Archive for March, 2008

Pictures from Climb Pittsburgh II
March 31, 2008

Last week, I told you about a fun event in which Ashley, Michelle and myself would be taking part. Climb Pittsburgh II benefits the American Lung Association and it’s designed not only to raise money in the fight against lung disease, but also raise awareness.
Saturday morning, 150 folks joined us for the challenge of the year: climbing the 38 floors of the Gulf Tower in downtown Pittsburgh. While some were clearly dressed and prepped for the task at hand, I decided to join a special group of participants: Pittsburgh’s firefighters. They not only raise awareness of the disease, but also show us just how hard their work is.

Before the climb, I had a chance to interview this young woman. Her name is Skylar Hicks and she has asthma. However, she does not let it slow her down. Along with her parents, Skylar made it up to the 19th floor … and still wanted to keep going. Her performance was inspirational and made all the participants go the extra mile.

This is the aftermath of 38 floors. I’m in the background in the white t-shirt, next to my best friend Joe. In the foreground are the firefighters with whom I had the honor of joining. It was a pleasure to put on the gear ( all 50 pounds of it ) and try to scale 38 floors. While we set no speed records, we did make it.

Wondering what it takes to scale 38 floors?

It’s less about the shape you are in — and more about the stamina you have. Even the most experienced of athletes will feel a burning of the lungs in the first ten floors. It’s that burning of the lungs that is the goals of organizers. They want you to feel what asthma suffers feel on a daily basis .. and believe me, after having to deal with that feeling for 20-plus floors, I will never take my lungs for granted.

I will also never take for granted what the firefighters do. I wore the heavy equipment and made it 38 floors and nothing left by the time I reached the top. Imagine having to do that every day – and then, once reaching the top, you still have to save some one’s life. That’s why firefighters really are heroes.

Thanks to everyone who came out and joined us … and a special thanks to those who joined my team: Stockey’s Steppers. We kicked butt!!! See you next year at the USX Tower! ( just kidding ).

Here are some pics from a Super Saturday morning … and some commentary as well.

Goodbye Melanie
March 28, 2008

Nothing lasts forever.

What makes life both great and sad is how people pass through your life. They are there for a few days or maybe a few years, touch your life, and then move on. While they are there, they create some memorable moments – and when they depart, they leave with you those memories and perhaps some lesson that makes you a better person.

Melanie Taylor is that kind of person.

This is Melanie’s final morning with us here at Channel 4. After helping Pittsburgh through what can be the daily traffic nightmare for more than two years, she is leaving us and heading back to her roots in radio.

Senior prom photo? Nope, it’s Melanie and I at the Heart Ball Gala last month

While Melanie greeted you every morning with what you needed to know as you navigated the roads around the region, she became more than just a traffic reporter to us. She was a friend, a colleague and a ray of sunshine every morning. Ask anyone her at WTAE and they will tell you she was always a positive person – even on her most trying day.

What makes her all the more incredible is that she is also a mother to a beautiful little girl. Yes, Melanie has it all .. and makes it all work. She has a supportive family and has more friends than you can imagine. She is also the pride of the Mon Valley … and proudly proclaims her allegiance to her high school, Monessen, every chance she gets.

What will I remember about Melanie? Those fearless Friday high school football predictions, her incredible knowledge of pop culture that she shared with between breaks and those light-hearted moments that we all shared off camera.

In the mornings, by its nature, the crew becomes a family and its tough to say goodbye to a family member. However, that is the nature of life. People enter your world – make it better – and move on. I’ll miss certainly miss this family member though we will always be the best of friends.

Good luck, Mel. Your family here at Channel 4 wishes you all the best!

Climbing For A Cause
March 27, 2008

Climbing 760 steps. This is what the elevator was created .. so that man could avoid having to spend half his day trying to get to the top floor of a building. However, those 760 steps at downtown Pittsburgh’s Gulf Tower are what stand between us and perhaps a cure for lung cancer.

