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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fringeville #140 August 26, 2015

Fall 2010: Campaigning with Abe Belles
I am doing something I don't do often. I am blogging while angry. I read a story in the Times Leader today about a 91 year-old man who may lose the house he's lived in for 67 years in a back-tax auction. As soon as I saw the picture of the man featured in the story, my heart sank. Then it broke. It was Abe Belles.

I met Abram Belles years ago when I was still with the 6th District Republican Committee. I took a liking to him immediately. We would see each other a couple of times a year at various political events, and I always enjoyed spending some time talking with him. You don't spend a few moments talking to Abe, you talk a while. And I did so joyfully whenever I saw him.

When I ran for State Representative in 2010, Abe contacted me with a bit of a wild idea. He'd made a sign and mounted it on a trailer. He wanted to pull it all around Plains. But what really excited him was that he'd rigged a patchwork speaker system and strapped it to the roof of his vehicle. We would ride through town with patriotic music blasting while pulling that sign in all its glory all across my town.

Who could say 'no' to that? I agreed, and we spent a Saturday afternoon entertaining folks. I've said more than once that my failed 2010 campaign was almost a religious experience because of the many wonderful things I experienced. This was one of the most cherished memories of that campaign. It's the first thing I thought of when I saw the article today.

And that's when the anger came. In 2010 I attended a meeting for Republican candidates for the State House. Someone in the group started asking questions about property tax reform. He was shut down with this answer:

"There are a bunch of plans for property tax reform. But they're not going anywhere until we Republicans control the Legislature and have the Governor's chair." And the conversation moved on to other matters.

Well, we did that. And here we are in 2015, and our elderly are still getting tossed out of their houses by crushing property taxes. And, pardon the language, that just plain pisses me off.

The current Governor, Tom Wolfe, calls education an investment that might cause some folks to lose homes. Clearly, it will be difficult if not impossible to make headway against someone who feels the investment should fall on some of us, whether we can afford it or not, instead of all of us.

I am angry. I am frustrated. But I am fortunate. I can still pay my property taxes. Our seniors, in many cases, can't. They are living on fixed incomes while their tax bills skyrocket. As a commenter noted at the Times Leader site, they are essentially paying rent to their school districts.

It's been said before: No tax should have the power to make you homeless. But it does, in Pennsylvania. And I don't see that ending any time soon.

A gofundme page to help Abe has been set up by John Daily, owner of Northeast Cleaning Service. If you can spare a few bucks, visit the donation page and help Abe.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Fringeville #139 August 24, 2015

Deju Vu All Over Again?

H. Ross Perot

Donald Trump

I know I am not the only one making comparisons between H. Ross Perot's failed 1992 Presidential Campaign and Donald Trump's current run. There are some surface similarities: both have extensive business experience and both fellows pretty much do and say what they damned well please. They don't mince words. (Perot famously and prophetically said folks should listen for the "giant sucking sound" of jobs heading to Mexico if NAFTA was ratified.) In general, folks like that kind of talk. I think people tune out when candidates for any office are doing 'candidate speak' (the fine art of giving long-winded, politically correct spiels that often make it hard to distinguish one candidate from another).

Both come off as men of action.

Indeed, in the case of Perot, there's historical proof he was willing to act on his own when necessary. When two of his employees were put in prison by the Iranian government in 1979 because of a contract squabble, he put together a team to rescue them and get them to safety. Those were very dangerous days in Iran. Revolution was imminent. But the mission succeeded, despite the risks.

Trump doesn't have an 'action' resume to match that feat, but he does get things done. His campaign website highlight's Trump's rescue of New York City's Veteran's Parade, which had deteriorated into an embarrassing, low turnout event until he supercharged it.

There are differences, as well. Perot ran as an independent. Trump (for now at least) is running as a Republican and still leading the field. He hasn't ruled out a run as in Independent, either. But they are markedly dissimilar on many issues, as detailed by a Talking Point Memo article (this is a left-leaning site, but I found this piece interesting).

The thing to keep in mind is just how early this is in the Election process. Perot was the leader in the Gallup poll in the early summer of 1992. But the election wasn't held in June, it was held in November. Over the summer, his campaign imploded spectacularly. When he dropped out of the campaign he displayed a remarkable case of paranoia, claiming he was quitting because the Bush campaign was going to sabotage his daughter's wedding. Folks, you can't make stuff like this up. He re-entered the race in October, but the fork was deeply embedded in him by then.

