4-25-2005 Bring on those Nerdy Dragons!

Well? Did anyone take a spin through that Changing for the Future supplement that topped the Sunday Times Leader out at 77 pounds? I did. And among other interesting things, I found this:

"That's the whole problem, that and the cutting of services," Katsock said. "McGroarty's big plans didn't come to fruition at times, but he never raised fees or taxes, and he always was dedicated to increasing services."--Christine Katsock

Ahem. Clueless is as clueless does.

His big plans didn't come to fruition at times???

Is this a classic example of revisionist history, or what? His big plans didn't come to fruition at times??? Thank you, Christine, for that less than visionary insight as to how things didn't work around here before May 20, 2003.

His big plans didn't come to fruition at times, but he never raised taxes or fees??? Is this the very best that the ridiculous Luzerne County Taxpayer Party has to offer? DUH!!!

In one respect, she is absolutely correct. Tom McGroarty never raised taxes or fees. And yes, he always was dedicated to increasing services. And as soon as we sent him off to the political has-been column, and then beat back Christine's weaker than weak "Well, I wasn't sitting on council for the past twelve years" challenge to Tom Leighton's optimistic vision of Wilkes-Barre's future, we had to float a $10.4 million Tax Anticipation Note to clean up the unpaid mess that would prove to be Tom McGroarty's ultimate legacy. One more time. That's $10.4 million in unpaid debts, honey.

Yeah, Christine, he never raised taxes or fees, and he was dedicated to increasing services. But, in the long run, those services need to be paid for. And while Tom Leighton takes consistent heat for making sure that we can balance our budget for the very first time since the Jints last won a Super Bowl, noisy dipwads such as yourself keep yammering on and on about increasing services without creating the revenue streams necessary to pay for them.

Much like McGroarty, Christine hasn't a friggin' clue.

If they ever put her in charge, I'll be calling the local U-Haul outlet right quick.

If that sad day ever comes to pass, do an internet search for Armpit Falls Online.

That's where you'll find me.

From the e-mail inbox Mr. Mark,

You are one screwy individual. And most entertaining. The posting you put up last night is exactly the reason I am drawn to your site. When I click on the title of your most recent madness, I always wonder where it's going to lead me. I seriously doubt that you know where you are going to end up when you set out on where you think you are going to.

Where else can I go on a daily basis and read scattershot diatribes about shop class-Kresges pizza-Roger the Shrubber-exploding toilets-daring raids on closely guarded soda machines-W-B city politics-county politics-and Van Halen all tightly packed into 1,000 words or less? And Pull the Peg? Where did that come from? I had forgotten all about that lost art. Want to give it a go sometime?

I do not always agree with your take on things, but you have the rare ability to make me chuckle even while you are dumping all over something near and dear to me. Your undisciplined writing style clearly backs up your claims of being an academic slacker once upon a time. With that said, I can only wonder what might have been if you yourself, had been one of those "suckup A students" so long ago.

I know from following your latest travails that you get a lot of guff from people, but you need to know that for every person that does not appreciate what you have brought to the local debate, there are probably just as many that do. I wanted you to know that. At this time, I would like to throw some of your earliest words back at you.

Wilkes-Barre Online is not-for-profit and is not affiliated with any political party, news source, government agency, taxpayer group, mis-guided environmentalists, or any single issue jerkoff group. Robust, independent news generation preserves and nutures our democracy.

Keep it coming.

Fred from somewhere near W-B

Jeez. Thanks a bunch. Funny, a part of your e-mail reminds me of something I heard last year on WILK:

He's the Jonathan Swift of NEPA. Should have been a writer. Should have been a journalist.

Jonathan Swift?

I do like that.

Swift, Jonathan (1667-1745), an English author, wrote Gulliver's Travels (1726), a masterpiece of comic literature. Swift is called a great satirist because of his ability to ridicule customs, ideas, and actions he considered silly or harmful. His satire is often bitter, but it is also delightfully humorous.

Wow! Uncle Paul Kanjo made it to CNN.com:

Hastert: Democrats protecting their own

Pelosi calls proposed ethics committee compromise a 'sham'

From Ted Barrett and John Mercurio
CNN Washington Bureau

Thursday, April 21, 2005 Posted: 10:14 PM EDT (0214 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats in the House are blocking the ethics committee from organizing so they can protect several fellow party members from ethics investigations, Speaker Dennis Hastert said Wednesday.

"We know there are four or five cases out there dealing with top-level Democrats," Hastert told the conservative Sean Hannity radio program.

