Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Out of Iraq

Imagine if you looked out the window of your house in Wilkes-Barre and continually watched an Army of another country who looked different and didn't speak your language march up and down your street. I think you would object to the situation. Why can't my pro-war friends understand that?

It is time to leave Iraq. The original mission was to take away Iraqi nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Then the justification was to overturn a murderous dictator. Now it's to build democracy in the country. Can anyone say mission creep?

John Murtha changed the debate:

The top House Democrat on military spending matters stunned colleagues yesterday by calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said many of those troops are demoralized and poorly equipped and, after more than two years of war, are impeding Iraq's progress toward stability and self-governance.

The Republicans started to attack him and then thought better of it. John Murtha is no left winger and when he calls for a rethink, you should listen. Our local Congressmen have not chimed in. I don't know what Kanjorski or Sherwood think about this war since they voted for it. I hope big Paul will back Murtha but I'm sure Sherwood will take his orders and keep his mouth shut.

I haven't heard from Joe Leonardi about this issue or any other. I wish he would say something one way or another.

I received this email from Chris Carney :


Dimock, Pa.-Statement of Chris Carney, Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, in response to President BushÂ’s speech on Iraq:

"Today, I was happy to hear from President Bush that there are 40 Iraqi combat battalions serving their country independent of American troops. It is now time for 40 American battalions to come home, and as each additional Iraqi battalion becomes independent, another American battalion should come home.
Because of the efforts of our troops, Iraq is now nurturing a new democracy and on its way towards true selfgovernancee.”

Not a bad way to get out of this. If the locals are ready to take over let them. But get our people out.

Arlen Specter in Pittston

Specter explains the murder of the President

The chief architect of the "single bullet theory" was the Warren Commission's ambitious junior counsel, Arlen Specter, now U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania......While Specter managed to sell his "single bullet theory" to the Warren Commission, he had trouble selling it to the American public. A recent New York Times/CBS poll found that 77 percent of Americans rejected the Warren Report's conclusions.
For a list of Arlen Specter's other deceptions regarding the JFK assassination click here:
Fetzer (compiled by researcher, James Fetzer).

Specter invokes Scottish law on impeachment

Specter cited Scottish law, saying there could be "three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty, not proved." "Given the option in this trial, I suspect many senators would choose "not proved" instead of "not guilty," Specter said.

And let's not forget that he was convicted murderer Ira Eichhorn's attorney. Remember him, he killed his girlfriend and stuffed her into a box and left the country. The law caught up with him many years later and he was returned to the US and is now in jail. Not to mention the recent building naming incident.

On Monday he was in Pittston and attracted an enormous crowd of about 30 people and addressed the Ailto nomination and his hair cut. He managed to say a few thing that drive some in his own party nuts.

Specter said "there is no easy answer" for ending the U.S. military presence in Iraq, and he said Hurricane Katrina was "a disaster in every way." " It showed how unprepared we are if we have a terrorist attack," the senator said.

When U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, called for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. That prompted U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, to refer to Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran, as a "coward."

Specter said Schmidt's remark was "out of line." He was expressing his heartfelt views," Specter said of Murtha, "and I think they have to be respected and considered. I don't agree with his call for immediate withdrawal, but ... the reaction I thought was unwarranted." You don't have to agree with people in our society, but you have to give them an opportunity to express themselves and to consider what they have in mind," Specter said.

So after he talks some sense he gets into the TO and Eagles situation. From the Inky:

The senator says the NFL and the Eagles may have violated antitrust laws in punishing the wide receiver.

Sen. Arlen Specter, ardent Eagles fan and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, yesterday accused the NFL and its Philadelphia franchise of potentially violating antitrust laws in their treatment of Terrell Owens.
Speaking at a news conference in Harrisburg, Specter (R., Pa.) said he was investigating the matter and might refer it to the Senate panel's antitrust subcommittee.

Then he came to his senses:

Sen. Arlen Specter backed off a threat to have a Senate subcommittee investigate whether the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles violated antitrust laws in their handling of Terrell Owens. Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that he talked to lawyers in the Justice Department about the issue.
"I think it's more a matter for them than us because we've got ... a lot of matters which take precedence over this for our own time," said Specter, R-Pa.

This guy has been a senator since 1980 and how he even got elected in the first place, let alone continually re-elected, I wonder.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Luzerne County buy out

I know, I'm obsessed about this issue but we should all be pissed off about his one. Here is the latest from the TL:

In a nutshell, the county will spend up to $23 million in bond principal and interest over 15 years to save $25.5 million over the same time period, Commissioner Todd Vonderheid said at Monday’s work session.
The $2.5 million in savings factors in the replacement of some of the workers. Commissioners must keep the replacement price tag under $3 million to realize the $2.5 million savings, county officials say.

Great, the county may save some money in the next 15 or 20 years if they give a bunch of people a nice golden parachute. I have an idea, don't replace the employees that retire or leave for other jobs. They are going to borrow $11 million to finance this on top of all the other debt they have incurred. The whole plan hinges on not spending more on salaries. But can they resist giving out big pay raises:

The increases, approved by a 4-0 vote, bring Fischi’s salary to $82,000, up from $71,843, and Hyder's salary to $70,000, up from $57,423. That totals $22,734 more in salary between the two posts, but county board of commissioners Chairman Greg Skrepenak said the increase is more than covered by savings the board gained in September, when it eliminated the position of deputy warden of support, held by Joe Morris.
Whether there is an actual savings is debatable.

I get extra stuff to do at work all the time but I don't get a nine grand raise!

I hoped when Makowski and Pizzano left that things would be different but they are not. The buddies and relatives still get preferential treatment.

We don't need no stinking Arena

Remember the big fight over building the Arena. A group calling it self Taxes No! With the help of a few local radio talk show hosts led the opposition against it. The issue was if Luzerne County should guarantee a bond issue to finance the construction of the building. If the venture failed homeowners would have been on the hook for about fifteen bucks each to pay off the bonds. The forward thinking people of Arena Yes headed by State Rep. Kevin Blaum argued it was a risk worth taking. The Commissioners (cowards) at the time wouldn't take a position and punted the issue to a referendum. The question lost by the slimmist of margins and it was time for Plan B. A few months after that vote the slimeballs (commissioners) raised property taxes by 25% and not a peep was heard out of the Arena opponents who billed themselves as fiscal watchdogs.

Then Plan B kicked in, we got a great facility that has been a runaway success and has spurred development all around it. The building has about 3000 less seats than if it was properly financed but as someone pointed out to me, it was probably a good thing that the Commissioners don't have a say in running the place. It would have turned into another patronage cow for the politicians instead of being run in the professional way that it is.

