9-5-2005 Gasbags and gasoline

This hurts to the heart. If we could have done it faster ... it would have been done. This is America. This is why we have one of the best militaries in the world, but it took time to get there.--Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the man in charge on the ground in New Orleans.

I have to admit that after allowing Jim McCarthy's ill-advised, completely devisive and ultimately destructive comments to ruminate for another day--after having them stew in their own septic juices for 24 hours--is it any wonder that too many of us remained focused on the negatives, while the positives popping up all around us suggest that a slight attitude adjustment might be in order?

Truth be told, the long-and-short of what Jim McCarthy had to say is exactly the kind of needless political grandstanding that plants even more seeds of negativity in the minds of the barely informed general public. While this city fights the enormous odds pitted against it and attempts to painstakingly claw it's way back to some semblence of respectability, the very last thing we need is some city politico going off on a tangent and publishing rages against the "machine" that he is a part of, and simultaneously hopes to distance himself from. Huh?

I'm sure the folks in the Heights loved him for what he wrote. Yeah, he's the newest guardian angel of the firehouse that time and regular maintenance somehow forgot. Maintenance, might I add, that was much, much less frequent than the generous enhancements to the salaries, perks, health care and retirement benefits of the elected folks during McCarthy's long encampment at City Hall. I may be insane, but I fail to understand how a politico who presided over a floundering city for twenty years can now claim some sort of higher moral ground, while raging against the folks he served with and while sitting idly by while said city went damn near Act 47 on us.

Sure, Tom Leighton closed that rotting firehouse. Skin him alive if you must pin the blame on him. But what of the other longtime hangers-on at City Hall? What of Latinski, McGinley and McCarthy himself? Near as I can tell, that firehouse was flying well below their radar screens before the electrical outlets went and turned faucets on us. And for those of you that would castigate Leighton for his 12 years spent on council, at least he finally took the big leap, stepped forward, and decided to meet Wilkes-Barre's laundry list of problems head-on. But, again, what of Latinski, McGinley and McCarthy himself? Well, the preceeding two rarely raise their voices above that of a wayward titmouse, and the latter wants to suddenly pretend that he's the city's equivalent of Michael Moore, despite his propensity for kissing babies every four years.

The fact remains that Wilkes-Barre, while clearly on it's way back from the frightening financial abyss, still has financial challenges looming on the improving horizon that will have to be dealt with in no uncertain fashion. And what does our most senior gentlemen have to offer us when he actually bothers? Those goll-danged politicians are usurping our God-given rights??? He's taken a page right out of MoveOn.org, or, perhaps, the Haight/Asbury district, ala 1967, while we're being forced to deal with the complicated financial morass that was delivered to us by the do-nothing political class from which he originally came. And what's up with all of this sudden angst over a crumbling firehouse that would be even too small to host a soil ant convention???

Are we doing too much levity and such up there? There's reality, and then there's the Heights with all of it's suddenly neighborhood-centric political players.

I'm going to reprint the comments I saw fit to send to both of our local newspapers a ways back. Wanna know why? Because my comments happen to stand in direct contrast to those of our most senior city politico.

While I happen to steadfastly believe in our future chances and our city in general, our most veteran politician has personally set about fostering the devisiveness that serves us no real purpose, leads us absolutely nowhere, further clouds the already shrouded issues and can only split us into more bitter, opposite, warring camps.

While one city politician implores us to get on board and believe in our city, yet another wants us to believe that the localized version of Big Brother is out there waiting to stomp all over our rights.

In these respects, I will dare to err on the side of complete sanity.


I Believe

According to the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street: "Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to."--Mayor Tom Leighton, June 9, 2005

This valley of ours used to be known as the Valley with a Heart. But, as evidenced by the collective nay saying that erupted immediately following the conclusion of Mayor Leighton’s impassioned and uplifting, “I believe” speech, many of those among us simply cannot find it within their hardened hearts to believe. After suffering through decades of political nepotism, cronyism and sometimes crushing tax increases, and while being drop-dead certain that their politicians were selling them and this rust-belt of a county short; maybe the Valley with a Broken Heart might be a more apt moniker.

After perusing the mostly ineffectual letters to the editors printed in our local newspapers, suffering through the factually-bankrupt rants coming from the anonymous callers to our talk radio station, and plodding my way through the incessant and counterproductive bilge posted at Talkback 16; I quickly came to the conclusion that this area is to negativity what Chernobyl is to radioactivity. I have since wavered in that belief, albeit, just a tad.

And while I find that useless negativity a bit disappointing coming from the oft-disgruntled hoi polloi that I admit to being a card-carrying member of, I do not share in their knee-jerk nonsensical sentiments, nor their self-loathing prognosticating whereas greater Wilkes-Barre’s immediate future is concerned.

In a nutshell, I do believe.

