Nov 07

What did JoPa know and when did he know it?

No one's smiling in Penn State University's Happy Valley today. Long-time assistant coach Jerry Joe-PaternoSandusky has been accused of 40 counts of inappropriate contact with eight young boys, ranging from touching to statutory rape.

If he's found guilty, the Nittany Lions coach may spend the rest of his life in jail. And, two other PSU officials have resigned in the shocking scandal's aftermath.

The really big questions, though, are swirling around legendary PSU coach Joe Paterno (or, JoPa, as he's affectionately known). The winningest football coach in Division One history says he was told about the allegations in 2002 and passed them up the food chain, but that's it. Pretty weak, no?

I think JoPa's in denial. I think the head coach knew about Sandusky's hijinks all along. And, worse, I think he helped cover it up in a Nixonian bid to maintain his power base (clearly, the guy has no interest in ever retiring).

Paterno certainly had the power and motivation to cover-up the scandal if he chose to do so. After all, Sandusky was his top lieutenant for decades.

Regardless of what he did or didn't know, JoPa's legacy will be forever tainted by the Happy Valley scandal.

And, depending upon how aggressive top school officials are in admitting fault and implementing change, the university itself may be likened to a collegiate version of The Vatican. Maybe the school will even take a page out of the Church's play book and blame others for its own sins (i.e. “Sadly, Assistant Coach Sandusky is yet another victim of the sexual liberation that pervaded the 1960s.”).

For the sake of the school's image, if not his own, Coach Paterno needs to come clean and answer two basic, Watergate-inspired questions:

– What did JoPa know?
– And, when did he know it?

His answers will determine whether the sex scandal is an unfortunate footnote to JoPa's legendary career or college coaching's version of Watergate. If the latter proves to be the case, I wonder if David Frost might be interested in a sequel? Nah. 'Frost: Paterno' doesn't have the same panache.

Jul 20

From ambassador to vigilante

When United and Continental merged, the move was accompanied by the usual marketing hoopla.  AaaaaaaaaaaaE-mails promising 'increased efficiency,' 'greater service,' and 'expanded routes' were routinely pushed to this long-time Continental customer.

But, almost immediately, I noticed a slow, but steady, deterioration. First, my long-time Gold Elite status simply disappeared with no explanation whatsoever. Then, my regular routes began experiencing far more delays than before.

But, the real clincher occurred over the past few days as I attempted to fly home from Portland, Maine, to Newark.

My original flight was scheduled to depart at 1pm on Monday. At about 6pm Sunday evening, though, I received a trip alert e-mail notifying me the flight had been canceled. No explanation was provided. A second e-mail followed shortly thereafter. It provided a URL and 888 number for me to call "…with any questions." I had a question all right, "How the hell was I supposed to get home?"

We dutifully called the number provided and, after the usual 15-minute wait and countless bilingual prompts, we reached a live person. She told us she'd book us on the next available flight from Portland to Newark. The scheduled departure time was now 7pm on Monday night. Oh, she said our original flight had been canceled because of weather. Yeah, sure.

Once I arrived at Portland airport on Monday afternoon, the Continental trip alerts began pouring into my blackberry. They said the originating flight was late departing Newark, but would only be delayed by five minutes. No, make that 35 minutes. No, wait, make it a full hour. Oh never mind, the plane just arrived. We were told by a gate agent to board immediately so as not to lose our departure slot. Yes ma'am. Will do, ma'am.

The pilot apologized for the delay, but promised the flight would be '….a very short 59 minutes.' About 90 minutes later, the pilot sighed and said, 'Ah, ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed we've been circling for the past half hour.' Damn straight I'd noticed. I was tired and hungry and wanted to get home pronto. The pilot explained that '…weather at Newark had deteriorated and that we had about 20 more minutes of fuel.' Now, that was comforting to hear. What would happen when the fuel ran out? Would be asked to flap our wings?

The pilot came back on the P.A. a few minutes later to tell us we were being diverted in order to re-fuel. Nice. So, now, instead of being home at, say, 3pm Monday afternoon I was, instead, parked on the always scenic Albany, NY, tarmac at 10 pm.

We eventually arrived home at midnight, some nine full hours later than originally planned.

As I deplaned, I noticed the countless placards and banners boasting about the United/Continental merger. They all said the same thing: 'It's not who's merging that's exciting, but what's about to emerge.' Ha! I can tell you what's emerged: a third rate airline that can't get its act together.

Sadly, Continental is just the latest in a long line of brands that promise one sort of experience but deliver a totally different one. As a result, I've gone from being a brand ambassador to a vigilante.

So, caveat Continental. I'll be gunning for you, or United, or whatever it is you're now calling that steaming mess of a merged airline. Keep messing with me and I'll keep spreading news about your delays, disingenuous explanations and diverted flights.

Epilogue: when we met our driver at Newark Airport, he asked what had happened. I told him Newark Airport had been closed because of severe weather and we'd been diverted to Albany. 'Severe weather?' he asked incredulously. 'It hasn't rained a drop here all day long.'"

Jun 08

Forget WeinerGate. What about JudgmentGate?

How Cartoon11 come we're hounding Congressman Anthony Weiner out of office but allowing Brother Harold  Camping to continue scaring people and collecting millions of dollars for his ersatz preaching?

In case you don't recognize the name, Camping's the lunatic who predicted Judgment Day would occur on May 21. As a result of his rants, people emptied their pocket books, quit their jobs and sent Brother Harold more than $9 million.

