Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A fool and his money are soon parted

As a story on Yahoo! News said today, anyone who think the "birthers" are going to quietly fade away is sorely mistaken. Now there's a new group pushing the idea that President Obama was not born in the United States and is, thus, illegally occupying the White House. The Yahoo! story says a Christian Web site called has produced an infomercial that will be trotted out in seven Southern states (of course) asking for $30 donations that will entitle the givers to have a fax with their name on it sent to the U.S. attorney general and all of his counterparts on the state level demanding an investigation of Obama's origins. Oh, they also get a "Got a Birth Certificate?" bumper sticker. Sweet. The outfit is led by a guy named Bill Keller, a born-again Christian who was once found guilty of insider trading on Wall Street. Who better to send your money to? Keller is working hand in hand with a lawyer named Gary Kreep (really) to distribute the infomercial, entitled "Where Was Obama Born." You can check out the lowlights here: In the infomercial, Mr. Kreep cites an unnamed expert who has written a 186-page dissertation on why Obama's certificate of live birth is a fake, and although it's neither here nor there, Keller, the guy who looks like a deranged Harpo Marx, appears to be wearing white socks with his suit. I'm just sayin'. They also make sure to call the president Barack HUSSEIN Obama. Of course. The birthers, as a group, are the dumbest of the dumb, but the really mentally deficient pinheads are the people who will send money to these sad-sack losers. But it appears they have a built-in market. The Yahoo! report cites a recent Public Policy Polling survey that found 42 percent of Republicans believe the president was born outside this country. Congratulations, GOP. You're now officially the party of the terminally and deliberately stupid. Let's be clear here. Obama has provided the aforementioned certificate of live birth that shows he was born in Hawaii. The state of Hawaii has certified that, yes, Obama was born in that state. Newspapers in Hawaii, at the time of Obama's birth, carried announcements of that birth, stating that it occurred IN HAWAII. At that time, who would have had any reason to lie about something like that? If Obama held a news conference tomorrow and handed the president of Fox News the precise documentation that the birthers are demanding, they'd just claim it was a forgery (note the 186-page dissertation cited above). But for those who are convinced that the president is a "furriner," please do get your "Got a Birth Certificate?" bumper sticker and slap it on your vehicles, because those of us who don't struggle to keep our own spit in our mouths would probably benefit by knowing when we're in the presence of mouth-breathing, cousin-humping droolers who still believe this junk.

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Just leave me alone

I'm one of those people who truly enjoys grocery shopping, and I've liked it even more since the store I frequent installed the self-checkout aisles. I have one lingering problem, however. Even though I choose to do it myself, store employees are forever trying to pitch in, whether by scanning my groceries for me while I'm at the other end bagging or, even worse, by trying to bag my groceries for me. One reason why I choose the self-service option is that I'd rather not stand there while a checkout person examines my every item as if they have just been handed the Shroud of Turin. Second, I want to bag my own groceries because, for one thing, I can put items in the bags in a way that will make it easier for me to put them away, and I also am not prone to putting a 15-pound ham on top of a loaf of Wonder bread. The other good thing about the self-checkout lines is that they're used by a relative few shoppers. Members of the over-70 set will stand in regular lines that stretch back into the food shelves before they would think of trying those new-fangled grocery scanners. I'm fine with that. In fact, I think people - sorry, but especially the elderly - should be tested before they are allowed to use the self-checkout lines, just to make sure they can proceed at an acceptable speed and are capable of mastering that "futuristic" technology. In the meantime, I beseech the store employees to actually let me do it myself.

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Government waste alert!

I ran into something today that should have the teabagging crowd howling, but I'm guessing we won't hear a peep. Since they're all about railing against the wasting of tax money, I'd like to rally them to the cause of stopping the feds from spending $50 million a year on something that would produce the same return as flushing that money down a toilet. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah (no surprise there) is the sponsor of a bill that just cleared the Senate Finance Committee on a 12-11 vote. The measure would give $50 million annually to support abstinence-only sex education. Hatch says that approach works. Facts suggest otherwise. A study ordered by Congress two years ago showed that students who were in abstinence-only classes were just as likely to have sex as those who didn't. There also was a study showing that many of the kids who take those pledges to remain virgins until after marriage are perhaps technically accomplishing that by delving into oral and anal sex. So it would appear that Sen. Hatch is in favor of America's God-fearing kids going off the sexual "main menu" and, since good kids don't use condoms, subjecting themselves to all kinds of nasty diseases. At the same time, just as many of them will be having regular sex as kids who don't get the "just say no" instruction. And, of course, he wants to spend $50 million a year to accomplish this. Does that sound like good government?

