9-4-2005 We the People (and fractional divisions thereof)


That’s how I ended up on the morning of September 12, reading a biography of Churchill. I was thinking, ‘I’m going to deal with something I haven’t dealt with before. Let me see if I can learn something.--Rudy Giuliani

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But we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq lickety-quick. After 9-11, we gave the president unprecedented powers lickety-quick to take care of New York and other places.

Now, you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up – you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man.

You know, I'm not one of those drug addicts. I am thinking very clearly.

And I don't know whose problem it is. I don't know whether it's the governor's problem. I don't know whether it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get their a-- on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now.--New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

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I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?--Newt Gingrich

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It's as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine.--Dubya

While the usual political suspects are politicizing an act of nature, the race warlords are crying 'racism', and the shocked hoi polloi are wondering what took so long for the cavalry to arrive, I think we need to put things into perspective. I read last night that 90,000 square miles in three states were directly affected by this latest hurricane. That amounts to an area larger than all of Great Britain. While it seems that we may need to take a hard look at the situational planning at both FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security; we also need to take into account the magnitude of the disaster, and the man-made disasters that added to the severity of the situation.

The City of New Orleans?

From ArmyTimes.com

“I never thought that at a National Guardsman I would be shot at by other Americans,” said Spc. Philip Baccus of the 527th Engineer Battalion. “And I never thought I’d have to carry a rifle when on a hurricane relief mission. This is a disgrace.”

Spc. Cliff Ferguson of the 527th Engineer Battalion pointed out that he knows there are plenty of decent people in New Orleans, but he said it is hard to stay motivated considering the circumstances.

“This is making a lot of us think about not reenlisting.” Ferguson said. “You have to think about whether it is worth risking your neck for someone who will turn around and shoot at you. We didn’t come here to fight a war. We came here to help.”

I hear that. Fact is, when this valley flooded, the guardsmen both out on patrol and guarding particular structures were armed with batons only. During the past week I've heard locals saying that the same lawlessness that overtook New Orleans' flooded streets would happen here. Sorry, but that's bunk.

I've read that New Orleans was a borderline lawless city long before Katrina hit town. It's the murder capitol of the country, where gun deaths dominate the obituary pages. I've also read that it's city government and it's police department have long been known to be corrupt to a large degree. Throw in the fact that a large segment of the population is poor and you should be gaining some insights into why this town went nuts after the levees broke.

Now add to this mix the fact that the inmates in the local jails were released for lack of an evacuation plan, and we've got an inkling as to why the local gun shops were looted right quick. I've seen the picture of the rows upon rows of school busses sitting in a flooded parking lot, and I'm wondering why so many of the poorest folks were not evacuated before the sh*t hit the fan. Another question I had was why no one even thought of securing those gun shops in the run up to the hurricane making landfall. And if the bulk of the evacuees were to be funneled into two locations, why didn't the local authorities see to it that they had at least some bottled water and a few cases of Spaghettios.

It's not like this scenario hadn't been played out in the minds of local disaster planners for a half century or more. You can repudiate the response of the federal boys all you like, but I'm thinking the local boys efforts were inept at best, if not totally non-existant. In all fairness, I really think the federal boys thought that the local boys could hold the fort for a few days while the relief forces and supplies were being mobilized. I seriously doubt that the folks at FEMA were expecting New Orleans to turn into Mogadishu in the space of a few hours.

When the twin towers came down, New York City didn't go apesh*t. Florida gets repeatedly pummeled with hurricanes and not one section of Florida ever went and preyed upon itself. Therefore, I honestly feel everyone in the chain of command above the State of Louisiana was completely caught off guard by how quickly New Orleans devolved into Beirut circa 1982. I know I was.

Did you happen to notice the military convoy that arrived in New Orleans on Friday? It was led by a general in a "deuce and a half" that had water up to it's doors, and was followed by a parade of M-977 heavy tactical trucks. Call the 109th armory in Kingston and inquire as to how many heavy tactical trucks they have lying around out back. My point is, no local national guard shack has a few dozen of those HEMTTs at their disposal. Most likely, they were dispersed all over the state and it took a bit of time to get them to the same location, loaded with pallets upon pallets of supplies, and then on to New Orleans.

Yeah, I know. Dubya's fault. Right?