This Saturday, folks here at WTAE like Ashley DiParlo, Michelle Wright and myself with be joined by many folks as we take on the challenge of the Gulf Tower steps in an event called “Climb Pittsburgh II”. It’s the sequel to last year’s “Climb Pittsburgh” at the Oxford Center downtown. It benefits the American Lung Association and helps in both fund-raising and research in the battle against lung disease – the nation’s third leading killer.

This year, we have a few new twists. There are fewer steps to climb … and we also have members of the Pittsburgh Fire Department who will make the journey up the stairs to show just how important healthy lungs are when they are trying to do their jobs. Somehow, I was asked to join these brave men and women … and put on the gear and try to make the climb myself.

That’s me … in firefighter gear … minus the oxygen tank. In all, it’s about 60 pounds of equipment. Yes, it’s heavy and I doubt I will make it to the top by running. To be honest, I doubt I’ll make it period but it’s an honor to be able to wear the uniform if just for the day.

Usually, I don’t make pitches on my blog, but I think this is something that is not only important but also a personal challenge for all of you. I know most of you are saying there is no way you can make it … and I’m saying you can. Why not give it a try? If I can lug 60 pounds up 38 floors, you can try to make it all the way without any extra weight.

If you want to give it a try, the deadline to sign up is today. Just go to the climbpittsburgh website and sign up … and I hope to see you on Saturday. I’ll be the guy who doesn’t look like he belongs in the firefighters gear.

In The Campaign Spin Cycle
March 26, 2008

In the “Battle for Pennsylvania“, there are many shots fired on both sides … and there will be some blasts that mis-fire … or in this case, candidates that “mis-speak”. That is the latest bit of jargon the fight for the democratic nomination.

You know the story by know. Senator Hillary Clinton told the press she had to duck sniper fire during a visit to Bosnia as first lady. She recounted the harrowing details in detail. One problem. There’s video of her arrival and it’s quite clear there was no sniper fire. To be honest, it was as peaceful and warm a reception as you could hope for.

Because Senator Clinton got caught, Pennsylvania voters have a unique opportunity. Not only do we actually have proof that a candidate has failed to tell us the truth … but know the state democratic voters will have the first opportunity to react and show the voting electorate in this country if this issue and this misstatement does make a difference.

Senator Clinton did spin it … saying she made a mistake and she’s human .. but from a media member point of view, it’s difficult to swallow that excuse because her recollections were so vivid and the contrast to what actually happened was so stark. It’s the same reason media members are holding Senator Barack Obama’s feet to the fire for sitting in the pews as his pastor spewed out his controversial comments .. comments that are also on video.

One final note: The Clinton campaign’s strategy to have daughter Chelsea engage college students was a brilliant stroke .. in the beginning. Having her take any question from college students and only college students created a real discussion that I think will help young people as they make up their minds going into their first election. However, we learned Tuesday there are indeed boundaries in this format .. and controversial ones at that.

When Chelsea was asked at one stop, by a college student, whether her mother’s credibility was hurt by the Lewinsky scandal she took offense. She actually said “It’s none of your business”. Look, she may have truly been offended. Who knows? Bottom line here: just because the press can’t ask her questions doesn’t mean her contemporaries are going to serve up softballs. If you want to have a real frank discussion, than Chelsea will have to field all comers.

photo courtesy: Associated Press

Berenato’s Bunch Breaks Through
March 25, 2008

Bill Cowher may have been the most intense coach during his time as the leader of the Steelers, but I don’t think there has been a more engaging and vocal coach than Agnus Berenato. The only reason Pittsburgh sports fans may have missed her gift for gab is because she coaches womens basketball.

The sport has long labored in the shadow of the mens game .. and has been relegated to virtual obscurity here in Pittsburgh. However, Agnus arrived from Georgia Tech five years ago with two goals in mind: Make Pitt womens basketball a winner and – much more difficult – make basketball relevant.

Well, she has finally done the former. Berenato guided the Pitt women last night to a place they had never been to before — the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Berenato’s bunch beat Baylor to reach the round of 16 in Albequerque Monday night. Next up, a trip to Spokane to play second-seeded Stanford.

