Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Happy Hour

Politics after my own heart:

Barack Obama had a drinks party at the White House on Wednesday night. He invited congressional leaders of both parties for cocktails at 7:30... The cocktail invitation could be a polite gesture—they hosted him Tuesday on the Hill, and he wants to return the favor; or it could be a stratagem—after being with them so much, Obama realizes that everyone could use a good drink. Or it could be a philosophical statement: Sobering times do not necessarily require everyone to be sober.
In vino veritas, and all that.

I respect everyone's deeply held political beliefs. Everyone should believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Report: City Road Maintenance Could Be Improved

An in depth report indicating that Pittsburgh can do a better job in road plowing, patching, paving was released today by the City's Friggin' Obvious Department.

"You see you have these street in the City, right? And they need fixed, right? So we should fix them," said Department Director Noah S. Sherlock. "And when it snows, we should plow those roads, unless it doesn't snow."

The Report found that years of deferred maintenance on bridges, roads, and other public right-of-ways meant that future costs of repairs were larger, and not smaller as was initially believed by elected officials. It is easier to fix a small problem now when it is small, then a large problem in the future when it is large.

This revelation came as a shock to the Mayor's Office, who released a statement saying that they were were unaware that "a lot" was more than "a little."

In a polling of City residents, when asked which road or street was most in need of repair, nearly 95% of respondents said "My Street." Director of Public Works Guy Costa was immediately dispatched to service My Street, which was later discovered to be My Way, and exist in the Municipality of Monroeville.

Data also indicates that residents complaints to the City's 3-1-1 line increased dramatically (over 1000%) from 2006 to 2007, although the relationship between this increase and the beginning of the 3-1-1 line still remains inconclusive.

Last year, the Ravenstahl Administration spent $100,000 in grant money to research the best way to lower the temperature of ice so that it would melt and not be a road hazard. After several attempts, researchers discovered that "salt" could be poured onto streets to actually lower the melting point of the ice. Streets that did not receive "salt" treatments were more likely to remain hazardous. The Department of Public works now "salts" more than 50% of the streets in the City.

Mr. Sherlock also revealed that potholes could be filled in by digging out a square of asphalt around the hole, cleaning out debris and water, filling it with patching material, compacting it, and sealing the edges. City officials have said they use first few parts of that method, but do not have the resources to fill the holes yet.

"By not filling in the holes, they are letting the potholes remain," he said.

This is the first report out of the Department of the Friggin' Obvious since its creation out of the City's Bureau of What Are You Stupid or Something? and the Commission of I Can't Believe I Pay You For This! The Department plans to release further studies on the appearance of water on roads during rainstorms and on where Pittsburgh goes when the lights are turned off.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Weather Aside

You know, with a twelve year old mayor running the City, I would have expected him to call a preemptive snow day for Pittsburgh, so we could all stay at home, sled, roast marshmallows over the fire, and make snow angels.

I'm very disappointed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Guantanamo Aside

After hearing Rep. John Murtha's comments on moving Gitmo prisoners to the U.S., I get the sense that this is to be construed as a threat to terrorists.

I mean, have you ever been to Murtha's district? It's like a less refined version of Deliverance. When folk speak derisively of "Pennsyltucky," this is the place that they're talking about. After 24 hours in Greene County anyone would confess to anything: terrorism, kidnapping, canceling Arrested Development... anything.

Although, I suppose that this is all an empty threat considering the administration has outlawed torture...

Things I'm Not Quite Sure About pt. 2

I'm not quite sure about the proposal to sell or lease Pittsburgh's parking garages to a private firm in order to provide cash to fund the ongoing pension obligations.

So the primary reason to do this, of course, is to offset the huuuuuuge deficit we have in the pension fund, about $600 million or so right now, based on my hasty math. That amount is bad and it's eating into the City's ability to do other stuff or lower local taxes, depending on which side of the economic coin you favor.

