Rutro! It seems those incensed hilltoppers are suddenly gangin' up on me. Silly, silly "flatlander."
Alrighty then. Let's try this.
what kind of bug crawled up youíre a*% today? First of all, tracking the movements of criminals has nothing to do with keeping the front of your house clean or the break up of the traditional family unit in the post sexual revolution era as seems to be Mr. McGinley's basis for argument. Second, drug dealers (like pedophiles) are usually repeat offenders. Third, the most serious drug problem we have in this city is the use of heroin. Which, by the way is a predominately "white" drug. Infact, I'll go on record as saying that in all of my years on the ambulance that I've never treated a black person for heroin overdose. And unlike hash or pot, it KILLS people. It doesn't care whether you live on Riverside Drive or Midland Court. Neither do the people who sell it. Fourth, ask the mother of any child who died using heroin how they would feel about this legislation. Ask them if they provided a decent home and upbringing. And then ask a sociologist why adolescents of all races and income tiers try drugs, booze, and drive their cars too fast. Ask the State why Luzerne County ranks so highly in regard to alcohol and drug abuse. Finally, to try and make this a racial issue is not only irresponsible on your behalf, but just plain foolish.
Dude, with all due respect, just because I do not ride the streets, day-in and day-out in an ambulance does not immediately disqualify whatever I happen to think about the drug trade and it's devastating affects on our society. You can cite all of the empirical data that you want. But, the fact remains that very many of the residents of Wilkes-Barre want to return to the 1950s when people of color were something they read about, rather than someone they had to deal with.
And don't lay that guilt trip on me where I'd ask some long-grieving mother about her horrible loss. I may not respond to tones from 911, but I do not live in a cocoon. I've known people who overdosed themselves directly into the cemetery, and I even had a close friend put a shotgun into his mouth and pull the trigger as a result of years worth of drug addiction. None of this dirty business is very pretty.
Rich kids do drugs, poor kids do drugs, white kids do drugs and so do black kids. I think we're in total agreement on that. But so do lawyers, judges, politicians, doctors and (name a respected field), but the prisons are filled to the brim with poor black folk. How did that come about?
It came about because the younger black folks are no longer content with government-subsidized poverty and have finally found their escape from the projects we warehoused them in, while paying lip to service to how completely awful apartheid is. Yup. No longer content with the monthly checks and lack of real opportunities, they have taken to making money the only way many of them know how.
What should we do about it? How do we assimilate these people already? We tried welfare. Didnít work. We offered free health care. Didnít help. We funneled gross amounts of money to teacherís unions and called it a propping up of education. Failed miserably. We tried affirmative action in the workplace and admission quotas whereas colleges are concerned. Helped a scant few. Still, 12% of the population lags behind and they continue to point the finger of blame squarely at us. While not going so far as to excuse criminality, it should be noted that we were content with blacks being cast off to the projects. But when they wandered off the reservation a city block at a time, the white folks ran screaming from the cities with their hair on fire. And the folks that didnít, or couldnít run away are seething with anger because they donít want to be subjected to what blacks have been reduced to for some four decades now, while the ďwar on povertyĒ raged on around us. Ah, the trillion dollar war on poverty. The results of which are similarly miniscule when compared to the war on drugs. Now thereís an undeniable quagmire, a societal Vietnam if you will. And while the white folks grapple with what to do, the poorest of the black folks continue to seethe with rage while feeling abandoned by the flourishing American dream mongers.
Again, what needs to be done? Should we devise new-and-improved ways to put all of them in prison? Or should we admit that other peopleís suffering really doesn't concern us until our homes are burglarized, or our neighborhoods start resembling Cabrini-Greene? When it comes to new legislation designed to combat the proliferation of the drug culture, all to often, the grandiose-sounding solutions only serve to further exacerbate the original problem. Who knows. Maybe itís too late to fix any of it.
But, do not be so foolish as to chastise me for pointing out that racial issues are always bubbling just under the surface whenever the subject turns to drugs and the corresponding spin-off problems they produce. Fact is, if I turned on this word processor of mine and told yíall in less than descriptive terms about a run-in I had with a lawless drug dealer in one of the seedier sections of our city, I would wager a bet that the majority of the folks that bothered to read it would make an assumption as to the race of the drug lord. Iíd win that bet nine times out of ten.
I'll also applaud the `ole man for trying to do something while his contemporaries are content to do nothing. Remember, these are the folks who made it illegal to drive around the Square three times but balk at addressing this valley's latest plague. Then ask them to approve the next junket to Orlando and see how little discussion surrounds it. See how quickly it's approved.
