5-24-2008 A microcosm of the macrocosm

Please do not misconstrue the following couple of paragraphs as the anti-Democrat ranting of some far-right radical. It’s nothing of the sort.

Now that both Hillary and Barack have forgotten how to find NEPA on a map, you’d have to figure things would be, politically speaking, quiet. No more primary. No more visits from the candidates, the spouses and the kids. No more 2-for-$99 Obama buttons. And no more satellite trucks.

And then Sue Henry of WILK drops the latest bomb. Paul Kanjorski admits that the Democrats sort of, kind of lied about their being able to extricate our troops and our fast-dwindling treasure from Iraq. Nope, they knew it couldn’t be done. But, so as to get themselves elected in increasing numbers, they said they could and would anyway.

“I’ll tell you my impression. We really in this last election – when I say we, the Democrats – I think pushed it as far as we can, the envelope. Didn’t say it, but we implied it – that we, if we won the congressional elections, we could stop the war. Now anybody who is a good student of government would know that wasn’t true. But you know the temptation to want to win back the Congress, we sort of stretched the facts – and people ate it up.”--Paul Kanjorski

Predictably (sadly), the varied responses from the local citizenry have been one in the same, in that, they are familial in their adhering to strict, strict partisanship. Republicans are outraged. And the Democrats, are pooh-poohing Kanjorski’s ill-advised comments as being no big deal. When our guy “misspeaks,” that’s a glimpse into their darkened heart. Oh, but when their guy is called on his comments, they were “taken out of context.” It’s prevarication borne of the “party first-country second” dogmatic approach to fooling even oneself.

Personally, I found absolutely nothing shocking about Kanjorski’s inadvertent moment of truthfulness, because I already knew as much. Fact is, whereas an abrupt end to the war was concerned, they knew they wouldn’t do it, I knew they wouldn’t do it, and so did you. But you voted for them anyway. Dogma, baby. Shame on you.

The Democrats got what they wanted, power. And since they’ve had it, not a one of the multitudinous list of election year promises they tossed to us like candy to beckoning toddlers on the side of a parade have come to pass.

What happened to Nancy Pelosi’s “common sense” energy plan to bring down prices at the gas pump? Did she forget about that, or was she merely stretching yet another fact--and people ate it up? Wait. I know, I know. The evil Republicans nixed that plan, right? Bush did it. Yeah, and Barack Obama has miniature ears.

Long story short, the Democrats said what everybody wanted to hear, so, what’s left to do? They got what they wanted. The point is, you weren’t supposed to believe all of that.


You know, I read recently on a local blog that the author hates politicians, namely politicians with an “R” in front of their names, because they’re all liars and scoundrels and gerbil killers and not to be trusted. As for myself, I wouldn’t limit that growing list to the offenders from one side of the political aisle or the other, but that’s just silly old ignorant me. I mean, according to Paul Kanjorski, the Democrats sold you people a phony bill of goods, and you ate it up. So, in the name of fairness, let’s just say that both of our ruling parties--the elite--are comprised mostly of bald-faced liars, well-meaning nincompoops and factually-challenged socialists.

If you can put aside your much-trumpeted party affiliation for just a moment and begrudgingly agree that both of our ruling parties--the elite--are comprised mostly of bald-faced liars, well-meaning nincompoops and factually-challenged socialists, now we can get somewhere. Because, whether you want to believe it or not, the appalling lack of character on clear display in Washington D.C. is but a microcosm of the macrocosm.

Put bluntly, 8 out of 10 average Americans are either liars, nincompoops, factually-challenged and, I dare say, dishonest. Consider the retail rule of thought whereas protecting the physical plant, assets and monies of a given company is concerned. Out of every 10 people; customers, purveyors and employees alike, 2 people will never steal from you. 2 will steal anything they can get their hands on. And the other 6? Well, it depends. So at any given time, 8 of the 10 people you encounter might be lying, stealing and the like.

That said, why would those that manage to hoodwink their way into an elected office at the national level be any different? Why would a sampling of that group be found to be any more competent, any more skilled, or any more honest? If we suck, then they must suck, too.

Yet, we’ve got the pundits and the bloggers and the intelligentsia and the easily-led myrmidons telling us that only Democrats are to be trusted. Or only Republicans can be trusted. Only liberals. Only conservatives. Progressives. Traditionalists. Call them whatever you will. But be advised people, 8 out of every 10 people are probably ethically-challenged right from the electoral get-go. So don’t be so hopelessly self-involved with your own utter brilliance and get yourself all discombobulated into thinking your side is the purest form of goodness while that other side is the personification of evil.