"There's a reason that they don't want to go to the ethics process and as long as they can keep someone dangling out there like they have with Tom DeLay, they take great glee in that," the Illinois Republican said.

His comment came the same day Democrats rejected a compromise offer from the Republican chairman of the House ethics committee that would have opened an investigation into ethics charges against Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas in return for the Democrats agreeing to formally organize the committee. (Related story)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California representative, said Thursday the offer from Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington was a "sham" because Republicans had already "gutted the rules" of the ethics panel.

"The fact is that no matter whatever Mr. DeLay's problems are, they are almost minor compared to the abuse of power of the Republicans in terms of the ethics process that is a bigger issue than Mr. DeLay," Pelosi said at a news conference.

"It is about the integrity of the House, of upholding a high ethical standard."

Committee deadlock

The committee is deadlocked over Republican-written changes to rules for investigating lawmakers passed in January without Democratic support.

Democrats claim the revisions were aimed at preventing an investigation from determining whether DeLay has violated House rules.

After the 10-member committee admonished DeLay three times in 2004 and talk of a possible probe by the committee grew, Republican leadership in the House changed a central rule.

The committee can now launch an investigation only if a majority of members support the idea.

Since the panel is evenly divided between the parties, at least one Republican member would have to agree to investigate DeLay.

In response to the changes, Democratic members have refused to let the committee meet.

Democratic targets?

Three sources close to House GOP leaders said the Democrats being targeted include Pelosi, of California, Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania.

Pelosi was fined by the Federal Election Commission in November 2002 for improperly operating two political action committees.

The commission told Pelosi, then minority whip, to close one of her two PACs, called TEAM Majority, saying she was skirting federal fund-raising limits by operating two PACs.

The commission imposed a $21,000 fine on Pelosi, who continued to run her other fund-raising committee, known as PAC To the Future.

"At each step, we did everything they told us to do," Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said. "If Republicans are arguing that anyone who receives an FEC fine can be hit with an ethics charge, well, I'd have to check but I think there are 12 or 13 of their members have received FEC fines in the past Congress."

Eavesdropping incident

McDermott has been the subject of a long-running court case triggered by a 1998 eavesdropping incident involving Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

McDermott's chief of staff, Jan Shinpoch, said the congressman was unfazed by the Republicans' threats and wants the committee to organize under the old rules.

"If McDermott feared the ethics committee, he would favor the Republican rules, not the old bipartisan, Democratic rules," Shinpoch said. "Those [Republican]rules that protect DeLay also protect McDermott."

The Washington Times reported House documents show a 2001 trip Tubbs Jones took to Puerto Rico was improperly paid for by lobbyists. A spokeswomen for Tubbs Jones denied the charge and blamed the documentation on "human error."

A House Democratic leadership aide rejected Hastert's charge that the Democrats are protecting their own as "completely absurd."

"The reason Democrats have an issue with the ethics committee is the way Republicans abused power to create the [ethics] rules we're dealing with now," the aide said.

Controversial ties

Republicans say charges against Kanjorski date to 1998, when the 11-term congressman helped two Pennsylvania-based companies owned and run by his four nephews and daughter by earmarking more than $9 million in federal contracts and grants for the two firms.

Kanjorski insisted he has not profited personally from those deals. The companies, Cornerstone Technologies and Pennsylvania Micronics, research water-jet technology.

Kanjorski's controversial ties to the companies nearly resulted in House GOP leaders filing ethics charges against him in 2002.

Hastert quashed the effort when Democrats threatened to file ethics charges of their own against Republicans. At the time, the speaker's move preserved a cease-fire between the two parties on ethics charges.

"It's completely absurd," one House Democratic leadership aide said of Hastert's effort to shift the ethics spotlight onto Democrats. "You don't think that if they had something [on House Democrats] they'd have filed it already?"

Also Thursday, the ethics committee canceled a 4 p.m. meeting Hastings had hoped to use to formalize his compromise offer.

I copied most of this story from yesterdays Times Leader:

In Congress, they fly in subsidized class

U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski defends $54,000 in privately funded trips, including destinations such as Hawaii, Rome, Berlin.

By DAVE JANOSKI djanoski@leader.net

Fine meals. Luxury resorts. Limousines.

The life of a federal legislator has its perks.

The questions surrounding U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s expensive overseas trips – and allegations the trips were indirectly and illegally funded by lobbyists – have put renewed focus on House and Senate rules that allow members, their spouses and staff to accept free travel, lodging and meals from businesses, industry groups and nonprofits.

