Monday, February 26, 2007

Elena's Aspirations

Today's O-R includes a profile by Brad Hundt on WashPA-native Elena Dodge Corbett and her studies in Jordon. Elena and I were both members of the O-R's "Young Observers" program in the early '90s. I'm not surprised a bit that she is working in Islamic civilization and Middle Eastern history -- even as a teenager, she was smart and bold. (Elena is pictured at right in an O-R photo by Jim McNutt.)

From Brad's story:

Last summer, while living in Jordan's capital city Iman, Corbett and her husband witnessed a flood of refugees coming into the country as a result of the month-long conflict between Israel and the paramilitary group Hezbollah, which is headquartered in Lebanon.

"It was the single worst time I've ever spent in the Middle East. It was just bad," said Corbett. "The people up north could see the rockets being fired into Lebanon."

There also were Iraqi refugees arriving in Jordan while she was there, and she's skeptical about America's continued presence in Iraq. The Sunni and the Shiite factions in Iraq have been at loggerheads for years and a conflict was inevitable after Saddam Hussein was deposed.

"(Iraqis) just want us to go. The civil war is there. It's something that they have to fight out."

And even though the Middle East is several time zones away and the images that appear on the evening news can be exotic and discomforting, Corbett says we share a lot of common ground with the people who live there.

"They're not that different from us. They have the same aspirations and dreams. And they love their children."

Dumb Doodles

Yet another embarrassing episode has surfaced for the city government in Washington, PA. See Lynda Taylor's article in yesterday's P-G for all of the messy details.

You know things are bad when lawyers and handwriting analysts have to be called in to deal with glorified doodling...

Ed's Icy Valentine

Yesterday's Tribune-Review had a timely article by Brad Bumsted assessing the political fallout for Governor Ed Rendell from the 50-mile traffic jam on an icy interstate near Allentown on Valentine's Day. Interesting passage:

didn't learn about the I-78 problem until at least six hours after it began. He was in Philadelphia -- watching a basketball game on TV -- when he found out about the ice storm that weather forecasters had been predicting all day.

His office later investigated and faulted PennDOT, the state police and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which didn't fully activate its emergency center until 7:50 p.m. Feb. 14 for a storm that began Feb. 13 in central Pennsylvania and continued the next day.

"It's very clear there was a major breakdown in communications," said state Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Allentown, who was stranded for about six hours on the highway. "From all accounts, there was no information out there saying this highway was closed. My situation was mild compared to people who spent the night on the highway in frigid temperatures."

Mann, a strong supporter of the Democratic governor, termed the administration's response "unforgivable." She said she received an apology over the phone from Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler, of Crafton, but was "too emotional" to even listen to him.

Forty Days

Yesterday was the First Sunday of Lent. The Gospel reading finds Jesus in the desert. From Luke Chapter 4:

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.”

Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

Friday, February 23, 2007

No Flow

Apparently his visit to "The Tonight Show" did not pull in Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack many new donors ... today the Pittsburgh native announced he's getting out of the '08 Presidential race due to lack of funds.

I do not agree with Governor Vilsack on some of the issues, but it's still disappointing to see the Democrat field lose one of its saner voices -- some eleven months before the first caucus or primary vote is cast!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

End of Carnival

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent when we prepare to commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Wikipedia's entry on Ash Wednesday includes this painting by Carl Spitzweg:

My take: The light of God shining on prayerful man at the end of carnival season. Perhaps the jug at right symbolizes what we need for the journey.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lack of Interest?

Yesterday's O-R included a story by Michael Jones regarding the proposed bus route cuts for McDonald and the other communities along Noblestown Road.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Expecting Nothing Back

I loved the Gospel at Mass today. It's Christ's call for absolute forgiveness, absolute reconciliation and absolute love. I pray for the strength to live it. From Luke 6: 27-38:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“To you who hear I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.

Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.

