Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Judge not, if you’re going to be this stupid

I generally don’t comment or try to pass judgment on what appears on the editorial pages of other newspapers. They buy the ink and paper; they can say what they want. But an editorial in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contained an idiotic editorial endorsing Republican Joan Orie Melvin of Pittsburgh, shown at left, for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over Democratic candidate Jack Panella of Easton. The editorial spent seven or eight paragraphs outlining the backgrounds of the two well-qualified candidates. Then the paper got to the crux of the matter: announcing who it was endorsing, and why. The endorsement went to Melvin. Why? I kid you not, the two reasons cited by the paper for picking a candidate for the Supreme Court were: 1. Because she lives around here, and, 2. Because she's a woman. Really. I'm not making this up. The editorial said that “all things being equal, we tend to favor a candidate from the west over one from the east.” Does a Supreme Court justice’s zip code really matter in terms of the decisions they make on the court? And all things are NOT equal. There are always substantive differences between the candidates, and it's the newspaper’s job to determine what those are and to suggest which candidate would best serve ALL the people of Pennsylvania. The other reason was even more ridiculous. Because a female justice is stepping down, the P-G believes she should be replaced by another woman. So, what we can take from this is that the Post-Gazette believes Melvin is the better choice for the Supreme Court not because she would do a better job than Panella, but because she has the preferred reproductive organs. It's ludicrous. I'm not in any way suggesting that Melvin is or is not the better choice for the high court. But surely there's a better way to make that determination.

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Choose humor targets wisely

Bob Griese, the ex-pro quarterback and current ESPN college football commentator, got himself in hot water last Saturday over a joking comment made during the Ohio State-Minnesota game. During the game, ESPN ran a promotion for the Sunday NASCAR race on ABC. The five top drivers in the Sprint Cup standings were mentioned in the promo, and Griese’s fellow announcer, Chris Spielman, asked why Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya (shown above) wasn't mentioned. Griese, apparently not very clear on Montoya’s country of origin, said Montoya was “out having a taco.” Griese was immediately on the political correctness hotseat. Later in the same telecast, Griese issued an apology for his comment, no doubt at the direction of the network. ESPN later issued an apology on top of Griese’s apology. And if that weren’t enough, during the broadcast of the Florida-Mississippi State game Saturday night, the folks at ESPN had Griese get on the phone and read another apology. All this over someone suggesting that a person ate a taco? It's not like he hurled an epithet or racial slur at Montoya. But in the world of political correctness, there seems to be a hierarchy of groups that you can and cannot poke fun at. Had Griese made a comment about the dining preferences of black Americans, he’d probably be looking for work by now, after the obligatory news conferences by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Because Montoya is a South American, he got away with an apology. But if he had joked that a German driver stopped off for a knockwurst or that a British driver took a tea break, I'm guessing that nary a word would have been said. The lesson here: Choose your joke targets wisely.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Down time

Due to the need to make some technical upgrades, the blog will be down for a day or so. Check back in again soon. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kick him to the curb

It's becoming almost commonplace, but Steelers management is being given another chance to show fans whether the team has any serious standards for player behavior off the field. The person in the unwanted spotlight this time is kicker Jeff Reed, who appears to have transformed over the past few years from humble free-agent signee to out-of-control celebrity party animal. For those who missed it, Reed, who just recently pleaded guilty to charges stemming for his assault on a paper towel dispenser at a Westmoreland County Sheetz store, had a run-in with police on the North Side just hours after Sunday's victory over the Browns. Police tell it like this: Officers were responding to an unrelated call when they spotted Reed's teammate Matt Spaeth peeing in a parking lot. As police were taking information from Spaeth in order to cite him for watering the lot, Reed exited a vehicle and confronted the officers, putting up his fists and, according to a police affidavit, getting into a "fighter's stance." Perhaps Reed was still basking in the afterglow of his knockout victory over the paper towel dispenser, but he soon found out that police will fight back. He ended up being taken to the ground and handcuffed. His agent, of course, claims Reed was attacked by the cops. Don Henderson told the Post-Gazette that Reed got out of the car "to help." Right. Now the kicker faces charges of assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness. Are the Steelers OK with that? The team has shown a willingness to cut players who become unwelcome distractions - Bam Morris and Najeh Davenport come to mind - but that applies only if the player can be easily replaced. By essentially ignoring the transgressions of star players such as Santonio Holmes and James Harrison, the team has made it clear that there is one standard for so-so players and another for stars. One can understand if classy Mr. Spaeth's incident is overlooked, even though most folks who are approaching their 26th birthday have gained the maturity to rely exclusively on indoor plumbing. But Reed's case is another matter entirely. If what police say is true, that makes him a repeat offender, and also stupid as a box of rocks. And when someone starts wrestling with cops, they need to go. Of course, there will be some, perhaps many, Steelers fans who will dismiss this as nothing more than boys being boys. Of course, some of those fans would stand by their "Stillers" in the face of any accusation short of rape and murder. And a few, no doubt, would say the rape victim must've been asking for it and the murder victim provoked the dear Steeler involved in the homicide. My guess is that the Steelers will fall back on the old "let the case take its course through the criminal justice system" position, rather than switch kickers in midseason. Reed's contract is up this year, so he's probably on his way out the door, but if the Steelers had any integrity and moral standards, he'd be booted today.

