3-19-2005 What's the ugliest part of your body?


"If you have a gun, you're going to use it."--Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who is calling for increased gun-control laws in response to a recent spate of murders in his city.

Well...nobody said you had to be smart to get yourself elected.

So... it looks as if those evil "Big oil" companies are going to be taking a few drill bits to the Alaskan coastline afterall. Good. 'Bout time. ANWAR should have been probed a long time ago. I copied this from somewhere on the internet, but exactly where from escapes me right now:

The 19-million-acre refuge was set aside for protection by President Eisenhower in 1960, but Congress in 1980 said its 1.5 million acre coastal plain could be opened to oil development if Congress specifically authorizes it.

In other words, the national politicos have been slugging it out on this issue for twenty-five years.

You really have to wonder about the sanity of the hysterical folks arguing against not being further blackmailed by the OPEC nations if we can help it. If they ever decided to shut off the spigots, whoever occupied the Oval Office at the time would be forced to re-institute the draft overnight, and then wave goodbye to the troops as the "War for Oil" to end all wars for oil was about to get underway.

And the arguments for developing more alternative fuels have some real merit, but as we should all know by now, a free market economy operates best when the federal government stays out of it's way. You can't just order auto producers to do this, that and the other thing, as the exploding airbags killing toddlers should have taught us. And ordering the evil oil companies to suddenly produce oodles and oodles of affordable and environmentally friendly alternative fuels from government surplus creamed corn, or poppy seeds is a fool's errand at best.

We're going to drill for our own oil and that makes perfect sense to me. It's not something I want to argue about. And it's certainly not something I worry about, short of an all-out oil embargo at the hands of those OPEC countries. While the vast majority of y'all gripe about the price of a gallon of gas, I'll be chuckling at your expense while I cruise on by on the fuel-efficient Rock Stomper. If it's way too expensive to drive, then don't do it. Join me out there. But if you're gonna tell me that we need to pay those high prices in an attempt to save a few slugs, parasitic protozoans, or some recently discovered neotype that has the enviro's hearts all aflutter, I must politely ask you to consider bungee jumping with a giant rubber band that is way too long for the jump at hand. Will a nearby oil well cause the once proud and noble elkhound herds to gather round the purple Kool-Aid geyser and end it all as a group? Methinks freaking not.

Whatever. That's what I think.

Now let's take a gander at what one of our local "experts" has to say about the issue:

Kevin Lynn's Thoughts

ANWR REVISITED

Youíve heard the latest about the Presidentís plan to increase our energy? Rather than begin any sort of national conservation movement, the President would rather stay on the road talking about Social Security. What heís not talking much about is his darkening plan to drill in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR. The President has always had his eye on ANWR; it was only an outcry from Senators that kept him from plundering it early in his first term. Now he has a procedural arrangement cooked up so that heíll need only a 51-vote count in the Senate to unlock ANWRís supposed riches. If the opposition canít filibuster, they canít stall him any longer. This is how George Bush is spending the political capital he believes he won last November. Selling us a bogus plan on Social Security out in the open, while he plans political tricks to drill in Alaska on protected territory. Home to one of the largest caribou herds left on earth, home to polar bears and arctic fox and very few voters. Every single voter who does live there is paid a share of the oil revenues every year. What do you think Alaskans want? And hereís a question. If the President is so proud of drilling in Alaska, why doesnít he say it out loud? Why try to sneak it in the back door? He didnít have a problem selling us the war in Iraq, why not sell this? Is it because we might be a tough sell? And what are we buying anyway? Government estimates are that there might be 3.2 billion barrels of oil under the protected tundra. Seems like a lot until you know our appetite. 3.2 billion barrels of oil lasts us about six months. Thatís it. For six months of gas guzzling the President wants to drill under the ground and upset another island of natural tranquility. All the while this proud man wonít even tell us about his plans in public, even though many of us might like a national discussion. Letís assume Iím right, that thereís six months of oil under the ground, and it will take years to see the first gallon. Is it worth the risk to the environment for so little return? Itís a good question. Shame the President wonít ask it.

YAWN!!! So utterly predictable is the area's biggest Bush-basher. If Bush tied his velcro shoes in front of Kev, we'd hear all about how he screwed it all up early the next morning. No matter what Bush says or does; Kevin Lynn always knows better. Poor, poor Kev. He should have stuck to reading the latest sports scores off of a teleprompter. He's your typical sissified, tree-hugging One World Order type, who has no problem with putting our sovereignty as a nation way, way down there on the list of things to protect. He's the equivalent of Kurt Shotko, but with a job. In his deluded, if not mentally denuded "We should do it like (insert country)" and warped place, America is the root of all evil. If it wasn't for this country, the world would be a most perfect place. And if only America could be brought to her knees financially, the slugs would be free to sing, dance and love.