Now, the problem is that the pension obligation isn't really going down (well, unless there's a culling of the the retiree population). A pension obligation will continue into the foreseeable future, so a one time sale will provide a one time influx of cash. This will balance the budget in the short term, but will not necessarily be a sustainable solution.

I suppose there's a long term solution if the City wisely invested this money in the stock market (*snicker*) or some sort of (*chuckle*) investment bank or (*guffaws*) municipal credit default swaps. (*wipes tears from eye*) But seriously folks, they might as well just invest in Hummel figurines.

Let's step back a second. Is this kind of sale even really legal? Isn't the Parking Authority a separate legal entity? Isn't its obligation to its own bond holders and not the City's? I can't really wrap my heads around what amounts to parents telling their kids to pay the parents' credit card bills. Maybe it's just me.

And finally, I'm not the kind of person that believes that the government should own everything, but what the parking tax debacle has taught us is that the private market understands that the price of parking in Downtown is sticky. When the tax went down, prices in private lots stayed up; only the Parking Authority (after political pressure, admittedly) reduced their rates. So, I can see some advantage to keeping some measure of control on these prices for the public good.

Again, I'm not quite sure of all this and I hope folks that understand this kind of stuff more than me will be able to work it out. (*snicker*)

Things I'm Not Quite Sure About pt. 1

So this was in the P-G and the Trib today.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today led off an all-day seminar for city building inspectors, planners, engineers and redevelopment officials on the potential for, and problems with, solar energy here. The mayor said that by fall, city government plans to install its first solar facility -- a hot water heating system -- on a fire house, either in Observatory Hill or Westwood....

Meanwhile, a city task force aided by research firm Sandia National Laboratories will continue to look at ways of evaluating other city buildings for transitioning to solar power, and ways of removing bureaucratic, financial and technical barriers to putting solar systems on private buildings...
Now, on one hand you have a move by the City to try to reduce dependence on sources of power that cause greenhouse gases.

On the other hand, you could probably do something comparable by something as simple as making sure the firehouses close their doors when they leave or turning off lights when people leave conference rooms.

On another hand, you have an opportunity to encourage local solar manufacturing and electrical services.

On a further hand, you have a city without a whole lot of sunny days which will still need to draw additional power from other sources during the winter months.

On a fifth hand, you have an opportunity for a really sexy public relations coup for the mayor, who can look all "hip" and "green" and "jiggy"... if the kids still use those words anymore.

On a sixth hand, it would probably be easier to plant a whole lot of trees in the City.

On a seventh hand, buying, installing, owning and maintaining large solar arrays on public buildings is probably not cost effective, which would necessitate some sort of leasing arrangement with private power firm to use the space to return additional power to the grid, with some extra power being generated for the city.

On the eighth hand, well, if you've gotten this far, you're probably an octopus.

I guess what I'm saying is that there are probably a whole bunch of really good compelling reasons for installing solar equipment in and for the City, but there are costs (both up front and opportunity) that probably offset much of this. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving the City money and making the City more environmentally responsible, but it would probably be a whole easier to throw a whole load of insulation into 414 Grant Street, keeping all the hot air inside.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Football Aside

Putting a bit of history into Superbowl XIII:

During WWII professional football faced player shortages, and the Steelers merged twice with other NFL franchises in order to field a team. In 1944, they merged with the Chicago Cardinals and were known as Card-Pitt -- or derisively, the "Carpets".

They went 0-10 that season.

Business Casual Friday

A silly time waster for those of you that are interested in (1) Politics, (2) Interior Decorating, and (3) Temporary Swedish Furniture That Can Almost Ruin Your Relationship with Your Significant Other and That Will Suddenly Collapse When You Try to Have Makeup Sex...

Um... not that we've ever done anything like that.

Don't forget to check out the Resolüt Desk on page 59 of the catalog.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama "Already F*cking Sick" of "Hail to the Chief"

(Reuters) Washington D.C. - Only three days into the new administration, high level aides to President Barack Obama have revealed to the media that Mr. Obama is already "Fucking Sick" of Presidential anthem Hail to the Chief.

