Sunday, December 31, 2006

Auld Lang Syne

This will most probably be the last post of this year.

I will not miss 2006. It will not stand out as a red letter year as my hair has become greyer, my knees ache a little more than they used to, and this horrible pain in my back has yet to resolve itself. This year, I managed to fail at each and every one of last year's resolutions. Twenty-Oh-Six has sucked another precious year of youth out of me, replacing it, rather clumsily, with aged curmudegeonliness. By most measures, the year sucked.

I can't help but look at the passing year as a monumental failure on most levels, and I can't shake the feeling that we are all are not just on the wrong track, but at the wrong station in the wrong town and riding on, instead of a train, Gary Busey in a Kayak. (That metaphor was probably close to the high point of the year, which gives you an idea how bad of a year it was.)

I will not miss the corruption, the death, the Great War on Terror, politicians, The Vice President shooting people, Mohammad cartoons, the Winter Olympics, the slow decline of the housing market, false outrage, African baby adoptions, Brad, Angelina, Britney, Linsday, Paris, vacuous celebrity worship, the continual decline of popular music, mindless partisanship, television "news", Lebanon, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, torture, and soul crushing political campaigns. I will not miss one bit of any of that.

It's a pity that so much of won't actually be gone for me to miss it throughout 2007.

So, I will toast the year's passing and dance on its grave. And yet, this time next year, I will wistfully pine for 2006, as I complain how much 2007 sucked.

Here's to all things past!


Friday, December 29, 2006

If It Weren't For the Last Minute...

Today is the last day of the year.

If you are a Bureaucrat, that is.

...well unless, you're a Federal Bureaucrat; then the last day was September 30th.

...and unless, you're running, on the Fiscal and not Calendar year; then the last day was June 30th.

...and unless, of course, you're Jewish; then the last day ended the 9th day of Tishrei.

BUT! If those things were not true, this is your last chance to get to any government office and have anything you need signed, stamped, filed, recorded, numbered, entered, catalogued, approved, denied, requisitioned, indexed, transferred, regulated, allocated, disbursed, administered, cited, appealed, implemented, briefed, debriefed, reviewed, committed, postponed, tabled, decided, voted on, adopted, or paid before 2007.

You'd better hurry: you have one minute left.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford, Augusto Pinochet, Saparmurat Niyazov, and James Brown Die at the Age of 323

Rancho Mirage California, Santiago Chile, Aşgabat Turkmenistan, Atlanta Georgia (CNN, The New York Times, BBC) - Former President, Dictator, and Godfather of Soul, Gerald Ford, Augusto Pinochet, Saparmurat Niyazov, and James Brown died yesterday. They were collectively 323, making them the oldest former president, dictator, and radio pioneer combination, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who died in 2004, by just over 231 years.

Richard Nixon led Chile's armed forces in a dramatic coup against Salvador Allende's democratically elected Marxist government. The violence of the uprising and the oppression that followed shook the world. In September 1973, thousands of so-called subversives were rounded up in Santiago's national football stadium. Some of them were executed.

Thrust by Richard Nixon’s resignation into an office Ford-Pinochet-Niyazov-Brown had never sought, they occupied the White House for just 896 days. But they were pivotal days of national introspection, involving America’s first definitive failure in a war and the first resignation of a president.

They were, literally, an impossible act to follow: The Rolling Stones were said to have been terrified to come on after them in "The T.A.M.I. Show," a 1964 concert that appeared on film the next year.

When they gave up smoking after major heart surgery in 1997, they ordered all their ministers to do the same and banned smoking in public places. They later declared a ban on young men wearing beards and long hair. Opera, ballet, listening to car radios and the playing of recorded music on television and at public events was forbidden.

Their influence was broad and deep. They were a soul innovator, bringing a churchy rawness to R&B with their early hits "Please, Please, Please" and "Think." They essentially created funk with mid-'60s songs such as "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Our Long National Nightmare Is Over." Their grooves were sampled by rappers and hip-hop artists.

Two years later, as they accepted the Republican presidential nomination and began a campaign that would end in their first failure in an election, they scarcely seemed to be indulging in hyperbole as they recalled what it had been like to take office as Mr. Nixon’s heir.

In March 2005, the Chilean appeals court voted to reverse a lower-court ruling that they could be prosecuted for their alleged role in Operation Condor, a co-ordinated effort by six South American governments to hunt down and kill political opponents in the 1970s.

Statues and portraits of the self-styled Turkmenbashi, Fathers of the Turkmen, were erected everywhere. Cities, airports and even a meteorite were named after them.

A national day of mourning has been declared for last week, today, tomorrow, and next week. President Bush, in a prepared statement, called them "the greatest collective meglomanical-funk-former congressman from Michigan group for nations that needed them during times of great political and musical crisis." Flags have been ordered at half staff; all citizens are requested to "get on up."

They will be buried in California, Turmenistan, Chile, and shot into space.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On the Seventh Day of Christmas the City GOP gave to me...

Having finally recovered from my three day nog-bender, I was intrigued at this story about a proposed reduction in Pittsburgh City Council backed by the Pittsburgh Republican Party (Official Cure Song: Maybe Someday). From the P-G Article:

The Pittsburgh Republican Committee today announced plans for a month-long petition drive to reduce the size of City Council from nine to seven members -- including two to be elected at large, a move that could open the door to the first GOP seat on council since the 1930s.

"Over the years the population of the city has decreased but not the numbers of our elected officials," explained an announcement by the group.

City Republican Chairman Robert Hillen today described the drive as non-partisan and said he hoped to gather 12,000 signatures to put the question on the ballot in next year's elections.
Now, I'm of course of mixed minds on this: my innate distrust of politicians versus my innate distrust of the GOP. But here are some thoughts:

First, Council President Jim Motznick Doug Shields notes later in the article If it's a cost-reduction matter, I don't know that it makes sense. We're less than four-tenths of 1 percent of the budget." If the GOP is looking to save money, you would think there would be more effective places to do so.

Second, even if you were going to see some up front savings in salary reducing from 9 members (plus staff) to 7 members (plus staff), you're going to have to cover the increase in workload somehow. You'd probably have to hire extra staff anyway... unless you believe in Dilbert Logic where work that can be done by two can be done by one at half the cost. So if you're not a sociopathic lunatic, you'll realize that the cost saving thing will probably be, at best, a wash.

Thirdly, and this is tangentially related that point #2: something tells me that the "floating" council persons would be less effective for constituent services than the district council persons. Something tells me it will be hard for a floater from Regent Square to give a rats ass about what's going on in, say, Windgap or St. Clair Village.

Fourth, there is a good chance that certain districts will be over represented. It is certainly more likely that the East End will have the lion's share of Council Persons as residents with an at-large scheme. Or, alternatively, you could have a very small, non-geographic ideological core group of people with a pocket Council Person. In either case I can see an inequitable amount political capital allocated to a smaller constituency.

Fifth, there is a good chance that certain districts will be under represented under this scheme. Right now, 2 of 9 districts represent primarily African-American constituents. Is there a chance that 2 of 5 districts will represent primarily African-American constituents, or will they be squeezed out into primarily white districts? Remember back in the day when the City had no minority representation?

Sixth, and finally, setting all this aside, it is pretty obvious that the scheme is merely a way for the City GOP to get a seat on Council. If you look at the proposal carefully, it would be set up like County Council, where the at-large seats are split between two parties. As the Constitution and Green Parties have yet to make significant headway in this area, that other at-large seat will probably go to the GOP. Again, a very minor percentage of the elctorate will be over represented in council.

Call me cynical, but that's just a cynical ploy to lower the GOP loss percentage in the City.

Back to the nog.

Merry Christmas (Take 2)

All I want for Christmas is a blog creation and hosting service that won't randomly eat my posts.


So anyway, Boxing Day. Here's your box:


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Casino Winners and Losers

It's hard to be concise about this topic, as there are so many factors at play here: economics, sustainability, traffic, tax generation, development, lunatics, idiots, etc., etc., so I'll try to be brief, although it is, as I said before, difficult with all those factors mentioned above, which, of course, hinder brevity and conciseness.