Admit it. It’s a microcosm of the macrocosm. Truth be told, almost all of us suck to some indiscernible degree. And so do the people currently leading us to the edge of the abyss.

What to do about it? I dunno.

Try bending over and kissing your brain goodbye.

Despite what a discorporated few at WILK would have you believe, Wilkes-Barre is clawing it’s way to respectability.

No, it’s not perfect. Like any other third-class city in this troubled state, it’s got issues. Namely, a lack of revenues with which to transform the place overnight. Despite the high-profile projects and the less-noticeable and less-appreciated improvements, Wilkes-Barre is trying to find it’s niche. It’s not what it once was, it’s being seriously reworked, but it just hasn’t found it’s niche.

They say it’s a college town. Yet, the only businesses I see with steady foot traffic emanating from the colleges are the beer distributors. And I don’t think anyone wants a Public Square lined with beer distributorships.

I don’t know how to summarize in a single word what the new Wilkes-Barre is. But, with a the gas station right across the intersection a ways topping out at a monstrous $4.04 a gallon, I’m beginning to feel vindicated since I was the guy that suggested to a city official that Wilkes-Barre should use available grant monies to make this city into Pennsylvania’s most bicycle-friendly city.

Yep, bike lanes where possible. Special traffic signals at key intersections. A city-long bike trail alongside Wilkes-Barre Boulevard. Bicycle parking racks throughout the downtown. And a bicycle parking area in the new intermodal garage with surveillance cameras perched overhead. Yes sir, the price of gas is getting you down? You can’t see your toes anymore? Well, with 12,000 commuters working in the city each and every day, why not bike to Wilkes-Barre?

No gasoline. No maintenance to speak of. No registration. No insurance. No parking fees. And no pollution. People, you can’t get any more economical that that. And for the easily-led, you can’t get any greener than that.

Bike Wilkes-Barre.

Maybe they should put me in charge.

From the e-mail inbox I disagree with you re the need for crimewatchers in the community. They are sorely needed in this crazy world, despite their foibles. I even suggested that we form armed militias in every community, by virtue of our Second Amendment rights. Every day we wake up to stabbings**, shootings, home invasions, bank robberies, mini mart robberies, etc. These people have declared war on the rest of society.

**(Knifes are by far the weapon of choice in America for assaults, murder, and attempted murder).

The drug problem is far more serious than we could have ever imagined. Dr. Colangelo of Clearbrook, in a recent segment on WVIA, said that over 75% of the public at large is hooked on some kind of drug (legal & illegal). Prescription drugs - controlled substances, opiates, pain kellers, which are commonly prescribed - are quickly gaining hegemony over illicit drugs. Pharmacies are at high risk for violence. These "legal" drugs have great potential market value on the street too. And with economy in the toilet it greatly exacerbates the potential danger. But the drug problem is probably unsolvable. The demand will always be on par with the supply.

I have long advocated killing these thugs who threaten people with guns, hammers, knives, and other lethal weapons, in banks, markets, etc. It is simple behavior modification. It would take just a few corpses - in a mini mart or a bank - with their brains thoroughly blown away to get the point across. It most definitely would persuade others to take their act on the road and out of NEPA. And it couldn't fail to greatly disrupt the cozy seller/buyer arrangements too.

They started a crime watch here in Old Forge a few weeks ago which was quickly discouraged and ultimately disbanded - by the police! I thought it was a great idea. They were patrolling the streets in their cars and bikes in the early morning hours. I felt much safer. But I also foresaw the problems that would eventually ensue:

(1) The police felt that the citizen patrols were showing them up and interfering with good police work. These officers, despite their dedication and value to the community, and like the rest of us, compete for conventional rewards....more perks, higher pay, advancement, recognition of their achievements. The more the crime watchers uncover, the more it makes it look like the cops aren't doing their jobs. A tendency could imperceptibly emerge in the borough councils to put a damper on police pay raises and other perks.

(2) Often the people who become crime watchers DO overstep their bounds. Rather than just be the eyes and ears of the community, they usurp the functions which should properly be that of the police, who have spent months and years training for the jobs. The basic problem, as I see it, is one of rank. The boundaries must be sharply delineated. Official policy must be written and strictly adhered to, and infractions severely dealt with.

(3)From what I have gathered here in Old Forge, there is little or no screening of these potential crime watchers. Thugs and crooks can easily infiltrate the organization. Counter-espionage training would be needed. But this goes with the turf. Nothing's perfect.