"It's not like he doesn't appreciate the sentiment," says Senior adviser David Axelrod, "It's just that every time he enters the room, he hears ruffles and flourishes and then that damned song. He leaves, comes back and they play it again.... He has at least four years of this."

The 1821 tune has been the official march of the President of the United States since 1954 and is played at every public appearance by the President. Most Presidents get used the song eventually, but Mr. Obama seems to have embraced an early antipathy towards it.

"I heard him mumbling lyrics in the Oval Office yesterday," said Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen. "Mostly it involved wanting pie and no ice cream."

Former President Bill Clinton tried to work in the words to the Beverly Hillbillies; George W. Bush on the other hand sang the lyrics to the 1963 Trashman hit "Surfin' Bird."

"The President is seriously asking the Marine Band to play something from P-Funk or Run DMC," said Ms. Sutphen, "although at this point, he'd be happy with some Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Re: Taxes and Corporate Losses

One of the functions of taxes is to regulate our behavior. We, as a citizenry, are encouraged to have children, buy houses, buy hybrid cars, move into cities, and stop smoking (among other things) through both affirmative measures -- tax breaks -- or punitive measures -- taxes.

Similarly, the corporate world is encouraged to lessen their tax liability through investing in tax credit programs in which, essentially, companies reduce their overall taxes by buying into certain programs that the government deems worth, i.e., the historic renovation of buildings, inner-city development, etc. etc. The system is a more-market-driven-but-not-quite government investment into certain areas of public interest. The net result is a win for business (lessening of corporate taxes) and a win for the government (no direct subsidies into projects).

There is, however, another way to lessen a company's corporate tax liability: take a loss or, in today's economy, a humongous loss. That's pretty much what PNC is about to do when it picks up National City. My guess is that, because of certain accounting rules, PNC is going to have a couple years to spread out these losses and, therefore, will not need to invest in things like the National Historic Tax Credit (HTC) Program. That gives you a pretty decent sense of how bad National City was really doing.

But, of course, PNC is just a microcosm of all the other firms that are swishing around the drain -- and are probably going to showing some substantial losses in the quarters to come. This forces the question: if all kinds of firms aren't going to have any income to speak of, who will buy all these tax credits, and if the answer is "no one," how will the programs that are dependent on these credits get funded?

Monday, January 19, 2009

And now...

Baltimore Mayor Makes Good on Wager

(Reuters) Baltimore, MD - A tearful Sheila Dixon, Mayor of Baltimore, made good on her wager with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke "Steely McStahl" Ravenstahl, in a signing statement in from of Baltimore City Council.

"It is with heavy heart that I fulfill our obligation with Mayor Ravenstahl, but let it never be said that we Baltimorons are not honorable people."

As is tradition between big City Mayors, both Dixon and Ravenstahl made what was supposed to be a playful wager on the outcome of the AFC Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Ravenstahl bet a basket of Heinz products, a case of Iron City Beer, and a dozen Primanti Brothers sandwiches; Dixon bet the City of Baltimore.

Advisers to Mayor Dixon had assured her that the bet was a "sure thing" and that there was "nothing to worry about." It became clear during the first quarter of yesterday's game that the bet was anything but a "sure thing," and with two minutes left in the game, Mayor Dixon received a telephone call from Pittsburgh Mayoral Chief of Staff Yarone Zober calling in the bet.

"Mr. Zober told me that they had some guys coming down to collect the bet," said Mayor Dixon at a hastily assembled press conference. "I asked him to give us some more time and that we were in a hard place right now. Mr. Zober said that the guys were already on their way and that he didn't want them to waste their time. When I asked him if he would take Union Square or Harbor View or Pimlico or the rights of "Homicide: Life on the Streets", Mr. Zober said 'No dice... and it would be a shame if Inner Habor got broken.'"

Mayor Ravenstahl did not say what Pittsburgh's plan for Baltimore was going to be.

