does not preclude that abject brilliance will be entwined with your every utterance.

The on-air folks at WILK fancy themselves as kingmakers all too often. And as our disgraced former king is now considering what life in the hoosegow might mean for him for the next two years, going forward, perhaps some searing soul-searching on the part of the would-be makers of kings would benefit us all.

I’m just saying.

As far as that courthouse scene was concerned, I do have to congratulate WILK’s Steve Corbett on his obvious restraint, as well as his decision to voluntarily extricate himself from an emotionally volatile situation.

There are those times when avoiding a fight does make you the bigger man. (Ask me about my grandson’s recent birthday party and the Outlaws.) And this was one of those times.

While I can and do take issue with most of what Corbett typically espouses, his obvious restraint commands some measure of new found respect.

If that was me, well…


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fix the fountain

"It's one of those stupid things that stupid minds do when they're trying to get political advantage for stupid purposes. That's a terrible thing using stupid three times, but that's what it is - it's stupid."--Paul Kanjorski

This next one is completely unacceptable to me.

W-B fountain money down drain

WILKES-BARRE – The fountain on Public Square will not be repaired, Mayor Thomas Leighton said Wednesday.

Citing high costs, the mayor said the city can’t afford to have water spouting at the center of the city’s downtown focal point.

“The costs to repair it are excessive,” Leighton said. “At this time, the city is not in a position to spend money to fix the fountain.”

I commend the mayor for resisting deficit-spending at all costs, but while the governor is happily handing out $20 million to build temples honoring the elected, and yet another $20 million promised to the Cordaro Yankees, I say we cash in a political chit and completely remodel the fountain.

Never having owned a pool in the old days, my kids and I preferred bicycling and frolicking in the fountain on the hottest of days. And now, even though I own a pool, my grandkids much prefer bicycling and frolicking in the fountain to staying at home with the pool.

And now that the downtown is as busy as it ever was, now that the formerly boarded-up storefronts are filled, something seems terribly amiss when I go downtown only to find the fountain out of order all over again.

$20 million for Murtha?

$20 million for Specter?

$20 million for the Yankees?

Yeah, well, I want $50,000 to fix my beloved fountain.

Wish me luck with that.

No matter where the roads may lead us when we don bicycle helmets, they always lead us back to the same place…the fountain.

While I’ll admit that, on it’s face, it’s hard to believe someone could be charged with theft for the scooping up of a few newspapers, I also recognize that screaming at investigating police officers and abruptly slamming doors in their faces vastly increases one’s odds of being charged with theft. Remember, "it's all about ethics."

Throw the book, er, throw the Times Leader yearly almanac at her.

She wants to run the world, but she can’t afford the morning paper?



County election chief shoots down W-B council's referendum

Leonard Piazza puts the kibosh to further tumult bordering on chaos.

Thank (politically correct) goodness!

WILKES-BARRE - A week after city council gave its approval, Luzerne County's director of elections rejected a November referendum on abolishing district-based city council elections.

In a letter faxed Wednesday, Leonard Piazza III told Assistant City Attorney Bill Vinsko Jr. a state-mandated five-year waiting period had not elapsed before council submitted its ordinance Monday for legal review. As a result, the ground has been tilled for a potential third lawsuit in less than a decade over Wilkes-Barre's election procedures.

"I don't want to speculate into what their interpretation may have been," Piazza said of the council's legal thinking. "For many years now, it just seems the city has been trying to take unripened fruit from the electoral tree."

As I have said before, in this city referendums are like assh*les, in that, damn near everybody’s got one. And city council should know better than to get the hornets all riled up all over again.


And finally, the case of the disgraced county commissioner currently looking at being incarcerated…

Let me see here, the arguments against going to jail. Oh, here we go...

1. Ignorance of the law.

2. Dependant children.

3. Old football injuries.

I sentence you to be hanged by the family jewels until you man the fu>k up.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Courtright is now Murray-free

Be advised, the dilapidated Murray Complex at Courtright Street is no more.

Kind of weird, though, when you consider the gargantuan thing was there before you were even here. How many times I walked past there clinging to my grandmother's hand on the way to Top Spot right around the corner. Or that I once attended grade school directly across the street thanks to the always spinning carousel fueled by marital discord. Weird.

Yet another parcel that debunks what his detractors continually have to offer, that the mayor doesn't care about the neighborhoods. If he didn't care, we'd all be wondering when all three of our firehouses would be "cleaning house" again.

Speaking of the mayor, since the flood in '72, we've had ourselves a parade of mayors who limited their mayoral efforts to kissing babies and glad-handing. Our former mayor was big on ideas, but woefully short on execution. But this mayor strives to get things done.

While you may not agree with his approach to the job, you cannot argue against the significant, the enormous sums of money that have been invested in this city since he took office in 2004.

Changing demographics, reverse-gentrification and societal decay and what those changing dynamics mean for urban living put aside, the city is better off than it was just five years ago when our biggest attraction was a muddy pit--The Holeplex--that cost us $5.5 million.

My biggest fear is what the bumbling fools at the state and federal level will have trickling down to us, as in, less available grant monies and suchlike. If they keep deficit-spending us into oblivion at those two levels, sooner or later, the entire spigot runs dry.

If those people on those lofty perches of theirs cannot or will not befriend fiscal sanity, nothing that anyone does at the local level will matter all too much when the economic neutron bombs start to drop like Mayflies that overextend their brief visit to the Market Street Bridge.

I'm rambling, no?

Very, very late last night, Scanner Land went and offered up an incident that has me hoping for the best of the possible results.

Since I make it a habit to feel free to criticize the elected and appointed, while purposely steering far wide of their immediate families, I'll leave it at that.

Never one known for praying, let's just say I'm hoping for a decent outcome.