Now let's take a gander at what one of the pundits not limited to the Grotto's sports bar has to say about drilling ANWAR, and how it plays into geopolitics.

Upping the oily ante

Oliver North

March 18, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Last week, Iran's "mullah-President" Mohammad Khatami visited Caracas to ink some deals with Venezuela's socialist-President Hugo Chavez. At the event, billed as an effort to "counterbalance U.S. global hegemony," both anti-American leaders demeaned U.S. overtures aimed at dissuading Tehran from building nuclear weapons. "Iran has every right in the world, as do other countries, to develop its own atomic energy," Chavez said.

Spokesmen in Tehran have said the United States is "hallucinating" about any possibility that the Iranian Islamic Republic will scrap its nuclear program in exchange for "funny and disrespectful" economic incentives. "The U.S. should apologize to Iran for making this proposal," said Iran's Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi. He went on to call U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a "queen of war and violence."

Tough talk, sounding like a "Havana harangue" -- the kind of shrill blather we've come to expect of Fidel Castro in his dotage. But this isn't just the roar of a toothless tiger. Khatami and Chavez are putting their money where their mouths are. With oil prices at near record levels, Iran and Venezuela -- two of the world's top five oil producers -- are rolling in petro-dollars. And they are using their newfound wealth to finance much more than words.

Iran's oil wealth is buying Russian nuclear technology, material and the know-how to build the kind of bomb for which Pakistan's A.Q. Khan provided the blueprints. Petro-dollars are also paying for Russian, Chinese and North Korean help in building an Iranian long-range ballistic missile -- one that not only reaches Israel, but Western Europe, as well. When the Israelis suggested that they might unilaterally stop the Iranian nuclear threat, as they did with Iraq in 1981, Tehran responded with economic blackmail: Any attack would result in mining the Hormuz Straits, through which 40 percent of the world's oil is transported.

Hugo Chavez, his pockets bulging with American petro-dollars, has gone on a spending spree of his own -- but not to benefit his country's poor. With $5 billion in annual profits from the now nationalized Venezuelan oil industry, Comrade Chavez is buying 100,000 AK-47s, 50 advanced MiG-29 fighters, new naval combatants and a fleet of lethal helicopter gunships. He's financing and outfitting a new "Bolivarian Army" to "contend with the forces of imperialism" and is paying to build an "al Jazeera-type" radio network to provide "the truth about American hegemonistic designs" in Latin America.

Like the Iranians, the self-styled revolutionary Chavez is using oil revenues to purchase more than just foreign weapons. He's also buying friends and influence beyond his own borders. Fidel Castro is tickled commie-pink over a sweetheart deal he has for acquiring 53,000 barrels of Venezuelan sweet crude every day and over $800 million in unpaid debt -- all in exchange for sending teachers, doctors -- and military advisors -- to Caracas. And he's not the only "Latin leader" benefiting from the Chavez largesse. According to sources in Managua, "Hugo Chavez is the principal financier" for die-hard Sandinista Daniel Ortega, who hopes to become the "come-back communist" in Nicaragua's 2006 elections.

Thus far, Washington's response to these Khatami-Chavez oil-funded provocations has been purely rhetorical. This week, President Bush reiterated his support for the failed European diplomatic initiative aimed at dissuading Iran from nuclear enrichment programs. At the same time, the administration announced plans to "contain" Venezuela's aggressive anti-American agenda -- yet did nothing to deter the delivery of the advanced military hardware being acquired by the Chavez regime.

In little-noticed testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, Gen. Bantz Craddock, the commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command, said that he is "concerned because we don't know the intent" of the Chavez military build-up.

Roger Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for western hemisphere affairs, has said that Chavez is "using his oil money and influence to introduce his conflictive style into the politics of other countries," and went on to call it "subversion."

Yet, no one in the White House, State Department or Pentagon has the temerity to say in any communique that what Chavez and Khatami are doing is "unacceptable." That word is apparently being saved for some future statement: "If (insert name here) does (insert act here), that would be unacceptable."

Why the muted response? Because of oil. The slowly recovering U.S. and global economy depends on the slippery black substance. Even the OPEC ministers meeting this week in Isfahan, Iran -- of all places -- recognize that the price per barrel of increasingly scarce crude is very close to squelching the year-old upturn.