(4) The crime watchers have to pay for all their own expenses: uniforms, martial arts training, cars, gasoline, etc.....This flies in the face of free market principles. Nobody wants to work for nothing. This would eventually cause much brooding resentment. Reasonable reimbursement would have to be considered.

Yet I think the crime watchers would provide priceless service to communities riddled with violence and drugs. The problems must be faced and ironed out. It is no matter of question of IF, but WHEN.

471-XXXX......CELL 702-XXXX

You know, I do not live in Old Forge, therefore, I cannot comment on what may or may not motivate the police department in that neck of the woods. Based on what you wrote to me, it sounds like you have a very low opinion of your law enforcement types. I would not run any stop signs if I were you, since you bothered to publish what you did.

And I did not say that we do not need, or should not have crime watch groups within our midst. Although, despite their stated purpose--being an extra set of eyes for the police-- there is a undeniably troubling duality whereas the results of their work is concerned. For instance, while they do provide tips to the police about suspected drug dealers and drug houses, they also call 911 all too often with “Code 18” calls. The drug calls, usually the result of too many black people being in close proximity.

So, the police officer in that patrol zone responds, only to find that the “suspicious persons” are either no longer on the scene, or guilty of nothing more illegal than loitering in front of the pizza parlor. In effect, the crime watchers are dictating the route to the police officer.

Right here in the Nord End, we’ve got residents clamoring for extra patrols at Dan Flood School after dark. And still others requesting much more attention be paid to the playground/ballyard on Washington Street all day long. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But, if an officer truly intends to keep an eye on areas such as those only to be chasing ghost “Code 18” calls or ineffectual “suspicious persons” calls all shift long, nobody wins. Nobody gets that which they really want or need.

Anybody can be an extra set of eyes for the police. But with those eyes has to come a brain. Did I just see a drug deal go down? Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Will that car still be parked there after I call 911, after 911 finally dispatches the call and after the police officer arrives on the scene? Probably not. Actually, no way. So, do I call anyway and waste his time? Do I pull him away from his intended route? And what if I’m not absolutely 100% certain that what I just witnessed was a crime taking place? Do I call just in case?

Point blank, crime watchers should not be patrolling anything. For the most part, your crime watchers are just average, well-meaning folks. And as far as I’m concerned, they should not be injecting themselves into the middle of any situation that could become explosively violent within the blink of an eye. Trust me, there is no better teacher than experience. And as someone who used to get paid to baby-sit those sporting plenty of beer muscles all night long, you had better have some rudimentary fighting skills when the fur gets to flying in great abundance.

When an unusually-long blade is flashed, you had better to able to fend that thing off. When the nun chucks get to flying, your reflexive reaction had better be right or else. When the lunatic swings the crutch at your skull, you had better be able to sweep his legs faster than he can swing that crutch. A homemade nightstick? Think fast! What’s worse, a mightily bruised forearm, or a fractured skull? And all of these scenarios, which, by the way, I survived quite skillfully, are reminiscent of the “old days.” These days, the idiots will not get all sweated up trying to beat on you. No, these days they will put a couple of rounds through you.

Consider what the new Guardian Angels here in Wilkes-Barre have been up to in advance of patrolling the streets in earnest…studying karate. Their intent is not to go Bruce Lee on anybody. Their sole intent is to be able to defend themselves if and when something that seemed like no big deal only moments before suddenly goes violently awry. And, out on the streets, the potential for violence is inherent in almost any contact made with the populace after dark.

With that said, should we have women and senior citizens out there patrolling the streets well after dark? Should we have middle-aged men with pot bellies running around looking for potential criminals? Should folks with no hand-to-hand combat skills be in search of what our police officers (very many of whom have military experience) are patrolling for? You’ve got citizens patrolling the early morning hours on bicycles and in their cars? Yeah, well tell them to be very careful as to what they wish for.

Society is out of control? Damn near everybody is a drug addict, you say? Okay, so why would we want to put well-intentioned but woefully-prepared people into the middle of that budding sh*t storm in the making? Did you ever notice that the cops worth their weight have specially crafted leather gloves? Leather gloves they immediately slip on when they’re even suspecting that trouble might be afoot? Yeah, well take a much, much closer look at those specially crafted leather gloves and then tell me again that out-of-shape, middle-aged people with no training to speak of should be out looking for criminals.

An “extra set of eyes” is one thing. And citizens on patrol is a whole other, potentially fatal sort of thing.

