12-17-2006 “An extra set of eyes”

“Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.”--Author unknown

This is how I started my day. I got some tea brewing, grabbed the Times Leader from the front porch and then spread that front page out before me. So, what’s up? Acts of terrorism? Santa Claus spotted at Gentlemen’s Club 10? More useless rants from the terminally disaffected? Some overly-redundant Bush-bashing, perhaps? Why, no! We got us a front page devoted almost entirely to cheerleading?!?

Catching the spirit

Slow news day, you say? Well, alright. No biggie.

Next I wandered on down to the nearby Citizens’ Voice machine, snagged a copy and popped into George’s store for some of those mostly unpronounceable chemicals wrapped in a Diet Coke sticker. And right from the get-go, George was clearly wound-up, almost animated while asking me if cheerleading passes as front page news? I told him that I didn’t think it was front page news.

But who am I to question the process, since the story of a local blogger turned into a front page story on a Monday morning some months ago. Seriously, am I a front page story? It seems to me that far, far too many of the people that work for the Times Leader enjoy their weekends off. That’s the way it seems to me.

Then again, consider why people visit blogs over and over again: Content, content and more content. With that said, is cheerleading front page content? Or does it belong in that section where the blue-haired philanthropists have their pictures published? I dunno.

Maybe George and I are simply making too much of today’s lackluster Times Leader. Maybe it really was a slow weekend. Maybe we wouldn’t have anything to read at all if it weren’t for the people who cause the uproarious ruckus’ at municipal meetings. Maybe what we need is a bit more chaos and tumult on a very regular basis. Maybe if we all behaved ourselves, life would be completely boring and there would be no need for newspapers other than to cover cheerleading and when the well-healed sophisticates gather, lift overpriced appetizers to their mouths and say things they deem to be of the utmost importance. Pass the intermezzo, will you?

Perhaps I should cool it with the second-guessing of Wilkes-Barre’s best newspaper. If they ever get to writing anything about me again, instead of being in my undies, I’ll likely be reported to be blogging stark naked from the waist down.

Then again, that cheerleading piece sure beats the hell out of Kevin Lynn’s daily attempts to make us hayseeds out to be sexists because we could care less about his new first love: girl’s field hockey. Seems like he’s repaying a chit owed to somebody or other on the higher end of the political food chain. I’m thinking judge. So the question begs, are any of the local girl’s field hockey superstars the direct descendants of any of the county’s golf-playing judges?


We both survived Jeremy‘s first ever birthday party. Throwing a one-year-old into the spotlight usually causes the rodent in question to stare back at the onlooking, adoring assemblage with looks of befuddlement and little else. And depending on their temperament, sometimes you almost have to feel pity for the reluctant star of the party. Luckily for Jeremy, he is very even-keeled and was not overwhelmed until he started getting a bit overtired. He done good.

As for myself, I took it easy. Well, somewhat. My son bought some kind of imported red lager type liquid substance, or some such thing. The name of this fermented mess escapes me now. It was something like Pisshead Lager Puss. Or Plus. Something like that. I did one cup worth, and then retreated to the relative safety of a well-known domestic beer of the “lite” variety. Old folks beer.

Now, my son took a whole other course. He had these frosted 23-ounce mugs, and I ain’t never seen no skinny guy throw that many back so fast. And only until about eight hours into this journey did he start to exhibit any signs of not being himself. Actually, he was funny as all hell. There are rowdy drunks. There are scary drunks. And then there’s the happy drunks. And Marque seemed pretty freaking happy until he finally did the smart thing and headed off to bed. He too done good in spite of himself.

Well, anyway, Jeremy has graduated from being a baby to joining the elite by becoming a full-fledged grandrodent.

For him, the adventures are about to begin.

Since we‘ve got so much gibberish supposedly passing as civil discourse whereas the proposed network of surveillance cameras in this city are concerned, I figured I’d make a phone call and inquire as to what the plan really is. The problem with speaking out against anything while being laden with far more questions than answers is that you are speaking from a position of ignorance. And when you crown that ignorance by leveling baseless accusations at undeserving people, you make a mockery not only of the proceedings, but of yourself as well. And such blatant indiscipline is not only foolhardy, it is the prevarication by which some come to be recognized as flakes.