Worse yet, everyone knows that the Iranian threat to close the Straits of Hormuz, and Chavez' repeated warnings that he could cut off U.S. supplies of Venezuelan oil -- 15 percent of all we consume -- is real.

The common thread here is U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Sixty percent of all we use is imported. This week's narrow 51-to-49 victory in the U.S. Senate for opening a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for drilling is part of the long-term solution. So, too, are the increased efforts to develop fuel cell alternatives to petroleum power. But both of these responses to the present problem leave us vulnerable in the short term to the aberrant behavior of two wealthy, hostile regimes -- now building an "Axis of Instability" and upping the oil ante just hours south of our borders.

Fueling the fires of freedom in the Middle East and Southwest Asia is important, but so is protecting democracy and free enterprise in our own hemisphere. It's time for the administration to pay closer attention to what's happening close to home. Otherwise, we'll all be paying the price at the pump.

Here's another tidbit I copied from the internet, but, again, failed to jot down the address of the source:

Russia's Lukoil oil company is currently upgrading the Varandei port on the Arctic Pechora Sea. Lukoil and U.S. oil company ConocoPhillips have established a joint venture, Rusco, to develop the oil-rich fields in the Timan-Pechora region with the intention of ultimately shipping crude to the United States from Varandei.

Whoa! Kev? Kev? Aren't there any Russian parasitic protozoans you're committed to saving the lives of? What of the snow slugs, Kev? What of the snow slugs?

Yup! He can't hang up on me in this forum.


From the e-mail inbox Mark,

try not to be so hard on the critics of the Chamber. Everyone I know is suspicious of anything they do. And in my opinion, in all fairness they should be. Historically, they've (the Chamber) made some major screw ups that cost the average Joe some big bucks in the form of taxes. For example, recent history suggests that it was The Chambers idea to build the call center at the height of a federal push to kill telemarketing as we'd come to know it. Sure, McGroarty mucked it up even worse, but the critics who cited the costs to build the thing were in my opinion right about the years it would take to break even (in the form of revenue gained) given the tax incentives at the time and the low wages paid by that industry (nationally) had it survived both the Federal legislation and State legislation restricting that industry's business practices. Practices that have always been questionable at best. Don't even get me started on the movie theatre project.

When reference is made concerning the Chamber, most folks spirit a four letter retort based on suspicion and lack of understanding as to the function of that body. Commonly, people ask/say: "Who the hell are they? How'd they get them jobs? I didn't vote for them! What are they doing with my money. They're getting rich off of my back pocket!" etc.. Understandable attitudes. The Chamber has never really been forth coming of it's designs, never makes effort for the average citizen to understand its role in shaping the valley, never provides the whys/who's/ how's and as a result is typically recognized for its failures rather than its successes. It's often thought of as a secret society in which the rich and powerful profit at public expense. An example would be Lowes bar/restaurant achieving K.O.Z. status. Or the reduced property tax rate of home owners in Barney Farms. And yet this "Secret Society" holds as much sway over the area as our elected bodies do. In some case more (arguably) without having to be held accountable for their actions every two, four, or six years.

It probably wouldn't be difficult to put together a thirty year chronology of the Chambers screw ups, wasteful junkets, and nepotistic behavior. All of these things have been well documented by the local tabloids. But I'd be hard pressed to mirror that report with a series of successes. Simply because controversy sells newspapers. Which makes the mundane day to day activities of the Chamber un news worthy. And that same average Joe I spoke of earlier relies on those rag peddlers as his source for understanding the world around him. To dismiss the litany fears and accusations the Chamber needs to be a little more open as to practices, employees, and projects. Until they do even I will remain uncomfortable with their existence. I don't expect that to happen too soon, as I believe the Chamber is closer to the heart of the "old Boy" network than it should be in a better world.

In conclusion, the Chamber needs a series of high profile success just as much as the valley that supports it. Lets all hope they get a couple of hits in the next inning. Their wins are our wins. We can't afford another loss.

Harry

Sup, man? Imagine that. We're going to colate without mentioning a certain building in the Heights that sits idle.

First off, I in no way meant to suggest that we should idolize the Chamber folks. In fact, I imagine those average folks so critical of the big chamber honchos would rather go to their graves blaming someone else for their perceived financial shortcomings-rather than admitting the painfully obvious. And I really don't think I was being hard on anyone. I've had my share of ups and downs over the years, but never did I suggest to anyone that Steve Barrouk or anyone that came before him was responsible for my temporary problems. To suggest that someone in a downtown office building caused me to fall short of my hoped-for earning potential can only be called one thing: hogwash.

