Saturday, January 31, 2009

What a week

To my regular victims, I mean readers, I have to apologize for my lack of activity over the past few days. The week began with a difficult and heart-rending decision to euthanize a beloved family pet. And that was the good part. The next day, my grandmother died. Add to that an ice storm that rendered my rural driveway impassable and unclearable, forcing my out-of-town relatives who came in for the funeral - including my elderly parents – to schlep up and down the hill like a bunch of Sherpas, and you can imagine what a lovely time we’ve been having. Oh, I forgot to mention the mother of all head colds. I’m expecting the plague of locusts any time now. But, as Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.” And, hopefully, tomorrow I can get back to blogging – and breathing. Go Steelers!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Farewell, old buddy

An era is ending today at the Observer-Reporter. My good friend Stan Diamond, who has toiled for many years for the newspaper as a writer and photographer, both in the Greene County and Washington offices, is taking a well-earned retirement. I’m not sure about the precise number of years Stan has been at the O-R, and I don’t want to suggest that he’s old, but when Stan started in the business, Gutenberg was still working out the bugs in the concept of movable type. Seriously, Stan’s been here for about 40 years. I’ve been here about half of Stan’s tenure, and there are plenty of stories to tell. One that stands out was the time Stan went to take a photo on Maiden Street, where a young boy, tragically, had been stuck and killed by a car while riding his bike. Stan took a variety of photos and suggested a wide shot of the scene with the bicycle and the ambulance in the frame. Instead, I chose a close-up shot of the crumpled bike, and near the bicycle was a bit of the poor child’s blood. Stan warned me against using it. I thought the photo, while painful to look at, was a stark reminder of the dangers of children riding bikes on busy streets and the need for helmet use. Well, a number of our readers didn’t take kindly to our use of the photo, and since Stan’s name was in the caption, he’s the one who was the target of the hate letters, phone calls and, in one case, a subscriber who returned a comment card with three words on it: “FIRE STAN DIAMOND!” That’s when we started calling him “Lenses of Death.” He found it a lot less humorous than we did. Some of those letter writers and phone callers thought Stan was the devil incarnate, so they must have found a bit of justice a couple of years later when an editor botched a photo caption and labeled a picture as being taken by “Satan Diamond.” With his retirement, we lose not only a talented photographer, but one who truly cared about doing the best he could every day for the newspaper and its readers. Stan probably has nightmares about taking photos of high school play casts and standing on the sidelines at high school football games in the pouring rain, but we editors, in news and sports alike, knew that Stan would always do what he could to bring us back a good photo. I can’t begin to tell you how much I have learned from the man, or how much I’ll miss him.


Cranky old man alert

For people 30 and younger, today’s reaction to our “winter weather event” probably seemed normal. It snowed an inch, so schools across the area either had a two-hour delay, or more typically, canceled classes. For people my age (old), it’s a joke. We remember the days when 3 or 4 inches of snow wasn’t even a blip on the radar when it came to having school. We had it, and we never thought our lives were being endangered. Heck, we live in Western Pennsylvania, and it snows in the winter. Back in the '60s and '70s, when I was going to school, it seemed to snow a lot more, and if school was canceled then, kids knew there’d be enough of the white stuff to build a snow fort. We actually had someone write a letter to the editor recently complaining that their school district didn’t take action to protect the children when a storm hit. Maybe I’m suffering from short-term memory loss, but I don’t recall a single “weather event” this entire winter that should have required a cancellation, and very few that warranted any sort of delay. The letter writer said that “in the last two years, our kids have been sent out on snow- and ice-covered roads too many times.” Um, dude, grab yourself a map of the United States and check out where you are. There are going to be plenty of snowy days here between November and March. This winter, in particular, we seem to have had a lot of little snows. What are we supposed to do, shut down schools in these troubling weather times and have the kids go to school all summer? And how many hours of instruction are our children losing because of the extensive use (overuse) of two-hour delays? I have some advice for those who want to cower in fear every time we get a dusting of snow: Move to South Florida.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Not the wisest move

Here’s an AP dispatch from Africa that caught my eye today:

LAGOS, Nigeria – One of Nigeria's biggest daily newspapers reported that police implicated a goat in an attempted automobile theft. In a front-page article on Friday, the Vanguard newspaper said that two men tried to steal a Mazda car two days earlier in Kwara State, with one suspect transforming himself into a goat as vigilantes cornered him.
The paper quoted police spokesman Tunde Mohammed as saying that while one suspect escaped, the other transformed into a goat as he was about to be apprehended.
The newspaper reported that police paraded the goat before journalists, and published a picture of the animal.
Police in the state couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Belief in black magic is widespread in Nigeria, particularly in far-flung rural areas.

