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Posts from December 2012


I Was A Gun Nut Waiting To Crack
Thursday, December 20, 2012

The headline screamed from the editorial page of The New York Daily News, at the time in 1976, America’s largest selling daily newspaper.

“Keep Your Kids Away From Windows, Buy Yourself a .38.”

The message was loud and clear. Protect yourself and your family. Shoot to kill.

I was as proud of the essay as any I had ever written. I submitted the opinion piece to the paper because I meant business and wanted the whole country to know it. Come to my house looking to hurt me or my family and I would shoot you. I would kill you if necessary.

The paper’s editors paid me $100, the first journalism money I ever made.

I was working in a state prison at the time and received threats I attributed to an escaped convict who blamed me for his problems. The criminal had already fired a shotgun blast through the window of a police officer who he previously blamed for his problems. When I spotted my then wife’s 6-year-old son – mine, too, at the time, coloring in the sunlight streaming through the front window, I flipped.

“Get away,” I screamed. “Get away from the window.”

Although I had grown up with an armed state trooper for a father who had taught me how to shoot at an early age, I did not own a gun. So the night after the threat, New Year’s Eve, I borrowed a loaded .357 from a neighbor and stuffed into the waistband of my pants. I showed the gun off at a party. I drank beer and drove home in the early morning hours, watching as I pulled up to the apartment, waiting. I was a gun nut waiting to crack.

Neither smart nor legal, that’s just the way it was.

Within days I was at a sporting goods store handling a small .32 caliber pistol. I bought a little shoulder holster. I applied for and received a county permit to carry the concealed weapon. I was armed and dangerous.

After The Daily News published my piece, my bosses at the prison said I was no longer sensitive enough to work trying to rehabilitate criminals. My wife got nervous about the gun and me in the house.

I bought a bigger one and owned it when she took the kid, left for good and set the wheels I motion for divorce.

Working as a security guard in a city hospital, I attended an “international” academy for law enforcement in Pittsburgh to obtain a state lethal weapons permit. The “academy” was a farce and the mandated psychological exam was worse. The “teachers” gave a motley crew of walking personality disorders the answers in advance and we spit them back when we took the test.

The “major” who owned the business stamped our diplomas for gun safety and sent us on our way to protect and serve, credentialed to be lethal if we saw fit.

My new at work buddies were also gun nuts. We drank and practiced martial arts together. One day we walked through a mall with enough firepower concealed under our jackets to make us feel like superheroes. We were bad and we knew it. We also were insecure, aggressive and wound far too tight for anybody’s good.

We fired our guns at a survival training camp. We drank more beer. We congratulated each other on our success in facing the enemy. But we never faced an enemy. And it took me more than a few years to realize that the enemy was us.

We all needed work.

Still, I bought an even bigger, more powerful gun – a semi-automatic with a night sight and a 14-shot clip with one in the chamber, loaded with plastic-coated BAT bullets that would spin and turn as they entered and exited the body.

But one day I came to my senses. I realized that as long as I trained and practiced discipline, courage and honor with care, my brain was my most powerful weapon.

I sold my gun and began the slow process of training not to fight – of being prepared to help protect myself and others even at risk to my life. I learned to meditate, practiced aikido and yoga and honed my senses to become more aware of danger in a cruel world, including danger I might bring on myself by taking uncalculated risks.

I am stronger, more powerful, better equipped to face the unseen and unknown perils of the day. No longer a gun owner, I am more prepared to face the enemy without a gun than with one.

I healed. I got better. I set a good example for children by being a good role model and teaching non-violence through word and deed wherever and whenever I can. I work for peace and hope for protection and safety for everyone, particularly children.

