1-2-2004 We're gettin' short

Howard Dean complaining about other Democrats questioning his record, experience, general election viability and numerous misstatements is like the mad cow calling the herd rabid.- -Craig Smith, presidential campaign manager for Sen. Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.). Dec. 29, 2003.

We made it. We did it. Welcome to 2004. Three more days to go. We're gettin' short.

There's no sense further bemoaning the fact that the Diamond Drop was cancelled, but it got me interested in these First Night celebrations. The Voice reported today that an estimated 8,000 people poured into downtown Scranton for that city's First Night gig. That's a fairly sizable crowd and I imagine that the attendance will continue to grow as long as the event is well managed. This is interesting. The City of Boston's mass transit normally shuts down at 11:30 PM each and every day, but on New Year's Eve the busses and trains continue to run until 2 AM. This move helps to improve attendance, reduce traffic snarls, and reduce druuk driving incidents. The only reason I'm mentioning this is because I think this is an example of how we need to approach improving this city and the events it stages in the future. We need to think outside of the box. We need to be a bit more imaginative.

I've told whoever would listen, including Tom Leighton, that our Square should be the site of as many events as we can manage to stage and I also believe the Square should be closed, if need be, to motor vehicles during any such events staged on weekends. The usual response to that thought is some mention of how that would screw-up the traffic flow downtown. Firstly, there is no discernable traffic in our downtown on most weekend days and secondly, the usual negative response suggests that some folks just can't envision deviating from the accepted norms in a downtown where the only norm' these days is feeling as if you're in downtown Chernobyl when you wander through our empty shell of a shopping district.

At this point, I think any idea, no matter how whacky it same seem at first mention, should be explored a bit before being given the heave-ho. Indoor, year round Farmer's Markets have been suggested. Regular flea markets in the Square Park. Carnival rides on a closed Square during festivals. Concerts on weekend nights right there on our concrete stage. Irish fesivals. Polish festivals. Whatever it may be, we should give it a look before reverting to automatic nay-saying. If I had turned this puter thingy on and suggested that we run our LCTA busses until 2 AM on New Year's Eve, your immediate reaction would most likely be to call that proposal too far out to be feasible. Is it? Ya' got me, but it's worth a look. Maybe a KISS Army convention would draw thousands to Wilkes-Barre. Or a yearly half marathon that included every hill in the city as part of it's course. Maybe an Uncle Fester look-alike contest would draw overflow crowds. You tell me. I think the best thing we could do as we sit here with both eyes fixed on our immediate future is to embrace innovative ideas.

Is it me, or is the Allegheny building on S. Main St. a police car and fire truck magnet? Some properties seem to continually use a disproportionate amount of city services, yet there seems to be no recourse available to the city to correct that constant imbalance. Or is there? This pic proves that free-basing in bed is never a good idea.

Services magnet

I listened to what sounded like a brawl on the scanner as 2003 drew to a close and for only the fifth time that I can remember, the call went out for "All Units-Priority One." That usually means that one of our copper dudes is in serious danger. I knew that arrests were made, but I couldn't figure out what the deal was. The next day the newspapers filled in the blanks. A pitchfork? A freakin' pitchfork? Are our guys trained to handle pitchforks? I've said it before and here it is again. If I was a Wilkes-Barre cop, sooner or later, I'd get myself fired. Wrestling with goobers armed with pitchforks? Nope. Shoot the prick through his kneecap and then see how keen he is on impaling people. Then again, it seems as if every single time a cop discharges his, or her weapon, the public cries foul afterwards. Would they rather see some total ass get shot, or see some cop eat a pitchfork? Sometimes I wonder.

Today's Voice reported that some other idiot got drunk and brandished a sword at a New Year's Eve party. A sword? Here's another kneecap crying out for a bullet. I used to think that my comrades and I were rowdies, but all that we ever did was beat people senseless when it was obvious that that's what they needed the most. The worst that we ever dared to wield were assorted butterfly knives, switchblades, stillettos, and collapsable batons among other easily conceilable items. Not one of us ever thought of owning a sword. Or a pitchfork. Whatever.

Here'a true story. Quite a few years back, the crew got into a bit of a spat with some regulars at Mahon's Pub. Luckily, the Wilkes-Barre Police rushed to the rescue of the regulars at Mahon's without knowing it. Everyone there had their names taken and their records were checked. Jon, my old sidekick, being the fiercest looking and most vocal combatant, was asked if he had any weapons on his possession. He replied in the affirmative. A copper dude (I think it was Lance Novak, but my memory is a lil' fuzzy on that) then instructed him to deposit them onto the hood of a cruiser. Out from under his jean jacket came his butterfly knife. Then his throwing stars. Then the boot knife. Then the numbchucks (spelling?) and finally a roll of quarters. The cop then asked him "What's all of that for?" Jon looked at him and replied with "Assholes." With that the cop yelled "Get the f**k out of here. Now!" You may disagree, but that's funny as all hell in my demented world. Some of us simply took longer than others to reach some semblence of maturity. Please don't hold that against us.

Let's try an e-mail. This rumor just won't go away.

A good source informed me that Boscov's has purchased the Wal-Mart building located next to Sam's Club in W-B Twp.. Look for Wal-Mart to move into their new store in March or April. Don't know if you've heard this or not.....XXXX.*******

You got me. This one has been bandied about for months now from Wilkes-Barre to Wyoming County. Everyone has heard this rumor, but the folks at Boscov's have already publicly denied it once. I road by there two weeks ago and the "For Sale" sign was still prominently displayed out front. Fear not though. If Boscov's were to pull out of the downtown, I suspect the retail vacuum would quickly be filled with smaller shops. Rather than having one behemoth of a store that sells practically everything, we'd see specialty shops sprouting up all over the downtown to fill the void. I honestly believe that would be the case. We shall see.

