Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Open mouth, switch feet

In the world of clumsy public relations moves and tone-deaf pronouncements, the Catholic Church has few peers. That was evidenced again the other day when the Vatican issued new rules regarding sex abuse by members of the clergy (which, by the way, were weaker than those imposed by U.S. bishops) and decided that would be a good time to also announce that the category of “grave crimes,” such as sex abuse of little kids, would also include any attempt to ordain women. Those within the Catholic Church who think women should maybe be treated as men’s equals were none too pleased with the synchronicity. The next day, the Vatican trotted out an official to say that the Holy See had not intended to equate ordination of women with child rape. Gotcha. About the same time, I saw an AP story noting that the Vatican was 13 years late – yes, 13 years – in submitting a report on child rights that is required of all entities that signed on to the United Nations’ 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The chairman of the panel charged with implementing the convention has made repeated attempts to get the Vatican to submit its report, with no success. Last September, Vatican representative Hubertus Matheus Van Megen told the U.N. that the needed document was being “finalized as we speak.” Apparently, the word “finalize” has a different meaning in Europe. But maybe the reason for the delay is this: Van Megan said the Vatican planned to include a paragraph about “the problem of child abuse by Catholic Clergy.” A whole paragraph?!?!?!? Who says they don’t take this stuff seriously?

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Blatant disregard

Dennis Roddy and Daniel Malloy of the Post-Gazette had a good story the other day about what allegedly was going on in the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia before 29 miners were killed in an explosion April 5. According to the report, an electrician at the mine is saying that he was ordered to disable a methane detector on mining equipment. Apparently, that particular piece of equipment was not in the area where the deadly explosion occurred, but investigators are looking into the possibility that the same type of thing was done elsewhere in the mine. If it is found that shenanigans like this contributed to the disaster in that mine, and the deaths of 29 people, somebody should go to jail for a very, very long time. In China, they’d probably execute any executives whose deliberate actions, or orders, led to mass deaths. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.


Casting a net too wide

Kudos to New York Gov. David Paterson, who signed a measure Friday that will clear out a database that held the names of thousands of people who had been stopped and frisked by police in New York City but were not charged with a crime. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly lobbied Paterson to reject the legislation, with Kelly calling it a “great crime-fighting tool.” But I think Paterson had it right when he said the so-called “stop-and-frisk” system was “not a policy for democracy.” There’s just way too much opportunity for official mischief. Don Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union expressed the concern well by saying, “Innocent people stopped by police for doing nothing more than going to school, work or the subway should not become permanent criminal suspects.”


Gee, I wonder why

Despite extensive efforts to shed light on and address the issue, the Army reports that suicides by its soldiers hit 32 last month, the highest number since the days of the Vietnam War. In 2009, a record 245 soldiers killed themselves, and it looks, unfortunately, as if there’s a good chance that record will be broken this year, considering that 145 soldiers had committed suicide through June. It’s a sad state of affairs, and Army leaders are trying everything they can think of to get their men and women the help they need. But they come off as disingenuous when, as in the story I read Friday, they express puzzlement as to what is behind the epidemic. Do you think maybe it’s the fact that our servicemen and women have been sent over and over and over again to Iraq and Afghanistan? Might want to look into that.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Be proud, Republicans

U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana seems to be auditioning for a leading role in a remake of the classic movie “Dumb and Dumber.” In this case, he’s the dumb guy cheering on even dumber ones. Vitter, whom you might remember apologizing profusely after getting snared in the “D.C. Madam” case that starred Charleroi’s own Deborah Jeane Palfrey, held a town hall meeting for some of the home folks over the weekend and endorsed efforts by some conservative (read: lunatic) groups that are mounting court challenges regarding President Obama’s citizenship. Now, every person in America with more brains than a gerbil knows damn well that Obama was born in Hawaii. But since our populace includes its fair share of dolts, these cases continue to be filed. According to the AP, Vitter told the town hall crowd that the only "direct information" he has about Obama's place of birth has come through the news media “filter.” So, what Sen. Dimbulb seems to be suggesting is that every legitimate news organization in this country is part of a vast, left-wing conspiracy to conceal the African birth of our president. C'mon. You can disagree with the president's policies and the direction he'd like the country to take, but get a grip, for heaven's sake. A lot of people in this country aren't happy with President Obama and the Democrats, and most of them know that the correct way to express their displeasure is at the ballot box, this November and in 2012, if they please. But don't waste everyone's time with this jackassery. In closing, I'd just like to say to David Vitter, “You're an idiot.” And to any and all of his fellow “birthers,” you're idiots, too. But I'm willing to help you get over this obsession. I hear that if you stare at the sun, you will eventually be able to see President Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate. But be safe. Make sure you look through the cardboard tube from a spent roll of toilet paper.

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In the news

A few thoughts on recent stories on the Associated Press wires:

– I'm not endorsing the guy (or his opponent), but it certainly warms my heart to hear Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett, in an AP interview, say that he would consider privatizing liquor sales to help balance the state's books. A couple of months ago, I contacted representatives of the leading candidates for governor to get the candidates' views on putting an end to the state’s Soviet-style liquor sales system. At that time, Corbett's spokesman said privatization of liquor sales was not a priority. Now it sounds like he's giving the idea more consideration. Good news.

