Thursday, April 22, 2010

That's it for me

The latest Internet reports are suggesting that the Steelers, despite suggestions to the contrary, have not been actively shopping disgraced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That’s too bad. I stuck with my favorite football team despite their decision to keep linebacker James Harrison following his domestic assault case. I stuck with the team despite its decision to keep jackass kicker Jeff Reed. But this is where I draw the line. In the grand scheme of things, it's a meaningless gesture, and it won't cost the Steelers a nickel, but if Roethlisberger is not dealt away, I'm done watching the Black and Gold. We've all heard the stories about Roethlisberger’s foul and stupid behavior over the past few years. I'm not going to rehash the whole thing. But I will share with you just one paragraph from a story today by Jonathan Silver of the Post-Gazette:

Numerous female witnesses to Roethlisberger’s night of heavy partying in Milledgeville, Ga., last month described unflattering behavior by the quarterback that included providing alcohol to underage students, calling them “bitches” and making a vulgar, sexual remark to several women.

We're not even talking about the alleged sexual assault. But after reading that paragraph, can anyone, in good conscience, still support a team that is led by this buffoon? Now, here’s something from an AP column written by Tim Dahlberg:

Now that Goodell has acted, it’s time for the Steelers to take some action of their own. The talk about the Rooneys being a family of integrity determined to run a team with integrity has to be more than just talk. There’s no need to wait for a psychological evaluation to figure out what to do. No need to groom another quarterback to take his place. No need to con some other team out of high draft picks just to ease the pain of him leaving. Just send him packing and spare an entire city any more pain and disappointment.

I couldn’t agree more. The Rooneys have always talked the talk. Their track record in walking the walk, however, has been a bit spotty. They cast off so-so players in a heartbeat. The stars? Uh, no. This is the crossroads for me. I've been a Steelers fan since before they won their first Super Bowl. Through the good years and the bad. But unless Roethlisberger is gone, I'm out. Maybe some people can overlook it. I can’t. After Harrison and Reed and now this sickening mess, my cup of disgust has runneth over. Maybe my moral outrage should have come sooner. That's a fair criticism. Maybe I'm late to the party when it comes to having enough of the Rooneys’ selective righteousness. But I'm there now. So, don’t bother coming up to me on Mondays this fall and winter and asking, “Did you see what Big Ben did yesterday?” I won’t know whether you’re talking about a game-winning touchdown pass or another accusation of a bathroom rape. And I won't care, either.

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The time of the season

In less than a month, voters will be going to the polls for the Pennsylvania primary, and the pre-vote TV ads are showing up full force. A few observations about some of the early offerings:

– Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, who is running for governor, has an ad in which he talks about growing up in a home that is shown on the screen. Later he says that he still lives in the same neighborhood, a few miles away. Now, is it just me, or is that the biggest neighborhood known to man? I'm thinking that if you have to drive several miles away, you're NOT in the same neighborhood.

– Does anyone know what party Mark Critz belongs to? It's really hard to tell based on the advertisements being run by the former Murtha aide who is running for the late, legendary congressman’s old seat. The answer to my original question: Critz is a Democrat. He just doesn't seem to be very proud of it.

– Finally, has anybody seen the hatchet-job advertisement Sen. Arlen Specter has rolled out to target his Democratic primary opponent, Congressman Joe Sestak? No touchy-feely stuff from Arlen. He's going straight to the brass knuckles. The Specter ad starts by attacking Sestak’s military record, then goes on to chastise him for missing a lot of votes in the House. Here's the deal. To have any chance at unseating a guy like Specter, who has been in the Senate since the Iron Age and has a big old campaign war chest, a challenger has to spend countless hours raising money and actually campaigning. The big-money politics of our time demands it. If any challenger in Sestak's position played by Specter's rules, he would have little or no chance of unseating an incumbent. Oh, yeah, I get it now.

