Friday, June 26, 2009

Stupid, stupid, stupid

I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who has noticed that some crazy, imbecilic stuff goes down in the state of California. Here's the latest: Two elementary schools in Chino had class schedules on Fridays during the past school year that were five to 10 minutes short of what is required under state law. School administrators, afraid they would lose $7 million in attendance funds, had to come up with a plan to make up for the time lost on those 34 short days. Their solution: Spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to reopen the schools this summer and require students to spend 34 more days in classes. Said Amy Nguyen-Hernandez, principal of one of the elementary schools, "We try to be rule followers here, so we'll try to do whatever needs to be done." What needs to be done is for somebody to go to the common sense store and buy some for these idiots. I did a little math (not one of my strong points) and determined that, based on each of the original days in question being, on average, 7.5 minutes short, the youngsters in the two elementary schools missed a total of 4 hours and 15 minutes of required schooling. A person with any grasp on reality would see that the obvious solution (aside from just forgetting about it, for gawd's sake) is to have the kids come in for another half day of classes, feed them lunch and send them on their way. But it seems that didn't occur to anyone in La-La Land. Their solution has proven to be an exercise in futility. One of the schools has a student population of 280, but just 40 to 60 are showing up for the make-up classes. The reason: Final report cards were issued June 7, so there's no way to enforce attendance. Also, the kids aren't exactly digging deeply into their textbooks. One kid told the AP that her class spent a whole week crafting paper airplanes in a study of aerodynamics. And now, state school officials, because of the lack of real classwork and the paltry attendance, are saying that the make-up days might not even count. But there is a lesson here for the kids: Whatever you do, don't grow up to be as stupid as the adults involved in this mess.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Can you believe this?

I commented recently about the case of a Pittsburgh police officer who escaped criminal punishment for allegedly pistol-whipping and wounding a man on the city's South Side. Little did I know that the handling of that case would look like brilliant jurisprudence compared with what went down Tuesday in Chicago. A Chicago police officer who was found guilty of beating the living daylights out of a female bartender half his size got no jail time for the brutal attack. Anthony Abbate, who was off duty in February 2007 when he had a violent confrontation with barmaid Karolina Obrycka, walked away with two years of probation and an order to take anger-management classes. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse escaped. Prosecutors wanted Abbate to do some prison time, but in one of the stupidest statements ever made from the bench, Circuit Judge John Fleming said he saw no aggravating factors that would warrant a prison sentence. Why don't you look at the video and decide whether you see any aggravating circumstances. As you'll probably note, the 250-pound police officer, in response to Obrycka trying to remove him from the bar area, throws the 125-pound woman to the ground and holds her by the hair while punching, kneeing and kicking her. We have to assume that seeing a bear of a man opening up a can of whoop-ass on a small woman doesn't offend the judge's sensibilities. Fleming added, "If I believed sentencing Anthony Abbate to prison would stop people from getting drunk and hitting people, I'd give him the maximum sentence." Under Fleming's twisted way of thinking, we should just set murderers free, because clearly sentencing murderers to life in prison or capital punishment hasn't stopped homicides. Abbate, who was admittedly drunk during the confrontation, used the defense that the lady pushed him first. Oh, I see. If a girl pushes you first, it's OK to beat the hell out of her. And defense attorney Peter Hickey had the gall to add, "He's not a bad man; he did something bad." Not a bad man? A good man doesn't beat a woman half his size. No, let me rephrase that. A good man doesn't beat a woman, PERIOD. The police department says it wants to fire Abbate, who has been on unpaid suspension. What do you want to bet that the police union tries to block it?

Labels: , ,

Still waiting for the real truth

I don't know if you've been following the tall tale of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, vocal Obama critic and potential GOP presidential contender, but it's been a doozy. Sanford up and disappeared from the Palmetto State, leaving pretty much everyone, including lawmakers and even the lieutenant governor, wondering what he was up to. Sanford's staff lied about his whereabouts, trotting out the false story that the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail. That led to rumors that Sanford might be taking part in a reported "nude hike" on the trail. But wait. Sanford finally turned up today at the Atlanta airport with the news that he had been on an "exotic" junket to Argentina, a trip he claims to have decided to make on the spur of the moment. The only thing Sanford would say about his activities in Argentina was that he alone, driving along the Argentinian coastline around Buenos Aires. Really? The AP reports that the only coastal road in Buenos Aires is all of two miles long. Did Sanford drive back and forth on that same stretch of road, over and over again? Sanford explained his sudden absence by saying he needed to unwind after a contentious legislative session. Democrats, predictably, are mocking him. One, former South Carolina Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian, had this to say: "Unless he runs for president of Argentina, I think he has no chance of becoming president. The rest of the country wouldn't have taken him seriously anyway." But even some Republicans were miffed about the governor's mysterious ways. Said state Sen. Jake Knotts, "Lies, lies, lies. That's all we get from his staff. That's all we get from his people. That's all we get from him. Why all the big cover-up?" That's the million-dollar question. And one has to assume that there's more to the story, maybe a lot more, than what we're getting from Sanford.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Orange you glad they're not doing this here?

