Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fiscal '07 Federal Budget Proposal; or Why Timmy Can't Read Good

This article was brought to my attention by an adroit and attractive reader of this blog. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities somehow managed to get hold of some data from the Office of Management and Budget, which was not supposed to be released. The information is quite scary if... you know, you're elderly, on food stamps, are in special education, are into conserving energy, enjoy public safety, food safety, etc. From the article:

If the President’s plan were implemented, total funding for domestic discretionary programs (annually appropriated programs outside of defense and international affairs) for the next five years (2007 through 2011) would be reduced by $183 billion below the OMB baseline (i.e., below the 2006 funding level, adjusted for inflation). The bulk of the cuts — $167 billion — would occur in years after 2007. By 2011, the cut would be almost $57 billion (13 percent) below the amount needed to keep pace with inflation.
Yes. You read that right. That's a 13% decrease in domestic spending.

For Pennsylvania here's the estimated impact (2007-2011):
    In Elementary and Secondary Education,
    • K-12: -$253,500,000 ($111,000,000 of this comes in 2011)
    • Special Education: -$198,300,000
    • School Improvement Programs: -$143,700,000;
    • Impact Aid: -$800,000
    In the WIC Program (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children): -$67,000,000 (cutting out 14,200 participants in the Commonwealth);
    Head Start (by Slots): Ranging from -3,300 to -4,300 by 2011;
    Public Housing Capital Fund: -$174,900,000;
    Community Development Block Grant: -$326,000,000;
    Low Income Home Energy Assistance: - $130,600,000;
This is apparently known as "Compassionate Conservatism."

So... what does this mean? Well, I can think of two potential outcomes: (1) Your programs will be cut or (2) your state & local taxes will be raised. I suppose there's a third option: a lawsuit by the states for unfunded mandates.

There could be a fourth, if "Cock Punch" is an option.

More to come...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"G Fund" Men

I'm not expecting to retire any time soon, not after this, anyway:

Although the Treasury Department will rely on the G Fund in the Thrift Savings Plan to buy some time to maneuver against the national debt limit, federal employees who invest in the fund will not suffer any losses, officials said.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow told Congress last week that it had begun to use the TSP's government securities fund to keep from hitting the $8 trillion debt limit. He called on congressional leaders to increase the debt limit by mid-March, suggesting that was when the Treasury might not be able to meet its financial obligations.

Snow also indicated that TSP investors should not worry about his decision to suspend reinvestment of some TSP assets on a daily basis. In a letter to Capitol Hill leaders, Snow said G Fund participants "are fully protected and will suffer no adverse consequences from this action."

A 1987 law requires the Treasury secretary to make "complete restoration of all funds temporarily affected by this necessary action, including full and automatic restoration of any interest that would have been credited to the fund," Snow wrote.

The G Fund is one of the most popular investment choices for federal employees, in part because it provides steady returns (4.48 percent for the 12-month period ending Jan. 31). The fund, available only to government personnel, allows investors to earn rates of interest similar to those of long-term government securities without any risk of losing principal and with little volatility in earnings.

The G Fund has about $65.3 billion in assets, but a Treasury spokeswoman said officials "will just take what we need to get through each day." Treasury began suspending G Fund investments Thursday, according to Snow's letter.

By suspending G Fund investments, Treasury makes room on the government's books for more borrowing. Brookly McLaughlin , the department spokeswoman, said Treasury might resort to other methods to avoid bumping up against the debt limit. For example, she noted that the government closed a window Wednesday for lending debt securities to state and local governments.

Numerous federal employees object to the Treasury maneuver, contending that it amounts to a raid by the government into personal savings accounts. But officials noted that the G Fund has been used to avoid defaulting on the national debt several times, including during the budget showdowns of 1995 and 1996.

In a posting on the TSP Web site, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said a "make-whole provision" in the 1987 law "means that TSP participants who have invested in the G Fund will not lose anything."
Three things frighten me (four if you include clowns):

(1) The impending Federal Talent Crisis, outlined here (links on the site are broken, my bad, try this newsletter if you like a scrolling challenge).