Luzerne County’s four representatives in Washington – U.S. Reps. Paul E. Kanjorski and Don Sherwood and U.S. Sens. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter – have reported more than $200,000 in such subsidized travel since 2000, a Times Leader review of federal documents reveals.

None of those trips has apparently violated ethics rules.

Lawmakers defend the rules allowing subsidized travel, arguing the trips help them serve their constituents and understand the institutions they regulate.

But some public interest groups question a system that allowed senators and congressmen to accept $14 million in free travel, food and lodging from 2000 through mid-2004, according to an independent study.

“The appearance is that they’re being wined and dined by industry groups and that gives the appearance of influence buying,” said Larry Nobel, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan government watchdog group. “If you think this can be justified, why don’t you have the taxpayers pay for it?”

Of the four men who represent Luzerne County at the U.S. Capitol, Kanjorski, was, by far, the top spender.

The Nanticoke Democrat, sometimes accompanied by his wife, Nancy, traveled to conferences in Hawaii, Germany, Florida, Italy and other locations sponsored by various industry and non-profit groups, who paid $54,494 for his expenses. Such conferences usually bring industry leaders, legislators and experts together to discuss pending legislation, regulations and business trends.

Much of Kanjorski’s travel was subsidized by finance industry groups interested in legislation before the House Financial Services Committee, of which Kanjorski is a senior member. They include Nasdaq, the Securities Industry Association and Chicago Board of Mercantile Exchange.

“What they try and do is encourage members who have expertise or jurisdiction in issues they’re interested in to discuss in rather broad terms what their interests are,” Kanjorski said.

He said such conferences and seminars are useful for fact-finding:

“It’s a way of getting a very fast education. It can save me 30 or 40 hours of research or reading.”

While the federal government does pay for travel that is connected to official business, Kanjorski said the cost of meetings with such industry groups shouldn’t fall to taxpayers.

“Why should all the American taxpayers pay for something that is of particular importance to an association or group?”

Kanjorski acknowledged the trips were not all work.

In the middle of a 16-day, $10,256 European jaunt in 2001 sponsored by the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, the National Italian-American Foundation and the Region of Calabria, Kanjorski and his wife spent three days vacationing at their own expense. Their roundtrip flight was at the foundation’s expense.

During a $14,432 trip to Kona, Hawaii, in 2004, sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, Kanjorski and his wife followed up the congressional panel that was part of the bank’s board of directors meeting with five days of personal vacation on Maui at their own expense, according to disclosure forms filed by the congressman’s office.Then they flew back to Washington, thanks to the bank.

“I do very little vacation time,” Kanjorski said. “If I decide to do something that’s extraordinary like flying to Europe or flying to Australia, I’m not going to do the function and fly in and fly back.

“On Asian trips, it’s 26 hours in the air, not counting downtime. You’re talking two full days to get somewhere and two days to get back. If you want to beat yourself up, you can.”

Putting more restrictions on travel subsidies would discourage elected officials from valuable fact-finding, Kanjorski said.

“Most members don’t have the money to pay for that travel. So they wouldn’t travel and they would learn a lot less.”

The current salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $158,100 per year.

Kanjorski isn’t among the top subsidized travelers in Congress or even in the Pennsylvania delegation, according to a 2004 investigation by American RadioWorks and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Kanjorski’s travel subsidies ranked 208th highest among 582 people who served in the House and Senate from 2000 to mid-2004, the study found. He ranked sixth of 16 House members from Pennsylvania during that period, spending $23,778. (The Times Leader review showed greater spending by Kanjorski because it included travel reports for all of 2004 and the first three months of 2005.)

Boy, that Tom Delay is a no good republican bastard. And he ate my children.

Ethics? Quite frankly, I don't see any no matter which side of the aisle you look at. I never thought I'd say this, but maybe term limits aren't such a bad idea afterall.

Sorry, Ethel. More firefighter stuff coming right up. Go 10-7.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

Hey man...long time no chat. Thought I would just pass along the fact that the fire department was at the old north east station the day of the Burger King call for the choking, unresponsive child. Literally the boys were pulling up for class to tear apart cars at a vehicle rescue class and were right around the corner. A sight pulling up that made me numb...a blue ashen child on the ground. Just wanted to pass this tid bit on to you.

