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Issue Home July 28, 2010 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

Looking Back, And Backwards

The Republican party has been licking their chops lately about their future prospects nationally. If they're right, the American people must have amazingly short memories.

Remember not long ago...

Record surpluses turned into record deficits, for no good reason?

Invading a country that did not invade us? (Oops!)

Anybody who dissented being called "anti-American?"

An ugly and childish Hate Campaign against... France?

Financial firms running amuck and collapsing the economy, while laissez-faire fanatics let them?

"Heckuva job, Brownie?"

How quickly we forget! How could anyone consider bringing all this nonsense back? I guarantee you, this could happen. The GOP can't help themselves - they must do these sorts of things. (Oh, and don't forget another baseless and tyrannical Impeachment Crusade. They'll do that, too. Darrell Issa is just antsy.)

So don't look back, hoping to go back. Remember what happened to Lot's wife when she did.


Stephen Van Eck

Rushville, PA


I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. The techniques used by British Petroleum (BP) to stop their oil spill would prove sorely inadequate, misguided even. True enough, the current seepage of methane gas is far less noxious than the previous unceasing geyser of crude oil. Still, circumstances remain alarming.

I think it’s a good bet that seepage portends tidings of sorrow resumed.

As I’m writing this reader’s letter, I’m trying to be charitable. Some of my motivation for being so comes from how I view President Barack Hussein Obama Junior, for whom I voted. More to the point, it comes from how I now regard his handling of this unholy mess. Also true enough, I’ve taken him to task a few times about that.

However, I lack due cause for taking President Obama to task with regard to one aspect. As concerns adapting the best technique to stanch the oil leak, he’s blameless. In fact, until very recently, both he and I were at the mercy of BP. Here’s where I have to “fess up.”

Before I would undertake the task of devising some way to stanch that oil leak, I had to be alerted to the possibility of financial remuneration. Just so happens, word got out about a couple million dollars that might be awarded by the foundation that runs the www.xprize.com for such a way. Shortly thereafter, it took me less than a day to devise such a way, and then to begin promoting it publicly.

Well, while I’m fessing up, I may as well spill a little more. For no particular reason, I speculated about how a different winner of the last presidential election would have altered the situation. Instead of offering twenty billion dollars ($20,000,000) as compensation for damages, BP would have offered thirty billion.

Instead of decrying “Chicago-style shakedown,” Texas Representative Joe Barton would be effusively grateful for a “harsh but fair-minded concession.” However, one aspect of the situation would be the same. The money would still be, as it is now, unsecured, and in peril of vanishing in some corporate three-card-monte… “is the hand quicker than the eye, pick the queen, think you can do it, pick the queen.”

One final note, that seepage goes a long way towards validating the way I propose for stanching the oil spill. In simple terms, the drill pipe, through which the oil travels, gets completely clogged by coagulating the very oil itself.


A Alexander Stella

Susquehanna, PA

Gather And Present Facts

I am sure that you all are now aware that some forty “journalists” (and scores of others) conspired on a website named JournoList to misinform and deflect criticism of Barak Obama regarding Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the beginning of his presidential campaign. They feared the backlash, so one of them, named Spencer Ackerman, even went so far as to suggest that the group smear Fred Barnes as a racist. None objected beyond commenting that it probably wouldn't work. The job of a journalist is to gather and present facts, not propaganda. It behooves us to question the media lest we are again led down the primrose path. I am also sure that you know that the extension of unemployment benefits passed by 60 Democratic votes in the Senate is going to be paid by your grandchildren, not by you. The dissenters demanded that the measure be paid for, not passed on. What a novel idea! There could possibly be some expectation of payback in the voting booth by recipients but that wouldn’t be very responsible, would it? That only leaves the massive financial regulation overhaul to discuss and I haven’t begun to sort that one out.


Joe McCann

Elk Lake, PA

How Do You Post A Road?

I was ordering a coffee when a young driver asked me, what do I need to do to post a road? I asked if this was something he really thought he should do, and he said, with the cost of tickets, it might be smarter. Maybe.

To bond and post, you first need to find a bonding company that will do business with you. That seems easy enough, until you realize that insurance companies demand a very long and profitable history of your business, and can still refuse you, due to a secret pact they have with the shareholders. After 9/11, when insurance companies went "broke," they have changed how they do business. The funny thing about insurance, that unless it is a state, or federal law, they don't have to insure you. The majority of them loathe the idea that even though you pay heavenly premiums, the very idea that it may cost them, causes them to really study this out. This takes time.

You then apply to the road bond dept. of PennDOT, for the application. It will start at $12,500.00 per mile. They then find the historian, who finds out the last time this road you want to bond, was last upgraded. (The road I originally had bonded, was last worked in 1958, and this was 1998.) They then send out a crew to make it passable. I had no troubles with this, until we went to update the road, to suit us and our needs, and was told that we would be upgrading past standards, and we had to cease and desist. The road still has terrible soft spots, and trucks do not use it as before. I guess the industry has standards not found in state road crews.

