9-14-2008 Reports of my demise were…

To those of you who bothered to ask, yep, I’m okay. I’m just fine.

No, I haven’t been doing much on this site of late, but that was by design. Last weekend marked the start of the NFL season, as well as my fantasy football league. So, rather than adding to the pollution that is the internet, I was scouring numerous and lengthy scouting reports, injury reports and the like in search of an edge. I’m not sure that I found one, but I did grab me a victory last week. And I suppose it didn’t hurt my chances much when my competitor lost all-world MVP Tom Brady to injury. Ouch.

Not that I want to hear any whining about injuries from him or anyone else. I suffered more than my fair share of injuries last year. Oh, and there was that disastrous opening month in which the Saints went 0-for-4 while my starting quarterback, Drew Brees, tossed 1 touchdown and 9 interceptions. Double ouch.

You should expect at least a weekly posting from me. But, right now, fantasy football is more important to me than smearing some heretofore unknown lady from Alaska.

From the e-mail inbox Okay Mark,
What gives?
Didn't get my weekly fix of your blogs...are you okay?

I need to know what you're thinking about already! In the political sense, that is: what do you think about Gov. Palin, why on Eath Matt dosen't Damon stick to movies and stop voicing his jack-ass opinion about issues he has no right at all to comment on, why are the Democrats sending people up to Alaska to dig up dirt on Vice President-to-be-Palin, why do you think Senator McCain picked her, and do you really think that all Christians believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old and that the dinosaurs died off only 4,000 years ago as stated by Mr. Damon.

And what, in the wide, wide world of sports was Obama thinking when he mentioned lipstick on a pig? And only a week after Gov. Palin mentioned the hockey mom's and pitbull differences.

Man, this is too much.

Let me know you're okay, man! Hope all is well with you and everyone.

Ya' Flucker!!!!!


Matt Damon, yeah, I caught that diatribe. If I want any lip from that spoiled numbskull, I’ll get it from the $5 video closeout bin up at Sprawl-Mart. He’s not even good at his chosen profession, but he knows best how to manage the world?

They’re trying to destroy Sarah Palin because they know their candidate all but blew it when he picked Joe Biden over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain responded as he did. Barack Obama provided him with an opening, and like Brandon Jacobs would, he burst right through that hole swinging that big forearm. If Obama would have just picked Hillary, this election would be all sewn-up.

And I have to say, being that I just enjoyed myself a two-week sabbatical from writing, it’s been fun to just sit back watch practically everyone pile on Sarah Palin. Long story short, I’ve been giggling a lot lately.

I think my favorite was this oft-repeated bit about how Sarah Palin’s family should be fair game for trashing simply because she had the temerity, the unmitigated gall to introduce them to America upon her being nominated. Okaaaaaaay! It’s the lady’s family stoopid! (?)

This from people who cannot or will not attach a name to their words?

And then there was this phenomenon in which I had youngsters preaching to me about Palin’s supposed hypocrisy because, as a Republican, she’s a “family values” sort, but her teenaged daughter turned up pregnant.

First of all, I raised two daughters. So, unless you’ve been there and done that, you need not lecture me about how best to raise a young girl in this turbulent, trying day and age. Basically, you do the best that you can and then hope that they make good decisions. Secondly, if one of my girls had gotten pregnant by the 11th grade, I guarantee you I would have been violently mad for about an hour until the thought of another little kid running around the modest adobe would have excited me.

And what’s wrong with promoting family values anyway? By promoting the longer, much more complicated version of “try to do the right thing,’ does that make you an ogre?

Here’s what we wanted for our kids: That they be outwardly respectful of others and their property, that they not kill anyone or get put in prison, that they stay far, far away from illegal drugs, and that they give themselves a better than average chance of achieving some modicum of success before taking on any youngsters. Is that imposing upon them our evil Republican “family values?” I suppose. What-effing-ever.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. We also stressed that they ignore the MTV version of reality in which everyone is pierced, tattooed, jiggling around half-naked on an overcrowded beach and just dying for a few same-sex flings. Family values? No, our overriding theme was, not everyone is or has to look or act like an asshole.

So, we got ourselves a couple of good, respectful, conservative-minded girls who managed not to get gangbanged in high school and who haven’t shone up on any Girls Gone Wild videos as of yet. In other words, they are not likely to become registered Democrats.

I don’t believe that Obama meant anything with that lipstick comment. But, politics being what it is, it was made into a mini controversy for a fortnight. Who cares? Not me.

