Thursday, December 30, 2010

DAVE: Brett Favre's "fine" of $50K for not cooperating with the NFL's sexual harassment investigation is equivalent to someone making $50K paying a fine of $156.25. Little more than a speeding ticket.

JIM: It's a joke.
Have you heard about these new musical wonders? You can now buy little tiny slotRadio or slotMusic cards with music already on them to play in the microSD slots on your mp3 player or smart phone. They are essentially tiny CDs to be played on our portable music devices. Amazing. Just amazing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

These are the types of crimes that happen when people are really hurting because of the economy. They are unthinkable, petty crimes, but they suggest just how far some people will go in tough times.

Man accused of taking items from Christmas crash victim's casket
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
By Emily Gibb, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The family of a 17-year-old killed in a vehicle crash on Christmas Day accused a man of stealing items from the boy's casket during a memorial service on Monday evening.

The family of Bradley McCombs Jr., of Clymer, Indiana County, told state police that Jody Bennett, 38, of Pine Township, Indiana County, took a Game Boy, three games and a Game Boy light from the open casket during the public visitation at the Rairigh Funeral Home in Montgomery, Indiana County.

Police said Mr. Bennett fled after Bradley's family members confronted him.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I hate UPMC.

Rumors from Mr. Blondie . . .

JIM: My brother-in-law is a Penn State season ticket holder. He told me the other day that he heard a rumor that Paterno has had several mini-strokes and may have intestinal cancer. Rumor is that their bowl game will be his last game and that the university has chartered planes to take the entire faculty to the game.

I say I'll believe it when I see it. It's more likely JoePa has seen all the attention Brett Favre gets and figures he can milk this end of career thing too.

DAVE: I guess we'll all find out on January 1st.
Having worked in and around the field of education for most of my life, I can tell you that the general opinion of most of these for-profit schools is that they're just a scam, giving out worthless degrees for the price of lifelong student loan payments and little job prospects. The University of Phoenix is supposedly legitimate, but Pittsburgh-based EDMC (who does employ many people locally) is a scam. That, I know personally.

For-profit schools challenged on recruiting of veterans
Monday, December 27, 2010
By Daniel Malloy, Post-Gazette Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A wide-ranging examination of for-profit colleges by the U.S. Senate has homed in on how the schools recruit and educate veterans -- a lucrative source of federal funds for Downtown-based Education Management Corp.

From August 2009 to July 2010, EDMC -- which runs the Art Institutes, Argosy University, South University and Brown Mackie College -- took in about $60.5 million from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. According to data compiled by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, EDMC was the third largest recipient of such funds in that span, behind Apollo Group Inc. -- which runs the University of Phoenix -- and ITT Technical Institute.

The HELP Committee, led by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been holding hearings on the practices of for-profit schools -- exposing aggressive and sometimes fraudulent recruiting tactics, and the high debt loads and failure rates of their students.

The for-profit industry argues that it has been unfairly maligned with a focus on a few bad apples and that the colleges fill an important niche for non-traditional and low-income students.

With a Dec. 8 report and a hearing likely in the coming weeks when Congress reconvenes, Mr. Harkin has turned his attention to the explosion in federal funds flowing to these schools to educate veterans. The spark was the 2008 passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which gives most service members who served since Sept. 11, 2001, up to 36 months of tuition payments -- and help for their spouses as well.

The GI Bill funding is even more enticing to schools because it doesn't count against the Department of Education requirement that schools receive no more than 90 percent of their funding from federal grants or loans.

As a result, military money going to for-profit schools spiked dramatically. At EDMC, funding from the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration climbed from $2.04 million in fiscal 2009 to $52.4 million in fiscal 2010, according to data compiled by the HELP committee. Including the GI Bill money, 86.2 percent of EDMC's revenue comes from federal sources.

"We, in good faith, passed legislation to make it easier for present GIs and their families to get educational benefits, and now what we're finding out is for-profit schools are seeing this as a new source of profits for them," Mr. Harkin said in an interview. "And so they've gone after them and using the same kind of deceptive advertising and high-pressure tactics that they're using in other places."

Two former admissions officers at EDMC in Pittsburgh told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the company formed new teams to recruit veterans once the Post-9/11 GI bill became law.

"The official hype was, it was all patriotic: 'We're going to look after our veterans, and we're going to take special care of them because they have special needs,' " said Kathleen Bittel, who testified about the company's recruiting practices at a HELP committee hearing in September.

"I think the key was because they were going on the GI Bill. It takes a different process, so what they were looking to do was create a group of experts who knew just how to deal with that."

EDMC spokeswoman Jacquelyn Muller downplayed any effort at military recruitment.

"If we are conducting outreach to that specific segment, it is a very small percentage of our efforts," she said.

"We participate in the program, but it's important to note that the veterans who enroll in our schools do so because they've chosen our school for one reason or another. And I think that the quality and the flexibility of our programs is a reflection of our sincere commitment to military students."

EDMC and other for-profits have mounted a hefty public relations and lobbying effort against any potential legislation arising from Mr. Harkin's probe, as well as the Department of Education's efforts to restrict funding to the colleges.

The department has proposed to deny federal funding to schools with graduates facing high proportions of debt related to their salaries. The so-called "gainful employment" rule has been the subject of a severe backlash from the industry and its allies in Congress, including a television advertising campaign.

EDMC and other companies formed a lobby group called the Coalition for Educational Success, and retained Lanny Davis, former White House counsel to President Bill Clinton, as an advocate. In an interview, Mr. Davis complained that the Department of Education and Mr. Harkin have a double standard when it comes to for-profit schools, as low graduation rates and high debt are a problem everywhere.

"[Mr. Harkin] generally believes there's something wrong with the profit motive associated with higher education," Mr. Davis said.

"If that's the case, how much money is put into recruiting by Big 10 football coaches? There is excessive and sometimes fraudulent activity to recruit students, whether it's the profit motive or the athletics motive. ...

"If I am a for-profit school and I have a record of scamming students and actually not finding them jobs, I'm going to lose my customers. If I am a community college, I don't care because I have a captive audience" of taxpayer-subsidized students.

But Mr. Harkin and others remain troubled at the tales of students who are given the hard sell on coming to the school by admissions officers who are paid based on how many students they get to sign up -- with each new student assigned a point value. Former students and admissions officers at EDMC spoke of a high-pressure culture to get students in the door, with little in the way of support in finding a job once they left.

"We talk to those students so fast they don't even know what they're signing up for," said Monte Banks, a former EDMC admissions officer who said he was encouraged to hound "leads" at all hours from his cell phone.

Lynn Stein attended the Art Institute in Pittsburgh to study photojournalism, and when she graduated -- saddled with $80,000 of debt from there -- she said the only thing her career services counselor did was pass along job opportunities that clearly had been copied and pasted from Craigslist. When Ms. Stein confronted the counselor about it, she said the counselor asked Ms. Stein to recommend other job websites that would be good to check.

"These for-profit schools just have to start being more like schools, so they can provide support services for low-income kids and others who maybe don't have a history of much education," Mr. Harkin said.

"But that costs money and that interferes with their bottom line. But that's what they've got to do. They've got to become more like a college."

Monday, December 27, 2010

The drug war on the poor: America doesn't have a drug problem, it has a poverty problem
Sociologist BRUCE WESTERN explains
Sunday, December 26, 2010

America's drug policy aims to reduce illicit drug use by arresting and incarcerating dealers and, to a lesser extent, users. Whatever its merits (and there are some), the policy is deeply flawed because it is unjust. It applies only to the disadvantaged. It reflects massive deficits in the areas of treatment, education and employment.

