Not Cease from Exploration...a blog by Steve Albert

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Road Apples, #71

Hiatus...My hiatus is now on hiatus (wow, that almost sounds profound). My intention this past week had been to continue to stay current on events and take the time to jot down a thought or two, but sometimes events have a way of scrambling the best laid plans. In any event, I'm ready to resume more of a routine schedule.

In the "You Could Also Just Get a Job" Department...A Moosic woman who cashed more than $7,000 in bad checks said that she stole because she needed the money to care for her children and pay personal bills. Story link HERE. I'm not unsympathetic to the blight of the poor, but it's time to stop excusing bad behavior. Yes, I know what it's like to need money for kids and to pay bills, but I've never felt compelled to steal.

Stupid Comment...Mark Cour referenced a comment by WILK's Steve Corbett that went something like “What if you’re a blogger sitting in your underwear in your mother’s basement?”. Now on some level I find the comment just stupidly ironic. In fact, I'd compare it to someone who engages in fantasy football calling a bunch of Star Trek fans "nerds". On another level Corbett's comment is almost offensive. Note the word "almost". Is this guy really that threatened by a bunch of local Internet part-timers? How insecure is this guy? Maybe Corbett should stick to what he does best, namely protecting the world from the evil known as the Friendly Sons of St . Patrick.

Justin Bieber...I had occasion to see a video of young Mr Bieber's art (if you want to call it that; "music" seems to be a bit much). Two words come to mind: "Danny Bonaduce". If that doesn't work for you, how about this instead: "Leif Garrett"?

I'm Against the War in Afghanistan...but leaking confidential information that might endanger US troops is just plain wrong. Story link HERE. This just proves my belief that anything with the word "Wiki" in its title is probably a cluster-f&^k.

President Obama appearing on The View
...The show is basically unwatchable. How could 5 women who basically all talk simultaneously be considered entertaining or informative? Maybe for his next interview the President will answer questions from Snooki or The Situation.

Autotune...Driving back from Camelbeach yesterday I agreed to let my youngest daughter listen to Sirius Hits 1 on the radio. That meant about an hour of non-stop Autotune. By the time I got home my ears were nearly bleeding. I do, however, recall at least one creative use for Autotune that I've found to be entertaining:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hiatus


For for the three or so folks that may come across this: I'm on something of an unexpected hiatus this week. Cryptic, typo-filled blogging will resume at a later date.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what's out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it."

- Pema Chodron

A Random List of People & Things that Piss Me Off

In no particular order, for no particular reason.

  • Politics - There is a reason why I'm going to a seminar on August 3rd on improving influencing skills. Why? Because the very notion of politics as a concept makes me gag. Politics seems to be the art of doing the least and yet claiming that it was the most.
  • Race Baiters - People that use race to promote their own personal agenda...be they Jesse Jackson on the left of Rush Limbaugh on the right...really piss me off. Jackson encourages victimology through race and Limbaugh encourages the worst in his audience through his subtle racist comments.
  • Those Claiming Moral Authority - Very, very few humans, in my estimation, can claim any real moral authority over anything. Oh, and the ones that rightfully could, such as Mother Teresa, mostly never do/did. The self-righteous usually end up looking like hypocrites.
  • Chronic Victims - Yes, we all get crapped on from time to time, but that's life. I have no time for people that chronically claim to be victims though. Life isn't fair. People can be idiots. Make the best with what you have and move on.
  • People That Don't Accept Responsibility - Great recent example: Fox News certainly did fan the fires with the whole Sherrod episode...hoping it would be the latest ACORN or Black Panther story (forget stories about Republican voter fraud...)...but yet refused to take responsibility for participating in the slander of this woman. Roger Ailes owes her an apology. He runs the ship. His organization blatantly screwed up. At least Bill O'Reilly man-ed up when he recently said "I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context."
  • People That Don't Read - I actually know people that don't really read anything, except for emails, text messages and Facebook. My God, how could anyone be so stupid? There is a whole freak'n universe out there to be explored.
  • People Who Defend Smoking - How could anyone with more than two functioning brain cells defend a product that, when used as directed, kills you? I say simply ban it. It would be one thing if the activity just harmed the person that did it, but tobacco smoke doesn't abide by "no smoking" section rules. The best comparison is this: Smoking sections in public places make about as much peeing sections in swimming pools. Oh, and to those that claim "but, but, but...people eat fast food and that's bad for you!" I say the following: even the worse crap from McD's provides calories and some level of nutrition. In fact, if you were starving to death, a McD's hamburger could save your life. Smoking however has ZERO value. Smoking is nothing more than an addiction to a potent drug, and I genuinely feel bad for those that are hooked and can't stop.
  • Corporate Greed Heads - I'm sorry, but a tenth of a point in improved net profit isn't worth ruining the lives of (former) employees. Businesses should be able to do what they do best, but sometimes we forget that business has another very important function in our society: it employs people. Our society needs a better balance between the motive for profit and the responsibility to contribute to the greater good. We can have both, but I fear that something the scales tip too much in one direction.
  • Free Market Public Sector Types - Speaking for business, ever find it fascinating that some who crow the most about the "free market" are actually those who have the least experience in it? Newt Gingrich is a great example. I like Newt by the way, but he's something of a hypocrite, as for most of his adult life he has had zero experience working in the for-profit private sector. None. Nada. Zip. I've worked for profit-making businesses all my adult life. I love profit. But I also see that an exclusive desire for anything...be it profits, chocolate or sex...is never any good.
  • Sloganeering - Some things are too complex to fit into nice little sound bytes, despite what you may hear from your favorite politician.
  • Reality TV - Since when does simply being a moron make you a star? Since the dawn of Reality TV. One need only look HERE for an example.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Newsflash: There are Gay Priests

Apparently one of the Italian newspapers decided to try and catch a few Gay priests. The resulting article was linked across the planet, including where I found it at the Drudgereport.

You can see a reference to it HERE.

