Monday, January 31, 2011

Get your Stiller on...

Super Bowl Week
A Clairton icon passes: Before we get on to the Steeler stuff, I would be remiss if I did not mention the passing of one of Clairton’s icons. When I was a lad and walked to school (did not take a ride on a school bus until I was 21) up St. Clair Avenue, I passed the Corner Store, Cities’ Service, Tomich Atlantic Service, the Blue Bird, Gazda’s Electric, Russo’s Hardware, and many other businesses, nearly all locally owned. Over the years most closed or sold out; some such as Beckavac’s, Clairton Hardware, Skapik’s, Clairton Sport Shop, and Russo’s Hardware were taken over by the next generation. We recently received word that Rose Russo passed away. She was so typical of Clairton families whose businesses provided the food, clothing, hardware, and even funeral services for our community. She was a wonderful woman who raised a great family. May she rest in peace.

Keeping in touch: I have been inundated with emails about the Steelers and Pittsburgh ever since the post-season began. My thanks to Bill Whitworth, Carol Walsh, Neil James, Jean Jordan Dorothy Valvo, Steve Rudish, Ralph Posmoga, Mitzi Buechele, Dee Martin, Kathy George, Doe Smoyer, Joe and Regina Klein, Mike Hollowood, Jay Graft, Bernie Stokes, Earl Maksin, Margie Porreco, Louise Taylor, Carl Blackburn, Geno Tolari, Anna Marie Bochter, Bob White, Maryann Achorn, Cal Sabo, Lee Weber, and all the other wonderful Clairton folks who sent along Steeler good wishes. My apologies if I missed your name. Below is a sample of the good words:


Being a Steeler fan means so much more than football. It means being from a corner of the world unlike any other.

It means being from a place where the people are so tough-minded that they have
survived the Homestead strikes, the Johnstown flood, the Clairton Works explosion, and most recently the Etna Floods. These people have the DNA of hard work, in mills and mines, without the necessity of complaint. They live simply, with no frills. They don't have movie stars or fancy cars.

Instead, they have simple traditions like kielbasa, Kennywood, and celebrations.
They live in distinctive neighborhoods like Polish Hill and the Hill District and all of the surrounding counties. These people are genuine.

They don't have chic internet cafes and cappuccinos, but they have The Original Hot Dog joint, Primanti's, Eat n' Park and Iron City Beer. People from Pittsburgh don't have sunny beaches or fancy boats, but the rivers roll gently, connecting the small towns of people whose histories have been built on strength and humility.

People from Pittsburgh don't have the biggest shopping malls or the best nightclubs, but they'll take Friday night high school football and Steeler Sunday over anything.

Steeler football means so much more than you think. It symbolizes a Diaspora of generations who had the best childhood they could imagine. They ran free without a care or concern in the valleys of those Allegheny Mountains. Their blue-collar world was easy ... there was no one to tell them that they lacked material things. There was no one to tell them that they needed more.

As the steel mills closed and the jobs disappeared, some of these people had to leave. While the world benefits because they spread their Pittsburgh values, they long for their home where things were simpler and more pure.

They teach their kids about Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Joe Greene, and Myron Cope in hopes of imparting not just the knowledge, but the feeling that they represented.

They are everywhere, those Terrible Towels. They wave, not just for the team, but for the hearts they left behind.

They wave in living rooms in Fort Lauderdale and in the bars of Washington , D.C. They wave all the way to the Seattle Superdome! They wave for the Rooney family, whose values mirror our own - loyalty, grit, and humility.

They wave for football players like Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward, whose unselfishness and toughness have allowed sports to be about the game and the team.

Make no mistake that Steeler football is not just about football. I could not be prouder to be from the Pittsburgh area than I am right now!!

Even if you no longer live in the area, you have South Western Pennsylvania in your blood no matter where you go.

And deep down in your heart of hearts, you can still hear the Super Bowls of times past, the excitement in everyone's voices especially our fathers, cousins, and anyone else who gathered around the TV on Football Sundays!

Make no mistake, its just as exciting right now! It's not just about rivalries and who is better than the other; it's about family, tradition and roots! It's more than football, but its football at its finest! If you now live in Arizona , Colorado , Ohio , Indiana , California , Florida , Nevada , or Texas , be proud of where you were born and who your FIRST favorite football team was!