Drugs are intensively criminalized among the poor but largely unregulated among the rich. The pot, coke and ecstasy that enliven college dorms, soothe the middle-class time bind and ignite the octane of capitalism on Wall Street are unimpeded by the street sweep, the prison cell and the parole-mandated urine tests that are routine in poor neighborhoods.

The drug war is nitro to the ghetto's glycerin. In neighborhoods of mass unemployment, family breakdown and untreated addiction, punitive drug policy (and its sibling, the war on crime) has outlawed large tracts of everyday life. By 2008 one in nine black men younger than 35 was in prison or jail. Among black male dropouts in their mid-30s, an astonishing 60 percent have served time in state or federal prison.

The reach of the penal system extends beyond the prison population to families and communities. There are now 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. There are 1.2 million African-American children with incarcerated parents (one in nine), and more than half of those parents were convicted of a drug or other nonviolent offense.

In the absence of any serious effort to improve economic opportunity, particularly among young men with little schooling, drug control has become our surrogate social policy.

For all the billions spent on draconian criminalization, addiction remains a scourge of the disadvantaged in inner cities and small towns, drugs are still plentiful and the drug trade remains a ready but risky source of casual employment for men and women with little education and no legitimate prospects.

Though drugs are at the center of an array of serious social problems in low-income communities, things are made worse by a dysfunctional policy in which arrest, imprisonment and a criminal record have become a normal part of life.

The most important lesson policy makers can take from this historic failure of social engineering is that the drug problem depends only a little on the narcotics themselves, and overwhelmingly on the social and economic context in which they are traded and taken.

Addiction exacts a toll not because the latest drug is more addictive or more potent than its predecessors but because there is too little treatment, few family or community supports and acute economic insecurity in low-income households.

The drug trade -- with all its volatility and violence -- is not a mainstay of economic life because of the ghetto-fabulous drug culture and its promise of conspicuous wealth. It succeeds because there is no work for men and women who dropped out of school, who have never held a legitimate job and who read at an eighth-grade level. America doesn't have a drug problem. It has a poverty problem.

Change, however, is in the air. The states are broke and are trying to cut their correctional populations. Parole and probation reforms are successfully reducing re-imprisonment for drug and other violations. Libertarians on the right and left are finding common ground on decriminalization. Hard times, it seems, are forcing reform on a profligate policy.

But policy reform -- as salutary as it often is, and like the drug war before it -- risks mistaking symptom for cause. If we only decriminalize, eliminate mandatory minimums and divert to community supervision rather than re-incarcerate, then untreated addiction will remain ruinous and illegal opportunities will continue to offer more than going straight.

Our best research shows that criminal justice reform must be buttressed by drug treatment, education and employment. These measures complement one another.

A less punitive drug control regime acknowledges relapse as a likely stage on the road to recovery. Keeping people out of prison can carry a steep social cost unless they're meaningfully occupied. In this context, school and work are as important for the stability and routine they provide as for the opportunities they expand.

The drug war made an enemy of the poor. A successful ceasefire must do more than lift the burden of criminal punishment. It must begin to restore order and predictability to economic and family life, reducing vulnerability not just to drugs but to the myriad insecurities that characterize American poverty.

Bruce Western is a professor of sociology at Harvard University. His latest book is "Punishment and Inequality in America." Copyright (C) 2010 The Nation -- distributed by Agence Global.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's an interesting and complex issue . . .

Two approaches to drilling
N.Y. has moratorium, while Pa. lets drillers work while it writes regs
Sunday, December 26, 2010
By Sean D. Hamill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When Dan Fitzsimmons drives just across the border into Pennsylvania, he looks longingly at the Marcellus Shale natural gas wells drilled there.

"You know how frustrating it is?" said Mr. Fitzsimmons, 55, a disabled former roofer who lives on his family's 185-acre farm in Conklin, a southern New York community. "My son lives in Dimock [Pa.] where you see people redoing their homes, farmers buying new tractors, all because of money they're making from gas leases. And here, where it's such a destitute area, we're being penalized for the state's inaction."

While New York has had an effective moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling for the past two years while it studied the industry and developed new permitting procedures, Pennsylvania has allowed it to continue while it tried to update its regulations as it went.

"Pennsylvania has done it piecemeal, and New York is trying to do it with one big rifle shot," said Chris Tucker, a spokesman for the industry group Energy In Depth, based in Washington, D.C.

But as different as the methods have been as both states attempt to figure out how to regulate this new gold rush a mile below the surface, the states have shared more than just a 300-mile-long border.

New York decided how to proceed, in part, by its view of what has happened just over the border in Pennsylvania, said Peter Grannis, New York's Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner until October, when he was fired after complaining about deep cuts to his department.

"Theirs was a work in progress," Mr. Grannis said of Pennsylvania's decision to allow Marcellus Shale drilling while the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection drew up new regulations, "while ours was intended to be a final product."

Pennsylvania DEP instituted new drilling regulations earlier this year that it insisted were among the best in the country, and is still working on one more major set of changes concerning the construction of well sites.

But in the two years that New York has been reviewing its permitting procedures, Mr. Grannis said the various drilling accidents and problems that occurred in Pennsylvania -- most significantly the methane gas migration troubles in Dimock -- made his department's job that much harder.

"The missteps in Pennsylvania had repercussions for the process we were going through," said Mr. Grannis, who now works for an environmental advocacy group, Environmental Advocates of New York. "The assumption was that the problems they were having in Pennsylvania were going to be the norm up here."

Southern New York state is the northern edge of the "sweet spot" of the massive and valuable Marcellus Shale formation. The biggest part of the sweet spot of the formation stretches across Pennsylvania, located about a mile below ground, but not as deep -- perhaps 4,000 to 5,000 feet -- in New York.

The hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, uses the relatively new horizontal drilling technique and the old fracking technology of water mixed with sand and chemicals to break apart the shale, freeing up the abundant natural gas trapped in the rock.

A year ago Mr. Grannis' department issued an 800-page draft report of proposed changes to the state's permitting process for such drilling. It was obvious to those in the industry that what was happening with incidents in Pennsylvania was altering how New York's draft was written.

"You could tell New York was looking at Pennsylvania trying to take away any contentious issues -- like with open pits," said John Holko, president of Lenape Resources, an oil and gas operator in New York that works in both states.

Part of New York's proposed permitting requirements include one that the recovered fracking water be kept in tanks, not open pits as Pennsylvania allows, which have been the subject of numerous violations.

New York said then that a final report, with additional changes, would come only after it reviewed comments from more than 14,000 people or organizations from public hearings and written submissions.

Officially, said New York DEC spokesman Yancey Roy, "we're on no timeline to finish this; it will be done when it's ready."

Two weeks ago, outgoing-Gov. David Paterson issued a moratorium on the horizontal hydraulic fracturing process used in Marcellus Shale drilling until June.

It's not clear if Andrew Cuomo, the governor-elect who will replace Mr. Paterson, will uphold the moratorium when he assumes office in January. There has been heavy lobbying on Mr. Cuomo since his election to either scrap the entire review process and start over, or let it run its course.

If Mr. Cuomo allows it to continue, and upholds the moratorium, that could mean the new permitting process will be completed sometime over the summer, which would allow drilling in New York to finally begin -- a heartening possibility to New York landowners like Mr. Fitzsimmons.

Whenever that happens, many experts expect the policies New York puts in place to have an impact on Pennsylvania regulations.

"If New York does it right and shows that it works, and Pennsylvania continues to experience a wide range of environmental problems as it has, you'd think Pennsylvania would adopt some of what New York has done," said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group based in New York City that has studied both state's policies.