So, rather than flipping stones in search of sexy conspiracies, shocking governmental ineptitude, or calculated governmental corruption, I made one phone call. Smart, ain’t I?

First of all, the proposed surveillance system is still a work in progress. So, to show up at a council meeting demanding answers and documents is a severely premature undertaking at this point. There’s nothing wrong with asking the questions, it’s just that the incendiary invective is not needed and clearly out of line until the plan is finalized and available for review.

Some have speculated about what the cost of maintaining a system of surveillance cameras throughout the city would be. As part of the city’s soon to be realized WIFI capabilities, the entire system would be wireless. So, there is no infrastructure to speak of to a very large degree. Just some relatively inexpensive digital cameras, some mounting brackets and a pile of screws. The final cost estimates and the financing of the WIFI system have yet to be completely hammered out, so stay tuned on that. As with any successful execution of any proposed plan, the plan’s success ultimately depends on proper planning first. Try to be patient.

This loose-lipped, ludicrous conspiracy talk of mayors spying on their political enemies or protecting the assets of their rich political friends is so much deranged hogwash, it is certainly not even repeatable after today. Go there if you must, but remember, nobody likes a flake.

Truth is, the downtown merchants--politically connected or otherwise--are as of this very moment protecting their own assets by way of video cameras. Don’t take my word for it, head on down there and see for yourselves. Pick one: Genetti’s, Boscov’s, the Anthracite Newsstand, the Humford Equities properties, Rite Aid, the banks, the mini-markets, the city, county and federal properties…they’ve all got that “extra set of eyes” in place.

As a matter of fact, when the folks at the Anthracite catch themselves a shoplifter (as they all too often do), they print out the picture of the offender and display it in the store for all to see and mock. It’s quite the hoot.

A network of 300-400 cameras are envisioned for Wilkes-Barre and they would obviously be widely dispersed. One very attractive feature of the plan is that all city-owned parks, playgrounds and other physical assets would be under surveillance round the clock. So, when your kids are down at the corner playground, that “extra set of eyes” would be upon them. And when that fact becomes widely known, that could only ensure a safer, cleaner environment. You planning on punching Billy’s lights out? Hoping to graffiti the heck out of the place? Yeah, well, you’ll be caught on video doing as much. Better rethink those plans.

Here’s one I have some experience with, being a former businessman and such: Frivolous “Slip ‘n’ Fall” lawsuits. So, you’re too completely stupid to navigate a perfectly good sidewalk and manage to fall on your face like the big dummy that you are. Time to find an attorney and file a frivolous and unfair lawsuit against the owner of the perfectly good sidewalk. But not so fast. The video shows you were running in from the rain with your head down and covered by a newspaper. And you never saw that curb coming. Oh, well. No lawsuit there. Try some welfare fraud instead. Maybe a phony disability claim. That one seems to be the rage these days. There’s a school crossing guard up in Ashley that can walk you through that increasingly popular scam.

As for the suggestions that access to these stored images will be loosely controlled, that is just not the case. The digital images--stored for 30 days and then erased--can be accessed from only two places, City Hall and Police Headquarters, and by less…that’s less than 5 city employees. I did not inquire as to who those five people may be at the present time, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. And despite what some may have you believe, they are not child-raping ogres bent on destroying all of what still remains of Wilkes-Barre, or denying anyone their inalienable rights. The cameras would simply provide an “extra set of eyes,” or, a deterrent to crime, if you will. They will not be actively watched, but they will be called upon when the need arises.

Like I said, the entire thing is still a work in progress, so try to keep the self-aggrandizing hysterics to a minimum so as to not embarrass yourselves any further. The Founding Fathers could not have envisioned digital technology, so skip the urge to start quoting the stained parchment and such. Big Brother is not out to get any of you. You’re not going to be swooped down upon by black helicopters and whisked off to Gitmo Bay for some nifty bouts of sleep depravation. Nobody cares if you play pocket pool while waiting for the bus. And nobody is hoping to spy on anyone else. You won’t need to come up with any clever disguises, either.

What we’re planning to put into place is yet another deterrent to crime. Another layer, so to speak. So, if you’ve no crimes penciled in on your daily planner, there’s really no need to get your thongs all in a bunch. Relax, take a deep breath and wait for the details. Act responsibly. It won’t hurt a lick.

Sez me.

The Hummer is calling to me and it’s time to hit the streets.