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If you're driving, look out for Turnpike officials

If you’re involved in a scavenger hunt that has you looking for people who are in trouble with the law in Pennsylvania, the first place to stop might be your county jail. The second place might be the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The AP reports that the chief operating officer of the Turnpike Commission was picked up April 5 for drunken driving after he allegedly crashed into a fence in Hershey and then drove off northbound in the southbound lane of the road. It's been over two weeks, and no disciplinary action has been taken against George Hatalowich, who was driving his own car at the time. Police say he blew a 0.137 on the Breathalyzer. This comes just two months after the vice chairman of the commission, Timothy Carson, resigned after admitting to a pair of drunken driving incidents involving Turnpike Commission vehicles, according to a report in The Patriot-News in Harrisburg. And just days after Hatalowich was allegedly running into stuff while drunk, the former head of the Turnpike Commission, Mitchell Rubin, pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice for trying to hamper an FBI investigation of former state Sen. Vince Fumo, who is now doing five years in prison for corruption. What a crew. It's no wonder that former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburg, in an op-ed piece that ran late last year in the Observer-Reporter, called for the Turnpike Commission to be dissolved and its duties taken over by PennDOT. I'll let Thornburg have the last word: “The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is a haven for those who wish to gorge themselves upon commonwealth tax dollars and load the payroll for political purposes. This type of patronage abuse has no place in Pennsylvania politics. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission should be abolished.”

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

You don't want Roger Goodell's job

The latest black eye for the NFL's reputation has arrived in the form of camera-phone video of an obviously stewed Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones making disparaging remarks about Bill Parcells and Tim Tebow during a conversation in a bar. Many of us have probably been liquored up and said things we regretted the next day. The difference is, what we said didn't end up on ESPN over and over and over again. I understand that times have changed. There's a 24-hour news cycle, and the old rules about what passes for news, even in the sports world, are out the window. But I think it's unseemly that the sports media is taking what was essentially a private conversation and splashing it all over the radio and TV. It's not as if Jones made these remarks at a news conference or some other scheduled public event. Jerry Jones is a pretty easy guy to dislike, and as a public figure, he has to expect to be under the microscope. But I still think he deserves the right to have a conversation with a couple of other people in a bar without some opportunistic slimeball voyeuristically and surreptitiously videotaping him and then selling the video to some Internet site. And ESPN, of course, leaped on this with both feet. I'm a fan of the "Mike and Mike" show on ESPN. I watch and/or listen to the program every weekday. But their defense of ESPN repeatedly showing the Jones video and their spending an inordinate amount of time talking about it sort of fell flat with me. One of their main arguments was that, while the shooting of the video was wrong, they have an obligation to repeatedly show it and to talk about it endlessly because it’s “news.” Let me translate that for you: They won’t do the dirty work themselves, but they’ll perch like vultures and feast on the carrion that is drug into public by people with lesser morals. Their other argument was that if they didn't give the video wall-to-wall coverage, viewers and listeners would turn to other outlets that did. Translation: Journalistic integrity and ethics aren’t as important as ratings and advertising dollars. It's a far cry from the days when reporters looked the other way when Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and other pro athletes and coaches were drinking, carousing and raising hell. But maybe we've gone too far. It's almost reached the point at which the actual games are taking a back seat to the off-field goings-on. There's a big difference between a star quarterback being accused of sexual assault, which is a legitimate news story, and an NFL owner getting a snootful of booze and talking to some folks at a tavern. One is news. The other is an invasion of privacy.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Double dose of dumbness

If anybody still doubts that the Christian right wing is filled with more than its share of haters, here are a couple of fresh examples:

Mike Huckabee, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and is likely to seek it again two years from now, says that support of gay marriage is akin to legalizing incest, polygamy and drug use. I could argue that comparing Mike Huckabee to a decent human being is like comparing monkey dung to New York strip steak, but I digress. I'm guessing that Huckabee is not a stupid man, though he hasn't gone out of his way to answer whether he believes the Earth is only a few thousand years old. So, I'm left with the explanation that Huckabee is deliberately acting like an idiot. Huckabee recently told The Perspective, a news magazine at the College of New Jersey, that the country shouldn’t try to accommodate every group’s interests. Then he offered this bit of genius: “That would be like saying, well, there’s lots of people who like to use drugs, so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?” The big point that Huckabee misses here – no doubt on purpose – is that people choose to engage in incest, polygamy and drug-taking. But gay people are born gay. Anyone who doesn't believe that is clearly delusional, and there's really no point trying to argue with them. Stupid is stupid. And I don’t expect anything less from Huckabee, who once came out in favor of isolating AIDS sufferers from the rest of the population. Detention camps, anyone? When it comes to gay marriage, I don't think the terminology is really all that important. Don't want to call it marriage? Well then, how about just giving gay couples each and every right now enjoyed by heterosexual couples, with the provision that churches that aren’t interested in taking part won’t be forced to handle the weddings or civil union ceremonies, or whatever you want to call them. I'm still waiting for a good answer on why this shouldn’t happen, immediately.