Pennsylvania DEP spokesman Michael Smith said while he doesn't know what the new administration under Gov.-elect Tom Corbett will do, the plan was to always keep an eye out for how to improve the state's regulations.

"We're constantly evaluating our regulations to make sure it keeps pace with improvements in new technology," he said.

At this point, Mr. Fitzsimmons just wants to see something in place soon that won't scare away the gas companies.

He harbors hopes of leasing out his mineral rights for a nice upfront payment and annual royalties he expects will add up to the millions of dollars and will help him turn the old family farm into a winery. He already has a name in mind: Merry Meadows Winery.

As for the plans?

"It's all in my mind, along with the [wine] recipes," he said. "People just don't realize what all of this gas development could bring."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vick's Puppy
Written by Rob Rogers
Friday, December 24, 2010 08:39 AM

Michael Vick said he wants a puppy for Christmas. No, I am not making this up. The judge said no, but there is talk about letting him have one in the future. Vick says having one will be good for his rehabilitation. I think the canines might disagree.

From Dave: When asked whether he or Tom Brady should be the NFL MVP, Vick hesitated briefly before answering that it should be himself. Now, I don't like Tom Brady. But if asked the same question, he would never offer himself as the answer. From watching multiple interviews with Michael Vick, I do not think that he is very smart, and personally, I find him to be a little ghetto. But there is no argument that he is having an amazing year. According to Vick himself, he did not put in the off-field time and effort when he was with the Atlanta Falcons to be the best quarterback that he could be. Probably because he was too busy running a dog-fighting operation that included torturing and murdering dogs, the numbers of which we still don't know and frankly, probably don't want to know. This man has been given a new lease on life, and to his credit, he appears to have risen to the challenges of that and made an incredible comeback as an NFL quarterback. But you don't send a man to prison for almost two years for extreme cruelty to dogs, and then let him have a dog as a family pet just because he is a better quarterback now than he was before he was sent to prison. PRISON.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Broadcaster Pat Robertson questions harsh pot laws
Associated Press
Dec 23, 9:32 PM EST

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his "700 Club" audience that harsh penalties for marijuana possession are costly for the nation and damaging to young people, but a spokesman said Thursday he was not calling for decriminalizing pot.

Robertson, 80, made the comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network in the context of faith-based approaches to treating offenders, the spokesman said.

"Dr. Robertson unequivocally stated that he is against the use of illegal drugs," Chris Roslan wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The comments, however, were widely interpreted on several websites as an endorsement by the Christian Coalition founder of legalizing marijuana. They were celebrated by NORML, a group that advocates legalization of the drug.

On its website, NORML posted a link to Robertson's comments under the headline: "Holy Hemp! Pat Robertson Supports Ending Cannabis Prohibition In An Effort To Get 'Smart On Crime.'"

During the Dec. 16 CBN broadcast from Virginia Beach, Robertson and his co-host discussed what they called the success of religious-based programs to help people with addictions to drugs, including alcohol.

Robertson then lamented long prison terms for people who have "taken a couple puffs of marijuana."

He added, "We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes and that's one of 'em."

Robertson said mandatory drug sentences are promoted by candidates for political office who want to appear tough on crime, compelling judges to sentence offenders to long prison terms.

While Robertson said, "I'm not exactly for the use of drugs," he added that criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot is "costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people. Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That's not a good thing."

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, said Robertson is among a growing number of libertarians and "right-of-center" public figures who agree the nation's drug laws treat marijuana possession too harshly.

"We don't care how people arrive at the conclusion that prohibition is a failure," he said. "They're acknowledging there are alternatives to lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key solutions."

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Robertson's comments on marijuana are important because of his audience.

"The people who are listening to him may roll their eyes when the Democrats say this, but when Pat Robertson says this he has credibility in the faith community."

The Drug Policy Alliance advocates for lighter drug punishments.

Roslan said Robertson advocated a review of the "severity" of existing laws and the millions spent on incarceration "when there are better approaches available."

Robertson regularly stirs controversy on the "700 Club," which began broadcasting in 1966 and now claims 1 million viewers daily.

In January, Robertson said one day after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake that the island nation was "cursed" and has called Islam a "religion of hate."



Christian Broadcasting Network:


Monday, December 20, 2010

Today I leave for a few days in Florida with Sidney. And my parents. My sister and her family will arrive after I leave, so our visits will not overlap. We all agree that this arrangement will make the holiday the most enjoyable for everyone. During my sister's visit, Sidney is not going to get the attention that he might normally get from my mother, so I am going to lavish attention and play time on him during my visit in the hopes that it will wear him out. Yeah, right. Not this crazy dachshund. He doesn't know what being worn out even means. But I am planning on having great fun with him.

I love dogs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Even if it did happen on the Saturday before Christmas, it's still a big deal. And long overdue, in my opinion . . .

Senate votes to overturn military gay ban
Associated Press
Dec 18, 3:39 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a landmark for gay rights, the Senate on Saturday voted to let gays serve openly in the military, giving President Barack Obama the chance to fulfill a campaign promise and repeal the 17-year policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."

Obama was expected to sign it next week, although the change wouldn't take immediate effect. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' fighting ability. After that, there's a 60-day waiting period for the military.

"It is time to close this chapter in our history," Obama said in a statement after a test vote cleared the way for final action. "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed."

The Senate vote was 65-31. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, on Wednesday.

Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.

More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.

Rounding up a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was a historic victory for Obama, who made repeal a campaign promise in 2008. It also was a political triumph for congressional Democrats who struggled in the final hours of the postelection session to overcome GOP objections on several legislative priorities before Republicans regain control of the House in January.

"As Barry Goldwater said, 'You don't have to be straight to shoot straight,'" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referring to the late GOP senator from Arizona.

Sen. John McCain, Obama's GOP rival in 2008, led the opposition. The Arizona Republican acknowledged he didn't have the votes to stop the bill and he blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.

"They will do what is asked of them," McCain said of service members. "But don't think there won't be a great cost."

In the end, six GOP senators broke with their party on the procedural vote to let the bill move ahead and swung behind repeal after a recent Pentagon study concluded the ban could be lifted without hurting the ability of troops to fight. On the final vote for passage, eight Republicans joined the majority Democrats.

Advocacy groups who lobbied hard for repeal hailed the vote as a significant step forward in gay rights. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the issue the "defining civil rights initiative of this decade."

Supporters of repeal filled the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor, ready to protest had the bill failed.

"This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

The Pentagon study found that two-thirds of service members didn't think changing the law would have much of an effect. But of those who did predict negative consequences, a majority were assigned to combat arms units. Nearly 60 percent of the Marine Corps and Army combat units, such as infantry and special operations, said in the survey they thought repealing the law would hurt their units' ability to fight.

The Pentagon's uniformed chiefs are divided on whether this resistance might pose serious problems.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos has said he thinks lifting the ban during wartime could cost lives.

"I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction," he told reporters this week. "I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda (Naval Medical Center) with no legs be the result of any type of distraction."

Adm. Mike Mullen and Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively, have said the fear of disruption is overblown. They note the Pentagon's finding that 92 percent of troops who believe they have served with a gay person saw no effect on their units' morale or effectiveness. Among Marines in combat roles who said they have served alongside a gay person, 84 percent said there was no impact.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Do any of my vast and loyal readership remember when the GOP hired Michael Steele, a black republican, to run the Republican National Committee in what appeared to be a knee jerk reaction to the newly elected President Obama? Well, perhaps you've heard that Chairman Steele has run the RNC into the ground, choosing to live a lavish lifestyle with the organization funds, rather than focusing his attention on all the donations he would likely have gotten from all of the Southern republicans who like black people so much. Even FOX News has been going after this guy, and he works for them. Or, wait. Does FOX work for him? Well, anyway, they both play for the same team, and he screwed them out of a bunch of money. That's probably the last man of color we will see in the GOP's leadership (John Boehner's orange tan doesn't count). If I were him, I would keep my ears opened in the night for the sound of approaching horses carrying men in sheets.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Email from Howard Dean . . .