We must do all we can to safeguard the life of any child who wants to color in the bright sunlight that streams through a window and casts a brilliant glow on tomorrow

We must do all we can do to save lives

 
 
 
Tags :  
Topics: Human Interest
Locations: Pittsburgh


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Will We Dig More LIttle Graves
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The other day I tried to imagine the sound of semi-automatic assault rifle fire exploding in a elementary school. And I decided that if I was haunted by the eruptions in my mind you, too, should be haunted. During yesterday’s show, I planned to play the sound of semi-automatic assault rifle fire each time I returned from a commercial break. I usually play music, mostly oldies and 60s rock, but I decided that the stark reality of the Connecticut carnage that slaughtered 20 six-and -seven-year-olds needed to be accentuated in our short attention span world.

Then I realized that sound effects would be useless. They would be a sad gimmick. Instead I played the peaceful bamboo flute music of a Japanese shakuhachi. I did not want to be accused of dramatizing a drama that needs no amplification.

I also knew I would be accused of other excesses. So I prepared for that conflict.

I made it clear yesterday that I firmly advocate a new ban on assault rifles, even more stringent than the 1992 ban that outlawed 18 types of weapons of war. I made it clear that more precautions were necessary to prevent bloodshed in our nation of law. I made it clear that I would pressure elected and appointed government officials to regulate and restrict mostly semi-automatic weapons because I respect life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To do so will strengthen the Second Amendment, I told the WILK News Radio listening audience. A “regulated militia” means exactly that. We must regulate firearms so we don’t one day have more guns than people in a good country where the bullet-ridden bodies of children dead in classrooms defile the most innocent concept of democracy.

The assault weapons ban expired in 2004 without presidential support and our elected leaders in Congress showing sufficient courage to renew the safeguard. Now we must enter deep into the dark political agendas. Now we must hold our public servants accountable because they have failed to protect our children.

President Barack Obama agrees. At least he said he agrees during a speech at the high school in the little town that will forever be known as sad and sacred place made unique by madness and gunfire.

Madness is bad enough and deserves all the attention our nation can provide to help, not hurt, those who are mentally ill. Add gunfire and the madness gets worse, becomes fiendish and defines us. We must take great care not to target the mentally ill. We must try to heal them. We must not  level both barrels of gullibility at them, denounce the sick as the enemy and fight to lock them away in antiquated warehouses of the spirit the way we didn’t know what else to do.

Will Obama take action and lead the charge to disarm? Or will he posture briefly and then turn away from any meaningful gun reform the way he has in the first four years of his presidency? When he first ran for the presidency, Obama promised to save the lives of innocent people who have since been gunned down. Will Obama keep his new promise after breaking his old promise? Or will he turn away as he has, refusing to lead against formidable foes who do the bidding of the powerful gun lobby, gunmen and gunwomen who want him to fail anyway?

We in Northeastern Pennsylvania must do our part to help try to stop the madness. We must personally approach each and every elected official in our communities - federal, state and local – and ask them exactly what they plan to do to better regulate guns in America.

Do not ask them how they feel. Do not listen to their pious plea for prayer. Do not listen to their consolation to the families of the dead. Do not allow them to dance away from the focus of the matter.

Ask, “What exactly do you plan to do to better regulate guns in America?”

Equally as important is the question of what exactly they do not plan to do.

Our elected public servants must be held accountable.

Leading the list is U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, Gov. Tom Corbett, state Sen. John Blake. State Sen. John Yudichak., State Sen. Lisa Baker. All out state representatives, including the new trio from Lackawanna County, who can make a name for themselves right out of the gate by standing up where others have failed.

I care not at all for their political parties. I care for their willingness or unwillingness to lead.

Last night on the TV news I read and listened to brief written statements from Casey, Toomey and Barletta. All three political powerbrokers dodged the specific question of how to reasonably regulate our domestic weapons of war, including a war on children.

If 20 dead first-graders doesn’t get their attention and provide the focus to fight for American decency, I don’t know what will. I do know this, however: As long as our public policy makers continue to avoid safeguarding the people, more of those people and their children will die.

