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Letters to the Editor Policy

Sparkling Opportunity

After John Mayer finished promoting Dick Gregory’s autobiography, with tears in his eyes, I made a bet. I was positive my good buddy would seize a sparkling opportunity. Thanks to Rush Limbaugh, I’m light ten dollars.

Only people who grew up in the turbulent 60s, most probably, would know who Dick Gregory was and what he did. Mr. Gregory performed stand-up comedy that both white and black audiences found both painful and hilarious. While I was at Penn State, I listened to him deliver a speech. And I was moved. The man was certainly gracious afterwards. He autographed my ticket. I wish I still had it. Today, it might be worth a few bucks.

I did read his autobiography. When it was first published, the title consisted only of one word. Yes and yes again, the word rhymes with the name of a certain horse, the one Roy Rogers rode. Here’s the thing.

Every once in a while, so Mr Gregory wrote in his book, he would get heckled. To counter, so he claimed, he would tell the audience somebody had mistaken him for that horse. Maybe, I’m a sucker for off-the-wall wagers. Just by gut instinct, developed during my time as a stand-up comic, I’m positive much more than that was involved.

Oh, well, I guess I expected too much of Rush. Yes, the man has talent. And along with talent, he must also have enough prudence to work within his constraints. If Gregory were still around, he might offer Rush some advice on how to pull it off. For my part, I think Dick had enough wit to seize that sparkling opportunity.


A Alexander Stella

Susquehanna, PA

Chill Out, Teabaggers

There is entirely too much anger these days politically, and like all anger, it short-circuits thinking.

So people are stewing about Bailouts. Well, look at it this way. When they let Lehman Brothers fail, the resulting shock put the whole world into the Great Recession. If they had let AIG or a major bank go under, the Recession would have turned into a Depression, and then you'd really have something to be angry about. And keep in mind that the bailout money has mostly been repaid, with interest, a good deal for the taxpayer.

So people are fuming about bonuses for incompetent bankers. But why are you angry at the government about it? Shouldn't you be angry at the bankers? These bonuses are from earlier contractual obligations and the government cannot void them. And if they could and did, you'd be panicking, calling the government anti-business, even Marxist. So there's no winning with you. What's your solution to the problem of greedy incompetents awarding themselves bonuses? It better not be bashing the Democrats.

Anger may be a good political motivator, but it is a poor basis for policy. For America's sake, you need to fail. Time to ice that "tea," folks.


Stephen Van Eck

Rushville, PA

A Moment Changed The World

The Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said recently, “Al Qaeda is almost certain to try a major attack on the U.S. in the next three to six months.” The question is, how “major?” Since the Twin Towers fell, everyone's worst nightmare has been a nuclear armed terrorist organization. The frightful reality is that this prospect cannot be ruled out.

A panel of 76 nuclear security experts calculated a probability of a nuclear attack on the U.S. at 29 percent within the next ten years. That was five years ago and the probability has almost certainly increased. But how could al Qaeda obtain such a massive and sophisticated weapon?

To begin, nuclear weapons are no longer either massive or sophisticated. The first atomic bomb, Fat Man, weighed five tons, the second, Little Boy, weighted 4.5 tons. Today, a nuclear weapon can be a svelte 120 pounds, and some sources say it can be half that.

As for sophistication, they are alarmingly simple. An experiment was conducted to see just how simple. Three graduated physics majors were given the task of designing and constructing a fission weapon.

Two-and-a-half years later they produced a working weapon minus, of course, the 110 pounds of highly enriched uranium-235 core. That was 43 years ago. Today with the plethora of information available on the net, a working model could be produced in a week, if not less.

But al Qaeda need not be concerned about making the weapon or obtaining the all important fissionable material; it can simply buy one. In fact, there are indications that al Qaeda may have already done just that.

In a 1997 report on “60 Minutes,” a former Russian National Security Advisor, Soviet General Alexander Lebed, said, “More than a hundred weapons are not under the control of the armed forces of Russia. I don't know whether they have been destroyed, stored, sold, or stolen.”

One year later, a story surfaced in an Arabic language newspaper claiming that Osama bin Laden actually obtained such a weapon from the Soviet Union. Months later, this was followed by an article in the “Jerusalem Report.” It reported that bin Laden had bought several suitcase nuclear devices for $30 million and two tons of Afghan heroin.

Nuclear weapons deteriorate over time and become inoperative. But Soviet suitcase nukes are designed to last for years if they are connected to an electric source. Such a weapon is estimated to have a yield of one kiloton; that's equivalent to two million pounds of TNT.

Pakistan is another source for a doomsday device. The Pakistani government titters on a tightrope between American interests and anti-American Islamic militants. Moreover, the government, military, and police are riddled with al Qaeda sympathizers. There is the distinct possibility that an atomic bomb could be spirited away.

