1-4-2007 If misspent activism was an opiateÖ

I just got back from a nifty walk throughout my neighborhood. I keep hearing people complain about the supposedly sorry state of their neighborhoods and Iím thinking maybe they ought to move into mine. I dunno. Just a thought.

The following story appeared in the Citizensí Voice & The Times-Tribune today.

Bush protesters at W-B parade will be tried

If youíre not familiar with Mr. ShotkoĎs relentless antics, letís suffice it to say that heís infamous in Lackawanna County and thereabouts. HeĎs a Green Party sort and once challenged Don Sherwood for his seat in Congress. If I recall correctly, I think he garnered a whopping 7% of the vote, and then hailed that as a victory of some kind. You tell me, man. Iím not a big fan of illogic.

He uses the Courthouse Square in Scranton as his personal political soapbox and mostly elicits groans from those he encounters. Heís been banned from participating at WILK, which he also used as his personal political soapbox on a daily basis. And he had a dust-up that he alone initiated with some Marine recruiters in Hazleton after which he threatened everyone involved with legal action. As a matter of fact, when he was arrested at the St. Patrickís Day parade in Wilkes-Barre almost two years ago, he hurled accusations about being mistreated in the bowels of police headquarters and, again, threatened legal action. As a Green, heís staunchly pro drug, promotes drum circles as some sort of therapy and lacks meaningful employment. Despite being pro drug, he tells us to give up the beer and baseball and join him in his utopian quest. Heís very well-read, heís probably as smart as anyone you could ever hope to meet, but almost everything he attempts to accomplish is quickly done-in by his bombastically cynical view of everyone except himself.

Such is the misspent, misguided life of those who marginalize their own credibility in their relentless pursuit of ill begotten fame.

Whatever. To each their own.

With all of that having been correctly said, do me a quick favor and watch my short slide show. It consists of 23 pictures I took at the parade that Kurt was arrested at on March 13, 2005.

Now, I ask you, is that the proper time and place for a protest against anyone, or anything? We flock down there with our bundled-up kids and grandkids in tow and then have to be subjected to the abject lunacy that is one manís Magical Protestor Tour? How could a person be so completely book smart and then fail to realize the inappropriateness that is injecting his useless nonsense into our parade? How can the one person who so loudly and so frequently reminds us that he knows his rights forget all about ours when he decides it serves his purposes? And how could the one guy who knows he needs a permit before staging a public protest claim heís being oppressed when people object to his sudden insertion into a parade?

What about our rights? Do we have a right to not be inconvenienced every time the ill-advised rent-a-mob devotees get a bug up their asses, or a new political axe to grind? Can they save the world all by their lonesome at an appropriate time and place? Can they even begin to comprehend how very little we are impressed by their one-man consensus? Voting booths? Parades? Is nothing off-limits in the tortured minds of the terminally disaffected?

And this ďvideo journalismĒ bit they employ is the most convoluted hogwash I have yet to see. They provoke an incident with ďthe powers that beĒ while a fellow rent-a-mob devotee videotapes the proceedings from just out of view. The ultimate goal--the desired result--being when someone in authority either overreacts, or appears to be even remotely heavy-handed in response to the provocation. Itís basically entrapment. Pick a fight, get the camera rolling and then cry foul when you get one, or even come close.

Consider our city council meetings. You can stand before the council members hurling insults and accusations and insinuations with a camera rolling. And when they have finally had enough of that and get a tad miffedÖVoila!Öproof that these people are rude and ignorant and whatnot. While that chicanery may seem clever to the perpetrators, it is nothing more than creating an incident so as to vociferously complain about it afterwards. And amazingly enough, they even believe that to be productive by some sort of twisted logic that escapes those of us not distrustful and disdainful of our government for the fun and glory of it all.

How are we supposed to sympathize with your concerns when we simply canít stand your over-the-top tactics? Is that how you plan to bring about meaningful, lasting change in government? By annoying, badgering and inconveniencing anyone you see fit until they finally relent and give you the keys to the government? Well, Iíve got some news for the rent-a-mob crowd. You are wasting your time, our time, and on many occasions, our resources.

And, you know what? A little fact-checking wouldnít hurt before some of you activists get to hurling accusations that have no basis in fact. I read on an internet forum page earlier today that Tom Leighton increased his salary so itíd result in a higher pension payout down the line. Iím assuming that was not a deliberate lie posted at the forum, but there is no excuse for being woefully stupid. Take a deep breathe and repeat after me--Tom Leighton did not increase his own salary. Facts, girls! Stop tripping over them before you end up hurting yourselves.