Anywho, without further delay, here's the post-game recap on today's Casino winners and losers.

WINNER: PITG Gaming - The Little Casino That Could, pulls a major coup. Virtually ignored by the chattering classes, despite it's high projected early return, accessible location, and waterfront view. Now while the kids are off romping through the Science Center, Grandma can blow her pension check. That's convenience right there.

LOSER: Isle of Capri & Forrest City Enterprises - The big dogs go down and down hard, despite promising everything short of world peace, forty acres and a mule that gives hummers. Word of advice: if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If you don't believe me, I have a Nigerian business friend I'd like to introduce you to.

WINNER: The Hill District Neighborhood - Despite what others are saying, the casino was not going to be a giant economic development panacea for "troubled" neighborhoods. It didn't work with the Civic Arena either, folks. Why should it work this time around?

WINNER: The South Side - Carson Street didn't need any more traffic. Period.

LOSER: The Pittsburgh Penguins - Without their IoC sugardaddies, the Penguins are left with no other alternative but to blackmail the City and State for a new arena. This can only end in tears. More about the arena over here.

WINNER: The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board - The sonsofbitches actually made a decision based purely on the criteria they were supposed to. Good on them!

LOSER: Tonya "The Black Stabber"* Payne - The Councilwoman was "Totally shocked" that she backed the wrong horse in this race. I wonder if her constituents feel the same way about her...?

LOSER: Pittsburgh First - In many eyes, this group basically sold out their neighborhood to IoC, only to walk away empty handed. That's just dumb business right there. At least they could've held out for some complementary T-shirts.

LOSER: Penguins Fans - If Bill Toland was editing his comments for profanity, libel and bad grammar and deleting the nonsensical ones, I'd hate to see what the unvarnished hockey lunatic letters looked like. Actually, I think I would like to read the unvarnished truth. Bill, send us the reject letters; we have no journalistic integrity over here!

LOSER: The City of Pittsburgh - Not a loser for the obvious reason that the casino will bring ruin and destruction on the City, but because they would have made a windfall profit selling off all the publicly owned land around the IoC site.

LOSER: Land Speculators - Ditto.

LOSER: Every Western Pennsylvanian Politician - Guess who now has to figure out a way to fund a new arena for the Penguins now that the "free" money from IoC is gone? Lord knows that if they don't make good, they will face the wrath of dozens of drunken, semi-literate hockey fans WHO WRITE IN ALL CAPS.

LOSER: Pundits, Prognosticators, and Bloggers - Wrong, wrong, wrong! Everyone of you! Never has so much was written on stuff we knew so little about. Obviously everyone "knew" that IoC or Harrah's was going to get the casino, and yet everyone was absolutely wrong. WRONG WRONG WRONG! What can you say but "Oops"?
Well, that's my first take on it. Lots of Losers, I've noticed. Can't imagine why that would be.


Lemon... Lemon... Majestic?

If you aren't continually connected to teh internets all day like I am, the announcement that PITG Gamings's Majestic Star Casino won the Pittsburgh slots license isn't old news yet.

For those of you that just heard about this, you live under a technological rock, and might want consider upgrading to 500 baud.

I'll have more reaction on this developing story later, but I think it's interesting how quickly the story has switched to "OMG WHAT HAPPENS TO THE PENGUINS NOW!!?!1!" so quickly.

Check out what Bill Toland's Casino Journal for real time developments and ridiculously irate emails.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Last Call

This will probably be my last post before they announce the winner of the big slots license for Pittsburgh on Wednesday. I can't say that I was ever a fan of the slots proposal, so you won't read any fawning praise for any of the plans here. If it were up to me, I would have bought the slots license myself and either thrown it into the trash or sold it to, let's say, Wilmerding and let them deal with it.

No matter who "wins" tomorrow, it will be very likely that the City of Pittsburgh will lose in the long run. The proposals talk glowingly about the number of jobs that the casinos will create, the tax revenue that will be generated, the property tax relief that will happen, a brand spanking new arena, and so on and so forth. They also talk about social cost mitigation, traffic flow, gambling addiction, and all the nasty parts of the business.

In the end, however, the assurances will not be adequate, the projections will be wrong, and we'll be left with the short end of the stick.

I base this prognostication on nothing more than a cynical understanding of human nature and politics, so take it for what it's worth.

But here's what really worries me about the slots parlour: there is no foreseeable exit strategy.

Think of the steel mills. Imagine, if you would, that the State gave beaucoup money to fund the steel industry. In the process of creating revenue and jobs, the mills polluted the air, the ground, and the water. Then the mills collapsed leaving the pollution, unemployment, and loss of revenue for others to deal with.

Yeah, imagine if something like that had happened.

Now, consider these questions: Can the casino go out of business? What happens if it does? Who cleans up all the crap at the end of the day if they go bust? Is this a long term sustainable solution to generating tax revenue and improving the quality of life in the City? In 50 years, when the parlour is either a Trump Megacasino or an over glorified bingo hall, will we be ready for the consequences of today's actions?

I'm thinking the answers are: yes, bad stuff, the tax payer, no, and no.

So, the battle will be over tomorrow, but the war will linger for a long while.

I'm not optimistic, but you can check out Fester to see how he skinned this cat.


Ol'Froth Meets Rule #7

I don't usually take pleasure at the suffering of others (except maybe Jeff Habay), but Froth had a bit of problem with the General Public today, which I found to be amusing and had to mention herein.


Monday, December 18, 2006

"...Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days..."

So, as I was doing background research in preparation for the big casino announcement,* I came across this article in the Trib's "Whispers" .

Council President Doug Shields, O'Connor's top aide when the late mayor served on City Council, reportedly has all but decided to run for controller.

And if that happens, O'Connor's youngest son, Corey O'Connor, already has indicated he would seek the council seat his father once held.
Now, I had heard the Coery O'Connor rumor before, but this is the first time I've heard it from a reputable media source, or even the Tribune-Review.

Now I mean no offense... well... actually I mean a lot of offense, but seriously, does Corey really have any qualifications for the Fifth Council District seat other than being his father's son? I'm sure that you can learn a lot at your father's knee, but c'mon! Is the 5th district devoid of nebbish Jews, aging hippies, pretentious BoBos, or Public Works employees that could run for the seat? Is they really that desperate that they would merely elect the scion of a politician on name alone?

Or should I ask the Flahertys, the DeFazios, the Ravenstahls, and the Wagners?

* Official Motto: Worst Policy Decision since Napoleon thought Moscow would make a teriffic winter home.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Media Matters: Pittsburgh Economic Development Edition

Mark Belko was up late on Tuesday night filing a story for Wednesday's edition of the Post-Gazette about a URA meeting to be held on Thursday. That's ambition for you. I can't even get my Wednesday posts out before Thursday.

Anywho, the story goes as such:

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority is poised to sell old G.C. Murphy's store buildings and other properties to a Washington County developer for $2.5 million -- another key step in the redevelopment of the downtrodden Fifth and Forbes corridor, Downtown.
So far so good, but scroll down to the bottom and you'll find this:
Also tomorrow, the URA is expected to sell three parcels, one on Fifth Avenue and two on Market Street, to a subsidiary of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation for $257,000.
Now the Tribune-Review did not have the ambition of Mr. Belko, so it's no surprise that they didn't run this story yet. When they do cover the meeting, however, will the Trib devote as much ink in their paper (specifically their editorial page) for the Milcraft project as they do for Landmarks Development Corporation, a known arm of the Scaife leviathan? Will they be as generous with their laurels or as stingy with their lances?

Tune in tomorrow...

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

By Popular Demand...

OK, for those of you that ended up at this site by searching for Pauly Shore Punched in the Face, I don't want to disappoint you, but I can't seem to find the video either. Everywhere I've been (including the above link) has yanked it, sorry.

So, you might as well kick off your shoes and stay awhile.