But the fight wasn't over, the W-B Twp. council wanted a cut. It got pretty nasty when one member of that illustrious body called Kevin Blaum "a bum off the Street."

Look at it today. The Arena was built on an old strip mine and many businesses have opened nearby. It was wasteland and now it's the busiest retail area in the county. The stores probably employ as many people who live in the town (about 3000). Then I saw this in the TL:

W-B Twp. budget OK'd; r esidents get $35 back Council passes a spending plan that features a $70,000 surplus in the general fund.

Council gave the 2006 budget a second and final reading and passed it unanimously at Monday's council meeting. The budget has no tax increases, said Mayor Carl Kuren. Building and zoning permits are expected to generate $200,000; special police services, such as traffic control at Wachovia Arena, are expected to produce $300,000; and a levy on ticket sales from the arena is expected to produce $300,000.

So they get $600,000 from something they opposed because they were too short sighted to see the benefit. The article didn't mention that it might be the only town in PA that doesn't charge to pick up trash and that they run a shuttle service around town.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Little Ricky won't go home

A friend pointed this out on Capitol Buzz today:

Santorums Park In A Handicapped Spot?

A Buzz reader reports seeing one of Rick Santorum's cars parked in a handicapped parking spot at the Tyson's Corner mall in Virginia over the Thanksgiving weekend and then saw Mrs Santorum carrying bags of stuff to her handicapped parking spot.
1) This guy is never in PA.
2) He doesn't just cut programs to help the disabled. He also takes their parking spots.
3) His little shopping spree did more to help the VA economy than his Senate career has done to help the PA economy.

I'm not jumping to conclusions as his wife may very well have a handicap parking permit due to her back problems. As pointed out in this ABC story she had a rough time after being over manipulated by a chiropractor. But she sued the Doctor and got a nice award despite her husband's opposition to such awards:

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., says that the No. 1 health care crisis in his state is medical lawsuit abuse and in the past he's called for a $250,000 cap on non-economic damage awards or awards for pain and suffering. "We need to do something now to fix the medical liability problem in this country," he declared at a rally in Washington D.C., this past spring.

But Santorum's wife sued a doctor for $500,000 in 1999. She claimed that a botched spinal manipulation by her chiropractor led to back surgery, pain and suffering, and sued for twice the amount of a cap Santorum has supported.

But the fact is that Santorum has sponsored or co-sponsored a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages two times — even though he testified in his wife's case against the doctor.

But Santorum agreed enough to tell the jury that he had to carry the laundry upstairs for his wife and that, because she suffered humiliation from weight gain, she no longer had the confidence to help him on the campaign trail. The jury was so moved it voted to award Karen Santorum $350,000.

"That's where again you're misled is that a lot of, there was cumulative damages,""he said. "The medical bills, lost income, all those other things that were out there."

Those medical bills totaled $18,800, yet she sued for $500,000. And lost income? The judge made no mention of that when he slashed the jury's award in half, saying it was excessive.

Lost income? Last I heard she stays home to school their kids. And they live in Leesburg, Virginia and bill the Penn Hills , PA school district for the cost. From the AP:

HARRISBURG -- The dispute over tuition that the Penn Hills School District paid for the children of U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., to be educated via computer at their Virginia home has revealed a basic flaw in Pennsylvania's 2002 cyberschool law. The district paid more than $100,000 for the three years that Santorum's five school-age children attended the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, headquartered in Midland.

The Penn Hills school board contends it should not have had to pay the Santorum children's tuition because the family actually lives in Virginia, even though the senator and his wife also own a house in the district.
The Pennsylvania Republican's children had been enrolled in the school since the 2001-02 school year.
In November, amid publicity about a school board member's criticism of the arrangement, Santorum agreed to withdraw his children from the cyberschool and resume homeschooling them.

Neither the cyberschool nor the senator has offered to reimburse the school district, and Santorum has said he did nothing wrong. Penn Hills school board member Erin Vecchio said Santorum has never lived in the district, despite owning a two-bedroom house that was assessed at $106,000 last year. His nearly four-acre property in Leesburg, Va., was assessed at $757,000 this year, according to tax records.

If he wants to live in Virginia and home school his kids that's his business but don't bill the people of Pennsylvania for the privilege. And if you want caps on lawsuits, practice what you preach. He has pulled off quite the feat, giving the appearance of being both a hypocrite and a crook.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Star Wars

Bush has been accused of many thing but this one takes the cake. From Yahoo News:

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada's defense Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Klaatu warned us not carry the weapons of war into space or face annihilation from the rest of the neighborhood. If the Vogans are really coming you want to drink a Pan Gallatic Gargle Blaster.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania

This is an important but often ignored office in the Commonwealth. Remember Mark Schweiker became Governor after Tom Ridge went to Washington to head up the Homeland Security Department. Ridge will be long remembered (or not) for raising the terrorist alert level even when he didn't want to do it. But when the poll numbers of the boss start to dip you have to do your part by scaring the hell out of everybody. I'm sure it is just a coincidence that the threat level has not been raised since the election, but that's another topic.

Our present Lt. Governor is Catherine Baker Knoll who was elected Treasurer twice and has a solid following in Western PA. There are some like our smooth talking Senate minority leader Bob Mellow who suggested that time has passed her by. Besides calling her old and incompetent he once told a pay raise opponent to "get a life." She has also brought contoversy on herself by showing up univited to a funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq and denouncing the war. She also refers to the Governor as Edward G. Robinson, the famous gangster movie star. Then there is the parrot thing that I have covered earlier:

A yellow-naped Amazon parrot from the National Aviary in Pittsburgh sang "How much is that doggie in the window?" and "Alouette" to surprised senators Tuesday. The parrot, named Groucho, sat on a perch in a Senate visitors'' balcony and sang in a warbling, croaking voice for several minutes after Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, who presides over the chamber, formally recognized the bird and an aviary staff member with it.

I thought the leadership in Harrisburg liked parrots as the vote on the recent pay raise revealed.

So far two opponents have emerged for the job. I don't know much about either but I'm open to suggestions.

The first is The Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds Valerie McDonald Roberts. What is with these people with three names? How about Val Roberts. She is using a baseball metaphor to justify her candicacy and I can dig that. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Invoking the spirit of Negro League baseball greats once barred from the major leagues, Valerie McDonald Roberts launched her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
The Allegheny County recorder of deeds opened her challenge to incumbent Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll with a cross-state series of appearances that took her from the Homestead Grays Bridge on to Harrisburg and Philadelphia. She noted that no African-American has won a primary for U.S. senator, governor or lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania. "Similar to the Homestead Grays, the Philadelphia Stars, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the Harrisburg Giants, and other Negro League teams, competent African-Americans and other minorities have been shot out of the big leagues of Pennsylvania state politics," said Ms. Roberts, who was the first African-American elected to an Allegheny County row office.