Anyone want to accuse Matt Drudge of being a tool of the secular, elitist, atheistic, anti-Catholic media conspiracy? If you do, I'll give you the number of a good neurologist, as you need your head examined. È pazzo!

Now for the record...

...I don't think there are many Gay priests.

...I don't really care if there are Gay priests.

...The vast, vast majority of priests do not engage in questionable sexual behavior (which for a priest would be any sexual behavior)

...I've yet to see a statistic that proves that Gay priests more prone to molestation than heterosexual-inclined priests.

I've already come to terms with the fact that priests are human, and as a result are subject to all the frailties of human behavior. Believe it or not that makes the good ones all the more special, and I say this as someone who is not going to be named "Catholic of the Year" any time soon. The media...be it far left for far right...want to focus on salacious behavior because that sells ad space and generates website hits.

"Undercover reporter films priests aiding the sick and needy"

...isn't a headline that will generate may hits for right-wing reporter Matt Drudge.

So yes, there are Gay priests. And there are bloggers who are prone to typos. To both I say a hearty Non m’importa.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Road Apples, #70

Typos...Some/many/most of my psots are filed with tpyos. Okay, all joking aside, the typing mistakes are driving me nuts. In my defense I can offer the following:

1) Slowly declining eyesight.
2) My incredibly small netbook screen.
3) My general lack of time to blog & edit (some pro bloggers refer to this as "blogging energy units" I think).

As for remedies I can offer the following:

1) Not much. My eyesight, like my hearing, is just going to get worse. Glasses don't help much.
2) I am going to get a full sized flat screen monitor to hook up to this thing one of these days.
3) I have to be more conscientious.

Maybe no one but me cares about this, but in all honesty I don't care if others don't care. I will try and do better.

Lame Duck Posts...I typically write more than I post, and at the moment I've got two rather lengthy postings that I either need to post or delete. Not sure which I am going to do yet. One is pretty superficial in nature, the other one (as currently constructed) might get me trouble. Come to think of it maybe neither will see the light of day.

Sad Anniversaries...Tomorrow marks the 5th anniversary of the death of Bob Kirchner. Bob was more than just an in-law to me...he was more like a true father in every sense of the word, and I think of him often. There was something I wrote back when he passed away that I'm going to re-post tomorrow in his honor.

Travel Day...I was in Hartford today to add a coda of sorts to a project I've been working on for a long while. Without getting into painful or hairy details, things went really, really well. It's nice when you have a day like that every once in a while.

Imbecile Department...I am normally pretty tough on Sarah "I can see Russia" Palin, but I do feel sorry for her (I really do) when it comes to her daughter and soon to be son-in-law Levi Johnston. Why welcome this punk into her family? He trashed her and her family profusely to every media outlet that would listen. The guy is a fish, a walking Jerry Springer guest, a poster child for the evils of pot smoking. He has "Johnston" tattooed on his own arm. Screw him and the trailer he crawled out from underneath.

2011 Kia Sorento...I had the opportunity to drive one of these over the past two days. Great vehicle. Very comfortable, good acceleration, very good handling and it make the Scranton-Hartford round-trip on a single tank of gas. My only complaint? The Sirius subscription ran out so I needed to hook my unit up. Three hours each way is a bit much without satellite radio.

Roman Polanski...I neglected to note my sheer, utter disgust that this convicted rapist will not spend the rest of his (hopefully short) life rotting in jail. I don't care if the victim forgives him and I don't care if a judge screwed something up years ago, because neither of those points matter when the basic facts of the case have been universally accepted. Plying a teenager with drugs and then raping her is simply evil.

What I'm Currently Reading..."When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron.

Mel Gibson Insights...What I've learned about Mad Max from listening to some of the audio tapes:

a) African-Americans rate about as highly as the Jews do in his book.
b) He believes that African-Americans travel in "packs".
c) Some sexual acts are apparently considered obligatory in his mind.
d) He has some anger-management issues.
e) When he says "wet back" he is not referring to what happens when you get caught outside in the rain.
f) His confessions at church must be mighty interesting.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Priest vs the Politican, Part Deux

Forget all the analysis, multi-paragraphed letters to the editor, lawyer talk and the like; this comes down to a simple question:

Do you believe the Priest

or

Do you believe the Politician?

Janet Evans Declaration, 07.21 Edition of the Scranton Times

Now I know that the priestly profession has taken a beating of lately, but I'll note for the record that I've never really had a bad experience with a priest. In fact, some of the most insightful, compassionate, honest and kind people I've ever met have been/are priests. I can't say the same about the vast majority of politicians I've met though.

Oh, and Janet Evans is a consummate politician.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sometimes The Words Just Fail

There are times when I just can't find the words to describe what is in my head. I have tried, mind you, and in fact I just deleted a post because it made no sense. I guess there is just too much stuff in there for mere words to describe.

Anyway, maybe it's times like this when you don't need the right words...maybe you can borrow someone else's instead.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Stephen Lynch: Beelz

I just love this one..."I'm in every Zeppelin album, I'm in all Rush Limbaugh's rants..."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

On Thin Ground: Kanjorski & Outsourcing

I've been fighting the urge to comment on this all week, but alas, I'm going to give in.

Kanjorski's ire...local financial services company job outsourcing

The story appeared in the July 13th edition of the Scranton Times.

What's my take? Well it's hard not to view the Congressman's comments as being much more than the sort of posturing one would expect from a politician facing a tough re-election campaign. Of course I could be wrong, and if I am it will be clear as day for all to see, as the Congressman will be successful in doing something to stem the tide of the outsourcing. I doubt it though. Why? Well while Congressman Kanjorski enjoys the benefit of simply reacting to something he hears, the business referenced has no doubt been planning this action for a significant amount of time. As a result, I highly doubt that the business leaders in questions are going to react by saying "well Paul Kanjorski is mad at us now, so we had better scrap these plans".

For the record, it's not as if this kind of action hasn't happened before (both at this company and others, such as Met Life), without any noticeable results stemming from the harsh words of political leaders.

