6-18-2005 The Garbage Patch

We still have 25 players, and we have enough talent to win games.--Braves manager Bobby Cox.

I caught both Joe Thomas and Dick Neyhard of WILK fame rambling on and on and on about how good the Phillies' chances look as of late. I can understand why the fans of a continually dismal franchise would get excited at the mere drop of a rally cap, but they summarily dismissed the Braves chances out-of-hand by saying that, "They went South."

Being a diehard Braves fan, I'll not whine. Rather, I'll state facts. The Braves have suffered so many key injuries, right now, Bobby Cox is managing the Richmond Braves with Andrew Jones and John Smoltz thrown in. And watching him on television, he seems to be having fun with it. When the ageless Julio Franco sits on the bench, the average age of the Braves starting line-up is a mere 24.1 years-old. On most days, the Braves are starting four, and sometimes five rookies. Then, throw in the fact that their well-established stars (minus the DLed Chipper) are in either their second, third or fourth seasons. Well, Andrew Jones is in his tenth season in the majors, but he's only 28-years-old.

Despite having starting pitchers Mike Hampton, Tim Hudson and John Thomson on the 15-day disabled list, the Braves have a better record when compared to where they were last year at this time. (29-29 on June 9, 2004) And that was when they were still stocked full of stars and relativity injury-free. To make due without those big game arms, the Braves have used a little-known relief pitcher and two rookies from Richmond to pick up the starting pitching slack. Ironically, the only two starters with some health issues going into this season, John Smoltz and Horacio Ramirez, are the only Braves starters not to be injured so far. What the suddenly giddy Phils fans need to be reminded about is that Hampton, Hudson and Thomson will be back on the mound soon enough. And when healthy, this is one formidable starting pitching staff.

And while Chipper's foot has been on the mend, all of those younger players that have been dancing in and out of the lineup, and batting in one hole or another on any given night, are starting to get their acts together both offensively and defensively. Throw those proven starting pitchers and Chipper back into the mix, say, mid-July, and I'm thinking those Phillies are going to be reeled in by the Braves, just as they have for the past 14 seasons.

So, as far as the Braves having gone South is concerned, I wouldn't start thinking division title just yet if I happened to be one of those long-suffering Philthydumpia Phillies fans. The new-look younger Braves will get 'em. They always do.

Sez me.

I found it very, very odd of late that our overzealous republican basher extraordinaire, none other than Mike McGlynn of the Citizen's Voice fame, would abruptly dispense with the tiresome and predictable anti-red state, name-calling screeds and take a keen interest in city politics.

Here's a few examples of his most recent work:

Voodoo statistics aren't needed to show the need for a firehouse

By Mike McGlynn 06/15/2005

There wasn't much in the way of good news for people from the Heights section of Wilkes-Barre in Mayor Tom Leighton's "unbelievable" announcement last week.

While people from around the city, the valley and the region were left perplexed and disappointed by the utter lack of substance to be found in the mayor's segue into a parallel universe, people from the Heights felt their plates were left particularly empty.

This is because the Heights people were hoping, apparently against hope, that Leighton would be announcing, perhaps among other things, that he and the city had found a way to re-open the Heights Fire Station. Alas, the mayor's press conference was not about bricks and mortar, as he pointed out.

It will be nice to see a restored Hotel Sterling, a restaurant in the old First National Bank building on Public Square, a rubberized running track at Kirby Park and computerized fire trucks.

But a new Sterling, a cozy bistro and a rubber sidewalk won't matter all that much if your house burns down because the city directed money toward these projects instead of concerning itself with more fundamental needs - such as adequate fire protection for everyone in town.

Computerized fire trucks won't amount to a hill of beans if they can't get up those steep, hilly streets to the Heights in the event a working fire occurs in the middle of an ice storm.

That's why it is imperative that the city rethink its position that the Heights fire station is history.

The mayor has defended the decision, pointing out that the city will be served by three fire stations which will be roughly equidistant, so that they can reach all points in the city with sufficient haste to avert tragedy.

But we're not talking about locating three fire stations in some town in the flatlands of Texas. In this city there are hills and the hill on which the Heights section of the city stands is the greatest of these.

The Heights needs - and has a moral right to - a neighborhood fire station because, in the event of a fire, minutes, even seconds, can be precious. The difference between a pumper dispatched from the crown of East Northampton Street and from East Ross Street, High and Parrish streets or the Hollenback Park area can be the difference between life and death.