While she has finally won – fulfilling the promise she made when she arrived five years ago – Agnus’ second task may prove to be the more difficult one. Making her sport relevant and mentioned in the same breath as the mens program has always been difficult. Whether its the media – or people walking down the street – womens sports gets a lot of lip service but very little play. At least on the high school level, girls and boys basketball have achieved some sort of parity but the same cannot be said about any other sport at any level.

I’m not sure why fans – both men and women – refuse to embrace the womens game. When I go to games, the fans for the most part are either young children or senior citizens. The fan who spends the big bucks just doesn’t have the same passion for the women and that is a shame because the women are just as passionate, just as talented and – as the recent headlines suggest – less likely to wind up getting a call from the police for engaging in som illicit acitvity.

But for now, womens sports remain “big event” draws: big crowds show up whenever a womens team plays for a national championship ( Pittsburgh Passion Football ) or play for a world title ( the 1999 U.S. womens soccer team ). So it will be with the Pitt women as long as they stay alive on the road to the final four.

Agnus, congratulations on taking Pitt basketball to the next level on the court. Let’s hope this success leads to the program to a new high in terms of relevance off the court,.

Spring Fever, Swing Fever
March 24, 2008

When does spring begin?
Our crack team of meteorologists told me it was last Thursday, but if you saw the snow when you woke up Saturday morning you know better. For me, it’s always that first time out on the golf course. All of you who have read this blog know about my passion for the game, but in my mind its truly the best way to get out and enjoy nature and get some exercise at the same time.
Sunday afternoon, after Sharon and I walked Boobalooo and a neighbor’s dog, we got a case of spring fever. Being the daredevil, I threw out the possibility of going out and playing 9 holes. I know it was 40 degrees outside, but the sun made it fell warmer. Surprise! She agreed.
We went to a course called Frosty Valley in Upper Saint Clair – a pretty little 9-hole course – and put our bags on a couple of pull carts and played. A gentlemen named Dennis – a statistics teacher and California University joined us.
Here’s Sharon showing off her swing — and her new driver I bought her for Christmas:

It was wet and muddy – and the ball didn’t go anywhere and neither Sharon or I played particularly well. Still, it was a chance to be outside after months of cold weather, dark days and snowy Sundays. It was great to finally be outside and enjoy the first vestiges of spring.

I know this is hardly a deep, thoughtful entry but after the winter we had, I thought all of you would appreciate a brief taste of spring.

Have a great day!

The Black & Gold’s Black Eye
March 21, 2008

I’ve had the opportunity to cover this recent run of Steelers being charged with domestic violence from several angles, and have gotten to know some of those accused on a professional level from my years as a sports reporter and being in the locker room, so this is more than just an opinion you are about to read.

First of all, there is no reason to strike a woman. Ever.

Second, I’m not going to try and read the tea leaves coming from the comments of Steeler chairman Dan Rooney. That is for other to decide. I will just judge the team’s actions.

What I will do is tell you that Pittsburgh is getting a full dose of a problem that plagues the world of professional sports in general and football in particular. The rise in domestic violence involving these athletes.

While they are employed by the Steelers and the team does have a responsibility to make sure the players it brings to our city behave, it is not the Steelers job to babysit these players. The team claims that character does matter – and they have told me there is a code of conduct. Clearly, these employees ( and that is what the players are ) do not follow that code.

We point out the fact they are Steelers because their employer is high profile … and the employer should take a stand when one of their employees cross the line. But the real problem here is young men with a lot of money and a license to do anything they want. A license granted to them at a very young age when they first showed athletic potential.

While the players may all be good athletes, they are not all good people. Like society itself, the Steeler players reflect society. They may all be the cream of the crop when it comes to talent, but some are clearly not ready to be adults, much less role models. Frankly, it’s been my experience that we should not expect any of these young men to be role models since they are just learning how to be adults.

The NFL says it has a program designed to guide rookies through the obstacles and off-field dangers they will face. The program takes place before they ever get to training camp. It’s my belief that program should be an annual event for every player … and hopefully incorporate experts who deal with domestic violence.