The trouble with bonds and permits, is that there isn't a lick of common sense in them. The state will let you bond the road, but not the bridge. (Hello, is anybody in there?)

The position is that they control the roads but not bridges. Then why do they post weight restrictions on a bridge they say they can't do?

Another trouble with post and bond is that the math never seems to add up. That is the card up the sleeve. If you take the number 73,280, and subtract the empty weight of the vehicle, that gives you how much weight your product is (73,280 - 28,500 = 44780). Divide that by 2 (short ton) = 22390. Bingo, you are over-weight, the bridge, or road says 10-16 ton limit, and here you are with 22. Get your purse out.

Most people think I tell a good story (thank you), but I'm not lying which always surprises them. How can you say this is a true story? Even a dummy can count. That is the way of the state, and those who dream up this stuff. You only need to be appointed, not educated, for the state jobs that get handed out after election.

As for my young driver, I left while his head was still swimming, and promised I'd help.

He will need it and I want our local boys to do well, to do what is lawful, even if it seems illegal how the state enforces sketchy regulations.


Cynthia Allen

Summersville, PA

Katrina On A Sunny Day

After running wild in the Gulf for just shy of three months, the beast has apparently been bound or if not bound, then at least contained. Now, if - and it's a big if - all goes optimally well, next month a relief well will drive a stake through the heart of the beast preventing it from even rising again.

But there's a disturbing parallel to BP's gusher and hurricane Katrina. It wasn't until the winds abated and the flood waters receded that the full extent of the devastation became visible.

In the Gulf, much of the damage of the polluting well has been apparent for months: the ruined lives, closed businesses, foreclosed houses, tarred beaches, tainted fishing grounds. Yet, as terrible as this is, another more fearsome beast, a monster of a different species, lurks patiently beneath thousands of feet of water. Like Katrina, the gusher might have a delayed effect, a one-two punch, before its full impact can be seen.

For 85 days, the now capped (or contained) well spewed about 70,000 barrels of oil a day. That multiplies to an astounding 6 million barrels, an amount equal to almost two dozen Exxon Valdez spills. But most of the oil remains unseen - it's missing.

Pictures of rainbow sheens are common. But a sheen is one hundred times thinner than a human hair. Not much oil there. And video clips of a few feet of oil sloshing up against a boon or a beach add up to only a negligible amount of the gusher's total outflow. Similarly, aerial footage of narrow fingers of brown ooze fanning out in long streamers are only fractional quantities.

And the thousands of barrels of oil collected by underwater containment and skimming? These collections are mixtures of water and oil. On average, 80 to 90 percent is only water.

So, where is all this missing oil?

The answer to this question lies in an experiment conducted ten years ago in the Norwegian Sea. Scientists wondered, how would oil behave under deep-sea, high pressure conditions at a near-freezing temperature?

To find out, the researchers released 16,000 gallons of oil 1,500-feet underwater. The astonishing discovery was that almost all the oil disappeared. A mere 250 gallons could definitely be accounted for, the rest was nowhere to be found. In other words, 98 percent of the oil was hidden somewhere under the Norwegian Sea; it did not rise to the surface.

The Gulf seepage is under three times the pressure of the experimentally released oil. It is compressed and frozen to a point where it will not float but seek a level of buoyancy in the water column and remain suspended thousands of feet underwater.

And that's where almost all the 6 million barrels of oil are according to Dr. Ira Leifer, a researcher at the Marine Science Institute of the University of California and member of the government's select Flow Rate Technical Team. “There is no doubt that a substantial amount of the oil remains undersea.”

Leifer continued, “All the media attention is based on a relatively miniscule amount of oil actually reaching the [surface of the] sea. The vast majority - more oil than anyone can really imagine - is still out at sea, waiting for large storm systems to blow it on shore.”

The right cross of the one-two punch is a Category 3 or greater hurricane that might roil the deep Gulf water causing the oil to rise and revert to a liquid state. Here it will act on the whim of the winds to be carried onto the beaches and far into estuaries and march lands. An “oilcane” could paint the Gulf coastline black with a broad tar brush.

Going a step further into the unknown, would an oilcane drive the oil-soaked water inland forcing the closure of some of the 14 power plants located along the coastline? The very future of the five Gulf states and the livelihood of many of its 52 million inhabitants are shrouded in uncertainty.

The answers to all these questions, await the future. In the meantime, we must all take a spectator's seat while time, in its own good measure, eliminates all the unknowns.


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

A Tribute To George (Junie) Van Vleck, Jr.

Every now and then, someone very special affects the lives of almost an entire community. In the Great Bend/Hallstead Area, that person is George Van Vleck, Jr., know as "Junie." George was a pillar of our small community and caretaker of the nearby Woodlawn Cemetery. When in his 20's, George's friends said, "Let's make George caretaker of our town's cemetery, as he will outlive us all." And he did!

I'd like to share with you some of our memories of this gentle giant, George, and his wife, Grace (who died about 3.5 years ago).