These three locations don't look all that far off on a simple map but, in terms of fire trucks wending their through an old city of tangled, narrow streets and up the steep hills leading into the Heights, they might as well be in Larksville or Timbuktu. Statistical comparisons to cities of roughly the same population around Pennsylvania may have their place in the debate, but they don't respond to legitimate concerns about the demands of a particular city's topography. We're not talking rocket science here. We're talking about the law of gravity and how the problems it poses might even be compounded by a dose of inclement weather just as a fire is incubating in somebody's home.

Efforts to bring new life to the downtown are both necessary and laudable, but they should not cause us to look past more urgent (and more easily accomplished) tasks, such as restoring a firefighting presence to the Heights.

In our zeal to take long strides on the path to progress, we occasionally overlook the simple cracks in the sidewalk.

A firehouse? Cracks in the friggin' sidewalk? Mike, what gives? Dubya still "lied!" And Rummy is still preventing those innocent Koran Scouts interned by Nazi-esque Stormtroopers at Gitmo from earning their bomb vest merit badges. And what about Cheney? Hasn't he done at least ten things this week alone to get you climbing onto that top-heavy impeachment bandwagon?

A firehouse? Couldn't you bash Condi's leather skirt, or something?

Unfortunately, if you blinked, you missed the announcement

By Mike McGlynn 06/10/2005

"This is truly unbelievable!" Mayor Tom Leighton at Thursday's press conference

Yes, it was unbelievable. Truly unbelievable. The problem is trying to figure out just what it was that was so unbelievable.

Most people seem to believe (they believe) that Mayor Tom Leighton's heart is in the right place - that he generally cares about the city and its future - and that belief won't be disputed here. But the mayor committed a faux pas of vast proportions earlier this week when he and his people allowed themselves to hype the announcement to be made at yesterday's public forum as "unbelievable." One of the first rules of survival in politics is never to raise expectations.

But Leighton and the people at city hall trampled on that rule like the bulls at Pamplona, fueling anticipation that some announcement of major proportions was in the works.

Hence, speculation was running high from one end of town to the other, as well as around Luzerne County and beyond, as to what great wonder of the world was headed to Wilkes-Barre.

Talk ran the gamut from establishing a permanent home for the Holy Grail in a shrine on Public Square to the creation of the first-in-the-nation saucerport for little green men from the planet Zappa and elsewhere in the galaxy.

Alas, there was no cigar. No miracle. No gift of the Magi. No outward symbol of imminent salvation for the city. All we really got were a new city logo (bearing the legend "I believe") and a pep talk from the mayor.

Actually, the pep talk wasn't all bad - and it was peppered with humor.

Leighton began his talk by enumerating things the city was not planning to do anytime soon, among them: Propping up old buildings with the city's collapsed street light standards.

Announcing that W. Mark Felt, who claims he was "Deep Throat," really was fronting for Councilman Jim McCarthy.

Unfortunately, some of the points made, supposedly on the positive side, also raised an eyebrow or two.

Mayor Leighton triumphantly reported that drug arrests in the city are climbing rapidly. Wait a minute. Is that really a positive statistic? It kind of cuts both ways.

He also said, with some pride evident, that Kirby Park would be getting a new "rubberized" track. This brought some head scratching to the crowd. What's the deal? We don't want the ducks to be struck by lightning during an electrical storm?

Then, there was the reference to computerized police cars. This fueled wild speculation about ordering doughnuts online.

Overall, it was a nice pep talk and it was good to see the mayor so enthusiastic.

But it wasn't the unbelievable surprise most people were expecting.

Planet Zappa? Let the public flogging begin!

This is rubbish that suggests that someone is either mentally dense, or has a sharpened axe to grind:

Mayor Leighton triumphantly reported that drug arrests in the city are climbing rapidly. Wait a minute. Is that really a positive statistic? It kind of cuts both ways.

With no due respect, we ripped the former mayor to tiny shreds for poo-pooing the rising influence that the drug peddlars had on this city and demanded that something be done about it, sooner rather than later. He responded by refusing to release the latest Uniform Crime Statistics to either the state, or the press. And he allowed our police department's manpower to dwindle to the point of not being able to field a wiffleball team.

But now that the mayor, the police chief and the copper dudes in the field have taken an overly aggressive stance whereas drug sales/consumption are concerned, you're asking of us, "Is that really a positive statistic?"