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is the trend irreversible?

A new study has taken a closer look at data reported earlier this year by Trinity College in its American Religious Identification Survey 2008, and it shows that Americans who claim no religious affiliation are, on average, more likely to be male, younger, living in the West and politically independent. The new report also finds that most of those who claim no religion don’t have antagonism toward religion but “embrace philosophical and theological beliefs that reflect skepticism.” Only 7 percent of those in the no-religion camp identify themselves as atheists, and 27 percent say they believe in a personal God. However, the numbers do not bode well for organized religion. The initial survey estimates that as of 2008, there were 34 million adult "nones” in this country, a huge increase from 1990, when the figure was 14 million. The people who have no religious ties now account for 15 percent of the American population. I'm not sure when the last time was that the country saw an increase in the percentage of the population with links to organized religion, but I'm guessing it’s been a long, long time. And I have to wonder whether we are amid a slow, inexorable shift to a point at which there will be more non-religious folks than church folks in this country. In fact, the Trinity College study projects that about one-quarter of the U.S. population could be unaffiliated with religion within two decades. I have two questions: Why has the desire to embrace organized religion dropped so precipitously over the past 20 years? And, what can the major religions do, if anything, to reverse the trend?


Just shut up

It's probably safe to say that the less we hear from Mackenzie Phillips, the better. I find it hard to believe that very many people are interested in hearing anything she has to say. The "highlight" of her acting career was her role on the sitcom “One Day at a Time” back in the 1970s. Since then, she's been best known as a dope addict. But now, 30 years after the alleged "fact," Phillips is coming out with the allegation that her father, John Phillips of the musical group the Mamas and the Papas, raped her on the eve of her first marriage, and that they then had a decade-long consensual sexual relationship. John Phillips is dead and thus unable to defend himself. You have to wonder why Mackenzie Phillips sees the need to air this supposed filthy family laundry at this late date. Could she possibly be trying to help others who might have had sick relationships with family members? Anything's possible, I suppose. But consider these facts: Phillips issued her claims on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” just at the time when she’s releasing a book called “High on Arrival.” I'm going to go ahead and suspect that her real motivation is to make a buck. And she’s definitely not the only one who is guilty of providing too much information. As a people, we seem to have lost all grasp of the concept that some things are private and best kept to oneself. I avoid shows like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Inside Edition” like the plague because, frankly, I don’t give a damn about the private lives of actors, singers and other celebrities. Why does anyone care what these people, whom they don’t even know, do with their free time? I just don’t get it.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Here's the statue

Here's a photo of the $60,000 statue in Hickory. This is the caption that ran with the photo when it was published in the O-R: Frank Hnat pulls away a sheet covering a statue next to the Mt. Pleasant Township Volunteer Fire Department on Route 50 in Hickory. The sculpture of a farmer and his calf will be officially unveiled during a 10 a.m. ceremony Saturday. Hnat, of Mt. Pleasant, designed the statue and artist Alan Cottrill, formerly of Washington County, sculpted it. "It's a dedication to the farmers of the area ... to honor those people and do something a little more spectacular," Hnat said Thursday. Crews last week installed the $60,000 statue, which was financed through private donations and is part of the Hickory revitalization project, Hnat said.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You can take your revitalization and ...