When I've hinted at this in the past, it's been in light of the depletion of the talent pool, however, I have not touched on the financial implications of 900,000 federal retirees by 2010. I can't do math in my head right now, but my instincts tell me this is a lot of money. The immediate questions are, of course, how many retirees are going to be pulling their money out of the G Fund in the immediate future, how are those payments going to be covered, and how long will this last.

(2) In this administration, fiscal conservatism seems to be an oxymoron... like "military intelligence" or" Justice Scalia".

(3) I don't trust these yahoos, including John Snow. Given past performances, I don't think that these guys can tell this from this.

That is all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Any Storm in a Port

I had heard about the Port thing a while ago, and didn't think anything of it. In passing, I knew that there was some controversy, but I figured that this was political pandering and posturing against the Fearless Leader and could safely ignore it through my media filter.

Or as I call it: the "Off Button."

Anyway, then I read this report:

President Bush on Tuesday defended a deal that would let a United Arab Emirates-based company run some key U.S. seaports, telling reporters that he would veto any bill to hold up the agreement.
Um... huh?

OK, this would be Bush's first, FIRST veto in 5 years... and he's going to spend it on this? But, more importantly, he's spending political capital on this?

So... it makes me wonder... whoa it makes me wonder...


It makes me wonder, what is this "Dubai Ports World" and why is the President so willing to shoot his wad on these guys?

OK, I found this article about Neil Bush (Fearless Leader Jr.) and Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem (Dubai Ports World Chairman) meeting at a gala dinner for the Science, Technology and Arts Royal Summit, which is somehow related to the Information Technology Association - Jordan. That's hardly a clear connection.

And the Sultan is also, apparently the chairman of Istithmar PJSC, a leading investment house based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), focusing on private equity, real estate and alternative investments. See here. They've bought a lot of stuff and have spread a lot of money around. So there might be a lead there...

But what does this all mean? Where's the connection? I refuse to believe that Bush seriously cares who gets this port deal, and that "terrorism" is just a red herring which the media has conveniently latched on to.

Let's keep digging.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Presidents Day: Your Opportunity to Buy Carpet

Here's Presidents Day for you, as summed up by the Post-Gazette:

All county, state and federal buildings, post offices and state liquor stores are closed today in observance of Presidents Day. Common Pleas Court and U.S. District Court are closed, but city offices are open. Banks are closed. Mail will be collected, but not delivered, excluding Express Mail. Port Authority buses and the T operate on regular schedules. State Department of Transportation driver license and photo centers are closed.
Which means that most government offices are closed today, except the one you either (a) need or (b) work for.

[The good news is that, as a bureaucrat, the general public either thinks that you're not working if you are or working if you're not. In either case, it's a good opportunity to get some filing done or catch up on your sleep.]

So, here's the deal: There are only four Real American Holidays. The Real American Holidays, first, commemorate a secular event, an act, or actions, second, have some sort of ritual prescribed with them, and, third, aren't just an excuse to sell discount carpet or used cars. Generally, these are the Holidays where everyone is off and if you go looking for someone, you're an idiot.

The Real American Holidays are as follows:
New Year's Day
Memorial Day
Independence Day

Let's examine them in depth:

New Years Day:
  • Event: Changing of the New Year (d'uh);
  • Ritual: Champagne, Dropping Balls, Dick Clark, Auld Lange Syne... and afterwards nursing that hangover;
  • Carpet Sales: Minimal - No one wants to buy carpet when hung over... unless you horked on your carpet the night before.

    Memorial Day:
  • Actions: The actions of those brave men and women who fought to keep us Free;
  • Ritual: Parades, 21 Gun Salutes, Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, a trip to the Jersey Shore;
  • Carpet Sales: Some, but only to support the troops.

    Independence Day:
  • Event: Commemorating the day White, Rich Men gave the finger to other White, Rich Men in Crowns and silly wigs.
  • Ritual: Parades, 21 Gun Salutes, Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Fireworks, trips to the emergency room when an M-80 goes off in your shoe;
  • Carpet Sales: Minimal.

  • Event: Giant Feast;
  • Ritual: Giant Feast;
  • Carpet Sales: Does Macy's sell carpet?

    OK, there are two that I've omitted, one of which is obvious: Good Friday and Christmas. These aren't secular holidays, just a cop out by the Government, who knows that a large percentage of their work force is going to call in sick anyway. Might as well call those holidays too.

