Monday, March 30, 2009

They're at it again

Spring is a time of crocuses and robins. It's the time when a young man’s fancy is said to lightly turn to thoughts of love or, if you're my age, baseball. It's also the time when some formerly hibernating senior citizens who have no business driving get back on the road and create a menace to all of us. There were two examples of this over the weekend in the Pittsburgh area (just imagine how many occurred nationwide). A contributor to the O-R daily poll noted that on Saturday, an older driver slammed his car into a house in Penn Hills, damaging the home and rupturing a gas line. Then, on Sunday, we saw just how deadly some of these over-the-hill drivers can be. An 82-year-old woman ran over and killed an 80-year-old man who was standing in the parking lot of the DeLallo Italian Marketplace in Hempfield, Westmoreland County. The woman, who was backing up her car to leave the lot, told police she saw the man in her rear-view mirror and initially hit the brakes, but then put her foot back on the gas when she could no longer see him. In short order, the old guy was dead. And we're not talking about someone briefly hitting the accelerator, backing up a few feet and striking a pedestrian. The elderly lady must've really jammed on the gas pedal, because police say she plowed over three concrete planters before taking out the poles holding up an entranceway awning at the business. Sometime during the demolition derby, the old man was trapped under her car. My question is this: How many times does this kind of thing have to happen before those with the power to do something (your state legislators) require that drivers over a certain age must be subjected to new physicals and driving tests? As it stands now, only a couple of states require that the elderly pass new road tests to renew a license. In most states, senior citizens of any age can renew their licenses just by cutting a check and sending in a form. No questions asked. We hear people make the excuse that young drivers are dangerous, too, but that's a red herring. Young drivers, provided they survive those dangerous early years behind the wheel, will go on, on average, to become better drivers. For many elderly drivers, it's a one-way trip toward becoming a hazard to themselves and others who have the misfortune to share the roads with them. A USA Today story from 2007 cites a Carnegie Mellon University study that found the fatality rate for drivers aged 75 to 84 was equal to the rate of teens, but drivers 85 and older had a fatality rate four times that level. The story also cited a prediction by road-safety analysts who say that by 2030, when all of the baby boomers are at least 64 years old, they will account for a full quarter of all fatal crashes. That figure was 11 percent in 2005. The threat is clear. When is somebody going to do something about it? I know our state lawmakers are generally the worst kind of cowards when it comes to offending constituents (especially those who vote in large numbers), but enough is enough.


Frontrunner, or also-ran?

Much was made over the weekend regarding Sen. John McCain's refusal to give an absolute endorsement to his former running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, for the 2012 presidential race. In fact, too much was made of it. So much can change between now and the next presidential vote, and McCain is wise to keep his options open. But McCain also probably recognizes that Palin, while energizing the GOP base, was pretty much a drag on his candidacy last year. The vast majority of the people who were ga-ga over Palin were going to vote for McCain anyway, but McCain's selection of Palin surely drove away some people who were on the fence. It was a horrible choice, one I'm sure that McCain wishes he could do over. That said, Palin remains a contender for the 2012 nomination. She's beloved by social conservatives and by other folks who are charmed by her folksy manner. But to have any chance, she's going to have to bone up on current events; you know, issues on which presidents should have a firm grasp. Her ability to see Russia from an island in the Bering Strait isn't going to suffice in terms of foreign policy expertise. And it's not like she's going to sweep to the nomination unopposed. Despite some recent rough sledding, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is still a solid contender. And some of the 2008 challengers for the nomination - Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee - aren't going anywhere. Also in the mix are Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a contender for the VP slot that went to Palin, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. And does anybody remember a fellow by the name of Jeb Bush? A recent straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference saw Romney at the head of the pack with 20 percent of the support. Jindal was second at 14 percent, and Palin was tied with Paul at 13 percent. It's pretty clear that the field is wide open, and Palin has her work cut out for her.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Don't authorities have anything better to do?

