Thursday, June 14, 2012

Western Pennsylvania: Where DINOs still rule the earth

Mark Critz, who is running to become my congressman, released the following statement in response to Obama's economic address today:

“President Obama and others in Washington need to realize that we cannot spend our way to prosperity and that to in order to create jobs, we need to address unfair trade deals that ship jobs overseas and enact policies that allow us to take advantage of our vast natural resources such as coal and natural gas in a safe and responsible manner which will lower energy costs and create jobs and approving the Keystone XL Pipeline would be a good first step.”

Now, I'm sure that all the Republicans out there are saying "YEAH! THAT'S RIGHT!" But here's the thing: Critz is a DEMOCRATIC congressman.

So, to all my conservative friends, let me ask you, is there anything that Critz can say that will get him your vote? I mean, if Critz is going to represent your values, a 12th District Republican is better off with someone who already has been in Congress for a term rather than Republican Keith Rothfus, who would be a newcomer.

From my point of view as a Democrat, if Critz is going to vote to defund Planned Parenthood and oppose Keynesian economic programs, why should I support him on Election Day?

It's worth mentioning that the most important difference -- at least to me -- between Critz and my incumbent congressman, Jason Altmire, who lost to Critz in last April's primary, is that Altmire did a lot to publicize my book and Critz didn't do a damn thing, which is why I voted for Altmire (call me corrupt, but if they're both pretty much the same, bribing the voter makes for a great tiebreaker).

In fact, the only person who did more than Altmire to promote my book was Barack Obama (and with his death list and indiscriminate drone raids, that might be the only thing that gets me out to the polls this November).

So Mark Critz ought to be out there promoting my biography of Vietnam War hero Leslie Sabo, who was awarded the Medal of Honor last month by the president. It's called Forgotten Honor. You'd better start mentioning it early and often. Because at this point, that's just about the only way you're getting my vote.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Coaches wanted (applicants should enclose photos of their wives)

By now, anyone with even a passing interest in college football has heard about Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and the odd qualification he has for his assistant coaches.

"I've been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant coach until I've seen his wife," Franklin said last week in a radio interview, according to Yahoo Sports. "If she looks the part, and she's a D-I recruit (one of the nation's best-of-the-best), then you got a chance to get hired. That's part of the deal."

Most of the commentary on the subject has deemed that Franklin is a sexist or a pervert, which kind of misses the point. Franklin isn't making judgements on the women based on their looks. He's making judgements on the coaching applicants based on their wives' looks.

Franklin's theory is that a man confident enough to lay a rap down on a woman who might be out of his league is confident enough to recruit a blue-chip prospect, who by definition is out of Vanderbilt's league.

"There's a very strong correlation between having confidence going up and talking to women, and being quick on your feet and having some personality and confidence and being fun and articulate, than it is walking into a high school and recruiting a kid and selling him," he said in the radio interview.

It kind of makes sense, although there are probably ways of gauging a man's confidence that don't involve putting a number grade to his wife. And wouldn't a REALLY confident guy have a problem with his prospective boss checking out his wife as part of the pre-employment process?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Negative Half of America

According to the Gallup polling organization, 50 percent of Americans identify themselves as "pro-life" on the abortion question, while 41 percent call themselves "pro-choice." According to this graph, that's almost a full swing in public opinion since 1995, when pro-choice walloped pro-life 56 to 32 percent.

But when the question is phrased in specific situations, the support for legal abortion has remained relatively steady that entire span.

Fewer than 20 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases, according to the same polls. Presumably that means that more than 80 percent of Americans believe that rape and incest victims should be allowed to terminate their pregnancy through abortion, and that women should be allowed to end a pregnancy to save their own lives.

I think the overall swing toward pro-life self-identification since 1995 is itself an indicator that Americans view one another more negatively than they did 17 years ago.

But when the question is presented as "pro-choice" or "pro-life," suddenly 50 percent of Americans don't see rape victims or incest victims or women who might die if they carry the child to term. They see the most-inexcusable-case scenario.

They believe that the vast majority of women who seek abortions are sluts who just want to avoid the consequences of their promiscuity. Or that they discovered that they're going to have a girl when they wanted a boy. Then, those people plunk themselves down on the pro-life side.

They're the negative half of America who sees the worst in their fellow Americans.

Likewise, the negative half of America hears "food stamps" and doesn't think about a single mom with two children whose father abandoned them and is using the federal benefit to provide good, nutritious meals for their kids. That half believes that woman isn't representative of those in the program.