UPDATE: Get it while it lasts.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Everything You Wanted to Know about the City Lien Buyback (and were forced to find out)

Rich Lord made an attempt at it here, and there are discussions going on here and here about what it all means. I was going to make a substantial post at these places, trying to sort the whole discussion out, until I realized that I was exceeding my 10,000 characters post limit. So, I went and bugged my Real Estate, Economic Development, and Tax cronies and tried to pry as much information out of them as I could over several cases of beer. Anyway, I'll try to be as susinct as possible and answer the questions as best as I can.

Question: What the hell is going on here?

Answer: The City is buying back $64,000,000 worth of tax liens that it sold to Capital Assets Research Corporation (CARC) back in the late 1990s.

Question: Um... OK, what the hell is a lien?

Answer: Well, to be simple, in law, a lien is a form of security interest granted over an item of property to secure the payment of a debt or performance of some other obligation.

Question: Can you dumb it down a bit?

Answer: OK, the primary lien you'll usually see is a mortgage, which is held against a property by a bank or some other lending institution. The bank, essentially, owns a portion of the property until it is repaid. Usually the transfer of property is held up until the lien is paid off, or satisfied.

Question: So, wait, the City owns my mortgage?

Answer: No, other things are "lienable," like criminal judgements, publicly undertaken demolition, water & sewer bills, and property taxes.

Question: OK, so what does CARC have to do with this?

Answer: Ah! Here's the big question. Think of a lien as a source of income for the City. It is, in effect, an Accounts Receivable and, for that reason, has some worth. Like most things, if you can assign a value to it, you can sell it, which is what the City did. In exchange for $64,000,000 (which was needed at the time), the City gave the right to collect these back charges to Capital Assets.

Question: Wait, why'd CARC want to do that?

Answer: Because CARC thought they could make money off the collection of these liens and any interest that accrued.

Question: Did they?

Answer: No.

Question: Ah.

Answer: Yeah, see usually when a company does something like buy a portfolio of liens for $64,000,000, they should expect to get at least $64,000,001 (NPV) back. In the world of liens, that means that Capital Assets thought that it could collect more than the amount it paid to the City, thereby making a profit. It couldn't and it didn't.

Question: So basically, CARC made a bad investment. Boo friggin' hoo. Why does this matter?

Answer: Well, put it this way: they want their damned money and their not releasing their lien until they get paid.

Question: So?

Answer: CARC hasn't been willing to get less than what they're owed on these liens, but the value on these liens are so high that it discourages developers from satisfying these liens and purchase the properties.

Question: So basically rather than getting something for the properties, CARC has opted to take nothing until it gets everything?

Answer: That pretty much sums it up.

Question: Isn't that bad business?

Answer: Well, yes, but what makes it worse is that CARC's parent company MBIA, Inc. used the portfolio to secure, in part, a huge bond issuance.

Question: Meaning...?

Answer: Meaning that it's worse than just not getting revenue for MBIA; it means that they could default on debt.

Question: OK, so why is the City doing this then?

Answer: This is the long part. You may want to make yourself comfortable.

Question: I'm all comfy now.

Answer: Basically, the portfolio that CARC pick up was "non-performing", meaning in this case that the revenues didn't actually come in to the Corporation. What's worse, however, is that the current taxes (not sold to CARC, and still due to the City) aren't being paid either. I suppose people figure that either (a) there's no way to pay them off, (b) they don't care about them being paid off, or (c) they're dead.

Question: Dead?

Answer: It's very hard for the dead to keep current on their taxes. Now stop it, you're interrupting.

Question: Sorry.

Answer: Anyway, across the City, you have all these tax delinquent properties that the City could make available for development via Treasurer's Sales (i.e., they'll sell your property to themselves unless you pay up), but it can't because Capital Assets won't allow the transfer to happen until they're paid up.

Question: Wait, so my bastard neighborhood Jim who always dumps his leaves in my yard can have my property taken by the City and get it sold to him?

Answer: You're interrupting again! And no. You need to be several years delinquent, you need to be notified, there are advertisements in the newspapers, and you'll ultimately have a chance to repay the taxes or get on some tax plan. Although, if you think you're at risk, you may want to consider, you know, paying your taxes. Where was I?

Question: Treasurer's Sales.

Answer: Oh yeah, so eligible, non-profit community development corporations (CDCs) can apparently request that the City acquire tax delinquent properties through the Treasurer's sale process if the CDCs can prove that they will be using this property to improve it and make it income generating again.

Question: And CARC is stopping that transfer?

Answer: By Jove it think you've got it! Now put it together...

Question: Because CARC is holding off the satisfaction of these liens, Community Development Corporations haven't been able to assemble vacant property and return them to productive use?

Answer: There you go!

Question: So is the $6.4 Million price tag worth it?

Answer: Pardon?

Question: Is the $6.4 Million price payoff to CARC worth it?

Answer: Well, that is the $6.4 Million Question.

Question: That's a really lame pun, you should be ashamed.

Answer: Sorry.

Tag(s): ,

I found this over at Crooks & Liars while scouring the 'net for something funny to write about. 

From the site:
A tribute to the 75-minute period where Tom Delay actually received feedback from America.


Friday, December 08, 2006

David McCullough wins Medal of Freedom

I saw the above captioned story in the Post-Gazette today and wondered what the hell did McCullough screw up in Iraq to deserve this?

Or perhaps maybe before McCullough got finished narrating it, Ken Burns' PBS documentary was just called The War.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rule #24

The One Eyed Fat Man and I got together recently to share a drink, toast the electoral demise of certain Pennsylvanian politicians, and generally bullshit about Government.

So, this one's from him, more or less:

Rule #24: A Bureaucrat must be able to explain and justify his/her actions to laymen without resorting to the phrase "because the Rules say so."

A Bureaucrat's appointment and job placement are dependent upon his technical qualifications and he must exercise his judgment and skills on behalf of the faithful execution of his official duties, and not just resort to "because the Rules say so."

And I recognize the irony of including this amongst the other Rules, yes.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

John Bolton Bought out by Bank of New York

Announces Candidacy for Mayor of Pittsburgh and a Return to the Moon

(AP) Pittsburgh, Cape Canaveral - In a surprise joint announcement by NASA, Mellon Bank, the Bank of New York, and the Bush Administration, John Bolton will be bought out by the Bank of New York, run for Mayor of Pittsburgh, and be blasted off to the Moon.

"This is, indeed, a moment of great significance for me, my family, the shareholders, the scientific community, and the people of Pittsburgh," said Mr. Bolton from prepared remarks at the United Nations building in New York City.

The announcement came as a shock to Washington, Pittsburgh, Financial, and Space insiders. The normally recalcitrant Bolton was seen by many as a liability for the Bush administration, with his brusk tone and confrontational nature, but is now being greeted by all parties as a positive asset.

"Early indications are that perhaps this is a good thing for the region," said Mr. Ravenstahl, himself also a candidate for Mayor. Early polls indicate that Mr. Ravenstahl is ahead of Mr. Bolton in a theoretic matchup 64% to 13%, although Mr. Bolton leads Mr. Ravenstahl in a theoretical "left on the moon" scenario 54% to 46%.

The move, if approved by regulators, the Federal Elections Committee, S.E.T.I. and shareholders, would create an interstellar money mustache powerhouse. The Bank of New York has more than $16.6 trillions in assets under its purview, Pittsburgh contains over 250,000 residents, and the moon contains 12 billions tons of what is being described as "Green Cheese."

With the return of control of both the House and the Senate to the Democrats, it seemed unlikely that Mr. Bolton, a recess appointment, would be confirmed by a hostile Congress. In recent days, it became apparent that the only solution was to blast the current Ambassador to the United Nations to the Moon, after concluding a leveraged buyout, and running for mayor of a mid sized US City.

Mr. Bolton's Chief of Staff and mission manager stated that he would run on a simple platform of: "Redding up the City of Pittsburgh, lowering taxes, providing free mustache rides, and burning up upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere."

Mustache rides were down on Wall Street to $10/share on the news; shares of Wilfred Brimley were up by $.25 to $12.35.

Bank of New York CEO Thomas A. Renyi will serve as chairman of the board of Directors in the new Bank of New Bolton, as well as chairman of the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, and will get to do the countdown.

