Monday, June 28, 2010


A few random thoughts:

- I saw on the Post-Gazette website today that state police are looking for a 76-year-old guy who was last seen at a casino in Erie. Here's the kicker: The dude is suffering from Alzheimer's and "may be driving a maroon, four-door Nissan." How in the hell does a 76-year-old Alzheimer's patient have access to a set of car keys? Just another piece in the mountain of evidence that points toward the need for mandatory driver's license retesting for those over a certain age. By the way, there's also a perfectly good bill languishing on the state Senate floor that would ban the use of hand-held cell phones for talking or texting while behind the wheel. But do you think our state lawmakers would pass any bill that would anger a significant segment of the population in an election year? Of course not. A great many of them are more interested in getting re-elected than they are in doing what is right for the people of Pennsylvania. How else could you explain the continued existence of the state store system.

- Speaking of which, the union that represents the state store clerks issued one of its hilarious, self-serving news releases the other day. The subject was the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's rolling out of its new wine-vending machines that will be placed in some grocery stores. Granted, the vending machine idea is stupid. Why not just let the stores sell wine off their shelves? Of, because the PLCB would lose its reason to exist. But the Independent State Store Union really went over the top. The union says the vending machines will "only intensify the effort to eliminate the state store system." Actually, the PLCB is doing this as a way to lessen the move to kill the state store system by showing (falsely) that it is trying to cater to wine buyers across the commonwealth. But here's where it gets really funny. Check out this quote at the end of the union's news release: "Alcohol is not a Red Box DVD - it is the most abused drug in every town, city and state in the USAA." OK. If that's the way you feel about it, why don't you issue a news release calling for elimination of all alcoholic beverage sales in the state? Oh, but that would eliminate all those highly paid clerk positions. Never mind.

- Tom Cruise's latest movie, "Knight and Day," pretty much tanked at the box office over the weekend, and it's pretty certain that it's not going to make enough money to cover the cost of producing and promoting it. Anyone who is not a blithering idiot can tell you that Cruise's career went south when he started jumping on couches and acting like a loon about his freak-show religion. But a spokesman for the movie studio that put out the latest film had the cojones to say that the movie got good reviews and "smart audiences" will make it a success by flocking to it. Bull@#$%. The smart audiences are the ones not sticking their dollar bills into the pockets of that wacky Scientologist.

- Finally, this little item struck a nerve with me on Friday. We got a news release at the newspaper from Intermediate Unit 1 announcing that its Center for Science, Engineering and Mathematics Education has gotten a $192,500 grant to "promote algebra readiness in third through eighth grades." The release goes on to say that dozens of teachers in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties will be able to participate in an "intensive summer math academy and school year follow-up focused on the development of content knowledge, its application to classroom practice and understanding of the role that mathematics plays in real-world careers in those subject areas for students." Gag me with a spoon. This is emblematic of everything that is wrong with our education system. Teachers are going to be taking time away from drilling elementary students on the basic math that they WILL use later in life in order to "promote readiness" for algebra, which I'm pretty sure not many of them will be using after high school. I took algebra in high school. I've never used anything I learned in that class, and I'm certain that I would have benefited more by taking ANY OTHER class that might have been offered. Hell, even metal shop was of more use to me than algebra. And in our modern world, with all of the technological advances, there are very few people who will need to come out of high school with the ability to figure out algebraic equations. For those who are pursuing a field in which that might be useful, there will always be the opportunity to take those courses in high school. But it's an absolute waste of time - and our school tax money - to force algebra, or "algebra readiness," on the student body as a whole.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Under the Big Top

