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8-16-2004

Intemperate musings


I don't really know, I didn't run for the money, but with the problems, the hours, the stress that is consuming my life, I don't think I'm overpaid. Maybe they're underpaid in other cities.--Mayor Tom Leighton from yesterday's Times Leader

I thought we'd start with that quote today after reading the following e-mail:

*******Mark,

Did you decide to skip the TL story highlighting the excessive salaries of our fearless leaders or did someone lift your copy from your porch? Sup?*******

Nah. I saw that story. All I had to do was to read the headline and I quickly thought to myself: "Typical f**king Times Leader."

Always chumming the waters in hopes of attracting more rabid voters that pay scant attention to anything of note. SAYSO ought to be hopping for the next week or so.

The elected folks in York earn less than the elected folks in Wilkes-Barre. And? What are we to conclude after reading that story? That all those "sons-a-bitches" are grossly overpaid and we need to act and act now? Do we need more folks with more questions than answers lining up to grab the next off-the-wall petition? Should we be perpetually disgruntled, yet still take offense to outsiders that say this entire area has one collective negative perception of itself? Did anyone grab that calculator yet? What percentage of the total city budget do the salaries of our elected folks constitute?

The Leader editorial bemoaning the fact that the current petition drive got shot to sh*t started with "Oh Great!" exposing their continuing bias against anyone who ever took any office in this county. The press is supposed to hold the elected accountable, but the Leader often preys upon the ignorance of the populace by whipping them into a continual frenzy whereas our leaders are concerned. The editorial itself will only serve to widen the gap between the Leader's target audience, the mental midgets, and the current crew of elected officials in this city.

There's no shortage of people with an axe to grind, financial or otherwise. And there's no shortage of folks that were affected by something or other that was put into place by the City of Wilkes-Barre since Leighton & Co. replaced the out-going mayor. But, are we to believe that our new mayor is not a significant improvement over the prior one? Are we supposed to forget that the constant infighting has been replaced by a spirit of cooperation? Should we overlook the fact that the reckless spending of the past admnistation has come to an abrupt halt?

Oh, great? It's business as usual at the Leader. See local politicians and hammer away on local politicians until every local dolt out there adopts a SAYSO mentality.

I can understand why some fire fighters feel screwed-over. And I realize that the underground petition party is always lurking somewhere nearby and always, always stirring up the discontent pot so as to get themselves elected to something someday. Everybody's got some beef with the city, ranging from the legitimate to the sublime. And that's fine.

But if you're here to tell me that this city is not in extremely capable hands right now, I'm here to tell you that you're putting much too much MaryJane in your marinara sauce. And if you can't see that the Leader is just up to their usual muckraking, nothing I type here in electronica will convince you otherwise.

Our mayor earns more than the mayor of Scranton? So what? Tell those silly folks in Scranton to start paying a decent wage up there.

And instead of constantly dwelling on the negative, which those of us in NEPA seem so completely adept at doing, try believing in someone for a change. Eight months may seem like an eternity to some of us, but with the depth of complex problems Leighton faced when he took office, the passage of eight months is simply not enough time to up and issue him a report card, failing or otherwise. And I still believe he'll do us all proud as things develop further. Despite what the Times Leader may lead you to believe, not all of our elected types recently slipped through the gates of hell and need to be beaten back from whence they came.

Keep chugging, Mr. Mayor. You said you wouldn't shy away from the tough decisions and we cheered you for it. Now that the tough decisions are being made, the cheers have been replaced by jeers from the folks that can't see the bigger picture. Some of us can.


As per usual,...

...I was listening to Sue Henry this morning when the subject of the Kerry camp's ridiculous swipe at Bush over the Techneglas closing came up. And then the calls flowed in. The usual stuff. All of our jobs are going overseas... despite a national unemployment rate hovering somewhere in the vicinity of 5.5%. Everything is made in China. The guys in D.C. are all criminals. And then some guy brought up the NAFTA and GATT trade agreements and right on cue launched into a diatribe about them.

Anyway, I remembered reading this interesting piece from Townhall.com a few days back and I thought that I'd reprint it for all ya'll. Read it.

The choice on trade

Michael Barone (archive)

August 9, 2004

 Amid all the coverage of the Democratic National Convention, and of the fact that John Kerry seems to have gotten little or no bounce from it, slight attention has been given to the most important development in trade policy over the past four years. That is the Aug. 1 agreement at the World Trade Organization talks in Geneva on a framework for advancing the Doha Round of negotiations.