Short of turning this textual exercise into a glowing letter of endorsement for Mayor Tom Leighton, let’s just suffice it to say that I truly believed this city had a much better than average chance of changing it’s long since sagging fortunes as soon as the votes were tallied in November 2003, and it was all but confirmed that he would serve as the next mayor of this city. Where once I believed only in his raw potential as a visionary leader, now I believe in his clearly demonstrated financial responsibility, his spirit of cooperation, his reaching out to any organization that can help push the city forward; and the all-inclusive nature of his attempts at restoring the civic pride of a community that not so long ago had every right to consider a collective suicide.

Time and again, we, the unwashed masses, have been promised that long sought after progress only to be disappointed time and again. Therein lies much of the all too common perception that all local politicians are the same, all politicians are scheming to fill their bottomless pockets by way of graft, and all politicians are little more than third-rate hacks certainly not worthy of any sustained loyalty from any far-flung segment of the downtrodden electorate.

Hence, when a local politician does happen to step forward and dares his fellow citizens to unequivocally believe in the future of their tiny corner of the county, that politician should no doubt expect some amount of skepticism, some inflammatory and reprehensible attacks on his person, and some of the comedians living among us poking some fun at his expense. And, yes, our mayor was certainly the butt of many jokes and whatnot. I’m fairly certain he expected as much.

Howbeit, when the concrete dust finally settles upon the laundry list of revitalization projects currently underway, or soon to be underway, I say to you that much of the abject negativity put on parade and the predictions that the status quo will remain in effect for the foreseeable future in this flailing city will in the end prove to be counterintuitive.

So, for this nobody--this lowly Joe Six-Pack-- that suddenly sees Wilkes-Barre’s glass as being half full, it was not altogether surprising to learn that so many of us steadfastly refused to see a few glowing coals of hope through the aged piles of culm. In many respects, I really can’t blame some folks for clinging to their skepticism while toiling away in an area that has been grasping for, but failing to find the answer to it’s decades-old question as to why it seems to be the area that time and progress somehow forgot. I’m not completely sure as to why a defeatist attitude seems to be a forgone conclusion--a byproduct of birth-- in this mined out area, but that negative mindset that permeates too much of this area’s populace needs, in my mind, to go by the wayside and soon.

While there will always be some financial, political, demographic, or socioeconomic concerns to complain about in this city of ours, can’t we at least rally around our hard-working, optimistic and forward-thinking mayor and our once thought to be doomed city, while the bricks, the mortar and the I-beams are being delivered to Wilkes-Barre? Am I asking too much of my fellow citizenry? Is a simple, “I believe” well too far beyond your imagined capabilities? Can you differentiate between the empty “Progress as Promised” slogan and the actual brick-and-mortar progress suddenly trumpeted with a well-publicized rallying cry of, “I believe?” Can you?

While we all portend to understand that we need to change our neighboring communities’ negative perceptions whereas this city is concerned, how can we ask of them that they change their opinions of Wilkes-Barre if, we, the very folks that reside within this city’s confines refuse to do likewise?

I’m not young enough to be totally naïve. And I’m not old enough to be hopelessly senile. But I do…I do believe that Wilkes-Barre is poised and ready to regain some meaningful semblance of the hustling and bustling city that it used to be. The city I remember. The city that I always wanted to call my home while I was living abroad.

I believe. I do.

Can you?

Congratulations to the Islamic nation, to our sheikh Osama abu Abdullah (Osama bin Laden) and to sheikh Ayman Zawahiri (bin Laden's deputy) for the destruction of America, which is at the forefront of evil. It is the start of its collapse.--Al Qaeda group in Iraq, which is led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, commenting on the destruction in and around New Orleans.

Remember that I said this: When they finally kill that most "holy" of the common criminals...the f**king beers are on me.

I guess Sean Penn was stung by the fact that no one paid any attention at all to the results of his recent self-initiated fact-finding mission to Iran. So, in an effort to keep his stock as a know-it-all activist from fading any further, he launched his own ill-fated rescue mission in New Orleans.

From The Herald Sun:

Sean Penn's rescue bid sinks

From correspondents in New Orleans


EFFORTS by Hollywood actor Sean Penn to aid New Orleans victims stranded by Hurricane Katrina foundered badly overnight, when the boat he was piloting to launch a rescue attempt sprang a leak.

Penn had planned to rescue children waylaid by Katrina's flood waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch. The actor, known for his political activism, was seen wearing what appeared to be a white flak jacket and frantically bailing water out of the sinking vessel with a red plastic cup.

When the boat's motor failed to start, those aboard were forced to use paddles to propel themselves down the flooded New Orleans street.

Asked what he had hoped to achieve in the waterlogged city, the actor replied: "Whatever I can do to help."

With the boat loaded with members of Penn's entourage, including a personal photographer, one bystander taunted the actor: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?"

This is your atypical save-the-world activist at work. Right off the tops of their fat heads, they know how to cure all that ills mankind. But they can't operate a freakin' smallish boat without sinking the damn thing.