The Donald has an awful lot of highway ahead of him, and there are dangerous exits everywhere. I have no idea what his staying power will be. That will be largely up to him. Like Perot, he pulls support from everywhere in the voter landscape. It can vanish quickly, as those who witnessed the Perot debacle can testify.

For the record I am personally undecided right now, precisely because it is so early. I remember the lesson of the Perot campaign, when many people who didn't pay much attention to politics responded well to his message. When Perot quit then came back, many of those folks didn't give him another shot. I think it is because the Election process (gosh yes, I hate that term, but it is accurate) is a long, long marathon designed in part to weed out the squirrels. It is not a sprint, folks. The squirrels are there, an abundance of them on both sides of the aisle. Hopefully we end up with two strong choices for President.

As to Trump, I am a bit torn. He has managed to generate a lot of excitement. It reminds me of the early, heady days of the Perot campaign. I will be thankful for that if all the folks coming out of the woodwork will carry that excitement to the polls for the rest of their lives. But one of my frustrations as a GOP committee member in NEPA is the widespread voter apathy here. We've got 2 in 10 people voting in some places. The other eight, who have the ammunition to make wholesale changes in the regional and local political landscape, believe their votes don't matter.

Newsflash, folks: Eight will kick the snot out of Two, if the eight bother to show up for the fight.

If Trump self-destructs I am not optimistic that those with newly-awakened political spirit will stay in the game. I hope I am wrong.

* * * 

I continue to try to find a way to exist in a meaningful way while working two full time jobs. It ain't easy. It's still beating the crap out of me physically, but I am a testament to modern medical science: I am still on the curable list for prostate cancer and I rebounded from surgery last year so well that by the beginning of December I was able to start burning myself out with vigor on a second job. (Yes, this is being written somewhat, but not completely, tongue-in-cheek.)

What I really need is one job with great benefits that pays about 70k. I'd love to see my grandkids once in a while. Or even just get a good night's sleep. We on 3rd shift jobs crave a good night's sleep. So if you've got that kind of job available, I'll be sitting by the phone. (P.S. Perdue: I am worth ten times that 70k as a chicken-wing taster)

* * *

Continuing in this vein, for the most part I am in great shape. My weight is staying down. My cholesterol is improving, and my PSA remains undetectable through 12 months post-surgery. (I've just had quarterly blood drawn again, but I am optimistic it will show the same undetectable PSA level when the results come back.)

The only really disturbing episode I've had recently was a fall on East Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. I tripped least I THINK I tripped ...on the sidewalk. I ended up halfway in the street. Some scrapes and bruises, but nothing broken (a minor miracle in itself, as I have OI). I was mostly embarrassed after I fell, because folks saw me hit the ground and I am not very graceful when falling face-first to the firmament. In the days since, it has been playing on my mind a bit. You see, I don't fall down. I am careful not to fall down. But when I tripped (or whatever it was I did) I was completely unable to recover my balance. It's almost as if I was already leaning forward when it happened, with no change to avoid the grip of gravity. Gravity may the weakest force in the Universe, but it kicked my ass last week.

I think that I subconsciously knew that I've become slightly less firm-on-my-feet. I'd mentioned to the wife on a couple of occasions that I was "due for a fall." Why the hell would I say that? What does my subconscious know that my conscious brain doesn't see? If my subconscious is that good, can it point me to the best chicken wings in NEPA?

But I digress.

And lastly, and totally unrelated to anything I've written here today, if I see one more Viagra commercial with scantily clad and gorgeous women talking about ED, I'm tossing a plate of wings at the TV. It aggravates the hell out of me. I have my reasons, but it's not what you think. And who the hell is ED anyway?

Alright, enough coffee. I'm rambling. Off to work. Damn the torpedoes. Fry the wings. Full sail ahead.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Fringeville #138 August 16 2015

...I am experimenting with templates, so you might see the look of the blog changing one or more times until I am happy with it. A wise fellow blogger suggested that the template I'd been using was hard to read. Because I used white text on black background, this heavily influenced the way I used text elements. Changing to another template is harder than I expected because some of the text which was easier to read against a black background became very difficult to read with some of the alternate templates. Hopefully I'll come up with something that works. What I don't have is much time to mess with it these days. But if folks have trouble reading it, well then what's the point?