"We may turn into some sort of 'Pittsburgh South.' We're already importing perogis and jumbo dahn there, and extra french fries for their salads. (Council Member) Jim Motznik is going down as Viceroy. Hopefully, by next week, we'll have an Iron City factory in place. At least their flag is pretty much the right colors."

Baltimore will become Pittsburgh's 91st neighborhood on January 31, 2009 and will push the City's population over 1 million for the first time ever.

Baltimore Council President Stephanie Rawlings Blake has offered to go "double or nothing" with Pittsburgh. Ms. Dixon is already under indictment for misconduct on an unrelated matter.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Re: AFC Championship Final

Looking forward to playing the Eagles in the Superbowl...

Oh, wait. Nevermind.


Re: AFC Championship Halftime

The Ravens sure look good in their brand new black & white striped uniforms.

Despite all that: 13-7.

Go Stillers!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This Rough Magic...

I started this blog back at the beginning of George Bush's second term in office, still reeling from the disappointment of 2004. A lot of things happened during those four years, a good chunk of which was commented on here, by yours truly. While I didn't enjoy the term of office, I did have a little bit of fun prodding and poking the guy who is, essentially, my boss. But now, with a modicum of regret, it's time to go.

George W. Bush, that is, not this blog. (You didn't think I was quitting there for a moment, did you?)

Although I think I've been fairly balanced on the subject, don't believe anybody who reads this little project of mine has any illusions about where my sympathies lie on that man. Still, now that it's (almost) over, it's time to release the context of my hate chest, and disburse some of those links that I had gathered over the years so that I can, well, move on.

Let's start with the stuff that's going to linger:

The U.S. National Debt Clock

Casualties in Iraq

Neither of those things are particularly funny, and I suppose neither of them are going away any time soon.

From 2004 (with some not safe for work language):

From a little later, this film strip.

Of course, there was this place, not affiliated with the real White House, which may close up shop on the 20th.

And finally, just to remind myself all the things that ticked me off in the first place, yesterday's summation of the last eight years by the 37th Most Loathsome Person of 2008:

But all these rough links, I here abjure and I shall delete from my bookmark folder, consigning them forever to the deepest, darkest depths of the Internet. If only the last eight years could so easily be erased.

Friday, January 16, 2009

MFX III: Revenge of the Sh*t

Not this crap again:

Three private consortiums have expressed interest in building one section of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and two segments of the Southern Beltway that state officials don't have the money to complete.

One construction team is composed of local firms, including PNC Capital Markets and Wilbur Smith Associates, while the other two include Spanish and American companies.

All three groups include firms with expertise in financing, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the new roads, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl Defebo said yesterday.
Great, just great. Here we are combining this crap taco of a public policy initiative with the raging success of privatization. I can only expect the best out of all this for the Commonwealth.

Now, two points:

First, with all the talk of infrastructure improvement in the upcoming administration, the MFX has started to scare me once again. Unfortunately, compared to a whole bunch of other better projects, the MFX is pretty much ready to go... despite the whole detail of not having all the property assembled and the minor point of the friggin' thing costing billions and billions of dollars with only a small amount of benefits to a relatively small group of citizens in the East and South. I would hope, *HOPE*, that this kind of new project gets passed over for funding in favor of, you know, repairing the crap that we already have.

Second, with the crash of the housing market, I question the demand for opening up vast tracts of land in Fayette County to urban sprawl. While at some point (hopefully) the region will start growing with gusto again, it will probably not be any time soon and probably not in the exurbs.

Indeed, the draft stimulus bill seems to start a move away from highways and towards mass transit, which signals to me that there's going to be a more urban bent to the next few years. Fester has a bit of an analysis on this point:
Three quarters of that [draft stimulus bill] money is dedicated to highway construction and maintenance while a quarter is allocated to mass transit, including a the possibility of SUPERTRAINS. I would prefer a 50:50 split or an inversion of the ratio, as my consumer surplus is much higher with mass transit, and I think the societal surplus is higher as well.