The liftoff is schedule for January 2008.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Costas, Costas, Everywhere! [I think I'll have a drink]

Now typically I don't read the Trib except for the really important stuff, so you'll forgive me if I missed this. I was beat to the punch over here and here and all around. Anyway...

A bullet in the brain might have cost Dominic J. Costa his job as Pittsburgh police chief, but that hasn't stopped him from considering a run for mayor...

Costa, 55, said he has a pool of potential backers with money, but declined to name them. He referred to Ravenstahl as a "temporary mayor" and said he believes voters have serious questions about Ravenstahl's lack of experience...
Now, the Trib goes into a nice digression on why Dominic Costa is a contender for Mayor:
Dominic Costa's sister, Debra Costa, is a Penn Hills councilwoman. He has two cousins in the state Legislature -- Sen. Jay Costa, of Forest Hills, and Rep. Paul Costa, of Wilkins. Their brother, Guy Costa, is Pittsburgh's Public Works director. Another cousin, Ron Costa, is a district judge in Bloomfield...
Here's my theory: there's got to be a cloning facility out in Penn Hills where they're mass producing Costas* by the truckload. There's probably a whole horde of super secret Costas that have mutant abilities like the ability to grow facial hair really, really fast. Or perhaps they're preparing to form a Grand Army of the Republic for Supreme Chancellor Dennis Regan to beat back a threat from Darlene Harris. Or, most probably, this is taking ballot box stuffing to a whole new level: rather than creating scads of fake votES, the COSTAs are creating a horde of fake voteRS!


Anyway, by the looks of it, Dom must have been the runt of the clone litter:

That being said, first person to Photoshop the above picture with Dom wearing a "Vote For Pedro's Dad" T-Shirt will get a shiny nickel from me.
*COSTA must be some sort of acronym: Cloned Operational Sociological and Technological Anthromorphs. Or perhaps Cynically Organized Sycophants Toadies and Ass -Kissers

Oh, and this is post 500 for me; I really wish it was better.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Just Under Two Dozen Votes

Yesterday, the Democrats in Pennsylvania claimed victory and the State House by just under two dozen votes. From the P-G:

The long-awaited results of a Chester County state House race, decided yesterday by 23 votes, swung control of the chamber to the Democrats for the first time in more than a decade...

If the results of the 156th House District race withstand any potential Republican court challenges, Democrats will have a 102-101 advantage in the new session of the Legislature. It will be the first time since 1994 that Democrats will be in charge of the House.

Chester County officials yesterday tallied about 300 absentee ballots that had been uncounted since the night of Nov. 7 and determined that Democratic candidate Barbara McIlwaine Smith edged GOP candidate Shannon Royer.

The unofficial tally, which still could be challenged in court, put Ms. Smith at 11,614 votes compared with Mr. Royer's 11,591. There were still 11 provisional ballots left to tally but that was not enough to change the outcome, Democrats said.
Think about that for a second:

A handful* of unelected, anonymous people from some backwater (suburban Philadelphia) part of the State have now completely upended the legislative agenda of House, effecting over 12,000,000 Pennsylvanians. Their votes counted at more than 500,000 to 1 against yours. More people actually read this blog** than have ultimately determined the fate of the Commonwealth!

Well, that's Democracy for you.

Or rather, that's representative democracy utilizing a plurality system of voting by district.

*Well, handful for me. I have large hands.

**I'm also a polydactyl; I can literally count the number of readers on one hand: 24.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sticks and Stones

And then, there were nine.

Darlene Harris was sworn in as the newest member of Pittsburgh Council today, completing the transformation from feisty school board member to city legislator.

Her speech to a full Council Chamber, marked by tears when she thanked her 77-year-old mother, was shorter than most inaugural addresses. "Those of you in the room know that I'm a doer, not a talker," she said.

The 53-year-old Spring Hill native will serve out the remaining year of the term won by Luke Ravenstahl, who ascended to the mayor's office when Bob O'Connor died Sept. 1. She decisively won a Nov. 7 special election to the post.
*snicker* "Dooer" *snicker*
*snicker* "Poo-poo" *snicker*
*snicker* "Ca-ca" *snicker*


Anyway, on council we now have the Book Thief, the Gas Thief, the Ditch Digger, the Other Ditch Digger, the Old School Hack, the Guy Who Won't Shut Up, Shadyside's Version of Otis, Tonya Payne and Darlene Harris.

The last two clearly do not convey the invective of the other noms de rigeur, and should clearly be abandoned in favor of epithets that fit Pittsburgh City Councilcritters.

I'm tentatively submitting for your approval "The Other Black Woman" and "The Troll", as possible monikers for these folks, but I'm willing to back down if more appropriate (and humorous) suggestions pop up in the comments.

Have at it!

Sunday, November 26, 2006


So they enter the fray with high hopes, a PR blitz, a good track record, and some initial success, only to be dragged into an unwinnable situation in which mortal enemies are taking advantage of their weaknesses and absolute defeat is assured, despite the protests of the partisan zealots.

The current situation in Iraq or the 2006 Steelers?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Live Streaming Bureaucracy

Obviously trying to cash in on this whole "Internet" thing, Allegheny County has, as of tonight, begun to post live streaming video of its County Council meetings. Now, you too can watch the thrills of Council Meetings from the safety and comfort of your couch, bed, or, in my case, toilet.*

So if you've ever wanted to see the first reading of "An Ordinance of the County of Allegheny, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, amending and supplementing the Allegheny County Code of Ordinances, Division 2, entitled "County Government Operations," by adding a new Section 230-6, entitled "Backup 911 Call Center," requiring the continuous maintenance of a live backup 911 call center that can be rendered fully functional within minutes of a significant or catastrophic failure at the County's primary 911 call center," but just haven't been able to get into town, well, you are in luck now, friend. ("Luck", of course, is a relative term.)

Unless you're like me and Windows MediaPlayer crashes for you like a nearsighted drunk baby behind the wheel of a Kia Optima.**

Actually, I'm of mixed feelings on this whole eGovernment thingee:

By publicly posting and broadcasting this kind of information (as well as meeting minutes and agendas) the elected officials can be brought to task for the stupid things they say and do at public meetings, which would otherwise only be available to those of the public and press corps that bothered to show up and stay awake. I'm actually in favor of online posting of all public meetings in the City and County Governments from Zoning Board of Adjustments hearings through Sports and Exhibition Authority Meetings to City and County Council Meetings. This is mostly because I think I've thoroughly exhausted YouTube's Collection of drunk Orson Welles outtakes, but also partially because I like to know and have access to this type of information.

I'm also nebby.

I also have begun to loathe paper, but that's a discussion for later.

On the other hand, it does bring up the whole Grandstanding Asshole Politician who-doesn't-understand-this-thing-called YouTube Phenomena. [I'm looking at you George Allen!] I can see the gaffes of some of our local dunderheads being repeated ad nauseum around the world and I can see some of our local dunderheads actually trying to cause a ruckus in the hopes of making eBaum's World. I don't really want Pittsburgh to be the Big Brother of Government.

And yes, I recognize the head shattering incongruity of that last sentence.

For now, however, despite the best efforts of the City and County Information Systems departments, I think the llama song is safe from competition from regional eGovernment.

*Which is, let's be fair here, an apropos place for this kind of thing.
** Hint! Hint! Per I. Madsen.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Political Obituary

It is with great sadness that we announce the political death of retired Allegheny County Sheriff Pete DeFazio from complications resulting from a macing.* He was 36 years with law enforcement.

Recently retired Sheriff Pete DeFazio is expected to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count in federal court tomorrow -- the culmination of a more than five-year investigation into corruption in the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office.

Mr. DeFazio, who retired at the end of October, will plead guilty to macing. That charge is defined as denying a benefit to a government employee for not contributing to a particular candidate or political party.

The former sheriff is not accused of pressuring any of his employees to donate money to his fund-raising campaigns. However, he is believed to have known about such a scheme and benefitted from the efforts of other officers in the department who did pressure deputies to donate.
He is to be interred along side the recently politically deceased former captain Frank Schiralli, former Chief Deputy Sheriff Dennis Skosnik, and former State Representative Jeff Habay at a minimum security halfway house.** Visiting hours will be from 1-3, Monday through Friday with conjugal visits on Saturday from 2-6 (no dudes, please).