On the other hand, I think any kind of reaction on the Congressman's part is better than no reaction at all. What's more, I'm thinking that Paul Kanjorski probably does have the clout to actually arrange a meeting with the executives involved, which would provide something of a voice for those being displaced. About the only thing Lou Barletta could do in this situation would be to somehow blame illegals for the outsourcing.

For me, the events of this past week don't dramatically change my view of Paul Kanjorski. Opportunist? Yes. In the pocket of the Financial Services industry? Well maybe, but at least now he has the perfect opportunity to refute that charge.

Batter-up Paul: It's time to put up or shut up.

My Gun Control Law: Stupid People Shouldn't Be Allowed To Have Them

While I generally do support the right of people to bear arms, I think it's reasonable to make an exception for stupid people.

"A Hazleton man was charged with leaving a loaded firearm in a men’s room at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino. "


"State police said the firearm, a .45-caliber, had a full magazine with a round in its chamber."

You can read the whole sad tale HERE. Maybe he was afraid that one of Hazelton's many illegals would try and steal his winnings once he returned to Lou's lair.

As a side note, I've heard that it is illegal to bring a firearm into Pennsylvania casino. Given the amount of money flying around at casinos and the extreme security that no doubt already exists in such places, I'm thinking that's not an unreasonable rule.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Broadcasters

Preface
This was originally a just a response to a comment made by JD Curtis on my "Limbaugh: Classless Putz" blog entry. As I started to write more...and more...and more...I thought it made sense to convert this into a post unto itself.

************************
I probably would be interested in reading G. Liddy's biography. I don't agree with all of his politics, but he's a REAL man...as opposed to all the chicken-hawks out there that populate talk radio these days. I've also found him to be very open minded, in his own way. One of his favorite guests from back in the Clinton days was Lanny Davis, who is about as liberal as you can get (Liddy would call him a "Liberal's liberal"). I'd like to see el Rushbo engage in a reasoned dialogue with a liberal like Davis.

I agree that Chris Matthews is un-listenable. Truth be told, I don't like most left-leaning commentators. I think Keith Olbermann is technically good as a speaker, but he takes things to an extreme far too often with his content. Speaking of extreme content, I think Art Bell is also technically very, very good...great radio voice, knows how to work callers, etc. His subject matter is not my cup of tea, but he's great to listen to never the less.

My two least favorite media types? Hands down it's Larry King & Don Imus.

Larry King has no discernible talent as far as I can tell. I'll take that one step further: if lung cancer had a voice, it would sound like Larry King. What's more, Larry King is notoriously lazy as a broadcaster, doing virtually no research and routinely asking incredibly stupid questions.

Don Imus is horrible, simply horrible. Half the time I'm not sure what language he is speaking (he mumbles so much), and by all accounts he is simply a bitter, obnoxious, racist prick.

Of course my favorite radio/media person is, hands down, Howard Stern. That choice will not win any popularity awards, but so be it; I happen to think the guy is incredible talented, and I've counted myself as a listener since the late 80's. Sometimes I do have to turn him off when his content gets a bit much, but on balance the guy is a radio genius. I doubt that you would have the likes of Limbaugh, Imus and a few others without Stern. This is the guy who, more than anyone else, was able to ditch the records on mainstream radio in favor of a true talk format. He's also extremely under-rated as an interviewer. I'm not the only one who feels this way, as Stern probably has a paid audience of about 9 million listeners. They key word there is "paid". How many of Limbaugh's 20 million would fork over the shekels to hear his "talent on loan from god"? I'm thinking it would be some number south of 9 million.

New Toy

I've had a Sony DSC-H7 digital camera for a few years now that I've really enjoyed using. It takes great pictures in a variety of settings (including a burst mode), is an excellent movie camera, and has a very useful 15x zoom. Taking pictures has been something that I've been able to do on the side that has proven to be very relaxing. Over the years I think I've just about reached the limit as to what I can do with the H7, and while I'm no where near even rank amateur status in the photography world, I began to think that maybe I was ready for the next level up in terms of digital photography.

Enter the Sony alpha a-200.




Since my experiences with Sony have been nothing short of great, I decided that my camera upgrade with be a Sony DSLR. In thinking about a model, I realized that I wasn't (and may never be) ready for the true big leagues, but yet I did want something that had a lot of professional features. The alpha seemed to do the trick. It's going to take a while, but I'm sure that over time I'll be improving my skills as I learn how to use this cool device.

Mrs Evans vs. Fr. Pilarz

There has been much discussed over who initiated the quip pro quo linking the University of Scranton's building plans to a contribution in lieu of taxes. NEPArtisan, for example, has been following it quite a bit. Yes, I agree with Tom Borthwick that this is degrading into a "he said, she said" fiasco, but let's look at the players:

Fr. Scott Pilarz
In one corner you have a Priest, Father Scott Pilarz, who is the President of the University of Scranton. You can read his biography HERE. While I personally agree that the University could do much more to help the city financially and in other ways, the basic fact is this: the University is a wildly successful institution (as evidenced by all the property they buy & take off the tax rolls) that appears to be well run.

Council President Janet Evans
In the other corner you have a politician, Mrs Janet Evans, who is the President of Scranton City Council and who is also a teacher currently on disability. I'd link you to a biography of Mrs Evans, but I can't find one on-line. In terms of accomplishments, Mrs Evans has been in city government for a number of years but yet outside of being re-elected, I'm not quite sure what she has accomplished. Yes, it's tough to accomplish anything when you consider yourself to be the political opposition, but that's a dim excuse at best. For example, I could rattle off countless accomplishments by the current opposition party in Congress right now, including several changes to the financial services regulation bill that will soon be voted on by the U.S. Senate.

