12-11-2005 If it stinks, it stinks

If this doesn't make it into the top ten of your personal horror show list, then I don't know what would. A six-year-old boy is cruising in the backseat of the family car singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town in between bites of his Happy Meal when a big ole Boeing comes out of nowhere and crushes him to death. Sure makes my list of seemingly important complaints seem very trivial by direct comparison. Poor little guy.

And I really find this on-going debate about how to better "fix" our method of voting as somewhat mystifying, if not downright lunacy at times. Before November 2000, our ages-old system of electing our representatives was offered up to the remainder of the world as a symbol of all that is right and just about our method of peacefully transferring power. Then Al Gore went and lost his own state during the presidential dust-up, and the political sh*t hit the fan on the left side of the playing field. In all honesty, I'm kind of embarrassed for those folks that claim some sort of diabolical rigging of the vote has gone on whenever their candidate falls short of the mark.

I thought we had just about heard it all during the Great Chad War of 2000. I voted for Pat Robertson by mistake because the ballot was made to be confusing on purpose. Then, we had to differentiate between dimpled and pregnant chads. (As if inanimate objects could actually reproduce.) Then we were treated to highly dubious bullspit about state troopers scaring off black voters at the polls.

Then it was charges of electioneering only because career felons were denied the right to vote. Funny though, it seems that Gore's attempts to have the absentee votes of those Florida residents serving in the military thrown out was portrayed as fair play. Never forget the electioneering that our major television networks pulled on election night when they called Florida for Gore before the polls had even closed in the Republican end of the state. ABC had no frickin' idea that Florida is split amongst two time zones? Does anybody actually believe that? Blinded by partisanship, are we?

We had to wait a month to find out who our next president would be while armies of lawyers flew in and out of Florida. The state supreme court and the Fedrule Govmint's supreme court were then forced to get involved and unravel a mess created solely by the sore losers. And from all of this chaos perpetrated upon us by Gore's party, in the end we were told that Bush stole the election. Yeah! And Tipper Gore stole my Parallel Lines CD!

So off we went to the next election dust-up with the other side hell-bent on paying back that illegitimate president of ours. To be frank, John Kerry scares me. To call him wishy-washy would be a gross understatement. I think he suffers from Kevin Lynn Syndrome. You know, he knows everything, but he stands for nothing. But a part of me would have been relieved if Kerry had defeated Bush only because I figured the left fielders would finally calm the f>ck down and cool it with the venomous and vitriolic nonsense bordering on hatred.

As it played out, both sides did an outstanding job of getting their bases out to vote. But Dubya's side did just a little bit better than Kerry's side did. Bush garnered (what was it?) 57 million votes and re-claimed the throne so I figured we could press on with things and take a giant step back from the complete polarization that seemed to rule the day since Gore went into political retirement. But I was sadly mistaken.

Nope. Bush couldn't have possibly won with that vast array of far-left forces that were mobilized against him. He couldn't have possibly won. He couldn't have. Wait! Here we go! He cheated in a voting district in Ohio and Diebold suddenly topped Halliburton as the most despised company this side of Moscow. Yep. One voting district in Ohio toppled our entire election house-of-cards and Bush had stolen his second consecutive election. Without an afterthought or a moment of reason, toss out those 57 million votes cast nationwide. Nope. Diebold gave the presidency to Bush.

Some of you people should take a deep breath and consider how you sound. It's quite scary. It's really sad. It's pathetic.

This is the same side of the political equation that would have us feeding Christians to the lions again, while fighting tooth-and-nail to save the life of the murderous founder of the Crips. You figure them out. They are well beyond anything I can pretend to comprehend.

And just when I thought there was no hope for those in the opposite camp, I ran across a post on voting at Gort's site.

Sometimes I think our society is technology drunk when we should look at making things simpler. Let's go back to paper ballots for elections.

I couldn't agree with that thought any more if I had typed it myself.

