3-25-2008 An Angel meets the Internet Devil

Whew. Where do I start? Well, after our interpreter decapitated the suspected collaborator we were interrogating, the Black Hawk directly behind us took the first of what would be many almost instantaneous RPG hits, and I found myself sliding face-first on the tarmac. Momentarily dazed, I wiped the blood out of my eyes with a single swipe, clawed my way out from under what little remained of our interpreter and sprinted to a nearby bunker at the edge of the inner perimeter.

I had this overbearingly painful burning sensation coming from my lower leg, which turned out to be a piece of white-hot shrapnel burning itself through my shattered kneecap. Without even thinking, I ripped it free, lunged for an M-4 lying next to a dead marine, and I woke up in the chopper staring at an IV bag with both of my arms taped across my torso. Oh, and Chelsea nervously fumbling with her Rubik’s cube. That’s what I remember.--Hillary Clinton on her trip to Bosnia.

Er, something like that.

From the e-mail inbox Marc: FYO. I will not appeal my guilty verdict re the WILK fiasco. A prominent Wilkes-Barre attorney advised me against it. He said that the appeal will almost certainly be adjudicated by the Monster From The Black Lagoon, Judge Lokuta. I don't want to tangle with that freak.

Give my best to all those fearless Anonymae on your blog.

Cordially, DEF

Freak? I don’t know about that. I heard she’s the sweetest, most kindest person you’d ever hope to meet. In addition, an informed Culm County minister told me that she is practically Carol Brady personified. And cute? Hell, she’s cuter than Donna Reed. A real uber-babe, I‘m told.


Or run screaming.

From the e-mail inbox Marc: Do you know what Kevin Lynn means when he say so-and-so is "screwing the pooch?" I heard him use that term several times. Is it cognate with "fu**ing the dog", which, in Old Forge, is an old and venerable colloquialism [I think it refers to somebody who puts on airs, lives beyond his means, etc.]. -Yours In Christ, Foglietta

Ah, Kevin. You know, there’s really no reason to be railing against him anymore. Anyone with a half a brain free of huffed corrosives has to know that he’s…in a word….a liar. There, I said it. He’s a hopelessly partisan bald-faced liar, and his show has become little more than background noise for me of late.

Seriously, he’s reduced himself to preaching Republicans are evil/Democrats are saintly on a daily, if not, hourly basis. And that simplistic approach to politics is abject bunkum of the highest order, which undeniably reduces the willing messenger to being a complete laughing stock. And he knows as much. So, in his continuing quest to further pollute the world in his own muddied image, he spews lies.

His show is no more informative or entertaining than the ranting of your average anonymous blogger. And one-sided, narrow-minded, intellectually feeble pap should never pass as objective thought. The ongoing, good versus evil vapidity of thought, in which the authors are speaking from the good side of the vapid equation.

Anyway, he rarely, if ever annoys me anymore, simply because I’ve become somewhat immune to his typically inane and banal partisan chatter. Suffice it all to say, today he will say exactly what he said yesterday: Republicans are evil/Democrats are saintly. He’s become mind-numbingly boring. He’s become utterly predictable. He’s become to redundancy what Obama is to being thin-skinned. And he’s prevaricating just like the rest of the hopelessly partisan hacks.

As for the boredom, the same thing applies to Steve Corbett. Yesterday, Wifey and I were sitting here playing the updated version of Sim City 4 and literally laughing our ball bearings off at his expense throughout the entirety of his show. And that’s really saying something, because chicks don’t even have ball bearings without undergoing that newfangled and prohibitively expensive surgical procedure. Does Blue Cross pay for that?

Anywho, he hyperventilates his way through the frequent mangling of his words. If he went to school where one of the schoolmarms had one of those “Um” jars, in which coins were deposited every time a student uttered an Um, he’d be in hock up to his bulging eyeballs. He shouts and spits and stammers and stops and starts, and stupidly, I think he honestly believes he’s helping to change the world somehow. People, life’s too short to be railing against the machine day-in and day-out without reprieve.