However, a 3:1 highway to mass transit split is a dramatic improvement from typical federal funding ratios. The last major transportation law funded highways at roughly 5:1 over all other alternative modes of transit. A good chunk of this ratio is purely political. The law was written when the majority party's base and swing lives in the suburbs and exurbs. Mass transit makes far less sense in low density areas, and when the votes are lined up, the marginal decision will be supporting the majority's preferences. Furthermore, there is some serious interest group bundling aimed at political capture. Developers, construction firms, some unions push hard for a form of construction that they understand and can exploit for their own interests. Again, this is just politics.
And, of course, politics is what the MFX is all about, really.

That, and civil engineering fuckwittery.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside

I appreciate the sentiment the Mayor is trying to convey by "changing" his name from Ravenstahl to "Steelerstahl," but there are plenty of Pittsburgh residents that could offer up a more *ahem* fitting name for Hizzoner.

Most of those names, however, are unprintable or unmentionable in reputable media venues or even KQV.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Campaign Finance Reform

The County Chief Executive and his Boy Luke got together yesterday to announce that they plan to introduce a campaign finance law for both the city and county.

The legislation, which they will introduce to City and County Council on Thursday, will limit personal donations to political campaigns to $4,600 a year and Political Action Committees can give up to $10,000 a year.

The draft legislation is still being reviewed, they said, to determine how the law will deal with the so-called "millionaires' exception"-- wealthy individuals who may choose to self-fund their campaigns.
Personally, this law is doomed to failure and, frankly, there's a better way.

Let me start by saying, I should never be a candidate for anything. I have really bad ideas about running Cities/Counties/States/Nations/School Boards and a really bad system of beliefs and personal habits. For example:
* I don't like highways and want to blow them up;
* I think that sports in schools should be funded as much as arts and music;
* I want to tax the hell out of the rich;
* I believe in abortion up to the 20th trimester;
* I hate broccoli and would make it illegal as a form of torture;
* I drink too much at breakfast;
* I tend to steal things like silverware, towels, and installation sculptures;
* In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I support the Mexicans;
* I comment loudly in public that all African-Americans and Asian Americans look like each other;
* I remove street chairs in the Southside, and move them to Lawrenceville
* I've been known to kick puppies...

And so forth. Suffice it to say, I am not a good person, let alone a good candidate for any office, ever.

However, there's this voice in the back of my head that says "Run for office! Run for office even if it means that you'll doom whatever office you might win!" If I run and actually win, you all are, and let's be fair here, screwed. And, you know what, I can fake enough charm and charisma that you'll probably be fooled for long enough to vote for me!

So here's the deal: I will not run for office, if you pay me. That's right, I will not screw you over in exchange for a generous donation to my Political Inaction Committee.

Now, you may think that this is some sort of blackmail, but really it's just the voters expressing their opinion (via monitory contribution) on the political direction of the City/County/State/Nation/School Board. You are concerned about what kind of nutty, bizarre policy that I may come up with during my tenure. For example, I may decide that Welsh needs to be mandatory in all schools or that socks must be worn on the hands at all times or that left handed people have to move to their own camps.

That's my pitch: donate to me or I will mess up your lives. Frankly, if this plan was picked up by others, I think you could get a lot of elected officials to also stop running for office and agree to stop messing up your lives.

I will accept cash, credit card, or stereo equipment.

An Open Letter to Dan Onorato

Dear Mr. County Executive,

I know that you want to seem "young," "cool," "hip," "friggie-fresh," or any other word that you think that young people say. And I know that you want to seem like you care about what your constituents think. And I know that you want to seem up on the latest technology like "computers," "the Internet," or "Netscape Navigator." I get all that.

However, what were you thinking in scheduling a "Cyber Town Hall Meeting" at 8:30 in the friggin' morning? Are you really sure you know what you're doing here?

Now, I appreciate that you want to use technology to reach out to the huddled masses and I'm all for that, but the huddled masses are, by large, either at work or going to work at this time in the morning. Frankly, there are also a large segment of us who are at work, but not necessarily at our peak performance until our 2nd or 8th cup of coffee. So, something tells me that you're not really trying to reach the huddled masses.