Assuming that al Qaeda has a nuclear device, how is it going to smuggle it into the United States? This last hurtle is no higher than a roadside curb. Every day coyotes guide some 3,000 to 6,000 illegals across the Mexican border. Could one of these illegals wearing a backpack or carrying a heavy suitcase pass unnoticed into the U.S.? Easily. But there is a more secure path.

About 21,000 containers arrive daily in U.S. ports. Ninety-eight percent are unchecked. It is assumed that what the cargo manifest states is what is in the container. A dangerous assumption, but given the quantity of containers and the necessity of timely distribution it is unavoidable.

Allowing that one of these containers holds a nuclear device, it could be routed to any warehouse, then transferred to a car and driven to Wall Street or Pennsylvania Avenue.

Many possibilities, all of which may be wrong. But if not...

The car nears its destination. The driver hesitates, then with a loud, “Allah Akbar!” he flips a switch that detonates a small explosive charge. The explosion slams two 55-pound hemispheres of enriched uranium-235 into each other. It is the moment that changed the world.


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

Regulatory Overreach

Just imagine a farmer and other workers needing a medical certificate to drive a truck or tractor that is pulling something on a road at their farm. Picture them needing to keep drivers’ logs, recording their hours of service and break times, just like commercial truck drivers. Imagine farmers being required to complete pre-trip inspections and post-trip reports on the safety equipment of the tractors, trucks and equipment being towed, every time they travel on a road from the barn to a field. Also, while a 16 or 17-year-old can drive a car in Pennsylvania, a farm youth less than 18 will be prohibited from driving a tractor with a piece of farm equipment around the farm if it touches a roadway.

Unless some common sense prevails soon, those restrictions and requirements will be showing up on Pennsylvania’s farms.

Such drastic measures are not being proposed because of poor safety records. Take, for example, the suggested age restriction on tractor driving. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) own statistics show that only 81 roadway incidents involving a farm youth under age 18 occurred during the past 10 years on or near Pennsylvania’s more than 60,000 farms. More than half (43) of those incidents were not caused by the farm driver.

What started this? In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) audited Pennsylvania’s state highway safety regulations and found them falling short of federal standards. Long-standing and sensible PennDOT exemptions for farm vehicles were determined deficient by Washington even though they are typical of farm vehicle laws across the country. Pennsylvania is among only a few states to be audited by USDOT and could lose approximately $8 million of federal funds for highway safety programs unless acceptable standards are worked out with Washington.

Because federal law does not include certain definitions used in Pennsylvania - like “implements of husbandry” - PennDOT says it’s not possible to continue the current exemptions for farm operations while also meeting Washington’s demands. It appears, however, that the other states have managed to work out some agreements with USDOT to avoid such extreme regulations.

Farmers take highway safety matters seriously. For instance, Farm Bureau teams up every April with PennDOT, the State Police and PA Department of Agriculture to remind motorists that slow-moving farm vehicles will once again be traveling on rural roads as the new farming season begins. Safety reminders both for farmers and non-farm drivers are featured in the annual Rural Roads Safety program.

The newregulations recently proposed by PennDOT are under final review by the Senate and House Transportation Committees of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, as well as the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC). Unless an agency or legislative body in Washington or Harrisburg intercedes to stop or postpone the process, the regulations will take effect sometime after March 1.

It will be needless and harmful to Pennsylvania’s family farms, food supply and economy.


Carl T. Shaffer

President, PA Farm Bureau

Wake Up!

I read today (Friday, 2/19) that the Administration intends to pass Universal Healthcare by means of a legislative procedure known as Reconciliation. This procedure, designed to reconcile budget bills with a simple majority vote, would be used by the Obama administration to pass the trillion dollar, overwhelmingly unpopular, government takeover of our healthcare with a simple majority vote of the Congress. It has been used by both parties in the past but never, never approaching the scale of this.

According to the Democrats, the bill will be an amendment to some budget bill to conform to the letter, but certainly not the spirit, of the legislative process. To cram such an overwhelming unpopular bill through Congress by this means is beyond comprehension. The American public be damned.

I have attempted over these last many months to highlight how we are losing our Freedom by the actions of our currently elected “representatives.” You had better ask yourself now just who are they representing? Between this behavior and a dangerous process known as Executive Orders (EO), we are teetering on the brink of Totalitarianism. You may say to yourself “this guy (me) is a nut case,” but take a good close look at the facts and history. As an example of the sweeping scope possible under EO, take a look at EO 9066 which FDR used to put American citizens of Japanese (and some German) descent into internment camps for years. (As an aside, most of those people lost all of their land and businesses in the process). Then take another look at the actions of this administration in terms of the people surrounding the President and his actions to date. Connect the dots. Are you so naive that you must have a gun to your head before you see what is happening? It will be too late by then.

Glenn Beck, on his program earlier this week, revealed that when he was investigating the actions and history of Timothy Geithner before his confirmation as Secretary of the Treasury, he found the IRS knocking on his door. Talk about intimidation and abuse of power! People - wake up!


Joe McCann

Elk Lake, PA

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Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript

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