Saturday, July 1, 2006

A Little Perspective

1 in 4 U.S. jobs pays less than a poverty-level income.
2 in 5 elderly live on less than $18,000 a year, including Social Security benefits.
The average credit card balance for households earning less than $35,000 is $4,000.
1 in 3 people who have left welfare since 1996 did so because they couldn't meet the program requirements or they hit the 5-year limit.
Since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line at any one time has steadily risen. Now, 13% of all Americans (37 million) are officially poor.
Among households worth less than $13,500, their average net worth in 2001 was $0. By 2004, it was down to -$1,400.
Bush's tax cuts (extended until 2010) save those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 an average of $10 a year, while those earning $1 million are saved $42,700.
In 2002, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) compared those who point out statistics such as the ones above to Adolph Hitler.
Richard Helfant, the executive director of Lucy, the elephant icon in Margate, NJ is paid a salary of $69,000 plus benefits. The salary is paid by a New Jersey state grant and the Save Lucy Committee, a not-for-profit organization. Helfant believes the flak he has gotten over his exorbitant salary is because he is gay. For all of that, Lucy is operating in the red, including Helfant's squandering money on shopping trips, limo rides and courting Barry Manilow for the cause.
Forget the excessive salaries paid to athletes, actors and CEOs (well, forget some of them) and focus on what we pay people who do mundane jobs, and do them poorly at that. Remember, as you creep toward your 60th birthday, that 40% of our elderly are living on less than $18,000, and it is only getting worse.
Thanks to the July/August 2006 issue of Mother Jones magazine for the statistics, and to Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer for aggravating me with the front-page Lucy story.

Friday, June 30, 2006

He Dribbles Before He Shoots

Sometimes driving while intoxicated isn't necessarily your biggest problem. Eddie Griffin is a 24 year-old forward for the Minneapolis Timberwolves. But basketball isn't his only skill. He can also drive with one hand, but if you're on the sidewalk, you'd better keep your eye on him.

One late night back in March, Eddie was traveling the streets of Minneapolis when he hit a vehicle in an intersection, then went into a nearby convenience store and confessed to empoyees that he was intoxicated. After offering to buy the owner of the damaged vehicle a new one, police were summoned. For some reason, they elected to drive him home to St. Paul without testing him or charging him with D.W.I. It couldn't be because he is a popular basketball player, could it? No, probably not.

But, I will bypass that indiscretion to focus on another. As it turns out, the reason Eddie collided with the other vehicle is because he was allegedly watching a pornographic video on his dashboard and masturbating while driving. In Minnesota, that falls under the category of "distracted driving". To say the least.

Eddie was previously arrested for marijuana possesion, after the Houston Rockets suspended him for missing a team flight and practices. Later that year, he was arrested for shooting a gun at a woman and beating her in his Houston home. He violated probation and spent 15 days in jail for that one. Oh ... and he has also been through alcohol-abuse treatment, which apparently failed. It sounds as though there may be another type of abuse for which he needs treatment.

Perhaps a bigger question is: Why is it legal to sell a vehicle with a video screen in the dashboard?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Here's a joke you won't hear around the water cooler tomorrow: How many Pakistani doctors does it take to get a light bulb out of your ass?
Fateh Mohammad, a prison inmate in Pakistan, says he woke up last weekend with a glass lightbulb in his anus. It would be funny if it weren't true.
That's right. I don't know how many of you have ever put a light bulb in your anus, but I'm guessing that it is zero. And, as far as I can tell, light bulbs are manufactured, not grown, so I figure that Fateh had not swallowed a seed. Fateh, to his credit, was surprised:
"When I woke up I felt a pain in my lower abdomen, but later in hospital, they told me this," Mohammad said. "I don't know who did this to me. Police or other prisoners."
Uh .... my guess would be the 'other prisioners'. When you're locked up in a Pakistani prison, you have to make your own entertainment ... and what's more entertaining than a light bulb in your buddy's anus? OK, maybe a Garfield cartoon or an Adam Sandler movie, but other than that, it's a legitimate choice.
I can only imagine the giggling prisoners gathered around Fateh's cell as they greased up the bulb and ran it up his poop chute. At least I hope they greased it up.

No Limits on Nonsense

After a couple of days away from the blogging, I have returned to find that the limits of odd behavior in which my fellow humans will engage has expanded a bit further.
After a flurry of early posts in which I recounted my disdain for certain televison shows, sports, the Bush administration and even cracked a few jokes along the way; I have found the waters a bit clear of targets for my rants. However, I know that the creeps and weirdos of the world will continue to stock those waters with fresh ideas and innovative behavior. Generally, my patience is rewarded, and I hope it makes for good copy. This most recent oddity appeared today ...
There is currently a trial going on in Bristow, Oklahoma, where former judge Donald D. Thompson is accused of using a penis pump on himself during trials, most notably during the trial of a murdered toddler, during his grandfather's teary-eyed testimony. You may now take a few seconds to re-read that sentence.
If that wasn't bad enough, his former court reporter testified that he exposed himself to her at least 15 times in a three-year span.
Even if you think a penis pump is a neat little device, and you decide to give it a whirl, what would be your motivation for bringing it into your workplace? It just happens that this guy was a judge, but it could be one of your co-workers or a bank teller, car salesman or even the guy who works in the store where they sell the penis pumps. He probably gets a discount.
Thompson testified that he kept it in his office or under his bench, but that he never used it. Apparently, he failed to understand the concept of that "whole truth and nothing but the truth" bit.
What this story demonstrates is the confirmation of my continued belief that no one person should automatically placed above another. We are placed where we are through some odd set of circumstances, and we can either handle the assignment or not. Don't for a minute think that merely because it says Doctor, Judge, Representative or Reverend before their name that they are somehow entitled to your unconscious esteem. They are first and foremost Mr. or Mrs.
The positions can be given, but the respect must be earned.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hoping for so Much More