Going off half cocked without having your facts straight is something you normally accuse other people of. I've come to expect that from JJ Murphy, but not you. Fact one: This legislation IS currently in committee in the State House thanks to the `ole man. Fact two: Registering habitual offenders has been successfully argued before the Supreme Court. Fact three: The State House has recommended that this legislation be adopted on a municipal level first to give it weight and precedence before it is given legal language in the form of a bill which can be debated on the House floor.
Applaud the ďĎole man.Ē Go for it. I have no problem with that, but donít expect me to sit still while our city considers banning bicycles, while the more progressive cities in this country use state and federal grant dollars to spider bike paths all over their sprawling cities. His wanting to ban bicycles was just the latest in a long list of things banned in this city and that in no way implies that he was responsible for all of them. His was just the latest stinker in a long list of ineffectual bans. Kind of like banning skateboarding, while never providing a place to skateboard in the first place.
How can you accuse me of going off half-cocked, when the only way to learn of such details is to piss-off the son of the writer of such legislation? Face it, the PR campaign for this proposed legislation has been next to nil. Sure, I could attend city council meetings, but you couldnít pay me enough to have to sit through the incessant ramblings of the same half-dozen citizen prevaricators month-in, and month-out.
Fat bastard? Are you sure you're talking about the `ole man? He's 6 feet, four inches tall and weighs 185 pounds. "Fat belly lurched up and down"? Either you were confronted by someone else or you need a new prescription for your eye glasses. And I think that maybe you should call the Mayor and his Chamber buddies and thank them for providing you with a completely deserted sidewalk in the heart of our business district on which you can ride your bicycle. And thank the remaining business owners for wanting an ordinance to stop you from riding your bike there. Take your case to them, not the elected official working on their behalf. That's his job. While you're at it, why not call the owner of the Martz bus station and ask him how he feels about drug sniffing dogs in his terminal. He has already supported it at last nights Council meeting. Finally, thank the Chamber guru's for acquiring and spending tens upon tens of millions of dollars over the last twenty and spending it on the two block area we call the "downtown" without any measurable results or benefit to the tax payers and can be reflected upon by those same empty sidewalks.
I apologize if I made some sort of serious typo, but I was not referring to your Ďole man whereas being needlessly harassed in our downtown the other day is concerned. ďFat,Ē and ďbastard,Ē are not words that I would ever use to describe him. My glasses again? Hmmm.
Letís see here, the downtown has come to be deserted because of the Chamber and the Mayor? Thatís it? Not freaking likely. Did any other formal body that meets on a regular basis have any hand in any of what has transpired since the flood? Anybody at all? Are we doing the Ďinnocent bystanderí at city hall routine again? Címon.
Check this. Iím a hooligan for riding a bicycle on our sidewalks? But, one of those downtown merchants of ours is selling motorized vehicles that are illegal to operate on both our sidewalks and our streets, and worse yetÖhas itís customers test driving them on a daily basis on those very same sidewalks? Take my case to the business owners? Um, I didnít vote for any of them. Whoís working on my behalf? I should be banned because the Square has lacked a police presence for far too long? Thatís convoluted illogic at best.
Your continuous attacks on the efforts made by my father and the continuous itemization of his initiatives by the local tabloids shows two things: One, that he's trying to do things to improve this city whether you agree with them or not. Two, that the remaining members of City Council are not, by virtue of the lack of coverage on them.
10-4. And since youíve brought him up in a big way, letís cover Mike McGinley, shall we? In my mind, whatís to criticize? Name for me one initiative that heís brought to the table and Iíll take a whack at rippiní it to shreds. Sorry, but itís kind of difficult to take a position on total inaction other than noting that obvious inaction itself. On the other hand, your dad is a much bigger moving target because heís not afraid to take a very public position, or float some ideas where others might be reluctant to. Thatís a feather in his cap, and he has to know that doing such things invites ridicule on occasion. Heís a veteran of the political wars. Heís got to be used to as much and your having come to his defense is admirable. I wouldnít know what thatís like never having a dad to defend. I would have liked to have tried it, though.
While I disagree with my father on some very fundamental and basic ideological issues I am proud to say that he's probably the only working Councilman there. He's the only Council member who takes the time to listen to his constituents, accept their phone calls, understand their issues, and research possibilities for change. My only regret for him is that he's surrounded by dolts who are more interested in being something rather than doing something and just want the meeting to end. I don't know why he stays on Council.