I have known Bernie Sanders for more than 20 years. I have often worked with him in Vermont, but when he took to the floor of the Senate last week to stand up and denounce the extension of the Bush tax cuts for billionaires in an unconventional nine-hour filibuster, I'd never been more honored to call him my friend and my Senator.

Bernie is a progressive hero. He has spent his entire life fighting for the poor and the middle class, just as he is now in this tax cut fight.

Make no mistake about it; this tax cut deal that President Obama struck with Republicans may be good short-term politics, but it's not the best course for the country. It's not fiscally responsible in addressing the deficit, the biggest long-term threat to America. There is no shared pain in this agreement. Instead, this is the easy way out for everybody.

Bernie Sanders didn't back down against long odds -- he had the backbone to stand up and fight for what's right. Washington needs more bold leadership like Bernie's. Let's make sure that every Democrat in Washington gets the message: when you stand up and fight, we'll have your back.

This isn't just about tax cuts for the rich either. The deal includes borrowing $120 billion from China and other sources in order to make up a shortfall in revenue for the Social Security Trust Fund caused by the additional payroll tax cut.

We all know Republicans are chomping at the bit to destroy Social Security. Cutting funding will only embolden them to step up their attacks to cut benefits, raise the retirement age, and privatize the program entirely.

Social Security is a cornerstone of the American middle class yet Republicans, who will control the House of Representatives in 2011, want to destroy it. This payroll tax cut sets us up to make it that much harder to stop them. So while most in Washington are ignoring the real damage this bill could cause in the years to come, Bernie has made it a central part of his opposition.

Today, we can send a message even Washington will understand by supporting a progressive hero for standing up for America.

Bernie stood up for us. Let's make sure everyone in Washington knows we have his back.


Gov. Howard Dean, M.D.
Founder, Democracy for America

DAVE: So, Dean is in opposition to Obama?

DAD: So it would appear.

DAVE: Is this a sign that there may be a democratic challenger to Obama in 2012?

DAD: Who knows. In politics a year is a decade.

DAVE: Well, remember where you heard it first.

DAD: You are not the first person to raise that possibility.

DAVE: Damn. Who was?

DAD: I do not know exactly who, but someone in the media. I have seen it mentioned in some op-eds in the Sarasota paper and heard talk of it on TV. Hillary may be starting some of the talk.

DAVE: Interesting. I have not seen or heard one word to that effect here in Pittsburgh. I thought I was really on to something for a moment. Oh, well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DAD: A follow up to our discussion of Obama's tax deal with the Republicans and the Democrats' reaction: Last week in the Senate Senator Mary Landreau, Democrat of Louisiana, pounded her fist on her desk and vowed that she would not support the deal because she was "morally outraged" that the President would agree to extend tax cuts for the wealthy. This is the same Senator Landreau who, in 2001, voted in favor of those tax cuts when they were first proposed by George W. Bush. Either she has a short memory or hopes that the voters have a short memory.

DAVE: That letter to the editor that I sent you suggested that the tax cuts for everyone be allowed to expire. That's a viewpoint that I had not previously heard.

DAD: The idea of tax cuts for everyone expiring is now the position of the most liberal Democrats so that they can blame the Republicans when everyone gets angry about their taxes going up on January 1. Obama, however, wants to give tax breaks to those making under $250,000 (the middle and working classes). The Republicans are holding those folks hostage to get tax breaks for the wealthy. While the tax cuts for the lower group may get through the House of Representatives in the lame duck session, they would have no chance once the Republicans gain control in January. The Senate Republicans can block the limited tax cuts even now with the filibuster threat. So the only chance of getting tax cuts for the middle and working classes so that there will be no gap after January 1 is to pass Obama's compromise.

DAVE: I understand the many benefits to the non-wealthy of the tax cuts, but it really would be better for the deficit and long-term growth and stability if the tax cuts expired. As you have said many times, to not have raised taxes during the Bush wars was lunacy. Well, maybe now we have to pay for those wars. My fear is that no matter which route the government takes, it will not be enough to stimulate the economy. These are all short-term "wishful thinking" strategies that both parties are using to get re-elected.

DAD: You are right, David. [From Dave: my mother and father are among the handful of people on this planet who call me "David."] But the middle name of the Tea Party and of the GOP is "lunacy." The people who appeared to be most angry about the ballooning deficit and who vowed to attack it are the very people who put us in this situation in the first place. There are only three ways to balance the budget and pay off the debt: (1) raise taxes; (2) cut expenditures; or (3) a combination of the first two. The Republicans who say they want to eliminate the deficit have said they absolutely refuse to raise taxes. That leaves only one choice: cut expenditures. To achieve their goal you would have to heavily cut defense spending (unlikely), cut aid to the poor (which they are only too willing to do), cut medicare (they would love to eliminate it entirely, but senior citizens won't allow that to happen), cut social security (that is highly unlikely as well). The Republicans, who say they want to cut spending to attack the deficit, have named the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee beginning in January. That is the committee that oversees all government spending. I do not remember the man's name, but he is from Kentucky and he is known around Capitol Hill as the King of Pork. He has obtained millions of dollars for an airport in his hometown (which has flights in and out only two days a week). He has obtained millions of dollars for a "charitable" organization run by his daughter. Finally, he has initiated more earmarks than anyone else in the House. Good luck on his being a good fiscal watchdog.

DAD: Since I wrote to you about the Kentucky congressman who is known as the "King of Pork" I have learned his name: Hal Rogers. So far this year he has secured 52 earmarks worth $92,900,000 for his district, which is known on Capitol Hill as "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." The charitable organization run by his daughter is the Cheetah Conservation Fund, which is focused on saving Cheetahs in the wild, mostly in Africa. A nice resume for a fiscal watchdog!

From Dave: FYI.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Two perspectives on Bill Clinton . . .

DAVE: What you do think about the fact that Bill Clinton is starting to hang around the White House more than usual? Is Obama bringing in the big guns?

DAD: I think Obama already has too much Clinton influence in his administration. In addition to Hillary as Secretary of State, he has Larry Summers as his chief economic advisor and Timothy Geithner, a Summers protege, as Secretary of the Treasury. I blame Summers's influence for the fact that the bank bailout was not handled properly (no ban on executive bonuses or shareholder dividends) and on the weakness of the stimulus package (too heavy on tax cuts, not enough on spending). If I had wanted Bill Clinton back in the White House, I would have voted for Hillary rather than Obama. But Bill is still very popular among the Democratic base.

AND . . .

DAVE: Have you happened to notice who Obama's new best friend is? Good old Bill Clinton.

MICHELLE: And why not?!?! I’d be his best friend too.

Obama wants all of his Democratic dissenters to remember how things were in the good old days of Clinton prosperity.

Friday, December 10, 2010

This one's for Mr. Blondie . . .

Pitchers and catchers report on February 13, 2011.
DAVE: I've noticed the emergency snow route signs popping up around the East End, and I was waiting to hear how they were going to work until I read the story in today's [Thursday] PG online. I may have mentioned to you at some point that I lived in Toronto from 1985-1987. That's 25 years ago. And when I lived there, emergency snow route signs and snow removal were already an everyday part of life in winter. I realize that Toronto has more experience dealing with snow, but that was still 25 years ago. The one criticism that I have of the signs, however, is that they fail to say what should be obvious, but in Pittsburgh, sometimes you have to spell it out, literally: NO PARKING.