If the CIA slips me something and next week you don't see me, you'll all know what happened.--Mayor Nagin again

Quite frankly, those are the mutterings of a maroon, and not of a man that took the bull by the horns at any stage of this embarrassing human tragedy. In my mind, this fool should bare the brunt of the harshest criticisms yet to come.

"I am absolutely disgusted. After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering," said Sajeewa Chinthaka, 36, as he watched a cricket match in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

"Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world's population is."

And why no martial law? Governor Kathleen Blanco had 8,000 national guard troops, and 1,000 state troopers at her disposal. A contingent of New Orleans police officers, national guardsmen and state cops could have waded in there and shot some of the most lawless idiots dead in their tracks. Instead, the overwhelmed local cops were turning in their badges to the tune of 200. If we're going to demand answers from George Bush and his federal boys, then we had better demand some accountability of the hapless mayor and his impotent governor for the post-disaster disaster.

Here's another thing to chew on. They say that the long-sought after federal funding to enhance those inadequate dikes on the outskirts of New Orleans have been denied for many a year now. Now, if Uncle Paul Kanjorski could secure the massive funding necessary to protect this teeny, tiny podunk of ours from the wrath of a river, what the hell have Louisiana's congressmen been doing wrong for all of these years? Wilkes-Barre is shielded from the Susquehanna, but New Orleans was not properly protected from the Gulf of Mexico and it's hurricane-induced storm swells? Is it me?

I'm just sayin'.

Although, now that William Rehnquist has passed away, you can expect the finger-pointing from the lefties to come to an abrupt halt. Fact is, their fight to protect abortion rights--their lifelong fight to kill the unborn--immediately supercedes the needs of the living.

Sad but true.


I really don't feel like getting into another internet pissing match with Councilman Jim McCarthy, but I do have to take issue with some of what he had published in the Citizens' Voice yesterday.

I have no idea who might have referred to Denise Carey as a "dumb blonde," but I doubt that a stupid comment made by one person should be attributed (by association) to anyone other than the person who happened to coin such a stupid phrase. Fact is, a "dumb blonde" would probably never, ever endeavor to take on city hall in the first place, so I fail to understand why the gentleman from the Heights felt the need to share that with all of us. Carey's personal qualifications were never the issue at hand, so why bring them up now?

This one had me scratching my head:

Denise Carey became a most vocal opponent of the closing of the Heights firehouse, becoming the spokesperson for hundreds of silent Wilkes-Barre taxpayers, many of whom feel beaten down and unable to fight big government with all its weight and influence.

Huh? He speaks of that "big government" as if he's on the outside of it looking in. What am I to make of that? The rest of the elected folks have "weight and influence," but not he, himself? Or is he directly referring to the mayor? Sounds kind of melodramatic to me.

Plus, how could anyone "feel beaten down" in a small city where the previous mayor found himself, day-in and day-out, being publicly taken to task by a lone idiot armed only with a computer, a camera and a bicycle? We're beaten down? Sounds like flapdoodle to me, but if he's right, if the folks in the Heights feel "beaten down," maybe it's time they buck the f**k up already. As far as political battles are concerned, you win some, and you lose some. And when you go about a petition drive all wrong, you tend to lose.

Here we go again with the outsider-looking-in slant:

In doing so, she has scared the hell out of the politicians, most of whom are very reluctant to give up any power.

With the author obviously excluded, could we be a bit more specific here? Why the vague references to the all-powerful politicians that were scared sh*tless? Gimme some names, man. Don't beat around the bush, spell it out for us. Who at City Hall is an evil-doing power broker? You started this, now spill the beans. There's only eight names involved. It shouldn't be too much of a task to expose those power mongers for what they are. Heyna?

And what's all this prattle about "We the people," as it relates to initiative and referendum? "We the people," when wronged, can send any one of you small town politicians to the unemployment line. We are not powerless. We are not disenfranchised. We are not sheep waiting for the eventual slaughter. Set right? Remedy? Rectify? How overly-dramatic. We can do that anytime we friggin' want without sitting in front of a banner that says one thing, while asking for signatures on a petition that states a whole other thing. We can attempt to rally our fellow voters to the polls en masse. And if we can't manage such a coup, well then, we'll need to try a bit harder during the next election go-round.

