Tuesday, February 27, 2007

That woman

Hillary Clinton has warned her opponents that her husband's impeachment is off limits as a line of attack in the battle for the Democratic nomination for president. Fair enough. Bill Clinton isn't running for president, and he is no more relevant to his wife's campaign than the spouse of any other candidate.

But if other Democrats can't use the former president's impeachment against her, then it doesn't seem right for her to be able to cite his accomplishments in bolstering her candidacy. And I'm apparently not the only one to have this thought:

"She's using him in this campaign, so why can't somebody else use him?" asked a veteran of Democratic presidential politics who is not currently aligned with a candidate but who, like numerous other Democrats, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering the Clintons. "She's just made him fair game. He's part of her strategy, so why can't he be part of one of her opponents'?" (link)

Don't get me wrong. I agree that the Clintons were victims of a right-wing hate machine which had spent years leveling scurrilous and defamatory charges against them. For that reason I'm glad that the Senate did not vote to remove the president from office.

But Bill Clinton did lie under oath. He repeated that lie to the American people. He repeated that lie to members of his administration, who staked their own reputations on defending him. And while I'm no prude, I'll point out that he engaged in conduct in public office that would get most of us fired were we to do it at our jobs. I would have been perfectly happy had he resigned from office upon coming clean with the American people about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Imagine the standard that would have set for the conduct of future presidents.

Instead, President Clinton dug in and fought, sensing that his enemies would beat him in their race to the bottom. As a result, the government was more or less paralyzed for weeks on end, and anything that might have gotten accomplished during Clinton's second term was squandered. I certainly wasn't pleased to see George W. Bush take office in 2001, but I was happy to see Bill Clinton go.

That said, I think that Hillary Clinton's fellow candidates would have to be pretty foolish to use her husband's impeachment against her. The impeachment remains deeply unpopular among liberal Democrats (and many other people as well). Clinton's on the ropes with the party's base over her refusal to apologize for her Iraq War vote, so why would her opponents do anything that would earn her sympathy?

I'm aware of what David Geffen said about the Clintons. But here's a news flash: Most Americans don't know who David Geffen is. I'm guessing that even a majority of Democratic primary voters don't know who he is. It was a mistake for Hillary Clinton to make a fuss over this. As another Democratic president once said, if you can't take the heat...

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another city, not my own

In what city does Dan Rooney live?

"There are lot of things to do in the city," said Rooney, who moved with his wife, Patricia, back into his late father's house on the North Side years ago from Upper St. Clair. "It's a good place. They usually clean the streets of snow in the city, and where he is going to live is pretty good."

They usually clean the streets of snow? Which streets? During the week of the recent snow and ice storm, the residential streets in Brookline remained untreated from Tuesday on. I'm tempted to make a snarky remark about how it must be nice to live on the North Side--the home of our present mayor and the home of former mayor Tom Murphy--but the comments about snow removal over at this blog indicate that salt and plow trucks were scarce over there as well.

In any case, I welcome Mike Tomlin and his family to the city of Pittsburgh, and I hope Mr. Rooney pays him well. The city dearly needs his tax dollars.

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Heaven holds the faithful departed

I saw "The Departed" last night and I was rather impressed. I've not seen any of the other films nominated in the major categories, but I'm guessing that Martin Scorsese will finally get his Oscar. "The Departed" was not his best film but it was a good movie, perhaps even a great movie, and good enough for the Academy to want to give Scorsese an Oscar to make up for the other times he should have won. (Which isn't to say I agree with giving someone an Oscar just because he or she was slighted in the past. Peter Travers recently noted that Kevin Costner has a Best Director Oscar, while Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman and Alfred Hitchcock never won one. In whose company would Scorsese rather be?)

Scorsese certainly got some impressive performances out of his ensemble cast, but like a lot of people, I'm a bit surprised to see Mark Wahlberg nominated for Best Supporting Actor. His scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio were entertaining, but I just don't think we saw enough from him to justify a nomination even in the supporting category. Alec Baldwin was great fun to watch, but his performance might have been a bit too hammy for the Academy's tastes. (Though no one delivers snappy dialogue quite like Baldwin, and his character was very well drawn. I enjoyed the scene in which he started beating the surveillance technician; it demonstrated that for all the his egotistic bluster, he took being a cop seriously.) Matt Damon gave an affecting performance, though it might have been hard to nominate him (for Best Actor, most likely) without nominating DiCaprio.