I say again, in almost all regards, policing is best left to the police.

From the e-mail inbox Greetings Sir,

Well I may jump around a bit with this e-mail so please forgive me on that and try to follow along. Also I want to be up front and make sure you understand I mean no disrespect to you with this e-mail. Sometimes my typed responses tend to have a tone to them that is not what I am trying to portray.

So yes Curtis did speak and did say what was quoted in the paper along with a lot more than what the paper printed. Of course you get only what they printed. Though I may agree with some of what Curtis says, I am also doing exactly what you said too, "Why blow into town for an hour or two and talk total smack on the local politicians when the members of your fledgling outfit are doing their level best to not make waves?" Let me say this, Curtis is not a politician. I think that is obvious. But his intent is not to embarrass the city officials. He is just a straight shooter and when he feels they are not supporting us and probably never will support us then he says what he feels, but more to get a response from the crowd and more involvement. Is it right? That is a matter of opinion which we all have a right too. Is it the way I would go? No, and I think my actions since we have started here have proved that. Though I may agree with much of what Curtis said and I am frustrated with the lack of communication with the officials I have seeked to speak to, I have tried to put myself in the Mayor and Chief of Police's shoes for the last 4-5 months.

I understand a wait and see approach, but also, if I was in their shoes I would want to meet with this new organization forming in my city and hear what they have to say. The Mayor has met with many other volunteer groups and other organizations in the city. So I ask myself why not us? Through his actions is the only way I can form my opinion of him since I can not talk to him. I have heard great things about him and I have heard the opposite. I prefer to form my own opinion and not take others. I also completely understand he is busy, but in 4-5 months I would think he could spare an hour and try to open a dialogue with us and see if we can be of help or raving lunatics. But I will continue to wait and try to handle things locally with tact and patience, because I live here and want to have that relationship with them. But as you stated in your posting, Our elected officials and some of their appointed underlings have gone well out of their way to show their disinterest in, and their displeasure with the sudden arrival of the Guardian Angels in Wilkes-Barre.

I have heard a lot of jaw jacking from some city officials about their support for us, but I have yet to see them follow through with what they say. At least the Mayor has not said anything and has nothing to back up because he has not put his foot in his mouth. I will give him that. But if you are going to make claims of meeting, make claims of supporting what we do, and make other promises, I would expect you to be a man of your word and be accountable. I am a firm believer in that. If I say I am going to do something or be somewhere , I do it, period. I have not seen that and assume they are just talk. So the Mayor is smart in that respect. But again, I am not looking for a hand out from the city, just a relationship. If a member of the community such as yourself can take the time to meet and learn more about us why can't others. I will continue to want to build a bridge with the Mayor and Chief of Police as will the person who I trained to take over the Chapter. He is level headed and on the same page as me and is open to work with them. Until then he will run the patrols and do his part in the community to help.

I must also say this e-mail may piss off a few of my supporters. I work well with the Crime Watch and plan to continue doing so. But (here is were I mean no disrespect to you Mark), I do not live around the postings of Wilkes-Barre Online and do not get all excited off the postings of one person, who has the right to his opinion. Do I see eye to eye with everything posted on your blog, no. But I am not going to lose sleep over it every night. I agree with much of it and some I do not. We are a free country and you have the right to post what you want. So though I do like everyone from the Crime Watch and will work with them, I do not get pissed off by the postings on here. I hope this does not ruin a relationship that I feel is helping the community and will grow into a great effort in time, but I am sorry Mark, I do not read your blog everyday. I am sure you do not read the Guardian Angels website everyday.

I also apologize if you meeting with me has strained a relationship you had with the Mayor. That was not an intention of mine. Apparently anyone who comes into contact with me or the Guardian Angels gets the cold shoulder and backs turned on them. I am truly sorry to have you put in that position. If it will help, "Mr. Mayor, Mark hates us and does not support us and he actually threw me off his porch with force and then spit on me and then kicked sand in my eye and told me to never step foot in his town again." (Maybe that will help)

Anyway Mark, I agree with you on the reaching out to talk, and that was all it was. I know we are not friends, but I guess meeting makes us that. I guess all the homeless people we stop and talk to are now my fiends because I talked with them. I guess that the D.A and A.D.A of Scranton and I are buddies now since they had a meeting with me today. Though the meeting was productive and very supportive, I don't think they will be running around telling everyone we are buddies. I really can't believe people have turned their back on you for talking to me. Is this high school? Because I think I remember an episode like this happening in school.