A goat? Really? Now, I don’t mean to criticize another person’s modus operandi, but didn’t the car thief even give a little thought to turning himself into a cheetah so he could run like hell, or maybe a lion or gorilla so he could open up a can of whoop-ass on those who tried to capture him? This shows no imagination whatsoever. And it’s not like they’re going to keep him around in a cell forever, waiting for him to change back. In that neck of the woods, they’ll just eat him. My other question is, why can’t this happen in WashPa? Just imagine the excitement if someone turned himself into a goat up by the county courthouse … and the goat was wearing a Hines Ward jersey! Now that would be a lot more newsworthy than trivial things like home foreclosures and some new guy moving into the White House.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Do church on your own time

A federal judge, on constitutional grounds, has smacked down a state law that requires a moment of silence in all Illinois public schools. I applaud U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman for recognizing a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Proponents of the law say, of course, that it doesn’t require prayer, but the intent is clear as day in the title of the measure: It’s the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. In his ruling on the case, which was filed by talk show host and atheist Rob Sherman and his high school-age daughter, Gettleman noted that under the law, the “teacher is required to instruct her pupils, especially in the lower grades, about prayer and its meaning.” I would have no problem with schools offering elective courses on world religions or using religious texts in conjunction with studies of literature, but the Student Prayer Act goes too far. Schools should not be recruiting grounds for religions. Proponents of school prayer may say that’s not their goal, but if they’re not looking to indoctrinate or proselytize, then what’s the purpose of this continuing effort to get prayer, in the guise of silent reflection, into our public schools? A student can pray at any time during his or her school day. It does not have to be, nor should it be, an organized activity.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change at the top

Whether you agree or not with his politics, it’s hard to deny that today’s inauguration of Barack Obama as president is a great moment in American history. When I was born, black Americans were still second-class citizens in their own country, subject to blatant discrimination and deadly violence. Today, a man born to an African father and a white mother is our president. Time will tell whether Obama will be a good president. Perhaps no American leader since Franklin Roosevelt has faced the immediate challenges Obama will encounter. In the days ahead, we can discuss the moves the new president is making. But today, let’s talk about the man who is leaving the Oval Office. Putting aside his achievements in “keeping America safe from terrorists,” which is no small matter, what, in your minds, are the achievements of the George W. Bush presidency?


For gawd's sake, just pull over

Anyone who knows me well has heard me bitch repeatedly about people (mainly women, sorry) who insist on jabbering on their cell phones while driving. A Pennsylvania state lawmaker is currently seeking a ban on use of hand-held cell phones behind the wheel, and the National Safety Council went even further, calling for a ban on use of all cell phones – even hands-free models – while driving. I applaud them both, but I doubt either will succeed, because a large segment of Americans seem to be joined at the hip with their cell phones, Blackberries, etc. I also have to take issue with an editorial that appeared over the weekend in the Observer-Reporter that contends the National Safety Council proposal goes too far. The editorial stated that “there’s a difference between making a quick call and chatting for a half-hour with one hand holding a phone and the other hand on the wheel.” No, there isn’t. It only takes a split-second of paying attention to getting someone on the phone, instead of the road ahead, for a deadly accident to take place. The editorial also said that “if a phone conversation takes your attention away from the road, so also does talking with a passenger.” That statement ignores studies that have found talking on a cell phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, results in a much greater deficit of attention than talking with someone in the seat next to you, who also happens to be able to help the driver notice travel hazards they might encounter. Some say that a cell-phone ban amounts to a furtherance of the “nanny state” approach, in which government tries to protect us from all dangers, whether we want them to or not. But I have to ask those who favor a laissez-faire approach: Do you also want to allow people to be drunk behind the wheel and drive as fast as they desire? Cell phone use by drivers is a significant threat to you and me. A state police report from 2007 found that hand-held cell phones were a factor in more than 1,200 accidents across the state. Even if we pass on the ban on hands-free phones, if for no other reason than it would be nearly impossible to enforce, we should do the right thing and make it a crime to use a hand-held phone behind the wheel. The bottom line is this: Is it really asking too much for someone to pull over if they have a call they absolutely must make while traveling? Or is it really that you just want to chat with your gal pal? I’ve lived 50 years without a cell phone (I hope to never own one), and I’ve managed to struggle by in my daily life. You should try it. Just put the thing down on the ground and stomp the hell out of it. Free yourself!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Pittsburgh's goin' ... and we'll be goin' insane