Given the choice between the priest or the politician, I'm believing the priest.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Limbaugh: Classless Putz

Rush Limbaugh proved his detractors right again on Tuesday by taking what amounts to a classless, race-baiting cheap-shot at a dead guy. In referencing the death of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, El Rushbo said "That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires" and he "...fired a bunch of white guys as managers right and left". One of many references HERE.

Mind you, this is coming from a guy who once said that President Obama is a man who "sees everything through a racial lens" (citation unavailable, as I actually heard this myself but I don't recall the date/time). Gee, just who is the one that actually sees everything, including death, through a racial lens? Ironic that this comes on the heels of race-baiting comments from the opposite extreme of the spectrum in the guise of Jesse Jackson.

I know, I know, the Limbaugh apologists will just laugh it off as Rush "just being Rush". My brother (and Limbaugh fan) likes to say that "you can't take everything Rush says seriously", which while true as a general statement fails in practical application, as many people actually DO take everything Rush says seriously. Yes, there are people who really do drink the Limbaugh cool aid; I remember when news broke of his little drug problem, there were more than a few callers into WILK who basically said that the whole story was fraudulent and made up. That's the crew that hangs on every word this guy says.

So congratulations to Rusty (as his mom liked to call him) for never failing to fail.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Visions Of The Past

Didn't things like this happen with Dan Flood...and Joe McDade...and maybe a few others?

The fat lady is starting to warm up
(she may not be singing yet, but soon...very soon...)

It seems like the Feds are going after the Bob Mellow alleged "pay myself rent" scam, as opposed to the...

...write $100,000+ in checks out to "cash" scam
...sit on Boards of organizations I have a hand in regulating scam

...but who knows. Innocent until proven guilty. Wait though, there isn't a question of guilt or innocence in the above two scams, as the Senator has unabashedly said he has done those things. Yes, Senator Mellow has told us that there is nothing improper with earning money as a Director at BCBS on NEPA while simultaneously writing/voting on legislation that could impact BCBS of NEPA's business. He has also told us that it's okay to write $100,000+ in checks out to "cash" from a campaign account. Donuts are, after all, expensive.

Time will tell.

Speaking of telling, I'm going to tell this now: if and when Senator Mellow either cops a plea or is convicted, I'll immediately start a campaign to have each and every building, auditorium, facility or bench named after Senator Mellow re-named. I'll make an exception for those edifices where the good Senator put up his own money to pay for a project. That will, however, be a mighty short list. You see, the good Senator has been especially good about steering OUR MONEY to projects that ended up having HIS NAME on them.

You know what? I think I can make out that tune the fat lady is about to sing...it's "The Times They Are A-Chang'n".

Monday, July 12, 2010

Note From The Fringe

Mel Gibson's latest "scarier than hell" rant was released today on radaronline.com. This one tops the last recording. This is not for the faint of heart, so be forewarned before you listen (listen to it HERE). I have never, ever heard someone scream in anger like that in my entire life. Making it even more surreal, if that's even possible, is the fact that Gibson is a conservative Catholic. Somehow I don't think Jesus would approve of calling the mother of your child a "f&^king c^&t".

Lindsay Lohan apparently believes that you can crash your car, be drunk, skip a hearing, probably be in possession of cocaine, violate parole and somehow still be considered "persecuted" when you are sentenced to (most likely) 23 days in jail. In fact, Ms Lohan apparently believes that her human rights have been violated. I think Fox News pretty much nails it in THIS opinion piece.

Sarah Palin wants you to contribute to SarahPAC so that she can support conservative candidates. Funny, but her recent campaign disclosure notes that for while $87,500 was distributed to candidates, almost three times as much money, $210,000 was spent on consultants. Let me be blunt: Sarah Palin is a cry-baby, quitter, dim bulb, political opportunist who is milking her 15 minutes of fame to such an extent that she is nearly redefining the concept of time dilation. There are far better Republican deserving of support out there, including Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. While I don't agree with everything Rep. Ryan advocates for, I at least give him credit for talking about ideas, as opposed to rambling on about non-existent death panels. Don't make my word for this, instead believe the words of Republican Senator...and fellow Alaskan...Lisa Murkowski.

Jesse Jackson, a professional race baiter, is again practicing his trade for all the world to see. Specifically, the Reverend Jackson recently stated that the millionaire owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers treated millionaire LeBron James like a "runaway slave". You can read all about it HERE. Yes, two millionaires have a dispute and Jesse Jackson somehow sees racism at play. Given the 17.4 % unemployment rate facing African American males (BLS table HERE), you would think that the Reverend Jackson would have more pressing issues to address. When last I checked, LeBron James is probably going to make out nicely in his move to Miami, so I'm thinking that the term "slave" probably doesn't apply.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

NRA via Facebook

This Facebook page caught my eye.



Do they mean all anti-gun ownership laws?

I understand being against laws that prohibit pistols, shotguns, hunting rifles, etc. People should have the right to defend themselves and they should have the right to engage in lawful hunting. But I often wonder just where "the line" exists. For example, in this mindset should I be able to own something like a Tek-9? How about a semi-automatic rifle? Fully automatic rifle? Machine gun? Chain-gun? Bazooka? Shoulder-fired missile? Flame thrower? Various other forms of artillery? A cannon is, after all, really just a big gun, and the group does say "stop anti gun ownership laws". What's more, if you are against all anti gun ownership laws, then does that mean you believe that people should be able to own as much weaponry as they can afford?

Personally I am in favor of at least some gun ownership laws. These would include laws that, for example, would prevent my neighbor from becoming better armed than the Luxembourg army. Furthermore, call me crazy, but I want the police and the military to be better armed than the citizenry. In theory they screen out most of the crazies before they join the military or become police.

PILOT Targets

Since Scranton City Council President Janet Evans has been unsuccessful in extorting...I mean garnering...additional payments in lieu of taxes from the University of Scranton, I'm wondering if she is going to continue the crusade with other institutions.

