Thursday, January 10, 2008

60 Minutes

Did you see 60 Minutes Sunday night?

Three engrossing interviews.

Pervez Musharraf made the flabbergasting statement that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was nobody’s fault but her own. Certainly, many circumstances contributed to the ex-Prime Minister’s untimely death, not least among them her own ‘recklessness’ ignoring more stringent security measures. But to suggest that the blame for her murder fall on anyone other than the murderers is morally repugnant. Musharraf made it sound almost as if Bhutto were deserving of her fate... there are strange places in this world.

John Martorano, a gangland hitman turned state’s witness, left me gaping incredulous at the TV screen. On my mother’s side I have family named Martorano... mostly low level mafia types that we would see at funerals and baptisms when I was a kid. Dark fedoras, long overcoats, four day’s worth of stubble and a lingering aura of cheap cigars. You know the type.

But the bad hombre Steve Kroft interviewed on 60 Minutes appeared to be the real deal. With chilling matter-of-factness he answered the questions that were to originally have been posed by Ed Bradley, to whom Martorano had promised the exclusive interview before he passed. They were friends and teammates on their high school football team.

The Exorcist found two moments of the conversation particularly revealing.

Martorano insists that there is nothing more despicable in this world than a snitch, a rat, an informant. Kroft raises an eyebrow and suggests that a rat is precisely what Martorano has become. “I ain’t no rat. I’m State’s witness.” The distinction, apparently, lies in the forthrightness of the witness – showing his face, baring his identity – as opposed to the furtiveness and secrecy of the rat. There may be no honor among thieves, but hitmen, it would seem, have a different code of ethics.

Later in the interview, Kroft asks him, “Are you a Catholic?” “Sure”, he answers.

Evidently versed in the finer subtleties of Catholic moral teaching, Kroft observes that murder is generally not condoned in Catholicism. He insinuates that the hitman’s eternity might be at risk: “I mean, you can burn in hell for killing one person, you know.”

Martorano replies with a hitman’s version of the Baltimore catechism:

"I don't believe that," Martorano says. "At one point, maybe a couple years ago, I sent for a priest and gave him a confession. It was maybe 30 years since my last confession. But I went through the whole scenario with him, and went through my whole life with him, and confessed. And at the end of it, he says, 'Well, what do you think I should give you for penance?' I says, 'Father, you can justifiably crucify me.' He laughed and says, 'Nope. Ten Hail Marys, ten Our Fathers, and don't do it again.' So I listened to him."

You gotta love it.

Finally, Mike Wallace throws a few softball pitches to the
Rocket. This whole steroid thang is a media fueled story. I am a lifelong baseball fan who has asked other lifelong baseball fans and the verdict is in: no one cares.

Baseball is entertainment, not theology. If a baseball player sticks a needle in his butt to hit the ball farther or pitch the ball faster, why is that any concern of mine? It may not be fair – although the performance enhancing drugs they use seem to be universally available – it may not be good for the players’ health long-term... but pro sports is grossly unethical and overpaid entertainment.

I’m going to lose sleep over that?