A New Jersey 14-year-old could end up in the slammer and be labeled a dangerous sex offender for posting nude photos of herself on MySpace. No, I'm not kidding. Targeting kids who transmit explicit photos of themselves appears to be the latest rage among prosecutors from coast to coast, including Pennsylvania, where the Wyoming County district attorney is threatening to bring criminal charges against three teenage girls who sent racy photos of themselves with their cell phones. I wrote about the Pennsylvania case previously, but now the girls are fighting back. They've filed a lawsuit against DA George Skumanick Jr., who is holding criminal prosecution over the teens’ heads in an effort to force them to take part in an after-school program. One of the girls in the photos was topless, but the other two were pictured in their bras. I'm guessing they show more skin when they're in their bathing suits, but Skumanick appears to be trying to make a name for himself. Maybe he's up for re-election soon. In the New Jersey case, the 14-year-old girl was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography for posting her photos on MySpace so her boyfriend could see them. If she's found guilty of the distribution count, she might be forced to register under Megan's Law. The kid's clearly a nincompoop, but charging her as some sort of child porn purveyor is like killing a fly with a surface-to-air missile. And my opinion is shared by Maureen Kanka, whose raped and murdered daughter gave Megan's Law its name. Kanka said the Jersey teen definitely needs help, but not jail time. "This shouldn't fall under Megan's Law in any way, shape or form," Kanka told the AP. "She should have an intervention and counseling, because the only person she exploited was herself." Clearly, kids should not be littering the Internet with naked pictures of themselves, but the job of policing this kind of activity belongs to parents, not prosecutors. Our pornography and child-predator laws should not be bastardized in order to imprison kids who are guilty of little more than stupidity.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

A changed man?

I was flipping around the dial on the car radio today when something on a Christian station caught my ear. It was an interview with none other than David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam serial killer from the 1970s. Berkowitz was pretty much Public Enemy No. 1 at the time of the killings, and he was sentenced to 365 years in prison for his heinous crimes. But a funny thing happened while Berkowitz was behind bars. The man who was an admitted member of a Satanic cult, and most likely also insane, found Jesus. Berkowitz became a born-again Christian in 1987. According to an Internet biography, Berkowitz has been very active in prison ministries and counsels troubled inmates. We can't see inside Berkowitz's brain – or his soul, if you prefer – but in the radio interview he sounded like a very intelligent, remorseful and sincere person - a totally different person from the one who pumped bullets into innocent people 30-some years ago. Which brings me to this question: If Berkowitz is, indeed, rehabilitated, if he is no longer a threat to society, should he be released from prison? According to the mainline Christian denominations with which I'm familiar, I believe Berkowitz became a new person in Christ when he was born again. The old David Berkowitz is no longer with us. And that points to a certain disconnect between the Biblical take on forgiveness and the human one. Can we forgive David Berkowitz for what he did? Should we?

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Dog doo and fancy duds

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: "The very rich ... are different from you and me." He sure got that right. For one thing, they have servants. And sometimes, the relationship between employer and employee sours. Such is the case with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his former housekeeper, Maria Jimenez, who claims in a lawsuit that she had to quit her job because of the intolerable and humiliating conditions of her employment. The case centers mainly on Jimenez' allegations that Bryant's wife, Vanessa, is a raging (pick a word that rhymes with ditch). One specific instance of alleged mistreatment cited by Jimenez' lawsuit centered on the ex-housekeeper's handling of one of Mrs. Bryant's blouses. Jimenez said Vanessa Bryant accused her of ruining an expensive blouse by putting it in a clothes washer. Jimenez alleges that Mrs. Kobe then demanded that she put her hand into a bag of doggie doo in order to retrieve the price tag for the blouse and insisted that she work until her next payday to cover the cost of the blouse. Now, the whole doggie doo thing is interesting enough, and I wondered how the tag and the doo came to be in the bag together, but what caught my eye in the AP story on the lawsuit was the cost of this piece of clothing: $690. I'm all for letting people spend their own money as they see fit (though I'm guessing Mrs. Kobe gets her money from Mr. Kobe, and as much of it as she wants in the wake of that messy little sexual assault case that included Mr. Kobe's admission of adultery), but does anybody really need a $700 piece of clothing? Couldn't Mrs. Kobe have found a lovely frock for $100 and maybe used the other $600 to help an adult literacy program or a food kitchen? Perhaps the Bryants already give generously to charities, but my point is that it just seems wrong somehow to fork over that much money for a shirt. I'm far from perfect in this regard. I've spent tens of thousands of dollars on cigarettes and adult beverages over the years, and I could certainly live more frugally. But I've never been one to spend a lot of cash on clothes. Ask anyone who's ever seen my wardrobe. I'm guessing that in the area of everyday clothing, the most I've ever spent for a single item is probably $50 for a pair of shoes. How about you folks? Not counting a dress suit or wedding dress or some such special-occasion clothing, what's the most you've spent on a single item for your wardrobe?