As their efforts pertain to Wilkes-Barre, I think those folks need to be judged only by what they have, or have not accomplished since the great flood of '72. Dan Flood saw to it that Nixon and the feds came to the rescue in the aftermath of the flood, and as a result, this city was looking pretty damn good. The downtown was jammin'. I know cause I worked down there for years after the flood. We had freshly paved streets, new curbs, new streetlights, nifty new buildings and seemingly, nary a worry about anything.

But, as we now know, plenty of folks vacated the city for the higher terrains, and the city's tax base began to erode. The spiffy new mall built on a pile of garage started attracting shoppers away from the downtown (as was the case all over these fruity plains) and then our mercantile base slowly began to erode. For decades before that flood, this area was a dingy-looking, mine-scarred culm heap and I imagine-not very marketable. And that's the reason why I think both our county and city politicos, as well as those big commerce guns should not be judged on most things that went before the '72 flood.

As far as the city is concerned, as I like to say, the city's elected leaders seemed to put the entire city on auto-pilot after the flood (especially during the '80s and early '90s). It's obvious that they refused to seriously address, or completely failed to recognize any of the growing problems that common people were noticing while they continued to kiss a lot of babies. I'd love to hear those very same folks explain exactly what it was they were thinking or doing during this dreadful period. As far as I'm concerned, they didn't do their jobs.

If I remember correctly, the Chamber Gods never did seal the deal on the long-troubled Call Center, so to suggest that a major project they were seriously considering, but never did come to fruition on their watch is much to do about nothing. Basically, you're saying that they almost mucked-up. And "almost" only counts in horse shoes and drunk driving. As things turned out, that was McGroarty's baby and one of McGroarty's biggest screw-ups. Not the Chambers.

Don't even get me started on the movie theatre project.

Dude, you must know by now that I not only like you-I respect you. But I've about had it up to here (I've got my hand in front of my third eye) with this abject negativity that pervades almost everything many folks think about this area and, specifically, this city and it's chances. Why not a theater? Would a peanut museum be a bigger draw? A river landing museum? Dammed floaters and stagnant acid mine run-off on Lake Kanjorski? Why not a 14-screen, state-of-the-art theater in our downtown? I'll support it. My kids plan on supporting it. Many of my neighbors plan to be there. And so do many other folks. And yet, I hear people that reside in Wilkes-Barre bad-mouthing that theater more often than coal mines explode in China. Why is that? Will the day ever arrive when we rise above our self-imposed ignominity? The mayor, the council, the chamber, the county commissioners, the governor and I think-our congressman-put a ton of work, money and political capital into that project. So what should we do? Bitch? Naysay? Vote for Walter Griffith?

I don't get it. I have steadfastly refused to drive to Lackawanna County to see a single movie. And get this, the price of a gallon of gas has many folks crying foul, but they think nothing of a road trip to Scranton's edge to see some over-hyped movie that doesn't live up to it's sales expectations? Is it me? And I will not set foot in that total sh*thole of a theater just begging for an arsonist over Edwardsville way. (Can you get HIV, or full-blown AIDS from a large popcorn? Ah, nevermind.) And I gotta tell ya, plenty of people feel exactly as I do. Blockbuster is at the top of my boycott list. And those toads that rent movies next to The Station (or whtever the f**k they call it this week) demand a major credit card number, a social security number, a retina scan, a DNA sample, and two hostages before they'll allow you to walk away with one of their precious videos. Talk about risk-averse. Talk about invasive bullspit. Talk about the boycott list.

I would truly enjoy having you 'splain to me why that theater is a bad idea. I really would.

A secret society? What do they do? Bite the heads off of kidnapped, nubile virgins after splitting the ill-gotten loot? Dude, I gotta tell ya, the last thing you want to do is to start sounding like Kurt Shotko. This game we are currently playing is not a zero sum game. If the big brass peering down upon Wilkes-Barre from atop the Pomeroy's building are making some serious bucks, that does not impact upon my situation at all. I sincerely don't give a flying leap.

Yeah, Lowe's is a KOZ property, and that has always had me scratching my dented head. Politics? I'd bet my last five copies of any Zappa boxed set that politics played into that deal. So, are you saying the Chamber of Commerce decides which properties do, and do not receive that less than productive classification? If the guy that owns Lowe's ends up making a bundle of money because of that KOZ status, but that entire block of Market Street also rises from the ashes as a result, should I be overly concerned about it? Or should I gripe?