Take care.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

I don't know if you don't want the firehouses reopened or if you are just willing to wait a few years and hope the mayor opens new ones. Something I learned from the elder firemen is once they close a firehouse, no matter what is promised, they never reopen it. You are very supportive of the current administration which is fine, I have my doubts but am just waiting to see. But please stop critizing someone for wanting the firehouse in their neighborhood reopenen. I don't know if you know that the only reason the ambulance responded so quickly to that child choking up by the mall is because they were having a training class at northeast station, one of the "closed" stations. Had they not been there for training the response time would have been at least triple the time it took for them to get there. Which may not seem like a long time unless you are sitting there watching your childs face turn blue. That woman and her Child were very lucky there was a training class going on that day. We all know you can't predict when or where an emergency will happen, which is why the more firehouses and apparatice that are in service the safer everyone will be.

Concerned Fireman

I gotta tell ya, this East Fire Station brouhaha is starting to get on my last available nerve. Let's be serious, shall we?

When the regulars at a local tavern owned by a city councilman decide to bitch on cue for the media at a nearby church rather than the bar they normally call home, I'm starting to wonder why the local media outlets keep reporting the World According to Gentleman Jim.

Now lemme get this straight. Lives are being saved in Wilkes-Barre thanks to the tireless efforts of the hose dudes that run towards burning buildings and other equally devastating calamities rather than away from them as we are all prone to doing. And a kid up near the mall a ways is close enough to save, but the folks in the Heights have to wait too long for the very same services?

Is it me? Or are the folks in the Heights learning politics on the fly from someone who is about to bow out of the political scene?

With all due respect, which part did I get wrong?

For many of the folks involved, this is about public safety. But for just as many others, I suspect it's about politics as much as it is public safety. You know, you didn't see me getting all apoplectic when the NordEast station was mothballed. The structure had had it and that was that. Would it take an ambulance longer to arrive on my street from wherever it happens to be stationed on any given day, rather than sitting up there just around the corner as it had previously done? Sure it will. A little longer, but not very much.

So what should I have done in response to the closing? Threatened to camp out in the mayor's front yard until he bowed to my demands, as some from the Heights have hinted they're prepared to do? If I was the mayor and they pulled that outright sh*t, they'd get to know my rather large dog in a hurry long before I resorted to turning the sprinkler system on. You want your firehouse fixed or replaced? Fine. Go about it the right way and stop mouthing off like a f**king Green Party anarchist. In the long run, what would better serve the long-term interests of the city? Trusting a capable leader at his word? Or resorting to Denise Carey's terroristic approach to achieving a consensus that would only serve to negate said leadership? The way I remember things, she never appeared on any ballot that I saw.

And I'm not totally naive. I do realize that closed firehouses tend to stay closed forever. But what about Tom Leighton's word? He has already sunk major bucks into both Headquarters and South station. That seems to have been forgotten faster than the folks in the Heights are being fed scanner frequencies. And he put aside $400,000 in the '05 budget to build a new station in the shadow of the Cross Valley to replace our two most northern eyesores. And in response to the East Station closing he said, "I'm not going to throw good money after bad. In this matter, I do not support his decision out of blind loyalty. I respect his decision because it's the financially astute thing to do. It is. I don't care how many folks up there in the Heights think they can have the local Brownie troop remodel it for free Caramel Creams and some Knoebel's passes. If it was my call to make, I wouldn't sink a plug nickel into that dump.

So where will his decision leave us? Will he budget a half million in the '06 budget to build a new one up there somewhere? Or will we face the uncertain future with only three firehouses? I have no idea. It's gotta be an extremely tough job to try to juggle both the bottom line with public safety concerns being a big part of that budget and his overall responsibility. I don't envy him, but I do believe that he'll do whatever he sees as being best for the city's long-term future.

And as far as the little kid at Burger King is concerned, I am absolutely thrilled that you guys were so close-by when he literally bit off more than he could chew. I saw that 9 year-old boy being placed into the helo' this morning and I was upset. I know what I went through thanks to an overly aggressive driver. And this morning I was troubled to think that he's probably going through hell for much the same reason. Namely, drivers that always err on the side of aggressiveness. I can't imagine being nine, getting crunched, stuffed into an ambulance and then into a rescue helicopter. I can't. The worst thing I faced at that age was tearing all of the flesh off of my right knee, and I was scared beyond scared by that. I don't do it very often, but this morning, I found myself talking to someone who's very existance has been debated for centuries.

Buck up, little dude

On a brief aside, I do have question. That thingie you guys used to extricate that stuff that tastes like chicken from his throat? How many of those do we have and how widely dispersed among the various apparatus' are they? I'm curious. And you guys did quite a job on those cars you practiced on. I saw them on Saturday morning, and they were sliced and diced pretty good.