So, who would be up at 8:30 AM? Well, the retired, that's for sure, unless they're queuing up for the Early Bird Dinner Special already. But, something tells me that the retired and elderly aren't jumping online at this time of day... or ever... when they could just come down to Grant Street and complain in the flesh about the kids on their lawn instead.

Who else would be up at 8:30 and online? Hardcore gamers, I suppose... maybe the unemployed... but unless you're willing to address the struggles of people trying to put manna on their families' tables, I doubt you'll find an audience.

Let's set aside, however, the wee problem that no one is really going to be watching at 8:30 AM, as I suppose the point is that citizens will be now able to download the video at a later date, perhaps remixing it with some Daft Punk or OK Go, and turn you into an Internet sensation, right up there with those dancing Hamsters or that one video of the guy nearly getting hit with a shoe. That might be interesting.

Still, the conceptual problem here is that, Mr. Onorato, what you're doing here is not really a "Town Hall." A Town Hall, in my estimation, involves some sort of interaction between you and the audience. What you have here is really you answering preselected hate mail on video. If you don't really want a hall full of people screaming obscenities at you, it would be easier to get yourself a blog.

Lord know it couldn't be any worse than some of the other inane content in the Burghosphere.

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pointless Milestones...

We're this many today:

Happy 4th Birthday to Us

Have a cupcake.

This post brought to you by a stubborn, nay, pigheaded unwillingness to stop writing this crap.

Ask Joe the Plumber

(Editor's Note: The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat is pleased to announce that we have signed on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka, "Joe the Plumber," fresh on the heels of his reporting for PajamasMedia on the current Middle East conflict. Joe will answer your reader submitted questions. We hope this will be a regular feature on our site, until such time as his fifteen minutes of fame are over.)

Dear Joe the Plumber:

During his campaign, the President-Elect promised Middle Class tax relief for 95 percent of workers and their families with a tax cut of $500 for workers or $1,000 for working couples. Given the current economic situation, is this campaign promise still feasible, given the proposed stimulus package, or will it just drain the economy further?

Frank M., Eugene OR

Dear Frank,

You can keep your drains clog-free and odorless by using the following homemade noncorrosive drain cleaner weekly. Combine 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup table salt, and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Stir ingredients together thoroughly and pour into a clean, covered jar. Pour 1/4 cup of mixture into drain, and immediately add 1 cup boiling water. Wait 10 seconds, then flush with cold water. Flushing weekly with a generous amount of boiling water also works well.


Dear Joe the Plumber:

The Russia-Ukraine gas dispute is causing massive disruption of service between the former Soviet Union and the nations of Western Europe. Is the Russian position, as they say, as a result of a Ukrainian $2.4 billion debt to Russian state-controlled gas supplier Gazpro, or is this the start of a new energy imperialism policy by the Kremlin?

Brian H., Kalamazoo, MI

Dear Brian,

Before installing, turn off the water at the shutoff valve. Flush the toilet to empty the bowl and tank, and sponge out any remaining water. Disconnect the water-supply tube from the shutoff valve, drain the water from the tube into a bucket, then unscrew the coupling nut on the supply tube at the bottom of the tank.

If the hold-down bolts that fasten the toilet to the floor are corroded to the extent that you can't remove the nuts, soak the bolts with penetrating oil or cut them off with a hacksaw. When you bolt the new bowl to the floor, be very careful not to overtighten the nuts as this can crack the porcelain.


Dear Joe the Plumber,

Is it worthwhile to install an insulation blanket on top of my hot water heater? What can I expect to see in energy savings?

Greg T., Pittsburgh, PA

Dear Greg,

After three years of my business growing through word of mouth, I am at the point of considering expanding by hiring my first employee. As a small business owner, more governing regulations and taxes would prevent me from expanding my American Dream. That sounds like Socialism to me.