Unless America’s leaders lead, we might as well start digging more little graves.

You never know when you’ll need them.





 


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A Holiday Peace Of My Mind
Thursday, December 13, 2012

This time of year I plug in the peace wreath every night when I get home from work.

Casting its white glow against the front of our house, the fresh evergreen circle in the shape of a peace sign is our way of telling sharing the most important message of the season. The peace wreath offers as a gift our wish for peace on earth and goodwill toward everybody.

Perhaps naïve and simply innocent, the message stands strong against war, violence and hatred that shapes what has past and what is likely yet to come. But maybe peace will survive. Maybe peace will spread. Maybe peace will ignite fervor for love and understanding in the New Year. Maybe peace will prevail.

Maybe not, though.

Peace shapes the same circular conundrum as war. Round and round and round it goes. Where it stops nobody knows. A dog chasing its tail? A shooting Christmas star? Generations of soldiers fighting because those who created them also fought? Greed, ego and want giving rise to greater desperation that in the past? Is peace the  answer? What was the question?

All these thoughts and more dance in my head this time of year as I sometimes stand across the street from my house at night before locking up and going to bed, looking to the light and taking comfort in knowing that my life for now and hopefully forever is secure.

Not everybody knows peace.

Countless people live in fear and longing for better times, better lives and better ways to find happiness that is all to often elusive. Too many people worry and find anxiety rather than the calm peace of mind that best serves humanity. Too many people long for respect, decency and goodness that never come their way.

I’m no expert in peace so I practice every day.

You might find my commitment to peace at odds with what you sometimes hear on my show, as I talk and listen, listen and talk and sometimes seem at odds with anything even close to the peaceful flow of thought, commentary and analysis that would seem the norm for a man of peace.

Introspection and eruption is part of the practice.  So is plugging in the peace wreath, And when the wreath comes down, I’ll carry its light for the rest of the year at the center of my being.

Since I’m thinking out loud here, using words to convey the complex confusion that makes me who I am, I’d like to invite you to join me in the practice of peace. Peace does not exclude disagreement or even argument. Peace does not prohibit self defense through word and deed. Peace does not disallow standing in the face of adversity, political corruption or otherwise, and taking a stand based on honor and principle to help people in need.

To do otherwise would hurt peace. And, of course, we must not hurt peace. Instead we must become great warriors of peace. We must work for peace each day through our actions. We must side with the hope for a better when more and more people who deserve peace in their hearts and minds, peace in their minds, peace in the world, find peace in each moment of an often cruel, cruel world.

Please humor me if you think that I’m rambling. Rambling is part of my personal peace process.

One the air the other day I told you about putting up the peace wreath and about how my wife and I will likely keep the wreath in place until St. Patrick’s Day. The message of peace runs all year round but our neighbors would likely prefer that we take it down and don’t keep it up all year round.

Besides, I like putting up the wreath, even through it took us two hours on Sunday and my fingers bled from a whiplash I received from cutting the strong, plastic cord from which we hung the peace wreath.

Yes, the peace wreath bit me.

But I’m healing and the message of peace is still coming through loud and clear. So consider this column my holiday card to you even if you shake your head and tell me my brain is not firing on all cylinders. Mock me. Laugh at my wish for peace. Then ask yourself if you are at peace and, if not, what, if anything, you’re doing to change your way.

If peace eludes you, take a deep breath, think a happy thought and exhale peacefully. Breathing lets you know you’re alive and is always a good sign. From there, almost anything’s possible in your outlook on life.

Then think about getting a peace wreath of your own.

Peace feels good. Peace is good. Peace is the answer.

War is over - if you want it.


 
 
Tags :  
Topics: Human Interest
Social:


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Goodbye Baloneygate Hello Holiday Meatballs.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The “Holiday Christmas Party” is still on at the Luzerne County Transportation Authority. But, as of last Thursday at about 7 p.m. – about the same time my show ended – county authority public servants are going to have to bring their own food.