Now before I go any further, I'll again state for the record that the University should be paying more to the City of Scranton to compensate it for lost tax revenue and for the direct services that the city provides to the University community. Legally...I know, people don't want to hear this...but legally the University, being an IRC 501(c)(3) organization, doesn't have to pay anything to Scranton. Not one thin dime. Similar institutions that are involved in religious, charitable, cultural or educational endeavors don't have to contribute that thin dime either. However what is legal and what is right aren't always the same thing, a point that the exceptionally well educated Jesuits that run the University know full well.

Back to the post.

I think Mrs Evans has been aiming at the wrong target. Instead of simply tackling the University of Scranton as a individual institution, I'm wondering if she will next go after the largest non-profit in Scranton, namely the Roman Catholic Church. Think about it: in theory the Church de facto owns the University of Scranton via the Society of Jesus. Why deal with the subsidiary when you can, in fact, deal with the parent company instead? What's more, there is plenty of other Church owned or Church-related property and endeavors that happen within the confines of Scranton's 25 square miles, so why not look into it. For example, there is a Novena to St Ann coming up shortly (details HERE if you are interested in attending) that will bring thousands of people into the city. It will also require extra police coverage. Sounds like it will cost the city some money. Maybe the Church should be making a PILOT contribution to compensate the City for its expenses related to the Novena.

The above was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it makes a point: Mrs Evans is once again engaging in a crusade that has more to do with demonizing an enemy (substitute "Doherty" for "U of S") in order to score points with a personal constituency (substitute "Municipal Unions" with "U of S haters") than it does in actually achieving results. If she were truly interested in working with the University come up with PILOT contributions, then maybe, just maybe, the negotiations wouldn't be happening on the grandstand that is Scranton City Council Chambers. These negotiations probably wouldn't take the form of "in order to get your building variance you have to give us money" talk either.

By the way, we've seen this before. Yes, we've already had Mrs Evans demanding that council could open up a budget (it can't) and that it could seat its own appointees (it can't). This is like a bizarre version of the television show Home Improvement...same plot repeated over and over again.

In the final analysis, I realize that it's hard to gain cheap political points when you are working behind the scenes, but maybe Mrs Evans needs to put her ego aside, stop pandering to her narrow constituency, and start actually working with people to solve problems. I know, this means giving up some perceived authority, but governing a city is a hell of a lot different than governing a high school English class. Maybe, just maybe, Mrs Evans needs to change her approach if she is actually interested in achieving some results. Command and control works well in the Marine Corps and when your audience is a class of 16 year old young adults, but it falls flat when those who you want to control don't actually have to listen to you.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Road Apples #69

Intellectual Burger King - Funny, but much of what I posted this week was basically the intellectual equivalent of Burger King (as opposed to the normal fare of Arby's). Lindsay Lohan? Give me a break! I do tell myself though that the whole La Linds thing is more a statement about American culture in 2010 than anything else. Yeah, that's the ticket. It's worth nothing that that I have been making the rounds at some of the local blogs commenting from time to time on the serious issues of the day. Maybe that moves me up to the intellectual equivalent of Pizza Hut. Maybe.

Blu Ray - Two weeks now with a new Sony Blu Ray player and I've yet to actually watch a Blu Ray movie. Having the attention span of a brain-damaged rat has its downsides.

The Goodbye Note - Saying that there is some turmoil at work these days is an understatement. There is a lot, but that same statement can be said by employees at just about any company these days, and since I have a job I am not going to complain. That noted, I did something this week that I've never done before: I drafted my "goodbye note". This is the little ditty that you send to your friends at co-workers in the office to officially say goodbye. I'm not sure why I did this, as over the last 21 years I haven't been compelled to do it before, but for whatever strange reason I did it now. Here's to hoping that the note sits safely in my draft folder for years to come.

Local Blogs - The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazelton statistical area has a population of about 614,000 but yet there are only a handful of local bloggers who regularly add content. About a third of that population lives in Lackawanna County, and yet there are maybe four or five bloggers (including yours truly) from the county who regularly post. Note that I'm not counting "blogging for my job" types like Steve Corbett, but I do count Andy Palumbo's excellent blog (as I think he does it independently of his job). Anyway, I often wonder why this is the case. Is it that we simply aren't as Internet literate in this area? I don't think that's the true, as I work with enough Gen Y types to know that they have this technology down pat. Maybe it's the inherent personal nature of blogs and blogging that is somewhat intimidating. Even if you just blog about political issues (for example), it's been my experience that you always put some of yourself into the content. That kind of exposure can be unnerving for some. Regardless, here's to hoping that there are more bloggers out there that I've simply yet to discover.

Speaking of Corbett - I heard him give a dressing-down yesterday to a caller who was basically just spewing Limbaugh sound-bytes. It was actually kind of cool to listen to, and I say that as someone who isn't a Corbett fan. The cherry on top? The caller was my brother. You simply can't make this stuff up.

Liberal Media Dominance?
- Speaking of Rush, one of my brother's favorite lines of Limbaugh-parroted commentary centers around the "drive by media". In case you are not familiar with the term, this is the big, bad, liberal/socialist network news that supposedly has an enormous amount of commie-inspired influence in America. Of course I am usually quick to point out the fact that network news isn't exactly all that big or influential. For example:

Total network news viewers: About 23 million

Total listeners, Rush Limbaugh radio show: About 20 million

In other words the Limbaugh alone has about 87% of the big, bad, evil drive-by media's audience. He also has an audience for up to 3 hours, as opposed to the 30 minutes of network news. Add in the other conservative commentators and Fox News (which alone averages about 2.5 million viewers) and what you find is a media landscape that isn't in fact dominated by a leftist, liberal agenda. And this is assuming that the network news is leftist/liberal/commie in the first place.

In the "You Are Getting Old" Department - My youngest daughter got her nose pierced this afternoon. As I've noted many times before, I see myself as barely being an adult, let alone being adult enough to have nearly adult children. As for the nose piercing, well it's not my taste, but Becca is a great kid who works her ass off (20+ hours a week at Dunk'n Donuts and a 93 average in high school), so I'm not going to complain.