Being a Giants fan can be frustrating when you consider that this is one of the richest teams in the NFL. Check this e-mail from a fellow Jints fan:

Not only won't you have McFuzznuts to kick around in 2004 but you won't have Charlie Weis{Weiss} to kick around either. He is interviewing for head coach of our NY Giants in the next few days. All these years you didn't know he was caring around game plans in those bags. McFuzznuts is right, you don't know what you are talking about.
I wish you and your family the very best in the new year.

Hey, why not? Charlie Weiss could have easily topped the soon to be ex-mayor's performance, so why not give him a shot at coaching the Jints? I may not know what I'm talking about, but at least I won't be used as an example for future mayor's as far as who not to emulate. I might be the lowest of the low, but I didn't destroy Wilkes-Barre. That most dubious honor belongs to one Thomas D. McFuzznuts.

Speaking of traffic in our downtown (or the lack thereof), yesterday while Gage and I were enjoying a Bike About through that area, I noticed that there were two horses for every car on Public Square. So many of the single-celled among us call SAYSO and complain about horse droppings here and there, but I noticed that the Mules left even more noticeable droppings than our horses ever could. When do they get scooped up?

Miles to Piles

Yuk! King's Journalist Dude sent along a link to the finalists in the state's contest to find a new state slogan. In my opinion, they all suck, but who am I to judge. I still like the one I heard on The Sue Henry Show. Pennsylvania: Where Buick meets Bambi.

Another e-mail:

*******Hey Mark,
Just wanted to wish you and your family a very happy new year!!!!!!!!! I am so happy that our new mayor to be in 4 days picked some of the finest people going (besides him and his wife patty) but what gets me is how they have to right away have something to say about some of them being neighbors. cmon people get a life!!!!!!!!!well anyway at least I can see these people have the b---- to run the city well. so I just want to say "way to go to jason and jake."..two of my favorite people!!!!!! now when my husband goes to work I wont have to worry that much because I know jake KNOWS what he is doing plus the The MORALE will be up and going!!!!!!!!!!!!! at least I know that I wont have to be defending our name this year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LINDA ( alias the chick with the b----)*******

I agree wholeheartedly. I think Leighton's choices are an interesting mix of experience and youth, yet, there aren't many gray hairs on his team. Many of the people he chose have experience despite their lack of many birthdays having passed. I think we're about to see some exhuberance coming from City Hall that has likely never been seen before. Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!

As far as the morale of city employees is concerned, it can only improve. Many of them are filled with some amount of trepidation as they wait to see what Tom Leighton has in mind as far as cost cutting moves are concerned, but it can't be any worse than working for the city that became the asshole of the state under McTommy's less than capable rule. I know from experience that working short-handed sucks and working without any possibilty of a raise can suck, but it's tolerable when you are treated with respect for a tough job well done. Most of us can endure much more than we ever thought possible so long as we're treated fairly and treated to a modicum of respect. Whatever happens, it'll all seem worth it once Wilkes-Barre reclaims it's rightful place as the jewel of NEPA.

From the e-mail inbox:

Ross Mackenzie column of December 30, 2003

............peacenik Howard Dean - pulling away from the pack - seems headed toward the Democratic presidential nomination. And Democrats generally, from presidential wannabes on down, are saying, "President Bush misled us into war against Saddam on the basis of insufficient information about his possession of, or his efforts to acquire, weapons of mass destruction." Oh?

Consider, please, the following - drawn from a September piece on the editorial page of Investor's Business Daily - wherein many of the Usual Suspects are quoted regarding the existence of, and the need to remove, Saddam's WMDs...

- President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998: "One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop WMDs and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line."

- Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998: "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's WMD program."

- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Feb. 18, 1998: "What happens in (Iraq) matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."

- Letter to Clinton signed by Democratic Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, etc., Oct. 9, 1998: "We urge you ... to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspected Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its WMD programs."

- Congressman (now House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi, Dec. 16, 1998: "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."

- Sen. Bob Graham and other Democratic senators in a letter to President Bush, Dec. 5, 2001: "There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status."

- Sen. Levin, Sept. 19, 2002: "We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building WMDs and the means of delivering them."

- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002: "We know that (Saddam) has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."

- Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sept. 27, 2002: "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing WMDs."

- Sen. Robert Byrd, Oct. 3, 2002: "We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons."

- Sen. Kerry, Oct. 9, 2002: "I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force - if necessary - to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of WMDs in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."

- Sen. Hillary Clinton, Oct. 10, 2002: "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."

- Sen. Kerry, Jan. 23, 2003: "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real."

Many of the usual suspects recently attacking President Bush and declaring smugly, "I insistently have dismissed the phony claims of Saddam's WMDs as a justification for war against him," have eagerly ridden the WMD bandwagon all along. Comes now Howard Dean, in his way trying to clamber aboard. In October he blasted the president on Iraq, telling The New York Times he opposed the American invasion last spring and promising that if president he (a) would cut the number of American troops in Iraq by half and (b) would send President Clinton to the Middle East to broker peace.

Dean added: (1) "Great countries ... get in trouble when they overstretch their military capabilities," and (2) "What this president is doing is setting the stage for the failure of America."

"Setting the stage for failure"? If so, the record shows that President Bush had considerable help and encouragement from Dean and his fellow suspects in ideological crime.


My turn. I have a question for all y'all and I'm hoping to get completely crushed with e-mails responding to it. Think about it a bit before sending a reply. Ready? Here it is.

Should 'The Draft' be reinstated in the United States?

Bring it on!

Is Michael Jackson totally gone? You tell me. How many 45 year-old men use the term "doo-doo?"