The other thing that needs to happen is a zero-tolerance policy. Forget three strikes and you’re out. When you commit a crime, you should at the least be suspended – and immediately undergo counseling. Only after this is done – and the situation reaches some sort of conclusion – should you be allowed back on the field. Currently, the NFL does require counseling after every offense – but it’s a one-time thing and most often the player is on the field before it takes place. In my opinion, the league needs to look at playing as a privilege – not a right for the player or for the team.

Will this be the last time a Steeler is charged with domestic abuse or violence? The statistics tell me no. The hope is yesterday’s decision to release receiver Cedrick Wilson – without a trial – will send a message to the rest of those in the locker room that this behavior will not be tolerated. While the Steelers will be under the microscope from here on, it is the players who are the offenders and the players who misbehave who must change. The Steelers job now is to prevent such offenses from taking place by being proactive. Much more so than history would suggest.

Remembering His Neighborhood
March 20, 2008

Fred Rogers.

He was without question one of the most memorable and influential people in the city of Pittsburgh and his demeanor and manner made the whole world smile and realize what is truly important in life. Today, the region and the nation is paying tribute to this man who invited us to his neighborhood every day on PBS and WQED. The tribute is a simple one: wear his trademark sweater to work today.

I was proud to do so, although I did get quite a ribbing from my fellow co-workers .. and Robin Roberts from “Good Morning America”. Wearing a red sweater vest under my jacket, Melanie told she couldn’t look at me … that I did not look like myself. After about 30 minutes, she finally compared me to the character “Carlton” on “The Fresh Prince”, if you can remember that far back.

All this playful kidding from the gang hammered home one point: that Fred Rogers was different. From the way he started his show with the song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” to his interaction with the characters on the program. Mr. Rogers did it “his way” and while it may not have been “cool” by our standards, he did it with a sense of style and elegance that transcends time. As I said this morning, only Fred Rogers could pull off the sweater look.

Then again, there were many things that only Fred Rogers could do … and that’s why he is truly missed on what would have been his 80th birthday. Thank you for letting us into your neighborhood.

More from the Campaign Trail
March 19, 2008

Now that I have been assigned to the campaign trail, one of the things I am taking the time to experience as a reporter is the entire speech of a Presidential candidate, not sound bites that have become the standard fare by which most of hear our candidates. Tuesday, it was my first chance to hear Barack Obama from start to finish.

You probably know about the controversy surrounding Obama by now. His pastor has made comments seen as racial, inflammatory and critical of U.S. policy. Critics wondered whether Obama shares those beliefs. Tuesday in Philadelphia, he addressed those concerns in a speech all about race in America.

Did his speech diffuse the controversy and clear up the issue? In my opinion, it did not. After saying he had never sat in the pews and heard such comments from the pastor, he told the assembled audience yesterday that he indeed had heard these things while attending church. He also failed to renounce his association with the pastor, which is what the critics wanted in the first place. That alone guarantee this story will “have legs”, as they say in my business, for a long time.
However, here is what the speech did. It talked about race in America in a frank, open and real way that we rarely see from politicians. While I do have a vested interest in the subject, even I was taken aback by the complexity of the issue as Obama spelled it out. It’s truly ironic that the issue of race in America is not “black and white”. It has many layers, many complications and few simple solutions.

Perhaps nobody spelled out what Obama’s speech meant better than CNN analyst and former White House advisor David Gergen who said about Obama’s speech, “he spoke to us as adults”. That is true. For years, we have tried to simplify this issue and there really is no way to do so. That’s not to say the issue of race cannot be solved, but let’s not try to put a band-aid on an issue which had cut much deeper into our collective psyche.

Will Obama’s address win him the White House? I doubt it. It probably won’t even get him the nomination. Rarely will a subject such as race win someone public office – and if it’s discussed in the wrong way, it can kill your campaign. Also, we will likely forget about it in the days and weeks to come. We still live in the “here and now” as a society. After all, anybody remember how “Super Tuesday” was supposed to decide the race? There’s a lot more campaigning still to come.

We can only hope – and Senator Hillary Clinton touched on this Tuesday – the lasting legacy of this campaign will not be who wins, but rather how we look at race AND gender in our country. This election has already started that process. It’s not that the race or gender card is being played here, but rather the entire deck is being thrown at our feet and we are forced to really face the issue for the first time.

