5-17-2005 10-94

911: "Medic-5...39 East Jackson Street...Report of a 10-94 male laying face-down in the park next to the soup kitchen."--2:05 pm, Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Now lemme guess. I'm not supposed to be a big meanie and refer to the 10-94 lump of sh*t as being an idiot. And I'm not allowed to call the soup kitchen an idiot magnet, right? Sorry, but the drunk is an idiot. And he was drawn to an idiot magnet. Hence, another ambulance and it's crew tied-up for no good reason. And let's not forget the police assistance that was requested almost immediately. And in my mind, there is no excuse for said behavior, nor is there any justification for having a soup kitchen in this city.

Let's try a flashback courtesy of my memory. Daddy #2 goes by the wayside and mommy relocates the four of us to Wilkes-Barre. Her lower back was a complete wreck, and her advanced vericose veins (operated on numerous times) made walking, or standing for very long next to impossible. She steadfastly refused to become a ward of her domineering mother, so we instead became wards of the state. In 1971, this was as low as you could go. The various and sundry safety nets caught us. And while they kept us fed, clothed and somewhat clean for the next seven years; those safety nets were the sole reason for the gargantuan, if not record-setting chip on my shoulder. I absolutely hated being on welfare, but I guess it was mostly unavoidable at that time. Whatever. Tough titties, boy.

But while we may have been poor, my mom still possessed enough dignity and class to make damn sure that her kids didn't end up laying drunk and passed out next to some soup kitchen some day. And trust me, without a dad in the house to whip our asses on occasion; we resisted her every command. And while we made her half crazy many times over, she never wavered from her painfully simple demands that school, church and cleanliness would be taken seriously, or else. So thanks to her tireless efforts, I was clean. I was a poor as sh*t academic slacker and borderline heathen...but clean nonetheless.

When I was fast approaching by sixteenth birthday, I told her that I really wanted to quit high school. She freaked, slapped me around the parlor, and shouted, "You're going to college!" At the time I thought, "Yeah, right." And when I was barely a senior in high school, I told her I was going to join the Marines and get me some of that gook action. Again, she freaked, slapped me around the parlor, and shouted, "You're going to college!" She might have even cursed at me, although, in hindsight, I'm not real clear on that.

Trust me, in my mind at that time, there was no freakin' way I was going to college. No freaking way. College was for those sissies in the Key Club. And those sissies with all of the A-pluses. And all of those jocks that would go on to college only because they didn't want to stop playing organized sports. College? Me? She was freakin' dreaming.

And yet, not to be denied, there I was one fine September morning standing in the courtyard at LCCC. I was 17-years-old, sporting long hair and a jean jacket with a KISS logo embroidered on the back. I felt like a fat, uncoordinated kid thrown into the middle of an advanced karate class for tenth degree black belts. I didn't want to be there, but there I was. I don't think I learned a whole helluva lot during my time there, but I know I'm a better person for having been forced to go there. It broadened my horizons, it exposed me to folks much smarter than I, and I became close friends with a swell group of people that taught me that I really didn't need to act like a complete asshole all of the time.

Oh yeah. And I learned that it's not in your best interests to tell the prez of the college to go funk himself.

So, long story short, my mom had this dream that we would go farther than she had ever gone. And to some degree, she made that happen. But she had tons of help along the way. We got welfare dollars, food stamps, five-pound blocks of cheese, goodies from the church on the holidays, free health care, and free college.

So what has changed? Why the homeless? Why the shelters designed to profit from the homeless? Why the soup kitchens? Why the rescue missions? The last time I checked, the state and fedrule govmints still had plenty of safety nets firmly in place. Why the crowds at the soup kitchen, or in front of the Salvation Army adult rehab center? Why? Because maintaining some modicum of dignity no longer matters to too many people, that's why. They could take a welfare check, an apartment in public housing, and do without on occasion, while waiting, or planning for a better day. They could spend as much time as we did trying to hide the fact that we were not as well-heeled as nearly everyone we encountered. They could resist making spectacles of themselves. They could make use of a public library and improve their lot in life. Or they could take advantadge of literally dozens upon dozens of programs meant to end the cycle of abject poverty that many generations from the same families found themselves trapped in. So do they do it? Nah. That would require a little effort on their part. And therein lies the answer to why we have increasing numbers of folks who cannot, or will not fend for themselves. They don't want to.

We got by just fine on oatmeal, hoddogs, macaroni-and-cheese and Kool-Aid. So why can't the current crop of have-nots do the same? One, because they lack pride, and, two, because they are constantly being bombarded by self-employed do-gooders promising them something they can otherwise do without. Come on down! Eat, drink, be merry...and guarantee us the grant renewal we so desperately seek.

It damn near killed my mom to stand on line waiting for some government surplus substandard food-stuffs. But trust me on this...there is no way, that's, no way she would have ever subjected us to enjoying a free hot lunch in the company of scumballs, drunks and the mentally unstable. There's no way. No way.