Sometimes our government officials go a bit too far in trying to micromanage the protection of the populace. The crackdown on cigarettes is one example. Who doesn't know that sucking hot, chemical-laden smoke into your lungs is bad for you? Do we really need larger warnings on cigarette packs? But there's a town in central Pennsylvania that is really going overboard. At two busy intersections, the borough of Lemoyne has installed bins filled with bright orange flags, according to the AP and The Patriot-News of Harrisburg. Pedestrians are instructed to pick up a flag and carry it with them as they cross the street. There is no indication as to whether they should wave it vigorously as they do so, but Councilman John Judson says it's a way to make pedestrians stand out and to remind motorists that those on foot have the right of way. Police officers will make sure the supply of flags is maintained, presumably so interest in the program doesn't, um, flag. The effort reminds me of the time W&J wanted to close a city street to vehicular traffic because its sheep - I mean, students - seem to have difficulty getting from Point A to Point B without wandering out in front of passing cars. Wouldn't it be simpler, and cheaper, if everybody's Mom just issued them a reminder to look both ways before crossing?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What's with these guys?

I'm going to offer a hypothesis about a subgroup of NFL players: Is it possible that people who are gifted with lightning speed and great hand-eye coordination are, as a result, left with fewer brain cells than the average person? I'm talking about wide receivers. The latest case in point is Cleveland Browns wideout Donte Stallworth, at left, who just cut a deal in a DUI manslaughter case that ended with his receiving a 30-day jail term. Let's not forget the details of this case. Stallworth was speeding and drunk when he ran over and killed 59-year-old construction worker Mario Reyes with his Bentley in Miami Beach. Stallworth does face two years of house arrest and eight more years of probation, along with a lifetime driver's license suspension and lots of community service. It still seems as if 30 days behind bars is a light sentence for killing someone. Maybe the fact that Stallworth reached a "confidential financial settlement" with the Reyes clan led to what the AP called "the fervent wish by the victim's family to put the matter behind them." Stallworth isn't the only NFL receiver in the news for the wrong reasons lately. The Steelers' own Santonio Holmes, who was dumb enough to be driving around with marijuana cigars in his car, had his charges dropped because the search of his vehicle presented problems for prosecutors. And then there's our old pal Plaxico Burress, who had his trial on charges stemming from his self-inflicted wounding delayed once again. Also on this roster of screw-ups are Denver problem child Brandon Marshall, the infamous Chris Henry and the petulant-but-productive Terrell Owens. I guess if you've spent your adult life getting out of scrapes because of your physical skills, this is the way you behave (or misbehave). That might explain why you don't see long-snappers acting like this.

Labels: ,

How should we deal with a dangerous lunatic?

The game that is known as diplomacy with North Korea has been in full swing again lately, and yes, it seems like a blow-by-blow repeat of past misadventures. North Korea ramps up tensions, the rest of the world replies with sanctions, and North Korea responds to that with threats of mass destruction toward its enemies. Then, the rest of the world typically bows down to North Korea by offering aid, and the North Koreans agree to stop their offensive practices, whether it be creating nuclear fuel, testing nuclear weapons or test-firing missiles. Then, the whole diplomatic dance begins again a few months down the road. Right now, the United States, China and Russia are trying to push North Korea back into multi-nation talks, but President Obama is letting it be known that recently approved U.N. sanctions will be strictly enforced. That prompted North Korea to announce that it will unleash a "thousand-fold" military response if pushed too far. The question is, what could we do differently? It's not as if we can talk rationally with North Korea's leader, because Kim Jong Il is a nut case. And now, he's talking about turning over control of the backward, starving, military-controlled nation to his youngest son, who is all of 26 years old. An all-out, unilateral attack on North Korea by the United States certainly wouldn't be looked on with approval from China and Russia, and one can only guess what the fallout, literally and figuratively, would be from such a move. We could try to enforce a blockade against North Korea to stop outside goods from reaching the country, but one can be sure that Kim and his military would not be the ones to suffer from a resulting shortage of food and other products. We could always hope for a coup led by the military, but as we've seen in the past, you never know what you're going to get when that happens. The new military leader could be a person who cared about the plight of his people and was open to good relations with other nations, but history shows us that is highly unlikely. You're most likely just trading one despot for another. But, all things considered, maybe an internal meltdown is our best bet. It's hard to imagine the next guy being any worse.