If you want Joe to answer your questions on plumbing, country music, politics, the works of Marcel Proust, or metaphysics, drop us an email at notoriousadb[at]gmail[dot]com.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Football/Hockey Aside

Can we apply all Steelers wins to current Penguins loses, or are we not permitted to have more than one winning professional sports team in this friggin' City at a time?

Dark Clouds and Silver Linings

If you believe the media hype, Pittsburgh's not a bad place to be right now. Businessweek recently called us a "good place to ride out the recession," while Forbes calls us out on both our positive job growth and our strong housing market, and the NY Times slobbers all over us like a $500/hr whore on Elliot Spitzer.

Well, I suppose that's because there's not been a whole lot of call for $500/hr whores in today's economy. Back in the day, John Pittsburgh wasn't actually, let's say "hot with the ladies," but with everyone else wearing cardboard belts, trying to pay for services in pocket change, and with syphilis, Pittsburgh looks pretty good and may do things to you that your uptight Republican wife would never, ever think of doing because her Mother-in-Law's church group is outside the porn store every FRIGGIN' NIGHT protesting something that should be between two consenting and possibly a goat and/or a midget. I mean dammit Louise! Why can't you meet my needs for once!?!


I seem to have strayed from my point; let's move to another strained metaphor:

Pittsburgh was the guy in Pittsburgh that was ugly, pimply, had bad teeth, and lived with his mother, who secretly longed for the head cheerleader. Now, at our 20th reunion, our classmates have gotten fat, bald, and unemployed... while Pittsburgh... well, Pittsburgh's a little less ugly, is wearing braces, still a little pimply, lives in the apartment below his mother, but, and here's the important point, looks better than all of its jock former classmates and is in a perfect position to scoop up some 38 year old, single-mother former cheerleader tail.

Where was I?

Ah, yes: Pittsburgh still sucks, but it sucks less than everyone else.

Now, that's not the kind of marketing slogan that the Allegheny Conference wants to splash up on billboards, make into T-Shirts, or advertise along side the next Bassmater Classic. So, I can only assume that this position was reached, not by some careful planning and steady growth strategy, but by accident, completely outside the control of the Economic Development powers that be.

I'm sure that's a real kick in the 'nads to them.

But, let's suppose that this *could* be a strategy for Pittsburgh: one that both invests in low cost of living, moderate (but not stratospheric) job growth in mixed fields, and some sort of modest quality of life improvements. I wonder, what such a Warren Buffet-like, no frills policy would look like? Perhaps that a question for folks with bigger economic development minds than myself.

I mean, it's not like in this economic climate, companies are going to up and relocate to the Burgh just to save a couple of bucks. Existing companies may be looking to expand, but without the appropriate financing available, it is doubtful that any new spin offs can occur during this recession. Something *could* be done, but what that something actually *is*, is something that I don't think anyone has really thought about.

Now, it's a shame that the recession is, you know, destroying the country, but at least there's a silver lining for us.

So far.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside

Political scandals, no matter how minor or inocuous, will stick in the public consciousness much more firmly if they involve sex, even if it is only tangentally related to the incident at hand.

Scandals involving homosexual sex, whether or not it is even germaine to the scandal, will get you a front page headline.

On a completely unrelated note: generally speaking there are some people in power who enjoy flaunting their power, with little regard for the consequences, for the sole purpose of proving to other people (or themselves) that they are powerful persons.

People who try to bend rules for their friends and supposed friends too often soon find themselves playing the part of the unwitting fool to others.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Breaking Employment News

From the P-G:

Alcoa Inc. announced today that it will cut costs and conserve cash with a combination of steps... Targeted reductions, curtailments and plant closures and consolidations will eliminate 13 percent of the company's worldwide workforce by the end of 2009, according a company announcement.
In other words, a bunch of their workers got... uh... canned.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

How to Spend $12 Million (Without Really Trying)

Frankly, this story really disappoints me:

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato this afternoon said he will not fight a judge's order requiring him to use all excess revenue collected from the county's drink and car rental levies only on the Port Authority.