Thanks to the sore losers concocting conspiracy theories rather than admitting defeat, we've got quite the gaggle of disaffected losers protesting every aspect of our Fedrule Govmint's overall operation. The govmint lies. The govmint cheats. The govmint steals elections. Well, those charges will only apply until the Democrats take over again, so keep the faith, and keep on staging protests from the inside of the local voting booth.

I recently traded e-mails with a local protestor of some notoriety who claims his government is "oppressing him." I work enough overtime to get your average protestor to pitching himself off of a very tall building if he ever had to do such a thing. But the way I see it, the only way I'm being oppressed by the government is when I compare my gross earnings to my net earnings. Other than that, I have no qualms about being oppressed in a variety of very minor ways. When I hear these malcontents going on and on about how bad this country is, I can't help but to wonder how many times they got hit in the head by a fastball during their Little League years. You think this is bad? Hoof it over to Somalia and see what you think of that system of government.

And rather than going the counter-productive civil disobedience route, I chose to join The Club for Growth to affect the changes in our tax policies I'd like to see. I've done more than my fair share of stupid things during my troubled run on this ball, but I never once frittered away a half-hour in a voting booth. Maybe some people should reign-in some of this 60s redux nonsense. And maybe some others should stop repeating vitriolic rhetoric that breeds even more conspiratorial fantasies from the unemployed, the barely employed and the know-it-all college-aged kids.

But I digress. Back to Gort's thoughts.

Let's do it. A pencil, a piece of paper and a locked box. And after we print of the names of the folks we want to lead us, those duly-appointed voter services types tally the votes. And if there is ever even a hint of wrongdoing coming from those folks, we put our commissioners on notice that either the questionable folks go--or they do. Better yet, we make those row offices appointed positions, and we elect our voter services chief. In that case, if some sort of impropriety seems to be the case, we vote that voter boss back to where he first came from.

And if Diebold is truly Public Enemy #1, I fail to see how federally-mandated electronic voting will do away with any future sore losers creating even more needless rancor in the future. If Diebold could steal an election with such complete ease, so can the next company that manufactures electronic voting machines.

Let's do the paper ballots and Gort can count 'em. Oh, wait. He's a Democrat. Maybe I should count them. What? You don't trust me? And you don't trust your local, state or Fedrule Govmint, either?

Sounds like a personal problem to me.

The following link was provided to me, and my review of Patrick's Murphy's platform is as follows. I don't live anywhere near his voting district and can't vote for him, but I did find his campaign web site to be 1.) Very professionally done, and 2.) A very good read.

In case you're wondering, Patrick Murphy and City Administrator J.J. Murphy grew up in the same household. So I can't take issue with candidate Murphy in any meaningful sense iffin' I'm hopin' to get anymore of those free hat pins with the city's logo on 'em.

I'm definately not up to speed on Philtydumpia politics, but Murphy's resume is quite impressive, if not rather lengthy for such a young guy. And being that the incumbent Republican from the political turf involved went and voted himself a hefty, but constitutionally illegal pay raise in the middle of the night, I'm thinking he might have a bit of a re-election challenge on his hands. If I was some grumpy old Republican caught with my hand in the public's cookie jar well after midnight, Mr. Murphy would be someone modeled from my own worst nightmares.

On a side note (you'll like this), since that illegal pay raise has exploded into such a big issue in this state, a well-meaning local approached me about running against Kevin Blaum. Yeah! That'd work, wouldn't it? In Hockey County, I'd run against the guy most responsible for pushing that arena project to fruition based on my having voted against it when it was offered as a public question? Yeah! That'd work. Trust me, if a bigger, better arena could be constructed out of dusty skeletons, then I'm your man. Anyways, back to the subject at hand...

