1-16-2007 Breaking news

Here‘s the question posed to some of us by a Times Leader employee: How do you feel about the president’s plan to send more troops to Iraq?

The result? Two pro, three con. That probably accurately reflects the mood of the country. I think reinforcing the boots on the ground is long overdue, but…

But…if the rules of engagement don’t change--if they aren’t allowed to quash the militias--it might be time to pull back and allow the Iraqis to rise or fall as they may.

So, 20,000 more troops are on their way and many Americans aren’t real keen on that plan. Well, here’s the minutia they missed.

The Pentagon plans to deploy 600 Patriot anti-missile missiles in Middle East.

The U.S. is sending a second aircraft carrier, the USS John. C. Stennis, to the Persian Gulf. A US military spokesman has said the two carrier strike groups will not just be showing force but actively involved in combat operations and providing air support across the region.

Three amphibious assault ships including the U.S.S. Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) have departed from Norfolk and are in route to the Persian Gulf. Bataan is the flagship of the Bataan ESG, which is comprised of the Bataan Strike Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The Bataan Strike Group includes Amphibious Squadron 2, Bataan, USS Shreveport (LPD 12), USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Underwood (FFG 36), and USS Scranton (SSN 756). The 26th MEU is based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and is commanded by Col. Gregg Sturdevant. The deployment marks the first time Bataan has deployed overseas since 2004.

At least 16 US F-16 fighter craft recently arrived in S. Turkish Incirlink base for the first time in three years.

Russia has confirmed the sale of short-range anti-aircraft TOR-M1 missiles to Iran.

Syria plans to deploy two newly-created army battalions to the Israeli border along the Golan Heights.

Oh, and Syria is set to purchase the latest Russian anti-air missiles. In particular, the S-300PMU2 FAVORIT system, which is designed to defend strategic facilities and armed forces against attack by modern aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles in heavy ECM environments.

Other than that, I see no reason why we shouldn’t adopt the Murtha plan and re-deploy our military assets to Okinawa. (?) The middle east is poised and ready to explode. We’re but one ill-advised spark away from a much wider conflagration and a resumption of conscription.

Why? Because killing in the name of one’s religion has become quite the growing rage for the past couple of decades or so.

Can anyone tell me how many abandoned buildings in this city have an elevator contained within it‘s broken walls?

Check the video:

Nice kids, eh?

For those of you that no longer reside in these here parts, I updated the Hotel Sterling slideshow. And just so you know, you don’t have to watch the thing in it’s entirety if you’ve watched it previously. You can toggle through it rather quickly by clicking on the thumbnails on the lower right of the viewer.

Hotel demolition picks up

After demolition, it will take about 18 months to convert the seven-story corner building on the site into a commercial and residential structure, said Alex Rogers of CityVest.

18 months? That’s a pretty ambitious schedule. Hence, one more shuttered eyesore will join the growing ranks of usable and attractive destinations. One by one the eyesores are disappearing. The Hotel Sterling. The Cumberland building. The monstrous Murray complex. The building next to fire headquarters in which I once stood before Magistrate Collins, breathed very deeply and said “I do.” The Corcoran building and the McIntosh cleaners buildings, both of which are on North Main. The office building at the corner of Northampton and Washington is currently being renovated. The American Furniture building opposite the theater was recently gutted from front to back, top to bottom. The mud bog of a parking lot next to Bell Furniture was recently paved. There’s a new bagel joint opening in the former call center. The former rat’s nest, the Studio Café building is history. That long stretch where the Planter’s Peanut building lies is being developed. The long-dormant bank on Public Square is due to be remodeled. By the way, my former employer, Franklin’s, once owned that and had plans to open a second concept. Sadly, Jimmy Carter decimated our economy, so that never came about. There’s a guy who is interested in redeveloping a structure across the street from Coughlin.

Does anyone see a trend?

I‘m so mad at Sue Henry, I could just spit. I’m gonna get me one of those Boston Red Sox action figures and start sticking it full of tiny pins.

A couple of days back she tantalized us by promising a double-secret host for yesterday’s installment of her show. Why, who could this mystery host be, we were left to wonder? Kurt Shotko and his 14 points of fascism? Lou Barletta, perhaps? Nah, Kevin would have to duck him all day long. How ‘bout that guy who claims Olyphant was built by the ancient Egyptians? Yeah, that’d work. Or, dare I say it without getting slapped upside the head by Nancy…Fred Williams?

So, I got out of bed yesterday, turned on the imported radio and heard this familiar voice that I couldn’t put a name or a face to. He babbled on and on about peace, love, hope, understanding, color-blindedness and all sorts of feel-good, wishful thinking type feminized man slop. And then it finally hit me…it was Steve Corbett. Steve Corbett? Freaking Steve Corbett?!? That’s my big freaking surprise? Mr. Bleeding Heart?