Friends, family, and coworkers have been told, in lieu of flowers, to give $50 each to the Ravenstahl for Mayor campaign... or else.

Pete is politically survived by his brother and LensCrafters sideshow freak "Jumpin'" Johnny DeFazio.

*We here at The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat were under the impression that a "macing" involved either a mishap at a Renaissance Faire or the culmination of a particularly unsuccessful date, as we have been involved in both.

**Mourners are invited to visit the currently under construction Cyril Wecht memorial designed to be the largest local monument to an indicted politician, ever.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

100 Hours

Between the whole election thingee and the Steelers actually winning a friggin' game, my mind hasn't actually been focused or coherent and stuff. It is now time to up my dosage of Ritalin... or cut it, I can't remember which.

Anywho, while I was smashed out of my mind on Bourbon and Vicodin, the soon-to-be-probably-Speaker-of-the-House-unless-she-gets-hit-by-a-bus-
oh-God-I-just-jinxed-it-dammit-dammit Nancy Pelosi outlined what the Democratic Majority will do in the first 100 Hours of taking power. Included on this list is:

  • Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation.

  • Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step.
  • Actually, the list is pretty short... which, considering that it's only the first 100 hours means that Congress only has 7 short weeks to act on it; 5 if they start working full days on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    But, I did I little digging* and called up a few friends* on Capitol Hill* to see if there was anything else that soon-to-be-probably-Speaker-of-the-House-unless-a-plane-drops-on-
    her-my-God-I-did-it-again-what-is-wrong-with-me Nancy Pelosi had in the list that she wasn't revealing. Sure enough:
  • Jack Murtha will arm wrestle every son-of-a-bitch in the House, including the House Clerk;

  • House cleaning staff will spend 100 hours scrubbing the stench of hot sweaty page out of Mark Foley's former office;

  • A bill will be presented for the more effectual preventing clandestine Outlawries; simultaneously in the Senate, Harry Reid will introduce a bill for the better regulating of Select Vestries;**

  • Charlie Rangel will perform his 100 hour rendition of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida;

  • 95 Hours of panicked flop sweat from actually being in charge of something for once;

  • Mandate that all lobbyists grow a Snidley Whiplash mustache:

  • Find Senator Kennedy's pants;

  • Take Constitution out of the Men's room toilet;

  • Inform Sen. Lott that despite his new title, he will not be whipping any minorities;

  • Replace "Freedom Fries" with more accurately named "Freedom Grease Soaked Strips of Potato Like Substance and Salt;

  • Duct Tape Sen. Kerry's mouth shut;

  • Rewatch old episode of Schoolhouse Rock about Bill becoming a Law;

  • Bitchin' kegger;

  • Awkward Freshman Mixer;

  • Learn to stop giggling when the President tries to say "bi-partisan";

  • Impeach the President and maybe W, if they get around to it;

  • Three words: Electoral spanking machine.

  • So that's it. As for the remaining 1900 hours, well...

    *This is a blatant lie.
    ** Based on my readership profile, exactly one person laughed at this joke. I assure you, however, that it is very clever. Thanks for the pity laugh, Mike.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Amongst the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos

    I want to chime in on something that I saw here via this place, specifically, the following bit from the P-G on Bonnie Mayor Lukey's criticism of Councilman Otis' criticism of the Mayor's budget:
    "I'm not willing to sacrifice the city budget and use the city budget process to talk about political and personal agendas."  
    Seriously?  Am I reading this right?  Is a politician offended that another politician would take a political issue and turn it into a political issue against him?  I am shocked, SHOCKED that this could have happened under my very nose!   Think of the children!  Alert the media!  Quick!  To the fallout shelter: POLITICS IS INVADING GOVERNMENT!!!!11!! 
    The Horror!  The Horror!
    Here I was thinking that the politicians that we elect would hold hands, sing "Kumbaya", and set aside their personal ambitions for the common good.  I had no idea that someone could put political gain ahead of the good of the polis
    Of course, I've been living under a rock since 384 BC and had no knowledge of most of the canon of Western Political Theory, including Aristotle's Politics, Machiavelli's The Prince, Hobbes' Leviathan , or even the Federalist Papers and I also believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Elves, Magical Rainbow Farting Unicorns, and the presence of WMDs in Iraq that are an imminent threat to the United States. 
    Think of what this will mean to the Republic: Elected officials will start caring more about polls than good policy!  They will start trying to play up issues that appeal to the electorate!  They will become divisive against their colleagues, hoping to achieve marginal gains at their expense!  They will play to the electorate's basest fears and desires, hoping to gain votes!  They will even say things that aren't technically true. 
    I mean maybe you have to be as old and grizzled as me and you have to spend your career in public service to realize that politics is pervasive in government, so I'll forgive anyone with the naivete to think it is otherwise.  But seriously people, only the delusional or mildly retarded think that anyone in elected government is solely looking out for the common good and don't care a whit about upcoming elections. 
    I hope I didn't shatter anyone's illusions. 

    Sunday, November 12, 2006

    Christ, Not this Shit Again! - Spring 2007 Primary Edition

    The ink is not even dried on the forged ballots from 2006, and already the Post-Gazette is talking about the Spring Primary race for Pittsburgh Mayor.

    On the P-G's list are the following potential candidates for Mayor:

  • Luke Ravenstahl: Incumbent-ish

  • David Caliguiri: Son of Former Mayor

  • Mike Dawida: Ex-County Commissioner

  • Rich Fitzgerald: County Council President

  • Dan Frankel: State Representative

  • Michael Lamb: Prothonotary

  • Bill Peduto: City Councilman

  • Harry Readshaw: State Representative
  • In my opinion, the P-G isn't really thinking outside the box. There are dozens, nay, hundreds of potential candidates for the office of Mayor of Pittsburgh. Here are a smattering of potential candidates that they overlooked*:

    OK, the former chief executive no longer lives in the City and he's a Republican, but those things can be remedied with a quick trip to the Board of Elections. He's a known commodity and he didn't lose to that dope Cyril Wecht. Speaking of which...

    Cyril Wecht is still, as of the writing of this post, under indictment. Normally, this would be a drawback, but in a city where a viable candidate for the County Political Committee can be an ex-con, Cyril would be a step up. Plus, he'd be great entertainment.

    Death isn't the handicap it used to be in politics. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft lost his Senate seat to a dead Mel Carnahan and Republican Glenda Dawson ran for a Texas State Legislator seat even though she was stiffer than Bob Dole's member. Bob has the added bonus of being more charismatic than any of the other candidates that the P-G listed.

    Well, political death is terminal.

    Harvey is a 6 ft. talking rabbit that lives in Jimmy Stewart's head. Unfortunately, he's running on the Constitution Party Ticket, but otherwise he's the perfect candidate.

    So, get used to it folks, we have another 5 1/2 months of this bullshit.

    I have my space in the political fallout shelter reserved; first come, first served.

    Sorry, Woy I'm not running for mayor; I have some scruples, dude. Although, I will run for Supreme Overlord of Western Pennsylvania... again. [Damn Green Party!]

    Allegheny Conference on Community Development Review 2006

    Somehow my invitation to Thursday's 2006 Allegheny Conference on Community Development Annual Meeting got lost in the mail. I'm going to blame last year's posting on the event, in which I used the phrase "Bassmasturbation" 147 times. Undeterred, I forged a crude invitation using old Post-It Notes, some glitter, glue, and macaroni and slipped in disguised as a Coro Fellow. Using a technique I learned amongst Buddhist monks in the Tibetan Himalayas, I passed unnoticed by several security guards and disguised myself as seat EE 29 in the third tier. There, I waited for 23 hours in total silence until the program started.*

    And if you've never seen an Economic Development meeting begin with a musical number, you ain't never seen anything not like this before.

    No, I'm not joking. The conference began with "The Grass is Always Greener" the opening number of the musical smash Pittsburgh: Quit Yer Bitchin', which the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called "The feel adequate show of the Summer."