If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Coffee at My Place

Just a reminder:

This Monday evening, February 19, all are invited to my place in McDonald to meet Mike Neville, a candidate for Washington County Commissioner. The gathering will be sort of an old-fashioned political coffee. There's no cost to attend -- just bring your questions about county government for Mike!

If you like what you hear, you'll also have an opportunity to sign his nominating petition (if you are a registered Republican voter who lives in Washington County).

This very informal get-together will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. My apartment is upstairs on the left (#4) at 302 West Lincoln Avenue in McDonald (15057 for anyone using Mapquest). It's a large white house at the bottom of McDonald's 3rd Street, catty corner from St. Alphonsus Church.

Please RSVP (no deadline) by dropping me an e-mail or calling (724) 413-9055.

To learn more, visit Mike's Website where there is lots of information on his candidacy.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reporting for Duty

Something interesting in today's paper ... Western PA's U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan reported (like any other citizen) for jury duty in Allegheny County court on Thursday. In fact, she came fairly close to being chosen to serve as an alternate juror.

The P-G's Paula Reed Ward has the story.

Not So Free

Over at Life in Progress, Heidi Price links to a chilling piece in The New Yorker about the deteriorating state of democracy and freedom of the press in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

The "Letter from Moscow: Kremlin, Inc." by Michael Specter uses as its hook the life and murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Notable quote:

Vladimir Putin’s relationship with democracy is not ambiguous: in December of 2004, he signed a bill that effectively eliminated the election by popular vote of Russia’s eighty-nine governors. The President now nominates them himself—and then waits for regional legislatures to confirm his choices (as they always do). In another change that nobody protested and few people noticed, Putin also assumed the power to appoint the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Last November, again at the President’s behest, the Duma abolished any requirement that a minimum number of voters must participate in order for an election to be valid.

Park Burroughs also links to the article at Grumpy Old Editor and gives some of his thoughts from working with journalists in the Kemerova region of Siberia.

Two Guys & A Rental Car

It's hard to imagine a more unlikely pairing than Jim Carrey and Tom Vilsack. But, there they were together last night on "The Tonight Show" couch. Jay Leno joked about longshot Vilsack's small entourage being "two guys and a rental car."

I don't agree with Governor Vilsack (D-Iowa) on some issues but it's good see to this Pittsburgh native getting some national attention in his bid for the '08 Democrat nomination for the White House.

Bill Richardson deserves more attention, too. Two-term New Mexico Governor, U.S. Secretary of Energy, U.N. Ambassador, Congressman -- he would be one of the most experienced candidates for President in recent memory.

Not that this Republican in a late-primary state gets any say in the matter.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Loss for the Village

The Washington section of Sunday's P-G included a story by Linda Taylor on the closing of the Ole Hickory Inn in the village of Hickory in Mt. Pleasant Township. It was owner Bill McCracken's diagnosis of cancer, not bad business, that forced "the fire to go out."

The Ole Hickory Inn was a great place to have dinner and drinks, notably before or after a performance by the Old Schoolhouse Players at the nearby Mt. Pleasant Township Community Center (the one-time Hickory School).

Those traveling through the little village on Route 50 will miss Bill McCracken and his inn.

The photo above of Bill McCracken at the Ole Hickory Inn is by the P-G's Pam Panchak.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sermon on Level Ground

This Sunday's Gospel from Mass was Christ's "Sermon on Level Ground," which is similar to the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew's Gospel -- different topography but both contain the Beatitudes.

From Luke Chapter 6:

Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.

Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Five-Year Pin

This morning, I had the honor of serving as a judge for the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science Region 8 annual meeting held at California University of Pennsylvania. This was my fifth year judging for PJAS. Once again, I had a good time and learned a great deal.

PJAS is a statewide organization of junior and senior high school students designed to stimulate and promote interest in science among its members through the development of research projects and investigations. PJAS Region 8 includes students from schools throughout Washington, Greene and Fayette counties.