The other is Montgomery County Commissioner Jim Matthews who is the first Republican to declare his desire to be the running mate of one of the four seeking to run against Rapid Edward Rendell. So far his claim to fame is that he is the brother of MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews. Check out My Take for a Machiavellian view of the politics involved.


Our little Fatcat became ill requiring an expensive and time consuming visit to the Animal Emergency Hospital. He will be OK but will require medication over the next few weeks. As anyone who has even had to medicate a feline knows it can be an adventure. Which reminded me of this classic.

How to give a cat a pill

1) Pick cat up and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat's mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2) Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.

3) Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

4) Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right fore-finger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

5) Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6) Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat's throat vigorously.

7) Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8 ) Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9) Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink 1 beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse's forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10) Retrieve cat from neighbor's shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard and close door onto neck to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11) Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of scotch. Pour shot, drink. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus jab. Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss-back another shot. Throw Tee shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

12) Ring fire brigade to retrieve the fuc-ing cat from tree across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil-wrap.

13) Tie the little bastard's front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of fillet steak. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.

14) Consume remainder of Scotch. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.

How to Give A Dog A Pill:

1) Wrap it in bacon and toss in the air

Friday, November 25, 2005

The usual suspects

Will there be a price to paid by our local legislators over the pay grab debacle? Probably not. Despite a recent poll showing widespread dissatifaction with Harrisburg and 6 in 10 saying they are less likely to vote for their local yokel if they voted for the pay raise no serious opposition has emerged to any of our local Represenatives. In Luzerne County and NEPA if you get elected the first time you will probably be there for life. Shall I go down the list; Dan Flood, Marty Murray, Paul Kanjorski, Charlie Lemmond, Bob Mellow, Joe McDade, Ray Musto, George Hasay, etc. etc.....

If there was ever a time for a civic minded person who has considered running for office this is it. When you look at the the performance of the state and national governments it's there is an opening for someone to take advantage of the throw the bums out sentiment out there. I think this is a great opportunity for Joe Leonardi who is seeking the Republican nomination in the 11th Congressional district and Chris Carney the Democrat who may knock off Don Sherwood in the 10th.

Back to the state house and the lack of candidates locally. The only Luzerne County lawmaker that did not vote for the payraise was John Yudichak (D-Nanticoke) or Yuddy as my blog buddy Bill Fitz likes to call him. I haven't heard any noise about taking on any of them except for the usual suspects that may take on Kevin Blaum. I like Kevin and think he has done a very good job. I remember when he was a teacher at Bishop Hoban High School and was elected to the W-B city council. Then he beat long time state rep Bernie O'Brien and we have been sending him back ever since. My fondest memory of him is the 1976 presidential campaign when we both worked for Jimmy Carter, my first political experience. He voted for the pay raise and deserves opposition but no serious candidate has come forward. According to the local papers Stephen Urban is considering another run. The last time he ran against Kevin he got clobbered but ran such a good campaign that Blaum even complented him. The other potential candidate is Christine Katsock who ran last time. If my memory is right she has run for state rep, council, W-B mayor and school director. She is becoming Wilkes-Barre's version of Harold Stassen

Phils deal Thome

The Phillies have traded slugging first baseman Jim Thome to the World Champion White Sox for center fielder Aaron Rowand. They also got two pitching prospects and agreed to eat $22 million of the money owed to him over the next three years. The notoriously cheap Phillies are going to pay a player to hit home runs for another team, that's a first. With the emergence of Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard this was inevitable. But I'm sorry to see him go. How can you not like the aw' shucks, fan friendly, great teammate, 400+ career home run country boy.

This trade make sense for both teams since World Series MVP 1B Paul Konerko is a free agent and may sign with another team and the Phils need a center fielder. Kenny Lofton had a great year platooning with Jason Michaels but with his age and injury problems the Phillies decided not to keep him. I have to congratulate new General Manager Pat Gillick for making a creative trade and not letting a first base controversy drag on throughout the winter. But Ryan Howard is no guarantee of success as other Rookies of the year have shown. Can anyone say Ben Grieve?

State Senate 20th district

Who wants to be a state senator raise your hand? Two more candidates made it official that they are seeking to replace retiring Charles Lemmond
in the State Senate. As reported earlier Harrisburg insider Lisa Baker and chiropractor David Madeira have announced their intention to seek the Republican nomination for the seat.

One of the new candidates has a strong background in education and has experience dealing with property tax issues. From the TL:

Russell Bigus, a parochial school principal and president of the Dallas School Board, has entered the increasingly crowded Republican race for state Sen. Charles Lemmond’s seat in 2006. Bigus, a 34-year-old Dallas Township resident, works as principal of Regis Elementary School in Forty Fort. He has a master’s degree in biology from East Stroudsburg University, with a concentration in wildlife research.

If elected, Bigus said he would focus heavily on tackling property tax reform, quality deer population management, rising health care premiums and out-of-state garbage hauling through the area. He said he would never vote to accept a pay raise for his post while in office.

The other new candidate is Jackson Township Republican Ronald Chvotzkin. He is motivated by a frustration in dealing the mental health system. From the CV:

He decided to enter the race after experiencing problems finding help for his daughter, Heather, who has a mental illness and bulimia. If elected, Chvotzkin said he will work to pass laws protecting the rights of the mentally ill.

Chvotzkin vowed not to take a pay raise if elected and called himself a "people's candidate" There will be no back room deals or nepotism," he said. "The wealthy people have too much control and the poor are getting poorer and the middle class are feeling the squeeze. I'm running to help the people." Chvotzkin said he will maintain offices in every county of the 20th District and they will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He supports eliminating the property tax with a tax based on income and wants to restore funding to special education. In addition, Chvotzkin said he will work to create more high-paying jobs in the district and reduce health insurance premiums. "If school districts eliminate the middle man and purchase health insurance right from the source, they can save $300 to $400 a month per family," he said.

He wants to be an advocate for the mentally ill, bashes the rich, wants to move to a tax system based on income and increase funding for special education. Sounds like a Democrat to me. Hopefully a serious Democrat will get into this soon.

And we can expect at least one more person to throw their hat into the ring if this report in the TL tells us anything:

Republican Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty is also interested but has not yet announced his plans.
Rob Jacobs, chairman of the Friends of Haggerty campaign committee, released a statement Monday saying Haggerty has received an "overwhelming" level of encouragement to run based on his "impressive record of accomplishment as a mayor. Mayor Haggerty is consulting with friends and supporters in serious consideration of a potential candidacy," the statement said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Turkey Day

Animal Ridiculi and the FatCat have volunteered to prepare the traditional holiday feast in the Gort household. Somehow I think they have something other than pleasing our guests in mind.