    Everything else [Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day] aren't real holidays. Here's why:

    Columbus Day: If Columbus Day is a Holiday, I demand a holiday for St. Brendan, Lief Erikson, Zheng He, and Ian "Sammy" Samwell who discovered the band "America".

    Labor Day: Labor Day is celebrated on May 1st, everywhere else in the world, commemorating the Hay Market Square riot in Chicago... except in America. Go fig.

    President's Day: Three words: Martin Van Buren.

    OK, now it gets a little harder...

    Veteran's Day: Well... I'll give you the sentiment proffered by Mr. Kurt Vonnegut:
    When I was a boy [...] all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

    It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

    Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.

    So I will throw Veterans Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things. --Breakfast of Champions
    I have have a similar feeling forMartin Luther King Jr. Day: it lacks the solemness that it deserves. It should be a better holiday, but it lacks rituals, food, or flashy fireworks; there's not enough excitement for our easily distracted public consciousness. Too many people have died for the principles which are supposed to be espoused in this holiday for it to seem so empty. It needs better; it deserves better.

    Until we recenter our national moral priorities, both Veterans Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day are pale reflections of the holidays they should be.

    OK, now to less serious matters.

    Someone told me once that ancient Rome had a festival nearly every day of the week in order to distract from the massively high unemployment that would have resulted from people working nearly all the time. My feeling is that we need more holidays. So, here are some of my suggestions to help round out the calendar:

    Groundhog Day
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: Dirty, dirty rodent escaping from his hole and pretending to tell us what the weather is going to be... but enough about Steve Teeling;
  • Ritual: Watching Groundhog Day on TBS over, and over, and over...

    Groundhog Day
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: Dirty, dirty rodent escaping from his hole and pretending to tell us what the weather is going to be... but enough about Steve Teeling;
  • Ritual: Watching Groundhog Day on TBS over, and over, and over...

    Groundhog Day
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: Dirty, dirty rodent escaping from his hole and pretending to tell us what the weather is going to be... but enough about Steve Teeling;
  • Ritual: Watching Groundhog Day on TBS over, and over, and over...

    [WHACK!] Moving on...

    Valentine's Day
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: Love;
  • Ritual: Gettin' it on... I mean, expressing our love Dear. Hey! Hey, don't make that face at me! Why do you always have to be like this...!

    St. Patrick's Day
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: Not sure, but according to the songs I've heard, it involves drinking and killing the English;
  • Ritual: As there are no English to be found 'round these here parts... I suppose we just have to drink. So sad.

    April 15th; Tax Day
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: The Loss of Our Sweet, Hard Earned Cash;
  • Ritual: As I understand it, the Constitution allows us to take a whiz on the IRS building. I'm a little shaky on my Constitutional Law, but I say we invoke our freedoms.

    Arbor Day
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: Um... treeness?;
  • Ritual: Planting a Tree. Alternatively planting a Bush in Texas.

    Spring Break
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: SHOW US YOUR T!TS!;
  • Ritual: SHOW US YOUR T!TS!

    August Day
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: Nothing. August is a long month and we need a break;
  • Ritual: Nothing. Take a break.

  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: Um... Satan?;
  • Ritual: Begging for candy from strangers.

    The Day After Thanksgiving
  • Action/Act/Event Commemorated: That bloated feeling the Pilgrims got after feasting for a week;
  • Ritual: Lounging on the couch, hoping for someone to bring out another slice of pie.

    Well, that's my calendar. Combined with my accrued vacation and comp time, I won't be in the office until 2017. Plenty of time to buy carpet.

  • Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Rule #16

    Somebody found me and The Rules of Bureaucracy over on the left there. I don't want my non-Pittsburgh readers to think that I'm neglecting them, so here's another rule...

    But first some back story.

    I entered The Bureaucracy with a benign naivete, hoping to do my bit for King and Country and to, in my own little way, change the world. In fairness, and despite all the paperwork that ensued in the interim, I did, and I continue to do so. I don't want to strain myself from patting my own back too hard, but you can see my work all over the City, if you're paying attention.

    You're not paying attention.