This is the part where I get myself in trouble. This is where we bump heads on Iraq. Nothing I happen to think about Iraq will carry any weight when compared to someone who served there, especially when you consider that the person that served there has been involved in all things military from the get-go. Been there, done that. I've been shouted down by Vietnam vets more than once. After a bit of rather spirited debate, they always fell back to their defensive positions from which they could summarily dismiss me as someone who didn't serve in The 'Nam. And I can appreciate their position, and I understand when not to push a bad position. For the most part, my "boots on the ground" experience has been limited to Wilkes-Barre.

And I can't take issue with any soldier that returns from a war zone and questions the leadership of those prosecuting said war. The plain fact is, those who have experienced combat quite often wonder aloud about just what it was all about after a period of quiet reflection. All too often, combat vets find themselves completely embittered by their experiences once the shooting is but a memory. What am I supposed to say to them? I got chased by a portly-looking cop a couple of times? I saw firsthand the destruction an IED can cause based on my experiences in the Heights during the early seventies? Truth be told, those IEDs were put in place by a current member of this city's fire department. Ever see a cinder block disindegrate and fly all over the place in a blinding flash? No? Imagine my predicament trying to argue the merits of the Iraq conflagration with a guy that has seen his fellow soldiers disindegrate and fly all over the place in a blinding flash? Any takers? Mike Fitzpatrick, perhaps?

I snagged the following blurb from Mr. Murphy's site, which I couldn't agree more with:

I believe we could have all Guard and Reserve troops home in 90 daysóor no later than this summeróif we radically speed up the planned redeployment of U.S. Troops from Europe and Asia. The Bush Administration is rightly planning to pull up to 60,000 troops out of Europe and another 30,000 out of Asian posts, recognizing that the vast majority of these troops are no longer necessary from a military perspective.

Unlike their Iraq policy, the Bush plan to redeploy these units is sound militarily, but its implementation is delayed by politics with our European allies. These nations seek to keep our troops longer, not for security reasons but for the boost our troops give to the local economies. If the President and Congress here in the United States canít keep bases like Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Pennsylvania open, then why should the Europeans get to enjoy a long, drawn out negotiation of U.S. troop redeployment?

This has been an issue for me ever since Bush first floated the idea of closing some of our bases in Europe. In fact, some of his political foes charged that he wanted to do so to punish our "allies" that refused to join the coalition during the run-up to the Iraq invasion. We're concerned about the economic fallout base closings in Europe will cause, but we're eager to close military bases all over these fruity plains of ours? Can anyone feature that? The German economy should not be damaged, but the small towns back here at home that depend on military bases for much of their economic livelihood should be turned into ghost towns without much consideration given to what impact those closings would have on born-and-raised populace? That's poor.

Another snippet:

The ultimate key to our withdrawal from Iraq will be a stable country in a volatile region able to stand on its own. There will be bumps in the road along the way. But the first step is for Iraqis to stand on their own and not rely on America to hold them up. The administrationís failure to set a timeline for withdrawal, as they did for elections and as they did for a constitution, does nothing to force the Iraqis to achieve this goal. It is time for Iraqi patriots to be leading and manning the convoys through ďAmbush AlleyĒ in Baghdad, as I did, and as long as we remain in Iraq, there is no incentive for the Iraqis to take on those missions and assume control of their own security operations.

I'm a bit confused by that. The way I remember it, the critics were begging this administration to postpone the first round of elections when many Iraqis were proudly displaying their ink-stained thumbs afterwards. Bush refused to postpone that very first foray into developing a democratic society and millions of brave Iraqis responded despite all of the threats leveled against their possible involvement.

Then again...

It is time for Iraqi patriots to be leading and manning the convoys through ďAmbush AlleyĒ in Baghdad, as I did, and as long as we remain in Iraq, there is no incentive for the Iraqis to take on those missions and assume control of their own security operations.

...who could argue with that?

I don't think we need to abandon them, but it's clear that the American public desperately wants to see those Iraqi troops doing what needs to be done assuming that they possess the backbone to take back their country from those who would see it laid waste and controlled by murderous extremists. We can't cut-and-run, but the time has definately arrived wherein the Iraqis need to step up and take the bull by the horns. And in these respects, I am not filled with gloom and doom.