There were probably about 100 or so judges at Cal this morning -- multiple judges for each of the groupings by subject area and grade level. I was a judge in the 8th grade botany section. The six student projects in our section looked at the effect different-colored lights, soap, vitamins and electricity had on plant growth. Two of the students from the section will go on to give their presentations at the PJAS state-level meet.

This was the first year in recent memory that the PJAS Region 8 meet had no students from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Burgettstown. OLOL School was closed at the end of the 2006 academic year. My aunt, Kay Snatchko, was OLOL's longtime PJAS sponsor. The always bright and energetic group was certainly missed.

My alma mater, Fort Cherry High School, also went another year with no representation at PJAS -- a missed opportunity for the young people of our communities.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Signing for an Excellent Candidate

Despite the freezing temperatures, political types all over Pennsylvania are beginning to look ahead to spending a great deal of time outside in the coming weeks. Next Tuesday, February 13 marks the first day of the 2007 petition period when candidates for public office may collect signatures on nominating petitions - with much of this work being done by going door-to-door despite the weather conditions.

If you who live in Washington County, please consider attending either or both of these Petition Kick-Off Events for Mike Neville, an excellent candidate for Washington County Commissioner:

Petition Kick-Off Event #1: Sunday, February 11, 5 to 7 p.m. @ Panera Bread, Washington, PA (near Sam's Club and Wal-Mart)

Petition Kick-Off Event #2: Monday, February 12, 8 to 10 p.m. @ Atria's Restaurant & Tavern, McMurray, PA (in Kmart Plaza)

At both of these events, Mike will be on-hand with petitions, circulating instructions and street lists. He'll also be able to answer any questions you might have about the campaign.

Interested Washington County residents are also cordially invited to attend a "Meet the Candidate" Night / Petition-Signing Party for Mike to be held at my apartment in McDonald on Monday, February 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. There's no cost to attend this casual event. My place is at 302 West Lincoln Ave., Apt. #4, in McDonald. Please consider joining us -- everyone is welcome!

The Washington County GOP also is having a Petition Kick-Off Open House on Tuesday, February 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Washington County GOP HQ at 75 East Maiden St. in Washington, PA. Mike will be among the candidates speaking beginning at 7:30 p.m. (Update: This was rescheduled from February 13 to February 20 due to the snow.)

For details on Mike's campaign, visit: or call (724) 413-9055.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Tragic First

Yesterday, the City of Washington, PA, lost its first paid firefighter to die while fighting a fire in the department's 104-year history, according to the O-R.

Jeremy Charles LaBella was only 27 years old. A longtime volunteer firefighter in neighboring Canton Township, he had only been hired a few months ago to work for the city department.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Astonishment at the Catch

Today's Gospel at Mass has Jesus at the lake inspiring his first apostles. From Luke 5:1-11:

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.

He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.

Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”

When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon.

Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

No Leader

Today's P-G has an excellent editorial calling for an end to the State House leadership career of Greene County's not-so-favorite son Bill DeWeese. The editorial's on-point closing:

This latest gambit to stonewall requests for the bonus pay list distilled the essence of Bill DeWeese. Rule through fear. Keep the public in the dark. Politics is sport, not service.

Such "principles" are tragically, unconscionably out of step with the reform movement that is finally afoot in Harrisburg. Majority Leader Bill DeWeese will continue being an obstacle in the House to good government.

He should step down from his post as leader. There's no leadership there.

The Muckle Man

Last night, we braved the freezing temperatures to check out the 9 p.m. performance of the new play "The Muckle Man" at City Theater on Pittsburgh's South Side.

"The Muckle Man" is one of the "New American Trio," which City Theater's Website bills as "an innovative series that will produce three new plays by three talented playwrights writing for a single acting company cast in multiple roles."

"Muckle Man" was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who also writes The Sensational Spider-Man for Marvel Comics. Last week, the P-G did a story on the play's innovative marketing campaign.