Once again, the TV weather people (I neglect to call them meteorologists, partly out of respect for real scientists, and partly because it is difficult to spell) have failed us. The drenching rains that have covered the Northeast for the last three days were supposed to subside, at least temporarily today, but they did not. Viewers of local news outlet known strangely as "Action News" were subjected to Cecily Tynan's lame explanation thusly:
"We were hoping that the air flow would contribute to drier conditions..."
Wait ... "hoping"? You were hoping? Millions of dollars worth of satellite feeds, screens with names that use the word "radar" like Homer Simpson uses the word "beer" ... gauges, dials, things that spin and colored maps that even Johannes Kepler couldn't understand - and you were hoping? For $600,000 a year, Cecily, I was expecting so much more.
But, she wasn't done. On her return trip to the news desk to schmooze with the anchors, they asked her what the weekend was looking like? (As if she would know). After knocking on the fake-wood studio desk, she "hoped" it would be nice and dry. "Does knocking (fake) wood count for more or less than hoping?", I wondered quietly to myself. No matter, they're laughing now, and they get paid at the end of the week.
Here's a proposal for our local ABC television station. I will do the weather for 10% of Cecily's salary, and I'll do all the hoping you want. Just to drum up support, I'll pledge to divide the remaining $540,000 evenly among the field reporters who are made to stand in the rain and snow all year long, for the purpose of telling us that it is raining and snowing. As though we couldn't look out a window and do our own report.
I hope that our local station will take me up on the offer.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Just in case you thought the current sorry state of athletes was being exaggerated by the Brett Myers incident, I offer these stories, which all happened within the last two weeks...
June 21 - LOS ANGELES, Ca. (AP) -- Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker has been charged with two counts of spousal battery and vandalism. The misdemeanor charges were filed Tuesday after an alleged fight between Rucker and his girlfriend at a party he was hosting in Los Angeles last August.
June 23 - MANDEVILLE, La. (AP) -- New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Jammal Brown was free on bond Friday following his arrest on a domestic abuse complaint from his wife. Brown was booked Thursday with domestic abuse battery after his wife placed a 911 call.
June 16 - PITTSBURGH, Pa. (AP) -- Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes was charged by Columbus, Ohio, police Monday with two misdemeanor counts of domestic violence and simple assault. It was his second arrest since he was chosen in the first round of the NFL draft.
June 15 - COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Bengals receiver Chris Henry pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges accusing him of providing alcohol to three underage females.
June 7 - CINCINNATI, Oh. (AP) -- Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Nicholson, 21, is charged with grand theft and burglary, both felonies, in a break-in at a former Florida State teammate's apartment in Tallahassee, Fla. He was the Bengals' fifth-round draft choice this year.
Henry was charged Sunday in nearby Clermont County with speeding and drunken driving. He also faces trial Aug. 21 in Orlando, Fla., on a concealed weapon charge following a January incident in which police say he pulled a pistol on a group of revelers. Henry pleaded guilty in March to marijuana charges from a December arrest in Kentucky, avoiding jail time after completing a drug rehabilitation program.
Granted, if we were talking about poverty-stricken, inner-city dwellers who were desparate to change their lives and had fallen on hard times, there may be some extenuating circumstances. But, these are five of the most fortunate people on the planet. They are being paid an exhorbitant sum for playing a game most of us would play for free, if we could. Other than that, what they have in common is that they are young and stupid.
If you think the Phillies were wrong to continue to employ Brett, think about how stupid the NFL is to continue to employ these hoodlums. Especially when you consider that NFL contracts are not guaranteed. They could be cut today, but they won't be. The teams may not have a choice, but we do.

When it Rains, It Pours

Our hometown ballclub, the Phillies, can't seem to get a break, but apparently their fans can ... break, that is. Last Sunday, in a game at Citizen's Bank Ballpark, a fan was injured. Sherry McGoldrick, 42, of Dover, Del., whose face wound up in the middle of a foul ball's descent back to earth, said "I didn't see it until it was an inch from my face."
On Friday, McGoldrick was still at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She said the ball broke her nose, her sinus bone and her left eye-socket bone. She has blood clots in her left eye.
Pardon my bluntness, but Sherry ... ya gotta pay attention. It's not like someone dropped a beer on you from the upper deck. It was a ball, which is half of the name of the game. If a base hits you, that would be another story.
Now, you're probably thinking I'm going to make some oddly tasteless joke about how Brett Myers hit her with the ball, or how the Phillies should set up a trust fund for the physical and emotional damage they inflict on their fans on a daily basis ... I'm not going to do that.
Instead, I'll just post up a picture of some penguins, and let you make your own jokes.