The result may be some thing like this.

Thanks to Miss Cellania for yet more holiday fun.

Creative accounting and more of the same

I think the majority Commissioners and all their consultant buddies must be drinking a lot of Guinness because their latest scheme strikes me as being "brilliant." From the CV:

Luzerne County taxpayers won't know until next week the exact amount the county will save by buying out 186 higher-paid employees. Commissioners will need to borrow approximately $11 million at their Nov. 30 meeting in Hanover Township to finance the buyouts. The $11 million loan is needed to pay employees a $20,000 bonus, $1,000 for each year of service and reimburse them for unused sick and vacation time.The estimated $2 million in savings were calculated after all the buyout's costs, including the loan's principal and interest are paid.

Let me get this straight. They are going to borrow yet more money to give a nice severance to people who make a nice living and will collect a pension with the hope of saving money later down the line if they resist hiring more people? And of course they won't bend the rules when hiring as this story in the TL alleges:

New county employee's brother OK'd a coaching job for Commissioner Skrepenak. H. David Jones, the brother of Crestwood School Board member Bill Jones, has started working in the Luzerne County property and supply department for $9 an hour, raising questions about whether politics have been removed from the county hiring process as promised. Bill Jones voted to hire Commissioner Chairman Greg Skrepenak as Crestwood's head football coach, then voted again last year to reappoint him despite concerns from some school board members over the amount of time he was devoting to the program. Meanwhile, Skrepenak voted to put Bill Jones on the county's Convention Center Authority. Jones' daughter, Krista, also worked as a $60-a-day intern for the county this past summer, hired through the courts but assigned to the commissioners' chief clerk office.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More pay raise news

After all pay raise furor in Pennsylvania now comes news that the Congress is playing games with their pay raise by voting against it but taking it anyway. In October the Senate voted against taking the annual cost of living adjustment as reported in the Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON --Senators on Tuesday agreed to give up their annual pay raise, saying they need to do their part to save the government a little money in light of the huge expenses from Hurricane Katrina and the growing budget deficit.

Congress is looking for ways to rein in spending, said Sen. Jon Kyl, who sponsored the pay freeze proposal. "It's hard to argue that this process shouldn't include our own salaries." It passed 92-6.

Voting against the pay freeze were Sens. Kit Bond, R-Mo.; Richard Lugar, R-Ind.; Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.; Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii and James Jeffords, I-Vt. Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Jon Corzine, D-N.J., did not vote.

That was last month. Last week, according to Roll Call, lawmakers saw their pay raise may a startling comeback.
Friday's passage of the $65.9 billion Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development conference report included a provision that earmarked some $2 million for Members' annual pay hike.

The cost of Katrina and the other hurricaines, the war in Iraq, more tax cuts for people who don't need it, exploding deficits and these guys want a raise. They have so mismanaged the country's finances that we all will be paying for it for a long time and they want a raise!

No one is asked to sacrifice, everything is free. The government can't pay it's bills without borrowing a bunch of money. No one is asked to pay more tax to support the ever expanding needs/obligations/choices of the national government. We are at war and our leaders do not ask for volunteers for our military or propose a draft to share the burden. The biggest threat to our security is our dependence on foreign oil but proposals to to reduce our addiction to the stuff are ignored. Laws like the Patriot Act are passed in the heat of the moment and the flaws in them are defended as being necessary. United States citizens are held for three years without access to the courts or being charged with a crime and that's alright. Read the Declaration of Independence, one of the grievances was actions like this.

Not only don't these people deserve a raise, I think we should fire them all.

The new Coroner

Doctors and undertakers are lining up to take the place of the late Dr. George Huddock as Luzerne County Coroner. The Time-Leader lists five candidates who have expressed interest in the job:

On the Democratic side, retired surgeon Peter Casterline and funeral director James Desiderio say they've expressed interest to party leaders and officials. Party leaders say funeral director John Corcoran, a Democrat, has also applied, although he has not responded to several requests seeking comment. Republicans James A. Petrilli, also a funeral director, and Dr. Dennis Gaza, a retired internist, have sent resumes to various state officials, too.

This is one job that should have absolutely nothing to do with politics and should be filled by the most qualified applicant but that's not the way it works. In another county I have lived in the coroner was a Podiatrist who succeeded a photography shop owner. We were very lucky to have Dr. Huddock as our coroner for so long, he was a trained pathologist and dedicated man. He saved the the county an enormous amount of money by doing his own autopsies and testifying in court. I remember having lunch with him a while back and he was talking shop, which was quite an experience. He explained to us how he had identified someone by rebuilding their face. The details were fascinating and he told the story in a way that didn't gross you out. He will be missed.

Gov. Ed Rendell has until the end of the year to submit a recommendation to the state Senate. His spokesman said people should not presume that Hudock will be replaced with another Democrat.

"The governor doesn't consider party affiliation. He considers qualifications and a candidate's ability to be confirmed."

We all believe that one.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Idiot watch

Nude biker at center of hiring concerns

Luzerne County Register of Wills Dorothy Stankovic said county managers told her she would have to hire furloughed worker Lisa Drozdowski if Stankovic tries to fill a vacant clerk job before a union recall provision expires Jan. 31. Drozdowski was found guilty last year of simple assault and lewdness for riding naked on a motorcycle during a June 2004 music festival in Nanticoke.

Last November, Drozdowski was sentenced to 18 months probation for lewdness and other charges related to the motorcycle incident and a drunken-driving charge stemming from another arrest. Bloomsburg resident Joseph Gronka, a dentist, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for allowing her to ride naked on his motorcycle. Police said Gronka drove a naked Drozdowski near Patriot Square. When police stopped the motorcycle on Orchard Street, Drozdowski propped her feet up on Gronka, further exposing herself, police records said.
After being clothed and transported to the police station, police said she tried to flush a pipe believe to be used for drugs down the jailhouse toilet and repeatedly kicked an officer when he attempted to intercede.

That must have been one hell of a music festival, sorry I missed it. One thing has been puzzling me. If she was naked when arrested, where did she hide the pipe?

Please stand by

We are experiencing some technical difficulties, specifically the power supply in my tower burned up and will not be back from the shop until Tuesday or Wednesday. In the mean time I'm operating off a WEBTV at home that is not capable of posting to blogger but I can still comment. Also a friend has generously let me use his computer to put up an occasional post like this one. I ask for the patience of my regular readers and the people who find Gort42 by accident.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Barry Goldwater

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

His most famous quote. The man was true to his beliefs and has always been one of my favorite political figures of my lifetime.