    Anyway, in the course of my duties I invariably come into contact with elected officials on all levels. This was initially a bit of a thrill to see "people in charge," but the facination started to wane after I got the chance to actually talk and work with them, finally coming to the conclusion that... well... a lot of these people are pretty dumb. And if not dumb, incompetant. And if not incompetant, self-serving and malicious.

    Actually, this should be of no surprise to anyone; if you are a fan of Douglas Adams, you'll recognize this quote:

    It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it... anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
    It works for local government too; we don't elect the cream-of-the-crop to be our leaders. Rather, we elect the unemployable, the hacks, the demogogues, and, worst, the outright idiots; these are the people who can't find a real paying job. As such, they don't understand either (a) the problem, (b) the whole problem, (c) English, or (d) reality; these qualities do not inspire leadership.

    And while most will scoff at my snarkiness (and I say scoff away), we can generally agree on the following rule:

    Rule #16: Politicians are not smarter than you.

    There are days when I think we would be doing what the Greeks did: governing by lot, by pulling the first 100 names out of the Boston phone book. Or something like that.


    BONUS: Rule #0

    I've received the several complaints about The Rules of Bureaucracy, all of which boil down to the following:
    The Rules are out of order.
    The Rules are incomplete.
    The Rules contradict each other.
    Anyone who's worked in Bureaucracy for long enough will realize that this doesn't matter in the least bit, but to clarify for the "Normals" out there,

    Rule #0: The Rules of Bureaucracy are mutable, non-canonical, non-ordinal, and contradictory, except in the cases where they are not. [cf. Beggers v. Choosers, 207 U. S. 161 (1907)]

    Everyone happy? Tough.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Grand Old Pittsburgh

    Yes, the rumors are true: Pittsburgh has been asked to submit a bid on the 2008 Republican Convention. Of course, 30 other cities are in the running.

    Well... 28 Cities. Chicago already told the GOP, and I'm quoting here, to "suck it",* as did San Diego, who responded with something unprintable and unnecessarily vulgar.

    If you believe the Trib, we're also back in the hunt for the Democratic Convention.

    Imagine the embarrassment if we hosted them both! We'd never be able to go anywhere without Des Moines whispering behind our back, "Oh, she's the one that whored herself out to two Conventions back in 2008. I heard she also had a Green Party Quarterly meeting while she was totally drunk." And we all know that Des Moines is just a two bit hussy herself, who'll put out for any farm show, any time, any place.**

    Obviously the Democrats would feel a bit more welcome in this town than the GOP, but both conventions create a myriad of problems for the City in terms of logistics.

    The one that I'm concerned with is this: remember in 2004 when the GOP blocked off, like, 3 blocks of downtown New York City for their convention? Can you even imagine what that would be like in downtown Pittsburgh? We might as well just stop coming into work that week.

    Umm... yeah boss. I, um, can't make it in to town today. It seems that the Secret Service has quarantined most of my commute route. Yeah, yeah.... I tried to get around, but, um... they're slowly crushing my windpipe right now...
    Maybe Chicago would be a better place for the convention after all.

    * No, not really.
    ** I don't think this part is true either.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Act 47, Lakers 56

    Meanwhile, back in City Council Chambers a Councilwoman makes a fateful decision. We join our story, already in progress:

    A little more than two years after the city was declared distressed, Pittsburgh Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle and labor unions are asking its fiscal doctors to release it from care.

    Ms. Carlisle introduced a resolution yesterday that would ask Dennis Yablonsky, state Department of Community and Economic Development secretary, to pull the plug on the team that has crafted a fiscal plan for the city. Though the chance of that happening soon seems remote, the resolution officially kicks off the debate on when the city can consider itself healed.
    Now I'm not a big fan of the Act 47 people, but I'm also not a fan of diet and exercise as a means towards healthy living either, so take the following views for what they're worth:

    (1) It's no surprise that Ms. Carlisle is supporting the termination of Act 47. Ms. Carlisle's African American constituents, if you believe the conventional wisdom, are more likely to gain benefits from Union membership. Union contracts are significantly restricted by Act 47.

    (2) I find it interesting that she asked for the elimination of Act 47, and not the ICA. Me, the handsome, intelligent, funny, modest, technocrat is much more supportive of the professionalism of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott than a bunch of political appointees.