Based wholly on firsthand knowledge, I think you just made the argument that being a responsible city council member is not really the part-time cushy job the activist crazies continually make it out to be. And I think you also wondered aloud (sort of) as to how many of our council folk are indeed responsible members of that legislative body of ours. In a way, maybe this reduction from five to seven councilmen (and women) will put more pressure on them to perform rather than just show up. A perfect attendance record at meetings does not make for an argument for re-election. We shall see.
If I wanted to, I could sit here all day and write out a list of my fathers accomplishments ranging from the Federal Government's recognition of dyslexia as a learning disability and the provision of special education funding to overcome it (research "Justin's Law"), to helping the elderly get their black and brown lung benefits. From his role in establishing Radio Free Europe under the Kennedy administration to his reporting on apartheid in South Africa. I know these things and am damned proud of them. Sadly, posting them here would be little more than a waste of time. I know who the better man is. I love him and am proud to call him Father. While his life's works may be summed up in a tiny passage in "Who's Who", still, history will show that he was here. Who will remember the rest of them?
There is no doubt that the road your dad has traveled to arrive at city hall was a long and distinguished thoroughfare. Maybe you should endeavor to list his accomplishments for all to read. And trust me, in direct comparison to my threadbare list of noteworthy accomplishments, I can understand your getting all riled-up and taking a who-the-f**k-are-you? attitude with me. Plainly stated, Iím a nobody. Iím just one of those nondescript guys who gets up and goes to work every day, just like you. And like you, I probably want more than I need, but would readily admit that Iím quite content with what I have. But more than anything else, the one thing I have wanted the most still remains mostly illusive to me. Itís the very same thing you want: To see our hometown thrive once again.
Much like your Ďole man, I throw my opinion out there for others to scrutinize. And in this respect, rightly or wrongly, I think we are both fearless and want many of the same things, too. The question is, how best to accomplish those things.
So, the debate will probably rage on.
Iím good with that.
Mark, glad you paid attention to the little debate over what J. J. Murphy called "Jim's Law". Actually, there are already two "Jim's Law(s)", the one I wrote to drive the slum-lords out of out fair City (the Rental Inspection and Registration Act), and the anti-loitering law I worked up with the American Law Association to keep hoodlums and nere-do-wells off our street conrners at night. Now the problem is- getting them enforced. I've spent a lot of time trying to give out Police Department additional ammunition to get at the druggies destroying our fair City...it's something that has to be very precise so as to not step on anyones Constitutional toes. I've sent copies of my proposal to state legislators and Congressmen for review and comment, and am working with a couple of them as you read this to put proper language together, and have talked with the FBI's "Megan's Law" office and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. I try to write laws the right way. It will be, eventually, a combination of Megan's Law, the Jacob Wetterling Registration Act of 1994, and the Pam Lynchner Tracking and Identification Act of 1996. As to who will obey it- the same kind of person who has to report to a parole officer or probation officer, and, if they don't, I want to make the punishment severe enough to make them not want to come here. Back on March 5, 2003, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that information about potential predators may be posted on the internet, and upheld "Megan's Law". Thats where we're starting from.
I have to admit that I'm not quite sure what to make of all of that. If you're trying to bury me into submission while forcing me to admit that my legislative wherewithal is non-existant when stacked next to your's, well, then, you just kicked my ass. But be advised, when properly motivated, I will set about doing exhaustive research of my own that most of my hoi polloi contemporaries find to be far beyond the cuff of what average residents should be willing to subjects themselves to.
Then again, I did not author the Americans with Disabilities Act which allows the diehard regulars at the local beer distributorship to go on the public dole in lieu of gainful employment. Much of what sometimes passes as insightful legislation in Washington D.C. ends up being exposed as short-sighted mistakes after being passed into law. And in Pennsylvania, unconstitutional raids on the treasury in the wee, wee hours of the morning by our legislators seemed like a good idea at the time. While writing legislation is an undertaking that I have absolutely no experience with, that in no way precludes me from taking issue with those that do.
For all I know, you may be absolutely correct whereas your latest efforts at re-jailing drug dealers is concerned. But I still maintain that efforts designed to stifle the drug entrepeneurs will fail while the general public continues to demand the services they offer. I've worked with forklift drivers that drank gallons of vinegar right before a surprise random drug test. To a man, they puked. And I've seen men that drive very large commercial vehicles do whatever it was that they believed would somehow mask the results of their surprise piss tests at the nearby medical clinic. The fact is, a forklift and a commercial vehicle weighing in excess of 35,000 pounds can kill you just as quickly as some long-disgruntled kid mired in poverty from Jamaica, Queens can. Yet, our efforts at combatting drugs seem solely focused on those kids from those not so far-away big cities, while excusing, if not ignoring the actions of the folks we live with and work with. Illegal drugs are so completely ingrained in almost every aspect of our society, it does cause me to wonder why the white folks using the drugs keep looking outward for a solution to the problem, while a more inward focus is clearly called for. It's like blaming the bartender after one throws a couple of gallons of beer down one's throat and then sets about crashing one's speeding vehicle into some unsuspecting person.