Just when I thought that Huckabee's remarks would be the dopiest thing I saw this week, a friend passed on to me an item from the Huffington Post about a statement made by Bryan Fischer, who is described as the “director of issues analysis” for the American Family Association. Fischer is saying that Muslims now living in the United States should be shipped back to Muslim lands, “where they can live in a culture that shares their values, a place where they can once again be at home, surrounded by people who cherish their deeply held ideals.“ Wowzers. This guy makes Huckabee sound like Desmond Tutu. Has Fischer somehow blocked from his mind that we are a nation of immigrants, made up of people who came here with different beliefs and cultures? Has he forgotten that we are a nation that prides itself on freedom of religion? But it gets worse. Fischer goes on to say that Muslims living here who have not yet become citizens should be automatically denied naturalization, and that our country can “use the money we would otherwise spend on their welfare, their education, their medical care and their incarceration to graciously assist them in returning to their countries of origin.“ Fischer does, however, make an exception. He says Muslims who accept Christianity and renounce their faith, Allah, Mohammed and the Koran could be welcomed as “good Christians“ and “true Americans.” If Fischer is an example of a good Christian and a true American, then I feel sorry for the Christian faith and America in general. Fortunately, that's not the case. I typically don't revel in others’ misfortune, but in this instance, it wouldn’t sadden me greatly if I learned that someone “graciously assisted” Fischer, a raging bigot, in falling down a long flight of stairs. And perhaps the American Indians should pick up on Fischer’s idea and boot out all the descendants of the violent immigrants who brought their strange religions with them and terrorized the Indians centuries ago. Granted, that’s a bit unwieldy. Let's start with a smaller plan, one that calls for Huckabee and Fischer to find another place to live. America would instantly become a better country.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

What an idiot

Please pardon my indelicate language, but Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes is a dumbass. Holmes has about as many brushes with the law as seasons in the NFL, including an accusation that he assaulted the mother of one of his children and an arrest for having dope in his car. He managed to skate in those cases. But more recently, he got into a dispute in a nightclub, an incident that has yet to be adjudicated. And now, just weeks later, we get word that Holmes is facing a four-game suspension in the coming season for violation of the NFL drug policy. It's being reported that Holmes either missed a required drug test or failed a test. If this suspension is upheld, any further transgression could possibly see him getting kicked out of the league for a whole year. With his rookie contract entering its last year, there's no way in hell that the Steelers should ante up millions of dollars to re-sign this dipstick. I'm guessing the Steelers aren't that stupid. But there are enough dumb owners in the NFL that someone will write a big check to this ticking time bomb. If the Steelers can unload Holmes before this season, that would be even better. We also aren't sure who will be chucking the ball when the season starts. Although there are reports that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be charged in the Georgia nightclub incident, it's possible that Commissioner Roger Goodell, tired of the bad publicity Roethlisberger has brought to the league, will suspend him anyway for a couple of games. Charlie Batch is a senior citizen in football terms, and I have my doubts whether Dennis Dixon will ever be a better-than-average NFL signal caller. So, it will be interesting to see if the Steelers spend an early draft pick on a quarterback. The Steelers have a great many solid citizens on their roster. It's just very disconcerting that two of the most prominent offensive players can't seem to avoid trouble.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Of Bart and baseball

A couple of quick hitters on a Friday afternoon:

After being the center of an abortion-funding controversy during debate on the new health-care reform law, Rep. Bart Stupak has decided to call it quits. The Michigan Democrat was being targeted by teabaggers who were spending plenty of time and money in an effort to oust him come November. The AP reports that three little-known Republicans are on the ballot for Stupak’s seat, along with an anti-abortion Democrat who planned to challenge the congressman in the Democratic primary. Stupak said the teabaggers had nothing to do with his decision. He says he's just tired of the travel involved with the job. The funny thing is, the whole abortion hysteria that Stupak was at the center of was really a non-issue that was whipped up by health-care reform opponents. It was much like the non-existent “death panels” that a certain village idiot screeched about. I don't think Stupak's retirement is any great loss for our country, but you never know what the people of his district might get in his place. Could be a great statesman or stateswoman. Chances are it won’t be.