So in closing Mark, I hope we can keep an open dialogue without being labeled. I know you are relieved I do not lose sleep over these issues, as I am sure you do not. I apologize if Curtis offended you, but he is on one speed forward and everyone needs to keep up with him. He gets the same thing in so many cities and he does not have the time to build the relationships himself so it is up to the local members to do that. He may have gone about it wrong, but I still stand behind his beliefs for public safety and the vision of the organization. I will not hold anything against him for anything he said, just as I won't hold anything against the Mayor for not meeting with me. But I am forming my opinion of him from his actions, just as you are forming your opinion of Curtis from his actions.

So call me BUDDY and we will throw a few back some night. And don't forget to put me on your Christmas Card list and to invite me to your Tupperware parties.

Scott Koppenhofer
The Outcast

First of all, if you don’t live and die by Wilkes-Barre Online, there is something seriously wrong with you. I hope the Angels have a good health insurance plan, because you need some kind of prohibitively-expensive brain scan. Kidding.

I was not set off by Curtis’ words alone. It’s the entire picture that blew my mind. It is undeniable that this city is significantly safer than it was just a few short years ago. We had the residents of the city clamoring for an increased police presence, and a new administration that was promising to deliver just that. And if you’re addicted to “Scanner Land,” as I am, the proof is in the breakdown of the police calls. And further proof is the fact that we no longer try to patrol the entire city with as few as 3 police cars, as we were doing 6 years ago.

So, in my mind, things are trending much better, we’ve taken our downtown back from the miscreants and prostitutes, the mindset and motivation of our police department is much, much healthier, and nuisance crimes and the like now heavily outweigh the more violent variety. And with all of that said, lately, every time I read a newspaper or listen to my radio, policing, or the suggested lack thereof, is again a much-debated issue in Wilkes-Barre. And in my opinion, it’s giving us yet another undeserved black eye.

So, I’m sitting here while the Guardian Angels are setting up shop in Wilkes-Barre, creating the impression that Wilkes-Barre‘s streets are not navigable without bodyguards. Because of that, the elected leaders of the city are ignoring the many olive branches sent their way by the Angels. The Top Dog of Angels everywhere blows into town and gives us yet another undeserved black eye. The police are taking a wait-and-see attitude with the Angels, although, I suspect that they will be highly skeptical until proven incorrect. The Crime Watchers are annoyed with the administration of the city and making as much public noise about it as they can. And suddenly, much to my dismay, the Crime Watch has gone from being an extra set of eyes for the police to being an extra set of eyes for the Times Leader. And while seemingly everybody is playing politics, our neighbors get the mistaken impression that perhaps Wilkes-Barre isn’t as safe as we’re saying it has become. Maybe they’ll bypass Wilkes-Barre when they want to take in a movie. Now, which part of this should I like?

And I took particular exception to the Times Leader story about the condition of the Scouten-Lee playground. What, if somebody in crime watch doesn’t get their way, the city will be needlessly embarrassed? George from Wyoming Street didn’t run to the press with his frustrations about what goes on at Dan Flood after dark. He approached the police department and the school district. And what could be done has been done. And he’s happy about that. If you work with people, things usually get done. And if they don’t get done as you‘d like them to, is it then time to further sully the city’s reputation?

Honestly, I’d have to give you kudos on how you’ve handled the city’s snub of the Guardian Angels. You know the deal. The politicians would rather not have the Angels here, as, in their minds, it sends the wrong message. And I think their reaction is perfectly understandable given Wilkes-Barre‘s recent history. Well, to a point. In spite of everything, you did not go running to the press crying foul. Something you could have done. No, so far, you’ve stuck with the original game plan: Patrol the streets and let the politics fall where they may. And that’s the way I’d play it.

All I know is, when the people claiming to be selflessly working at making the city safer are adding unnecessary fuel to that persistent “Wilkes-Barre is Dodge City” fire, I’m probably going to react in the most cloyingly of fashions. And react in a way that will make me none too many new friends.

You see, I could really care less about most of the people making the news. What I care about is living in a great little city again. A city, by the way, that deserves at least a chance, and in spite of itself.

And fret not about my relationship with the mayor. I talked to him. He says he was not avoiding me. Although, I did swap deodorants. And I’ve got myself four V.I.P. tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Kirby Park come September. Oops! I promised not to make mention of that.

Oh, and I need the names of the people you invited to my upcoming Avon party. And can I get my Journey’s Greatest Hits disc back already?