All of this pontificating about the power of the people (or lack thereof) manages very neatly to omit the most important part of this petition brouhaha. When it comes to electioneering, there are clearly defined rules that, by law, have to be adhered to. Folks that do not reside within the city's confines cannot sign those petitions. Folks that are not registered to vote cannot sign those petitions. And folks cannot sign those petitions more than once. Yet...all of those clearly stated election rules as they pertain to petitioning were clearly broken. And to sidestep those facts, while championing the cause of the supposedly downtrodden, dis-spirited voters who were supposedly denied their God-given rights by the supposedly evil-doing elected folks, smacks of disingenuousness.

I am not the only person in this city displaying some outward signs of intelligence, so let's state the obvious, shall we? A group of people that think they know how to better run the world set about to do so and f**ked-up the entire process. That, in itself, is not proof of wrong-doing on the part of any of our elected folks. What it does amply demonstrate is that the Energizer activists who purport to know everything know far less than what they're willing to admit. I say again, do we really want to put these people in charge?

And then there's this issue of threats and intimidation coming from the elected folks. This is the third time I have heard this mentioned in public, and each time, nary a specific detail was involved. In my mind, that's because it's simply not true and patently absurd. It's a bullspit ploy designed to build resentment against this city's administration.

I intend to find out who the callers are and make their names known so the people will know who these bullies in government are, and who gave them the order to do this.

Blah, blah, frickin' blah. Trust me, I'm not gonna hold my flippin' breath until those names are finally made public. Who knows, maybe we should get into another internet pissing match. But whether we do or not, those names will never be forthcoming because the bullies of which we speak are but figments of someone's imagination. Sez me!

Oh no!!! We're going to "continue being a voiceless, powerless people?"

Spare me the hysterical-sounding claptrap. I may, or may not be powerless to some degree, but I am not without a voice. If I can do it, anyone else can manage to do it. I do not attend city council meetings. I do not attend activist meetings at bars, or in church basements. And I do not tape petitions to my forehead, as has become the ultimate rage in this city. Still, I make my voice heard.

Sorry and all, but I'm not buying into any of this melodramatic dis-enfranchisement horse hockey. Y'all cheered Denise on, while giving her lots of less than good advice along the way. The $11,000 court judgement against her was more your fault than it was Tom Leighton's.

And I'm on the record as saying that I'm not happy about her having been tagged with that financial burden. She rose up and fought for what she thought was right, and I'd hate to see her household budget taking a serious hit because of that once noble effort. I'd hand her a personal check this very minute, but I'm afraid that if I tried to deliver it in person she'd poke all four of my eyes out.

Voiceless? Powerless?

Sorry, but I expected better from someone who knows better.

Weirdness


I find it astounding to learn that a city councilman and the mayor of the city could be at opposite ends of the spectrum whereas this mostly needless petition-of-the-month nonsense is concerned. Whatever. The way I see it, one of them is thinking of the overall picture, while the other is thinking in terms of his neighborhood.

From the Times Leader:

Posted on Sat, Sep. 03, 2005

MAILBAG LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Truth be told: Carey was rightfully penalized for her actions

I would like to take this opportunity to address a misperception that the City of Wilkes-Barre is attempting to permanently stifle debate and dissent about any city issue through legal actions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Absent in these articles and editorials is the fact that these dissenters have been given more than ample opportunity to voice their opposition to any city issue. Citizens are encouraged to make their case at public meetings attended by myself and representatives of my administration. I regularly meet with citizens personally in their neighborhoods and at City Hall. At city council meetings, council has provided a forum for the public to voice their opinion and has listened to their concerns. No member of my administration has ever attempted to stifle their efforts to speak out.

Contrary to the notion that the public can’t fight Wilkes-Barre City Hall, anyone in the City of Wilkes-Barre may legitimately and legally petition the city about anything. The operative words in that statement are legitimately and legally.

The actions of Denise Carey and her circulators were, by their own admission, not legitimate and found to be unlawful in court. First, they instilled a false sense of fear in the residents of the Heights by exaggerating response times to fires and emergencies. Then, they attempted to deceive the petition-signers by making them think they were signing to save the Heights firehouse when, in fact, the real intent of the petition was to change the city charter and city government. Finally, when one of their own circulators demanded that his petitions be withdrawn because of the procedurally incorrect way signatures were gathered by other circulators, including Denise Carey, Christine Katsock, Walter Griffith, the group ignored his request and forced the city to continue their efforts in court. This admission and subsequent last-minute withdrawal is proof of their deception, apparent ignorance towards the law, and lack of accountability for the impact of their actions.