Monday, March 23, 2009

A man of peace dissed by peace conference

There aren't too many greater symbols of peace in our world than the Dalai Lama, but he's not welcome at this week's international peace conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference has been called to highlight the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, which is to be hosted by South Africa. Its aim is to gather Nobel peace laureates such as the Dalai Lama, as well as Hollywood celebrities and others for a discussion of issues including racism and how sports can serve to bring people together. Retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African presidents F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, acting on behalf of South African soccer officials who organized the event, invited the Dalai Lama to take part. It sure seems like a perfect fit. But wait. The South African government stepped in and rescinded the invitation. Thabo Masebe, speaking for President Kgalema Motlanthe, said the Tibetan spiritual leader isn't welcome because South Africa wants to avoid being "the source of negative publicity about China." Well, of course. What sort of peace conference would it be if they somehow offended the murderous regime in Beijing? I'm sure it's just a coincidence that South Africa is China's largest trading partner on the African continent. Tutu and members of the Nobel Committee are, correctly, backing out of the conference. But the Dalai Lama hasn't been banned from South Africa for life. In fact, Masebe told the Associated Press that the Tibetan leader has been welcomed twice before in South Africa and will be invited again in the future - just not now, "when the whole world is looking at South Africa." Sure, maybe they can spirit him in sometime under cover of darkness and get him out again before daybreak. Masebe is right about one thing. The whole world is looking at South Africa, and it's disgusted by what it's seeing.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Those Brazilians are one tough breed

From the I-can’t-believe-they-need-to-make-a-law-against-this department comes word that the state of New Jersey is considering a ban on, um, genital waxing. Specifically, the state Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling – am I the only one who chuckled when reading that? – wants to prohibit so-called Brazilian bikini waxes after two women were hospitalized for infections after undergoing the “procedures.” Being a person not familiar with waxing of any sort, aside from the use of candles, I did a little research and learned that a “Brazilian” involves the application of hot wax and a yanking motion to remove each and every hair from a person’s body “down South.” That’s front, rear and all points in between, I’m led to believe. And just a warning here. Do not, NOT, let the kids look up bikini waxing on Wikipedia. Yikes! I’ll pause a minute here while you all look up bikini waxing on Wikipedia. OK. Now I recognize that ladies like to look their best on the beach in the warm months, and a little, uh, landscaping is probably advisable. But, number one, there has to be a better way. And, number two, it’s not really necessary for you ladies to go to the extremes required for you to wear a bikini with a front the size of a postage stamp. We fellas have a pretty good idea of the general female anatomy in that region, whether you cover it with a cotton ball or a kaftan. You can limit the advertising, is what I’m saying. I’m not suggesting that you want to do your own pelvic tribute to Larry Fine from the Three Stooges, but a little moderation seems to be in order here. I also have learned that some “men” go in for this waxing to remove unwanted hair. You know who you are, and you should immediately turn in your “guy card.”