BP: I know – they aren’t cooperating with information or responding to questions from Council.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

As most of my vast and loyal readership know, I have never been married, and I have no children. However, I have recently been talking to my friend Sarah about the goings on with her four-year-old son. And she was telling me about this idea that she had stolen from a seven-year-old girl. And I wanted to share it with my readership, because I thought it was such a great idea. Maybe this is already out there and being done by children by the millions, and I'm just finding out about it now. But here it goes. Sarah's son is too young to read or write. So, in order to prepare a wish list for his annual visit with Santa Claus, she had him cut toys out from the Toys-R-Us holiday catalog (which is really quite enormous) and make a collage of the cut-outs on a piece of construction paper to take to Santa. I thought it was brilliant.

Post number 900 . . .

You know, it has never occurred to me that Oprah Winfrey and her best friend Gayle are gay. NEVER. And frankly, I don't care. Why Barbara Walters would even ask Oprah to talk about that in their upcoming interview truly baffles me. Is that a big rumor out there to which Oprah feels compelled to respond? If it were me, I would just tell the public to spend their time worrying about something more important. There are certainly plenty of other issues from which to choose.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just in case you had forgotten about the bed bug issue, I have it on good authority that the Courtyard by Marriott across the street from Shadyside Hospital recently had bed bugs. Now, that's not that far away from where I live. I really don't want to deal with bed bugs. I really don't. I've never had a bug problem of any kind. I heard from my mother that my niece recently brought lice home from her daycare and infested my sister's entire house. But I have never had anything like that. When I was an adolescent, I had athlete's foot once at summer camp, and once I had jock itch. But that's it for me. I hate fucking bugs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DAVE: If Brady had taken that hit to his nose, not only would there have been a penalty, but Brady would have been ushered out of the stadium and off to a hospital to consult with a plastic surgeon right away. In his UGG boots. Ben is a tough guy. I give him a lot of credit for that.

MICHELLE: Another reason to hate Brady! Ugh!!!! I concur though - Ben is tough. He is constantly getting shellacked, but he never throws his offensive line under the bus like another cry-baby QB did a few years ago.

DAVE: My old high school friends made fun of Ben throughout the Buffalo game, and kept calling him a drama queen, just like the yinzers do. There are plenty of things to find wrong with Ben. His toughness, to me, is never in question. In my opinion, he is the toughest quarterback in the NFL.

I've been using the word shellacked lately. Even in defeat, Obama made the word cool.

Monday, December 6, 2010

DAVE: So, a while back you sent me a Pennsylvania parody of the song California Gurls by this Katy Perry person ( For the first time ever, just the other night, I actually saw her perform the actual song. Is she a hot little number among the younger crowd?

JIM: Yes, very much so. I think.

DAVE: I'll google her just to sneak a peek.

Now, for a more serious question. I really want you to answer this question honestly. Do you wish that John McCain was the President right now, instead of Obama?

JIM: That is honestly a question that I have never pondered. No, I don't think that I do.

Friday, December 3, 2010

DAVE: Well, if you thought my previous comments were insightful, let's see what you think of this. I think that the country is in the process of creating another divide between the north and the south, as a direct result of a black man having been elected President. I believe that this divide could eventually lead to civil unrest and violence.

DAD: I believe that the divide between the north and the south has never really healed; it has been there ever since Reconstruction. The election of a black man to the presidency has sharpened it. The animosity of the whites toward blacks is, in my opinion, the sole reason that the solid south has gone from democrat to republican. The southerners were so upset with the passage of the civil rights act under LBJ that they harkened to Nixon's "southern strategy." The "southern strategy" was nothing more than a code phrase for "Come with us and we will protect you from the n-----s." The same bigots who ran the south before (and called themselves democrats) are still running the south (but now calling themselves republicans). As for the unrest and violence, I believe things will cool down if the republicans are successful in their aim of limiting Obama to one term. This country is already violent and the Supreme Court has made sure that there can be no controls on weapons. If Obama gets another term, we could see things disrupt.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who will give the United States of America a bailout . . . ?

DAVE: This story was in today's [Wednesday] PG online. And the other day there was a story about how the prices for houses in Pittsburgh continue to drop.

Also, I see that it's virtually inevitable that Social Security is going to be cut. Considering that 43% of the U.S. population has less than $10,000 saved for retirement, government-run pensions are gone or in severe jeopardy, and many jobs don't even pay enough for families to save any money, there is going to come a time in this country when the majority of the population is going to have no money and be completely dependent on the government to save them. That's not going to be a good time, certainly exponentially worse than anything that we've experienced in recent years, and yet nobody is doing anything about it. I suppose the theory is that by cutting the deficit, we are saving future generations from bearing that burden, but future generations won't have any money anyway. I don't get the impression that anybody really knows what they're doing.

DAD: Interesting and revealing article. I wonder if Mayor Luke is aware of the situation. Also, your commentary is very interesting and insightful.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hot Item
Written by Rob Rogers

Get ready to see millions of frantic shoppers pushing and shoving each other to be the first to get one of a limited number of hot items this holiday season. No, I am not talking about Black Friday. I am talking about people looking for work.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tom Brady is the new face of UGG boots for men. And yet the Steelers can't beat this Madison Avenue darling?! This ONE quarterback, with the help of his evil genius coach, is the one guy who the Steelers appear unable to beat?! Remember those two recent Super Bowls for the Steelers? Yeah, they were great, no question, but neither year did they have to face the Patriots in the playoffs. And frankly, I'm sure many of us, including me, was happy that we didn't have to play them. The number of Super Bowls might still be four.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It is not uncommon for me to feel alone in a room full of people.

Unless there is a dog present. In which case, I know that I have a go-to friend in the room.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Have you heard about this yet? Apparently, in just two years, the Lukester has spent $200,000 in overtime pay for his personal Pittsburgh Police escort. Now, that's $200,000 in overtime pay, in addition to their regular pay. So, the Mayor of little old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania feels that he needs AT LEAST 24-hour police protection that has gone beyond the officer's regular salaries to result in $200,000 in overtime. And as Bill Peduto has pointed out, that money did not come out of the mayor's personal budget, but rather out of the Public Safety budget, meaning that that money was taken out of the Public Safety budget for the ENTIRE City of Pittsburgh in order to provide a police escort for one man: our Mayor. Former Mayor Tom Murphy was in office for 12 years, and he didn't spend that much in police overtime during his entire administration. The Lukester appears to have no clue.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Tunnel of Love is on schedule to be completed by March 2012. But will there be a Port Authority left in 2012 to run the thing?

North Shore Connector said to be on schedule and under budget
Friday, November 26, 2010
By Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As if the challenge of urban subway construction weren't enough, there are a few urban myths for the Port Authority to deal with as North Shore Connector construction advances to the home stretch.

No, the Allegheny River is not leaking uncontrollably into the subway tunnels.

No, the grades at both ends of the tunnels aren't too steep to allow for removal of a disabled train.

No, the authority won't be too broke to operate service to the North Shore when the project is completed in March 2012.

The project is alive and well and 83 percent complete, said Winston Simmonds, the authority's rail operations/engineering officer, during a walking tour of the 1.2-mile, $528.8 million extension of the Light Rail Transit system this week.

"Still on schedule and under budget," Mr. Simmonds said, making his way through tunnels where there were a few construction-related damp spots but no gushing leaks and, sadly, no sign of that truckload of cash that a political TV commercial showed being dumped into the project.

Read more:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gail is the vice president of our condo board, and she almost never contributes to any discussion, unless it directly affects her. Then we hear from her.