Instead, Mr. Onorato said he plans to give all the $12 million he collected in excess from both levies to the Port Authority for capital improvements in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. That will free up $12 million the county would have borrowed to fund the transit agency's capital needs, he said.
That's just sad.

I mean, you figure that even a CPA of Dan Onorato's caliber could figure out a way to reclassify County expenses as PAT expenses. It's really not that big a leap to imagine that there are certain budget items on the County ledger that could have overlap with the Port Authority of Allegheny County, with a bit of tweaking.

There are plenty of County employees that could be reclassified as bus drivers or mechanics. Make them drive the buses once around the lot every other day or give them a rag and have them wipe down an engine or two. Heck, there are so many consultants at DHS that they may be repairing buses for all we know.

Alternatively, Onorato could use Port Authority funds to find out how much bus exhaust do not contribute to the local air quality, instead of making the Health Department monitor the air quality directly. Oh, look: PAT buses didn't contribute 2.1 ppm of particulate matter in Clairton today, it only contributed .01 ppm...

Or perhaps, CYF case workers could be used as "underage mass transit chaperones," to, you know, prevent disturbances on the bus.

Onorato himself is somewhat in charge of PAT as County Executive, so his salary can be easily slipped in to the Port Authority's budget... and, of course, the County Executive needs staff to help him out on all these pressing PAT matters, so their salaries could be covered.

But he's not even making the Port Authority make a low interest loan to the County to cover expenses for 2009!

The milquetoast, underachiever that he is, Danny Boy's given up after only one bout with the Courts.

So disappointing.

Friday, January 02, 2009

ITEM: Pittsburgh Seen Returning Birthday Gifts

Our intrepid reader Elise emailed us to say that she saw the Pittsburgh Region down at Kaufmann's Macy's returning a bunch of gifts from its 250th Birthday Party. We called up Macy's and, while they couldn't confirm that Pittsburgh had returned any gifts, they did say that they got a one-of-a-kind, slightly used Festival of Lights in stock. According to Elise, the Region managed to exchange several gifts for store credit and then wandered away to look at shoes.

We called around and friends of the Pittsburgh Region say that it was appreciative of all the attention, and enjoyed the celebration, but was by and large disappointed by the gifts that it received. One of Pittsburgh's closest friends "Bill," who agreed to talk to us if we only used his first name, said that the Region liked the picture book of signs (which it regarded as "kitschy"), the renovation of Point State Park, and the tickets for "East of Liberty," but most of the other gifts were not as well received.

"We went out for coffee a couple weeks ago, and Pittsburgh said to me, 'Bill, what am I going to do with a reenactment of Washington's Encampment? I mean it's nice and all, but where the [expletive deleted] am I going to put it?' I know the Region didn't want to be rude and turn down the generous gift, but it already has about half a dozen reenactments that it doesn't even use." Still, "Bill" or "Mr. F." as we call him, tells us that Pittsburgh felt that the gifts were better than the homemade clown sweater that it received for it's 225th birthday from its Aunt.

Friends say that the Region had similar sentiments about items like the Jay Bee Model Circus and The WPA History of the Negro in Pittsburgh, worrying that "every time people come over to visit, [the Region is] going to have to leave them out in a conspicuous place so they think [the Region] likes the gifts." Pittsburgh complained about Mellon (nee Civic) Arena for years as it was "a gift," and leaped at the chance to get rid of it the first opportunity it got.

"Bill" thinks that Pittsburgh may try to re-gift several of the items to Cincinnati, who is celebrating its 190th birthday in 2009. For last year's celebration, Cincinnati only gave Pittsburgh a $5 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, which Pittsburgh called "absolutely [expletive deleted]-ing useless."

A Bureaucrat's Aside

Why must we perpetuate the lie that offices (whether for-profit, non-profit, or governmental) are "open for business" between December 23rd and January 2nd? Seriously, no one is really open, and those that are can't get any work done because no one else is open.

Let's just bring back Saturnalia and be done with it.