The historic December 15 election is but days away. And I honestly believe that once the fledgling Iraqi government gets it's feet firmly planted under itself, it will be calling on Washington to set in stone a timetable for the withdrawal of our forces. While the Iraqi children may love our troops, I think it's obvious that their parents are not taking kindly to be occupied. While they may enjoy their newly-acquired cell phones, satellite dishes and a free press; I think the Iraqis possess enough nationalistic pride to police their own streets so long as we provide them with the air support, logistics and command-and-control capabilities they so obviously lack.

It's a double-edged sword for them at this point. They still need us there, but they really don't want us there. And that's why I believe they are going to succeed where no one really gave them much of a chance at success. Well, that is, other than our Commander-in-Chief.

Whatever. This exercise has become a bit long-winded. In a nutshell, would I vote for Patrick Murphy over his well-entrenched, greedy opponent. Sure I would.

What's not to like?

I sent the following e-mail to the illustrious editors at both The Citizens' Voice and The Times Leader. Let's just see who bothers to publish it being that it directly challenges the "wisdom" of Uncle Paul Kanjorski. And if they do publish it, let's see who edits it the most.

From the e-mail outbox 12-10-2005

"Itís chocolate water."

I am not by any stretch of the imagination an environmentalist, nor do I play one on television. In my opinion, much of what passes as environmentalism these days is fueled by junk science, well-meaning, but misinformed citizen activists and those agenda-driven folks much, much higher on the political food chain.

In the grand scheme of things, my entire nondescript life is probably not worthy of even the briefest of footnotes in this areaís still unfolding history, but unlike Congressman Paul Kanjorski, I have paddled a few miles on the Susquehanna. My perspective is not that of the average resident who occasionally glances down at the river from the middle of a bridge, or from atop the dike. Iíve been on it, Iíve been in it and Iíve even tasted it a couple of times. Iíve seen the devastating ecological damage the acid mine run-off has caused close-up. Iíve also witnessed the sewage that collects atop the water along the shoreline at various points in this valley. And I have watched that sickening brownish foam attach itself to a kayak paddle. With Wilkes-Barre poised to make a major comeback, why would we want to erect an inflatable dam directly in the path of unchecked corrosive pollutants and a steady flow of untreated sewage? Why?

Currently the Department of Environmental Protection is sifting through the exhaustive environmental reports, the longish engineering reports and the recently forwarded public comments whereas this "tourist attraction" is concerned and that agency will make the final determination as to whether Wilkes-Barre becomes home to a polluted lake or not. I am still trying to ascertain how anyone as learned as Paul Kanjorski could actually believe that by damming sewage we will be attracting untold numbers of cash-engorged tourists to Wilkes-Barreís soon-to-be remodeled shoreline.

During the 2003 RiverFest event, my not-yet three-year-old grandson was asked what he thought of the river while experiencing it for himself from the middle seat of a two-and-a-half man sea kayak parked right in the middle of the river just north of Forty Fort.. He uttered his telling response in less time than is required to flush a toilet during a mid-August thunderstorm and further degrade this river of ours by way of our aged and oft-overwhelmed sewage outflows. He said, "Itís chocolate water."

That it is.

Now, with no due respect to our well-entrenched Congressman, if a child one week shy of his third birthday could realize in an instant that the water quality of this river is severely challenged, then why would we spend $14 million to create a polluted mini-lake where none currently exists? And while this state is among this nationís leaders in the removal of dams that have been proven to degrade rivers, why should Wilkes-Barre buck that sensible dam removal trend and create an easily debatable inflatable dam that is sure to provide deflated returns?