GAIL: Hi everyone,

The person is here to take out my drafty air conditioners and replace with bricks and mortars.

He was here at the peak of the rat phase in the past - so knows of our previous problem - he said we still have rats outside (at least in my garden area) as he sees rat poop out there....

Not sure how often we have check-up visits - but it is needed now it appears.

Thanks, Gail

DAVE: It might be bunny poop.

GAIL: I will explore in more detail.... maybe there are pictures on the internet so I can differentiate.

DAVE: Now, THAT sounds like a fun afternoon, Gail. We do have a family of bunnies that lives on the grounds, and I would imagine that their poops are similar looking. I haven't seen any signs of rodents, inside or outside of the building, but that doesn't mean that a "check-up" by a professional exterminator isn't a good idea. I just don't want to leave any rat poison on the grounds that might cause harm to the bunnies. I'm sure we all feel that way.

GAIL: Ok - Cliff tells me he knows rabbit poop and rat poop (he is the one who crawled in the depths of a hospital as an administrator when they had rats - he NOW does roofing, not hospital administration) - and it was rat poop on my deck - so I would say - let's have a professional consultation to get rid of the rats and save the rabbits.

Thanks, Gail

Friday, November 19, 2010

My quest for comfortable, well-fitting jeans ended today. Not because I finally found a pair to my liking. No, but rather because I gave up and returned my most recent purchase of Gap skinny jeans in a 32 x 28. I think some people just aren't meant to wear jeans because they don't have quite the right body attributes necessary to properly wear them. I don't have hips and I don't have an ass, so I really have nothing to hold a pair of denim jeans in place on my waist, other than a belt, even if I'm wearing the proper waist size. I move around a little bit, and the next thing you know, the jeans are hanging lower than my waist and my butt crack is sticking out. I seem to be constantly hiking my jeans up. It's just too much work to be fashionable and have at least one pair of well-fitting jeans. I give up. I'm just going to stick with my Gap cords, the material of which is not as heavy as denim. Sometimes they dip a little low, but most of the time, they stay in place at my waist much better than any pair of jeans I've tried on. I love my cords.
JIM: I didn't shave for four or five days. My wife pointed out that I had some gray whiskers. Gray, Dave.

DAVE: You didn't shave for four or five days? What came over you? I have news for you, Jim. You are surprisingly un-gray compared to others our age. My beard is almost entirely gray at this point. I have a gray beard, Jim. You're in good shape, I'd say.

JIM: When I'm working past midnight every single night, getting up a little early to make sure I have time to shave just doesn't seem like a priority.

DAVE: I like your rebel spirit.

JIM: I have no spirit of any kind. My spirit was broken a long time ago.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And so it begins . . . this is for all those women out there who vote republican . . .

GOP blocks pay equity measure in Senate
Thursday, November 18, 2010
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans have succeeded in blocking a measure designed to reduce wage disparities between men and women.

The 58-41 vote to take up the Paycheck Fairness Act fell short of the 60 needed to overcome GOP opposition. Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who had been targeted by Democrats as possibly voting against a filibuster, in the end decided not to cross party lines.

Civil rights groups, labor leaders and the Obama administration all supported the bill, which would make employers prove that any disparities in wages are job-related and not sex-based.

Republicans and business groups said the bill would expose employers to more litigation by removing limits on punitive and compensatory damage awards.

Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that his group "strongly supports equal employment opportunity and appropriate enforcement of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, this bill would, among other things, expand remedies under EPA to include unlimited punitive and compensatory damages, significantly erode employer defenses for legitimate pay disparities and impose invalid tools for enforcement by the Labor Department."

Pennsylvania Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey co-sponsored the bill and voted for it.

"I am disheartened that legislation aimed at making sure women in Pennsylvania and across the country are paid the same as men for doing the same work has been blocked by the United States Senate," said Mr. Casey.

The bill was one of the first measures passed by the House last year after the election of President Barack Obama, who said he was "deeply disappointed" by the failure of the Senate to bring the bill up for a vote, claiming that "partisan minority of senators blocked this commonsense law."

The Paycheck Fairness Act would have provided women with legal resources to challenge wage discrimination and help to eliminate the wage gap. Among the bill's many provisions, the bill would have closed loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and prevented retaliation against workers who disclose the amount of their wages. In addition, the bill would have provided increased support for negotiation skills training programs for girls and women.

Pennsylvania, which has one of the worst gender gaps in the nation, would have been significantly impacted by the bill, said Heather Arnet, CEO of The Women and Girls Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based group which seeks to promote equality for women throughout the region.

"We are terribly disappointed that partisan politics trumped civil rights today," she said, calling it "a sad day for Americans everywhere when half the Congress refuses to stand up for our rights and freedoms."
TSA Agent
Written by Rob Rogers

Airport security has taken on a new urgency with revealing body scans and aggressive pat-downs. I am all for tighter security, but at what point do our personal civil liberties get tossed out along with our unapproved liquids? Hard to say, but I hope the Transportation Security Administration can strike a balance.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DAVE: Since you are more familiar with the health care bill than I am, do you know if the part whereby all adults with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance has gone into effect yet? I know that it has for children, but I did not think that the adult part had gone into effect.

DAD: That part has not gone into effect yet for adults and probably will not until 2014, if there is anything left of the health care law by then.

DAVE: Don't get too discouraged. I'm convinced that the American memory and attention span is so short now that we could see another vote for "change" in 2012.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Apparently, Jeff Reed IS, in fact, done in Pittsburgh. It's the end of an era. And thus begins the Shaun Suisham experiment at Heinz Field.
Why do big movie studios keep giving M. Night Shyamalamalan tons of money to make movies? He's done. Done like Jeff Reed, done. He made ONE great movie (if no one spoiled the ending for you). Spoiler alert: Bruce Willis is dead the whole movie. Personally, I kind of liked Unbreakable. But the rest have been garbage.

Monday, November 15, 2010

DAVE: Taken as a whole, the Auburn cheerleaders may very well be the most attractive college cheerleaders I have ever seen.

JIM: You like those Southern Belles.

DAVE: When they look good and they're not coated with gaudy make-up, I like any cheerleader from anywhere.

JIM: I'm down with that.

JIM: I've always liked the SoCal girls from USC. More diversity. At places like Auburn, all the girls look exactly the same: like Barbie.

DAVE: The cheerleaders at yesterday's [Saturday] Auburn game did not, surprisingly, all look like Barbie. There were a lot of slim, nicely toned brunettes in the crowd. But you're right, USC is probably consistently the best. It's funny that I was just thinking that exact same thing yesterday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

JIM: I actually went out to a bar to watch Monday Night Football this week. Stayed out until the game was over too. You old man.

DAVE: What's a bar?

JIM: You old man.

George Bush forgives Kanye West.
Isn't that nice?

DAVE: Now that Corbett has won the election, we're seeing more commercials here for natural gas companies that want to drill into the Marcellus Shale. My only hope is that the City bans drilling inside the city limits. Since you're out in the boonies, they might want to drill under your house. There's Dylan's college education right there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pu Pu
Written by Rob Rogers

Luke Ravenstahl, the mayor of Pittsburgh, just returned from a trip to China. He wrote a column for the PG called, "What I learned in Asia." I am guessing the column was written by some of the more mature people in his office. For what Boy Mayor really learned, see the cartoon below [above].

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The new old Gap logo has turned from dark navy blue to red. You know what that means? It's OFFICIALLY the holiday season. Time to get your holiday groove on.
DAVE: It is good to have Randle El and the trickeration back.

MICHELLE: Trickery IS good. Of course I didn’t see that play until this morning [Tuesday] – I fell asleep and woke up when it was 27-7. I wasn’t expecting the Bengals to stage an attempted comeback!