Labels: ,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Here's why people lose faith in the justice system

If Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning has to run for retention to the bench anytime soon, one would expect that he'll have the full support of the Fraternal Order of Police. On Thursday, Manning tossed out criminal charges against a suspended Pittsburgh police officer accused of pistol-whipping and wounding a man on the city's South Side, saying the officer's actions were "inappropriate" but not criminal. Let's see what you think. The case against Officer Paul Abel stemmed from his attempt to arrest Kaleb Miller for aggravated assault last June 28 following an altercation. The officer, who was off duty, alleged that Miller punched him in the face as he sat in his car after leaving a bar at about 2 a.m. Abel said he drove around the block, spotted Miller and needed to use force to effect an arrest because Miller refused to follow his orders. He said his service revolver went off during the struggle. Others tell a much different story, according to a report in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Miller denied that he punched the officer, and witnesses testified that Miller bore no resemblance to the man who had attacked the policeman. They also said Abel hit Miller in the neck with his Glock handgun, causing it to discharge, and Miller was grazed in the hand by a bullet. Despite that, Manning dismissed all charges related to the confrontation, saying the law gives police officers discretion when it comes to use of force and that "it is not the obligation of this court to police the police department." A group that is charged with policing the police department, the Citizens Police Review Board, is very familiar with Abel. In addition to the Miller case, the panel has three other pending complaints against Abel, the P-G reports. One incident involves a 2007 county courthouse brawl involving Abel and his brother-in-law. In the second, Abel is accused of trying to get his wife to make false sexual-abuse claims against her children's grandparents. And in the third, an Allentown man claims he was brutalized by the officer. In the Miller case, Abel also originally faced a DUI charge, but that was dismissed because a blood-alcohol test wasn't taken until three-and-a-half hours after the incident. The law requires a test within two hours. Abel admitted drinking four beers and two shots of liquor that night on the South Side, but Pittsburgh Officer Dan O'Hara, who responded to the scene, said he saw no signs that Abel was intoxicated. Oh, did I mention that the test that was conducted more than three hours later found Abel had a blood-alcohol level of .111? Wait, one other thing. O'Hara, the guy who didn't think Abel was drunk, just happens to be president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 and says he'll be fighting to get Abel reinstated to the force. Of course.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A terrorist of a different color

I wonder how many people across our great land, when hearing of Wednesday's attack on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C., harbored some small, secret hope that the perpetrator of this terrorist assault was of Middle Eastern descent, the better to bolster their prejudices against people from that part of the world, in general, and Muslims, in particular. But the gunman who killed a security guard before being wounded and captured was an old white guy. James von Brunn, 88, is a World War II veteran who, despite the experience of fighting Hitler's Germany, became a Holocaust denier and deranged hater of all things Jewish and non-white. Von Brunn's actions serve as a reminder that there's really no difference between a Middle Eastern terrorist and a white, homegrown terrorist like Von Brunn, or between the Muslim convert who killed a soldier earlier this month in Arkansas and the white, homegrown terrorist who killed Dr. Tiller in Wichita. The common denominator is hate. It comes in all colors and religions.

Labels: ,

Well, that's mighty nice of them

I periodically receive letters and e-mails from companies that would like to sell me an extended warranty on the wife's car. They have no interest in my old "field car." Now, I'm not a financial genius. I can generally recognize a good deal on steaks or a lawn mower, but the cost-benefit factor involved with insurance policies has always baffled me. Nevertheless, it has always seemed to me that the price they quote for such coverage on the wife's car is a bit steep. But wait! I just got an e-mail from one of those companies offering me 60 percent off if I sign up now. Is it just me, or do you think maybe the people they duped into paying full price were the consumer equivalent of prison-rape victims? I mean, if they can still make money by cutting their price by 60 percent, they must've been making quite the profit at the 100-percent rate. Buyer beware.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Free choice! (unless you're a senator)