I’m as tickled as the next Steelers fan about the Black and Gold going to another Super Bowl. It boosts the spirits at this really dead time of year and gives folks something to focus on other than home foreclosures and their dwindling retirement accounts. But one thing I dread more than a root canal is the two weeks of insane, fawning, out-of-control crap that we’re going to be fed by the Pittsburgh TV stations. It’ll make their coverage of a two-inch “snow event” look like child’s play. I’m really looking forward to these hard-hitting stories: “North Versailles woman makes piece of toast that has image of Troy Polamalu on it” and “Big Ben’s stepmother’s hairdresser’s cousin’s sister’s boyfriend remembers Ben as a Cub Scout” and “Hines Ward pooped today; sources say it was solid.” Go Steelers!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Quit the whining

A group called the Center for Constitutional Rights isn’t happy with how the New York City Police Department is handling its business. The organization is complaining that NYPD officers stopped, interrogated and frisked more than half a million people last year, with 80 percent of them being black or Hispanic. By the way, the civil rights group is suing the police department over its stop-and-frisk policies. Of course. The first question that popped into my head was what percentage of crime in New York City is committed by those same groups. In fact, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne notes that the number of minorities who were subjected to such stops was consistent with descriptions provided by crime victims and witnesses. Added Browne, “It should not be surprising that in a city of over 8 million people, where police make approximately 400,000 arrests annually based on probable cause, they would also make approximately 500,000 stops based on the lesser standard of reasonable suspicion.” The rights group also claimed that since 2005, such police stops resulted in the discovery of a weapon only 2.6 percent of the time. Said Darius Chaney, an attorney working on the lawsuit, “At that low rate of return, you have to question whether this is a legitimately good crime-fighting strategy.” While I’m sure Mr. Chaney is an expert on fighting crime, I’ll have to disagree with him. If the stop-and-frisk policy stops even one robbery, one rape or one murder, I’d say it’s worthwhile. Years ago, I was sitting in my car outside my house in South Carolina when a police officer, gun drawn, approached the vehicle and asked me to put my hands on the steering wheel. Of course, I complied. He was looking for a suspect in a rape that had occurred nearby, and I matched the general description of the criminal. He was just doing his job in determining whether I was the guy they were seeking. When he questioned me and determined that I wasn’t the rapist, he and I both went on our way. It never occurred to me to sue him and his police department for violating my civil rights as an Irish-American. How silly of me.


Does this look like a hardened criminal?

Increasingly, we are seeing educators and parents using police to handle their discipline problems with kids. The latest example comes from Sandpoint, Idaho, where 8-year-old Evelyn Towry, who is autistic, was arrested, handcuffed and hauled off on a battery charge because she got out of hand and combative when teachers refused to allow her to wear a special sweatshirt her mother had made for her to a school assembly. Evelyn was put in a separate classroom, apparently didn’t like that and got into a confrontation with teachers. I understand that educators are afraid to put their hands on children these days for fear of lawsuits, and that’s a legitimate concern, but was it really necessary to arrest an 8-year-old? And it’s not just schools that are taking this extreme and unnecessary approach. It’s not uncommon at the paper for us to hear on the police scanner a call for an officer to come to a home because a parent can’t control his or her young child. The police have real work to do. Supervise your own kids. And, at the risk of being called a child abuser, I’ll state that there are times when I believe a swift swat on the backside can do wonders when it comes to correcting improper behavior.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's overkill