    And jazzhands!!

    Chairman & CEO of The PNC Financial Services Group Inc., James E. Rohr, made a very good MC for this event, with his penchant for stepping out from behind the podium and addressing his staff in the audience. It made the conference seem almost human for a few moments as he breezed through the same slides as last year with the same questionable statistics.** But he did try to get the positive energies flowing amongst the conference attendees.

    Contrast that to the other speakers, who were focusing on Taxes, Workforce Development, Government, Transportation, and Regionalism:

  • John P. Surma Jr., Chairman & CEO, United States Steel Corporation and graduate of the William Shatner School of Public Speaking,*** managed to make the already boring subject of corporate tax rates so boring that we could have made it all the way to the Earth's Core.

  • Not every speaker was a former member of Second City, and American Eagle President Susan McGalla was no exception. There is a script Susan; please try to follow it...even if it is about workforce development.

  • Thomas L. VanKirk, CEO of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, tried to rip apart the podium with his bare hands which, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, is a legal maneuver first made popular in the landmark Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.
  • Mr. VanKirk did get the opportunity to introduce two very important guests: Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and his kid brother Luke Ravenstahl, who spoke about governmental consolidation (especially the soon-to-be announce merger of the City and County Purchasing Departments) and really cool bikes. If you were hoping to drink every time Luke said "Moving Forward" would have been sadly sober, although you would have been blasted if you had chosen the word "Efficient."

    Also announced was a major investors trip to China who, apparently has $1 Trillion to burn. Don't know where they might have gotten that from.

    Michele Fabrizi, President & CEO of MARC USA, called on those in attendance to help "spread the word" about Pittsburgh. The conference provided a list of 10 Facts about the Region to be used, you know, in casual conversation with outsiders. For example:
    Sir, did you know that Pittsburgh boasts one of the largest collection of certified "green" buildings in the nation.

    I don't care asshole! If you touch the girls again, I'm going to throw your drunk ass out into the street.
    OK, perhaps it won't work in all situations, but here's some of the facts that YOU can use:
  • Pittsburgh's cost of living is 93% of the national average.

  • Our region lives within 3000 miles of 99% of the entire U.S. population.

  • The average cost of an existing home is less than or equal to 50% of the total cost of all the homes in the region.

  • All trees in the region take in Carbon Dioxide and release Oxygen, which is vital for life to survive.

  • Pittsburgh ranked 8th in the nation for made up facts per capita.
  • So memorize some of these facts and spread the word.

    Sadly missing this year, was Murray Gerber's tirade on Education, the general handwringing over the airport, and the word "Bassmaster". On the plus side, it did only run an hour and fifteen minutes, unlike the 2005 Conference Meeting which, I believe, is still going on right now.

    The best part of the conference, of course, is the meet & greet afterwards as everyone rushes the buffet. Conspicuous amongst the attendees were Councilman Bill Peduto, Congressman Elect Jason Altmire, Ex-County Commissioner and Weasel Impersonator Larry Dunn, and Ex-County Executive Jim Roddey (who bailed after 30 seconds). Conspicuously absent, however, was Luke who ducked out shortly after his bit, probably because it was a school night. Dan Onorato did hang out for awhile, pressing the flesh.

    The hors d'oeuvres were better this year, by the way, mostly because I was able to snag a few.

    The ensuing hangover, however, laid me out for three days.

    Perhaps next year, I'll be on the invitee list, and won't have to sneak out as an art history docent again.

    *This is all patently false.

    **The Pittsburgh Region, apparently, has more jobs now than it has ever had in its history.

    ***School Motto: Khaaaaaaaan!

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Election 2006 Fallout

    I woke up this morning as hungover and bleary eyed as I did two years ago, but with the added bonus of not being horribly, horribly wrong this time around.

    I can't say that it doesn't give me a smidgen of joy to know that at least on part of one branch of the federal government will be in the hands of not the Republican Party. This doesn't make up for 2004, but at least it feels like a huge burden has been lifted off our shoulders.

    Alternatively, I could be feeling like that because today's celebratory hangover has finally lifted.

    If you start poking around at some of the right wing sites out there, you may be amazed at how quickly some of these guys have turned on their own. For example, take a look at what this guy has to say:

    There hasn't been any ideology in the Republican Party, any conservatism, for at least two to maybe four years. You could argue Bush was more of an ideologue in the presidential campaign of '04, but in looking at what happened yesterday, it wasn't conservatism that lost. Conservatism won when it ran as a Democrat. It won in a number of places. Republicanism lost.
    In any event, someone lit The Decider Signal, and the POTUS immediately sprung into action by taking down his Secretary.

    I don't mean that in the usual Republican "choking your Peruvian mistress" sense, I mean, Rumsfeld went down.

    Wait... I mean he resigned. Or rather "Resigned."

    Between the incoherent ramblings of the press conference two things were clear:

    (1) Bush can't tell a joke.

    (2) Despite what he said last week about Rummy being onboard until the end of the term, he was planning on firing him. Which means, he was either lying last week or flip-flopping this week.

    But, best for the POTUS to get these types of changes out of the way now before the Senate switches over. He's already going to have his hands full with the House.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Midterm Madness (pt.5)


    Did Altmire win?

    Oh my. Oh my oh my.

    Midterm Madness (pt.4)

    The pro-mistress constituency didn't seem to have helped Don Sherwood.

    Nor did the the pro-choking constituency.

    Midterm Madness (pt.3)

    And Santorum goes down like a gay man on a dog.

    What? Too soon?

    Midterm Madness (pt.2)

    Currently, approximately 88,000 people in Florida's 16th congressional district would rather vote for a pedophile than a Democrat.

    It is Florida, ya know.

    Midterm Madness (pt.1)

    Is Brit Hume's face melting on Fox News or is he passing a kidney stone?

    Midterm Election Spectacularrrrrr

    If you reading this post you're probably one of the few people in this country that thinks about politics and government for more than 5 minutes per month. Therefore the odds are very good that you're going to be voting today, and you would have done so anyway, so there's no reason for me to actually remind you to do so.

    But if you have a friend who doesn't read this blog why not (a) make them read it every day under pain of torture and (b) take them out to the polls?

    And for you who will be watching the poll returns with baited breath tonight, here's a little treat. Enjoy!

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Final Thoughts on Election 2006

    Roughly two years ago, I rolled out of bed bleary-eyed after a long intense night of return watching, pacing, and hard drinking. Unable to find my glasses, I staggered to the living room and switched on the TV, pressed my nose to the screen, and tried to read the blurry crawl on CNN.

    I had predicted early the day before a clear Kerry victory based on a couple common rules of thumb and a slew of polls that I had poured over in the days before. Needless to say, I was very, very wrong. And very hungover.

    Lost a good deal of money on that election pool, by the way.

    Now setting aside the fact that some people believe that the 2004 vote was rife with fraud and effectively stolen, you can see that my punditry skills when it comes to calling elections are not so good.

    That being said: this is what I'm seeing right now:

    In the Senate, 49 Democratic seats + 2 Independents vs. 49 Republicans. I see "Jim" Webb winning against "Macaca" Allen.

    In the House, 227 Democratic seats to 208 Republican seats, which is based on current polls, and a 50/50 split of some of the more contested races. I will admit that this is rather optimistic, which is why I backed down from the original superoptimistic prediction of 245 to 203.*

    The bell weather, however, is going to be in this part of this country with the Hart/Altmire race: if Melissa Hart loses, the Democrats will have trounced the Republicans all over the rest of the country.

    Me? I'm voting for gridlock. Hopefully, on Wednesday morning I will be as bleary-eyed and hungover, but significantly less wrong.

    * Oh good, two people got that joke. Horray for the public school system!

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Midterm Election Bingo

    Saw this a few minutes ago as I was sitting home alone on a Friday night, in the dark, drinking a fifth of Makers Mark and yelling at my 12 cats.

    OK, that's not quite true; it wasn't that dark.

    Anyway, mark your card on November 7th when a seat goes from red to blue.