He excitedly gets everybody all riled up, and he openly encourages them to challenge their government at every level. A child of the sixties, he has “Trust no one” written all over him. He shouts about democracy, he shouts about our precious freedoms and he shouts about our god-given rights. But, if you’re not in lock-step agreement with everything he spews, he then insults you by saying claptrap along the lines of, “You’ll grow out of it.” That’s his obvious elitist superiority complex oozing to the surface.

Seriously, these days, we chuckle our way through about half of his continual pipe dream of a show before reaching for the on/off button.

Lately I’ve been checking out the videos that have been recently added to the content on WILK’s Web site. And I even sent along a congratulatory e-mail to one of their on-air hosts. But then the back-and-forth devolved into a local talk show host wondering why Wilkes-Barre is the only city on the face of God’s formerly great Earth sporting potholes. (?)

While checking the site yesterday, I read Corbett’s latest post, which was little more than his continued hand-wringing about the war in Iraq. Which, in my mind, is a joke. Democrats are horrified at the thought of casualties of war. They are just too much for them to bare.

Wait. Let’s try that again.

Democrats are horrified at the thought of casualties of war, if the war was gotten into by a Republican. Oh, but when the commander-in-chief is a Democrat, well, then casualties of war suddenly become regrettable, but necessary. Yes, when Bill Clinton pulls the hair trigger, man’s continued inhumanity to man is completely justified. When Jimmy Carter finally sprouted a single testicle and gave the order to go, that was perfectly justifiable. When the deified Kennedy and the repudiated Johnson embarked upon what would eventually translate into more than 58,000 American KIAs, well, that was the former Cold War that necessitated all of that. Not really their fault. McNamara did it!!! Yeah, that's the spin! That's the ticket! The Republicans did it!

Spare me the feigned conniption fit spawned by rancorous partisan politics.

Getting back to Corbett’s recent post on the 4,000th death in Iraq , his superiority complex is on clear display for all to see.

I last saw Maria at an anti-war rally in San Luis Obispo, where she read the last letter her son, Michelangelo, sent before dying. Or was it Joseph who sent a letter to his mother? Did both sons send letters?

Sadly, I’m forgetting details as one death blends into the next. That’s good for the hawks. That’s the effect the masters of war desire. The warmongers want us to forget the human details that make the loss much harder to take. The White House wants us to go on with our lives.

Catch March madness. Don’t forget to vote for your favorite American Idol. Buy a new pick-up. Think Arby’s. Buy a NASCAR “Rest in Peace” Dale Earnhardt Jr. camouflage cap to wear to church.

Now, with that last paragraph he’s clearly suggesting that Bush, Cheney and the remainder of the alleged escapees from Hell think you are stupid, ignorant and probably even a little unsightly on the side. But since our hopelessly partisan word slinger has absolutely no way of knowing what they might really think, I honestly believe that his contempt for the people of, what he calls, Hard Coal Country, is really on display here.

Should I honestly believe that George Bush has seen people going to church sporting NASCAR “Rest in Peace” Dale Earnhardt Jr. camouflage caps, let alone, anywhere else? Or was that derogatory and insulting something conjured up by the erstwhile wordsmith himself for the purposes of further tarnishing the commander-in-chief of that other political party comprised primarily of ghouls, devils, Nazis, serial-rapists and those unfortunately ignorant folks who can’t afford to replace the sagging sub-floors in their doublewides? Namely, us.

Who is Corbett really speaking for?


Or himself?

Let us extrapolate, since the self-anointed, holier-than-thou purveyors of the ultimate truths are so easily prone to doing so.

It’s obvious that if you have a gun rack in the cab of your F-250, or a National Rifle Association decal on the rear window, Steve Corbett thinks you’re a redneck or a card-carrying member of the KKK or both. Or even worse yet, one of those half-witted, pick-up driving, basketball-loving NASCAR fans who enjoy watching some occasional television, throwing down a roast beef sandwich every now and again and who might be stupid enough to be hoodwinked into voting for a child-killing republican. You know, flyover country Americans.

Another pompous, self-important, hand-wringing member of the all-knowing, all-seeing intelligentsia has spoken.

And, why, exactly, would I want to partake of more of this infuriatingly worthless tripe?

Dude…I’m telling you, reach for that on/off button. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

This past Sunday, I spent two hours talking with Scott Koppenhofer, the…for lack of a better word, the commander of the fledgling Guardian Angels chapter here in Wilkes-Barre.