Cripes, Sue!!!

"As a community, though, this old man's dismal journey might be our greatest failure."

"All of us should look a little closer when we pass a garbage bin this winter. If you see the king, hope that he's breathing."--Steve Corbett, 2002

What, did he wander on back here to remind us that we, as a society, have failed the hopper dwellers of the world? There would be no less fortunate if us insensitive, uncaring clods would just do without, or volunteer more? That’s my surprise? The feminized holier-than-thou do-gooder is back?

I tell you, it’s enough to make me long for Chia Kev’s tireless ranting.

"I am a real American."--Steve Corbett on WILK, 2002


I‘m reading on one of these local political blogs about a persistent rumor that has former county commissioner Frank Crossin jumping back into the political spotlight.

I haven’t heard that name in a while, but it reminds me of one of those Scanner Land moments that you just never forget. Let’s see, we’ll jog the memory here.

Okay, there’s a report of a car into a light standard at Toys R Us and witnesses at the scene say the driver is feeling absolutely no pain, i.e., he’s drunk as a skunk. A police officer arrives on scene and requests that another officer of a higher rank “10-25s,“ or, to put it in civilian speak--comes to the scene. The higher ranking officer arrives on scene only to then request that the watch commander 25s to the scene. At that point, my ears perk up. And if that’s not interesting enough, somehow, Command 100, the Mayor, ends up being contacted for even further advisement. And at that precise moment, I knew that somebody pretty high on the political food chain was inebriated and behind the deformed wheel at the scene of a motor vehicle accident.

And what should we gleam from this Scanner Land incident? That drunk driving laws in Luzerne County are selectively enforced. End lesson.

Anyway, getting back to that persistent rumor circulating about Frank Crossin, once again, without doubt, I am a man amongst all of you blogging little boys. Here’s the breaking news, you freaking amateurs.

Frank Crossin is not going to run for any political office. But, my unflappable sources tell me you’ve got a whopping surprise in store for you. My reliable source, a well-informed Luzerne County minister (You‘d be surprised by what you can learn at the confessional), tells me that none other than Hugo Selenski is going to announce his intention to run for a commissioner’s seat as a member of the Pansexual/Peace Party. And polling data shows that he’s got a virtual lock on the female 18-34 vote, as well as the Chase vote, the LCCF vote and the votes of every closet Klansman this side of Noxen worth their weight in racial epithets. Plus, he can definitely position himself as a political outsider beholding to no one, excepting, of course, for one manufacturer of bed sheeting.

He declined my request for an exclusive pre-announcement interview.

And his campaign slogan?

Hugo: I won’t take flight with your trust.

Somethin’ like that.

Make checks payable to: Hugo for County Commissioner

Just for the fun of it, let’s revisit my January 9, 2002 “Hopper King” response to Steve Corbett’s ridiculous charge that we have somehow failed those who eschew bosses, schedules, alarm clocks and any tiring responsibilities to speak of.

From the Hopper King, which is now on permanent display at the Library of Congress:

Steve, let me tell you about the real Charlie Weiss that I knew during his prime years.

I got my first job, at Percy Brown's, when I was 14-years-old. I liked earning money for the first time and never thought of Percy’s as work. The more hours I could work the better. One day the assistant manager told me to empty all of the trash cans into the hopper in the alley out back. I hauled those large and heavy trash cans out back and there was a guy in the hopper routing through it. I had no idea at 14 years old what the heck this goof was doing. I waited patiently for a few minutes and then told him to get out of there as I needed to pitch the cans up and over and in. He ignored me. I said something like "Come on Man." He proceeded to jump out of the hopper and lunge at me while screaming profanities that even our mayor has never heard before. He told me he would kick my ass if I ever bothered him again and wandered away while still cursing. When I returned to the kitchen I told my boss about this lunatic. Leo said "Don't take any sh*t from that panhandler." I didn't even know what that word meant.

So the months passed and Charlie and I became familiar with each other. We would play the same game over and over and it became old rather quickly. I would tell him to hit it and he would invent new curses and such. Sometimes he would throw garbage at me. One sunny afternoon he refused to get out of the hopper so I dumped a can of garbage on him. He proceeded to attack me with both fists and I literally kicked his smelly ass up the alley. I don't know how many times I kicked him after he went down, but it wasn't enough. He eventually got back on his feet and motored out of there. He was fairly fleet afoot. I was nervous about what had happened being a kid and all and told Leo. He responded by telling me that he was surprised it took so long for my first altercation with Charlie. It was the 'norm according to him.

