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New Wall In Parking Lot
Eavesdropping is for me way down on my list for "guilty pleasures." That pretty much explains why I prefer to sit in a booth rather than at the counter, whenever I eat in a restaurant, especially The Town Restaurant.
Anyway, I overheard somebody describe in disparaging terms that new wall in the Erie Shops parking lot. Because the wall was set on a layer of sand, supposedly, it was imitating the well-known Leaning Tower of Pisa. That time, my curiosity got the better of me. And I butted into the conversation. When it comes to technical stuff, I'm like a moth drawn to flame. Really, I don't think that's a major character flaw. Well, some section of the wall was horribly out of alignment, so I was told. Over the next few days, my curiosity intensified.
Yes, some people were gawking. Still, I was checking out the alignment of the wall's blocks with a level. A few times, the bubble was right between the lines. Most of the time, it was split by the line, which was closer to the block. Only two or three times, did it float completely outside the spot between the lines. All in all, so far as I can tell, that wall is well aligned with the earth's gravity.
As regards that other wall that stretches across that parking lot, I once had an idea about it. Anyway, the wall's owner squelched my design for a mural to be painted on the wall. Truth be told, various technicalities would've rendered realizing the idea impractical. With regard to this new wall, none of those technicalities apply. As soon as I get a few bucks together, I will ask for permission to realize my ideas.
Incidentally, I do talk to people once in a while. I'm far from vehemently aloof. Occasionally, I indulge in casual chit chat. While I and another person were reading the breakfast choices in The Town Restaurant, a few days ago, we chatted briefly. That other person remarked about how an occasional menu item seems, well, "uptown bistro" ... ah, that's how I took what was meant.
This may be hard to swallow. But it's a fact. More than a few people from outside deep Susquehanna country believe the residents gorge on grits. Those few residents with a taste for grits drive on up Route 11 to satisfy their craving at that establishment that caters to truck drivers.
Come to find out, thanks to that aforementioned brief chat, Rachel Rae might have, more than likely casually, influenced Jeff's menu. Oh yeah, www.google.com has more than a few entries on her cooking show.
A Alexander Stella
The Best Way To Lose
The war in Afghanistan is lost, hopelessly lost, irretrievably lost. Pres. Obama has but to choose which way to lose it. There are three.
Way No. 1: Pursue some variant of the same strategy. Here troop levels would remain essentially the same but with greater emphasis upon special ops troops. These men would be inserted deep into Afghanistan in hit-and-run missions to target enemy leaders. This coupled with an increased use of drones for precision strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda headquarters may change the course of the war.
The goal in the Afghan war was to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. However, judged by what we set out to achieve, we have failed and variations on a theme aren't likely to change the situation. The insurgents are in control of more than half of the country and last month was the deadliest yet for U.S. troops. Fifty-one dead.
Moreover, the top military commander in theater, Gen. McChrystal, doesn't think playing a shell game with regular troops and special ops units or making greater use of unmanned planes is going to make much, if any, difference.
Way No. 2: Significantly increase the number of troops. Gen. McChrystal wants an additional 45,000 boots in theater and he wants them soon: “the war will not remain winnable indefinitely.” Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, agreed with Gen. McChrystal.
Additionally, Gen. Ray Odierno, chief U.S. Commander in Iraq, is another top military leader who thinks more troops are essential. He credits the massive number of troops in Iraq for the success of quelling violence.
But is this “success” in Iraq merely an illusion? The drop in violence is more a consequence of the two Muslim sects separating themselves in to a patchwork of sectarian enclaves rather than a strategic victory for the U.S. military.
Way No. 3: Pull out of Afghanistan. Admit that the war has no definable victory or feasible exit strategy. It is an unwinnable war. Staying only prolongs a hemorrhage of lives and a waste of wealth. Perhaps the only viable choice is to bite the bullet, admit our blunder, cut our loses, and leave as the Mughals, tsarist Russians, British, and the Soviets did before us?
So, then, what is the least worse choice? No. 1? Hold to the present number of troops and hope that somehow, someway, some quirk of fate will change the situation for the better? But after nine years of war, additional years offer no more hope of success than the preceding years.
Perhaps Choice No. 2? Pres. Obama should take the generals' advice and commit an ever increasing number of soldiers to a far-away war that is becoming increasingly unpopular in Afghanistan and at home?
But choosing this option does not guarantee success. On the contrary, past escalations have only strengthen the insurgents' resolve, increased their influence, and caused greater hostility among the civilians toward the occupiers.
Additionally, Pres. Obama faces budgetary constraints that make a meaningful increase in military strength in Afghanistan untenable. There are 124,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, 68,000 more in Afghanistan, and Gen. McChrystal wants 45,000 more. Can we afford this war?
The cost of the war in Iraq is $690 billion and in Afghanistan is $230 billion. All this while 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, 35 million are on food stamps, and federal tax revenues are down an astonishing 44 percent.
Or go with No. 3? We haul down the colors and raise a white flag. However, the consequences of this may be more dire than staying. First, it would be conceding victory to the Taliban and al-Qaeda giving them total control of the country. Second, it would further destabilize Iraq and Pakistan - and Pakistan has the Bomb, about 100 of them. And third, the image of U.S. military might would be irrevocably tarnished proving to be more of a plaster Goliath than a force with which to be reckoned.