“…and do you really think that all Christians believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old and that the dinosaurs died off only 4,000 years ago as stated by Mr. Damon.”

Honestly, I could care less about what Christians do or do not believe. The two women who dominated my formative years crammed all of that “foolish rules of ancient date” stuff down my throat for years on end. I listened politely, I went to confession and confessed to the lesser of my too-numerous-to-list crimes against humanity, I heartily chimed in with the Sunday morning chanting, and just as soon as it was up to me, I was out of there and never to return.

Funny though, just as soon as I dared to ask of the left-leaning, Obama-worshipping young folks what was wrong with promoting “family values,” I was verbally assaulted as if I was thumping on the Mother of all Bibles. What am I supposed to take away from that? In this upside down world of ours, it’s now bad to be good?

Anyway, I’m still here, still as opinionated as ever and not sure why having a pregnant teenaged daughter disqualifies anyone from being anything.

From the e-mail inbox Good morning,
It didn't take you long to join the Sarah Palin fan club. I have friends who live in Alaska so I make a habit of reading both the Anchorage and Juneau papers every morning; Therefore, I actually knew who Sarah Palin was when McCain made his announcement.

Ms. Palin has had a very controversial career. Alaska is a state with many problems most of which stem from political corruption far worse than that of Luzerne County. She has tried to avoid most of them but there have been serious questions from time to time about some of her actions. One thing I noticed was her proudly declaring her opposition to "the bridge to nowhere", a project she once championed. A problem that still dogs her is the firing of a state official for allegedly refusing to fire her state trooper brother-in-law. We will never know exactly why McCain chose Ms Palin but I am sure it angered a lot of republicans like Mitt Romney who saw the job as a ticket to the next party nomination. I know democrats who feared he would choose Tom Ridge, giving him an edge in Pennsylvania.

Right now I wouldn't bet a dime on this election. I can't really see anything wrong with either candidate, but, at this point, I will probably vote for Obama. Never voted for a democrat for president before, just want to see what it feels like.

Keep up the good work, I enjoy your slant on things.

I don’t know that I’ve joined any fan clubs since my Dick Tracy decoder rings days, but by choosing Palin, John McCain turned this thing into a horserace in a nanosecond. A horserace that probably would’ve have been one had the Democrats not turned their backs on the best hope they had, one Hillary Clinton.

Hillary versus McCain? Hillary wins. Obama and Hillary versus McCain? Hillary wins. Obama and Biden versus McCain and Palin? Rutro! Hang on to your hats, boys and girls! It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

So much for Obama being smart.

I first heard of Palin many, many months ago. And when I read what I could find on her, I figured she’d never be given serious consideration because she’d be too much of a breath of fresh political air. And then, lo and behold, McCain went and chose her. Needless to say, I was amazed.

And I’m sure there has to be some dirt that can be dug up on her, because, she actually has a record in which to dive into. Like McCain and Biden, she has a track record to thoroughly examine.

I see where Obama told a crowd yesterday that the Republicans “ are going to try to distort my record.”

Say what? His record? What fu>king record? !?

Seriously, what record is that? The one about handing out free condoms in the inner-city neighborhoods of Chicago? What in blazes is he going on about? Can you say…charlatan?

Is Obama more or less qualified to be president than I am? I can successfully manage a high volume restaurant or kitchen. I can drive commercial vehicles in excess of 26,001 pounds a half a million miles without incident. I can take the largest of the large termite colonies and send them packing in a quiet, but grotesque manner. When I so choose, I can help run practically any mayor right out of this town. I can build an HTML and Javascript based web site inside of an hour. I can bicycle 4,000 miles a year, with kayaking stints thrown in for effect. And I can stare down or beat down 200 seats full of rowdy drunks when need be.

Tell me, can Barack Obama do any of that? No? That’s what I thought.

And based on his beyond threadbare resume he is always so reluctant to discuss, what can he do that I can’t do? Read from a teleprompter? Shoot a hoop? Talk smack?

Really, what of his record? He gave out free condoms while registering voters to be Democrats. He preferred the church with the hate-filled, crazy preacher. He’s a long political ally of the guy who used to attack federal buildings with explosives. Tony Rezko anyone? He became a “Christian” when it became obvious to him that it was politically expedient to do so.

His record? Which record would that be? I know, the one he refuses to talk about. The one the media won’t get in to. The one that gets him to crying dirty and unfair “politics as usual” every single time it’s brought up.