DAVE: Truth be told, I didn't see it until this morning on ESPN. I fell asleep on the couch and slept through the end of the game. Old man.

MICHELLE: LOL! Good – I don’t feel so bad!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pittsburgh-based rapper Khalifa arrested during N.C. show
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
By Jim McKinnon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh rap artist Wiz Khalifa began tweeting almost as soon as he was released from a North Carolina jail this morning following his arrest Monday night during a show on the campus of East Carolina University.

"[W]akin'. . . bakin' . . . wrist still achin'," the 23-year-old rapper, whose real name is Cameron Jibril Thomaz, tweeted at about 9 a.m. after he was released from the Pitt County Detention Center near the campus.

Khalifa appeared this morning in a District Court in Greenville, N.C., to, among other things, seek to have his $300,000 bond reduced and to pay bail money for members of his entourage who were also arrested.

The arrests came after campus police raided his tour bus and found about two ounces of marijuana.

Before the raid, Khalifa was heard saying that he liked to get high before performing. He said it was "not abnormal" for him to spend $10,000 a month on marijuana.

Hours before the show, he tweeted, ". . . smoke outs in Greenville nc tonite. fall thru wit ur finest plant life."

Some news reports said the show was stopped 45 minutes into the program and after he announced his fondness for cannabis.

Court records in North Carolina show he is charged with trafficking in marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of pot in his mobile residence.

Police found 57.5 grams of marijuana on the bus, according to court records.

The rap sensation and Allderdice High School graduate has been on the 60-city Waken Baken tour since mid-September. The single "Black and Yellow," from his forthcoming Atlantic/Rostrum debut, is No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is receiving airplay on Top 40 stations, including Pittsburgh's Kiss-FM (96.1)

He's scheduled to play sold-out shows at the new Stage AE venue on the North Side on Dec. 16 and 17.

#freewiz is the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter this morning.

In response to the Twitter traffic, Wiz tweeted, "man, jail sux! but bein taylor'd doesn't," which appears to be a reference to his fan site, dubbed The Taylor Gang.

As for his posse on tour, Wiz tweeted this morning, "finna get tha rest of these fools out and grab sum grub."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Regardless of my personal views on marijuana, I do think that it is ridiculous how many people get put in jail for minor possession charges. In my work with unemployed people to help them get ready for and find jobs, a common problem for many of them is that they have criminal records, frequently related to small-time drug activity. And these are young people, aged 20-30, whose job options are hampered terribly by their criminal records, many of which probably could have been avoided if they could have afforded to hire the kind of attorney that I would hire if I found myself in a bit of a jam. There are just so many of these kinds of people in our society who want to work but who can't get hired. Meanwhile, our jails are overcrowded with prisoners, many of whom are in there on minor marijuana offenses. I'm not saying that I am in favor of the legalization of marijuana, but I do think that it should not be placed in the same criminal category as cocaine and heroin. That's just silly.

Panel debates merits of legalizing marijuana use
Saturday, November 06, 2010
By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The cost to incarcerate prisoners in the United States -- including nonviolent marijuana offenders -- averages about $26,000 per year.

Certainly, said Federal Public Defender Lisa Freeland, there are better ways to spend the government's money.

Even so -- as part of a panel at Duquesne University's Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law on Friday-- she was not willing to go so far as to say marijuana should be legalized.

"I'm not here to advocate for the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana or any other drug," Ms. Freeland said. But, she continued, the public must know, "There are substantial costs -- both financial and human," to the continuing high rate of incarceration in the United States.

About 500,000 people in this country are currently incarcerated on drug offenses.

Those include tens of thousands of people being held for crimes involving marijuana.

At the continuing legal education seminar on Friday, medical and legal experts debated the issues of legalizing either medical or recreational marijuana use.

Read more:

Friday, November 5, 2010

DAD: About the recent election: Expect Republicans in the House, who have promised spending cuts to balance the budget, to spend tens of millions of dollars on investigations into Obama administration "corruption." While Boehner said he would be willing to sit down with the President to explore common ground, Mitch McConnell said that the GOP's priorities are balancing the budget, getting rid of the "health care spending bill," and stopping the bailouts. He went on to say that in order to do that they need to get someone in the White House who will not veto the Republicans' efforts. Just proves that their agenda all along was to get rid of Obama.

DAVE: Did you see Boehner crying when he was talking about the American dream? Pathetic.

Of all of the republicans' promises, I actually don't think that they would really stop the bailouts. Those are their friends who are getting the bailouts. I think that was just anti-Obama rhetoric to get elected. Some people think that the republicans will do absolutely nothing in the next two years (other than kill health care reform) because they win either way: If things get worse, it's Obama's fault. If things get better, they will take credit. But the best policy for them may be no policy whatsoever. And frankly, that's probably just as well.

DAD: I did see him crying and you are right; it was pathetic. Also hypocritical since he is now wealthy. As Republican whip a few years back he was also a bag man, delivering checks on the floor of the House from the tobacco industry to members of the GOP caucus.

The statements by Mitch McConnell were not made prior to the election, but the day after the election. So they cannot be dismissed as just 2010 campaign rhetoric. They may be 2012 campaign rhetoric. They cannot stop the bailouts, because that money has already been given to the banks (and some of it repaid) and I know of no one who wants to do any more bailouts or that any are needed. I think they will do the extension of the Bush tax cuts as well as try to repeal health care. Obama will veto an outright appeal, although he may agree to some modifications in the law. It will be interesting to see if Obama vetoes a tax cut extension bill for the wealthiest. He has said all along that he favors extending the tax cuts to those earning less than $250,000. Whatever he vetoes, the Republicans do not have the votes even in the House to override. It takes 2/3 of both houses to do that.
Discretion is raising your eyebrow instead of raising your voice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

DAVE: Well, yesterday (Tuesday) did not turn out well for the Democrats.

DAD: That's the understatement of the year! I am not surprised by the PA Governor's race and not particularly disappointed. Dan Onorato was a very weak candidate.

Let the House Republicans push their agenda and see what happens to the country. Perhaps then the Democrats will come back stronger in 2012.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

JIM: I was wondering the other day what happens to the facebook accounts of people who die (or any other kind of online accounts people may have)? There must literally be thousands of people every day now who die who have facebook accounts. Do their families need to contact facebook and get their accounts cancelled? Do they just live on in cyberspace indefinitely? After some period of time, does facebook just deactivate or delete accounts that haven't been logged into? How does that all work?

DAVE: FB is nefarious, in many ways. It used to suggest people with whom I maybe exchanged emails once in my life, and I didn't even have their email address in my address book, but they came up as suggestions, anyway. A lot of first and only dates from my past reappeared. And so did my deceased Aunt Betty. I got sick of seeing FB's friend suggestions, so I turned off that feature. But I assume that my aunt's profile will live on indefinitely. I suppose a person could try and contact FB about deceased people, but I don't know what their policy is on that.

JIM: Kind of creepy, don't you think?

DAVE: Completely. That's why I don't post anything on FB other than two innocuous photos and my basic hometown info. In today's job market, that's also a good idea since employers are checking FB and myspace now for signs of issues.

These tech companies are something else. And many of them have an office at CMU where all kinds of shit goes on. They are working on robots over there that are going to take away even more human jobs than they already have, and I just don't understand why we endorse (and the government funds) research into areas that will eventually replace the need for humans in certain areas. That doesn't scare me as much as it makes me mad.

JIM: Control your emotions. It's hard to be a Quiet Observer if you're mad.

Monday, November 1, 2010

McShenanigans . . .