We all want to protect our children from child predators, but as with every anti-crime effort, there is a point where zealous enforcement goes to far. That is the case in Greensburg, where a half-dozen Greensburg Salem High School students are facing child pornography charges. Did this gang of teens take pictures of themselves having sex with young children and post them on the Internet? No. Three girls, ages 14 and 15, took nude or semi-nude cell phone photos of themselves and sent them to three boys, ages 16 and 17. All of the people involved in this case are kids. What you have here are three slutty girls sending naked pictures of themselves to three very thankful guys. In a non-hysterical world, the photos would have been deleted from the guys’ cell phones and they would have gotten a good talking to, or a greater punishment if they spread the pictures around. The girls’ parents would have punished them severely for their stupidity. You could say that the guys should have immediately deleted the photos, but if you say that, you were never a typical teenage boy. We did not have cell-phone technology when I was in high school, but I can assure you that if a girl had snapped a Polaroid of herself in a state of undress and graced me with it, I would have guarded that snapshot as if it were the Holy Grail. It is a cliché, but kids will be kids, and kids will do stupid things. Some punishment is clearly in order, but in this case, that should be the domain of the parents or the school district. We shouldn’t turn a bunch of teenagers into criminals because their hormones got the best of them.


Cue the "Deliverance" music

I look at hundreds of stories a night while getting the paper out, and it takes a lot to surprise me, but a story out of Georgia the other night got my attention. It seems that adults in Georgia who drive or ride in pickup trucks don't have to wear seat belts. People in cars do. People in SUVs do. But not folks in pickups. Perhaps the state is trying to give people in pickup trucks more freedom of movement to spit out tobacco juice or to open the door and reach down to snatch up some fresh road kill for dinner. But seriously, the only rationale for the exemption, based on the story I read, is that people in rural areas don't want the "gubmint" telling them what to do. This is similar to the stupidity we have in Pennsylvania that requires people in massive Humvees to buckle up while folks riding motorcycles don’t have to wear helmets. But it appears that officials in Georgia are having second thoughts about the pickup truck exception, and the change of opinion is being fueled by cold, hard cash. The federal government is withholding about $4 million from Georgia because of its seat belt law loophole, and with Georgia, like most other states, facing a financial crunch, that money would come in handy. It’s also estimated that changing the law would save 21 lives and $62 million in accident-related costs such as medical expenses annually. Said state Sen. Don Thomas, a Republican doctor who favors ending the loophole, “It’s better to prevent (the deaths) than to plan funerals.” Hard to argue with that.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Is coverage of Palin legitimate? You betcha

People have been accusing me, and the media as a whole, of going out of our way to keep Sarah Palin in the news and to attack her. Well, there are two factors at work here. First, Palin is a public figure who is looked upon by some right-wing Republicans as the second coming of Ronald Reagan and the future of the party. That, in itself, makes her perpetually newsworthy. Second, Palin, rather than just concentrating on her job as governor of Alaska, continues to thrust herself into the public eye, whether it be by defending the educational pursuits of her grandbaby’s daddy or, most recently, whining about the treatment she receives, as compared with the public and media treatment of Caroline Kennedy, shown above. Palin did a recent interview with conservative filmmaker John Ziegler, who is working on a documentary called “How Obama Got Elected.” Palin told him that Kennedy, who is pursuing the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by Hillary Clinton, is getting softer treatment as a Senate contender than she did as a vice presidential candidate. This may be too much for Palin to grasp, but these are two strikingly different offices that are in play. Kennedy is attempting to become one of 100 senators. A senator, on his or her own, has limited power. Palin was attempting to become vice president to an elderly man with a history of cancer. After hearing Palin on the campaign trail, that was a worrisome prospect for many people. Palin also told the filmmaker that CBS anchor Katie Couric and comedian Tina Fey have been “capitalizing on” and “exploiting” her. She also accused CBS of “splicing together” the Couric interview to make her look bad. Poor baby. Here’s the truth. Couric conducted an interview in which Palin was exposed as being unprepared for higher office and seemingly lacking in intellectual curiousity. And Fey has not been “exploiting” you, Mrs. Palin. She’s mocking you. And it’s pretty easy. My advice to Sarah Palin, if she has designs on higher office (and we know she does), is to spend the next few years gaining knowledge about the world beyond the Great White North and what she can see from the tip of the Aleutians.


How many outs are there?