Okay, so you guys were right around the corner when the call came in for the little guy who was choking. So what? Is this what we're going to do from now on? If Denise says the calls are taking too long, that must be true, right? It sure as heck backs the union's claims. But when I point out that some other lady was delighted with the quick response time, I'm gonna get "Oh, but..." e-mails??? That's all determined by chance most of the time anyway. If Medic 5 was still stationed up the street, but tied-up at CMC, while Medic 3 was on it's way to Barney Farms, what would be the odds that someone could get here lightning quick and yank my foot out of my mouth? Engine 5 (the old days) you say? Well, that's assuming that it's not pulling a cat out of a tree somewhere. Or at a structure fire somewhere else. Or out of service for repairs, which would be the most likely scenario.

Sure we had more stations and trucks in service under the last mayor, but he had you guys out of position so often, that made a mockery to some degree of our concerns about public safety. Engines running paperwork to other locations. House/garage fire on Blackman St. responded to by Medic 3 while Engine 3 was running an errand to city hall? Engines and ladder trucks out painting hydrants, or doing PAWC's job while checking hydrant pressure. Anybody remember the specifics of the medical emergency at the home of a well-connected political family's dad? I do. Drop the lady with the seizures and run off to the politico's relative. Yeah, we may be down to three stations, less trucks and less firefighters, but I was under the impression that you had a new leader that allows you folks to do your jobs the way they were intended to be done. Or is he in the dog house too?

I'm not trying to sound as if I'm poo-pooing public safety. I'm not. But the fact is, if we don't protect the bottom line right now, we're sure to have even more financial troubles down the line. If I may, I'd like to go public sector on y'all for a moment. We all want more cooks and waitresses on the schedule. Everyone agrees we need that second hostess on Saturday night. The kitchen manager swears the elements in the fryer need to be replaced. The dishwashers got together and demanded raises. The prep lady says she's calling off if Hobart isn't called to do something with that mixer. The district manager says we're not using enough training hours. One of the assistant managers is grumbling about his latest raise being too small. And the janitor claims he needs lots of new equipment. Great. Fully understood. I'm getting pulled in damn near every direction. But if I can't generate sales, and protect the bottom line, not all of it can happen. At least, not during this fiscal quarter.

Sorry, but in my bent mind, the mayor made the correct short-term financial decision. And then the politics quickly kicked-in. That's the way I see it.

Buck up, little dude

Saturday morning, the Gagemeister and I headed off to Oh Yes to grab enough groceries to cover things for the weekend. And being that we had a home on N. Washington Street overrun with german roaches, you know I had to take a look. And what I saw had me giggling inside. The property owner was there dragging the contents of the home to a hopper, which meant that it wouldn't be long before the neighbors would be sharing their homes with roaches too. And as some of you may have seen, two guys from my outfit were at the place today, with one being interviewed on WBRE. Whatever. It's not about pesticides at all. It's all about expertise and knowing the biology of one's opponent.

So we invaded Bobby's and after being glared at intently by a failed candidate for political office (which approaches harrassment), we headed off to the Cadillac of all toys stores. You got it, Toys R Us. We were not there for any new Sonic Flashers, Thomas the Train stuff, or any new Buzz Lightyear software. I have no need for toys with bells and whistles powered by ten pounds of batteries. And I could really care less what toys some PHD and his boyfriend think will increase the self-esteem of children. I want the tried-and-true stuff. I want the stuff that will occupy the minds of the rodents for hours on end. Give me the Matchboxes, the Lincoln Logs, a Spirograph and a ton or two of Legos. Give me a bicycle, a Radio Flyer wagon and lots of baseball goodies.

Ah, baseball.

Whether Gage Andrew knows it or not, just like his aunt and uncle before him, he is going to be the first kid picked in a Little League draft yet to happen. He's already hooked. I watch baseball, football, hockey and NASCAR. And only when I'm watching the Braves does he make it a point to ask me again and again if I'll teach him how to play when he's bigger. Bigger? Who said anything about bigger? The time is now, mini-slugger.

The last I heard, we're already hooked up for some practices with a firefighter who doubles as a Nord End Little League coach. That's assuming that he's not annoyed with me as so many of the hose dudes seem to be lately. If not, this one-man/one-rodent wrecking crew is ready to rock. Let's see, we got a batting T, a Throw 'n' Field net, one dozen mag balls, 3 T-ball bats, 1 glove, 4 bases, a pitching mound, a tiny batting helmet and years worth of practice, enjoyment and memories straight ahead of us.

I'll see you at the ballyard, kiddies.

No steroids

Bring on those Nerdy Dragons!