If ever there was a political candidate on the national stage in waiting of a devastating October Surprise, this is the one. Know why? Because in politics, sooner or later, everything comes out.

What I want to know is, why wouldn’t that state official in Alaska fire a rogue state trooper who was so obviously abusing his power and presenting a clear and present danger to those around him? And what about that law requiring police officers with PFAs on the docket to surrender their weapons?

I don’t know if Palin abused her power, but something doesn’t sound right with this dude.

No biggie. He’s a couple thousand miles away from us.

Stay in touch.

I was reading on a local blog what the author thought should be done about our welfare programs as they currently exist. Not a problem, mind you. We’re all entitled to our varying opinions until the Democrats finally resurrect and expand the Fairness Doctrine to include the internet.

The biggest problem with reforming welfare is that far, far too many of the people on public assistance would be absolutely, unequivocally destitute without that taxpayer-provided safety net. Put bluntly, without that help, they would have nothing to speak of and would have nothing to be hopeful about. Sound like a recipe for further societal decay?

And I know that being on welfare should not be a career choice, so to speak. And I know that the system is abused by the able-bodied, the young folks who should probably be doing more than they are to improve their lots in life. And, yes, I was on welfare from the age of 12 to 17. But I’ll not further bore you with any of my many trials and tribulations.

More often than not, the people noisily demanding welfare reform sound exactly like the folks arguing for prison reform, in that, they know not of which they speak.

Wifey does this every now and again. She goes off about how those in prison have it so cushy. You know the drill, they have weights and cable television and air-conditioners and internet access and free education and (insert more goodies here).

The fact is, they don’t have all of that. At least, not in any prison I’ve been in. Thanks to a former employer, I’ve been in just about every county, state and federal prison on the eastern side of this state. Have you ever been in the LCCF? The county drunk tank? The work release trailer? The house for minimum offenders? The aged juvenile facility? How about Retreat? Chase? Waymart? Muncy? Minersville? Have you ever seen the bowels of these places?

I have.

Trust me, the very last thing any prison is is cushy. I think if most people could spend just 8 hours inside of Chase, they’d never even think of running a red light again. They’d never throw another cigarette butt on a sidewalk. And they’d rethink this jaywalking bit.

If by tomorrow morning you are stabbed, beaten, raped and made homeless, you’ve still got it a helluva lot better than any inmate housed in any of those aforementioned correctional facilities has it. They are utterly dank, they are overcrowded, they are overly hot inside and they are crushing to the soul as well as the mind. If you are forced to choose between living in Chase for a single year or fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan for two years, opt for the bullets whizzing past your ear and count your many blessings. Trust me, it’s that bad.

And in most cases, so is being dependant on welfare.

To the reformers I would ask, okay, so what do we do with the 16-year-old girl living with her baby in a subsidized apartment smaller than my closet? What do we do with the girl with no rugs, barely any furniture, an ancient television with no cable sitting atop stolen milk crates, a mattress on the bedroom floor passing as bedroom furniture, the girl with far less education than she needs, no employable skills to speak of and little or nothing to look forward to other than the next W.I.C. check? What do we do with her?

Get tough?

Forget my welfare years, let’s talk about the present. Thanks to my current employer, I spend many a day inside of the various and far-flung public housing projects in this area. I can’t get too specific, due to the built-in constraints about sharing privileged information and whatnot. But I have to tell you, even on your worst of days, you have it far better than any resident of any of these projects.

Are too many of them complete slackers? Sure they are. Do some of them drink all night and sleep all day. Hell yes, they do. Makes me jealous on too many occasions, but that’s a whole other literary exercise. Are most of them working or conspiring to better themselves? Not really. I think for most of them, they aren’t really sure how to see the light at the end of what can only be called a very, very, very long tunnel. The thing is, if you have no hope, why not drink or sleep or foolishly fritter the days away? What else have they got to do?

And living in public housing provides one with very little dignity when you consider the intrusive nature of the oversight of such a facility. Try this on for size.

I’m banging on your door at 8 in the morning. You answer the door half awake and half naked only to learn that I am dead set on barging into your smallish piece of the world for the purposes of inspecting for and controlling pests. Peeking out from behind your door, you decline my visit by telling me that you have no pests to speak of.

Nope. That’s not the way this works, little girl. You either grant me access right now, or you are violating the terms of your lease. This ain’t Harveys Lake, honey. This is public housing. Now throw some clothes on and open the door.