It seems that a good number of Mt. Pleasant Township residents aren't taking too kindly to a proposed "revitalization” of Hickory’s main drag, and who can blame them? Someone got the bright idea to pursue a Main Street project in Hickory, and township supervisors held a meeting to discuss the proposal Wednesday night. About 20 residents turned up to tell supervisors they don't want it. They cite concerns about safety and are worried about the effect on their homes if planned 5-foot-wide sidewalks are installed along a section of Main Street that includes just a few more than two dozen properties. One concern is that the proposed creation of eight on-street parking spaces would cause a visibility hazard along that stretch of Route 50. According to an O-R report, the residents heard from Mark Paluso, executive director of Town Center Associates, who outlined the plan to "establish a vital village center for the community." That plan includes – and I kid you not – the aforementioned 5-foot-wide brick sidewalks, floral gardens, old-fashioned light posts, trees and "a life-sized bronze sculpture of a farmer, honoring the area's agricultural roots." Are you kidding me? Paluso, who by his remarks quoted in the O-R story sounded almost shocked that anyone would oppose his plan, said it would be unwise to do away with the on-street parking spots, unless a clear hazard is proven. "The attempt is to create a mixed-use village center,” he said. "That's where you get life, vibrancy and continuity. You are dramatically hurting your ability to make a village center." Did he ever think that maybe most of the folks who live in that area aren't interested in what he's selling? Hickory is a farm town, and I could be wrong, but I'm going to venture a guess that Paluso is a "city fella." If he's not, he sure has lost touch with his roots. I'm not sure how much money – and you can bet that at some level, it'll be the people's tax dollars – is supposed to be spent on this plan, but do they really think people are suddenly going to be flocking to Hickory, and for what purpose? The proponents of this project should look to Washington, where $15 million was spent on such things as new sidewalks, planters and trash cans. Has anyone seen the fruits of this investment? All I've seen are the same dead downtown and some fancy streetlights that don't work. Mt. Pleasant Township (that's one of its "residents” shown in the above photo; he's "on the fence" about the project) has been around since 1788. It seems to be doing just fine without a "revitalization." Perhaps Town Center Associates should peddle its wares elsewhere. I hear Taylorstown and Sparta don't yet have "vital village centers."

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Jackass of the Month" race too close to call

It seems some ABC news employees who were listening in on a conversation between President Obama and CNBC’s John Harwood before the start of an interview tweeted that Obama had some unkind words for Kanye West. For those who missed it, West mounted the stage at last weekend’s MTV Video Music Awards and commandeered the microphone from pop-country teen star Taylor Swift, who had just won the award for “Best Female Video.” West proclaimed to the crowd that Beyonce Knowles, not Swift, should have won the award. Well, it appears the president has the same opinion of West as most other people. On the audio feed that was listened in on by the ABC folks, Obama is asked why West would do what he did. Replied the president, “He’s a jackass.” Couldn’t have put it better myself. There’s been some debate about whether Obama’s remarks should have been reported, or shared on Twitter. But it’s really a tempest in a teapot. The real issue is the growing number of jackasses we encounter in our daily lives. Never in American history have people been as rude as they are today. Other recent examples are good old Joe Wilson and Serena Williams, who let loose with a threatening, F-bomb-laden tirade against a line judge a few days ago at the U.S. Open. Wilson and Williams have not been serial offenders, but it’s not the first time that West has climbed on an awards show stage to make his displeasure known. And has anybody else noticed that Kanye only complains when it’s a white person winning an award? Bill Maher said recently that we’re becoming a nation of stupid people (It’s getting harder and harder to dispute that.). It seems we’re also becoming a nation of really rude, angry people. Not a good combination.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

First takes

After enduring the exhibition season, it was nice to sit down last night to watch an NFL game that actually meant something. The added bonus was the Steelers pulling out an overtime victory over the Titans. Here are a few thoughts I had while watching the game. Feel free to chip in with yours.

– Maybe it's just me, but I found it offensive that Nike is selling equipment touted as "Pro Combat." Combat? Really?

– The General Electric ads with the singing factory workers were great.

– Cris Collinsworth did a pretty fair job in his debut next to Al Michaels.

– Michaels remains solid, as always, but he's beginning to look like the picture of Dorian Gray.

– The Titans have a tough defense, but the Steelers’ offensive line had a heckuva time opening any holes, and the running backs didn't do much with the ones they did open.

– The Brett Favre Sears ad showed that Favre has a sense of humor and the ability to mock himself.

– Mewelde Moore was a solid contributor, but the formerly "Fast" Willie Parker looks as if he's slowing down, and Rashard Mendenhall is making me have unwelcome flashbacks to Greg Hawthorne and Tim Worley.

– Am I the only one who deliberately avoids all the pre-game hoopla and turns on the TV just in time for kickoff?