Major league umpire Joe West was probably out of line for doing what he did, but baseball fans everywhere most likely agreed with his statement that the length of baseball games is ridiculous. In an interview with the Bergen Record in New Jersey, West ripped into the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox over the slow pace of play in their season-opening series. He called it a “disgrace to baseball.” And he’s right. Anyone who watches baseball regularly has to be frustrated by pitchers who wander around the mound licking their fingers and then wiping them on their trousers repeatedly, adjusting their caps six or eight times and then shaking off their catcher until said catcher has to come out and have a personal conversation with the hurler. And sometimes that's just to get one pitch thrown. The batters are no better. After almost every pitch, they step out of the batter’s box and adjust their protective cups, their helmets, their batting gloves, their shoes, their uniform shirts, their pants, etc., etc., etc. The powers that be in baseball have said they want to shorten games, but they apparently won't give the umpires the backing to crack down on these delays, or they're not demanding that the umpires do so. As retired player Curt Schilling noted, the umps also could go a long way in helping to shorten games if they'd just simply call more strikes. If you know what the rules say about the strike zone, you also know that not a single umpire in Major League Baseball adheres to it. Every ump seems to have his own personal conception of what a strike zone entails. Some won't call "high strikes." Some won't call "low strikes." Others won't call an "inside strike" but will give the pitcher a strike call on a ball that remains six inches off the outside part of home plate. If the umpires started calling strikes in the zone laid out in the rule book, there would be a lot more swinging of bats and a lot fewer full counts. And a lot faster games.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shooting the messenger

Is the pope beyond criticism? It's a question that bears asking after the virulent attacks by those associated with the Vatican against media and others who questioned the actions by the church and, particularly, Pope Benedict XVI in handling past incidents of child molestation by Catholic priests. Recent news reports might not provide the absolute "smoking gun" to show that Benedict was personally involved in a coverup of the sexual abuse cases, or at the very least of incompetence through inattention, but some of those guns seem very, very, very hot to the touch. The responses by those connected with the Vatican and Benedict paint a picture of some sort of anti-Catholic plot that really doesn't exist. And some of the statements defending them are ridiculous. On Tuesday, Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, an official of the Holy See, claimed Benedict and the church are targets of a hate campaign, and Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, leader of a Vatican discipline commission, says Benedict has become a target because of his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. The most unhinged remarks came from Benedict’s personal preacher, who likened criticism of the pope to the historic suffering of the Jewish people. All of these defenses seem to have the same goal: to launch a potentially chilling attack aimed at quieting those who would do no more than seek the truth in these cases while pointing out that the man holding the most powerful religious position in the world, during his years before assuming that post, might not have done all he could or, worse, deliberately looked the other way when rapes and other sex crimes were being committed against children. One would think that rank-and-file Catholics, as well as church leaders, would want answers. But very often, the response seems to be to blame those who raise the questions.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is not here ...

Wishing a happy Easter to my Christian friends. May you have a blessed, glorious day.


Friday, April 2, 2010

A time to kill

Take a look at these three brief stories that appeared today on the AP state wire:

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A second teenage suspect has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a Pittsburgh woman who police say was an innocent bystander.
Pittsburgh police charged 16-year-old Robert Brown on Thursday in the weekend shooting death of 60-year-old Cheryl Esseny in the city’s Homewood neighborhood.
Investigators say Brown and 15-year-old Anthony Thomas each fired at a passing vehicle from a railroad trestle on Saturday evening. One of the bullets struck Esseny, who had just left a nearby library.
Authorities say the teens told officers the identity of the intended target, but police say the man they thought they were shooting at was in jail at the time.
Thomas was arrested Sunday. Both teens face homicide charges.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police in Philadelphia have made an arrest in the attempted rape and fatal beating of a woman behind a city deli.
Twenty-one-year-old Sharod Graham is facing murder and attempted rape charges in the vicious assault that killed Eraina Merritt.
Police said deli employees went behind the store to take out the trash and saw a man hitting a naked woman on the ground. They broke up the attack and the assailant fled.
The 47-year-old mother of four never regained consciousness after the March 24 assault in the city’s Olney neighborhood, and police could not interview her. She died Monday of her injuries.
Police said her attacker was caught on a security videotape at the deli earlier on the night of the assault.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Police in Pittsburgh say a short video surveillance clip has led to the arrests of two teen suspects in the slaying of a retired firefighter.
Police say a security camera recorded 17-year-old Cordell Brown and 16-year-old Tyrone Thomas following 55-year-old Mark Barry just before he was fatally shot while walking his dog on March 14.
Authorities say the teens killed Barry because they wanted drug money but his dog prevented them from going through his pockets.
According to court documents, the teens each blame the other for the shooting. Police say they are seeking other suspects.
Thomas and Brown were charged Wednesday with homicide and are being held without bail. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys.