Date Night
March 18, 2008

I’m not sure how this came up, but the other day a friend of mine who happens to be a parent told me kids really don’t date anymore. He says they hang out and do things in groups but the pairing off we used to see when we were kids ( I’m talking to all you Gen-X’ers out there ) is pretty much a thing of the past.

That got me to thinking about dating. I remember as a teen, and more as an adult, the fun and excitement of dating. The anticipation towards going out on that Friday or Saturday night with that someone special. I can remember when I first started dating Sharon. While I was into my work here at WTAE back in 1998 when we first went out, Fridays could not arrive soon enough.

I would call her during the week and tell her we would be going somewhere secret – somewhere special. From there, I would make plans – be it dinner, dancing, whatever. I would not tell her and then we would go out on that date. I would pick her up and we were off for a night of fun and romance.

Sharon and yours truly on a date night last summer

I miss those days. Let’s be honest, dating is a different animal when you are married to that person. Much of the fun of dating is the mystery. You are still learning about that person and what makes them tick. You are riding an emotional high when you first date. Once you get married, you tend to know everything about that person – and probably a thing or two you would rather not.

So can you be married and date? Of course you can, but it just takes a little more work. I have discovered that with Sharon it’s not the grand night on the town, rather the small things that seem to bring her joy. It’s not flowers, but maybe a nice written note. It’s not a declaration of love, but rather a phone call to say “hi”. Most of all, it’s not about spending money and taking her to the most lavish place in town, but rather trying a new place around the corner as we did last weekend.

No, you can never date the way you once did — but why would you? You know this person now, so date night feels different so why not approach it differently? Of course, there is still some mystery there … as there will always be Sharon and I.

Chasing Hillary
March 17, 2008

It proved to be the ultimate photo op.

Senator Hillary Clinton strolling down Grant Street in Pittsburgh, walking in step with the Governor, Allegheny County’s chief executive and the mayor of the city. Around them, banners upon banners supporting her bid for the White House and thousands more cheering her as she moved down the parade route.

Yes, Saturday morning’s appearance in Pittsburgh’ Saint Patrick’s Day parade was a can’t miss success for the former first lady. It had that “Presidential” look about it: giving those who watched the impression that she was Pittsburgh’s pick for the White House whether that is true or not.

I had a unique vantage point to witness this spectacle: part parade and part campaign ad. The media was placed on a truck in front of the candidate. While it would seem the obvious place to put the media, it was also a calculation on the part of the campaign. The goal was for our cameras to capture the so-called “money shot” of Clinton walking with thousands cheering behind her.

Because she walked the route, she had access to people along the street … but not the media. The campaign did a good job of keeping us close, but arm’s length away from the candidate. We wound up getting the video, but were unable to get an interview.

However, not everything went as the Clinton campaign might have planned. There was a moment before the parade where the Obama supports showed up in force and shouted at the Clinton supporters … and along the parade route there were many green Obama signs in what I thought was the best organized effort when it comes to a public display by the Obama campaign in western Pennsylvania.

There was one other moment I won’t forget. As Senator Clinton was starting the parade, I looked over at the crowd from my vantage point on the truck preceding her. I think a few people must have recognized me because all of the sudden I heard my name being chanted. I guess for one moment I had the crowd .. before candidate Clinton took control.

Inspiring & Disturbing
March 14, 2008

First — something truly disturbing

What is going on with the way pets are being mistreated ( abused to be honest ) by local people in the last week. I know animal cruelty has always been a problem, but the last days has been down right disturbing.

No doubt you saw the story about the killing of dogs in Fayette county – dogs that were hung and burned in an apparent satanic ritual. There have also been dogs and cats found living in deplorable conditions … often emaciated.

You don’t have to be a dog owner to be repulsed by such stories of inhumane treatment, but as a dog owner I clutch by little bischon poodle a little tighter when I hear such stories. You wish you could do something – and truth is we really can’t because society views animals much different that people and their lives are not valued as much by societal standards. I mean have you ever heard of someone going to prison for the death of a dog?