    (3) With regard to point #2: Governor Lynn Swann. It is doubtful that the ICA would be any more friendly to the City should the Republicans gain the governor's office, and thereby gain majority control of the Authority.

    (4) Everything I learned about City Government, I learned from SimCity: make sure you have a good contingency reserve before you go rezoning.

    (5) There is no point five.

    I am not a Number! I am a Free Man!

    I don't usually read the Opinion section of the Post Gazette. To me "Opinions" are like assholes: both can be found on blogs. This piece from Mark DeSantis caught my eye, partially because the title contained the words "Government" and "Infantilizating." The second word there, I was disappointed to discover, had nothing to do with wearing diapers and getting spanked. What can I say? I have a fetish.

    Don't go judging me.

    Where was I? Ah:

    Every now and then you read, hear or see a very small act and it speaks volumes of information. It could be someone's posture in a meeting or one brief line in an e-mail. The act itself is of little consequence but what the action often says is profound.

    The small act in this case is the city government's new policy limiting Internet access by city employees to 30 minutes a day (in 10-minute chunks)....

    In the Post-Gazette article last week about the restriction, Howard Stern, the city's chief information officer, said, "This is part of professionalizing city government." That is the deeper and disturbing message embedded within...

    The next impression is how infantile and degrading it is. Put yourself in the shoes of a city employee. You are told you cannot access the Internet for more than 30 minutes because you apparently lack the self-discipline to tear yourself away to do your job. What an inspired act of leadership!...
    See, this is what I've been going on about.

    Bureaucrats are not mindless automatons, reacting to stimulii. Restricting Internet usage is not going to increase productivity any more than a team of managers chanting "work smarter, not harder" will increase productivity.

    Reduction of employees to cogs in a wheel, to a labor commodity to be exploited, is a ridiculous proposition.

    So, I guess I'm trying to say: hug a bureaucrat; we get lonely.

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Flotsam and Jetsam

    Time is out of joint... as are my thoughts, and my nose.


    Watching the Olympic opening ceremony, got me thinking: the Greeks had a salute to antiquity; the Atlanteans had a salute to monter truck rallies. If the Olympics came to Pittsburgh, what would we have? Giant inflatable pierogies? A bunch of fat, shirtless drunk guys? Cyril Wecht?

    I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my powerball winnings. I'm thinking maybe I'll trick out my house to an exact replica of the Enterprise. Or maybe I'll just get it in singles and roll around naked.

    What do we do know that we've won that 5th Superbowl? What would Don Quixote do if he caught his giant?

    What do I mean "we" won. I just watched and ate nachos.

    Mmm.... nachos.

    Libby fingers Cheney. Brown fingers Chertoff. Who's going to finger Bush?

    OK, that was dirty.

    Aight. That's all for now. I have to go clean myself off.

    Bush is Evil

    Image Hosted by

    Mmmmm... that's good satire!

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Wabbit Season! Duck Season! Cheney Season?

    Comedy = Tragedy + Time






    That should do it.

    OK, we've all read about this by now:

    WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets.

    (1) Didn't the victim, Harry Whittington, learn anything from Alexander Hamilton? When the Vice President has a gun: duck.

    (2) Looks like someone didn't support the troops enough.

    (3) Guns don't kill people; although the Vice President made a pretty good showing.

    (4) This is a new strategy from the White House: if media coverage goes sour, raise the threat level. If that fails, Cheney shoots someone.

    (5) I pictured this Monty Python Sketch. Or this one:
    Image Hosted by

    (6) Mission Accomplished

    (7) This was Bush's weekend to be the "Smart One".

    The good news, of course, is that the victim seems to be doing well and will make a full recovery. The bad news is that Cheney's not going to be on Best Week Ever.

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    404 Error

    Obviously, when all of my readers saw this, their immediate reaction was "how will this affect The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat?"

    When some city of Pittsburgh employees tried to check the Internet Tuesday, they got an unusual message.

    Up popped a note saying the site where they were headed was "filtered." If they wanted to proceed, they had to click on a button that said "Use Quota Time." They'd then get 10 minutes to browse -- one of three such sessions they'd get that day.