The circus is back in town in Harrisburg. What I mean by that is that your state lawmakers are back at "work" today, with the deadline for approving a state budget just a little over a week away. Are you optimistic that they'll get the job done? After last year, when the budget was approved 101 days after the deadline, one would think that the lawmakers, with the November election on their minds, would bend over backward to accomplish what they haven't done in many a year and actually do their jobs by the required date. But the last I saw, they're facing a budget hole of at least $1.3 billion, and it's going to take a lot of cutting and/or "revenue enhancement" to balance the spending plan. Revenue enhancement is what you and I call taxes. The lawmakers find that term distasteful. They have proven to be excellent at public relations and at honing self-promotion skills that already are second to none. They haven't done nearly as well in the area of making tough decisions, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they once again failed to do what is really the only job that is required of them every year. The other day, Gov. Ed Rendell prodded lawmakers to pledge that they will work every day from now until June 30 in order to pass a budget. His call brought this reply from Brett Marcy, spokesman for House Democrats: "We are committed to doing everything we possibly can to pass a budget by June 30. That is why we passed a budget and sent it to the Senate nearly three months ago." What Marcy isn't telling us is that the spending plan the Democratically-controlled House sent to the Republican-controlled Senate was an absolute joke, a total fraud. And anyone who says otherwise is a liar. There are a few things to watch over the coming days as our "leaders" go about their business. One, will the lawmakers do the right thing and tax chewing tobacco and cigars, as every other state in the union does? Also, will lawmakers pass an extraction tax on the gas-drilling industry? Will they side with the people, who will bear the immediate effects and after-effects of the drilling, or will they side with the big Marcellus drillers? And then, of course, there's the timing of budget approval. Republican state Rep. Sam Rohrer told WFMZ TV in Allentown that, this being an election year, there's a chance that a budget standoff could go past the 101-day-late embarrassment of last year. Heck, maybe the lawmakers could dilly-dally until after the election. No sense doing something that might anger voters when your political future is on the line. Of course, not even our state lawmakers are that stupid. Probably. But if they are, each and every one of them should be shown the door. In fact, after last year's fiasco, if they do anything approaching that 101-day-late mess, they all should be booted out.

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The pitiful Pirates

It's official now. The management of your Pittsburgh Pirates is now the most embarrassing collection of idiots on the face of the Earth. The incident that put them over the top came the other day, when the team fired a guy who dons a costume and participates in the pierogi races at PNC Park. His crime? He had the audacity to make a critical comment on Facebook after it was learned that the Pirates' "brain trust" had extended the contracts of general manager Neal Huntington and check-him-for-a-pulse manager John Russell. The reason I say that it was "learned" that the Pirates extended those contracts is that the extensions actually occurred months ago. The Pirates just didn't bother to tell anyone until the other day. And in the interim, team President Frank Coonelly lied about it. So, essentially, the team's owners and top officials are incompetent prevaricators, but it's the pierogi guy who has to go. The Pirates also totally botched the way they handled the call-ups of the team's promising young players. The Pirates claim that they're going to spend money to build the team when they need to. Well, they have the opportunity to prove themselves by signing the two stud pitchers they just picked in the draft. I'm not holding my breath. And only time will tell whether the team will pay the freight to keep players like Andrew McCutchen when those youngsters reach the point in their careers when they are set to earn real money, rather than deal them for other teams' garbage, as the Bucs have done in the past. Based on the Nutting family's track record, I'm not believing anything they say until it's proven otherwise.

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Well-armed cowards

Democrats in the U.S. House are trying to impose tougher disclosure requirements on money spent on political advertising, but the effort has ground to a halt after opposition arose regarding a loophole that affects the NRA and other large organizations. The bill is a response to a Supreme Court decision that allows corporations and unions to pour money into political campaigns, but of course lawmakers couldn't allow the measure to apply equally to everyone. There's reportedly a loophole for labor unions, which almost always support Democrats, and then Democratic leaders bowed to pressure on behalf of the NRA, further gutting the potential effects of the legislation. Certainly, we can't have a system in which we know who is trying to buy elections and put lawmakers into their hip pockets. The NRA, according to a recent AP story, claimed that the original measure was a "threat to its freedom of speech." Bull#$%@. It's just a threat to the NRA's ability to influence elections under the cover of darkness, like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain. Who would have thought that people with all those gun could be such cowards.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