"The Departed" put a fresh spin on an old theme--the notion that cops and criminals are two sides of the same coin. Nothing typified this idea more than the film's ending (spoiler ahead) in which Wahlberg's Dignam guns down Damon's Colin Sullivan. It was the only justice left for Sullivan, a dirty cop who had managed to destroy all evidence of his own corruption. As crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) had said earlier in the film, there's no difference between a cop and criminal when you are looking down the barrel of a gun.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What about Wedge?

HBO has been airing the original "Star Wars" films lately, and even though I've seen them hundreds of times and own the DVDs, I can't help but watch them every time they are on. So this afternoon, I'm watching the end of Episode IV, when Princess Leia gives Luke, Han Solo and Chewbacca medals for blowing up the Death Star, and I'm thinking, do Han Solo and Chewbacca really deserve those medals? I mean, they just swooped in after most of the Imperial fighters were either destroyed or had broken off their attack, fired a couple of shots at Darth Vader and his wingman, and then watched Luke fire the money shot. What about all those Rebel fighters who were there from the beginning? I mean, poor Wedge saved Luke's life during the battle, and was there almost to the end. Didn't he rate a medal? Some kind of commendation? I mean, based on his brief appearance in "Return of the Jedi", I'm guessing he never even received a promotion.

And while we are on the subject, wasn't the Rebel Alliance a bit loose in handing out ranks? OK, I can buy Han Solo as a general. Maybe. But Lando Calrissian? I mean, the guy gets a commission months (I think it was months. It's never clear how much time passes between each film.) after he turned Han Solo over to Darth Vader. I mean, hello?


Friday, February 09, 2007

Don't blame me, I voted for Swann

Gee, I wish I had written this:

My point, and I do have one, is that the state has never even tried to cut expenses. There has been no "belt-tightening" anywhere! The first response to any cash shortage in Pennsylvania is always "soak the taxpayers."

An editorial in the Daily News on Wednesday called the 1 percent sales tax increase "the least objectionable of (Rendell's) proposals." Statewide, the tax would go to 7 percent. (Sales taxes in Allegheny County would be 8 percent to account for the Regional Asset District fund.)

But according to this table, state sales taxes in Ohio are 5.5 percent. West Virginia's are 6 percent on all purchases except food (5 percent). Connecticut's are 6 percent. Left-wing, liberal, tax-and-spend New York levies a sales tax of only 4 percent. In Massachusetts --- that's "Taxachusetts" to Republicans, you know --- it's 4 percent.
. . .
I don't know about you, but I find a sales tax increase highly objectionable under these conditions. It's suicidal for Pennsylvania to raise its sales tax to a rate higher than nearly all of the other Mid-Atlantic states. (Except for New Jersey --- their sales tax is 7 percent. Hooray for us --- we'll be as bad as New Jersey!)

And that brings me to the final news item that caught my eye this week --- the Quinnipiac University poll that shows Fast Eddie with a 61 percent approval rating --- an all-time high.
Perhaps the survey sample was comprised entirely of Rendell's family and cheesesteak vendors in Philadelphia. They sure didn't ask me. I would have a hard time pointing to one accomplishment of the Rendell administration, other than the highly dubious achievement of legalizing slot-machine gaming.

When Rendell won re-election last year --- against a Republican candidate whose qualifications were weak and whose campaign was weaker --- I hoped that winning a second term would embolden the governor to take some stronger stands to reform state government.
Let's just say that the first two weeks of Rendell's second four years in office do not fill me with optimism.

Full disclosure: The rabble-rouser who wrote that is a good friend of mine, despite the fact that he clearly has a bad attitude. He also demonstrates on a regular basis that you can actually use a blog to commit journalism. But there are a few things he leaves out in his discussion of the governor's odious plan to raise the state sales tax. Like the $6 million in state aid that the governor gave American Eagle to move its headquarters from one part of Allegheny County to another. Like the $4 million so the Steelers can build an amphitheater on the North Shore. Or the $30 million so PNC can build an unnecessary office tower Downtown.

And don't get me started on the Penguins.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

How well he knows me

I am smiling, Burgher, but I still think you'll get the last laugh.

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Because the Man won't let me watch football

I wonder how Al Sharpton feels about this nonsense:

Churches in Indiana and across the country are scrapping traditional Super Bowl viewing parties in wake of the NFL’s stance that mass viewings of the game on big screen TV’s would violate copyright law.

The issue came to light Thursday when the Star reported that the NFL had told Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis that its plans for a Super Bowl watch party in front a big screen TV would be illegal.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday the league stands by its interpretation of copyright law and would look into any violators that comes to the league’s attention. The main concern for the league, Aiello said, is groups that charge admission to watch games and those that use a TV screen larger than 55 inches to show the game.

No Fun League, indeed.

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