It should also be noted that over 25 percent of the signers were unregistered voters, some veteran petition circulators signed multiple petitions and petitions included signatures from people outside of Wilkes-Barre. This unlawful behavior needed to be challenged in court to avoid a change in our city’s government. The group committed a fraudulent act against the City of Wilkes-Barre by misleading residents and violating the election process. They must be held accountable for their actions.

As an elected official, I took an oath to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the charter of the City of Wilkes-Barre. If I made no attempt to prevent other unlawful acts like this one from happening, I would be in violation of that oath and a failure to the city and its residents.

Tom Leighton Mayor

Nothingness


Could someone please tell Larry Neuman that he can now breathe easier. Yep, he can do away with the massive contingent of heavily-armed mercenaries. I promise not to hit him right in the puss with a chocolate cream pie. I swear.

While I may be an immature asshole, I'm still man enough to admit it when I may have been wrong. Having no grandkids to entertain this morning, I hit the streets on the cycling version of the Hummer at a quarter to seven this morning. I sought only a modest workout, but I love cruising the city's streets early on a Sunday morning for no other reason than surveying the damage done on a given Saturday night. Seems as if the loonies were somewhat restrained last night. Other than a few empty Colt 45 40-ouncers scattered here, there and everywhere...the city went relatively unscathed last night.

And make no mistake about it, our entire downtown area is slowly being transformed. I'm not talking about the theater project, or the Labor & Industry building. If you look close enough, there are some telltale signs that people are investing some money here and there. I'm not going to get into specifics. Start looking around and tell me what you see. It's there if you bother to look for it.

Let's get back to that frightened urban planner of ours. It's very, very strange to ride around Public Square and take in all of that nothingness that replaced our canopy system. For purely selfish reasons, I wanted that canopy to remain right where it has stood since I was a hopelessly adrift teenager. But, now that's it's being recycled into thumb tacks, or some such sh*t, I have to admit that I do like the openness that the Square sans the canopy now provides us with. I stood across from the Circles store this morning trying to remember the last time I looked up at the massive expanse of that large white building without a canopy perched right in front of it. In all honesty, I can't remember that side of the Square before the canopy went up. Sure, I can remember Kresge's and Woolworth's and such, but it seems like that canopy has stood there since the cavemen first learned how to rape the cavewomen instead of each other.

Plainly stated, I sort of like the new look, whatever it may be. Tell Larry I'll buy him a slice of cream pie rather than getting myself arrested for a felonious assault with a baked good.

Very many of the brave business folks that have stuck it out in our downtown have complained about how the canopy limited what they could do with the signage and their facades. Now that it's been eradicated from our urban environment, I'm curious to see just how many of those very same businessmen will invest in improved signage, improved facades, and the tarpelines they claim they could easily erect rather than having that canopy hiding their store's frontage.

The installation of the new streetlights is but a few weeks away, and I think it'll finally start dawning on people that a new day is about to dawn on our downtown. Canopy or no canopy, I'm feeling upbeat. But, with so many expensive enhancements coming our way, I will admit to being somewhat flummoxed by the abject negativity that seems to pervade the mindset of too many of us.

At times, it's almost as if the city has no future at all because of one closed firehouse. While some of us, and the Times Leader dwell on the negatives, positive things seem to be happening all around us. The question is, will we pull our heads out of that dark, warm place and take notice?

Anyway, tell Larry to stop looking over his shoulder while out and about. I'm not gonna be stalking him anytime soon.

From the e-mail inbox The Spanish Computer...

A Spanish teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

''House'' for instance, is feminine: ''la casa.''
''Pencil,'' however, is masculine: "el lapiz.''
A student asked, ''What gender is 'computer'?''

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether ''computer'' should be a masculine or a feminine noun.

Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that ''computer'' should definitely be of the feminine gender (''la computadora''), because: 1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

(THIS GETS BETTER!)

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine (''el computador''), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

The women won

I demand a rematch!

Weird, for sure

Beer Super is open from 12 to 4 today...a Sunday. This is the absolute apex of all known societal and spiritual evolution. We can cart the entire brood off to church, play a little manic Ping Pong against the Pastor after the CDC classes have concluded, hit the beer distributor on the way home, and watch NFL football until the "Film at 11" gets underway. Basically, we can pray to two distinctly different Gods on the same day.

Those Muslims ain't got nuthin' on us.

Gotta go.

Q: Why do blondes wear panties?

A: To keep their ankles warm!!!

WHOA!!! You'd swear I'd been there!!!

CYA


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