So long Italian meatballs, baked ziti ands chicken tenders.

Hello pot luck.

The reason for the change in plans, according to LCTA Executive Director Stanley Strelish, is because he decided to reject the LCTA board offer of up to $2,000 in public funds to pay for the bash. Strelish said he decided to kiss the free food goodbye after receiving a telephone call about my breaking the news Thursday night about the party.

Strelish said the majority of the board – seven of nine, excluding Patrick Conway and Mary Susan Riccetti - voted at the November 27 meeting to fund the affair because of the good job LCTA workers have done despite facing obstacles during the year. That’s an understatement considering a state investigation into ridership numbers, accusations of ghost riders and turmoil over sexual harassment claims.

Strelish also said in a telephone interview this morning that he cancelled the raffle drawings for gift baskets and lottery tickets scheduled to be held at the Dec. 17 party which runs from about 10 a.m. until about 7 p.m. - maybe even all night - to accommodate all LCTA workers, including bus drivers, who might want to attend.

Nobody will be attending “on company time,” said Strelish. Everybody will go on their own time, including the human resource director who gets an hour for lunch, he said.

The woman who will set up the party is taking a vacation day to help, Strelish said.

Has she already put in her vacation request?

“Yes,” said Strelish.

The party space is a “training area” that goes unused about 90 percent of the time, he said.

Strelish said he opposed the public funding – the first time in the 20 or so years the party has been held. But he said he didn’t oppose the funding publicly at the authority meeting and did not tell any of the board members about his opposition. Strelish said he told some LCTA workers after the meeting and had planned to take a vacation day and not attend if public money was used. Strelish said he did not take issue with the board members at the meeting because “They’re my bosses.”


Strelish said he cancelled the raffle last Friday.

Why?

“It’s not legal,” Strelish said.

An invitation that included a message from “Stan” prominently mentioned the raffle    and includes the first names of four LCTA workers to be contacted to buy tickets.

Strelish said he does not know if any LCTA workers sold raffle tickets and accepted cash during work hours or if the LCTA public employees sold tickets by taking calls on publicly-funded LCTA telephones.  He said he would check.

Strelish said he hadn’t even seen the invitation signed “Stan.”

“That’s not my signature,” Strelish said.

Did somebody sign his name to a message he didn’t write?

“That’s another story,” he said.

Strelish then got mysterious, saying that whether the LCTA looks good or bad in the eyes of the public will come out in the lawsuit.

“What lawsuit?” I asked.

Strelish said he misspoke and couldn’t talk about it.

“I was just thinking outside the box,” he said.

Then Strelish launched into a disjointed discussion about the Australian radio jocks who impersonated the Queen of England and Prince Charles, asking me what I thought about the prank that left a nurse dead. I opposed such stunts, I said. Strelish said he was, too.

Then Strelish tried to lay a guilt trip on me.

“Would you like to hurt people having a Christmas party?” he asked.

I told Strelish that his question was ridiculous because I was merely trying to account for public money in Luzerne County – where about a half-a-million dollars-a-year is budgeted to the LCTA and where workers have been laid off and services are being cut.

Besides, I didn’t turn down the public funding and kill the illegal lottery.

After refusing to challenge his bosses, Strelish thought better of it and said he contacted board chairman Paul Maher who agreed that the money should not be used.

The board never should have offered in the first place.

So, as it should have been from the beginning, it’s so long sausage and peppers.

“My wife and I will be baking cookies for the party,” Strelish said.
 







Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The “Holiday Christmas Party” is still on at the Luzerne County Transportation Authority. But, as of last Thursday at about 7 p.m. – about the same time my show ended – county authority public servants are going to have to bring their own food.

So long Italian meatballs, baked ziti ands chicken tenders.

Hello pot luck.