Usually when I blog, I offer up solutions to societal ills. I have none today. I just wanted to write about it. Just wanted to share my personal feelings about something so cruel and heinous that I believe more severe punishment is warranted for those offenders. However, given that our legal system struggles to punish those that kill human beings, I doubt we’ll see any changes in its approach to animals .. and that is truly sad.

Let’s finish this Friday with something inspiring

The American Lung Association will hold “Climb Pittsburgh II” Saturday, March 29th. It’s an amazing – and somewhat crazy event. Climbing 760 steps to the top of the Gulf Tower downtown. It’s all about raising awareness of lung disease and raising money to battle the illness.

Last year, many of us from channel 4 took the first challenge and climbed the one thousand steps at the Oxford Center. It was the most exhausting and yet the most rewarding event. This year, we want to do something a little different.

We’re breaking up into three teams. Each squad captained by a WTAE personality:

Andrew Stockey’s Steppers
Ashley DiParlo’s Ascenders
Moving On Up with Michelle Wright

Already, I’m out in front because some one has already joined my team — and you can do the same. Just go to the climbpittsburgh website and click on the bright green “Register Now” button. From there, you can choose which team you want to join — although we all know which team will wind up being on top.
Just to add to the fun — the city firefighters have asked me to put on their oxygen tanks and firefighting equipment and join them as we climb the stairs. I told them I would do it — as long as I could walk the 38 floors ( Hey, that’s 88 pounds of gear we’re talking about ).
Please join us for Climb Pittsburgh II … and please join my team. Today! I need bragging rights in the building.
Have a great weekend!

New York State of Mind
March 13, 2008

You have to wonder about the state of mind the city of New York and the state of New York with the latest items coming out of the Empire State.
First, the sex scandal involving Governor Elliot Spitzer. In case you haven’t turned on the all-news channels in the last few days, the governor was forced to resign amid an investigation which found he had paid a high-priced call girl service $4300 a pop ( pardon the expression ) for sexual favors. The case really became a big deal because Spitzer built his reputation as a prosecutor who went after the immoral members of society and the business community. Heck, his nickname was “Mr. Clean”.

Disgraced Governor Elliot Spitzer and his wife, Silda
While I could go so many directions on this mess, one thing has caught my attention and will not let go. Spitzers‘ wife, Selda. A high-powered attorney herself and mother of three, she has been seen “standing by her man” in every public appearance by Spitzer since the scandal broke. Now I am not a woman and will never understand the emotions she is experiencing during this traumatic time. That being said, I cannot understand why she is calmly standing by her husband – other than to make sure she gets her share of the big payout from divorce that you know is coming.
I’m waiting for her to yell, scream and then slap Spitzer is public and she has every right to do so. The man was with a prostitute — in essence, brought a third person into their bedroom. How can she be so calm amid such a horrible sin? Of course, I’m not privy to discussions behind closed doors. I have never met Silda, but she must be one incredible woman. A woman who truly loves her husband unconditionally .. at least for now.

On a lighter note, the Pittsburgh Pirates are once again the punchline to a joke. The Bucs, who haven’t played winning baseball since the early 90’s, will face the New York Yankees. It’s an exhibition game made significant only by the fact that comedian Billy Crystal will be in the line-up. Signing a one-day contract with the team, the 59-year-old ( that’s right, 50 ) will take the field for his beloved Yankees.

Yankee-for-a-day Billy Crystal

I think it’s kind of fun that the Yankees would allow Crystal to play ball for the day – bringing a media throng and national attention to a meaningless spring training game. It might also be the most attention the Buccos get all year. That being said, there are players on both teams who are upset Crystal is being allowed to take part in a big league game.

For those players with the problem, let me offer this advice: Get over it! I know baseball has these rules and traditions and sacred code, but the game is still reeling from steroid allegations and needs to relate to the common fan once again. Allowing an entertainer to live out his dream gives fans at least the belief that the national game still has their interests at heart. Look boys of summer, it’s not an official game so who will it hurt if Crystal plays? Perhaps the ego of the Pirate pitcher that gives up a home run to a 59-year-old man.
photo courtesy: Associated Press

On the Campaign Trail
March 11, 2008

You may have noticed that I was at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, PA during Tuesday’s noon broadcasts. Get used to it. You will see me on the road with the candidates as part of our Commitment 2008 Coverage on Channel 4 Action News. I’ll be following the former President as he meets with the people of Erie Wednesday.