Wouldnít it make much more sense to use that $14 million to correct the sewage outflow problems and incrementally return the Susquehanna to itís much more pristine days of old? Mr. Kanjorskiís constant tip-toeing around the lengthy laundry list of environmental concerns is typical of a politician who spends the preponderant amount of his time chasing after federal "pork" dollars all for the purposes of securing his core voting block in advance of the next election cycle. But one undeniable fact remainsÖhis loyal core voters will instinctively recoil at the sight of fecal matter, floating or not. And if we are one day forced to pinch our nostrils shut while traversing the length of Market Street Bridge, Iím wondering if the proposed Lake Kanjorski could become a rather weighty anchor around his political neck when the next election go-round comes due. Despite the giant cardboard checks coming direct from Washington D.C., the well-publicized press conferences and any future, but sure to be well-attended ribbon-cutting ceremoniesÖif it stinks, it stinks.

Unlike the vast, vast majority of those residents who have occasionally glanced down at the river from the middle of a bridge, or from atop the dike, I have gotten out there on our polluted river. Iíve put-in at Tunkhannock and paddled to Wilkes-Barre. And Iíve put in at West Pittston and ended the day-long voyage to a shout of "Ramming speed!" at the launch in West Nanticoke. But whether youíve sat in the middle of the river and stared back at the people who stare back at you from the riverís edges or itís many bridges is not any proof of any moral high ground whereas this highly dubious dam is concerned. Be it paddling on it, or observing it from close by, when we look towards that troubled river of ours, deep down, we all want the very same thing. To a person, we all wish it was a clean, free-flowing river we could frolic in devoid of any health concerns. Yet, as the recently printed bumper stickers so aptly state: "If you can flush it down your toilet, you can find it in our lake."

Do you really want to play in, or on an artificial lake filled with "chocolate water?" Or would you prefer to see one of this nationís longest free-flowing and dam free rivers returned to some semblance of what it once was, before our ancestors spoiled it? Should you settle for a smallish polluted lake youíre afraid to be contaminated by? Or would you prefer to be standing three-feet deep in a clean free-flowing river and still be able to see your toes?

"Itís chocolate water."

Should we settle for "chocolate water?" Or should we demand better than that?

Iím just asking.

Mark Cour


Check that out. Nord End will soon be home to a brand spanking new firehouse. When my neighborhood firehouse (Northeast Station) was mothballed by the Leighton administration, I did not suffer from any "emotional distress" as some others in the Heights claim to have suffered when their neighborhood sh*thole suffered a similar fate. I would have preferred to have a firehouse just up the street a ways, but I readily recognized the financial realities that made the closing of that "rain forest" necessary.

KISS, anyone? Firehouse!!!

No one died as a result of the Northeast Station's having been closed. And no one freaked out over that closing other than a council wannabe who is dreaming if he has any further political aspirations. No, the normally sedate Nord End residents didn't seek to re-write the city's charter, they didn't jump into bed with the professional activist crowd, and they didn't need any exspensive attorneys as a result of that firehouse being shuttered.

Quite the contrary, we put our trust in the man we elected to lead the city on to bigger and better things. We took him at his word, and he delivered. And if my memory serves me correctly, he said that if it becomes possible in a financial sense, he might find a way to one day replace that mothballed firehouse up the hill a ways. Why not take him at his word rather then losing your cool when he makes the tough decisions that our previous mayors clearly shied away from?

You see, nowhere is it written whereupon red ink equals any tangible sign of progress. And in Wilkes-Barre, red ink has become a thing of the past.

I gotta go.

The Jints face-off against those dreaded Eagles today. I'll not make any predictions, but I do have a request. Iffin' those dreaded Eagles somehow vanquish my beloved Jints, somebody out there has to promise to play some very loud Zappa at my funeral. If I may, I'd prefer that some narly loud "Watermelon in Easter Hay" send me off into the great unknown abyss. And if Wifey won't loan it to you upon my passing, I'd be willing to settle for some Tenacious D so long as the foundation of the funeral home suffers some structural damage. Now you know.