Now, answer me this: Why should we allow people like this, if they are found guilty of these vicious crimes, to draw breath among us for any significant length of time? If these people are convicted, and there is no reasonable doubt that they committed these offenses against decency and humanity, they should get one appeal in which to make all of their arguments for a new trial. Once that appeal has worked its way to the top of the judicial food chain, if they are not successful, they should be executed the next day. I, for one, am tired of seeing even a penny of my taxes going toward feeding, clothing and providing medical care to scum on death row. From our own area, we have seen people convicted of murders decades ago and sentenced to death who are still alive. Why? Allowing these people to game the legal system, getting appeal after appeal after appeal, needs to stop. Some will argue that the death penalty is not a deterrent against crime. That's not my central concern, but I do think the deterrent will be greater if would-be murderous slime see that someone convicted of a killing – or perhaps even a crime against police officers or children – gets put to death sooner rather than later. And I also think that prosecutors seek death sentences way less often than they should. It might be a greater cost up front to prosecute a death-penalty case, but if these people are put to death in short order, we would save money in the long run. And one thing that no one can deny is that carrying out the death penalty is an absolute guarantee against recidivism.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

On burgers, briefs, buffoons and bones

A few random thoughts:

I saw a story on the Internet this week clearly illustrating that some people have too much time on their hands and also are horribly misguided. A watchdog group called Corporate Accountability International is mounting a campaign to have Ronald McDonald removed as mascot of the fast-food chain bearing the same name, apparently because he is leading kids to potentially unhealthy fast food. Now, certainly, kids think Ronald is a pretty cool guy, and they're big on the Happy Meals, but Ronald isn't going to their houses and giving them rides to the Golden Arches. It's up to parents to decide whether their children get a Happy Meal or a Filet-O-Fish or a Big Mac and fries. We can only assume that Corporate Accountability International will be coming out in favor of the Hamburglar, with hopes that he will snatch cheeseburgers from the hands of children. What they should really do is just shut up.

When it comes to groceries, I'm very picky about what I buy. I'm not saying I only buy healthy foods, but that I make sure the junk that I'm putting into my body is top-quality junk. When it comes to clothes shopping, I'm not nearly so meticulous. Ask anyone who has seen how I dress. My inattention to detail proved to be a problem the other day. I was in the market for some underwear, so I went to the local store with the bull's-eye logo and checked out its offerings. I've always been a briefs guy, and when I spotted a six-pack of nice-looking, well-priced “sport briefs,” I tossed them in the cart. It was only when I got them home and tried on a pair that I noticed ... there's no hole in the front of these briefs. My underwear have always had holes in a useful place, so this has required a bit of an adjustment in my bathroom routine. The whole thing left me wondering, though. Do "sporty" people not go Number One all that often? And when they do go, do they maybe sit? Sorry. That's just how my twisted mind works.

No one does a better job of treating their viewers like drooling imbeciles than local TV newscasters. During prime time, they'll breathlessly run promos for their 11 o’clock news with teasers like this: “Is a serial killer stalking South Hills residents?” Then they'll come on at 11 and tell you that, no, it was a false alarm. I was actually just a raccoon going through people's trash cans. I exaggerate, but you get the drift. This next part is real. The other night, the irritatingly kooky Wendy Bell on WTAE was teasing an upcoming story about the Steelers’ preseason schedule. She said something about the Steelers facing “strange competition” next preseason and telling viewers to stay tuned to find out what “enemies” the black and gold would be facing. This really had me wondering. Would the Steelers perhaps be squaring off against the Colgate University lacrosse team? Canadian female curlers? The Bangladesh national badminton squad? Uh, no. Turns out they'll be playing a couple of teams they don’t normally play in the exhibition season. And what’s with this “enemies” stuff? Those preseason games are glorified practices. There's not enough anger or enmity in those so-called contests to fuel a go-cart. The real rage should come from season-ticket holders who have to pay top dollar for the right to attend those auditions for third-string tight ends.

Finally, let's talk about lunch meat. It never seemed odd to me when stores advertised “ham off the bone.” Real hams have a bone right down the middle, and one could easily imagine somebody carving lunch meat off of them. But last night on TV, I saw a Shop ’n Save ad touting turkey off the bone. Huh? Last time I checked, turkeys had lots of bones, and I couldn't think of one particular turkey bone that a butcher might be carving slices of lunch meat from. What's next? Bologna off the bone? Salami off the bone? Maybe head cheese off the bone? Just wondering.

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