The reason for the change in plans, according to LCTA Executive Director Stanley Strelish, is because he decided to reject the LCTA board offer of up to $2,000 in public funds to pay for the bash. Strelish said he decided to kiss the free food goodbye after receiving a telephone call about my breaking the news Thursday night about the party.

Strelish said the majority of the board – seven of nine, excluding Patrick Conway and Mary Susan Riccetti - voted at the November 27 meeting to fund the affair because of the good job LCTA workers have done despite facing obstacles during the year. That’s an understatement considering a state investigation into ridership numbers, accusations of ghost riders and turmoil over sexual harassment claims.

Strelish also said in a telephone interview this morning that he cancelled the raffle drawings for gift baskets and lottery tickets scheduled to be held at the Dec. 17 party which runs from about 10 a.m. until about 7 p.m. - maybe even all night - to accommodate all LCTA workers, including bus drivers, who might want to attend.

Nobody will be attending “on company time,” said Strelish. Everybody will go on their own time, including the human resource director who gets an hour for lunch, he said.

The woman who will set up the party is taking a vacation day to help, Strelish said.

Has she already put in her vacation request?

“Yes,” said Strelish.

The party space is a “training area” that goes unused about 90 percent of the time, he said.

Strelish said he opposed the public funding – the first time in the 20 or so years the party has been held. But he said he didn’t oppose the funding publicly at the authority meeting and did not tell any of the board members about his opposition. Strelish said he told some LCTA workers after the meeting and had planned to take a vacation day and not attend if public money was used. Strelish said he did not take issue with the board members at the meeting because “They’re my bosses.”


Strelish said he cancelled the raffle last Friday.

Why?

“It’s not legal,” Strelish said.

An invitation that included a message from “Stan” prominently mentioned the raffle    and includes the first names of four LCTA workers to be contacted to buy tickets.

Strelish said he does not know if any LCTA workers sold raffle tickets and accepted cash during work hours or if the LCTA public employees sold tickets by taking calls on publicly-funded LCTA telephones.  He said he would check.

Strelish said he hadn’t even seen the invitation signed “Stan.”

“That’s not my signature,” Strelish said.

Did somebody sign his name to a message he didn’t write?

“That’s another story,” he said.

Strelish then got mysterious, saying that whether the LCTA looks good or bad in the eyes of the public will come out in the lawsuit.

“What lawsuit?” I asked.

Strelish said he misspoke and couldn’t talk about it.

“I was just thinking outside the box,” he said.

Then Strelish launched into a disjointed discussion about the Australian radio jocks who impersonated the Queen of England and Prince Charles, asking me what I thought about the prank that left a nurse dead. I opposed such stunts, I said. Strelish said he was, too.

Then Strelish tried to lay a guilt trip on me.

“Would you like to hurt people having a Christmas party?” he asked.

I told Strelish that his question was ridiculous because I was merely trying to account for public money in Luzerne County – where about a half-a-million dollars-a-year is budgeted to the LCTA and where workers have been laid off and services are being cut.

Besides, I didn’t turn down the public funding and kill the illegal lottery.

After refusing to challenge his bosses, Strelish thought better of it and said he contacted board chairman Paul Maher who agreed that the money should not be used.

The board never should have offered in the first place.

So, as it should have been from the beginning, it’s so long sausage and peppers.

“My wife and I will be baking cookies for the party,” Strelish said.








 


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Mellow Zombies Walk Among Us
Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Smiling, waving and leaning against the chair at the defense table in a federal courtroom Friday, former state Sen. and Democratic Party warlord Bob Mellow looked surprisingly spry for a man about to be sentenced to prison.

How many times over the decades did Mellow pose in that same confident lean during late night debate in the Senate? How many times did he flash those perfect white teeth? How many times did he try to control the outcome of discussion?

In this debate, however, Mellow had little to say.

After more than five hours sitting in the courtroom, I had to leave early so I didn’t see his lame “apology” that elicited tears from himself and his family, a half-hearted act of contrition that turned his once powerful voice into the weak whisper of a busted gangster and defeated man.