Go Steelers

Picksburgh GO STILLERS! Ah yes! "Picksburgh"

Yunz is from the Picksburgh area or maybe you grew up there if:

1. You didn't have a spring break in high school.

2. You walk carefully when it is "slippy" outside.

3. You often go down to the "crick."

4. You've told your children to "red up" their rooms.

5. You can remember telling your little brother/sister to stop being so " nebby."

6. You've gotten hurt by falling into a "jaggerbush".

7. Your mother or grandmother has been seen wearing a "babushka" on her head.

8. You've "worshed" the clothes.

9. I ask you to hand me one of those "Gum-Bands" an' you actually know what I'm talking about.

10. You know you can't drive too fast on the back roads, because of the deer.

11. You know Beaver Valley, Turtle Crick, Mars, Slippery Rock, Greentree and New Castle are names of towns. And you've been to most, if not all, of them.

12. A girl walks up to three of her girl friends and says, "HEY,YUNZ GUYS!"

13. You hear "you guyses" and don't think twice. Example: "you guyses hause is nice."

14. You know the three rivers by name and understand that "The Point" isn’t just on a writing instrument.

15. Someone refers to "The Mon" or "The Yough" and you know exactly what they're talking about.

16. You remember the blizzard o f 1993 (or 1976, or 1950, or 1939,or...) and remember not being able to go outside because the snow was over your head and you would have suffocated.

17. Someone starts the chant, "Here we go Still-ers!" and you join in the proper cadence, waving the appropriately colored towel.

18. Bob Prince and "There's a bug loose on the rug." hold special meaning for you.

19. You've either eaten a Farkleberry Tart or know someone who has.

20. You drink pop, eat hoagies, love perogies and one of your favorite sandwiches actually has coleslaw and French fries ON it.

21. You know what a "still mill" is.

22. You expect temps in the winter to be record-breaking cold and temps in the
summer to be record-breaking hot.

23. You know what Eat 'N Park is and frequently ate breakfast there at 2:00 AM
after the bar closed and made fun of people.

24. You order "dippy eggs" in a restaurant and get exactly what you wanted.

25. You spent your summers, or a school picnic at Luna Park , Kennywood, Westview, Sand Castle , or Idlewild.

26. You've been to the Braun's Bread Plant or Story Book Forest for a school field trip. We went to the Heinz plant and the Isaly's plant for Cub Scouts.

27. "Chipped ham" was always in your refrigerator when you was growin'up.

28. You refuse to buy any condiments besides Heinz unless a Pittsburgh athlete's picture is on the side of the container.

29. When you call the dog or the kids you shout, "Kum-mere" and they come.

30. Franco, Roberto, and Mario don't need last names and you can recite their exploits by heart.

31. Food at a wedding reception consists of rigatoni, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut and polska kielbasa.

(from an IUP coop teacher over in Johnstown .)
It's winter in Pennsylvania
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour
At twenty-five below.

Oh, how I love Pennsylvania
When the snow's up to your butt
You take a breath of winter
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful
So I guess I'll hang around
I could never leave Pennsylvania
'Cause I'm frozen to the ground!!
A little blogging music Maestro… “Those Were the Days,” by Mary Hopkin.

Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More thoughts on guns and the Tucson massacre

The United States of A-Massacre?
Guns, A follow-up

My recent commentary on guns in the wake of the recent shootings brought many responses; some angry, some thought provoking. Several who wrote thought I was attacking the Second Amendment. Others felt I was picking on the political right. One person, in response to the weekend mass murder in Tucson, stated, “He could have done the same thing with a stick of dynamite.” Many defended their right to carry a weapon, either concealed (with a proper permit) or not. The responses led me to do additional research that revealed the following data. I draw no conclusions, but report the data.

Definition: the term mass murder or massacre is defined as the taking the life of three or more people during the same incident.

Mark Kopta, a professor of Psychology at the University of Evansville, IN has studied mass murders. In a paper presented to the Midwestern Psychological Association in Chicago in 2009, he reported that between 1930 and 1970 a total of three mass murders were reported in America. Three more followed in the 1970s. The 1980s had a total of 10, the 1990s 17, and before the close of the first decade of the new millennium there had been more than 25 mass killings. Six occurred in 2008 and within the first four months of 2009 there had been eight.