Need I say more?

In the wake of the devastation that hurricane Katrina unleashed on the Gulf Coast, the following excerpt from the October 2004 issue of The National Geographic is absolutely uncanny in it's accuracy. Please read it.

By Joel K. Bourne, Jr.

The Louisiana bayou, hardest working marsh in America, is in big trouble—with dire consequences for residents, the nearby city of New Orleans, and seafood lovers everywhere.

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

From the e-mail inbox Please all sign !



Presidential Petition Please do NOT let this petition stop and lose all these names. If you do not want to sign it, please forward it to everyone you know. To add your name, click on "forward". You will be able to add your name at the bottom of the list and then forward it to your friends. Or, if necessary you can copy and paste and then add your name to the bottom of the list. THE 2,000TH PERSON PLEASE SEND IT ON TO THE FOLLOWING E-MAIL ADDRESS: President@WhiteHouse.gov Thank you very much.


1. Frankie Dorsett
2. Marilyn Hampton
3. Tommy Hampton
4. Joy Walker
5. Barbara Singleton
6. Jason Singleton
7. Aileen Berry
8. David Berry
9. Marie Dorsett
10. Becky Louis
11. David Louis
12. Chris Louis

The foregoing is but a snippet of the original e-mail I was sent. It included a total of 1,562 names.

From a personal standpoint as a bicycling enthusiast, I last filled my gas tank immediately following the 4th of July holiday. Based on my current driving habits, I figure I'll have to fill up at the pumps somewhere around mid-September. Trust me on this, I pay very little attention to any price flucuations at any of the local outlets that sell gasoline. With that having been said, I'm not a clueless maroon. I do realize that the price of gasoline does have a direct impact on the prices of very many of the goods and services that I happen to partake of. And I'm not going to lose any sleep over something that I have no control over.

But with the world demand for crude oil all but matching the supply, I think a demand put upon any current national politician to lower gasoline prices is a fool's errand with no basis in the facts as they currently present themselves. And, please, don't send me any mentally vaccuous gibberish about Bush being a former oil man, and "Big Oil" enjoying near record profits of late. The thing is, every single conglomerate capable of pumping oil from the ground is making really big bucks right now. American "big oil" is evil, but the Saudi oil companies are given a pass in this respect? Try thinking things through to some sort of logical conclusion before launching into ad-hoc attacks, okay?

I recently read of some democrats that were skewing Bush's teflon-coated nuts because he had not latched onto the nearest available podium and called for Americans to embrace conservation. Now, how much sense does that sort of self-serving political circus stunt make while well too many Americans refuse to drive anything with a gross vehicle weight lower than 10,000 pounds? Americans don't want to conserve, they want even bigger, heavier Hummers in 06', and they want the price of a gallon of gasoline to be fixed at 1965's prices. Who's kidding who, here?

And long before Miss Katrina made it necessary to release some of our strategic oil reserves to stave off gasoline shortages, the democrats were also demanding that Bush do exactly that, pre-disaster, only to artificially and temporarily fix the gasoline prices lower than what the current market demands that they be. Trust me, our recent history proves that temporary price controls are doomed to failure in a free market economy.

So, what's an average American to do while energy prices continue to cut into their household budgets? I would suggest that we deal with the grim realities we are being presented with, and stop pretending that if we will it to be, life as we once knew it will be that way forever more. Face it, the 8 billion or so people in China and India have found themselves with disposable income for the first time, and they covet automobiles, and all of the wide range of products made with petroleum products that we once monopolized and considered to be a right of birth in this country.

If energy prices in this country can indeed be rolled back to any appreciative degree, it'll require conservation on our parts, an aggressive approach to producing more crude oil right here at home, and a real committment from our national leaders to rapidly develop alternative energy sources.

In other words, we are screwed.

But, if you're forced to spend $60 to fill up your tank so as to drive from one bucolic end of the county to another just to earn a decent day's wages, there is an out. Y'all could gravitate back to the more centralized locations and keep your travel costs to minimum. You may not have Humming Birds bouncing off of the kitchen window, and you may not have that occasional Black Bear tearing the guts out of your bird feeders. But, you will be within walking, or bicycling distance of most anything your heart may desire.

Real estate prices have been depressed in Wilkes-Barre for some time now. If you're looking to conserve and save some significant bucks in the process, get it while the gettin's still good.

While I may be an acerbic asshole, I'd make for a good neighbor.

Ignore this. What about that glorified dog coop in the Heights?

I gotta say 'au revoir' for now.

During an early morning bikeabout, I stopped and bought myself three new CDs at the downtown Gallery of Sound store. Or, in other words, I really need to further damage my hearing. As if.

You know, with the Gulf Coast being what is currently is, I can't help but to wonder what those boys at Langley are doing right about now.


I Love Francoeur