Some other gems:

To disagree, one doesn't have to be disagreeable.

The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government.

You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.

If everybody in this town connected with politics had to leave town because of chasing women and drinking, you would have no government.

You don't need to be 'straight' to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.

However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C," and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism

Steve Flood is back

Another sweethart deal is called into question again. From the CV:

Given the substantial amount of public money involved and the allegations raised by (The Times Leader) that there are connections among the principals of ChildCare and prominent county and judicial officials, the public interest weighs heavily in favor of openness," Superior Court Judge Mary Jane Bowes wrote in her opinion. "ChildCare's weak assertions involving trade secrets appear to be nothing more than a ruse to prevent public exposure."

A back room deal is exposed and our County Commissioners and all of their consultants can't hide.

A twenty year lease for $58 million is called into question by the County Controller. Who the hell makes a 20 year deal for anything? If I remember right the people who got this contract also made large campaign donations. There is a court battle about releasing all the information involving this contract with the county and the company involved trying to keep it all under wraps. But commonsense prevailed and our much maligned courts ruled on the side of the people's right to know. This is the job of the courts, not wasting time about the 10 Commandments, abortion and Christmas displays. From the TL:

Strengthened and rejuvenated by a new court ruling, Luzerne County Controller Steve Flood plans to take another shot at exercising his subpoena power to get answers about the county’s controversial lease of a Pittston Township juvenile detention center. The state Superior Court issued a ruling Wednesday to unseal information in a lawsuit that center owner Pennsylvania Child Care filed against Flood and two state auditors. The court said the company’s arguments that the court matter involved trade secrets "appear to be nothing more than a ruse to prevent public exposure." Flood said he will execute the subpoenas within a week or two because he only has a few weeks left in office.

The audit is eyeopening:

That paperwork said the facility collected the highest rates in the state, overcharged the county more than $280,000 and reaped more than $1 million in profits in 2003 because county officials were ineffective negotiators.

So our boys with an army of outside help can't protect our interest? I'm sure the Commissioners will use every legal maneuver they can to slow down this investigation until next January when Mr. Flood is out of their hair. That will happen in when the new party hack takes over the Controller's office and this whole matter will be dropped. Then the pension board will meet and Skrep and Vondy will actually show up and form a new majority, probably 4-1, that will jetison the investigation and lawsuit.

Maybe I'm just a cynic and this won't come to pass. I was discussing all of this with a friend yesterday and she said "what do you expect, this is Luzerne County."

One last quote from Steve Flood:

"What they didn't want out is the fact that they ripped off the county."

Local blog news

There has been some comings and goings in our small world of PA bloggers. A very welcome addition is Politics: Lehigh Valley Style written by one of the most knowledgeable people of Pennsylvania politics I have run into on the internets. He uses the handle LVDem and as the name suggests he will concentrate on the Lehigh Valley. But as his first few posts suggest he will give us a good dose of what is going on statewide. He is also a regular contributor to Keystonepolitics that does a great job of alerting us to what is going on around our Commonwealth. He and I are also regular commenters on GrassrootsPA that is written the head of the Young Conservatives of PA(YCOP) Chris Lilik who led the charge against the pay grab. Keep an eye on Chris, this is a young man that is going places.

On the going side Alex has stopped writing Pstupidonymous but is promising to come back with a group effort in the near future. He is another YCOP member who is not shy about blasting the GOP when they stray from being conservative. I have even lifted some of his writing and put it on this site because he just makes sense. It just goes to show -liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican -there are many things that we can agree on. I'm looking forward to his new endeavor.

If you watch the local news and want some inside baseball check out Beale's Bites. It is written by an employee of one of the local stations and has some great feedback from other people in the business. I don't watch much local news as the presentation is so stupid. Car hits tree, someone's house burned down, etc. all brought to you by Harry Hairspray, Jane Teeth with comic relief from the the weatherman. About the only time I tune in is election time just to see the candidates ads. I know, I'm weird.

On a related note the Blogfather is engaged in some mischief (surprise), over the last 2 days. He has been critiquing the local blogsphere without naming names. His point being that we should stop calling each other names and work to find some common ground. I'll drink to that.

Geek Stuff: This morning I tried to move my blogroll from the bottom of the page to the sidebar and succeeded in wiping out the whole thing. I don't want to tinker with it further as I'm afraid I will do more damage. Any advice is most welcome. When I bought this wizzbang thing I said I needed a kid to show me how it works. So if anyone out there has a teenager that understands HTML please send them over. I promise to send them back or maybe not, depending on your preference.

Our Incompetent Government

I read a very good article in The New Republic by federal circuit judge Richard A. Posner that makes some great points about recent events and the blame game.

When something goes wrong, we look for someone to blame, in the hope that by finding and punishing a culpable individual we can prevent a repetition. Sometimes this is little better than scapegoating, which is my reaction to the search for someone to blame for the failure to detect the September 11 plot or to discover that Saddam Hussein had abandoned his weapons of mass destruction. Intelligence failures, even ones that seem gross in retrospect (like the failure to anticipate Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor), are typically the result of the inherent limitations of intelligence rather than of culpable negligence. In the case of the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, however, it is easy to find culpable individuals at all levels of American government. This is fishing in a very well-stocked pond. Yet there is a danger that the excitement of the sport will cause systemic problems to be overlooked that may make the affixing of blame useless, except to vent indignation.

He outlines the many failures of all levels of government to prepare for catastrophe.

We have learned something important from the response to Hurricane Katrina. We have learned that four years after September 11, and two and a half years after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government had yet to devise an executable plan for responding to a catastrophic event in New Orleans--or, I imagine, in any city in the United States.
This seems incomprehensible. The planning that I have just described would not be costly. It would not step on any big political toes. The need for emergency planning was not only obvious (a series of articles in the Times-Picayune in 2002 had explained the risk of a disastrous flood in New Orleans in detail); it was explicitly acknowledged at every level of officialdom. So why did nothing happen?

He suggests that the government is busy with the wrong things.