An indictment of our society, on multiple levels

There’s news out of California today about a “routine traffic stop” Saturday that escalated to the point that three police officers were dead and a fourth was clinging to life. The confrontation began when the driver of a 1995 Buick stopped by Oakland police opened fire on officers, killing one and severely wounding another before fleeing on foot. The AP reported that people lingered at the shooting scene, with nearly two dozen bystanders taunting police. With the help of an anonymous tip, police tracked the suspected gunman to a nearby apartment building. When a SWAT team entered the building, the suspect opened fire on them with an assault rifle, killing two officers. Police returned fire, killing 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon of Oakland, a parolee who was described as having an “extensive criminal history.” A few questions: Isn’t it about time that we quit listening to the wailing and screeching of the NRA and ban assault rifles that often end up in the hands of criminals? There is no legitimate purpose for a civilian to have an assault weapon. Next question: Why was Mixon even on the streets? Police say he was on parole for a conviction on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. This guy should have been behind bars for life. We need to build more prisons. And, finally, what kind of scum taunt police officers at a scene where one policeman has been killed and a second gravely wounded? Where’s an out-of-control gasoline tanker when you need one?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Angel of death?

People have accused me, often, of being anti-religion. In reality, I'm against hypocrisy, stupidity, bigotry and blind adherence that ignores reality. That sometimes leads me to the religions of the world. Today, it's the Catholic Church and, specifically, its leader, Pope Benedict XVI. The pope was questioned Tuesday, as he flew to Africa, about the continent's horrifying AIDS epidemic. The Vatican, of course, hangs its hat on abstinence, which is an approach that has shown a consistent failure to work since the dawn of man. Benedict told reporters, "You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem." I don't think Benedict is a stupid man, but he sure sounds like one when he makes statements like this. Either that, or he thinks the people he's preaching to are stupid. As we speak, 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV. Two years ago, that region was responsible for three-quarters of the world's AIDS deaths. Certainly, the use of condoms cannot wipe clean the scourge of AIDS from Africa, but just as certain is the fact that it can help, and a strong statement by the leader of the Catholic Church in favor of condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS would be of great value. Instead of adapting church policies to the realities of the world as it exists today, Benedict and his ilk cling to some ancient, man-written code supporting the idea of being fruitful and multiplying. What we really see multiplying today are the suffering and deaths caused by AIDS. It would be one thing if the church had held fast to all of its teachings through the centuries, but the Catholic Church has altered many other rules and concepts through the years. There's also the fact that the Catholic prohibition on condoms and other birth control methods is ignored by millions in this country alone. And even some clergy who work with AIDS patients want to see a change. Pope Benedict has an opportunity to stand up, be a true leader and remove the ban on condom use in the interest of fighting a deadly epidemic and saving the lives of his people. To do otherwise leaves him with their blood on his hands.


Smoke 'em if you got 'em

The Obama administration this week broke with the Bush administration on the issue of medical marjiuana. Under Bush, medical marijuana dispensaries in California were targeted by federal authorities, even if they were in compliance with state law governing such operations. New Attorney General Eric Holder says that won't be the case anymore, unless the dispensaries are violating BOTH state and federal laws. Said Holder, making perfect sense, "Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that's inconsistent with federal and state law." The nation's so-called war on drugs has always been an expensive failure. Those who want drugs continue to get them, and no matter how much tax money we spend, they always will. Predictably, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa thinks the change in policy on medical marijuana is a bad idea. He trotted out the old chestnut that marijuana use leads to use of harder drugs. Sometimes it does, but in many cases, it doesn't. That's like saying beer leads to whiskey. Maybe our state and federal governments should consider getting into the ganja business themselves. You could restrict purchases to people over 18 and still try to enforce laws to keep it away from kids. State governments already make billions annually in taxes on alcohol. Imagine the revenue from marijuana sales. Prohibition was repealed even though it was clear that alcohol use contributed to health problems, family strife and crime. Casino gambling was approved, despite the associated negative effects on our society. Why not marijuana?