    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Midterm 2006 Victims (Part 4)

    Let's not beat around the bush here: what I'm about to present is probably the worst political website that I've seen thus far this year. I'm afraid that if I show it to you, I'm going to violate several child endangerment laws and perhaps several laws of nature. This site scares me and I was worried that if I looked at it too long, my face would melt off like at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    So if you're nervous and you feel the need to click on any one of those links to the right there before going any further, I'm not going to be upset.

    I'll give you a second to think about it...





    Don't say you weren't warned:

    You may have to click on the link to get the full, heady impact of the site.

    Let's start at the beginning:

    The old saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. Mr. Ogden's picture is worth exactly 18 words: "I swear to Jesus, I will break your body with my moustache and eat your still beating heart." It also says to me "I saved a bundle at Sears Portrait Studio."

    Now, second, I realize that Mr. Ogden spent some money on his campaign [it says that the site was paid for WAAAAAAAAAAY at the bottom of the page] and I realize that he isn't a professional politician, but you would think that he would have chosen an email address a little better than gymowner777[at]yahoo[dot]com . I mean, he could have asked me for one of my gmail invites (I have 99 left... and no friends). And Yahoo? Are they even around anymore? I thought they were bought out by or something back in the late 90s.

    Third, it is very important for a politician, vital even, to make sure you know how to spell the names of the places that you are hoping to represent. "Sheraden" has an "A" in it, not an "I". Now, again, I realize that this is not Mr. Ogden's full time job, but you think some level of basic research could have been done on his part.

    Fourth: there is absolutely no reason to change the size the CASE or the color of your text for no good reason, especially in mid sentence. It is fairly distracting.

    Imagine no more property taxes! Imagine no more Sheriffs Sales. Imagine no more property assessments! Imagine making home-improvements without being afraid of Property Assessors! Imagine how much more valuable & safer our neighborhoods would be if homeowners were allowed to remodel their homes without being penalized for fixing them up!
    Imagine that a politician could make unworkable, irresponsible, and not-fully-thought-out promises. Imagine that you had a unicorn that farted rainbows and magical pixie dust! Imagine that this paragraph didn't sound like John Lennon if he was an economist on crack! Imagine that it wasn't all so green!

    Sixth, if you're going to endorse a program, make sure that the acronyms (S.T.O.P.) match the programs (Stop Taxing Our Homes?).

    But I'm going to stop here, as I fear that Mr. Ogden will, in fact make good on his threat and rip out my still beating heart.


    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    Midterm 2006 Victims (Part 3)

    ROUND FIVE! LIGHTING ROUND! Hands on your buzzer please!


    Dick Stevenson needs more stuff on his main page. He's missing a dancing baby and a Denny's menu. Perhaps he needs some background .midi music.


    According to, a hockenberry is a fruit from the genus rebublicanus staterepresentatatus identified by it's poor web layout and use of frames. Seriously, it's 2006! NO ONE USES FRAMES ANYMORE!


    Sean decided that out of all the pictures he could have used for his main page, the one that made him look like John Mark Karr was the one to go with. The creepy pedophile vote is the oft overlooked swing constiuency in PA 16.


    As Lisa is the only candidate for this seat (barring a surprise come from behind victory for perrenial write in favorite "I.P. Freeley"), she didn't put much effort into putting together a good webpage. Obviously, her and Todd Hockenberry share the same affinity for frames, although Lisa has shown great taste in going with the black & gold theme. Still, if her campaign wanted to show real yinzer identificiation they should have painted her up in team colors waving a Terrible Towel.


    I can only imagine what Dan's surprised about in his main page picture. Perhaps it's that the "Frankel Future" is a vast dystopia of crushing machine rule, in which humans are used as fuel for their nefarious ends. Perhaps he's just seen Ralph Cappy naked.


    I already did Shawn back in April, so all I have to say is that the webpage is better this time around, right Linda?


    And with that sound, the lightning round is over and the score is 15 to 12.

    We'll fill in the players later.

    More in Part Four....

    Part Four? Seriously? God! I have friggin' work to do!


    Monday, October 30, 2006

    Midterm 2006 Victims (Part 2)

    Before we get into the madness that I know you've all been waiting for, I just wanted to share a couple of observations about these webpages I've been perusing.

    A couple of things become immediately apparent once you've look at at enough of them. First, candidates with more money have better webpages. So, the high profile candidates for Governor have some really good websites; third party candidates and candidates for lower offices do not. Second, younger candidates are more likely to have and/or have better webpages. This is obviously a generational thing.

    Third, and most important of all, I feel: you must choose your colors carefully. There are really only two choices here: Red or Blue. Red means that you connect with the good old salt-of-the-earth time people, and not those damned heathen commies. Blue means that you connect with the working class and hippies. Chances are you'll want a bit of both.

    You can choose White too, but only if you've hired the services of one of those cut rate web designers. Purple is OK, but only as a transition from Red to Blue... otherwise it looks a little "Mark Harris" ifyouknowwhatImean. Green means your a dirty, dirty hippy; yellow means that you are, in fact, color blind. Pink means that you've transcended Mark Harris and moved on to Liberace. Orange indicates that your site is under construction. Gray is reserved for economists turned politicians. I'm not sure what Indigo would mean, but if you know what that color is, you might as well just come out and choose Purple or Pink and stop trying to fool yourself. Choosing Black or Brown is race baiting and is viable only in Tennessee.

    Anyway, onto

    I must say that Eileen starts out with a distinct advantage by looking like the genetic spawn of Sally Field and Heather Locklear, while Frank looks vaguely like Dennis Hastert's younger brother.

    To add insult to injury, a young Frank is pictured on the biography page in a suit that was obviously bought at a morgue firesale. If there are any pictures of Eileen in a suit that would cause America's Next Top Model to cry and abuse a designer, we'll never know. Frank's biggest problem seems to be that he has TOO MANY pictures, especially too many pictures of guys in wifebeater t-shirts.

    Well... that and I think that if you read Frank's nearly illegible signature backwards in the mirror it says "So Dark the Con of Man." Despite her good looks (and obvious spunk), Eileen hasn't learned how to fit text onto one screen without scrolling. She's also a little text heavy; no one told her that the Internet is not for reading, but for things like the llama song.

    I'm going to call this a DRAW. Both Eileen and Frank have to write "The Internet is not a big truck; it is a series of tubes." 1000 times until their webpages improve.


    I imagine a conversation at the Walko headquarters going something like this:
    Look, Don. People are pissed about the pay raise. We need a picture for the front page of the website of you looking like a statesman and maybe another picture of you pressing the flesh with constituents. It'll make you look good.
    I also imagine a conversation at the Stalter headquarters going something like this:
    Billy boy, people are pissed about the pay raise. We need a picture of you for the front page of the website of you looking like a fifth grade science teacher. *FLASH* That'll work. Oh, and can we make the state look slightly askew? Thanks.
    This I'll give to Bill: his family is much more attractive and I think that they took the portrait at a bar rather than at Olan Mills. I'm pro-families in bars.

    However, Walko has the late Mayor in one of his pictures; I'm pro-late Mayors.

    But, in the end Don has more real information on his page and less filler... and it looks less like I designed the site. So the winner for this round is DON WALKO.


    I know it's inappropriate to talk about a candidate like this, but Chelsa Wagner is kinda cute in a Rachel Ray kinda way. I'd totally caucus with that, and fortunately for her, Michael Diven doesn't seem to have a webpage.

    More in Part 3. ..


    Things Discovered in the Series of Tubes

    The Internets have changed the way that politics happens. For example, even five years ago only a handful of people would have seen this video:

    Or worse, this video:

    Perhaps it was better that way.


    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Midterm 2006 Victims (Part 1)

    As we are rapidly approaching November 7th and I am horribly behind schedule on my midterm madness coverage, I figured I should get on the ball and start pwning the 1337 'net skillz of those that would run for public office.

    There are a lot of campaigns in and around Western PA that I want to focus on, so, in order to save some time, we're going to forgo the traditional one-post-per-candidate and skip right into the steel cage of death match.