Just Wondering...

What if landowners were held at least partially liable for any surface and/or groundwater damage caused by gas drillers who operate on their property?

Would they be as willing to accept the quick-n-easy cash?

Would some of them still be so positive about the economic benefits of drilling?

My point is this: it's easy to take what seems to be money for nothing. The problem though is that there really is a cost associated with taking this money, but many property owners simply don't want to think about it. Maybe that needs to change.

By all means, let's take advantage of this natural resource, but for God's sake, let's do it with our eyes wide open.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What's I've Been Listening To Lately

I have a few thousand MP3s that have been acquired mostly by ripping that BMG Music Club collection that sits inside a mission cabinet within my office. While I have a fair amount of stuff, I usually go through phases where I'll listen to certain types of material for stretches of time and not listen to others. For example, I happen to love ABBA, but yet it's been a few months since I've listened to any of it. I just haven't been in the mood for Swedish 70's pop. As for what I have been in the mood for...

...late 70's/early 80's Pretenders. Stuff like Message of Love and almost all of the Learning to Crawl album.

...Eric Clapton solo work. I love the whole Tulsa, Oklahoma phase he was in back in the early-mid 70's. Some of the later stuff, such as Bad Love, is pretty cool too. I've been known to air guitar the solo in Bad Love while at my desk. Pretty freaky.

...Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair. The whole album is simply outstanding. As original a concept as it gets.

...The Who, mainly Love Reign O'er Me and Eminence Front.

...Elton John, selected cuts from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, such as Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.

...Joni Mitchell; I love Free Man in Paris.

...Some Bob Dylan, such as Stuck Inside of Mobile (with the Memphis Blues Again).

...Johnny Cash, such as Boy Named Sue, Hurt, The Man Comes Around, etc.

...Been Caught Stealing by Nine Inch Nails.

...Some other, more obscure (by American standards) stuff, such as Jools Holland, Madness, and Bryan Ferry.


I sense a Beatles season coming up, so maybe it's time to dust off Rubber Soul and Abbey Road.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Extortion?

Interesting article in today's Scranton Times (link HERE).

For the record, I absolutely do believe that the University of Scranton does need to provide more direct compensation to the City of Scranton for the services that it consumes and to provide for some kind of in-lieu of property tax payment. However, connecting that compensation to the approval of a building permit seems shady at best, down-right sleazy at worst. "Quid pro quo" is being kind, as this looks more like extortion to me. To the University's credit, they apparently have decided not to "play" and are scaling back their plans.

Supporters of Mrs Evans will claim that this is more "Pro-Doherty" bashing, and that's to be expected. However this is a self-inflicted wound on Mrs Evans part. You simply can't link to completely different issues together to come with "if then" statements, especially when large sums of money are involved. It's simply wrong. It's also simply the kind of thing she is famous for accusing Mayor Doherty of doing.

What's next, will Mrs Evans send "Johnny Two Fingers" and "Guido the Sausage Maker" over to Father Pilarz to make him an offer he can't refuse?

Anyway, here is a common sense alternative: The City and the University administration should both determine a dollar value for the direct services (police, fire, etc.) provided and a figure in lieu of property taxes. Both sides should then sit down and negotiate a fair payment based on their interpretation of the facts. No more sleazy extortion, no more blustering in the paper, no more stalling on the part of the University.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tweet of the Day

From Lisa Lampanelli...

"Larry King is retiring after 25 years & he's moving on to greener pastures. Or, as I like to call them, cemeteries."

You can receive her tweets via her Facebook page.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

While I am not a lawyer, it seems to me that flashing a mini "F&^k You" signal to a judge...a judge that just tripled the sentence that prosecution recommended for you...is probably not a good idea.

You can see what I mean HERE.

I know, maybe I'm spending far too much time thinking about this whole sad ordeal, but it does say so much about American culture. People like Lohan and Paris Hilton just didn't appear out of thin air; they didn't start boozing and drugging on secluded desert islands. No, there are elements of our society that so crave for some sense of royalty that they create an entire protected class of Hollywood (and sports) princes and princesses to perhaps represent what they wish they were: young, pretty and famous for doing nothing.

Now you could read the above and think that I somehow feel sorry for the likes of Ms Lohan, but nothing further could be from the truth. You can't dodge forever the consequences of free-will and while elements of our society may worship this kind, the truth of the matter is that this kind of worship has a shelf life that is somewhere south of your average can of Spam. Just ask Tiffany.

As for me, I'll reserve my hero worship for a more select, longer-lasting crew. People like Mother Teresa and Raoul Wallenberg come to mind.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

California Judge Gets One Right


For years I would see pictures of Hollywood starlets (a.k.a. "pop tarts") such as Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan in clubs looking several sheets to the wind. As if that wasn't pitiful enough, I'm positive that many of these pictures in the past were taken when they were under the legal drinking age of 21.

Now why would I care? I'm not a fan of Ms Lohan's movies and as far as I can tell Ms Hilton doesn't actually do anything to be a fan of, so what's the big deal? Well it's a basic issue of fairness and hypocrisy. If it were your kid or mine getting caught in a bar while being under age they would be be in trouble. However in the bizarro world that is Southern California, where fame trumps propriety, little things like a law enforcement were secondary to fame.

It's against this backdrop that I read where Superior Court Judge Marsha Revel sentenced Lindsay Lohan to 90 days in jail for violating the conditions of her parole. You can read the story HERE. To Judge Revel I say a hearty "Bravo!". It's about time that the law be equally enforced, regardless of race, creed, color or (in this case) fame.

I know that Ms Lohan has a family that would mortify Gomez and Morticia. I know she is probably got more chemicals flowing through her veins right now than your average cancer patient. I know it's tough to be constantly told you are wonderful and then have to face the fact that you aren't. Cry me a river, as I also know that if you break the law there are consequences. Even for Lindsay Lohan it seems.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the best possible thing that could ever happen to the "Mean Girls" star. Thanks Judge Revel not only helping Lindsay but for also showing that the law applies to everyone.