The biggest problem is, most of what we call legislators have little knowledge of what goes on out here in the real world. Has anyone sitting on our city council ever witnessesd a commercial truck driver puking up a gallon of vinegar, plus his Beer Deli foot-long hoddog? Ever wonder why those who are exposed to random drug testing react to foodstuffs containing poppy seed much like a vampire would to a cross? You can deploy all of the drug-sniffing dogs you want at the Martz terminal, but the forklift drivers are still gonna find a way to get totally mucked-up to some Pink Floyd. But when the drug test turns up positive, the forklift driver is facing mandatory rehab to save his employment. The kid from Queens is facing years upon years in some state or federal prison. Sorry, but I just can't feature that lop-sided program and find it even remotely equitable.
Whatever, man. That's my problem. I am increasingly troubled by the Balkanization of my country, state and city.
I guess you didn't get my last e-mail, but I was interested in your reference to your Congressional family member, Cong. Mike Kirwan. He was a dear friend of mine for many years, and I probably saw him guiding you through the halls of the Capitol when you were younger. I was introduced to Mike back in the 60's by Cong. Dan Flood, who used to bring him into Wilkes-Barre for St. Patrick's Day parades every so often. Dan was my late fathers first cousin (his maternal Grandfather was Daniel J. McCarthy of Freeland/Hazelton, for whom he was named) and I had a lot of doors opened to me when I first got into D. C. because of Dan's influence and introduction. I try to use the experience and knowledge I gained over 25 years as a Congresional and White House correspondent when I "suggest" an action, or write a law. A lot of people don't like my refering to that background, and I catch a lot of hell because of it- but thats what I did with my life. Maybe its envy, or jealousy, but- If they don't like it, let them get out of town and get some experience under their belts.
No, I guess I didn't receive that e-mail. I'm clueless as to what you might have had to share with us.
It's weird, but I still have all of the literature, the tour guides and the associated materials from my days in Washington D.C., which these days, feels like something I did in a previous life. My Uncle John is the guardian of the pics and such, and I'll have to get after him to produce some of the most striking of the bunch. The 60s went down a long time ago, but I have the remembering of things that went down a long time ago.
Once again, I hope you're not trying to bury me into submission by claiming to have rubbed elbows many times with my only links to all things supremely powerful. I was but a little boy in those days, and no one sought out my advice on the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the Cold War. If they had, I probably would have scolded them over the high cost associated with obtaining the newest Matchbox models. Or how Hot Wheels were invading what what once a protected Matchbox turf.
In retrospect, I think that what those somewhat confusing, but gawdy days did was to embed a political conscience into me that took many, many, many years to manifest itself in much more than what the average folks are so often reduced to--bitching, not voting and not getting involved. The thing is, I can recognize abject failure when I see it, and Wilkes-Barre has become an abject failure while I was busy collecting tiny plastic discs that deliver music upon demand.
By the way, Harry's idea of starting a "Say So" on the internet is a good idea, I believe. Not everybody was happy with some of the stuff that was unveiled in the Tversion of it, but I was because I learned about a lot of people's problems in it and was able to help them as a result. Sure some whacko's unloaded nonsense, but there were a lot of people who had problems, but were afraid to come out in public with them...so they did it with the annonymity of "Say So". I just don't know where he'll find the time, he's been working twenty six hours a day nine days a week on his job and repairing his new "retirement" home in the country. Well, I've just closed the tavern, and I'm pooped, so I'll sign off. Take care...see you in the funny papers...
Truth be told, I do like Harry. He's one of the few in this city that dares to send his thoughts along for all others to read, while being in a position where he could very easily be retaliated against. He knows as much, but still, he continues to speak out. While projecting yourself into a malestrom of a political environment of some dubious distinction, possessing some serious testicular matter really should count for something. Therefore, I think that Anonymityville is not a place where he should go.
One of these days, he'll probably head off to the cabin never to heard from again. Things being as they may, he might be just a little bit brighter than both the two of us. Do you want to keep slogging away and fighting it out amongst ourselves in this long-flailing town of ours? I do. And for all intents and purposes, I'm guessing that you do, too.
I may be intellectually impoverished, but I'm too completely stupid to shut up.
So be it.