Monday, March 16, 2009

A public service scrutinized

Much will be made about the fact that a state trooper who fired on a man shot to death during a drunken-driving patrol in Pittsburgh over the weekend was the same man who shot and killed a 12-year-old boy in Uniontown in December 2002. One can only imagine how breathless the Pittsburgh TV reporters will be when making their reports. Fact is, Trooper Samuel Nassan III, in both cases, was doing his job under highly difficult circumstances. In the most recent incident, Hassan was part of an operation aimed at catching drunken drivers early Sunday morning on Pittsburgh's South Side. Anyone who has been to the South Side knows that it's typically full of drunks, so police probably chose the location wisely. According to police reports cited by the Associated Press, Nassan and a city police officer were in an unmarked cruiser when they saw an SUV operated by Nicholas Haniotakis, 32, of Pittsburgh, driving the wrong way down a South Side street with its lights off. Officers said Haniotakis' car nearly hit the police vehicle, then sped away in reverse before hitting a parked car. The officers approached, and Haniotakis reportedly refused to show them his hands, then backed up, hit the police cruiser and nearly struck one of the officers. He then began to turn the vehicle around and head toward the officers again. That's when he was fatally shot, either by Nassan or the city policeman. In brief, he got exactly what he deserved. And it may sound harsh, but the same statement could be applied to 12-year-old Michael Ellerbe, above, who was shot to death on Christmas Eve 2002 after fleeing in the dark from a stolen SUV that police where chasing in Uniontown. The troopers said Nassan fired at Ellerbe only after his partner's gun snagged on a fence and discharged, leading Nassan to believe his partner had been shot by the youth. The troopers were never criminally charged, but Ellerbe's father, sadly, got $12.5 million from the state in a wrongful death suit. My opinion is that Michael Ellerbe or anyone else who runs from police puts themselves in a position to have bad things happen to them. And am I the only one who thinks that had Michael Ellerbe not died that night, maybe, just maybe, he might have come in contact with authorities again? And again? And again? I sided with Nassan in that case. I'll do the same this time. Oh, I almost forgot. Our "victim" in the latest case, Nicholas Haniotakis, was sentenced to prison for trying to run over a cop during a suburban Pittsburgh traffic stop in 2005. Court records also show he had a decade-long record of arrests that included crimes such as ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault. What a great loss to society, huh?


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

GOP sure doesn't stand for Gay Old Party

Ask most people, and they'll tell you that everyone in our communities, our state and our country deserve to be treated with equality. So you might think it would be a slam-dunk when some of our state lawmakers put forward legislation to make a form of discrimination unlawful. You'd be wrong. You forgot about the Republicans in our Legislature. The State Government Committee of the Pennsylvania House approved a measure Wednesday that would extend anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation, particularly in the areas of housing, employment, credit and public accommodations. The shame of this is that the bill passed on only a 12-11 vote. All 12 Democrats on the panel voted in favor of treating people equally. All 11 Republican members voted to continue casting a blind eye toward discrimination. Supporters of the legislation say it has widespread support across the state, but the opponents fear it will infringe on the religious beliefs of others. Of course, we wouldn't want to infringe on anyone's right to treat someone else as a second-class citizen, based solely on the sexual orientation they were born with. But what kind of religion would favor discrimination against people who are different from what they perceive as the norm? Oh, I forgot. That would be most of them. It's sad that we're still living in a country where a significant segment of the population holds such feelings. In my book (not the Bible, thankfully), churches that preach this kind of hatred and discrimination are no better than the Ku Klux Klan. The good news is that among the younger generations, those feelings are much less prevalent. The old haters will eventually die off. Good riddance.