Underlying the systemic problems that I have identified is the overextension of the federal government. It is trying to do too much. In the face of formidable challenges to the safety of the nation, of which we have had an abundance of recent warning signs--the latest being the threat of a lethal flu epidemic with which we apparently are not prepared to cope--the government has entangled itself in contentious, emotional, and (it seems to me) distinctly secondary issues. Matters such as abortion, fertility treatments, homosexual rights, affirmative action, religious displays on public property, capital punishment, voluntary euthanasia, and the proper treatment of people in vegetative states are not appropriate issues to engage the federal judiciary, or the other branches of the federal government. (All three branches managed to get involved in the Schiavo affair.) They are not worthy problems for national government in a federal system. The regulation of abortion only became a subject of heated contention when it was nationalized by the Supreme Court in Roe v.Wade.
Federal investigations proliferate. Judicial confirmation hearings become distended and absurd. The federal government continues its quixotic campaign of trying to prevent people from consuming an arbitrary subset of mind-altering drugs. It operates massive programs of re-distributing wealth arbitrarily, mainly to elderly people, many of whom could pay their own way quite nicely. It sponsors space travel, something the private sector can do perfectly adequately. The proper business of a national government is none of those things. It is public safety, which is gravely endangered, and which our government, and our political system, excited and distracted by a bewildering variety of second-order concerns, seems incapable of taking rational measures to protect.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More oil

The price of gas is down for the 5th straight week. President Bush has called an emergency cabinet meeting to find out what the hell went wrong.-Jay Leno

When these oil company executives walked into the Capitol building, all these senators and congressmen were scared and nervous. It's always a little nerve-wracking when the real owners of the place show up.-Jay Leno

The Washington Post:

A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 --something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

Oil companies posted unthinkable profits in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2005. The largest, ExxonMobil, saw a 75 percent increase in profit from the same time last year, earning a staggering $9.92 billion during the 3rd quarter, the single largest quarterly haul in history. Shell was right behind them, with $9.03 billion (up 68 percent), ConocoPhillips reported an 89 percent increase with $3.8 billion, and BP reported $4.87 billion (up 34 percent).

We win, pay raise repealed

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -A repeal of unpopular government pay raises became law Wednesday as the Senate passed, then Gov. Ed Rendell signed a measure that lawmakers hope will wipe away four months of intense public criticism and protect their jobs.
Tired of fielding complaints about their salaries, some lawmakers saw the repeal as crucial to repairing their reputations and putting the issue behind them as the 2006 legislative elections loom. Just a week ago, Pennsylvania voters demonstrated their anger at state government by ousting a Supreme Court justice.
The House approved the legislation on Monday. The final hurdle - the Senate's 50-0 vote and Rendell's signature -came 132 days after the Legislature, in the dead of night and without public notice or debate, raised the salaries of more than 1,300 public officials, including themselves and state judges, and sparked a storm of criticism.

These stupid bastards finally got the message after months of outrage by everyone I know that is interested in politics and many that are not. Since July, when they passed the bill in the middle of the night, it has been the talk of the town. I ran into conversations about it at the gas station, the local pub and especially the barber shop. Most of us get a 2 or 3 percent increase if we're lucky and these guys up their own pay by $10,000 or more. The defeat of Supreme Court Justice Nigro put the fear of god(the electorate) into them. It's not over, anyone so out of touch that they think that they could get away with this should find other work. Sure the defense will be "I voted to repeal." Why did you vote for it in the first place? I will not vote for any incumbent legislator next year.

Everyone across the spectrum was opposed to this. This is not a win for conservatives or liberals, Democrat or Republican or any other sub-species of the political landscape.

It's a win for the people of Pennsylvania!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Never Underestimate The Power Of Makeup

This picture is on Blondesense , thanks to Simply Left Behind for pointing it out.

A comment from a fellow blogger got me thinking, Danny who writes hints, allegations and things left unsaid had this analysis:

I think that the republican party is falling apart, however, the democrats have no rally point or over-arching leader to point the way. I admire some of the things Harry Reid has done thus far in his leadership tenure, however I think we need a top-down leadership structure with a big, bad bully pulpit at the top.

My response:

Danny, we will get that when we get to the Presidential race. I may be wrong but from what I have been seeing the Dem's are coming together and staying on message. Senator Reid is a very effective leader and is driving the Republicans nuts. He knows the rules of the Senate and is using them to make a statement. Governor Dean is stirring up the grassroots and the Republicans continually attacking him is taking the heat off the Democratic candidates. Let him be the lightning rod, he enjoys it. The issues in 2006 will be Iraq, corruption, the budget and the failure to look out for ordinary Americans. It is finally getting through, the GOP has sold its soul to big business and people who want to impose their religion on the rest of us.

Cynthia Ore and Don Sherwood

From today's Citizens Voice:

U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood should disclose the settlement that ended the lawsuit by his ex-mistress who accused him of beating her during their five-year affair, an official at one of the nation's leading watchdog groups said Monday.

"The public really does have the right to know this," said Craig Holman, the government ethics and campaign finance lobbyist for Public Citizen. "His employer is the American public, Pennsylvania's in particular ..

Ore alleged repeated abuse in a suit filed in June. A month later, Sherwood acknowledged the affair and apologized for hurting his family, but called the abuse allegations "malicious and baseless.""The only police investigation of abuse was of a Sept. 15, 2004, incident at Sherwood's Washington, D.C. apartment. Ore called 911 saying Sherwood tried to choke her as he gave her a back rub. When police arrived, however, she denied anything happened, according to a police report. No charges were filed. Democrats might also try to use Sherwood's affair by portraying him as a hypocritical champion of family values, political analysts said.

The cartoon says it all, if you have enough money you can get away with anything. A couple of commenters made some very good points. One of my favorite bloggers Carl of Simply Left Behind said: There's no excuse for this dick to still be pumping. And another made a good point: Maybe he should be the new Viagra Spokesperson, replacing Bob Dole?

This guy has to go, he has become a joke, except to Ms. Ore who can't tell us her side of the story.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Santorum challenges Casey to debate

When have you ever heard of an incumbent challenge an opponent to a debate? His numbers are bad and this is a sign of desperation. It's been a while since we booted a sitting Senator, I don't count Wofford as that was a unusual situation. The last sitting Senator to lose in PA was Joe Clark in the 60's.

There is a long way to go as neither are the official nominees of their parties. But Rick is running scared as shown by his recent attempts to distance himself from Mr. Bush. First he won't appear with him at Tobyhanna on Veterans day and in his own speech in Philadelphia he actually criticized him for the first time in my memory.

Sen. Rick Santorum took a rare swing Friday at President Bush, saying the war in Iraq has been less than optimal and that some blame for that lies with the White House.
Santorum, a conservative Republican and usually a strong Bush ally, said the unpopularity of the war should be shared between the White House and the media.

And he backtracks on Intelligent Design:

BEAVER FALLS - U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Saturday that he doesn't believe that intelligent design belongs in the science classroom.Santorum's comments to The Times are a shift from his position of several years ago, when he wrote in a Washington Times editorial that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in the classroom." But on Saturday, the Republican said that, "Science leads you where it leads you."