No matter how cynical we get as a people, there is still something special when a President – sitting or former – comes to our town. Such was the case with Bill Clinton’s appearance at W& J on Tuesday. Agree with him or not in his assessment of the 2008 Democratic field, he is still a former commander-in-chief and three thousand came to hear him on the small Washington county campus on Tuesday.

Former President Bill Clinton introduced by W & J senior Kristen Schuh

What struck me about this scene? The mix of people who came out to hear the former President and where those folks were from. While this was a college campus, there were quite a few people who clearly had graduated from college years before .. and what they wanted to hear from Mr. Clinton was in sharp comparison to what the younger people were looking for. While there was a “youthful exuberance” on the part of the young people in the audience, the older patrons wanted to hear about jobs and life getting better in the place they call home.

Speaking of the young people, I was witness to this much talked-about “youth movement” for the first time. While there were students in attendance who were with the college democrat at W& J, there were many college students and young people who wanted to witness the process for themselves. While it remains to be seen whether this “youth quake” favors Obama or Clinton, it will be a force to reckon with in the fall should it continue.

Finally, I saw this enthusiasm personified one young woman. Kristen Shuch is a senior and the President of the W&J Democrats, an organization which she help raise from the doldrums to become 70 strong on a 1500-person campus. She had the duty – and honor – of introducing Bill Clinton. She told me before she took the podium how nervous she was and her dream someday was to have my job.

Suddenly, as I watched her on the podium introduce the President, she transformed from nervous college student to energetic campaigner. The spirit of the moment consuming her as she told the crowd that it was time for a change .. and that the wife of this man standing behind her would create that change. Such is the power of the political process: being able to turn nervousness into energy and apathy into passion.

We can only hope that passion will carry over to the fall – regardless of the candidate young America chooses.

Whose Fault Is It?
March 10, 2008

I think enough of you know me by know through this blog. You know me well enough to know how much I love golf, politics and a good bottle of wine. Know me well enough to know I despise laziness, bad service at a restaurant and the designated hitter rule in baseball.

Well, here’s something else that drives me crazy: the lack of personal responsibility . Case in point, a case in Atlantic City New Jersey in which a woman is suing several casinos in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Her suit claims her gambling addictions ruined her life, causing her to lose $1M. She says she would spend days sitting at the tables gambling .. spending her clients’ money .. and that the casinos were at fault for not noticing her compulsive gambling. She is seeking $20M.

OK, where do I begin, This woman – an educated attorney – is actually blaming the casinos for her addiction? That’s like me going to a restaurant and eating everything on the menu and then blaming the establishment for throwing up afterwards. Are you kidding me?

Her stance is that she is doing this for all the people whom the casino takes advantage of on a daily basis. Well, I will be the first to agree that the casinos do indeed prey on those who can least afford it. If you have ever been on a casino floor like I have, you will see more people on oxygen tanks than any local hospital. Still, this woman – Arelia Magarita Taveras – is not a 70-year-old confined to a wheelchair. She is smart enough to get her college degree and go onto law school. She should be smart enough to know better at the gaming tables.

She says she has lost everything – her home, her savings and her parents home – and for that I am truly sorry. However, no matter what mental illness she has, she needs to take personal responsibility for her actions like we all do. I doubt any of you would bring a suit against the Pennsylvania lottery because you bought a ticket every week for five years and did not win.

Finally, if she is trying to send a message and help others, why sue for $20M. She only lost $1M. That’s the difference between making a statement and just trying to get rich.

Personal responsibility. It’s not much to ask of our citizens. Sure, the little guy gets screwed a lot in our society and often needs to cry foul. However, when stuff like this happens and needless lawsuit ensue, it’s not crying foul. It’s crying wolf.
photo courtesy: Associated Press