What? You’re embarrassed by the condition of your place and you are busily apologizing for it? Don’t sweat it. If you’re real lucky, I won’t check that box that denotes less than satisfactory health and safety conditions in your tiny, tiny corner of the world. You had better hope I’m in a good, forgiving mood.

I’ve been on the receiving end as well as the giving end of that exchange many, many times. And no matter which side of the equation I was on, I never really liked it none too much. You see, poverty provides you no privacy. Poverty provides you very little dignity. Poverty provides you with little more than continued poverty. What prolonged bouts of poverty provides you is contempt, mistrust and frustration.

Yet, very many of us that have never stood on either side of that dead bolted front door dare to tell us what needs to be done with those caught in that sticky safety net that rarely, if ever, releases it’s grip on those that it catches. No, you don’t have to have been on welfare to have an opinion on how best to reduce the welfare roles. But it would sure help if most of those would-be reformers understood the debilitating depravity that can be living on the lowest possible rung on life’s ladder.

You wonder why some have such giant chips on their shoulders? You wonder how some could be so comfortable with throwing the first punch and then asking questions later? Well, to understand what lurks in the hearts and minds of the downtrodden who get mocked and chastised by society at nearly every turn, you probably need to have been one of those folks who felt they unfairly had a scarlet latter--a W--attached to them. You probably need to see what it feels like to get new sneakers for the new school year (not the ones you wanted), rather than the usual hand-me-downs from the thrift store. You probably need to experience the indignity that is standing on line and waiting for free, substandard, 5-pound blocks of government-supplied excess cheese. You might need to see your Mother get all excited to find what she thinks is a gem, a steal, at the weekly rummage sale in the church basement.

How should we go about reforming welfare?

How about providing the recipients of welfare with a free two-year degree from the local community college? How about, rather than putting gauze and tape over wounds that will likely grow more gaping with each passing year, how about empowering people to do better for themselves? How about giving them much more than what they currently have…a chance.

In the not so long run, what costs us more? A free, all expenses paid trip to L.C.C.C., or a single mother and her gaggle of dependents stuck in the debilitating financial and social morass that is being on welfare?

In too many cases, it matters not how people got there. What matters most is how to get them out of there. And if they can’t get themselves out of there all by their lonesome, then we have to provide them with the escape vehicle.

Take it from me, the shell-shocked kid that was practically raised on welfare, the frustrated, agitated kid that was provided with the free, all expenses paid trip to L.C.C.C.

They didn’t turn me into a Pulitzer Prize winner, a P.H.D, or a community organizer. What they did was to provide me with the opportunity to one day be productive, self-sufficient and staunchly self-reliant. They gave me a chance. What more could I ask of society? And while I can’t say I made the most of it, I know it led me to places I would have never gone without it.

To me, getting real tough with the slackers, the hangers-on and the abusers of the welfare system sounds all great and all. And in the short term, it makes perfect financial sense. But what of the longer term? If we get really tough with a welfare mom, then what sort of future will her kids have? Wouldn’t it be better and make much more sense for her monthly welfare check to be partially dependent upon her children’s grades at the local community college? Or perhaps, even at the high school level?

A 2.5 grade point average? Full benefits. Anything less and we’re talking about a probationary period and a possible reduction in benefits? Does that sound fair?

I dunno.

It’s just that it seems to me that if we’re hoping or demanding that those on the public dole become self-sufficient, there’s no better way of making that happen then by providing those people with what they truly lack in the first place: an education to some degree and some employable skills.

And anything short of that, no matter how high-minded, reformist or great sounding it is, is probably doomed to fail. And in the process, more of our kids will likely fail. And when the poorest of the poor kids are all but doomed to failure, then we go all the way back to the oft-misdiagnosed subject of prisons being overcrowded. And for me, it’s not about getting tough with the parents on welfare. It’s about providing for the future of the kids on welfare.

Been there, done that. Believe me, it’s far from cushy. And pray in your heart of hearts that no one you care about ever has to go there or do that.

For what it’s worth, there it is.

Listen, it is Sunday morning, so I’ve got to get back to the scouting reports, the injury reports and sort through all of what the so-called football experts have to tell me. I’d love to stay and annoy you further, but writing on the internet will never be so frightfully important as is the NFL.

You have to keep things in perspective. And what’s more important than drinking and arguing about football?

Answer: Nothing.