But Mellow really didn’t apologize at all.

“I’m extremely sorry for what has taken place,” Mellow blubbered.

“I’m embarrassed and ashamed of what has taken place. I’ve let them down, and I’m very, very sorry, and I will be for the rest of my life,” he said.

What about disgracing the oath of office? What about pillaging the public trust? What about willfully, consciously and maliciously breaking laws you were duty-bound to uphold?

Forget about it.

No, Bob Mellow is still too full of himself to apologize for what really matters. But that doesn’t stop his walking-dead army of wide-eyed zombies from supporting the delusion.

What the 200 or so people who wrote letters to the judge, trying to influence him into keeping their hero out of prison, forget is that Mellow played them for the biggest fools of all. Those of us who reject the preposterous characterization of Mellow as an honest man, a person of good character and integrity and a true leader who did more good than harm are not being played for fools. Mellow’s closest supporters, both family and friends, are the biggest suckers.

Worst of all, though, is how Mellow sat conniving silently while his slick lawyers used the illness of his adult daughter to try to keep him from prison. Of course the lawyers claim that Mellow didn’t want them to use poor Melissa, Missy as she is affectionately called by one letter writer after another who also used her vulnerability in their attempts to manipulate the judge.

But the friends of Bob Mellow used her anyway.

The lawyers went so far in court to even threaten the judge with guilt. He would have Missy’s blood on his hands if he sentenced daddy dearest to prison and Missy “unraveled” as a result. What about that, your honor?

A catastrophe, the lawyers said. Final stages, they said. No quality of life, Mellow’s other daughter wrote in her letter to the judge. Lights out, Missy, unless, of course, dear old dad remains free and can breathe life into the daughter apparently nobody else can save.

After court, I said on the air that Mellow’s ex-wife, Diane, with whom Melissa lives and who provides her day-to-day care, did not get any credit in the courtroom. Neither Diane nor her lawyer attended the sentencing. But her lawyer, Janine Pavalone, called the show Friday afternoon after Diane heard my characterization of Missy based on Mellow’s lawyers’ words in court. Diane’s lawyer said her client took serious issue with the way her daughter had been portrayed, that Missy is not the fragile death bed shell that Mellow’s lawyers tried to convince the judge she is.

Don’t expect Mellow to apologize for that hustle, either. Mellow is a guttersnipe political mercenary who will claw, tear and use anything and anybody who might help him stay on top, even if the top is a prison garbage pile of corrupt public officials who went from Capitol power to prison.

I hope Diane’s lawyer files a complaint against Mellow’s lawyers. I hope the judge gets wind of what some people now see as a deliberate attempt to mislead the court, a successful sympathy play the gullible judge went for hook, line and stinker.

Can the judge do anything about it? Don’t ask me. We’re talking about the federal court system where inconsistent subjective judgment is the norm and federal judges wallow in their own eccentricities and insecurities. The same goes for the U.S. Department of Justice, where daily deals are cut for whatever unknown reasons and secrecy prevents law-abiding good citizens from ever really knowing what goes on behind closed federal courthouse doors.

For that reason, unless they tell us, we’ll likely never know the identities of Mellow’s former staffers who helped him carry out his crimes. We’ll likely never know the names of those to whom federal prosecutors granted immunity from prosecution. We’ll likely never know what exactly Mellow did for who knows how many years to poison the system.

Mellow’s toxic impact remains. Corrupt government germs still seep into our brains and burrow into our DNA. And, unless an antidote is found and swallowed, the poison will damage future generations. In extreme cases, the disease is deadly.

Only brave, honest leaders can save us.

Only we can save ourselves from the scourge of an epidemic of "Mellowitis."
 
Tags :  
Topics: Law_Crime
Social:
People: Bob MellowDianeJanine Pavalone


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