Baseball has made a big deal about rooting out use of steroids and stimulants by its players, but where there's a will, there's a way, and Major League Baseball is helping its players get around the crackdown. Last year, more than 100 players were given exemptions to use medication to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That’s right, nearly one in every 12 major league players is using drugs we typically think of being given to schoolchildren who can’t keep their minds on their studies. What, do players lose their train of thought during that half-second that it takes for the ball to come from the pitcher’s hand to home plate? Are first basemen forgetting to cover the bag on ground balls to short. Are third basemen getting drilled by line drives because they’re thinking about puppies and kittens? Or maybe, just maybe, ballplayers who can no longer get away with taking uppers are trying to find a way to keep stimulants in their systems. Do ya think? I don’t imagine it’s too hard for a pro baseball player to find some jock-sniffing doctor to diagnose them with ADHD. Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of labor relations, said the incidence of ADHD among baseball players can’t be compared with that of the general population. Said Manfred, “We are all male. We are far younger than the general population, and we have far better access to medical care than the general population. The response by Dr. Gary Wadler, chairman of the panel that puts together the banned-substances list for the World Anti-Doping Agency, was basically to laugh at Manfred. “This is incredible. This is quite spectacular. There seems to be an epidemic of ADD in major league baseball,” said Wadler. “I’ve been in private practice for a lot of years. I can count on one hand the number of individuals (I've seen) that have ADD. To say that (8 percent) of major league baseball players have attention deficit disorder is crying out for an explanation.” I’ll offer this explanation. It’s just the typical, head-in-the-sand, don’t-confront-the-players-union approach of Major League Baseball. But who knows? Maybe if the Pirates put together a roster made up totally of players on Adderall, they could avoid a 17th straight losing season. You’re right. That’s crazy. Because the Pirates’ ownership would just hire the worst (read cheapest) ADHD players they could find.


Funniest story of the day

The AP reports that five of the Somali pirates who freed a Saudi oil supertanker drowned with their cut of a $3 million ranson when their small boat went under in a storm in the Gulf of Aden. The Sirius Star had been seized by pirates in mid-November and was carrying crude oil valued at $100 million. On Friday, the ransom was dropped by parachute from a helicopter (see photo), and the pirates scattered, but witnesses saw a boat with eight of them aboard go down in the storm. Five drowned, and their cut of the ransom went under with them. Ah, karma.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Oh, say, can you just sing the song?

I've never understood why the "Star Spangled Banner" is played before sporting events in this country, and particularly why it's played pretty much ONLY at sporting events. But if it's going to be performed, is it asking to much for the "singers" to sing it as the music is written, without adding their own "touches" to the song? A good example was the woman, unknown to me, who performed the National Anthem before Thursday night's college football national championship game. Toward the end, she was warbling and wailing to the extent that I found it necessary to check the TV screen to make sure someone hadn’t sneaked up behind her and shoved a red-hot poker up her wazoo. Sadly, her histrionics are becoming the norm, as these so-called singers try to put their own imprint on the grand old song. More often than not these days, the National Anthem is butchered. What do you say we just distribute CDs of the “Star-Spangled Banner” as performed by the late, great opera star Robert Merrill, who used to perform the anthem at Yankee Stadium. He always made Francis Scott Key proud.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One thin mint? It's wafer thin

I haven’t quite reached the dimensions of the infamous Mr. Creosote from “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life,” but I’m headed in that direction. As a result, in the next couple of days, I will be embarking on a diet. My publicly stated goal (which will no doubt doom me to failure) is to lose 50 pounds by Memorial Day. If you’re gonna dream, dream big. Right? My advantage is the fact that I’m not some 120-pound woman trying to lop off the last three or four pounds she needs to drop in order to be “bikini-ready” by spring. I’m a big old fat guy with lots of pounds to be discarded. Traditional diets have never worked for me, mainly because I don’t do well with structure. My general framework for the diet is to avoid carbs and shift my eating habits more toward fish and fresh vegetables. I’m going to give myself one “day off” from the diet each week to cut down on the drudgery. I’m not going to gorge on that day, but if I want a Twinkie, I’ll have one. Over the years, I’ve seen and taken part in some strange diets. I recall my mother going on a diet that had, as its centerpiece, a huge pot of this revolting cabbage soup that she kept taking out of the fridge and reheating. I think the aim of that diet was to kill one’s will to eat. I’d be more than happy to hear any tips you folks might have for me, and to hear about some of the wacky diet approaches you’re encountered. If you’ll excuse me now, it’s time for a tearful farewell to my good, good friends, white bread, sweet tea and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.