Camping predicted Judgment Day would begin worldwide at 6pm local time on 5/21. It would feature a rash of terrible earthquakes that would kill millions, unearth every casket and see only the “true believers” rising to heaven. Survivors of Judgment Day would chill with the now undead until October 21st, at which time God would mercifully finish off the planet.

Needless to say, there were no earthquakes. In fact, the only rumblings came from some of the believers Camping had bilked out of their life savings. One misguided European teenager actually committed suicide in anticipation of Judgment Day.

And, yet, Brother Harold's back on TV and radio with a slightly corrected prediction. He says we experienced a quiet Judgment Day and that we're still on track for an October 21st blitzkrieg from the Big Guy.

Camping is a zealot. And, zealots are dangerous. I'd label him a religious terrorist. He's using fear to once again whip up a frenzy, scare the uneducated and rake in a whole lot of additional loot. But, the mainstream media's giving him a free pass.

I'm not suggesting politicians such as Arnold and Anthony shouldn't be pilloried for their misbehaving. But, as far as I know, neither stole money from people, ruined lives or caused at least one suicide. So, how come the media's going 24×7 about WeinerGate but ignoring JudgmentGate?

Camping's a brilliant scam artist. He uses ersatz math to formulate an end of days pronouncement. Then, when it doesn't happen, he simply pushes the date back six months and says it will still happen. In effect, he's saying God has granted us an extension. But, unless I've missed something, God doesn't work for the IRS and we're not talking about tax filings.

I believe religion, and not money, is the root cause of all evil. Fundamentalists like Camping are no different than terrorists such as bin Laden. The former's weapon of choice is words. The latter's was, of course, weapons.

The media will wake up again only when Camping begins spending millions of newly-collected dollars from his fearful flock in early October. At that time, he'll once again proclaim the end of the world and TV's talking heads will once again joke about end of the world parties. Until then, though, the Fourth Estate will stay focused on the sleazy and sordid behavior of politicians and celebrities instead of exposing this nut job's dangerous ways. The former hypes ratings. The latter could save lives and fortunes.

Apr 04

When It Comes to Cobras, the Bronx Zoo Is Asleep at the Ssswitch

Today's guest post is by Julie Farin, @JulieFarin.

By now everyone has heard about the Bronx Zoo’s baby Egyptian cobra – I’ll call her “Tina” (short Main-bronx-zoo-cobra for Serpentina) since she hasn’t been given a proper name yet – who went hissing and missing in the Reptile House last week and went on to become an overnight media sssensation. 

The story became national news – not because of any concerted effort by the Bronx Zoo – but because of an anonymous Twitter user who set up an account as @BronxZoosCobra, cleverly issuing snarky tweets about the pencil thin 20-inch, 3-oz. slitherer’s adventures “out on the town” after her great Madagascar-esque escape.  For example, on March 30th she tweeted: “Does anyone know if the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle sells organic mice?” and “Getting on the ferry to Ellis Island.  Let's hope this goes better than that time on the plane. #snakeonthetown

After the Twitter page was featured on local NY television newscasts and in NY newspapers, @BronxZoosCobra snared more than 200,000 followers (including Mayor Bloomberg) in less than a week.  Soon after, Café Press and other web sites jumped on the marketing bandwagon selling cobra T-shirts, mugs, and other souvenirs capitalizing on the forked-tongued slinker’s new-found celebrity (

This tremendous PR and marketing opportunity fell smack onto the Bronx Zoo’s doorsteps. It has the potential to do for the Zoo what Night at the Museum did for the American Museum of Natural History. I envisioned a paparazzi-filled press conference complete with a Bronx Zoo/Save the Cobra logo emblazoned on a step-and-repeat once the cobra was safely captured, where the Mayor and zoo officials donning cobra T-shirts would encourage visitors to meet the snake in-person (or should I say, “in-serpent”) once she fully recuperated. 

Her instant fame could be used as a unique fundraising tool for the Zoo by spotlighting her as the star attraction (think San Diego Zoo pandas) and a must-see destination for tourists and New Yorkers alike.  The NYC Convention & Visitors Bureau could even create weekend packages featuring a visit to the Bronx Zoo.  The cobra’s celebrity could also serve as an opportunity to educate the public by clearing up any misconceptions about the proper care and feeding of snakes as house pets.  (And, let’s face it, ever since that whole Adam & Eve incident back in the Garden, these belly-walkers could really use some positive PR.). 

Instead, Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny announced in a rather uninspired manner that the snake had been found…coiled up in a darkened corner of the Reptile House (
He deflected any endorsement of the Twitterer who had helped make the cobra (and his Zoo) a national story, and did not specify when the Reptile House would re-open.  However, he did say that the former fanged fugitive was nameless, and that they may consider a “name the snake” contest in the future (the NY Post and NY Daily News were already all over this, so the Zoo finally decided to partner with the Daily News for this contest).

In the meantime, @BronxZoosCobra is still tweeting in captivity (#freethebronxzooscobra), and even managed to hijack both RyanSeacrest’s Twitter account and web site on April Fool’s Day, which is only serving to make this satirical writer more sought-after…if we ever figure out the snake behind it.

RepMan readers: What name would YOU give the baby Bronx Zoo Cobra?  Remember, she’s Egyptian, yet a native New Yorker…and also has some boundary issues.  The most creative name submitted wins a (slightly-used) Prince William & Kate mug direct from the UK.