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Plenty of blame to go around

Charges are expected any time now against Richard Heene, the self-promoting lunatic from Colorado who touched off a frantic search last week by claiming that his 6-year-old son, Falcon, had drifted off in a balloon shaped like a flying saucer. There are now suggestions by authorities that Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi, staged the whole thing in order to attract attention for a reality television show. The family is no stranger to the genre, having appeared twice before on "Wife Swap," a program in which two very different women swap families for a period of time. The producer of that program was working on a new show involving the Heenes but has now backed out, which is rather amazing, because it might be the first time that people involved with reality television have shown any concern for their subjects. America has watched as the TLC network has tried to milk every ratings point and advertising dollar possible from the dissolution of the Gosselin family, stars of "Jon & Kate Plus Eight." And even though the parents are in the midst of a bitter divorce, and the family is crumbling, TLC continues to suckle at the teat of misery. There's a reason television producers and networks give us shows such as "Jerry Springer," "Rock of Love" and "Temptation Island." People watch. And those people have to bear part of the responsibility for what has happened to the Gosselin family and what's happening now with the Heene family. Certainly, the Heenes were going to be loons anyway - they reportedly believe they're descendants of aliens - but with no potential audience for their shenanigans, perhaps things wouldn't have gone this far.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Are some "good books" better than others?

It's always been my belief that people should be free to believe in whatever they like, but that doesn’t mean I can’t think they're jackasses. Speaking of which, a small church down in North Carolina has announced its plans for a Halloween event that will include the burning of “Satan’s music” and “Satan’s popular books.” Now, you might be thinking that they’ll be torching some old AC/DC and Ozzie Osbourne records, along with some nasty scientific journals, but no, these fishers of men are casting a much wider net. The Web site of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, N.C., says music to be tossed on the bonfire includes country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, Western, soft and easy, Southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul and oldies.” It appears that Beethoven and Rachmaninoff are OK. The church also is targeting such infidel authors as James Dobson, Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, the Pope and Mother Teresa. Oh, they'll also be torching a bunch of Bibles. You see, this church believes that only the 1611 King James Version of the Bible is acceptable, so all others will be tossed to the flames. Never mind that each and every version of the Bible was pieced together by some bunch of guys. Pastor Marc Grizzard, the dapper fellow shown above, also is offering participants barbecued fried chicken and "all the sides.” Who could resist eating fried chicken by the glow of the flames from a stack of New American Standard Bibles? And these are just rumors, but I hear the ladies of the church are going to have a tobacco-juice-spitting contest, and there will be a rattlesnake toss for the youngsters. You know, if a bunch of atheists announced plans to burn Bibles, I'm guessing that a flood of good Christians would rise up to stop them. I'm wondering whether any will take action when it's one of their own who is spritzing on the lighter fluid. There is a bit of good news in all this. At last check, Pastor Grizzard’s church had 14 members.

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No Rush

It didn’t take long for a group trying to buy the St. Louis Rams to figure out that they’d be better off without the participation of radio talk host Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh was to be a limited partner in a group led by Dave Checketts, chairman of the St. Louis Blues hockey team, but his presence attracted opposition from some NFL players, and at least one owner and the NFL commissioner made it clear they were rather cool to the idea of Limbaugh being connected with the league. Al Sharpton, who never saw a light on a TV camera without running toward it, also decried Limbaugh's bid, but who really cares what Sharpton says. Limbaugh, predictably, said the opposition to his involvement "is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative." As if often the case, Limbaugh is lying. His talk show and the conservative Fox News are hugely popular in this country. The problem isn’t that Limbaugh is a conservative. It's that he's a horse's behind. There's an old saying to the effect that when you make your bed, you have to lie in it. In Limbaugh's case, that means that when you‘re a divisive, polarizing racist, sometimes it comes back to bite you.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A turn for the better?

A few weeks after town hall shrieking was all the rage, it appears that public opinion might be shifting back in favor of health-care reform. A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that opposition to the president’s effort has dropped, with the public now split evenly, with 40 percent in favor and 40 percent against the plans now being debated in Congress. Twenty percent of those polled apparently were too stupid or uninformed to know what they think. Significantly, outright opposition from independents, a group that likely will play a key role in deciding which party will control Congress after next year’s midterm elections, declined from 51 percent to 36 percent. Also, senior citizens are now less likely to oppose reform plans. Republicans, of course, are decidedly in favor of the status quo. My opinion is that unless there is a public option, reform is little more than window dressing, and if I had to bet a large of sum of money right now, my guess is that the watered-down mess that eventually emerges from Congress will have little impact on the health-care problems facing the country, namely cost and access.

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Time to clean house

There’s a television show on the A&E network called "Hoarders." It delves into the lives of folks who have a compulsion that leads them to save anything and everything. Some of these sad folks specialize. One fellow collected stuff that he bought at hardware stores because he was convinced he would need it someday for household projects, which mostly never got done. There also was a lady who had grown up poor and now hoards food. Unfortunately, her house was full of rotting produce, canned goods that carried expiration dates from years ago and a refrigerator filled with unidentifiable materials in various states of decomposition. I have to plead guilty to a little hoarding of my own. It's not like the affliction of the people on the TV show. While I have no problem with common filth (just ask my wife), I hate clutter (except in my car). My weakness was for old e-mails. My Yahoo! account had something on the order of 5,000 old e-mails in it. Some of it was just neglect in not killing out junk. But some of it resulted from e-mails that I thought might contain a snippet of information, or an e-mail address, that I might need again someday. On Monday, I made the decision to clean it out, once and for all. I thought about a deliberate foray through all those old e-mails, trying to preserve those that really did have some nugget of import, but that would have taken hours and hours. So, finally, I killed them all in one fell swoop, with no regard for their content. And since then, as soon as I open an e-mail and read its contents, I kill it out of the system. Now it's time to grad a trash bag and head for the Lebaron.

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