I snagged that picture from the dreaded internet. I probably should have taken one of my own. Yeah, how 'bout one with him holding some of my New York Giants collectibles. My house, my rules. No?

I originally intended to write about our encounter yesterday, but it wasn’t a formal interview as much as it was a rambling, meandering two-hour gabfest. Therefore, I found it somewhat difficult to put it into some sort of context that would be easy to follow, or even make total sense. Perhaps I simply drank too much on Sunday. Got me. Whatever.

I guess this would make for a good starting point. I originally scoffed at the notion of having his group on our streets because when I was driving truck, I listened to the Angels founder, Curtis Sliwa, on WABC, New York City’s AM blowtorch. And I told Scott that Curtis sure made it sound as if the patrolling Angels were an in-your-face bunch. And he agreed that it comes off that way on radio on occasion, as talk radio is often known for excess bombast and the like. He went on to explain that in larger cities with legitimate big city crime concerns and the like, it can be and sometimes is an in-your-face endeavor. But with crime being a much less minuscule problem here in our valley, this chapter would be anything but in-your-face. Actually, he said it would be quite the opposite.

He went on to repeat many times that this chapter would try to be an extra set of eyes and ears for the police. And he also pointed out that, since the Angels would be sporting their traditional garb making them highly recognizable, that criminals would be far less likely to commit crimes right in front of them. And with that I wholeheartedly agree.

I voiced some of my concerns with volunteer crime watchers overstepping their bounds, how that could hamper ongoing police investigations, and also how that could get people hurt right quick if they’re not careful and astute. I also pointed out that, since I used to get paid to babysit 200 seats filled with drunks and wannabe tough guys, I know my way around dangerous situations and how police officers handle those sometimes explosive encounters. Been there, done that. Plus, the fact that I’ve done two police ride-alongs, with a third one supposedly coming up soon.

And I also pointed out that the police scanner does not lie. If a firefighter calls in that he’s 10-23 at a fire ground inside of four minutes, then the people at the council meeting loudly decrying 8 and 9 minute response times are spinning untruths to further their personal agenda. And getting back to the not-so old days, if there are only 3 cops on duty, then there are 3 cops on duty. Again, the police scanner does not lie.

Now, Scott is certainly not new to the area, but he is new to all things policing in Wilkes-Barre. So I reminded him that the current administration of this city has done everything humanly possible to bolster our crime fighting abilities. And I also correctly pointed out that, since we now have more manpower out there on the streets, Wilkes-Barre’s recent wild west days seem to be behind us.

We covered the obvious shortcomings of this county’s scattershot 911 system. And I gave him plenty of anecdotal evidence to back that up. He said he’s heard similar rumblings about 911. And we then discussed when it’s probably more advisable to call the local number rather than 911.

I made him aware that I do not appreciate some Johnny-come-lately to politics and crime watching in this city taking pot shots at a police captain by way of a letter to the editor. The same police captain, I might add, that was but a patrolwoman responding to my calls for assistance as far back as 1980. Here was a smallish woman who stared down the drunkest and rowdiest of them who were more than willing to trade punches with a man over six-foot tall and weighing in at 220 pounds. And in that far less than politically correct era, I used to get a quick a kick out of that tougher than nails chick. And, yes, she once barked a guy into total submission, as evidenced by the puddle of urine growing all around his sneaker. Long story short, some of these police officers have earned our respect and admiration, and they should not be belittled in the name of political expediency.

Also covered was my unshakable belief that it is beyond naïve to think that every member of a given police department would both appreciate and openly encourage the active participation of volunteer crime watchers. For some, it’s akin to having perpetual trainees filling your ear and demanding your limited time. For some, it’s akin to an unneeded and unwanted distraction to the oft-dangerous tasks at hand. I’ll leave it at that.

I’ll say this, Scott went to great lengths to assure me that he and his 12 local trainees have no intention of encouraging entanglements, verbal or otherwise, with anyone they encounter out there on the streets. In fact, the exact opposite is true. He explained that very much of their ongoing training involves how to defuse heated situations, how not to be goaded into a needless confrontation, and knowing the varying legalities that hamstring their efforts. For instance, he said they cannot patrol on private property, which they were recently requested to do.