The negative half of America believes that it's typical for people to pile their shopping cart high with Doritos and lobster - presumably, they're planning on stuffing the latter with the former - and then whipping out a food stamp card to pay for it. Or that the typical benefit recipient buys booze with their food stamps. Or that they sell their food stamps to buy drugs.

Conservatives have been successful at establishing a narrative that the typical food stamp recipient is abusing the program, and that women who seek abortions do it casually. And once a narrative is established, it's almost impossible to reverse.

Monday, May 28, 2012

When it comes to comedy, this guy should stick to making pizza

I heard about this over the weekend, but didn't realize until today that it was a local story. Apparently some idiot restaurant owner not far from my home thought it would be funny to commemorate Memorial Day by putting a sign in front of his restaurant that read, “Flying Remote Control Airplanes into Muslim People at the Mall is My Thing.”

Here's the thing about humor. If you're going to be culturally, racially or gender insensitive, you'd damn well better be funny. When it comes to comedy, let's just say this guy should stick to flinging pizzas (I spent more than 10 years in that business, so I can make pizza AND be funny - just check out my post below about my trip to Washington D.C. for the Medal of Honor ceremonies for Leslie Halasz Sabo Jr.).

Anyway, one of his supporters decided to double down on the restaurant-owner's stupidity and say that anyone who is offended by the sign should talk to the family of a dead soldier. Well, I talked to the brother of a deceased soldier this morning at my community's Memorial Day parade. Now I want to ask that anyone who approves of the sign to talk to the family of THIS dead soldier.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mr. (and Mrs. and Gareth) Poole Goes to Washington