I then Googled Mass Murders by year going back 20 years and discovered the following PARTIAL results:

1991: Austin TX, four killed, Killeen, TX 23 killed, 20 wounded.
1992: Olivehurst, CA, four killed, 9 wounded.
1993: Palatine, TX, seven killed. San Francisco, CA, 9 killed, 6 wounded.
1997: Jonesboro, AR, 5 killed, 11 wounded
1999: Ft. Worth, TX, 7 killed, 7 wounded, Honolulu, HI, 7 killed, 1 wounded, Atlanta, GA, 13 killed, Littleton, CO 15 killed, 26 wounded.

2000: Wakefield, MA, 7 killed, Wichita, KS, 5 killed.
2002: Washington DC Beltway area: 11 killed, six wounded.
2003: Meridian, MS, seven killed, eight wounded.
2004: Fresno, CA, nine killed, two wounded, McKinney, TX, five killed.
2005: Red Lake, MN, nine killed, Brookfield, WI, eight killed.
2006: Santa Barbara, CA, seven killed, Indianapolis, IN, seven killed
2007: Blacksburg, VA, 33 killed, Salt Lake City, UT, six killed, Amish School, PA, six killed.

2008: Henderson, KY, six killed, one wounded, Kirkwood, MO, seven killed, one wounded, Chicago, IL, 5 killed, one wounded, Covina, CA, 10 killed, three wounded, Omaha, NB, nine killed, four wounded, Dekalb, IL, five killed, 18 wounded
2009: Upstate, NY, 19 killed, Ft. Hood, TX, 13 killed, 30 wounded
2010: St. Louis, MO, four killed, five wounded, Appomattox, VA, eight killed, Manchester, CT: nine killed, two wounded, Kennesaw, GA, three killed, two wounded, Huntsville, AL, three killed, two wounded.
2011: Tucson, AZ: six killed, 14 wounded.

With the exception of six of the above who were stabbed to death, all others were shot.

Guns per capita: The following countries have fewer than ten guns per 100 people: Nigeria, China, India, Philippines, Iran, U.K., Columbia, Brazil, Ukraine, and Russia. Only three countries have more than 40 guns per 100 people. They are: Switzerland (46 guns per 100 people – the government supplies the weapons for their citizen militia), Yemen (61 guns per 100 people) and the United States which has 90 guns per 100 people!

There are about 82 people killed by guns in the U.S. every day and 547 people per day wounded. Only Mexico, Estonia, and Brazil have a higher firearm-related death rate than does the U.S.

The United States has had four presidents assassinated by guns (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy) two injured but not killed (Roosevelt and Reagan), and at least 20 known assassination attempts on sitting, former, or presidents elect. Our neighbors to the south have had two presidents assassinated (Abraham Gonzales in 1913 and Venustiano Carranza in 1920) and our neighbors to the north have never had a presidential assassination.

Guns have been part of America’s culture since the U.S. became a country. Militias of the early U.S. stood in lieu of a standing army. As the country’s population expanded westward guns were used to provide food, keep the peace, and settle disputes. But we are no longer under the direct threat of invasion from another country – at least not an invasion that would be repelled by handguns. And the only game-related shooting takes place while shooting the bull during shopping for dinner. Disputes are still sometimes settled with weapons, especially in poor inner-city ghettos, but as a rule the law settles disputes. Perhaps it is time to reexamine our gun culture to see whether or not changes need to be made.

Postscript: In my previous poston this topic I might have left the impression that political vitriol was somehow responsible for the shooting in Tucson. The converse of such a statement would suggest that if only vitriol were removed from politics, such incidents would not happen. Of course that is folly.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Commentary on guns

An American Tragedy
The Gun Culture

Let me preface my diatribe today by saying that I was born and raised in the community in Western Pennsylvania that was the setting for the movie “The Deer Hunter.” During part of my youth my father was a police officer, so I am not unfamiliar with either the mentality of man’s need to hunt, as depicted in the movie, or the issue of having guns in one’s home. It is reported that nearly one-third of Americans own registered guns. In my youth I was among them. Because of a business and the daily receipts carried home after closing. I purchased a small .22 pistol for security. “Shooting parks” for gun owners exist throughout the country and most make a handsome profit as the result of the millions who patronize them. There is a time and a place for guns. I get it.