I'll pass, thanks

The image above is meant to reflect what my reaction would be if forced to tune in to the World Cup soccer tournament, which I'm told is now under way. Soccer is said to be the biggest sport in the world, but I couldn't possibly care less about the World Cup. And I'm thinking that most Americans are with me on this. Soccer fans are a very dedicated bunch, but there just aren't that many of them in the United States. Sure, kids by the millions run around across our great land, chasing a soccer ball from one end of a field to the other, but for the average sports fan, soccer is hardly even a blip on the radar. One problem, I think, is the lack of scoring. Many American sports fans want instant gratification. They're not interested in a sport where a 1-0 score is commonplace. Heck, sometimes no one scores. I can't pinpoint exactly why I hate soccer. I love baseball, and it's not exactly a thrill a minute. Same with golf. Heck, I'll even watch bowling. But I'd rather have a delicate operation in the groin region than sit through an entire soccer game. Hence, a whole tournament of soccer has about the same appeal to me as having Pele kick a soccer ball into my aforementioned groin region every day for a month, which is how long this thing lasts. Soccer fans tend to get very angry and defensive when you call their game boring. They accuse you of not understanding it and not appreciating the artistry and strategy that go into a scoring chance. Nope. I understand it perfectly well. It just makes me want to drink poison. My sincerest hope, at the risk of sounding less than patriotic, is that the American team is eliminated from the tournament as quickly as possible so that maybe, just maybe, they'll spend less time prattling on about the World Cup on SportsCenter.


Thursday, June 3, 2010


If you’re looking for someone to do something horribly and deliberately wrong, give Bud Selig a call. The boob who leads Major League Baseball had a chance to do something right today, and of course, being Bud Selig, he did the absolute wrong thing. For those who have been living under a rock (or those who are not sports fans), a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers had a rare perfect game stolen from him Wednesday night by a ridiculously bad call at first base with two outs in the ninth inning against Cleveland. Pitcher Armando Galarraga is to be credited for not choking umpire Jim Joyce on the field, and Joyce showed great class in going into the Tigers’ clubhouse after the game to personally apologize for depriving the pitcher of his place in history. A distraught Joyce later told reporters, “It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the shit out of it. I just cost that kid a perfect game.” That’s a couple of stand-up guys there (shown above before today’s game). And then there’s Selig. It’s hard to remember any sport having a commissioner as pathetic as this guy. He has the power to overturn decisions made on the field. He considered the Galarraga situation. And then, in true Bud fashion, he declined to act. Bud did say that he’ll be examining the “umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features.” A lot of good that does Galarraga and Joyce. Here’s the hilarious part. Airhead Bud, in his official statement about the botched call, said this: “While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed.” Then address them, you idiot. Selig had a chance to make things right for the game, for the fans, for the pitcher and the umpire. Instead, he handled it like Bill Buckner in the ’86 World Series. Galarraga probably will never come close to a perfect game again in his career. But the one who really has to live with this is Joyce. The guy is considered one of the best umps in the game, but from this day forward, he’ll be remembered as the guy who botched the ninth-inning call to cost a pitcher a perfect game. When his obituary is written, that fact will be in the lead paragraph. Selig could have helped both of these guys. All that was necessary was to rule that the batter on the botched play was out, and that the subsequent game-ending at-bat was wiped out. No one is hurt. The final outcome of the game isn’t changed a bit. But the impotent Selig, who has always been a puppet of major league owners, proved once again why baseball has taken a backseat to football as America’s game. Having a hapless milquetoast like Bud Selig running baseball is like making Richard Simmons a Navy Seal. It's bad enough that baseball continues to have a fiscal system that allows teams like the Yankees to buy World Series titles while small-market teams struggle just to be competitive every once in a while. This makes the game look worse. It’s been clear for years that the quality of umpiring in the major leagues has been in steady decline. Every umpire has, and is allowed to have, his own personal version of the strike zone. The phantom base tags at second on double plays have gotten more and more ridiculous. And then you have guys like Joe West and Angel Hernandez who think they are the stars of the game. They seek out conflict with players and managers so they can be the center of attention when they toss people out of games. Somebody needs to put a stop to this and make umpires accountable for their actions and the quality of their work. But do you really think Bumbling Bud is the guy to do that? The only good to come out of Wednesday’s mess is that perhaps now, finally, baseball will rely on instant replay to fix calls that are clearly wrong. Football does it. Hockey does it. Basketball does it. Baseball has resisted it. Nobody wants replay to be used on balls-and-strikes calls, but the big, potentially game-changing calls should be correct, and if replay can help, it should be used. Because it’s damn certain that nobody could rely on worthless Bud Selig to do the right thing after the fact.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Weird world of crime and the courts

