Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Death comes often..."

From today's New York Times:

In the darkness, as the sound of the helicopter faded, Colonel MacFarland addressed his soldiers.

"I don't know if this war is worth the life of Terry Lisk, or 10 soldiers, or 2,500 soldiers like him," Colonel MacFarland told his forces. "What I do know is that he did not die alone. He was surrounded by friends.

"A Greek philosopher said that only the dead have seen the end of war," the colonel said. "Only Terry Lisk has seen the end of this war."

The soldiers turned and walked back to their barracks in the darkness. No one said a word.

Someone needs to give this guy his own reality show

Pittsburgh City Councilman Jeffrey Koch has once again done his South Side constituents proud. Koch, you'll recall, was the councilman who nominated one of his own employees to the city ethics board, in defiance not only of the City Code but common sense as well.

Now, he's been cited for shoving a Pittsburgh police officer during a fan fracas at a local softball game:

Detective Brian Nicholas, who works in the city police's narcotics investigation unit, was traveling nearby and responded. The two officers are brothers.

As police tried to calm fans, Koch pushed Joe Nicholas and said that Gary Bevan shouldn't be arrested, police said.

Bryan Nicholas pushed Koch back, and the councilman tripped over a garbage can and fell onto a hillside, police said.

I wonder if Koch's constituents are starting to wish they had voted for this guy.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Well, he has been dating a younger woman

Too good to be true:

CBS4 News) WEST PALM BEACH Sources have confirmed to CBS4 News that conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been detained at Palm Beach International Airport for the possible possession of illegal prescription drugs Monday evening.

Limbaugh was returning on a flight from the Dominican Republic when officials found the drugs, among them Viagra.

UPDATE: Limbaugh's attorney explains.

"We rob banks"

The 25 most controversial films of all time.

Destroying the Constitution to save it

Michael Barone makes a curious argument in this essay damning the New York Times and other newspapers for publishing accounts of the Bush administration's financial surveillance program. The terrorists, Barone writes, hate us because of our freedoms. So in order to protect against the terrorists, the administration needs to punish journalists who exercise those freedoms:

Publication of the Times' December and June stories appears to violate provisions of the broadly written, but until recently, seldom enforced provisions of the Espionage Act. Commentary's Gabriel Schoenfeld has argued that the Times can and probably should be prosecuted.

The counterargument is that it is a dangerous business for the government to prosecute the press. But it certainly is in order to prosecute government officials who have abused their trust by disclosing secrets, especially when those disclosures have reduced the government's ability to keep us safe. And pursuit of those charges would probably require reporters to disclose the names of those sources. As the Times found out in the Judith Miller case, reporters who refuse to answer such questions can go to jail.

It's been said that irony died when Henry Kissinger won a Nobel Peace Prize. But must we keep flailing away at the corpse?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"He told me you killed him"

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I were watching our "Revenge of the Sith" DVD, which includes a short feature about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Unlike my wife, I am old enough to have seen "The Empire Strikes Back" during its original theatrical release and remember how stunning it was to learn that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father. (Not to mention that the film ended without the issue being resolved.)

So my question to you, dear readers, is how does that revelation stack up to other film surprises? Was it more or less shocking than learning Bruce Willis was really dead? Or that Kevin Costner was a Russian Spy? Or that she was a man? I anxiously await your responses.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Like a broken record

This guy, this guy and these guys explain why subsidizing Downtown redevelopment is a bad idea. I think I'm close to having said all I'm going to say on the subject. At least until I decide to say something else.

In other news, the church in which I grew up seems to have struck a reasonable compromise on the question of ordaining homosexuals. When I say reasonable, I mean that I agree with it; clearly, it rankles some.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Happy anniversary

Chris Briem notes that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the start of one the most shameful chapters in Pittsburgh history, the destruction of the Lower Hill District in the name of urban renewal. (If you go to Chris' blog you'll see that I'm editorializing a bit.)

Yes, scores of homes, businesses, churches, synagogues, etc., were destroyed because a bunch of elitist politicians and planners decided they knew better how to make use of people's private property. The Hill District has never recovered and the Civic Arena (now Mellon Arena) never lived up to its promises.

I'd like to say Pittsburgh has learned its lesson. Unfortunately, too many people making decisions in this town still subscribe to the philosophy that helped to destroy one of this nation's most storied neighborhoods.