Here is City Theater's description of the show:

"The mysteries of the The Muckle Man awaken from the deep waters of isolated Conception Bay in Newfoundland, where marine biologist Addison Clark and his assistant Gilbert Messenger have come to search for Architeuthis, the elusive giant squid. The lives of the scientist and his family ­– wife Marina, their two young sons Harvey and Malcolm, and Marina’s sister, Dora – change drastically while at this stormy outpost. When Marina rescues a man who emerges naked from the ocean, the natural world suddenly starts to go off balance. Currents of pop culture, contemporary science, and ancient folklore run through this eerie thriller."

I've enjoyed lots of City Theater performances in the past. And I think it's very good that Pittsburgh has an incubator for new plays. But, I have to say, "Muckle Man" didn't work for me on some levels.

The first act was interesting but the second was not as fulfilling and left too many unanswered questions. The title character was insufficiently developed and had a late plot twist that wasn't well-explained or foreshadowed. The ending was too abrupt. I wasn't expecting a "Hollywood" happy ending but something more reflective is needed for a play that is more sci-fi light than dark drama.

But, there were some good performances in "Muckle Man." I thought Brett Mack as Gilbert Messenger and Tami Dixon as Dora Hand both hit the right notes.

"Muckle Man" has the beginnings of a good new play. Here's hoping for a rewrite.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A YR in the LYV

Interesting item: The League of Young Voters, which it's probably safe to say has a pretty progressive outlook, has brought on Republican David Dix to help them organize in Pennsylvania. (I'm pretty sure David is a Republican -- he's been active in several GOP campaigns.)

Hat-tip: Press Release at PoliticsPA

The League of Young Voters in Pennsylvania is led by Khari Mosley. I know Khari from a few years back when, while I was at the Carnegie Hero Fund, we both worked in the Regional Enterprise Tower (a.k.a. "the Old Alcoa Building"). We've been on the opposing sides of a few campaigns but I still think he's a great leader for Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Not So Stunning

If Ed Rendell is anything, he's an astute politician who knows how Harrisburg works.

That's why this headline in today's P-G is totally absurd:

State House Bonuses Stun Rendell

"Stunned"? Yeah, right.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Heir Apparent?

Michael Barone has an interesting column in today's Wall Street Journal titled: "Battle Royal: Bush, Clinton, Bush--Clinton? It sounds like the War of the Roses." Money lines:

The two George Bushes are referred to in their family, we are told, as 41 and 43. If Hillary Clinton wins, will she and her husband call each other 42 and 44?


(T)here is something bizarre--something royal--about the vision of the wife of a former president becoming president herself, although those of us who voted for George W. Bush are poorly positioned to complain about it.

A Latina Leaves

The debate last week over whether a white U.S. Congressman who represents a largely African-American district could be admitted to the Congressional Black Caucus demonstrated that there is likely no longer a need for such race-based groups in Congress -- and that they certainly should not have taxpayer-funded staff and operations.

More evidence for this came today via Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-California. has the story of her stormy exit from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. (The Hispanic Republicans in Congress had already left the caucus.)

Theology on Tap

Plug for a good local group:

Tonight begins the annual "Theology on Tap" series of the young adult group from St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon, PA. Each Thursday evening in February, Theology on Tap will bring a speaker to Molly Brannigans at 660 Washington Road in the heart of Mt. Lebo's business district.

The programs begin at 7 p.m. and include two free drinks and appetizers.

Here's an overview:

February 1: "Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, What's the Vision for Us All?" - Featuring Maureen O'Brien, PhD.

February 8: "God is My CEO: At the Crossroads" - Featuring Sr. Kathy Adamski, OSF, MA, MS

February 15: "Bringing God Back" - Featuring Catholic speaker and entertainer, Bob Rice, MA

February 22: "Sex in the City of God" - Featuring Fr. Matt McClain, MDiv

Everyone is welcome to attend!