When it comes to crime, the court system and people's greed and stupidity, if you think you've seen everything, just wait a little bit. Some examples:

– You've probably heard by now about the Michigan woman who claims she was asleep on a plane when she was left behind and locked in the United Express airplane for several hours on the tarmac in Philadelphia. Of course, Ginger McGuire (shown above) is suing. Her attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, the guy who came to fame by representing Jack Kevorkian, will be bringing a suit alleging false imprisonment, emotional distress and negligence. This whole story smells funny to me. How does one stay asleep through the landing of the aircraft and the resulting hubbub of people banging their luggage out of overhead bins and deplaning? And this woman didn’t stir for four hours after the plane was empty? I have my doubts.

– There’s a hearing going on in Ohio for a chief master sergeant who has been accused of sexually harassing nine female subordinates. William Gurney, who once was the top enlisted man at the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base but has been reassigned since the allegations cropped up, was accused by one of the women of having sex with her against her will. But here again, this story has some odd twists. The woman claims she was afraid of Gurney because he was a “powerful man.” But she testified that they had kissed in previous meetings, and she admitted that Gurney never made any threats or used force as they had sex. Gurney’s lead defense attorney, Maj. Gwendolyn Beitz, said the woman had never described the sex as anything but consensual until she was faced with telling her husband that she might be demoted for having an affair. Gurney also is married. I certainly don't condone forcing someone to have sex, or engaging in any sort of sexual harassment, but weak accusations like this one hurt the cases of women who really have been wronged.

– There’s some really nasty video circulating on the Web that was disseminated by a group called Mercy for Animals. The video purportedly shows cows at Conklin Dairy Farms Inc. near Marysville, Ohio, being punched, kicked and poked with pitchforks. And those are the nicer things. Also shown are workers holding down newborn calves and taking their boots to the calves’ heads. Another snippet depicts a cow’s nose being wired to a metal bar close to the ground while another metal bar is used to beat the animal bloody. Just lovely. One worker faces a host of criminal charges in the case. Conklin Farms says it does not condone animal abuse, and it fired the worker facing charges. But the farm doesn’t do itself any favors when it announces that it wants veterinarians to independently review the video. For what purpose? Are they planning to defend some of these actions? And according to an Associated Press story, Conklin also said the undercover video fails to include “context of how the farm is operated responsibly.” Doesn’t that seem almost the same as saying, “Yeah, some animals were tortured, but we’re usually not that mean”? Conklin would do better to just quit trying to engage in damage control and do everything it can to help authorities identify and prosecute each and every farm worker guilty of cruelty and abuse.

– Speaking of digging a bigger hole for oneself, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, who never has come off as the sharpest tool in the shed, made the mistake of going on “Oprah” in an attempt to explain how she ended up being secretly videotaped by an undercover tabloid reporter while offering to sell access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, for about three-quarters of a million dollars. Ferguson attempted to explain her influence peddling by saying it started as an attempt to get $40,000 for a friend in need. How did that escalate to $724,000? Well, she really wasn’t too sure about that. She also told Oprah that she proceeded with her dealings with the “businessman” even though she had her suspicions that he was an undercover reporter. That's about as dumb as the guys who got nabbed on “To Catch a Predator” and admitted seeing previous installments of the anti-pedophile program. As for Ferguson’s future plans, she says bankruptcy is a possibility. I have to assume that it’s fiscal bankruptcy, since she’s clearly already morally bankrupt, and dumb as a box of rocks, to boot.

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