 The Doha Round was launched in November 2001 but seemed at an impasse at last September's WTO meeting in Cancun when Latin American, African and Asian nations rejected the approach of the United States and the European Union. The WTO rules require consensus, which seemed to be impossible.

 But in Geneva a consensus emerged. The United States and the EU agreed to eliminate agricultural export subsidies and to make a "substantial reduction," starting with a 20 percent cut, in domestic farm supports. Developing countries, led by Brazil and India, agreed to lower barriers to manufactured goods and to services. This is not a final agreement, which everyone agrees cannot be reached by the original deadline of this December. But there is a good chance of a deal by the December 2005 meetings in Hong Kong.

 This is a potential win-win situation. Consumers and taxpayers in the United States, the EU and Japan would be relieved of the cost of farm subsidies. Manufacturers and service providers in those countries would get access to markets from which they are barred. Big agricultural producers like Brazil and India would get access to First World markets, and the struggling poor nations of the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa would be able to sell their farm products and thus get a jump-start in economic growth. The major losers, relatively few in number, would be subsidized farmers in the developed countries, who may have other opportunities in advanced economies.

 But the shape of a final deal depends on further negotiations over a host of details -- and on the American presidential election. France is already squawking that the EU is selling out its lavishly subsidized farmers, and some U.S. farm state politicians are also voicing objections. Japanese politicians love to protect their rice farmers. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, working with the EU's Pascal Lamy, has skillfully put together the pieces after the debacle at Cancun, and at the same time he has negotiated bilateral trade agreements with Australia, Morocco, Thailand, Colombia and other nations -- a clear reminder to developing countries that the United States could concentrate on such deals and render the WTO irrelevant.

 If George W. Bush is re-elected, Zoellick would presumably continue on his course. One problem is the 2002 farm bill, which increased subsidies. That bill was signed by Bush, reluctantly, as the best he could get at a time when the agriculture committees were headed by Republican Rep. Larry Combest, from a cotton-farming Texas district, and Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, from corn-growing Iowa.

 But Combest has retired and been replaced by Bob Goodlatte, a free-marketeer from a non- subsidy-crop district in Virginia. The Senate committee remains pro-subsidy, but Bush, if re-elected, will have more leverage in conference committee deliberations when the farm bill comes up in 2006 than he did in 2002.

 John Kerry seems likely to take a different approach. He had no immediate comment on the Geneva agreement, which is fair enough -- this is a complex issue, and he hasn't had much chance to ponder it on the campaign trail. But at the Boston convention he reiterated his support for "fair trade." That's code for the approach favored by labor unions, which insist that trade agreements must have labor and environmental protections that go beyond what most developing countries will agree to. Details matter: Zoellick says that he has negotiated for labor and environmental standards, but not for those as stringent as the unions want.

 Of course it is possible that a President Kerry may take the approach taken by Senator Kerry before his campaign, when he voted for all trade agreements to come before him. More likely is that a Kerry-appointed trade representative would have a harder time reaching agreement than Zoellick, because he would be seeking more concessions. And it's possible that Kerry would simply downplay the negotiations if only to preserve farm subsidies at roughly current levels.

 There was little difference on trade between the major party candidates in the 1992 and 1996 elections, and not very much in 2000. But this time the nation has a pretty clear choice on trade.


More cloaked fun from the forum page:

Priorities -- Just wondering, 22:38:22 08/15/04 Sun [1]

Just wondering after reading the Sunday TL, Should we be putting our efforts into a Movie Theater when we have 3 gangs that are taking over the city, or should we be investing in more police so people will actually want to go to a movie in Downtown W-B. Its kind of moronic thinking to cut back on public safety when we are a step above Philly in crime rates, Will people actually want to attend a movie in W-B when we cannot afford to add more police to patrol an already crime infested city? I seriously doubt it and if they don't make a change before this theater occurs it will end up being just like the Call Center, Oh and speaking of the call center, where is all the tenants that were supposedly lined up and banging down the doors to rent it?

The answer to your first question is a resounding "No!" I work predominantly on the west side, and the folks over there, while always yearning for a reinvigorated downtown Wilkes-Barre, all sound like a broken record about visiting a theater in our city with the current climate being what it is. They say they're afraid of our downtown, especially after dark. It should be noted that many of these folks are seniors, and seniors generally feel the same way about going anywhere after dark. Whatever. I can understand why they'd feel the way they do about our downtown.