Or the reduced property tax rate of home owners in Barney Farms.

Jesus, man! With all due respect, if that urban legend happened to be true, how is it that those muckrakers at The Times Leader never caught wind of it and splashed that story all over the front page of a Sunday edition of the paper? C'mon dammit! Why wasn't it used to damage someone's credibility during the last mayoral election? As far as I'm concerned, that's SAYSO fodder at best until someone steps to the forefront and proves that it's not some shrill blather from the folks that have a blatant disregard for dealing with reality.

Successes? I'm sure there are quite a few folks at the Chamber that could rattle of an impressive list of what they'd call successes. And I probably couldn't argue with their litany of success stories. But as I previously stated, my original problem with that group was the lack of successes in my city. And as I have also alluded to many times before, I didn't pay attention to what those folks did ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago. I was too busy drinking mass quantities, rock 'n' rolling and punching the stupidity out of drunken customers to know that this city even had a functioning Chamber of Commerce. But when Wilkes-Barre started looking like Beirut, I started paying attention. And when I'm interested in something, I tend to dive in head first.

It probably wouldn't be difficult to put together a thirty year chronology of the Chambers screw ups, wasteful junkets, and nepotistic behavior.

I gotta be honest here. I found that line particularly interesting, if not peculiar, coming from you. That sounds as if it came from Christine Katsock, or Walter Griffith. Try this:

It probably wouldn't be difficult to put together a thirty year chronology of the Councils screw ups, wasteful junkets, and nepotistic behavior.

Now...if you're willing to critique the Chambers efforts (or lack thereof) as they pertain to Wilkes-Barre's frightening collapse over the past thirty years, I think it'd be illuminating to hear what you think of that group's efforts that your dad happens to be a member of.

There's plenty of blame to go 'round in these parts, but I refuse to blame Steve Barrouk, or anyone else, for my not making the annual Forbes list of the world's richest tycoons yet again. I also refuse to camp outside his office until he talks Pepsico into building the worlds largest bottling plant right outside my bedroom window. I made it this far without his help, and I'll make it the rest of the way without his help. I don't need a scapegoat to blame for any aspect of my jumbled life. I did it all on my own and it is what it is. Or, isn't. (?)

Conversely, I've always had nothing but good-paying jobs and Steve Barrouk had absolutely nothing to do with any of that. Some of us have skills that the really good employers seek out. And still others have their favorite fall guy at the Chamber to blame for everything short of few rare penile diseases.

As for me, now that all of our community leaders are on the same page and moving all sorts of promising projects forward; I'll just wait and see what the Chamber can actually do when not forced to market a mish-mash of broken cities in obvious decline. And since we're concluding things with sports ditties, here's my pitiful offering.

The possession arrow is definately pointing in their direction. Now let's see if they can push the ball up the court and score.


Believe me, I haven't the foggiest clue as to why my Uncle John dropped off this postcard at the adobe today, but it kinda cracked me up after surfing the web for a spell.

HUH?

Recognize anyone?

I took a look at Kayak Dude's web site, Susquehanna River Sentinel, as I so often do, and found this interesting link: State leads nation in dam removal

Kayak Dude

Now, what are the odds that someone would drop off that Kanjo Lake postcard and hours later I'd end up finding a story about how the state is eliminating dams faster than any of those other states? Knowing that Uncle Paul from Washington wants to install his highly debatable deflatable dam here on Wilkes-Barre's barren shores and then experiencing the unusual confluence of events that I did, I think somebody's trying to tell us something. Think?


Let's take a very brief trip down recent memory lane, shall we? From "The Times of Zordork:"

I'm looking for Allawi in a landslide with all 100 votes counted from the Green Zone voting booth.

Ah, Ethel, our local Euro-goober. Whatever happened to that clueless Ethel? Or whatever his f**king name is.

From the e-mail inbox Mark

The better half and I enjoy it when you put up some of the older pictures you have at your disposal. How about treating us to a few more on occasion. On the slow days.

TXXXXX

Why not?

Pop Pop will save ya!

Holy moley! "Andre" the Commissioner. The only person Gage Andrew didn't take an immediate liking to. Too big for Gage's tastes.

Gotta go.

Gotta a hot date set up with the narly headphones tonight and I am definately in the mood for some serious Mothers of Invention.

Suzy Creamcheese, here I come!

What's the ugliest part of your body? Some say your nose. Some say your toes. But I think it's your mind.

Later