Unions are once again turning up the heat to try to win passage of a sorry piece of legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, and misinformation, obfuscation and intimidation appear to be the unholy trinity of their efforts. To those not familiar, the Employee Free Choice Act is an effort by organized labor and its supporters (primarily Democrats) in Congress to kill the secret-ballot system of deciding whether employees wish to be represented by a union. Instead, a union would be considered approved once more than 50 percent of the members of a particular workforce signed union cards. Proponents of the act claim that many workers currently are harassed and intimidated if they try to form a union. Would ending secret-ballot elections and allowing union proponents to browbeat potential members into signing cards be an improvement? Of course, unions would never resort to strong-arm tactics. Right? What sort of twisted logic is required to argue against allowing a worker to privately decide whether he or she wants to be represented by a union? The legislation, at least in its original form, also would require binding arbitration when a company and newly formed union negotiate their first contract, which means a company could be forced to accept a labor deal that it can't afford. If this bill passes, it would serve union members right if companies that are the victims of these crammed-down contracts just close their doors and tell the workers to get lost. U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., had a good take on the bill: "It is beyond me how once can possibly claim that a system whereby everyone – your employer, your union organizer and your co-workers – knows exactly how you vote on the issue of unionization gives an employee 'free choice.' ... I cannot fathom how we are about to sit there today and debate a proposal to take away a worker's democratic right to vote in a secret-ballot election and call it 'Employee Free Choice.'" And now, as the pressure ramps up on lawmakers to take action on the measure, our own Sen. Arlen Specter, a key vote on the legislation, is in the cross-hairs of its proponents. A lobbying group is running television ads asking whether Specter will side "with President Obama, Vice President Biden and the working families of Pennsylvania" or with "greedy CEOs and big-business lobbyists." So what we really have there are lobbyists ripping on lobbyists. If you're a union lobbyist, that's OK, but if you represent America's businesses - you know, the people who create jobs - you're some sort of scum in their eyes. The ad says Specter "usually does the right thing," but it implores those who see the ads to "call and tell Specter that Pennsylvania is for him as long as he's for the Employee Free Choice Act." So, we have a lawmaker who "usually does the right thing," but if he votes no on this bill, he's a no-good bastard. That sounds a lot like the tactics that supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act accuse business owners of using. It would appear that the backers of the pro-union legislation would be OK with it if Specter voted to put roasted babies on the menu of the Senate Dining Room, just as long as he votes the right way on the union bill. These people have no shame.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 5, 2009

They're coming to get you

Some people claim that I have a fixation on Sarah Palin. Really, it's not that. I just think that, as a good American, I have a duty to point out her idiocy on a regular basis so that a few years down the road, nobody tries to revive the idea that this woman would make a good resident of the White House. Palin, in a recent speech, offered her assessment of the Obama administration's economic policies. Some people think those policies are wise. Others, just as legitimately, think that they're a mistake. But Palin believes it's the first step toward a version of Orwell's "1984." And I thought it was Palin's party that liked the warrantless wiretapping. Here's what Palin had to say, presumably with a straight face: "We need to be aware of the creation of a fearful population, and fearful lawmakers, being led to believe that big government is the answer, to bail out the private sector, because then government gets to get in there and control it (insert a "you betcha" whenever you desire). And mark my words, this is going to be next, I fear, bail out next debt-ridden states. Then government gets to get in there and control the people." I could talk a little about Palin's inability to craft a basic sentence. But that's petty. So let me just summarize it this way: This lady is a nincompoop. But just in case she's right, let me offer this warning: The people coming to your house on behalf of the Obama administration to subjugate you will probably be arriving in black helicopters. No, wait, that'd just be Palin, hunting wolves.

Labels: ,

Why not waterboard them?

A bunch of seniors at a high school in eastern Pennsylvania were suspended for five days by the school district. Were they smoking dope on school grounds? Brawling, maybe? Peeking through a hole into the girls' locker room? No. They climbed over an outer wall at Southern Lehigh High School and camped overnight in an enclosed courtyard. Yeah, they camped out. An Associated Press story gives no indication that the 17 kids caused any trouble. As best as I can tell, there was no drinking, no property damage. But the district saw fit to bar them from a week of classes, and three of the students involved in the harmless prank were stripped of their membership in the National Honor Society. Well, of course we can't have scofflaw campers in the NHS. The next thing you know, these kids might play their car radios too loud. And the next step is anarchy. The district also suspended two students who had the audacity to e-mail The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown to complain about the punishment. The district later thought better of its attempt to trample the two students' free-speech rights, and those suspensions were rescinded. Students were planning a protest outside the school following Friday classes, and I don't blame them. Our entire society seems to be losing what remains of our collective sense of humor and sense of proportion. This is like the district that suspended a grade-schooler for bringing nail clippers to school. In the old days, a janitor would have found the kids camping and told them to clean up their stuff and move on. But, sadly, those days - the ones when people in positions of authority had a little basic common sense - seem to be behind us.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Looking the other way