Rights vs. Wants

My middle daughter just started a job as a cashier at a local supermarket. She has noticed a few things that were rather eye opening:

Many people who paid with Access Cards or money from the WIC program often times were buying things that seemed fairly luxurious, such as steaks and crab legs.

These same people often had children who were grabbing handfuls of candy while they themselves talked on cell phones.

These same people were often buying packs or cartons of cigarettes.

Now before I get too far afield, I know that the above referenced programs do have guidelines for what can and can not be purchased. You can't, for example, claim that tobacco is a vegetable (although I heard Frank Zappa once say during an interview that tobacco was his favorite vegetable) and you can't buy soda with your WIC check. It's a mute point though, because I contend that if you don't have the money to buy your own food, then you shouldn't have the the money for things like candy bars and smokes.

I know, I'm being harsh, but so be it. There is no "right" to crab legs. Certainly there is no right to crab legs with my tax dollars.

I say with some pride that my daughter views things like crab legs as being a luxury. That makes me think I've done my job well as a parent. While not perfect, at nearly 18 she sees the paradox of "hey, both my parents work very hard, but yet we don't always have things like this; how come others who are supposedly poor can buy stuff like this?". It's a comforting thought for me, as growing up we genuinely didn't have a lot. Were we "poor" in the strict sense of the word? Probably not, but I did grow up in a housing project and there were never many luxuries. My children have more than I did growing up, but they still do have a sense of perspective. That's a good thing.

Anyway, it all boils down to this: in this country we confuse "right" with "wants". I am sure that those who are poor "want" a cell phone. Who doesn't want to be able to talk to family and friends from wherever you are? Phillip Morris would like me to tell you that smoking is a "time honored tradition partaken by generations of Americans" or some verbal spew like that, and damn, if you forget little details like LUNG CANCER then that too sounds mighty appealing. Buy those things (along with other little ditties like beer, gambling, pornography, etc.) aren't required for sustenance. They are "wants". They are extra. They are rewards (although EMPHYSEMA doesn't seem like too great of a reward to me) for working hard and sustaining yourself and your family. Our compassionate government does provide for programs so that people can meet their basic "needs" because we believe that everyone has a "right" to not genuinely be hungry in a country as prosperous as our own.

Common sense folks. I know that you can't legislate common sense and I know that it would be virtually impossible to enforce no-smoking rules for Access Card recipients, but maybe we should examine more closely the rules for these programs. If someone wants to slowly kill themselves by smoking then I shouldn't be helping to pay for it via freeing up their available cash with an Access Card.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dumbest Internet Rumor, Scranton Style



I came across this while trolling the depths of Scranton message boards:

"That new High School was in the works way before it became public, now I hear we do not have enough students, it seems the new plan already in the works sell Scranton High, to the new Medical School, again already planned, has anyone else heard about this?"

I'm not going to name the poster (he/she posts anonymously anyway) and I'm not going to mention the message board where I found it (sorry, no free publicity from me), but it was one I had to share.

Now why is this so dumb? Well a few facts (I know, who needs them?) are in order:
  1. The school being referenced is Scranton High School, which was opened less than 10 years ago. It is a state of the art facility that all three of my daughters have attended. You can see a picture of it HERE. The last graduating class had about 350 students in it.
  2. Having had children attend Scranton High School now for the last 8 years or so, I can confirm definitively that the school is bursting at the seams with students. It's completely filled. In fact, there has been talk that some students may be forced to attend West Scranton High School (which is no where near full) simply because there is no more room.
  3. The Scranton School District is still paying on the bonds that were used to construct the school.
  4. The Medical School recently had its funding cut the Pennsylvania Legislature & is in the process of completing construction of it's initial building on Pine Street in Scranton. They are going to be lucky if they have enough money for furniture and cadavers, let alone buying a multi-acre school building and grounds.
  5. Scranton High School is at least a mile away from the medical school, if not further.

Tinfoil lined hats anyone?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Road Apples, #68

Pretty Boy Vampires with razor stubble? - I don't think so. What ever happened to vampires that were actually scary? God I despise the fact that Abercrombie & Fitch is now dictating what the world of horror should look like. What's next, Gozilla wearing saggy pants? Perhaps King Kong sporting a Yankees hat that is six sizes too big for his head (and turned ever so sideways)?

In the "Sometimes I Get Riled Up" department - You can check out the discourse about the the menage a trois known as the SEC/FINRA/Financial Services industry in Circumlocution for Dummies. Not to be patting myself on the back, but I've been talking about the problems associated with self-regulation in the financial services industry for a while (example HERE).

Der Untergang - I referenced this movie in a series of comments with JD from Trees for Lunch. If you are a history buff, this is a must watch movie. It's in German, so either you know the language or you are comfortable reading sub-titles, but either way it's one of those things that has to be experienced. Not for the faint of heart, but the movie just works on so many different levels.

Facebook & Depression - I read one of those "if you support _______ post this as your status" on Facebook things related to mental health. The exact text was...

"Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you have been trying to be strong for too long. Put this as your status if you know someone who has or has had depression. Will you do it, and leave it on your status for at least an hour? Most people won't, but it's mental health week and 1 in 3 of us will suffer, at some point in our lives."

For the record, I did not and will not post this as my status. Yes I know a few people that suffer from depression, one who suffers pretty severely from it as a matter of fact. While I agree with the sentiment, posting something for an hour on Facebook will not solve anything. I'd rather see someone actually take the time to read an article or two about depression instead, as learning something is always better than sloganeering anyway. Doing my part, here are two examples:

Mayo Clinic - Coping with depression through exercise

Mayo Clinic - Supporting a family member for friend suffering from depression


Coping with a family member that suffers from depression has been personally very difficult for me, but it has made me a better, stronger person. The cost has not been worth the benefit, but sometimes life isn't a used car lot where you can haggle over price. No, sometimes you take what you get and try to do the best you can with it.