One afternoon my cousin Will called me up to the second floor bakery to watch the college girls next door sunbathe nude on their roof. I had heard about these girls, but had never actually taken in the view. The bakers had all gone home already and Will's job was to cleanup after them. I raced up there and sure enough--three naked girls. One laying face up and two laying face down. Un-freaking believable. Just like the bakers had said. I thought they were all pulling my chain all this time. This was the end-all most amazing event possible. I stood there gawking and Will decided to swing the window up a little more causing it to squeak. The naked babes heard it, saw us and grabbed their towels while racing indoors. I turned and looked at Will and could tell by the look on his face that he knew I was about to pop him. I did. Idiot!

Anyway, guess who came wandering up to the hopper below us for an inspection. It was noble ole king Charlie. Being the mean-spirited bast*rd that I am when provoked, I glanced around the bakery and settled on the flour. I took a one hundred pound bag of bakery flour and cut the top off of it. Will helped me lean it out of the window and dump it we did. It seemed to plunge out of the bag in one big clump and hit Charlie directly. A mushroom cloud appeared and Charlie emerged from it and hit the deck. He was completely covered in flour and stunned. Will and I laughed so hard while hanging out of the window that Charlie noticed us and started his usual profanity lesson. Leo heard the commotion, came outside and proceeded to kick the noble one in the ass. He wandered away totally covered in Bakery flour. The flour came out of my next pay. Eventually I left Percy’s after five years and worked elsewhere in the north end of the city.

I worked at my new job for 18 months and was promoted to management. I was eventually transferred to work in our downtown store on South Main, back in the days when downtown was still booming. Re-enter the proud and noble king. There was a steel garbage can mounted in front of our store. Charlie used to show up at just about lunch time, open a brand new mini box of cereal and slide it down into the garbage can. When the sidewalks were crowded at lunchtime, "Poor" Charlie would bend over the can and eat the fresh cereal giving passers-bye the impression that he was eating out of the garbage. A scam, nothing more. He's a con-man, a flimflam artist, a liar, a thief. The bleeding heart types like Steve would stop, open their wallets and hand Charlie some cash. Then they would feel good about themselves, I'm sure. More chumps like Steve.

Charlie eventually dreamed up a new scam. He would enter the store when no member of management was nearby, sit in the seat right next to the front door and order a bowl of soup. When the waitress brought him the soup he would poor it down his throat and run out without paying for it. I don't know how it didn't scald his throat. The police call this "Theft of Services." He is a thief. He got away with this routine a few times, always with a different waitress until the store manager caught him in the act, roughed him up severely and skipped him across the sidewalk. Charlie cursed away like an automatic weapon while the sidewalks were full of woman and children. Very noble man. Andy chased him up the street and decked him again in front of Boscov’s. I saved Charlie's ass that day as I dragged Andy away against his will. Andy was pissed at me.

One shift near closing time Charlie's noble mind was at it again. It was snowing like hell and we were very slow with very few customers. I had two waitresses working and one of them had made so little in tips she asked me to pay her parking garage fee. I spotted Charlie coming through the doors and was right in his face. He begged me to use the restrooms. I knew better, I really did. He begged some more. By all rights I should have dragged him out front and drop-kicked him, which was my first thought. Dummy me, I allowed him to use the restroom. I was toward the back of the store when he exited the restroom. One of the few customers that ate there that night had just left the store and a few dollar bills were left on the table as a tip for the waitress. Noble ole Charlie grabbed the tip from the table and flew through the front door. Down South Main he fled and I caught him at Chacko's and through him into the wall. He cursed and yelled as I turned him into a pretzel and threatened to muck him up real good. He cursed some more and I punched away on him. He threw the three bucks on the sidewalk and I allowed him to scurry away toward his next illegal act.

Very noble man Steve. I would suggest to Steve that he should refrain from shaming the general public for our lack of concern over a scummy and homeless common criminal. Don't believe everything you hear on those benches on the Square, Steve. Those less fortunate types all have some pitiful story to tell and it's all bull. Those people are exactly where they want to be. Without jobs. Without responsibility. Without a schedule or a boss. Without concern for the law. They've got everything they need and don't have to do a thing to earn it. The college kids will raise awareness to their phony plight. The soup kitchen will feed them. Vision will clothe them and taxi them around. And bleeding heart people like you will hand them money for alcohol. The fact that Charlie has somehow managed to grow old despite his worthless life style is something I should feel guilty about? Spare me Steve.

And please spare us your opinion that somehow we as a community have failed these people. The fact is they are failures. And they like it that way. It's easy being homeless until it gets very cold outside. Every time it does get cold we can count on the media to make noise about their plight. Rather than hack on us Steve, if you're so worried about Charlie freezing to the side of the hopper against the moldy linguini, why don't you, Steve, just allow Charlie to spend the winter at your apartment? That'll work. It'll stink. And then you could feel real good about yourself without berating all of us, while knowing full well that you are somehow a better person than all of us.

“I am a real American.”

(End stroll down memory lane)



Dark horse?