He also got into how they hope to mentor teenagers, do community outreach projects and slowly but surely, earn the trust and respect of not only the police department, but the trust and respect of the city’s administration and the general public.

I cannot speak for anyone employed by this city, but I bet him cash money that the obvious snub his group has received at the hands of city officials probably stems from my initial reaction to the news that the Guardian Angels were coming to Wilkes-Barre. Being that we cannot shake this now stubborn and grossly inaccurate perception that Wilkes-Barre is an overly dangerous place, my thought was, “Yeah, that’s what we need. Wilkes-Barre needs to be rescued from itself by outsiders. There‘s some more negative PR. Great.”

We also got into what I consider to be the over-politicization of damn near everything in Wilkes-Barre. We close an ancient firehouse, and all hell breaks loose. Hanover proposes replacing all of their ancient firehouses with a brand new one, not a freaking peep from the populace. Wilkes-Barre has crime (go figure), so council meetings all too often turn into shouting sessions and high-minded pontificating coming from those who would sh*t themselves and sob uncontrollably if they were caught on the streets of the Bronx after dark. Hazleton, Nanticoke, Pittston and every other local community has the same criminal element within their confines, but only Wilkes-Barre has the gaggle of self-aggrandizing activists spouting off incoherently all of the time. If big city crime has found it’s way to Wilkes-Barre, someone must be at fault and held accountable? That’s ill-informed tripe consumed only by those who do not travel very far from their homes.

Scott may not like my saying this, but we agreed that the folks living in this city couldn’t tell a real gang member from a teenaged wannabe to save their lives. And I went as far to say that if it’s black and dressed like a gangster, in this city, it’s a gang member, since this is an inherently racist community. I know how that works. A white guy is loitering nearby…not too suspicious. But when the black guy is loitering nearby…here comes that “suspicious person” or “suspicious vehicle” call to 911. That’s exactly the type of call that wastes the time of our police officers out on patrol. And if followed up on, exactly the type of call that breeds distrust of police officers in the black community.

As for patrolling the downtown instead of higher crime areas is concerned, he reminded me that his local recruits are still trainees as far as the Guardian Angels see it. And until they get some street level experience under their belts, he’s not going to expose them to areas or situations that they may not yet be ready for. Makes sense to me.

I’m rambling. And I knew I would.

The long and short of it is, Scott Koppenhofer is a smart, streetwise, thoroughly likeable and credible person. And he’s no newcomer to what he endeavors to do here in Wilkes-Barre. And he couldn’t stress enough that he and his group want nothing more than to assist the police department and thereby earn the trust and respect of the police department.

And in all honesty, I think he’s going to pull it off. And after having met him in a totally informal setting, I honestly hope he does pull it off. Where but a few days ago I was worried about our image as a city, now I’m beginning to think that with the passage of some time, some steady guidance and some capable persistence on his part, the Guardian Angels might actually add something positive to the city’s image.

And I think Scott now knows I’m not just another mindless idiot banging away on a keyboard wearing little more than a pair of briefs. I think he now knows that I’m ultimately passionate about returning Wilkes-Barre to some semblance of what it used to be: a wonderful place to call home. So when the localized version of the Guardian Angels encounter me riding my bike in the alley behind the theater after dark, they won’t have to approach me and inquire as to what I’m up to. They’ll already know that we’re doing the exact same thing.

It still amazes me to think about how many people I would not have met if I had never bothered to write on the internet. One day I’m expounding away, and the very next day I’m sitting in my parlor/toy room with a guy that knows Curtis Sliwa on a first-name basis. It still astounds me to no end. It’s nuts.

Oh, yeah, and I was only kidding about kicking Curtis’ ass. Despite my being a bit prickly when Wilkes-Barre’s oft-sullied image is the subject at hand, and despite my beyond weird sense of humor, his spirited efforts back in the Fort Apache days of New York City were far above reproach and what could only be called outstanding. Probably very ill-advised, but outstanding nonetheless. Better him than me.

So, there!!!

Somebody actually came and met me and they’re still alive to tell about it. The wonders never cease.

‘Til next time.