Forgive? Forget about it

More than 30 years after fleeing a prison sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old, film director Roman Polanski wants a court to dismiss the conviction. Prosecutors in Los Angeles have fired back with both barrels, filing an explicit document with the court spelling out allegations that the young girl was given alcohol and drugs before she was forced into oral sex, intercourse and sodomy by Polanski, who allegedly told the girl that the encounter was “our secret.” Polanski, now 75 and living in France, and his lawyers are raising the issue of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. That would hold a lot more weight were it not for the fact that Polanski pleaded guilty to a felony charge in order for the other charges to be dismissed. That was acceptable to the victim, who wanted to avoid a trial. However, on the day he was to be sentenced, Polanski fled the country. Prosecutors are arguing that Polanski’s motion for dismissal should be summarily rejected unless he, himself, is present for the hearing. Of course, that would subject him to immediate arrest, so you know he’s not showing up. This would have been a great case for a guy like “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” who could’ve snatched Polanski off a street in Paris, stuffed him in the back of a Lear jet and taken him back to L.A. It’s easy to say that, after more than 30 years in exile, Polanski has been punished enough. But we can’t forget that, according to the allegations, a 13-year-old child was drugged and raped repeatedly. Justice, in this case, would be for Polanski to go to prison, and die there.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Any reports of bleeding ears?

Some radio and TV stations are in dutch with the Federal Communications Commission as the result of their airing of the Philadelphia Phillies championship celebration a few months back. The offense, at least according to the couple of dozen people who complained, was the utterance of the "F word" by Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who proclaimed that his team was "F-ing World Champions." Utley later apologized for his use of the word and implored youngsters not to follow his lead. But that wasn't sufficient for those who apparently were scarred for life by Utley's utterance. Said one person in an FCC complaint: "This was an intentional misuse and abuse of the public airwaves ... How am I to explain such profanity to my child?" Get a grip. Maybe you should just tell the tot that Mr. Utley said what you consider to be a bad word, and you don't want to hear the younster using it. And Utley was a fairly unlikely candidate to drop the "F bomb." An AP story says he has a "genial image" in Philly and is known, along with his wife, for supporting animal rescue and adoption. It's not like the Phillies and the TV and radio stations turned the floor over to Andrew "Dice" Clay. When my son was a small fry, I often took him with me to the golf course. My golf game, to be kind, was rather inconsistent, and the young lad often heard words one might not say while greeting the queen of England. Included among those words, frequently, was the "F word." I don't think he was scarred for life by the experience. In fact, he'll soon be 20 years old, and I've yet to hear him utter that word. I'm not one to categorize words as "good" or "bad." My suggestion for those wishing to protect themselves or their children from "naughty" words is to build a cabin in the woods, cut off all outside sources of information and, if you have kids, homeschool them using nothing but the Bible. But choose the passages wisely. I understand there's a lot of sex and violence in the "good book."


Dark days

There was a day, admittedly long, long ago, when I considered myself to be in the forefront of finding good, new music that the average music fan wasn't aware of. I was cutting edge. Those days, clearly, are behind me. My musical tastes these days tend toward what my daughter ungraciously refers to as "weepy college girl music." OK, so I've mellowed a bit. But I hit rock bottom on Monday. While looking on iTunes for a CD to download, the folks at iTunes, based on my download selection, pointed out a mix CD that they thought I might also enjoy: The title: "Soccer Mom Chillout." Oh, the shame!


Thursday, January 1, 2009

When's them-there nuptials?