    It was the same for any Web site they checked. Turns out the message reflects a new city policy restricting many employees' Internet access, for any purpose, to 30 minutes a day.
    Fortunately, for my loyal readers (Hi Sally!), this blog will be unaffected.

    But, of course, I've switched my times postings from AM to PM recently.

    So the "reason" for this change in policy is to "increase productivity," because, we know, employees never do anything unproductive on company time other than play on the Internet.

    If they want to increase productivity, how about eliminating smoking breaks? Or coffee breaks? Or talking about non-work related subjects?

    Next thing you know, they'll be eliminating my three martini post-lunch.

    Actually, what's worse is that this is an anti-technology policy: as more departments and bureaucracies start to post things on the Internet, the need to use the Internet for true business reasons increases. I know that I pull things off various Federal and State sites every day, but that might just me. If there's a City/County/State/Federal bureaucracy that doesn't need to know the most up to date information, I haven't found it.

    Anyway, off to visit the sites I didn't at work... Oooh! Kenya!

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Ta Nah Nah Nah! Hey Habay! Goodbye!

    Schadenfreude - (n) Pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.

    State Rep. Jeff Habay was sentenced Wednesday to 6-12 months in a halfway house for making his staff do campaign work on state time, and immediately resigned from the Legislature.
    I think the most ridiculous thing about the Habay resignation was not that he resigned, but that he resigned because he was going to Federal pound-you-in-the-ass prison.

    OK, not prison, halfway house. Po-TAY-toh. Po-TAH-toh.

    No, the ridiculous thing was that he didn't resign when he was convicted of conflict of interest charges but when he was sentenced. This is sort of like saying to the State Legislature, "Sorry I can't make it for the next 6-12 months... I have other obligations."

    Anyway, convention wisdom is saying that some time ago Habay took a left turn at Crazy Town a while back, and is now political poison anyway. I don't know why anyone would say this *cough* anthrax *cough*.

    Does this mean he has to give back his pay raise?

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Scenes from a Funeral

    Given illegal wiretappings, the outing of CIA agents, a supposed conspiracy to send the country to war, criminal indictments against law makers, massive cuts in federal aid, massive give backs to the wealthiest few, etc. is this an appropriate comment at the funeral for a woman who helped champion non-violent protest in the cause of social justice?

    Or is that a trick question?

    O'Connor Announces Board Appointments; ADB's Nomination Obviously Lost in the Mail

    Sufficite it to say, yours truly was not among those nominated by the O'Connor administration to sit on any of the more powerful boards & commissions. That's OK as I am still holding out for a seat on the Commission on Naming Public Places.

    Interesting notes:

    (1) Michael S. Jasper, who was appointed to the Parking Authority Board, sits on the Community Advisory Board for WQED Mulitmedia, the former home of now Mayoral Chief of Staff B. J. Leber.

    (2) Developer William Rudolph replaces Dr. David Epperson, former dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work on the URA board. Interesting exchange there: social worker for developer.

    (3) City Executive Director of Intergovernmental Relations Dennis J. Regan has been nominated to the Housing Authority board, to replace outgoing fiesty Chairman Gerald Voros.

    (4) Wrenna L. Watson, who was nominated to the Zoning Board of Adjustments, was an also-ran in this past election for Common Pleas Judge, although she did secure the 4th slot in the Democratic party endorsement.

    (5) I don't know much about the other appointment to Parking Authority Board, Linda Judson... although she pops up a couple times in Post Gazette Seen columns.

    Mr. O'Connor: I am still available for the Commission on Naming Public Places.

    [Hint HINT!]

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Pittsburgh Pessimism

    You know what Pittsburgh Pessimism is:

    21-10 with 27 seconds to go in the 4th, and someone in the crowd shouts "don't celebrate yet."

    I'm celebrating now...

    Go Went Steelers!

    Friday, February 03, 2006

    Refined Thought(s) on the State of the Union

    My belated $.02 on the State of the Union:

    Most of what I reacted to can be summed up in this little snippet:

    Every year of my presidency, we've reduced the growth of nonsecurity discretionary spending. And last year you passed bills that cut this spending.

    This year my budget will cut it again and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities.