On the Positive Facebook Front - I recently re-connected with someone important to me via Facebook, which is a hell of a good reminder that there is real power in social media. Yeah, I know that the Internet gets a lot of blame for causing various ills, but like most things in life it is what you make of it.

Hip Mom - First my mother ditches her land-line phone and exclusively uses a cell phone. Now she gets a 40" 1080p LCD TV for her bedroom. If I didn't know better, I'd say that she was trendy.

Because Freedom Isn't Free...


...and there would be no Independence (Day) without sacrifice, take a moment today in the midst of the picnics and celebrations to consider the sacrifices that our veterans have made over this history of this nation.

As the folks from both parties in Washington DC remind us of every day, it's easy to say you are patriotic, but as our soldiers have demonstrated time and time again, it's a hell of a lot harder to actually show it.

Thank You Veterans.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Interesting Articles

Two items I came across this evening while checking out the news:

NY Times - Abuse Scandal
The interesting thing about this article is that you really can't call it "Catholic Bashing" per se, as it actually paints a decent picture of (at least) American Bishops.

Newsweek - Congress Screws Up Education
I'd be interested in NEPArtisan's opinion on this topic, as I think the article makes a few very good points. It's not exactly teacher-union friendly, but I do agree that "first in, last out" decisions make no sense when it comes to professionals like teachers. The trick is, of course, who determines what constitutes and effective teacher. Given the ineptness of most school boards and district administrators, actually figuring out who is a great teacher doesn't seem to be as easy as it should be.

Knowing that the above are fairly high-brow topics, here's something tasteless and intellectually offensive, just to even out the scales a bit.

From the mocu-musical Lease...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thoughts on Outsourcing

I was reading a report from the Congressional Research Service (you can read it HERE) that detailed foreign aid to select countries. For example, during the year 2005, the United States contributed slightly more than $98.6 million dollars in aid to India, exclusive of food aid. During that same year, it is estimated that 587,592 U.S. jobs were outsourced to firms overseas, including India. You can read a report with this information HERE.

Now I'm not going to do any cheap math, but it does seem on the surface like our tax dollars are going to support countries that may in fact be using that aid in turn take jobs out of our economy. This is unsettling, to say the least. This is also a very complex issue on many fronts.

Does outsourcing make economic sense for a company? Basically I think the answer is "probably yes", but I've read plenty of articles that point to high percentages of errors and sky-high turnover rates at off-shore firms that can muddy the actual cost picture. American companies are notorious for only looking at the short term and for not really understanding their indirect costs (WalMart, a company I do not normally admire, is actually really good at both of those things...an exception for sure).

Is outsourcing solely an economic issue? The answer is a definite no. It certainly causes short-term disruption (a euphemism for sure) to directly impacted workers, but I really can't find any research that points to the long-term impact that outsourcing has on individuals. Are they actually better or worse off over the long term? I really don't know. Research aside, losing one's job is one of the most disruptive things that can happen in your life, period.

Is outsourcing a political issue? Honestly, I don't trust politicians when they talk about issues like this. Why? I think the interests of most politicians lie in telling people what they want to hear ("Outsourcing is good" said Senator A to the corporate CEO as he received the PAC check; "Outsourcing is evil" said Senator B at the town hall) as opposed to a reasoned discussion of the facts. Some things in life are not black and white and some things make horrible sound-bytes, both of which make for horrible political discourse.

While there are a lot of "not sure" and "possibly" statements when it comes to this issue, one thing is absolutely certain: whether we like it or not, this issue isn't going away. As companies try to squeeze every last drop of cost savings out of their businesses, the notion of cheap but skilled labor is nothing but tempting. What's more, the world economy is increasingly becoming intertwined, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, at least at a macro level. A country is less likely to make war on a neighbor if 25% of its GDP is tied up in trade with them. None of this matters though to the people who have to personally experience these economic concepts themselves in the form of a lost job. For them this is simple stuff: It sucks.

Maybe for now though the most important concept we need to remember has nothing to do with economic theory...it's compassion...compassion for those who are anxious over the prospect of losing a job and compassion for those who are facing difficult choices because they already have lost a job. I can't control the strategic decisions of a large company, but I can at least control how I act and react to those who bear the brunt of those decisions. I can also continue to learn more about these issues because a little more knowledge is never a bad thing. Maybe, just maybe, knowing more about this will help me deal with and react to it in a more productive manner.

Larry King Retires

It's being reported all over the place that CNN celebrity Larry King is retiring after 102 years on the job. Wait, I think it's actually 25 years on the job; he just looks 102. That aside, I wanted to take this moment to note that I absolutely think Larry King is just about the least talented person I ever accidentally scanned on television. "Watched" isn't the right verb to describe what I could do with Mr King, as I think his show is basically unwatchable. Also, rumor has it that he also burped constantly and smelled of garlic. Not a nice combination.

Over the years I have actually tried once or twice to actually watch his show, but I just couldn't. Probably the best way to describe why I feel this way is to imagine a interview between Mr King and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer:

Larry: So Jeffrey, how long have you been consuming human flesh?
Jeffrey: Blah blah blah

Larry: Is human flesh fattening? I mean is it good for you?
Jeffrey: Blah blah blah

Larry: Do Asians taste differently than other races?
Jeffrey: Blah blah blah

Larry: Let's take a caller. Scranton Pennsylvania, you're on the air.
Caller: Larry, I just want to ask Dahmer if he feels any remorse for his victims.
Larry: Good question. Jeffrey, ever feel bad that you ate mainly Asians and African Americans?
Jeffrey: Blah blah blah

Larry: One final question Jeffrey: what's your favorite color?
Jeffrey: Yellow

I know, kind of sick, but it makes the point. This guy would get all of these high-powered guests and basically ask them the equivalent of what their favorite color was. This probably explains, by the way, how he was able to get all those high powered guests in the first place.

Here's to Larry King's retirement. Long over due.