DAVE: Have you heard that McDonald's is re-introducing the McRib sandwich in every McDonald's in the country for the first time in 16 years on, of all days, November 2nd? That can't be an accident. I'm just not sure which party it benefits the most.

DAD: I had not heard that story, but I did see another one about McDonald's in today's (Saturday) newspaper. One man owns most of the McDonald's franchises in Ohio. Last week the employees of all of his franchises received a note along with their paychecks. The note told the employees that if the Republicans won control of Congress in the election November 2 he would be able to expand his work force and increase their wages and benefits, but if the Democrats retain control of Congress, he would have to cut wages and benefits and even consider layoffs. The Justice Department is investigating this for election law violations.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dave and Jim talking about jeans . . .

JIM: I am told to try True Religion. I know nothing about them, but my guess is that they must be pricey.

DAVE: With me and jeans, it's gotta be Levis or Gap. It's just the way I grew up. And I paid $64.50 for these jeans, which is like double what I normally would pay for a pair of jeans. I've been wearing them for a couple of days now, and no one has said anything or looked at me weird, so I guess I'm okay. But I REALLY fucking hate the "decorations." I want jeans (and all pants, for that matter) to be one, solid, consistent color.

JIM: I like Levis. They've always seemed to fit me the best. Surprisingly though, Old Navy is not bad. You might want to give them a shot. Are they owned by Gap? I think maybe they are, so then maybe it's not a surprise.

My wife is definitely not into me paying the price for Levis though.

DAVE: I just checked the True Religion website. $200-$300 and I didn't see anything special. But thanks for the suggestion.

JIM: Wow. Is that for one pair of jeans? I might tell my wife I want a pair of True Religions. Just as a joke.

DAVE: If she thinks that Levis are too expensive, then yes, definitely tell her that you want a pair of True Religions. $319 for many of them.

JIM: That's funny.

DAVE: Also, and you may already know this, but I never pay full price for Levis because they are almost always on sale at Sears and JCPenney for $29.99, as opposed to a retail of $44.

DAVE: Some of the True Religion jeans have flaps on the back pockets and special decorative stitching on the back pockets. I ain't into that. And they have button flies. Where do you stand on that issue? I HAVE to have a zipper fly.

JIM: Do they still make button flies? I have to say that probably the last pair of jeans I ever bought for myself (since my wife does all my clothes shopping now) was a pair of Levis button fly 501s and I loved them. That was many years ago though. In fact, either last Christmas or the one before that, my parents bought me a pair of Levis. They were the wrong size and I had to go to Sears to exchange them. I have to admit, I was extremely intimidated by the zillions of styles of Levis jeans available now. I had no idea. I was completely lost and overwhelmed. All I wanted was a regular damn pair of Levis jeans.

DAVE: A lot of jeans still have the button fly, especially Levis, which still has the 501. You're right that there seem to be a lot more numbers and colors and patterns than there were when you and I were in college. But if Kathy is buying all of your clothes for you, then you've been insulated from all of the changes in the great big world of denim. And it's totally bonkers for women. You would never have even suggested True Religion if you had checked out their website first. Not for us, my sensible friend.

Speaking of which, Old Navy does not offer 28L. So, it's the Gap or nothing, now that Levis has eliminated anything shorter than a 30L, just like everybody else. Guys my height are forced to do all of their pants shopping online if they want them to fit properly and not have to be tailored. But even Levis doesn't offer 28L online. Which is bullshit. What do men in China and Japan do? They're generally shorter than Americans.

JIM: I'm 5'9'' (maybe 5'10") and my pants are all 32L. And they fit me fine.

DAVE: Yes, that makes sense. I do think that you are a little bit taller than I am, so probably 5'10". But the reason why I wear a shorter length than you, for instance, is because I have a very low waist, and I have no ass, so all of the pants material that would normally be around a person's ass is left to just hang on me, giving me what some of my friends have called the "poopy pants" look in the back as my pants droop from my body. That extra material adds extra length to my pants, so I need to buy a shorter length so that I don't walk on my jeans. I told you this was an issue for me. It's tough being a man without an ass.

JIM: I tried to avoid letting you draw me into this conversation as fodder for your blog. However, I think I have failed miserably.

DAVE: I guess you will just have to wait until tomorrow morning [today] to find out. Plus, I will also be featuring a conversation about jeans with a young lady friend of mine. Just so you know, I never have a conversation with the INTENT of making it blog material. Sometimes it just works out that way.

Dave and Precious talking about jeans . . .

DAVE: I finally found a pair of jeans that I like, although I could really do without the crotch and leg whiskers. I must now wear these jeans for the rest of my life so that I don't have to go through that again.

PRECIOUS: Do you mean you like them enough to put up with the "whiskers"? That's a horrible phrase, by the way...

Sorry you're having such trouble finding a pair of pants. Have you considered going to a tailor?

DAVE: I realized how far apart you and I are on the subject of jeans. Clothes, in general. And I'm perfectly fine with that. You and your mother are helping to stimulate the economy, and we all appreciate that. But I don't like to spend more than $50 on a pair of jeans, and you probably spend $200-$300, easy. I like the pair that I bought from the Gap. I spent $64.50 plus $7 shipping and handling for them, making them the most expensive pair of jeans that I've ever bought. But I think they look good on me. And as I said before, they FEEL good, which for me, is a very difficult trait to find in a pair of jeans. They're slim fitting, so there's really no room for a pair of boxer shorts underneath them, so I'm going commando these days. Reminds me of college.


Well, just so you do know that we do share some experiences of fashion, I too have trouble buying jeans. It's hard for girls, in general. Designer jeans are made for models. The length is outrageous. So, I often have trouble finding a pair of jeans that don't drag on the ground and I usually end up at the tailor, sacrificing the shape of the leg but at least obtaining a proper length. I know how frustrating it can be. This is why I don't buy jeans very often. I have a few pairs that I've had for a long time. Otherwise, I wear a lot of skirts.

DAVE: You do wear a lot of skirts. That's cool. Well, of course buying jeans would be exponentially worse for a woman, that goes without saying. And I guess going to a tailor wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I guess they can make pretty much any pair of jeans fit, right?

Well, I will be curious to get your opinion of my jeans choice the next time you are in town. They're VERY unlike me, traditionally. But at 41, I find that I'm still evolving. And desperate for a good fit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Written by Rob Rogers

Halloween is a time for haunted houses and scary monsters. Sometimes local government is the scariest place of all!
DAVE: I was in Oakland today [Tuesday]. It's beautiful this time of year. And the fall foliage is nice, too.

JIM: Milt used to say that all the freshman looked so new, like they were wrapped up in cellophane.

DAVE: You've told me that before after I wrote something similar to what I wrote. Being around a university, even at my age, is somehow invigorating sometimes. I would love to teach or work with college students.

Have I mentioned to you that I predict the next head coach of the Dallas cowboys will be . . . wait for it . . . Bill Cowher?

JIM: Bill Cowher, huh? I guess that makes sense in a lot of ways. But I don't see it.

DAVE: You know, ESPN likes to put Hannah Storm front and center when there's a big sporting event, like tonight's Heat/Celtics game. And I firmly believe that Hannah Storm can talk about sports as though she is a man, and not sound like she's been rehearsing, unlike many of the now ubiquitous female sideline reporters in football. But ESPN also puts her out there because older fellas like you and me think she's pretty hot for a woman her age. I know I can't help myself. I don't want to want to bang her, but I just do. It's her flat stomach.

JIM: Yes. Her stomach is flat.

DAVE: I wonder if she's had labiaplasty?

JIM: Does it matter?

DAVE: If I have to tell you, then I guess you're one of the lucky ones.

JIM: I don't feel lucky.