    By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.
    Read that carefully, because it's sneaky.

    The important words, of course, are nonsecurity discretionary spending

    Here's the take from that bastion of Liberalism, the Wall Street Journal:
    The budget request for fiscal 2007 is expected to total about $2.7 trillion -- up from nearly $1.8 trillion when he [Bush] took office. According to the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, total spending rose from 2001 through 2005 by an average 7% annually, double the pace of the previous five years -- and nearly triple the average inflation rate...

    An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, shows that mandatory spending grew to 10.8% of GDP this year, from 10% at the start of the Bush administration. Medicare has been growing twice as fast as Social Security amid rising health costs -- and that is before the tab for Mr. Bush's new prescription-drug benefit. Entitlement spending is projected to explode as baby boomers retire...

    Discretionary spending for defense and domestic programs is what the president and Congress haggle over in yearly appropriations bills, and the type of spending many Americans associate with the budget. But at $894 billion in spending authority for 2006, it is less than a third of the entire pie. The center found that funding for discretionary programs has grown to 7.7% of GDP, counting expected war funding, from 6.8% in 2001 and "all of this growth came in defense and related security areas."

    Defense and homeland-security funding since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has grown to 4.2% of GDP in 2006 -- or 4.6%, counting expected additional war funding -- from 3.4% in 2001. This spending can't be cut, Mr. Bush says. "Listen, we're at war," he told the Economic Club of Chicago earlier this month. "That means we've got to show extra discipline in other areas."

    Also off-limits is interest on U.S. debt. After declining from 1998 through 2003, payments to creditors here and abroad jumped a near-record 14.2% in 2005, CBO reported. They are now 8% of all spending -- roughly half the size of all domestic discretionary spending, or more than the entire budgets of the departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice and Labor combined.
    Sorry, those were big chunks.

    Basically, unless you're a retiree, a potential retiree, the military, in debt service, or tapping citizen phonelines, you will see your funding cut. This has very serious implications for Cities across this country, which, for the most part, didn't "go red" in the last election.

    New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the rest of you: you are all being punished. Goodbye CDBG funding.

    What's more, this is not necessarily a good position for a "captured" Congress to be in going into midterm elections; Congresscritters need to be able to show that they are bringing resources back to the district. A reduction in overall resources is going to impact individual district, and, therefore, individual races. So, for the GOP, this is a very short sighted strategy, which lead, in my opinion, inexorably to a pissed electorate.

    Oh, and the "reducing the deficit" stuff is crap. If I recall correctly, this whole deficit makes it more difficult for the federal government to borrow, which means a higher interest rate from our creditors, which means it's more expensive to borrow, which means we're increasing the debt service, again. And we go round again.

    But we can't afford to be isolationist either. Of course, given our list of creditors, I think we're hardly isolationists. I've decided just to send my paycheck to China this year and eliminate the middle man.

    Oh, and the rest of the speech was crap too:

    The domestic policies were basically a greatest hits compilation; the foreign policy (-ies?) was an admixture of jingoism and sabre rattling. [Yawn]

    At least we only have to hear it twice more.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Here We Go Steelers! Here We Go!

    I'm not as big a football freak as Fester, but, like most Pittsburghers, I love my Steelers. I just don't like to talk about it much. I'm a 30 Level Rogue Night Elf in World of Warcraft, but you don't hear me going on and on about it.

    Same deal with the Steelers.

    Anyway, just a couple of thoughts, irrespective of the actual game:


    Seriously. I'm sick to death of hearing about Jerome, Ben, Troy, etc. etc. I can only imagine what people in Seattle think about us. Not that I really care what other people think of us, but we don't seem to do well when we're favorites. I'd like a nice moral, underdog victory and avoid the jinx.

    Second, did the city freak out like this in '96? I honestly don't remember. But damn...

    Image Hosted by, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


    Third, Bob O'Connor's been pretty lucky to have had two big parties in a month. [At least that's what they tell me; I was chained to my desk all day today. I heard there was ice cream?] I'm not complaining, we're in need of circuses... that aren't in City Council chambers

    Fourth, Karl Marx didn't know jack about opiates. This City is feeling goooood.

    Fifth, it's time for an Ahrn.