No, I didn't get to drive any

I wrote this article for Fanfare magazine.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

They can have my Venti vanilla latte when they pry it out my cold dead hands

OK, enough's enough. I realize that most of America's school children are so fat that the jiggle of their flesh resembles the rhythmic motion of a lava lamp, and that many of us adults are so portly that forklifts have replaced pallbearers at the average funeral, but does really mean that a bunch of busybodies have to take it upon themselves to drag Starbucks and KFC into court because too many people don't understand that ingesting half a quart of cream or that chasing a few pieces of extra crispy with buttermilk biscuits and gravy might cause some health problems down the road? (Yes, that may have been the longest sentence I've ever written.):

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp. (SBUX.O) may be next on the target list of a consumer-health group that this week sued the operator of the KFC fried chicken restaurant chain for frying foods in oils high in harmful trans fat.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said it is planning to campaign against the global cafe chain because of the increased risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer associated with high-calorie, high-fat products it sells.

And the possibility of legal action against Starbucks, similar to the case it is taking against KFC owner Yum Brands Inc. (YUM.N), has not been ruled out, said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.

And get this--the union that represents Starbucks workers in three New York stores is joining the effort, and it is upset because the coffee chain actually allows them to eat and drink as much as they want:

The union contends that Starbucks staff gain weight when they work at the chain. They are offered unlimited beverages and leftover pastries for free during their shifts.

Notice the policy is that the employees are offered free food and drink, not that they are forced to consume said goods. Basically, this union is saying that its members are so weak-willed that they can't help but to load up on frappuccinos and seven-layer bars until they have to be rolled out of the store at closing time.

Please. It is a serious problem that so many of us are overweight, and I have no beef with anyone who wants to pour money--private or public--into educating people about proper eating habits and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I have a big problem with people trying to force businesses--through lawsuits or the threat of lawsuits--into altering their products because they offend someone else's sensibilities.

Does Starbucks claim that their drinks are healthy? I've been in plenty of Starbucks, believe me, and I've yet to see a sign that reads "A latte a day keeps the doctor away." And as for this whole trans fat business, one of the reasons restaurants turned to partially hydrogenated oils was because they were pressured by health groups to stop using beef tallow and palm oils, which were high in saturated fat.

In other words, it was the law of unintended consequences at work. So maybe all these do-gooders should just leave restaurants alone, and allow consumers to make their own decisions, rather than trying to clog up our courts like their foes have clogged our arteries.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ethics, smethics

When I first read this, I laughed. Then I wanted to cry:

More than a week past a self-imposed deadline, only four of nine council members have named (ethics board) nominees, and only one of them appears to be valid.

According to the City Code, board members may not hold a public office, be part of a political committee or work for the city or state.

But that didn't stop Councilman Daniel Deasy from nominating Sheraden District Judge Randy C. Martini, or Councilman Jim Motznik from tapping Carrick District Judge Richard G. King. Both Martini and King are public office holders and state employees.

Councilman Jeffrey Koch nominated a member of his own office staff, former District Judge Eileen Conroy. ...

Motznik said he knows what the City Code says, but nominated King anyway.

What hubris. These councilmen aren't just spitting in the face of the plan to revive the ethics board. They are spitting in the face of accountability. They are spitting in the face of good government. The culture of patronage and corruption runs so deep in this town they do this without shame, without fear of the consequences. Hell, Motznik doesn't even try to claim ignorance.

What does this say about the character of our public officials? More importantly, what does it say about us as voters? Anyone who voted for these three men--never mind the council members who couldn't even be bothered to offer a nominee for the ethics board--should be ashamed of themselves tonight. You truly are getting the government you deserve.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The idiot box

I found an interesting television blog here. (And here is their take on the year's final "The Sopranos.")

Monday, June 12, 2006

I'm still alive

For the handful of you who might be interested, I just returned from a fantastic vacation in North Carolina's Outer Banks. I might bore you later in the week with some pictures of my baby girl eating sand.

In the meantime, I'm sure you are riveted by the news that Ben Roethlisberger was injured in a motorcylce accident, which was the first news story I heard upon my return to Steeler Nation. I hope he's OK and that in the future, he'll wear a helmet. But I happen to agree that the law should not require him to. The government has no responsibility to save you from yourself.