You know, there is a shoe repair shop in the Pentagon. Go ahead. Ask me how I know that. So I’m walking through the Pentagon last week when my shoe falls apart. The sole just rips off from the heel and it’s flapping against the floors as I go through the halls. The shoe, by the way, was rented along with my suit. I don’t own a suit of my own because I clean up well, but not very often. As I’m flapping through the hall, we’re walking past soldiers, ranked sergeant or higher, at each hallway junction holding a little sign, leading us in the proper direction, because the Pentagon is a big place. And each time I passed one of these soldiers, he said, “You know, we’ve got a shoe repair shop here?” Actually, that’s not surprising as you might think. Unlike the White House or the capitol building, the Pentagon isn’t in Washington D.C. It’s in Arlington, Virginia, and most amenities aren’t within walking distance. Actually, from some places in the building, an exit isn’t within walking distance.
So to meet the needs of those working in the world’s largest office building, there is a veritable mall inside the Pentagon. They have a CVS pharmacy, a Redbox video rental location and several other shops, including a shoe-repair place. Considering that most of the people working in the Pentagon are uniformed military, whose career prospects depend at least in part, on the condition of their footwear, there should be a shoe repair shop on the premises. So after the fourth or fifth time one of the soldiers said, “You know, we have a shoe repair shop here?” I decided to get the thing fixed. As outsiders, we weren’t allowed to go anywhere alone, so they broke off a Special Forces major to escort me to the shoe repair shop. A freaking Green Beret. This guy probably led commando raids in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can imagine the conversation when he got home from work that night: “How was your day, honey?” “I had to escort some schmuck to the shoe repair shop.”
I was in the Pentagon – a secure building that restricts entry only to people who have business there. Or by invitation, and I was invited. My wife, son and I were among more than 100 people who turned up last week in Washington D.C. to attend the Medal of Honor award to Vietnam War hero Leslie Halasz Sabo Jr. Sabo, who was killed on May 10, 1970, might have prevented what would have been the largest mass killing of U.S. troops since the Malmedy massacre during the Battle of the Bulge. He was recommended immediately for the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for combat valor, but the paperwork went missing until 1999, when 101st Airborne Division veteran Tony Mabb found Sabo’s file in the National Archives and began pressuring to have the investigation reopened. He served in Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment – the same regiment that included Easy Company of “Band of Brothers” fame during World War II. I’m the author of Sabo’s biography, “Forgotten Honor,” which earned my invitation to the once-in-a-lifetime experience of attending ceremonies in the White House and Pentagon. As a prelude to the May 16 ceremony at the White House, I rented a business suit – and the aforementioned matching shoes – because I clean up well. Just not very often. I, my wife, Dawna, and son, Gareth – we left our 4-year-old daughter, Calista, with a babysitter because we deemed her too young to sit patiently through the ceremonies -- set off through multiple levels of security that gave us the right to be in the same room as the President of the United States.
After going through the first two, of four, levels of security, we waited in line to get into the White House with Ben Currin, a soldier who served alongside Sabo in Vietnam, and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (pictured above), a Democrat who represents the Denver suburbs in Congress. Perlmutter used some of his office’s discretionary funds to help some of Sabo’s comrades and family members with air fare and the $224-a-night cost of staying in the Sheraton National Hotel near the Pentagon, which served as staging area and a reunion venue for the veterans of Bravo Company. After the perfunctory introductions, Perlmutter said, “You look familiar,” and rifles through a handful of papers he was holding before producing a photocopy of this article. Currin, who stayed in the Army after Vietnam and was a team leader in the Army’s elite Golden Knights parachuting team, chatted with Perlmutter about the 1988 AFC Championship Game Currin and his team jumped into Mile High Stadium, then home of the Denver Broncos, as we enter the White House. We go into the East Room – where the president traditionally makes public indoor White House speeches and announcements. The address is typically eloquent for Obama, who mentions the shabby treatment Vietnam veterans received when they returned home. Fittingly, the ceremony’s longest and loudest applause is reserved for the more than two dozen veterans of Bravo Company seated immediately to the president’s left.
Then the president invited us to dine at a reception in the White House’s East Wing by saying, “I hear the food’s pretty good here.” And the food was good, if you like fancy dining. I stayed toward the Oriental chicken skewers and beef medallions-on-a-stick. Like most of the other 100-plus guests, I initially go for the champagne until I see the bottle of Yuengling Light at the open bar. As a Yuengling – but not usually Yuengling Light – drinker, I realized that the opportunity to have my brand of beer at the White House comes along, by my count, twice in a lifetime. Once when I had my first glass and then five minutes later when I had my second glass. Because I don’t always drink light beer, but when I do, I pay for it with my tax dollars.
The White House ceremony marked the third time I’ve been at the same event with a president, fourth if you count fictional presidents. I was closer to Obama than I was to Clinton, further away than I was from Bush. And further away than I was from Josiah Bartlett – there’s a close up of the back of my head in the opening shot of “20 Hours In America,” the Season Four opener for “The West Wing.” Barack and Michelle met with Rose Sabo-Brown, Leslie’s widow, and George and Olga Sabo, Leslie’s brother and sister-in-law, and I heard second-hand that Michelle cried when she heard Leslie’s story. For me, though, the highlight was getting the chance to reacquaint myself with the Bravo Company veterans, some of whom came home only because of Leslie’s sacrifice. One of the best parts of Leslie Sabo’s story is that he helped bring his comrades together – the unit started having reunions about 10 years ago, after Mabb found Sabo’s file and began contacting the Bravo Company veterans. Mabb’s inquiries coincided with an expanded growth of the internet. Bravo Company veteran Rick Clanton set up a web site that reconnected the soldiers who gathered last week in Washington, D.C. I was at Bravo Company’s 2009 reunion and the interviews I did there formed a large part of my book. Most of them are retired now, having spent the last four decades working, living and raising children in a country that had little or no respect for their sacrifice. On Wednesday night, between the White House and Pentagon ceremonies Bravo Company held a ceremony of its own to recognize Sabo along with the other 17 men the unit lost between Jan. 1 and May 10, 1970. The other two ceremonies, featured – for the most part – politicians who never knew the men of whom they spoke. Wednesday night’s flag ceremony featured the words of men speaking of the friends and comrades, whom they knew and lost. Impressive men, all.
During both ceremonies, the military provided us with several escorts, none of whom were ranked lower than sergeant. My wife and I were talking to a couple of lieutenant colonels who said being named to the honor contingent was a coveted duty – even the uniformed military don’t meet the commander-in-chief every day. On Sept. 11, 2001, one of the lieutenant colonels was working in the Pentagon when it was clobbered by a terrorist-piloted passenger jet. The other one was stationed just outside the Pentagon. For the most part, they served a ceremonial purpose, a reminder of the reason all those people in suits were there. At the Pentagon ceremony, they also were human GPS, keeping we outsiders on the correct path. The Pentagon ceremony was, personally, a little more gratifying than the White House ceremony had been. In sequence, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta referred to my book during their speeches. Panetta had the line of the day, though. He said that Leslie and George Sabo had good taste because, “both of them married Italian girls.” Rose Sabo-Brown is the former Rose Buccelli – her father, Carmen, earned a Silver Star during World War II. George married the former Olga Nocera. The thing Panetta didn’t realize when he said that is, if you live in Ellwood City and you refuse to consider going out with Italian girls, you’re cutting your dating pool at least in half. For some people, following Odierno, McHugh and Panetta might have been a rough trick. But George Sabo delivered a heartfelt speech about his family and his brother, and upstaged three of the U.S. Army’s highest-ranking officials. Sabo thanked a long list of people he credited for the Medal of Honor award – modesty prevents me from providing a complete list. But if you get to the end of the 45-minute ceremony linked above, you can hear what he said about me.
While my shoe is being repaired after the ceremony, I’m strolling around the Pentagon dining room with only one shoe on during a post-ceremony reception. After a few minutes, I went back to get the shoe, accompanied this time by a sergeant from the Army’s public affairs office. On the way back, she said, “So what’s your connection to the Sabo family?” “I wrote Leslie Sabo’s biography.” “Oh,” she said. “You’re Eric Poole.” A few minutes later, a defense department employee entered the dining hall with an armload of my books, which were distributed to members of the Sabo families. Two of those copies were autographed by the President, Gen. Odierno and Army Secretary McHugh and distributed to Rose Sabo-Brown and George Sabo. Seeing that was really cool, but one thing occurred to me – those might be the only two books in existence whose value would decrease if they were signed by the author.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Obama admits to being born in Kenya; former president arrested by U.S. Marshals