    With that, we'll start at the bottom and work our way up:


    If this race was, in fact, a real steel cage of death match, this should be a battle royal. We got ourselves five, count 'em, FIVE candidates for the seat on City Council left vacant by His Lukey-ness. They are, in no particular order, Darlene Harris (D), Joe Lucas (R), Kevin T. Donahue (I), Steven Oberst (I), and Dave Schuilenburg (I).

    Notice the use of the word "should". In reality, I could only find one candidate for office that bothered to put up a website. [C'mon folks! If I can do it, so can you.] So, without further adieu:

    Those of you that aren't follow the topsy turvey world of City Council District #1, Dave is the Canadian. Seriously: the dude is a terrorist loving, pot smoking, prescription drug importer... or at least that's what Fox News tells me. Now, I could delve into my bag of Cannuck jokes and pull out a couple of gems about maple syrup, hockey, and Labatts... but that would be distasteful, eh? Besides, there are better things to make fun of on Dave's website.

    For example, I'm not quite sure how I feel about the "Ask to Meet Dave" page. It sounds really creepy, and the picture on that page does nothing to assuade my fears. In fact, I have this strange feeling that Dave is standing outside my window watching and waiting for me to go to the bathroom. I mean, why else would there be a "Request a Visit" check box at the bottom.

    Sadly, Dave's webpage is lacking both photos and endorsements. He promises that they are "Coming soon," but with about a week to go, I'm not expecting much. Of course, I don't expect much from City Council candidates.

    But the winner by default in 1st District is DAVE SCHUILENBURG.




    Wait... or is it the other way around? Seriously, I'm not even sure that Matt and Mark aren't the same person. I mean, they both have the same awkward picture on the first page of their website. I really can't tell white creepy looking politicians apart anymore.

    Matt (or is it Mark's) website seems a bit less busy though; Mark (or is it Matt) just needs a couple of web polls, a list of links, and the current iTunes track, and me'd have a MySpace page: OMG MATT TOTALLY DISSED ME, WTF! and what not. Mark does seem to have an unhealthy persecution complex, and devotes a whole lot of the site to implying that Matt's supporters vandalized his signs. Personally, it's probably terrorist, or the gay mafia, or brown people.

    Which are the real reasons why we need a big, deadly, straight wall along the border with Rossyln Farms.

    Matt's photos are a bit more upbeat (although it looks like they were taken with a disposable camera) and involve more than just sign destroying.

    So, the winner in the 42nd District is MARK SMITH, no, wait, MATT HARRIS... MATT SMITH.

    More coming soon in Part II...

    Tag(s): , , ,

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Gridlock: On the Protection against Faction

    There's a part of me that never left the political science department at Bureaucracy University.* This is the part that's still has a soft spot for Montesquieu, Mill, Madison, and other political philosophers that don't begin with "M". This is the part that understands things like separation of powers and dialectical materialism. This is the part that understands, as Mill and Hegel did, that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing, but can result in a form of creative destruction. Most importantly, this is the part that understands the value of gridlock - the complete inability to move a political agenda forward.

    In the last six years we've seen what, back in a more politically attuned age, would have caused people to flood into the streets in violent mobs: wars, curtailment of civil liberties, increase of cronyism and nepotism, corruption, and, above all, incompetence at the highest levels. At the same time we have seen complete and total domination of one party at the expense of the other and at the expense of the good of the people that they supposedly represent and govern. I would go so far to suggest that these represent the hallmark of tyranny. And while others may try to make excuses for it, a tyranny of the majority is still tyranny.

    In The Federalist Papers, Madison discusses at length the danger of faction. He argues that the remedy to the problem of the most egregious examples of faction, the tyranny of the majority, is a republican form of government with sufficient checks and balances [Federalist #10]. He says, "A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party." The only solution is to mitigate the effects of faction, by a division of the governmental structure into branches and bicameral legislative bodies.

    So, while the Founders here never contemplated the rise of organized national political parties, the sentiments can be extrapolated just the same: the domination of any one faction needs to be mitigated. Majority faction must be checked in order to secure the rights of the minority. This, however, has not happened: one party, on faction, has now come to dominate all three branches of government. The result is exactly what Madison predicted: the mischiefs of faction.

    The point is this folks: gridlock - for lack of a better work - is good.

    Gridlock crushes a rampaging majority.

    Gridlock slows the trampling of rights.

    Gridlock allows compromise and clearer heads to prevail.

    Gridlock, that dirty word that politicians rail against, will save this country from the unintended consequences of its own desires.

    So on November 7th: vote for America; vote for gridlock.

    * Go Fightin' Triplicates!

    Tag(s): ,

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    The 411 on 311 ($1.99 at 7-11)

    [Yesterday's post was deleted by a State Senate clerical error. ]

    I'm of mixed mind on the new City-wide 311 information system.

    In its technologically advanced format, Ravenstahl's Response Line allows city residents to register non-emergency concerns, ask questions or make comments by dialing 311. Operators will log the concerns, assign them a number for future follow-up and forward them to the appropriate departments for action.

    Two years ago, at the height of the city's financial crisis, former mayor Tom Murphy closed the former service center to save money. The late Mayor Bob O'Connor started the process to reopen a service center, and Mr. Ravenstahl continued the project when he took office Sept. 1 after Mr. O'Connor's death.

    Mr. Ravenstahl said he isn't concerned that the system will be overwhelmed with calls about unfilled potholes and unpaved streets. He said he wants to know about all of those situations so the city can deal with them in a timely fashion, regardless of the city's tenuous finances.

    OK, so on one hand the new 311 system will reduce the calls that I receive from people in the City (and parts of the County) that think I do everything. On the other hand, however, I will now be inundated with calls directed to me by a phone system that thinks that I do everything.

    So, of course, I'm concerned, ever if Hizzoner is not.

    Now, there's going to be a big difference, of course, between "taking appropriate action" and "solving the problem"... but I doubt that the general public understands that nuance and there's always going to be some level of bureaucratic leakage in getting anything done. We have TPS reports to fill out.

    There's also that whole thing about redistributing limited resources across an increasing number of problems. At least when we didn't know about the problems, we didn't have to solve the problems. Now we have to solve the existing problems and the new problems.

    But that's just my gripe as a bureaucrat; my gripe as a citizens is that people like me are going to be trying to solve my complaints.

    That's scary.


    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Report: 83% of Americans don't Understand Satire

    (Reuters) - Carnegie Mellon University researchers announced the results of their three year, seven and a half month, four day, twelve minute and thirty-three second study of the state of satire in the United States.

    Announcing the findings was Dr. Karl Gruber of the Institute for Mathematics, Creative Writing and Public Policy (IMCWAPP) at CMU.

    "It is disturbing that in the current climate of fear, unrest, cynicism, irony, pathos, puns, and litotes, currently 83% of Americans cannot recognize satire when compared with actual real life events," said Gruber.

    Gruber heads a team of eleven researchers at IMCWAPP, dedicated to finding the disconnect between perceptions and reality.

    "It started out as more of anecdotes: stories of people burning copies of A Modest Proposal after finding out that it called for the eating of babies. Then there was the instance in Alabama where, after reading a compendium of the works of Alexander Pope, two Senators put forth a bill mandating 25 yrs to life for Lock Rapists. And of course all the politicians that go on The Colbert Report"

    "My colleague Dr. Frank M. Arouet and I set about to test people's responses to satire in a controlled environment. The results were surprising."

    According to the study, 83% of all Americans were unable to correctly identify obvious pieces of satire from talk radio. Further, 64% of those that incorrectly identified satire as actual opinion, when solicited, gave money to the supposed cause or were sold T-Shirts with satirical opinions. A further 20% went to rallies on said satirical opinion and, in one instance, a man actually set himself on fire.

    "I mean," says Arouet, "I knew people in this country were dumb, but I though 'Blue Collar Comedy' Dumb not 'Dumber than a bag of ball peen hammers' Dumb. Heck, we could have completely made up our research and just asked for more funding."

    Gruber and Arouet announced that they will be continuing on their $340 million study from an undisclosed hotel in Aruba, where they will conduct indepth research on the number of salt grains that can fit on the rim of a margarita glass.