Police are supposed to enforce the law and protect citizens from crime, and even the lowest scum among us has rights under the law. But it seems that's not the case in Philadelphia. The other day, a vigilante gang of residents in the city's West Kensington section beat a man sought for questioning in the rape of an 11-year-old girl. The residents recognized 26-year-old Jose Carrasquillo from a photo circulated by police, who referred to the man as a "person of interest" in the sexual assault. Carrasquillo was beaten for several minutes before police got on the scene, but Philly Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says no charges will be brought against the attackers, even though Carrasquillo is still hospitalized for treatment of his injuries. Ramsey says he doesn't condone violence, but his decision contradicts that statement. The commissioner is making it clear that police will look the other way if someone who is a "person of interest" in a heinous crime is the victim of vigilante justice. Carrasquillo is innocent until proven guilty, and police are wrong when they allow lawless thugs to play judge, jury and punisher.

Labels: ,

Justice served?

There's been some discussion on an unrelated blog post about the Britnee Moore case in Greene County, so I thought I'd give it its own space. For those who haven't been following the trial, Moore, shown above, was convicted Wednesday of vehicular homicide, manslaughter and other counts in connection with a March 2007 head-on crash that killed another Greene County girl, Hope Maley. According to testimony, Moore was driving 70 mph, on a winding road, in the dark, on the wrong side of the road and was reaching to answer a cell phone when the accident occurred. It seems to me that the jurors did the right thing in convicting her. It's one thing to cause an accident when you are distracted by something. It becomes an entirely different thing - criminal negligence and a total disregard for human life - when you do all the things Moore was doing. But there are some people - very vocal people - who don't think Moore should go to prison. They use phrases like "two wrongs don't make a right" and "that won't bring the other girl back." To me, those are bogus arguments. What's your take?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When words kill

When people get riled up about something to the point of obsession, common sense and responsibility are often two of the early casualties. And when the level of their rhetoric escalates, the effects can be deadly. We've seen evidence of that in several recent cases. For years, protesters labeled abortion provider George Tiller as a murderer, despite the fact that his actions were lawful. A clearly mentally ill man who heard that message over and over and over again took matters into his own hands last weekend and allegedly gunned down Tiller in the doctor's church. Just this week, a Muslim convert named Abdulhakim Muhammed opened fire in Little Rock, killing a military recruiter. Authorities say he targeted soldiers "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past." A few weeks back, Richard Poplawski, who apparently believed the lunatics who claim the government is coming to take Americans' guns, killed three Pittsburgh police officers. Who bears the blame for these actions? Responsible abortion opponents didn't want Tiller murdered. The average Muslim would not support the random killing of innocent American soldiers. Reasonable gun-rights advocates don't support militia movements or the slayings of police officers. And yet, they are all to blame, in some measure. Why do we not hear the responsible abortion foes loudly denouncing the psychos at the fringes of their movement? Don't peace-loving Muslims have a duty to point out the hypocrisy and hatred of their brethren who believe in death to America and call for the murders of anyone guilty of the slightest insult against Islam? And why doesn't the NRA say, strongly and clearly, to the gun nuts, "Listen, we're going to fight to preserve your gun-ownership rights, but nobody is coming to take your rifles, shotguns and handguns"? Abortion opponents might claim that harsh rhetoric is justified because they're trying to save babies from being murdered, and gun-rights proponents might truly believe that they are fighting for the very survival of the Second Amendment, but would these groups also accept that radical Muslims might have some legitimacy when they say their people are dying because of U.S. actions in the Middle East? Probably not. But what they must realize is that words are powerful. And everyone, no matter their beliefs, bears responsibility when their words cause the most unhinged among their flocks to see murder as an acceptable, or even mandatory, course of action.

Labels: , ,

Government greed, or just plain stupidity

A San Diego area preacher has been told by county officials that he could face fines of as much as $1,000 unless he gets a government permit for the weekly Bible-study sessions he hosts in his home. Officials are demanding that David Jones comply with county codes that prohibit the holding of religious assemblies without a "major-use permit." This sure doesn't sound like a "major use." Jones says as few as five and at most 27 people attend the Bible studies. His attorney says the county is infringing on Jones' right to exercise his religion, and that the county regulations are aimed only at synagogues, churches and temples. If county officials are smart (and that really seems unlikely at this point), they'll drop this ridiculous persecution of Jones and his parishioners. They'll get that chance next Tuesday, when the two sides are supposed to sit down for a discussion of the case. Unless Jones and members of his church are causing a disturbance or creating traffic hazards in his neighborhood, the government has no business telling him what he can do inside his home. Would they try to levy fines on someone who invited 30 people to a backyard cookout, or to watch the Super Bowl? Of course not. So what difference does it make that these people just happen to be reading their Bibles?

Labels: , ,