Maybe he should debate himself.

Send me here when I'm old and lame


DUBLIN, Ireland - A nursing home in Ireland has hit on a cheering way to keep up the spirits of its elderly patients -- by providing its own pub.
St Mary's Hospital in County Monaghan, near the Irish border with Northern Ireland, believes ready access to a good pint may help its patients -- average age 85 -- actually live longer.

"We would say the whole social aspect of life does extend the years -- it means the patients aren't bored to death," Rose Mooney, assistant director of nursing told Reuters.

The pub, which opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. and charges normal bar prices, had also led to an increase in the number of visitors, she said.
Having its own bar made the hospital, which has around 140 patients, unique in Ireland, she added.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Veterans Day

A day when we honor the men and women who have worn the uniform of our country and recognize their sacrifice.

Many have died and we are grateful to them. It doesn’t matter if it was a time of war or a time of peace. If you wore the uniform you did your part.

When Mr. Bush comes to NEPA and makes a partisan speech on Veterans Day he dishonors us all. He left it to Cheney to lay the wreath at Arlington, the first time in my memory that has happened.

From the TNR:

Moreover, Veterans Day is certainly not the venue for a president to attack the opposition party or single out a defeated opponent, as Bush did today. Towards the end of his speech, Bush declared, "While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." He criticized "some Democrats and antiwar critics" for "claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war." Then he did something that no president in recent memory has done: He took what could be read as an implicit shot at the man he defeated, explaining, "Many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in Congress this way." Bush then quoted Kerry's statement defending his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq--essentially holding Kerry up for ridicule, since Kerry is now a war critic. Do you remember Clinton criticizing Bob Dole in 1997; or Reagan criticizing Walter Mondale in 1985; or even Nixon criticizing George McGovern in 1973? Of course not--second-term presidents tend to co-opt, not condemn, defeated

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Registering drug offenders and background checks

The Luzerne County commissioners started a process that would force rehab programs and halfway houses to perform background checks on people seeking help to kick their habits. I'm not an expert in the field but I'm sure these checks will reveal a history of drug use and petty crime or worse. They are reacting to a recent sensational crime and the feeling that we have to try something to get a handle on the problem. From the TL:

Still haunted by the death of Mary Leo, Luzerne County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a policy that would force operators of area halfway houses and other transitional living facilities to document criminal and sexual abuse histories of program applicants before allowing them to relocate here for services. Commissioners don't know if they can legally enforce the policy because such facilities are not under their control and do not receive county funding.

"This policy was born out of the very tragic death of Mrs. Leo," said Commissioner Greg Skrepenak. "Many residents have expressed their concern that a lot of activity happening in our county is from people taking advantage of our system by coming here, using us, committing crimes and then leaving."

A Wilkes-Barre councilman wants to take it further as outlined in the CV:

Councilman Jim McCarthy proposed legislation requiring anyone convicted of drug felonies to register with the police department when they move into the city. City attorneys are reviewing McCarthy's proposed legislation. It is based on Megan's Law, which requires child molesters and sexual predators to register with police. "I believe this kind of law might have alerted our police department to the previous activities of the man charged in the murder of Mary Leo, a man who had an extensive criminal record before coming here for treatment of his drug addiction," McCarthy said. The law also might have alerted police to previous criminal activities of those arrested in Operation Main Street, which brought down a major drug ring in Wilkes-Barre, McCarthy said.

The aim of these proposals seems to keep "outsiders" from moving here and causing trouble. The last time I checked any American citizen can live wherever they choose and both these proposals have serious legal questions. I'm also not in favor of passing laws in the heat of the moment, witness the Patriot Act. Every town in America is dealing with these problems and I wish I had a solution. But the policy of locking up all the druggies has not worked. The tough nut is how to convince people not to take drugs in the first place and if they do, what can we do to help them stop.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bush in Tobyhanna

Mr. Bush came to NEPA in a campaign style stop today instead of the traditional laying of the wreath at Arlington. He started out by giving us a bunch of statistics on veterans health care that suggested that the government is doing everything it can for our men and women that have been wounded in battle.

He may want to take care of our people but the Republican Congress is not so interested. Or they are not interested in hearing from anyone who disagrees with them. From the Hill:

Senators erupted in frustration earlier this year after Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Jim Nicholson conceded that the department was more than $1 billion short for 2005. They will get a chance to vent again today when Nicholson appears before the Veterans Affairs Committee at a hearing on VA hospitals damaged by Hurricane Katrina. But lobbyists for veterans groups are most incensed at Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), the new House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, who announced Tuesday that the groups would no longer have the opportunity to make legislative recommendations at joint House-Senate hearings.
"We think it’s an absolutely abhorrent idea. These things were initiated somewhere around 1950, and they represent a crowning moment for our grassroots membership," said Dennis Cullinan, national legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

The Veterans Affairs Committee will not listen to veterans?

The election is over on to 2006

Lisa Baker made it official yesterday that she is running for state senate seat being vacated by Charles Lemmond. She is the second Republican to formally declare their intent to seek the 20th distcrict seat joining local Chiropractor David Madeira (who has a great website) and Ronald Chvotzkin from Jackson Twp. I hope Lisa and the other candidates get a site up soon.

There is only one issue in the election and she comes down on the right side. From the CV:

"I think it's appropriate that it (the raise) is being repealed," said Baker, adding she was most bothered by the manner of the early morning vote. "I think we need to make sure that government is open and accessible."

Some other quotes from the TL:

"Because I have state government experience, some will assume that I might be inclined to defend state government. They would be very wrong. I have seen some aspects that work well, but I have seen other areas where reform is badly needed. A good first step toward reform is cutting the size of the legislature."

Nice idea but how do you do it? It would require a constitutional amendment that has to be passed by two sessions of the legislature and then voted on by the people of the Commonwealth. Call me cynical but I don't see anyone voting themselves out of a job.

But the elephant in the room is newly re-elected Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty. Everyone I talk to says he is running for the seat.

An interesting note I picked up from Madereira's schedule:

11/28/05. David and his daughter Hannah will be trying to get a buck on the first day of the season. Last year Hannah rattled in an 8-pointer for her dad. What will she bring this year?