It's Mary Beth to the rescue

I guess we all owe a big “thank you” to U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, who has wasted federal resources to protect us from something that was no threat to us whatsoever. Robert Zicari and his wife, Janet Romano, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Pittsburgh after a long legal battle stemming from their California company's distribution of videos depicting deviant sexual conduct, including scenes of simulated rape. Buchanan based her prosecution on the contention that the couple's videos violated community standards on obscenity. But these videos were not broadly disseminated in any community. They were sold to people who wanted to view them. Opponents of such video depictions might argue that they encourage sick people to commit similar sex crimes. But it also could be argued that if people used those videos to get their jollies, they might be less likely to act on their sexual fantasies. The case was tossed out by a federal judge in 2005, but Buchanan got that ruling overturned on appeal. She says Wednesday's guilty pleas vindicated her office. Actually, no. It probably just means that Zicari and Romano ran out of money to keep fighting Big Brother.


Friday, March 6, 2009

How about some goosedown pillows for their little chairs?

The photo above is of the 1921-22 class at the old East Buffalo Grade School. The teacher of the class was my Grandmother Mitchell, then Mary Durigg, who is sixth from the left in the top row. Somehow, she managed to educate all those children in one big room with none of the comforts we have today. The heat, as I recall her telling me, came from a coal stove and, believe it or not, there was no air-conditioning. Speaking of which, a group of parents recently approached McGuffey School Board to complain that their children’s education is being compromised because Joe Walker Elementary School does not have air-conditioning. They wanted the school district to spend thousands, probably tens of thousands, of dollars to retrofit the old school building so that their children and others are not overly warm. Fortunately, there was a stalemate on the board, and the proposal, at least at this point, has not been approved. The group of parents had the support of Joe Walker teachers and the principal, Sheryl Fleck, who said that on hotter days, the children are lethargic, have more behavior problems and find it difficult to stay "on task." Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't think we lived in equatorial Africa. In fact, I did a little digging on the Internet and found that the average daily high temperature in our area in September, the month when the school year begins in earnest, is 74.2 degrees. In May, the last full month of the school year, the average daily high is 70.8 degrees. Certainly, there are days in early September and late May when the temperatures exceed those averages, but surely not to the extent that it requires an expensive project to install air-conditioning. Somehow, I made it through 13 grades of school (counting kindergarten) in the very same school district without ever having the benefit of learning in an air-conditioned environment. I don't know how we did it. One possibility that came to mind is the fact that when I was a youngster, most of the kids in McGuffey schools were from farming families. Pretty tough stock. Now, a lot of former city dwellers have moved into the area, and I'm thinking that the city folk and their progeny might be a bit more dainty than the natives. My advice to those who must endure the brutal conditions at Joe Walker: Think cool thoughts.


Ooooooh! Aaaaaaah!

It's a little early for most of us to start picking out Christmas gifts, but if you're looking to stash something away early for a special someone, Thomas Kinkade is coming to the rescue. Through the good folks at Hawthorne Village (?), Kinkade, who has trademarked the term "Painter of Light" to describe himself, has "presented" a "three-dimensional masterpiece" known as Faith Mountain. For those not familiar with Kinkade's work, which until now has been directed more toward paintings, all I can say from a point of personal taste is that if you do an Internet search for "kitschy" and "bad taste," you'll eventually run across some of his "masterpieces." The ad I saw for Faith Mountain, shown above, describes it as illustrating the story of Jesus, "from His riding into Jerusalem to His betrayal and trial to His dying on the cross and ultimately His triumph over the grave." Kinkade and Hawthorne trumpet Faith Mountain, which carries a price tag of $135, plus $19.99 shipping and handling, as "a true testament to Jesus’ love, faith and strength." My guess is that Jesus, had he not departed from the tomb, would be rolling in it after getting a load of this thing. But if this is your cup of tea, I suggest you hurry. They're limiting it to one per customer.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A rear-entry governmental insertion