Look at your calendar.

And if I got some Tea Partier hopes up, you're welcome.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Trayvon Martin's biggest mistake wasn't wearing a hoodie; it was bringing Skittles to a gunfight

This column was published March 29 in the Ellwood City Ledger, but hasn't been posted on the paper's website, so I'm putting it here.

At this point in his career, Geraldo Rivera could get an integrity transplant from Bernie Madoff and he’d come out on the plus side if he swapped brains with Bristol Palin or any of the Kardashians.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Rivera went off half-cocked – or, as they call it on Fox News, after thoughtful consideration – and blame the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin not on, y’know, the guy who shot him, but on the hooded sweatshirt, known in street parlance as “hoodie,” that Martin was wearing.

Martin was killed on his way home from a shopping trip to get candy and iced tea by a man who believed that a black face in a white neighborhood was automatically suspicious. But Rivera apparently believed that Martin’s hooded sweatshirt was the key factor.

‘Cause drug addicts don’t rob convenience stores. Hoodies rob convenience stores.

Oh, wait, drug addicts DO rob convenience stores. But sometimes they wear hoodies. Here in Ellwood City, it’s easy to see the cow-feces-polluted source waters for Rivera’s stream of unconsciousness. As Rivera hinted, if street crime had a uniform, it would include the hooded sweatshirt.

Over the last two months there have been three armed robberies Ellwood City’s downtown. Of the five suspects in those robberies – including the two arrested last week, all of them were described as wearing hooded sweatshirts.

On Feb. 2, when Ellwood City police was sweeping the town in search of the man who robbed the High Voltage hair salon at gunpoint, officers detained a man because his red hoodie matched the clothing reportedly worn by the gunman.

It turned out that the man who was detained didn’t rob the hair salon. But police found drugs and drug paraphernalia in his possession.

And Lincoln High School has banned hoodies from most of the school during most of the day, on the grounds that the sweatshirts provide space to steal stuff while going through the school lunch line.

But, y’know, when people manage to wear hoodies all day without committing a crime, that doesn’t end up in the newspaper. And Rivera probably wasn’t seriously looking to charge Martin’s hooded sweatshirt for his fatal shooting on Feb. 26.

He was trying to shift blame for Martin’s death away from George Zimmerman, the guy who pulled the trigger.

Rivera’s “blame the hoodie” doctrine was only the first, unsteady effort to get Zimmerman off the hook in the court of public opinion – he’s probably already OK with the Florida judicial system, thanks to that state’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people to claim self-defense if they’re scared.

This week’s efforts are proving more successful, as Zimmerman’s defenders are now seizing on reports that Martin knocked him down with “one punch,” and that Zimmerman’s nose was broken in the encounter.

Yeah, here’s the thing. I don’t care.

Any injuries Zimmerman allegedly sustained don’t make him a victim. In the half of America where “stand your ground” is not law of the land, Martin would have had the only claim of self-defense in that Feb. 26 encounter. His tragic mistake was bringing Skittles to a gunfight.

The irony here is that Zimmerman, through his friends and an attorney, claims that he was defending himself when, in reality, he tracked Martin through a housing development in Sanford, Fla., like a hunter stalking human prey.

And if it seems a little unhinged to blame Martin’s death on hoodies or anything else, that’s because it is.