But somehow, as we so often do in our society, we have allowed gun ownership to become a right of every American regardless of race, creed, national origin, criminal history, or mental status. Proponents of guns cite the second amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The purpose of the constitutional amendment is rarely discussed when it is used as a club to support a political position. The Second Amendment was written because, having been oppressed by a professional army in the 1700s, the founding fathers of the United States had no use for establishing one of their own. Instead, they decided that an armed citizenry makes the best army of all. I daresay that no sane, rational American in the year 2011 believes that an armed citizenry would be called upon to fight an invading foreign enemy today. And oh yes, today we have our own Army…. and Navy…. and Air Force… and Marine Corps…. and Coast Guard…. and National Guard….. and Reserve units. So it is safe to say that the purpose for which the second amendment was established no longer exists.

Still, guns proliferate in our communities and are available to anybody willing to attend a gun show and purchase one, buy one legitimately at a gun store, or break into a house to steal one, can obtain one or more guns. The result is that so many innocent people have been victimized, their families shattered, and the lives of so many who become collateral damage and are changed forever. There have been hundreds, if not thousands of mass shooting incidents. Nearly a half century ago a young man named Charles Whitman locked himself in the tower at the University of Texas and began shooting people on the campus, killing 16 and injuring 32. More than a decade ago two students at Columbine High School in Colorado went on a killing spree, and nearly four years ago, Seung-hui Cho went on a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech University, killing 32 and wounding scores more. And of course, last Saturday, a gunman in Arizona shot 20 innocent victims, including a congresswoman, a federal judge, and a nine-year old girl, killing six. After each incident, and others too numerous to list, there is a short-term hue and cry but no changes to our gun culture or gun laws. In fact, after each such incident the opposition to gun regulation spends even more money to lobby harder to allow, if not encourage the gun culture to continue to proliferate.

The availability of guns is only one symptom to the disease that has infected our country. Hate talk and heated political rhetoric that foul the airwaves daily often imply that violence is not only acceptable, but is the answer to issues in our society. When our current president took office the point was made. The head of the National Rifle Association, a pro-gun lobbying group that pays tens of millions of dollars to politicians who vote in their favor stated, “The guys with the guns make the rules.”

During the most recent presidential election and participants in Congressional forums and Presidential debates made a point of carrying guns openly in public at the events. A candidate for office in my own state was quoted as saying that citizens unhappy with election results should consider exercising their “Second Amendment remedies.” During the most recent elections, a former vice-presidential candidate placed gun targets, cross-hairs, on those who she felt should be ousted from office. Sadly one of those cross-hair targets became prophetic when Congresswoman Giffords was murdered in Arizona Saturday.

From Washington we have heard eloquence from our political leaders that offered prayers and condolences. We’ve heard them express shock and horror at the loss of innocent lives. We heard a moment of silence and the cancellation of all work in the House of Representatives to commemorate the loss of one of their own. We’ve heard nothing about hate speech, a gun culture, or the ease of obtaining them.

The guns used by Cho at Virginia Tech, and the alleged shooter in Arizona are said to be Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistols, a type of rapid-fire weapon available only to police in virtually every other country except the U.S. Here they can be legally purchased in thousands of gun shops, gun shows, and other venues. It is estimated that there are more guns in America than there are Americans!

The alleged shooter in Arizona does not typify political discord any more than the shooter at Virginia Tech typified college students on that campus, or the shooters at the University of Texas and Columbine High School and the many, many other shooting tragedies typified mainstream America. But the ease with which they were able to secure the guns that are literally “weapons of mass destruction,” and the impunity with which they used those weapons must be addressed. But how? My suggestion follows:

Every politician who has ever run against an incumbent has done so with the promise of change. I suggest we use that model and adopt the slogan, “Change the gun laws, change the hate culture.”

The gun laws: We must first examine legitimate reasons for having guns; handguns for target shooting and protection - long guns for target shooting and hunting. Any weapon is not designed to those activities must be banned except for law enforcement. Just is a 9mm Glock rapid fire with clips that can shoot dozens of bullets in a fraction of a second are not needed for target shooting or protection, neither are Uzis or assault rifles needed to bring down game.

The hate culture: I’m not so sure this one can be legislated. Just as morality or, for that matter, stupidity, cannot be legislated, neither can a “kinder, gentler America.” That task falls to the people of America. I’ve lived through eras during which Americans cared for their fellow man instead of spewing hate at those who would think, act, or talk differently, so I know it can be done. But I leave the “how” to those who are smarter and more energetic than I.