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Great GOP picnic in Pittston Township yesterday. Most of the judicial candidates were there. Travis Kellar from the Times Leader did a nice recap on the event: TL Covers the GOP Picnic...

I was on grill duty:  Grill it, Jimbo!

I am a sucker for grilling, so when GOP Chairman Bill Urbanski asked me to man the grill I was all over it. It was brutally hot, and I never even noticed. I just kept on flipping burgers and washing down root beer.

(For complete transparency, I am an active Republican Committee member and will remain so until the 2016 Primary, when I will put myself out to pasture.)

Stefanie Salavantis, one of my favorite folks on the planet, gave a great talk on what has been accomplished in her first term. I remember meeting her way back when she announced her write-in campaign, which led to an improbable victory (to the skeptics) but a very likely one from where I sat. She had fire, and she took the county by storm. She's worked hard, with a 100% conviction rate on homicides and she's been fiscally responsible. Read more on her accomplishments here: Results matter!

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis
* * *
I had to leave the picnic as soon as the grill duties were over. I spent the balance of the afternoon helping my son do concrete work at his place. What is it with Irish guys doing things like this in the hottest possible weather? I actually spent a lot of time with my son this weekend. I've missed that; we both used to have a lot of time to spend together. Now I just grab whatever time I can with him. Fricking time is going by too fricking fast.

The day ended with more grilling: Grill it AGAIN, Jimbo!

I love summer. Just saying.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fringeville #137 August 09 2015

The ladies in my life
My daughter is 25 today. Quickest quarter century I've ever watched go by. (I remember when waiting for the dismissal bell in junior high took a good decade or so.)

She and my wife are best buddies. Joined at the hip. Which means they occasionally drive each other crazy. It provides me with a lot of theater, but I wouldn't have it any other way. We're going to go out to eat and celebrate another year in the rear-view. I am thankful to the good Lord and great doctors that I am here in pretty damned good shape to celebrate with them.

So happy 25th, CoCo.

* * *

I took a run up to South Abington Township for the GOP picnic in the park today. The weather was great, the company was excellent, and a splendid time was had by all. 

It struck me how many friends I've made in Lackawanna County over the past few years. I didn't know anyone up there at all at one time, but getting involved in politics has as a reward the chance to meet some really wonderful folks, and there's a mess of them up in Lackawanna County.

I spent some time talking with Laureen Cummings and Bill Jones, the next Lackawanna County Commissioners. I had some excellent burgers (2 in fact) grilled up by Lackawanna GOP chair Lance Stange. I chewed the fat with Melanie and David Madeira, and also spoke with my good friend Mary Barket from Northampton County (one of the sharpest and hardest working ladies I've ever met in politics).

I saw some of my Luzerne County friends as well. Ron Ferrance and his son Brandon (a young, rising star in the GOP) were there, as well as Donna Baloga. I'm sure there were many more folks I should name, but I am an old fart and have to check most mornings that my underwear is on right-side out and facing front, so just remembering all the above folks is a minor miracle for me.

* * *

My cousin Connie and her husband Jim celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at a surprise party last weekend in Maryland. At first I wasn't sure I could make the trip. I had to work 3rd shift on Friday night, and the party started at 1PM. That meant working all night then driving to Baltimore. I finally decided I had to be there. I felt compelled, actually. There would be cousins I hadn't seen in a decade or more. And I was in their wedding:

...I am the little fart in the middle...

When I finally had the chance to talk to Connie, the first thing she said was: "When are you going to finish writing No Cognitive Defect? I've been waiting two years for the next installment!"

I promised her more was coming. It will be a challenge. Nothing saps creativity more than working two full-time jobs. I get some great ideas at 3AM while I'm cleaning a room in the O.R. I hear dialogue in my head, clear as a bell. I see where to take the plot.

By the time I get to the day job at the shoe store, the dialogue has become a faint whisper and the plot points have become a smear of muddy, meandering possibilities.

And by the time I get home, I don't hear a damned thing and the only thing I'm plotting is what to eat before going to sleep to start it all over again.

Somehow, Connie (and Bridget, who I know will see this at some point) I will find a way to finish the novel. Time is slipping by at a faster and faster rate. I need to make things happen for my characters before fate makes something happen to me.

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