– I recently heard about a book called "The Secret." When I found out what it was about, I laughed heartily and wondered why anyone in his or her right mind would spend the money to buy this hogwash. Then I found out that this crap-science book has sold millions of copies, leading me to believe there are millions of nuts among us. The main thrust of “The Secret” is the “law of attraction,” which really isn’t a law in any sense but instead is made-up bull@#$%. The AP reports that author Rhonda Byrne, in 2007, explained it by saying that "when you think and feel what you want to attract on the inside,” the law will pull you in that direction. Hah. But it seems millions of people are willing to suspend their common sense and stifle intelligent thought in order to believe that Byrne is on to something here. She's not the only one preaching this craziness. There's a fellow named James Arthur Ray who I saw profiled recently on a TV news show. You might recognize him as the charlatan who is currently up on criminal charges stemming from a deadly “sweat lodge” incident near Sedona, Ariz. With Ray out of action for a while, this presumably creates more business for Byrne, and she's capitalizing by coming out with her follow-up book, “The Power.” Here's my take: If you believe this stuff, you're a simpleton, and “The Secret” is that a shyster like Byrne has “The Power" to separate you from your money.

– I don't know if you saw this amongst all the important coverage of the LeBron James decision, but a recent guilty verdict against a white former transit officer who shot an unarmed black man sparked rioting in the San Francisco area that led to more than 80 arrests. That's right, a conviction. I seem to recall that there was rioting when police officers were ACQUITTED of whipping the bejeezus out of Rodney King, but there was a CONVICTION in this case, and people still rioted. Wonder what would happen in the case of a hung jury?

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Catching up

It's good to be busy, but it's frustrating to be too busy to blog. Finally, I can unload some of the "stuff" that has been rattling around in my head:

– To some people, the "big news" today is where LeBron James will be continuing his basketball career. I couldn't care less. If James were making his big announcement in my backyard, I'd pull the drapes closed. But if the rumblings are true, and James is planning to abandon his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to play with his boys D Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, isn't it a huge slap in the face and a major FU to the fans in Cleveland for James to hold a primetime, look-at-me egofest on ESPN to announce he's bailing?

– The folks at do a consistently great job of opening a window on local, state and federal politics and issues. Today, they have a nice follow-up piece on the "mysterious" vehicle with W&J plates parked in the garage at a Capitol office building. Check it out.

– I don't expect TV commercials to be as literate and cerebral as a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, but a couple of area car dealers are driving me nuts with their ads. The folks on the commercials loudly tout their "oh-ten" models. Wrong. It is NOT "oh-ten." It's two-thousand-ten or, if you prefer, twenty-ten. It was OK to say "oh-seven" or "oh-eight," but "oh-ten" is just wrong. If it isn't, then they should have been saying "oh-oh-seven" and "oh-oh-eight."

– Sen. John McCain felt the need to announce that he's going to vote against Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. Wow. What a shock. McCain is running comfortable ahead in his primary race against a right-wing loon, and he's clearly not going to upset the applecart now by even giving minimal consideration to Kagan's nomination. Sonia Sotomayor got nine Republican backers when her nomination came up for a vote, but she wasn't nominated in a mid-term election year. And let's be honest. Kagan doesn't have the advantage of being Hispanic. It will be interesting to see if any Republicans vote for Kagan. The ladies from Maine might do so, but that could be it. In recent confirmation history, Justice Alito received only four Democratic votes, but Chief Justice Roberts attracted 22 votes from the Dems.

– It sounds as if West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin is chomping at the bit to grab the U.S. Senate seat just vacated by the death of Robert Byrd. Some believe that state code calls for Manchin to appoint an interim senator who would serve until the 2012 election, but Manchin is asking the state’s attorney general to determine if they might be able to have a special election for the seat this year. And Manchin, of course, would run in it. Manchin said it "doesn't make sense" for him to appoint somebody to "replace this giant" for two and a half years. Why not? If you select a good person who would represent the state's interests well, what harm is there in that? Oh, wait, that person wouldn't be Joe Manchin. Actually, Manchin could appoint himself but says he wouldn't do that. I guess he has some limits about how self-serving he's willing to appear.

– There was a story last week out of central Pennsylvania about a woman who was bitten and scratched when she had a too-close encounter with a black bear while walking her dog in a wooded area near her home. Black bears are not the most aggressive animals, so the attack was a bit unusual. But what caught my attention was this line in the AP story: "Officials said the woman's dog ran away and was uninjured." Nice. My dogs have their negative points, unexpected "gas attacks" and the occasional roll in some other animal's "droppings" among them, but I know damn well that if any kind of animal attacks me, those dogs would fight it to their deaths. I'm guessing the central Pennsylvania woman's dog must've been a Bichon Frise. You know how good the French are at running from a fight.

– You might be wondering about the photo at the top of this post. I think I might've seen those guys when I stopped at a local gas station this morning. And I'm pretty sure the lady behind me who was hacking up a lung has tuberculosis. The things you see when you go out and about. ;-)

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