Are you fu>king serious? Did you get hit in the head a lot when you were a little kid? Had that steel plate x-rayed lately? Of course that's a positive statistic, you simpleton!!! What would you prefer? To return to the days when the recently shot shootists were delivered directly to police headquarters by some of his shootist, drug-dealing buddies?

What is going on? Didn't Bush garble a word or two lately?

On with the local (?) show...

Not every building can be great, but neither should any be ugly

By Mike McGlynn 06/08/2005

According to legend, Frank Lloyd Wright, asked where he would live if he could inhabit any building in America, took the opportunity to pick a personal bone.

Given such a choice, Wright supposedly replied that he would live in Harkness Tower, the neo-Gothic Yale University landmark which generally serves as Yale's symbol -much as the Golden Dome of the administration building at Notre Dame serves as that university's symbol. The tower also appears alongside the banner line of the Yale Herald, a weekly university newspaper.

Asked why, of all buildings in the United States, he would elect to live in Harkness Tower, Wright is supposed to have said, "So I wouldn't have to look at it."

Wright's architectural credo was that form must follow function, so that he regarded anything cluttered with fancy ruffles from another era as heretical.

Now, for the record, at least one Harkness Tower Web site contends that this long-told tale actually is apocryphal, that it's an American bastardization of a remark Alexandre Dumas (the site doesn't indicate whether this is Dumas père or Dumas fils) made about the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Today, many people who were given the choice of living in any building they like in Wilkes-Barre, very likely would pick the Call Center at South Main and West South streets - if they were to follow Wright's (or Dumas') scheme of sheltering his eyes from something highly offensive.

Oddly, the form of the building probably, at least to a reasonable extent, reflects its function, but it has all the aesthetic appeal of an outhouse lying on its side.

It's one thing that the building is butt ugly, but it's also a drag on the city's finances since it was unable to live up to its job-creation quota and was left vacant.

Now, Wilkes University is considering taking the building off the city's hands, apparently for use as an intramural athletics center. As one newsroom wag suggested, maybe Wilkes will paint the benighted barn navy blue and gold so as to make it somewhat easier on the eyes. Another newsroom wag (guilty) suggested it be turned over to the Air Force ROTC unit at Wilkes for use in bombing practice. And, while they're at it, maybe the ROTC cadets can take out that awful neon pointillist marquee on the lawn of the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center. Where did that thing come from, anyway? It stands out like a giraffe at a prairie dogs' convention or a Kentucky Fried Chicken place at the South Pole. It belongs at the entrance to an amusement park or a New Orleans...never mind.

Over the years dating back to the days of the late Dr. Eugene S. Farley, a lot of people put a lot of hard work into modernizing the Wilkes campus without entirely destroying the essential historical character of the beautiful residential neighborhood in which it originated and flourished. That neon bulletin board on the Darte Center lawn is an affront to all the conscientious efforts which were made to allow a historical neighborhood and a college to exist in relative harmony. Now that Wilkes has attained university status, maybe it's acquired a bit of academic swagger and shed some concern for its environs.

It only takes one Harkness Tower, as Frank Lloyd Wright would have it, to ruin the neighborhood.

Asked why, of all buildings in the United States, he would elect to live in Harkness Tower, Wright is supposed to have said, "So I wouldn't have to look at it."

So I wouldn't have to look at it...

Well, isn't that just clever. And isn't it just wonderful that Mikey took time out from calling me a lowly bottom feeder only because of my party affiliation long enough to give us some insightful pointers on effective urban planning. He can not only spot one of those scumbag bible-thumpers at just inside of two clicks, now, he can tell us how to manage a struggling third-class city, a growing university and...a retooled fire department.

But...what he apparently does not understand is how to operate a vacuum cleaner, a container of Glade air freshener, or one of those bluish city garbage bags.

Yeah, in his utter zeal to start biting some ankles at city hall, he failed to mention to those of us that laugh at his columns that representatives of our city government literally evicted him from his debris-strewn and stench-pervaded cauldren of an apartment in a building that was shuttered after being identified by the neighbors as a nuisance property.

Anyway, now you know why somebody suddenly took an unusual interest in hacking on city officials, rather than his usual targets at the White House, at our military bases and in our churches.

If credibility was a form of currency, this guy would have a reserved parking spot at the soup kitchen.

One of the first rules of survival in politics is never to raise expectations.--Mike McGlynn

Yeah. Whatever. Despite what our homeless political pundit thinks, the Associated Press is coming to Wilkes-Barre to do a story about Tom Leighton and his positive approach to changing not only a city's fortunes, but it's long negative mindset.