With that said, it's obvious to our elected folk that we need to seriously augment our existing police department. They know, they're working on it, and hopefully, we'll score some grant money to help ease the financial burden. We shall see, but they are keenly aware of our tattered image in these parts.

The call center? You got me. I know there was some interest in it a while back, but it seems to have waned. We do know that our city officials would move Heaven and Earth to fill that expensive albatross, right? It's eating up $1,000,000 per year from our general fund. I doubt that anyone at City Hall has forgotten about it. But then again, I don't work for the Times Leader.

See that. Nothing obnoxious there.

Fiscal Responsibilty? -- Here we go again, 18:17:38 08/15/04 Sun [1]

Fiscal Responsiblity.............hmmmmm...........let us think about this one, again i have to ask the question since a certain someone in particular cannot let it go, Did the firemen break this city or put in into the financial dire straights that it is in? We all know what the answer is except for a certain few and maybe that is why the FD is so angry over what has happened because they were the easy target to save some bucks.(Scare tactics again my friend). They have every right in the world to be pissed off. If anyone should take a lesson in Fiscal Responsibilty it is the people who are running this city, they are the ones who think a freakin movie theater is going to save their broke asses, what a Godamn joke. First off put more cops out there so we don't have to worry about being shot or stabbed while going to the movies and maybe then it would be a half decent idea. I hate to tell them but it going to take a hellauva lot more than a movie theater to bring back this city that is truly infested with drugs and crime. Its time to come down from your post election party cloud and start looking out for the safety of the people in this community. And God help us all when more of the low income housing is brought into the downtown to fill it up, it should be eventful

It might be time to get obnoxious. Ya' gotta love a guy who's lone testicle swells provided that he doesn't have to attach his name to his pithy comments. Go ahead, whine some more. "Well, gall dern! We didn't have to use our names last year. What gives?"

Scare tactics. Ooooooooh! Let's see here. Last year, you were afraid of McGroarty. This year, you're afraid of Leighton. There's a pattern here somewhere.

This is where the blame game always goes astray. Who's to blame for our financial woes? Is it the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department? Certainly not. But everytime I point out that a certain mayor of ours took office with a $2.5 million surplus and left office with an outstanding debt of $10 million, somebody out there always yelps: "What about council?" As if anyone could actually control the uncontrollable. You tell me, my friend. Who's responsible?

And what's up with the sudden dearth of anonymous authors citing chapter and verse about drugs, cops, and the loose-knit groups of criminals that are never in need of a tanning booth? Did the Times Leader go and get ya' all worked up? You fell for that? That was news?

Do the fire fighters have a right to be pissed-off? Sure. I suppose. But it depends on who one happens to talk to. Some are realists and they can appreciate the severity of the city's financial predicament. Others know that what they are going through is no different than what those of us in the private sector have come to know as reality. Still others are calling for voter anarchy, a symbolic hacking off of heads, or tearing our fledgling theater project to complete shreds. And that, my anonymous friend, is counter-productive no matter which way you try to spin it.

And it's high time to end the whining. Either vote at the polls during the next go-round, or vote with your feet, but please know that there is zero sympathy out here in Private Sectorville for unionized public sector employees that have been insulated from reality throughout much of their short careers.

With first responders as it's employees, a union's first priority would always have to be the safety of it's brave members. And the second priority would be what? Never taking no for an answer while demanding higher pay and better benefits from the limited coffers filled by the taxpaying public?

For whatever reason, which can be debated until the Eagles finally win a Super Bowl long after we're all dead, the city is temporarily broke, and your union decided to do the right thing in response. And you don't seem capable of dealing with reality. And the sad reality that totally escapes you is that when the company is going backwards in a financial sense, so go the employees. And assigning blame for past mistakes won't change that reality.

If only some of you public sector folks were as hard-nosed and experienced as us private sector folks, you'd realize that and get on with your life. If only.

Float some referendum petitions already. Remove your union leadership if they've done you so completely wrong. But please, stop f**kng whining about it so endlessly. What once could be pointed to as being so noble is know becoming the nonstop irritant that defines you. And said definition might not be to your liking.

Obnoxious, ain't I? Whatever. At least I attach my name, Mud, to my stated opinions.

Later

Mark Cour

10-8!.................................................................................