– It's tough to lose Troy Polamalu with an injury, but it's better than losing Ben Roethlisberger.

– Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning might post more impressive raw passing numbers, but if the chips are down, I'd rather have Roethlisberger under center.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

What a boob

Because my parents and my youngest brother live in South Carolina, I try to believe that it's not a state filled with crackpots and buffoons, despite behavior to the contrary by public officials down there. Gov. Mark Sanford has been under the hottest spotlight of late, what with his gallivanting around with a mistress while his aides claimed he was on a hiking trip. He must have been somewhat relieved when, during President Obama's health-care speech last night, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson wrested away his title as biggest idiot from the Palmetto State. If you haven't heard, when Obama was noting that health-care reform would not lead to spending of public money on care for illegal immigrants, Wilson shouted out, "You lie!" Politicans on both sides of the aisle condemned Wilson for his embarrassing action, and Wilson later called the White House to apologize. But in an atmosphere in which a recent candidate for vice president can lie about "death panels” and talk radio-fueled imbeciles try to shout down a handicapped woman at a town hall meeting, is it any surprise that public discourse has come to this? Oh, by the way, Wilson (no surprise here) didn't know what he was talking about. There's no move afoot to use public funds to finance health care for illegal immigrants. In fact, current legislation in the House would expressly prohibit it. And Wilson’s intemperate behavior might come back to haunt him at the ballot box. His Democratic opponent in next year's election raised $200,000 following the outburst.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Drive carefully this afternoon

Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up to drive with extra care this afternoon, because all the little schoolchildren who were hypnotized and brainwashed earlier today by President Svengali Obama will no doubt be wandering across streets with their minds fully focused only on turning the United States into a socialist nation. Just consider this a public service announcement.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

All things in moderation ... including this blog

I just wanted to give you fine folks who read the blog a heads-up that from now on, this blog will be moderated. In other words, I'll be reviewing the comments before they're posted. Have no fear. You're still more than welcome to disagree with me, vehemently, but we've had too many instances of people resorting to foul language when getting their views across. If you keep it clean and don't personally attack others verbally, your comments will still appear, as quickly as I can get to them. Have a great holiday weekend.

Oh, say, can you see (how stupid our country is becoming)

There’s been an incredible – and ridiculous – controversy brewing over President Obama's plan to speak to the nation’s schoolchildren next week. There are school districts across the country that are actually deciding whether the president of the United States should be allowed to talk with the children of this country via video link, or whether to give children whose parents object the opportunity to opt out of the session. The White House says the speech is simply a means for the president to "challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning." But to hear the opponents talk, what he really wants to do is hypnotize our youngsters so they will blindly follow him as he takes our guns, closes our churches and imposes his diabolical plot for a one-world government headed, of course, by Obama. Here were the remarks of one parent quoted in a Denver Post story. It pretty much says it all. "I don’t want that man talking to my children," said Christina Huff. "Look at other leaders who had socialistic policies and chose to talk to children. This would include Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and Castro. I will keep my kids home from school that day, and we will re-read the Declaration of Independence." Maybe the kids can help her with some of the bigger words.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A wise move

After allowing the opposition to frame the debate for weeks, President Obama reportedly is thinking about delivering a speech to outline what he thinks are the important elements that should be included in a health-care reform bill. Republicans have been effective in stirring up angst and anger about the reform legislation, and to this point, the White House has been largely silent or vague about its priorities. It's pretty clear at this point that Republicans in Congress have little interest in compromise on the issue and will never cast their votes for anything resembling meaningful change in the way we pay for health coverage. According to a new Associated Press report, one of the key Senate negotiators on health care, Charles Grassley of Iowa, said in a recent fundraising letter that he needed people’s help to “defeat Obama-care.” That doesn't sound much like a man who is interested in crafting a bipartisan approach to the very clear and very real problems in our existing health-care insurance system. The time has come for Obama to press for approval of the plan he campaigned on. Members of Congress should not be expected to blindly climb on board with the president, but they also should not be siding with insurance companies and their lobbyists at the expense of the American people. And that's exactly what they're doing if they refuse to take bold steps toward a major overhaul of the sick system we have now. And if the members of the president’s own party cower in fear of people like the shrieking town hall idiots who parrot what they hear from lying slimeballs such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, they should be ashamed of themselves.

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