I hope they each get one, I'm tired of running into the things.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day, 1954

Whereas it has long been our customs to commemorate November 11,
the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the heroes of that tragic struggle and by rededicating ourselves to the cause of peace; and

Whereas in the intervening years the United States has been
involved in two other great military conflicts, which have added millions of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation; and

Whereas the Congress passed a concurrent resolution on June 4,
1926 (44 Stat. 1982), calling for the observance of November 11 with appropriate ceremonies, and later provided in an act approved May 13, 1938 (52 Stat. 351) , that the eleventh of November should be a legal holiday and should be known as Armistice Day; and

Whereas, in order to expand the significance of that
commemoration and in order that a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation, the Congress, by an act approved June 1, 1954 (68 Stat. 168), changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day:

Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the
United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954, as Veterans Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain. I also direct the appropriate officials of the Government to arrange for the display of the flag of the United States on all public buildings on Veterans Day.

In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this
anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and cause the
al of the United States of America to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this eighth day of October in the
Year of our Lord nineteen hundred and fifty-four, and of the Independence of the (SEAL) United States of America the one hundred and seventy-ninth.


Fallout over the Dover monkey trial

I usually stay away from writing about the culture wars as I believe there are uncompromising hard cores on both sides and the rest of us have more important things to concern ourselves with. But something like this makes the people of Pennsylvania look like a bunch of bible thumping uneducated hicks. No wonder some people refer to us as the Alabama of the North. Last year the school board in the small town of Dover, Pa. voted to teach Intelligent Design theory in science classes. A group of parents sued and the trial has received worldwide attention, not so much in the US as no blondes went missing in the controversy. Fortunately the people of Dover showed some common sense in Tuesday's election and booted out the entire board.

One of the winners, Bernadette Reinking, told the New York Times: "I think voters were tired of the trial, they were tired of intelligent design, they were tired of everything that this school board brought about."
During the trial it emerged that one of the main proponents of the intelligent design policy, Mr. Bonsell, has previously tried to get creationism on to the local curriculum. Of all the candidates up for re-election, Mr. Bonsell recorded the fewest votes, the NYT reports.

Now Simply Left Behind has the story of Pat Robertson threatening God's wrath on the little town because they "voted God out of your city." So now another one of God's self appointed spokesman has threatened death and destruction on his behalf because people did something he doesn't like. Does the almighty actually interview for press secretaries? There sure are a lot of people who claim to speak for him. As for Pat Robertson, this is a guy who claims credit for redirecting hurricanes, wants the President of Venezuela murdered and claims Bush told him that there would not be any casualties in Iraq.

Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse also has a good discussion of the whole issue.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Local links

I have come across many interesting local sites lately. Here are a few.

Another Monkey
The narcissistic primarily autobiographical blog of the pseudonymous D.B. Echo

The author lives in Nanticoke and writes about his life, local happenings and an occasional political observation. But the real reason to check it out is he has some great pictures of the local area.

Wilkes-Barre Bicentennial

Wilkes-Barre is going to celebrate it's Bicentennial. Diamond City is organizing a celebration. There is a lot of local history and a promise of more with pictures of the neighborhoods.

Capt'n Clint's Place

Historical pictures of Wilkes-Barre.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre At The Movies

This purpose of this blog is to put together a virtual list/collection of memorable (if fleeting) references to the cities of Wilkes-Barre, PA or Scranton, PA in movies/TV/music/Broadway (in the script, setting, lyrics, etc).

Santorum snubs Bush

When George Bush visits the Tobyhanna Army Depot tomorrow Sen. Rick Santorum (R-VA) will be 100 miles away.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the "scheduling conflict":

When President Bush touches down in Wilkes-Barre to talk about the war on terrorism Friday, the Senate's No. 3 Republican - the vulnerable Rick Santorum - will be 116 miles away in Philadelphia addressing the American Legion. Unavoidable scheduling conflict, Santorum's office says.

As the GOP loss in the Virginia governor's race Tuesday showed, however, it might also be a blessing to be in a different media market when Bush and his rock-bottom approval ratings come to your state.

Senator Specter and Congressman Kanjorski will be there but our junior Senator can't rearrange his schedule to join him? As 2 Political Junkies points out:

Yea, right. This is the guy who dropped everything to stand next to the Schaivo family in Florida. He can't clear his calendar for a coupla hours to stand next to the leader of his party who also happens to be the leader of the free-world?

Maybe the new Keystone Poll might have something to do with it.

Bush Favorable 34%-Not Favorable 54%. Santorum Deserves re-election 33%-Time for Change 49%. If the election for Pennsylvania's U.S. Senator were being held TODAY Casey 51%-Santorum 35%.

With Santorum trailing his likely opponent by double digits and Bush's popularity hitting new lows you can bet that Ricky and many other Republicans don't want to be seen anywhere near him. Even Bob Novak sees the obvious.

For a liberal Virginian to win a Southern red state signaled that cherished Republican majorities in both House and Senate, plus all the perquisites they entail, could be lost in 2006. Eyeing the Democratic landslide in suburban northern Virginia just over the Potomac from Washington that gave Lt. Gov. Kaine the governorship, Republicans in Congress envision their own doom. The antidote to avoid that fate is to keep as far away from President Bush as possible, a lesson underlined by the president's failed election rescue mission for former Virginia state Attorney General Kilgore. The consequences may be profound. As his approval rating dipped, Bush increasingly has been treated in Congress as a lame duck. Tuesday's Virginia outcome increases the propensity of Republican senators and House members not only to avoid their president on the campaign trail but also to ignore his legislative proposals.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Cynthia Ore and Don Sherwood settle lawsuit

The timing of this is great coming the day after the local elections. Give credit to the Sherwood campaign to try to bury it in all the other political news but the national media and the blogs will pick it up, this one is hopefully one of the first. This just shows what a hypocrite this guy is. Mr. Family Values has these ratings:

The Christian Coalition of America gives Sherwood an 84 percent rating for voting with the coalition's positions on legislative issues.

The American Conservative Union rates him at 88 percent.

The American Family Association gives Sherwood a perfect 100-percent rating.

From the TL:

U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood and the woman who said he beat her throughout their five-year affair settled a lawsuit Tuesday. A three-sentence press release issued by Sherwood spokesman Paul Clark said Ore and Sherwood, R-Tunkhannock, "have resolved their differences and the lawsuit will be dismissed." Terms of the settlement are confidential," the statement said. "The parties will have no further comment.”

It alleged years of abuse by the married congressman, who admits to having a five-year affair with Ore, but denies ever assaulting her. The lawsuit stated Sherwood repeatedly struck Ore on her face, neck, chest and back; violently yanked her hair; and tried to strangle her by placing his hands around her neck. It also says Sherwood threatened to harm Ore if she talked to police about the alleged abuse.

Israel Ruiz, a Metropolitan police officer who took photos of Ore during that second investigation, told the Times Leader he believed Sherwood should have been arrested. He said the congressman was given preferential treatment because of his political position.

I have had enough of sanctimonious people like this who want to tell me how to run my life but can't keep their own house in order.