I'm no expert on putting together a piece of legislation, especially one as huge and costly as the recently passed economic stimulus measure, but I'm sure you or I would have no problem picking out ridiculously wasteful spending in the bill. In fact, if you picked up today's Observer-Reporter or read it online, you saw a prime example of that. The city of Washington hopes to obtain $866,000 in stimulus money to turn the East Chestnut Street parking garage into an "intermodal transit facility." If you read on, you'll see that the project, which has a total price tag of $2 million, would involve renovation of the garage and "designation of park-and-ride spaces for commuters within the city, those catching the GG&C bus to Pittsburgh and clients of the Washington County Transportation Authority paratransit system." So, essentially, the city wants to spend $2 million, including nearly $900,000 in stimulus money, to create a glorified bus stop and parking lot. Wow, what a wise investment of public funds. Does anyone remember the white elephant parking garage behind the Shop 'n Save? How about the multimillion-dollar downtown revitalization project? Does the downtown seem revitalized to you? When you drive through Washington, do you see other, more pressing needs that might take precedence over a bus stop? Maybe other projects in Washington would not qualify for stimulus money. That's fine. It would be better to give the money to a project elsewhere that might do some real good. Oh, I forgot, the "intermodal transit facility" might also include an "information kiosk." Perhaps they'll dispense some valuable information, such as how to get out of Washington and instructions for the last person leaving to turn out the lights (especially those really pretty ones along our revitalized Main Street).


Idiot of the month

I realize it's only March 3, but I'm going to go ahead and predict that recent comments by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum will be the most idiotic of the month. Marty Griffin of KDKA Radio played a tape of Santorum the other day on which Slick Rick expressed his hope that President Obama's efforts to revive the economy fail. That's correct. Santorum wants the country to descend into a major, crushing depression - an economic meltdown that will cause horrific pain and suffering to millions of people across this country - just so his party can get another chance to lead and impose its version of economic leadership. I'm really not surprised by Santorum's comments. He's always been an ideologue and a hatemonger. This is the guy, you might recall, who tried to link homosexuality with incest and sex with animals. He's also the guy who went on a grandstanding junket to Florida a few years ago to express his view that he and his Republican colleagues in Congress were better equipped than Terri Schiavo's husband to make decisions about her medical care. The man was an idiot then. He's an idiot now. And I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that he'll be an idiot in the future. It's a pretty safe bet.


Oh, it's not his money. Riiiiiiight.

There's a new twist in the case of Bernie Madoff, the New York investment manager accused of ruining people - driving at least one to suicide - in a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Madoff is claiming now that authorities should not be allowed to seize his $7 million Manhattan apartment and $62 million in other assets because ... wait for it ... they belong to his wife. Are we to believe that Mrs. Madoff was the person who earned the cash to buy the apartment and to sock away tens of millions of dollars? That's the tale Bernie's trying to sell the court. Shortly before Madoff's arrest, it was Mrs. Madoff who made bank withdrawals of $5.5 million and $10 million, the latter coming just the day before Madoff's alleged fraud came to light. Just needed a little spending money, I guess. This guy should be in jail, not under house arrest in his opulent Manhattan penthouse. And if he's convicted of bilking all these trusting people out of their life savings, ruining lives in the process, he should be executed.


It reeks of desperation

The Tennessee Titans really haven't had a decent receiver since Derrick Mason departed, but does that justify their decision to spend $27 million, including $9 million guaranteed, to sign Steelers free agent Nate Washington to a six-year deal? Washington says he's "ready for that responsibility to step in and be a No. 1-type receiver." Is he really? Washington caught 40 balls last season for 631 yards and three touchdowns. He's proven to be a pretty fair deep threat, but he often displays hands of stone. He's also benefited by playing against defenses that were paying a lot more attention to Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller. What happens when Washington has to play every week against the opponent's top cornerback? NFL history is filled with teams that overpaid for players who were on Super Bowl-winning teams. Perhaps the worst signing belonged to the Oakland Raiders, who lavished $12.5 million on defensive back Larry Brown after he picked off two passes against the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. That ended up being one more interception than he had in the next two seasons with the Raiders, and he was never heard from again. The fact that the Steelers made no effort to retain Washington's services suggests that they're pretty sure they can live without him. It's Tennessee that might have to live with spending at least $9 million on a guy who might never be better than a third receiver.