So, then, which way will the president choose to lose?
New Milford, PA
National School Bus Safety Week
October 19 through 23 is National School Bus Safety Week. Most people do not realize that school bus transportation continues to be one of the safest forms of ground transportation. In fact, a school bus is eight times safer than a passenger car. This is no accident. It is through the efforts of hard working and dedicated professionals, particularly the drivers, that makes this so.
Our tremendous safety record is due to tough federal and state regulations, extensive school bus driver training and review and our commitment to safety. School busing is a much more complex and demanding job than most people realize or appreciate. It is supported by an extensive network of personnel including mechanics, dispatchers and driver safety trainers. The vehicles are designed, built and equipped for the safety of the children they are used to transport. They are operated during the busiest travel periods of the day and in all types of road and weather conditions.
School bus drivers are justifiably held to a higher standard as professional operators. We feel we attain that goal with superior driving habits and skills. The problem is that our best efforts can only deliver a part of the results. An awareness of the law and behavior of the driving public remains a critical element in the safety of the children we transport to and from school. When a motorist feels they can’t remain behind a school bus and will go through stop signs, make u-turns in the middle of the road or pull directly out in front of the bus because they are in a hurry, they are not doing this just to the bus driver, they are doing this to all the children riding on the bus. These types of actions put the children in unnecessary danger.
Too many times school bus drivers report motorists passing stopped school buses when they are picking up or discharging students. School buses are equipped with an 8-way lighting system. The amber (yellow) lights will begin flashing between 300 and 150 feet before the school bus stops. During this time, the motorist must prepare to stop. When the school bus stops, the red lights will begin flashing and the side-stop arm will be extended. All motorists meeting or following the bus must be stopped at least ten (10) feet from the bus and are not to proceed until the red lights are no longer activated and the students have reached a place of safety. Pennsylvania law is quite simple to remember… a motorist must always stop for a school bus when the red lights are flashing. There are no exceptions. This includes fire engines, ambulances, police cars and funeral processions. If a motorist fails to stop for a school bus, it is an automatic 60 day suspension of their driver’s license, 5 points on their driving record and a $100 fine.
School bus safety is also influenced by activity on the bus. The driver has to contend with weather and road conditions and maintain an awareness of all activity around the bus, driveways, intersections, people, pets and wildlife. While a driver has all this to consider outside the bus, he need not be distracted by misbehavior inside the bus. Rules are provided for students to follow while riding the bus and are there to maintain a safe and orderly environment. Parents/guardians should serve as role models and instruct their children in appropriate and socially acceptable behavior on a school bus as well as everywhere else. The driver should be accorded the respect he has earned and deserves.
Even more so in today’s busy world, with the increasing volume of traffic on the roadways, please… observe School Bus Safety Week, every week… it could save a life.
James M. Ainey
Freedom Lost - The End Game
I had to stop listening to Glenn Beck. His revelations regarding what was happening to our Constitution within the Washington Beltway was causing me so much consternation that it was effecting my ability to hold a civil conversation. I was so distraught that I couldn’t stand it any longer. So, now I limit myself to Bret Baier, some Sheppard Smith and a dribble of government network programming. Even at that, I am aware of so much bad stuff happening that I am terrified at the prospect of what is coming down the road.
How do you deal with an administration that redefines the meaning of something as basic as “tax?” Now, if the White House (WH) deems that the net result of a new “tax” will save you money, it is no longer a tax. If there are over a million people marching on Washington (9.12.2009), protesting the proposed government healthcare program and the WH and the government controlled press ignores it, it didn’t happen. If a vast majority of the people do not want government controlled healthcare (Seniors - stock up your Attends - you know that Medicare is going to take a big hit), our “representatives” ignore us and jam it down our throats anyway. Our president has made a big push for government healthcare via the talk show circuit but avoids FOX like the plague. God bless Rep. Joe Wilson (R. SC) who had the guts to call a spade a spade (I hope to God you know what I am talking about). Then we have the WH crushing the morale of the CIA by sanctioning the Attorney General’s criminalization of the CIA agents who were doing their jobs interrogating the Al Qaeda prisoners. It is noteworthy that the AG drops prosecution of the dude in black who was intimidating voters in Philly with a big nightstick during last year’s election. ACORN and voter fraud and the changes which those actions wrought. WH denials. My head spins. What do you do with a WH which is punishing Honduras for dumping the president who attempted to circumvent the Honduran constitution, according to the Honduran Supreme Court. Our WH is working to establish another Chevez in Honduras. How do you stop an out of control budget deficit (1.4 trillion dollars and counting) when current legislators pile it on and on with complete disregard for our posterity? How do you sleep at night when your president goes around the world apologizing for the United States? The world would be speaking German and Japanese if it weren’t for us, and don’t you forget it. Then there is the relentless creation of paper money via the Treasury printing press - setting us up for financial collapse, followed by declaration of Emergency Martial Law to keep order (a wheelbarrow of money = a loaf of bread).
I know that I am rambling but there is just so much to this. There is an ugly name for where this is all going. Winston Churchill said “Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong - these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.” The ugly name for it is Totalitarianism, a system where the people have virtually no authority and the state wields absolute control. Fail to act on November 2, 2010 and you can plan on experiencing what Churchill was saying.
Elk Lake, PA
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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