If Wilkes-Barre had a soup kitchen circa 1971, we'd have turned our backs on it for some all too familiar hoddogs and Kool-Aid. And after that yummy (?) supper, we'd have taken our baths fully expecting her to demand to see our homework immediately afterwards.

For my mom, it was all a matter of pride.

These days, we've got an endless laundry list of local, state, and federal government programs designed to entice the poor to do better for themselves, to lift themselves from the very bottom of the social and economic strata. But are they doing it en masse? I really don't think so. Minor things like alarm clocks, doing without, homework and showing some initiative suck. Why have to deal with all of that when you can just show up at a mission somewhere and frolic with the rest of the victims? And if the victims are willing to wallow away in their abject victimhood, why should I feel for their plight?

In 1971...poverty was an embarrassment. Fast-forward to 2005...and poverty is a cottage industry.

911: "Medic-5...39 East Jackson Street...Report of a 10-94 male laying face-down in the park next to the soup kitchen."--2:05 pm, Tuesday, May 17, 2005

When the underdog is to blame for most of his own problems, by all means, blame him.

"We invented the water torture!!!"--Kurt Shotko of WILK fame, while going on and on about the brutal American military on Sue Henry's show earlier today.

Water torture? Would that be the all but patented "Chinese Water Torture? I'm just curious.

My daughters recently gutted all of our old scrapbooks as part of some newfangled scrapbooking craze currently sweeping the oceans. I don't have a problem with any of it. In fact, the new-and-improved scrapbooks they produced after reproducing old faded and ripped pictures at Wal-Mart were kinda fun to spin through. They done good.

But they spent way too much time laughing at the dated pictures of me when I had hair much like an early seventies rock star would have sported. All these years later, I've been told I looked like Eddie Van Halen back then. And I've also been compared to Paul Stanley. Needless to say, I had a lot of hair once upon a time. But after the girls practically split their guts laughing at what I once looked like, I had to interrupt their laughfest and point out that all it took was one trip to a middle-aged barber for myself to suddenly rejoin the human race. They both gave me a blank look which smacked of their not getting my point. My point was that long hair will not scar anyone for life. And when compared to what this current "Lost Boys" generation looks like, I'd take my chances in the job market with Paul Stanley hair any day.

Look at these boys these days. They've got tattoos up one side and tattoos down the other. They proudly display pierced noses, pierced lips, pierced boobies and pierced dicks. Their hair styles are mostly ludicrous, if not, multi-colored. They have droopy drawers dragging all along behind 'em. And sneakers that look like something straight out of Apollo 13. They speak as if they have steel plates riddling their brains. They actually think soccer is a sport. They think falling off of skateboards makes them somehow cool. And they act as if they recently escaped from San Quentin. And the most stupifying thing is that their parents seem totally unconcerned by their appauling appearance, their utter lack of understanding of anything around them, their overall dedication to all things slackerdom and their complete lack of respect for adults. A simple haircut will not cure what ails them.

And then we've got, for lack of a better word, the young...um, ladies. All too often, they look and act like dime-a-dozen sluts. Sorry, but I'm not blind yet. They wear these low rider pants held up by the top layer of their pubic hairs. They've taken to wearing lace-up tops. They go out of their way to make sure we know they're wearing a thong. They want us to see the tattoos on the top side of their asses. They've got earrings in their noses. And earrings hanging from their lips. And other piercings I'm sure I don't want to see. They wear shorts with messages on the back side, so as to make sure as many as people as possible will be watching their asses jiggle or bounce. Some have neon-colored hair. Others have gone Goth. And all too many of them act as if being an angry feminist will get them very far in life after high school. A simple haircut will not cure what ails them.

I cannot imagine either of my girls dressing like a slut when they were teenagers. In this house, democracy was never an option. I spoke, and everyone under the legal drinking age reacted or else. I was not their bestest buddy. I was their father. And despite being an imperfect soul myself, I somehow knew that allowing my girls to dress and behave like common sluts was definately not the way to go.

I would have to ask the best buddy/mothers of the slut wannabes whether their daughters are simply expressing themselves, or are they simply exposing themselves? Well? Are they expressing themselves? Are are they exposing themselves? Sorry, but if you allow your daughter to strut through the local mall looking like Linda Lovelace, a simple haircut will not cure what ails you.

Whatever. Let's do 1971 again. If my sister had dared to sport what has sadly become the 'norm these days, my mom would have beaten the daylights out of her after grounding her for a month. And rightfully so. And if I had shoved tiny steel rods through my skin, dyed my hair green and dressed like a circus clown; she would have been on the phone to Uncle Bud lickety split and ordering up one helluva massive beating deliverable only to myself.

We may have been long-haired, rock 'n' rollin' idiots once upon a time, but we were never, ever freakish. A simple haircut all but cured what ailed the lot of us.