It is said that "It takes a whole village to raise up a child" (or a newly married couple). To a great degree, all of us are products of the environment of our family of origin. Time and experiences may change us, but we start and end with family, carrying with us the positive and negative feelings that we acquire along the way. During his lifetime, George helped raise lots of children and young adults in our rural community. At George's recent funeral, the minister stated that he could feel the amount of love that was in the church that day. It was overwhelming.

What defined George's life, that made him so special to all of us, family and friends alike?

G - George was always generous. We moved to Great Bend in 1984. On moving in day, George was there to introduce himself. He offered his help, in any form we needed it. Due to his having acquired multiple sclerosis in his 30's, the John Deere riding mower became George's mode of transportation through the neighborhood and up to his beloved cemetery. Daily, George would drive by to see how neighbors were doing and how things were progressing with their houses, pets, jobs. If one ever needed a tool he did not have, George would soon arrive with his tool in hand, ready to share it. Each summer, when leaving for our annual camping vacation in Maine, George would offer to take care of our pets. Grace would have a batch of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, ready for us to take with us! When my husband attended Mansfield University ('90-'93), George and Grace would have me for dinner, once a week, rather than have me eat alone.

E - George was enthusiastic, eager to enter into conversation. When needing to locate a repairman or specific item, George was our living "yellow pages." George seemed to be related to or knew just about everyone in our town. George was empathic, caring about our families of origin, our friends, our jobs, our pets - our peace of mind. We never once had to listen to any litany of complaints from George, re: his M.S. or multiple surgeries endured during his lifetime. George's upbeat attitude kept the medical profession and all of us going strong! Upon calling George to ask how his day had gone, he would always say, "Every day I'm alive is a good day." We disagree. Every day that George was alive was a great day for all of us!

O - George consistently offered to help. Pet-sitting, lawn mowing, dog walking, supervision of neighborhood construction projects - George was always there to help and advise in a non-interfering, friendly way. George shared with us how this neighborhood's landscape used to look when he was a boy, before the days of Interstate 81.

R - Real - George was a real, authentic person. What you saw was what you got. Real wood, not veneer. He loved his woodworking and shared its products with all whom he loved and appreciated. He lifted one's spirits with his heart boxes, jeeps, cradles, lap desks, trains, whale boxes, rocking horses and special order items, all made of "useless" scraps of wood.

Recipe - George liked to cook, to bake and to eat. He enjoyed sharing his recipes with others and helping teach Sally how to make his favorite foods for him. When we got our first microwave, it was much more enjoyable to call down and ask Grace or George how to cook sweet corn in this new oven than it was to look up the recipe in a cookbook.

Responsible - George was responsible. He was there for his family. George told me that he never handled money (as a fool and his $ are soon parted). He worked hard, handing every paycheck over to Grace, who always made due with whatever amount was earned. Instead of taking vacations, George would find extra jobs to do, so as to earn more money to help pay the bills. To others, George wanted to be the type of father that he never had. George wished that he had been able to spend more time with his own children, instead of working so many hours. Because of his M.S. disability, George was able (later) to spend more time with his grand and great-grandchildren, enjoying every moment. George would take them on long walks across the logging trail, eventually getting tired out and just waiting for the day when his energetic grandsons could walk themselves along the wooded trails. If George told you he would be at a certain place at a certain time, he would be there. Responsible, plus!

G - Grateful. George was grateful. "A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things." (Plato) George's sharp awareness of God's basic blessings surrounding us led to his gratefulness. He enjoyed a warm, cozy bed with Willow (cat) by his side, a warm shower to wash off the dirt of the day, children who called or visited him daily. George was grateful for Sally, Jim, Lucky, Terry, Ani, Lucinda & Paul, Georgia and Louis and their kids/grandkids/dogs who visited and cared for his needs so that George could stay in the comfort of his own home 'til his passing. Through the years, as George cultivated his attitude of gratitude, his riches multiplied in his conscience as well as in his life. It took few material things to remind George of how prosperous he was in the things that really mattered.

E - Eternal - "When we come into this life, we are met by loving friends and family who care for us until we are able to care for ourselves. Judging the future by the past, we believe that when we enter the larger life, there will be loving hands to greet us and loving friends to care for us until we become accustomed to our new surroundings. Nature provides for herself there as well as here. We confidently expect to meet friends and family who are on the other side. We cannot believe otherwise. We look forward to a place where our work will be done in greater harmony with Divine Love. Nature will not let us stay in any one place too long. Nature demands change in order that we may advance. When the change comes, we welcome it with a smile on our lips and a song in our heart." (Ernest Holmes)

The legacy that George has left us is beyond the measure of dollars and cents; George's legacy is the priceless gift of his example: his love, his time and talents. We have huge footsteps to fill! Yes, George, you have deposited positive blessings in each of our lives. May we carry on your attitude of gratitude in our lives and community, just as you have done for us.


Judy Harvey

Great Bend, PA

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