Amid the holiday hoopla, you might not have heard that Bristol Palin, unwed daughter of Alaska governor, sex-education opponent and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, delivered a baby boy last weekend. Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston (does anyone else find the use of four names pretentious?) weighed in at seven pounds, four ounces, and mother and baby are reported to be doing fine. With that bit of business out of the way, one can assume that Bristol, according to the plan laid out during the presidential campaign, soon will be tying the knot with the fella who impregnated her, fellow 18-year-old Levi Johnston. However, it appears no date has been set. I understand that you have to work around the kids' school schedules and ... What? ... They're not in school? ... They are? ... What's the story here? The story is that a few months back, the AP reported that Levi Johnston had dropped out of high school to work on the North Slope oil field. Now, Sarah Palin has her panties in a twist about that, saying that Johnston is, indeed, pursuing his education, via a correspondence program. And the gov says her daughter is enrolled in school but also doing correspondence work. OK, now that we have that clear, it should be easy to set a date. But hold on there! Surely you can't have a wedding without the mother of the groom in attendance, and they'll need to wait until the authorities firm up her court schedule on charges of selling Hillbilly Heroin (OxyContin). Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking? You take all these people - Palin, the First Dude, the happy young couple, Levi's mom (depending on her bail conditions) and the other Palin kids, Stick, Rock and Craftsman Tool, dump them in the middle of Beverly Hills and wait for the fish-out-of-water hijinks to ensue. What? Already been done? OK. Back to the young lovers. I have no doubt that Levi will make every effort to marry Bristol. He may not receive a rocket-science certification from the Wasilla School of Snowmobile Repair and Moose-Gutting, but surely he's smart enough to go all K-Fed and latch onto the cash cow that's right in front of his nose. I'll keep checking the mail for my invitation.


If you can't see the racism, then you're blind

Chip Saltsman, a candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, recently came under fire for distributing a "comedy" CD featuring a song called "Barack the Magic Negro." The song, sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," is a parody of a 2007 Los Angeles Times column that used the same title. Here are some of the lyrics: "Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C. The L.A. Times, they called him that 'cause he's not authentic like me. Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper said he makes guilty whites feel good. They'll vote for him, and not for me, 'cause he's not from the 'hood.' Some say Barack's 'articulate' and bright and new and clean. The media sure loves this guy, a white interloper's dream. But when you vote for president, watch out, and don't be fooled." That gives you some idea of what we're dealing with. Not everyone had a problem with it. Alabama Republican Committeeman Paul Reynolds said the song "didn't bother me one bit." And Oklahoma GOP Committeewoman Carolyn McClarty said, "I don't think he intended it as any kind of racial slur. I think he intended it as a humor gift." Well, if the forward-thinking folks of Alabama and Oklahoma don't see any problems ... Oh, but wait. Some people failed to see the humor of using a word that's one step away from the "N word" that nobody wants to say, including current RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, who is trying to retain the post Saltsman is seeking. Said Duncan, "The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party. I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate, as it clearly does not move us in the right direction." Saltsman and his supporters, including gasbag Rush Limbaugh, blamed the "liberal media" for blowing the whole story out of proportion. But maybe we don't truly understand Saltsman. He was campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, so he might still believe that black people carry the mark of Cain.


You're not entitled

When embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Roland Burris as his choice to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, it took all of about five minutes for a black leader to issue a warning against denying the position to an "African-American." Now, as you might recall, Blagojevich is under a taint perhaps not seen since the Nixon Administration. He had no business selecting anyone for a seat he's accused of trying to sell to the highest bidder. But putting that aside, what makes black leaders think that someone of their race is somehow entitled to this position? Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush (pictured), who was present at Blagojevich's news conference to appoint Burris, practically dared anyone - the secretary of state, the U.S. Senate, the state legislature, etc. - to attempt to block Burris. "There is no rhyme or reason why he should not be seated in the U.S. Senate," said Rush. "I don't think any U.S. senator ... wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate." When did skin color become a qualification for office? It seems to me we just elected a black man as president of the United States. Why don't some black candidates get into the Senate the old-fashioned way, by winning an election. Ed Brooke broke that glass ceiling decades ago. Are we supposed to create an affirmative-action plan for politics? Rush went on to say that Senate Democrats should not "hang and lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer." I'm sorry, but when you equate a disputed Senate choice with lynching, you're just making an ass of yourself. And while we're at it, is anyone else tired of all this "African-American" stuff? I understand that some black people have a "special history" in America, but many black Americans have no more of a connection to Africa than the pasty white guy writing this blog. It's not important where we come from. What matters is where we are now, and what we're going to do about the problems our country faces. Let's just be American Americans.