The pensions crash is here

By George F. Will
Sunday, May 15, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Eyes glaze over at the mere mention of entities such as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. or the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. But the PBGC's sudden prominence is symptomatic of the increasingly troubled relationship between America's welfare state and American capitalism -- or those portions of capitalism that are appendages of the welfare state. And the GASB is pertinent to the parallel crisis of state and municipal welfare states. Last week a judge said that United Airlines, now in its third year of bankruptcy protection, can, as a step toward leaving bankruptcy, default on four pension programs covering about 120,000 current and former employees, programs currently $9.8 billion underfunded. The PBGC will guarantee payments of $6.6 billion, so promised benefits will be reduced by $3.2 billion.

This will improve United's competitive position by relieving it from making more than $3 billion in pension fund payments over the next five years. But what, then, of United's competitors?

When the PBGC took over responsibility for $3 billion of US Airways' promised benefits for current and retired employees, that put pressure on United to lighten its load. And now that the PBGC has lightened it, what is Delta, which has lost $6.3 billion in the last five quarters, to do? What about American, Continental, Northwest? The mere existence of the PBGC encourages a chain reaction. And outside the airline industry, many other corporations under stress are watching.

Under a progressive formula, the PBGC pays only portions of the pension obligations it inherits, but larger portions for lower-income retirees. It is funded, inadequately, by fees on corporations with the kind of pensions the PBGC guarantees. Its current obligations exceed its assets by $23.3 billion. Private-sector defined-benefit pension plans are underfunded by an estimated $450 billion. Who will bail out the PBGC?

Taxpayers beware.

The judge, practicing industrial policy, said the deal reached through collaboration between United and the PBGC will help United attract financing to keep flying. But perhaps United -- or US Airways, or a carrier contemplating bankruptcy as a means of escaping "legacy" costs -- should go out of business. The airline industry is afflicted with excess capacity and is hemorrhaging red ink -- more than $30 billion since 2000 -- largely because of the older carriers' promises of medical care and pensions for current and retired employees.

But muscular interests have huge stakes in keeping all existing airlines flying. The government has invested $9.5 billion in various subsidies for the big carriers which, in dire straits, might try to hand another $20 billion in pension obligations to Washington.

Since 9/11, General Electric, which manufactures and maintains jet engines and leases more than 700 aircraft to airlines, wants all carriers to survive. American Express has paid Delta $750 million for frequent flier miles to award certain card users.

The public sector's problems with retirees are about to become more visible. The GASB, which writes accounting rules for state and local governments, is going to require them to reveal the cash value of their retirees' health care entitlements.

Janice Revell, writing in the May 2 Fortune, notes that when in 1990 such rules were applied to corporations, revealing huge health care liabilities, Wall Street blanched. So between 1993 and 2003 the percentage of companies offering medical coverage to retirees plummeted from 40 percent to 21 percent.

But what are corporations to do, given their duty to enhance shareholder value and their need to compete in the global economy? They should start by encouraging workers to use health savings accounts.

The public sector is facing similar pressures. All but two states -- and a majority of municipalities -- have increasingly crushing legacy costs because they provide health care to their retired workers. Buffalo, Revell writes, pays $26 million a year -- equal to a fifth of property tax revenues -- for such benefits. After just five years on the job, any North Carolina state employee is eligible for free retiree health insurance for life. The GASB's new accounting rules will reportedly add a $13 billion liability to the state's books -- about 40 times the state's annual retiree health care costs.

In what is perhaps anachronistically called the private sector, Standard & Poor's recently reduced its rating of General Motors' and Ford's bonds -- nearly half a trillion dollars of debt -- to junk status, largely because of upward spiraling legacy costs. But, then, to what extent is there a really private sector in an economy that socializes huge obligations through the PBGC?

George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek. E-mail him at georgewill@washpost.com

I voted today. Did you? Judging by the turnout, I'd have to assume that you did not. Shame on you! Get this. Somebody told me at the local precinct that our recently deposed mayor is considering another run at that position. I seriously doubt that to be the case. But if it turned out to be true, wouldn't that be a freakin' hoot putting him out of his misery a second time. Bring it on! I'm game.

From the e-mail inbox We got a lot of signatures on our petitions (Park Ave.), and are crossing our fingers that the zoning hearing goes really well.


No. Thank you and yours. We all gotta fight the good fight on occasion. And it'd be a heckuva lot easier if even more folks would cast off their apathetic ways and get themselves involved to some degree. Good luck. I'll be thinking about y'all on Thursday.

The following list shows the percentages of presidential appellate court nominees who were eventually confirmed by the Senate:

Harry Truman........100%
Dwight Eisenhower....92.3%
John Kennedy.........77.3%
Lyndon Johnson.......96.2%
Richard Nixon........87%
Gerald Ford..........81.8%
Jimmy Carter........100%
Ronald Reagan........95%
G.H.W. Bush..........95.7%
Bill Clinton.........86.4%
George Bush..........53.1%

(Source: Washington Times)

And...the republicans are trying to change the rules?

The latest from the Blogosphere? How 'bout Sherwood Watch.org?

Be cool.


P.S.--10-94 means somebody drank way too much Utica Club before brunch.