Instead of "The Cabbage Patch," maybe our wayfaring political pundit should call his forthcoming offerings, "The Garbage Patch."

It only takes one Harkness Tower, as Frank Lloyd Wright would have it, to ruin the neighborhood.

Sez hobo Mike.

I happened upon the following this morning in the Voice:

WILK axes newscasters

Two newscasters at Entercom's WILK-AM have been dismissed. John Burkavage, Entercom's vice president of market operations, confirmed that reporter Tom Ragan and afternoon news anchor Phil Cummings were let go Monday. Burkavage cited "money issues" as the reason and said the positions were eliminated to meet budget demands.

"It's not about the people. They are great, quality broadcasters. This was strictly a money issue," he said.

Ragan had been at the station eight years and Cummings returned to WILK after working in Harrisburg, Burkavage said.

No other cuts are planned for WILK, Burkavage said. Their duties are being absorbed by the current staff that includes Bud Brown, PD Nancy Kman, Kevin Lynn, Sue Henry and Joe Thomas, he said.

That's a snippet from Mary Ondrako's Radio Rap column that completely blindsided me. It's not like I'm privy to inside info from WILK, but I was saddened to read of the aforementioned pink slips being passed out. Off and on, I listen to WILK all day long and losing those two familiar voices will no doubt seem like losing a couple of members of my immediate talk radio family. And the tit-for-tat baseball nut-busting that went on between Tom Ragan and Sue Henry will be surely missed not only by myself, but by baseball fans all over the broadcast area.


Just for old times sake, Hey Tom! The Yankees suck dead dongs in minor league Hell!!!

Hey! We're getting new neighbors directly across the street from us. Yeah, they've been in and out of there this weekend painting and whatnot. But...earlier today I found out that the city was not notified that the property was sold. And even if it wasn't sold, the city was not notified that it was rented out. In other words, whatever the status of the new neighbors may happen to be, the rules have been circumvented in this case.

I had better start recording those lisence plate numbers.

Bring on those code enforcement boys.

Did anyone catch the fact that Maier's Bakery has discontinued it's popular soft rye (seeded) bread? This is a travesty of the highest order perpetrated upon soft rye fans everywhere. Even the crew at Oh Yes was disbelieving of this aggregious error in judgment.

I want my...I want my soft rye seeded.

From the e-mail inbox Leveling the Playing Field for Employers

Getting Pennsylvania's economy on track takes a multi-faceted approach — from cleaning abandoned manufacturing sites to ready them for use to retraining our workforce. This week, I signed a new law that will:

-help employers resolve unemployment complaints faster,
-make sure that employers pay their fair share of unemployment costs, and
-introduce an innovative way to fund expanded job training opportunities for Pennsylvanians.

Employers in the commonwealth must pay for unemployment compensation — it is a cost of doing business in every state. Unemployment compensation (UC) rates are based primarily on an employer's history, or "experience" — what UC benefits have been paid on its behalf in the past. In general, new businesses or businesses with a stable workforce and few lay offs have lower rates. Those with higher turnover are charged a higher rate.

Over the years, some employers have come up with various schemes to evade the higher rates that they should be paying. By paying lower rates, these businesses are, in effect, raiding the UC Trust Fund, which in turns raises the cost for every other employer in the state.

Two years ago, I asked the Labor & Industry secretary to create a task force to examine these schemes. So far, the task force has completed 79 investigations and uncovered nearly $7.3 million in UC costs evaded by businesses. Dozens of other investigations are underway.

The new legislation gives us additional tools to detect, deter and penalize employers who attempt to cheat on their unemployment payments. It will level the playing field for all business and make employers that attempt to manipulate the system suffer real financial and criminal penalties.

We've also come up with an innovative use for the penalties paid by those cheating the system. We will use the funds to train employees and make our economy more competitive. The money will go toward helping job training agencies expand their service to employers in hard-hit areas of the state. That training will help boost the earnings of our workforce and improve the competitive position of our industries.

Pennsylvania's companies who play by the rules make out in three ways -- swifter unemployment claims settlement, new rules that level the playing field and weed out cheats, and ready access to a well trained labor force made possible by turning a "penalty pool" into an "opportunity pool."


Governor Ed Rendell

Zach & a hoddog

Stupidity is the basic building block of the universe.--Francis Vincent Zappa

That's about it for today from planet Zappa.