And then weíve got this long-running myth wherein the Democrats who have a virtual stranglehold on elected offices in this city maintain that stranglehold only because they are liars and cheaters and part of ďThe Machine.Ē Excuse me for saying so, but the Republican party in this city is about as organized and well-run as Somalia is. I see no organization, I see no boots on the ground, I see no funding mechanisms and I see no winners. Funny how that works.

Instead of blaming some obvious inadequacies on the well-entrenched opposing party, how about a bit of introspection on the part of the invisible party? Why wonít the voters embrace Republican candidates, except in only isolated cases? Whoís working to change that? Whoís building the base? Whoís getting new voters registered? Republicans canít get themselves elected in this city, so out of frustration they seek to change the rules by way of repeated referendums.

Canít get yourself elected? Hell, how about if we vote by districts instead of at-large? Yeah, that might work. Itís sleazy, but it just might work. Better yet, how about if we reduce the size of council so that the Democrats start knocking each other off? Yeah, yeah, I like it. My message doesnít seem to be resonating with the voters, so letís turn this thing on itís ugly little head and see if that works out in my favor on election day. Yeah, thatís the ticket.

And then weíve got the plethora of proposed referendums which had one purpose and one purpose only: so the authors of said ballot questions could curry favor with the electorate. Hey, look what I did. Now vote for me instead. Letís make it so an investment of a measly $10,000 has to be put before the voters before it can be spent. Yeah, and Iíll get the lionís share of the dubious credit. Itíd amount to a debilitating gridlock once enacted, but who cares? Iíll be elected by then. Completely shortsighted? Totally unworkable? Says who, Wilkes-Barre Online? Screw him! Heís bucking for one of those shadow positions.

If you canít get yourselves elected without tweaking the rules, thatís because you are unattractive to the voters. Work on that instead of recklessly proposing ill-prepared and ill-advised referendums. Get your own act together, or accept the fact that you havenĎt got what it takes. This isnít rocket science. Thereís no Circular Error Probability going on here. How many more sweeping changes should we propose before we finally make that one big mistake? A $10,000 municipal spending cap? I have never heard anything so frighteningly stupid coming from someone who professes to know better. Thereís a rocket that wouldnít land anywhere close to itís intended target. Oh, but it was proposed for Wilkes-Barre.

Excuse me for being ill-informed, but I thought we had a system in place whereby we could make sweeping governmental changes at the local level? I thought that was called election day. The mayor sucks? You work against him and get him voted out of office. Nifty! Youíve got a council person who is obviously not up to snuff? Work hard for whomever you believe to be a capable replacement. Wow! Thatís pretty neat. You feel passionate about an issue? Do everything you can to get someone of a similar mind voted into office. Thatís cool! Think you can do better? Prove it. Tell us why instead of creating nonstop rancor, tumult and insinuation. Thereís no need to join the Referendum of the Month Club. Take the high road. Show us that Republicans can be elected in this city without reinventing the rules, or the game itself.

If misspent activism was an opiate, this tiny third-class city would probably lead in the nation in the number of overdose deaths.

I went that route once. On December 2, 2000, I officially became an activist by way of some newfangled electronic gizmo. And I stayed on message for over three years by literally begging Wilkes-Barre to replace itís mayor. I was relentless, I was brutal, but I never once said we needed to reinvent the wheel to oust him and usher in a long-overdue era of progress. I told people to vote and vote smart. No, not often, just smart. I said look at the facts, look all around you and then vote accordingly. And you did. And now the city is on much better financial footing. Projects are being completed, not just proposed. And well-ingrained pessimism has been replaced by cautious optimism. We voted and we voted well.

We donít need counterproductive protests, video cameras, new rules, referendums, ranting, raving or baseless accusations passing as informed activism. We donít need disruptions at the polling places. We need not frivolous lawsuits. And we shouldnít have to explain to our quizzical grandkids why people are being arrested at a festive parade.

We need to pay close attention to the issues. We need to judge for ourselves if the city is heading in the right direction. And then we need to get on out there and vote. Despite what the hyperventilating activists would have you believe, the power to make sweeping change at the local level has already been entrusted to us. Itís in our hands right where it always was.

Change? Itís not that hard to come by.

Sez me.

(End rant)