Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Beer

Is it just me, or do both a Cambridge police officer and a Harvard professor have better taste in beer than the President of the United States?

Couldn't Ambassador Rooney hook the guy up with some Iron City* or something? I mean, they have cases of it just lying around in Lawrenceville.

*Not that I'm insinuating that Iron City is "good beer".

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Baseball

Is there anyone left on the Pirates' roster to trade, or are we going to be trading the peanut vendors next?

A Bureaucrat's Observation Re: G-20 Protesting

Pittsburgh sure has a lot of high points from which one could surreptitiously hang a giant banner, visible to the entire city.

$10 says that come late September there's a big sign on Mt. Washington that advocates the freeing of Tibet, or something.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sarah Palin: Beat Poet

"What an Absolutely Beautiful Day it Is"
by Sarah Palin

It is always great to be in
Fairbanks, the rugged.
Rugged hardy people that live up here
And some of the most patriotic people whom you will ever know live


And one thing that you are known for is your
support of our military community.

Up here.

And I thank you for that...

And getting up
I say it is the best road trip in America --
soaring through nature's finest show.

Denali: The great one
Soaring under the midnight sun.
And then the extremes.
In the winter time it's the frozen road that is
Competing with the view of ice-fogged-frigid-beauty,

The cold.

Though doesn't it split the
Cheechakos from
The Sourdoughs?

(Full Transcript)

(And with apologies to Mr. Shatner)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pittsburgh G-20 and the Unexploded Medical Device Industry

OK, so after not being able to get back to work this afternoon because of a blood pressure cuff, I got to worrying about the upcoming G-20 thingamagigger and counter-thingamagigger.

Now, having been a veteran of more than one protest in the past, I know that the vast majority of these things are populated by peaceful (if upset) people. Granted, a lot of them can be loud, smelly, and reeking vaguely of patchouli, but they're generally non-violent puppet loving folk.

Then there's the minority. Call them anarchists. Call them thugs. Call them whatever, there's a small number of people that take joy out of causing chaos and disorder, like that little old woman that calls bingo even when she knows she doesn't have bingo just to piss off everyone else in the hall. These are the folks you see getting blasted with water cannons, I would assume. Unless, of course, you get a police battalion that doesn't like puppets.

Fortunately for us, Downtown Pittsburgh is relatively isolated, so crowd control will probably be as easy (ha!) as shutting down the bridges and isolating Penn, Liberty, Centre, and Second Avenues. Those kinds of logistics seem to be under control.

But, that being said, with all the construction going on Downtown (including the nearby African-American cultural center and the secret tunnel from the North Shore to Gateway Center), there are a lot of opportunities for hooligans to find bricks, pipes, and other construction machinery to cause problems. We need to be locking up or otherwise securing anything that could possibly be an instrument of violence.

And, of course, this doesn't begin to address the thousands that are going to be descending upon the City for those two days, where they will sleep, where they will eat, where they will drink, and what they may set first to when they've had enough to drink.

Perhaps I'm overreacting, but our response to a false alarm at the City-County building is a test of how we're going to respond to any trouble at the G-20 and I don't know if we're ready yet.

Is there anyway we can set up a remote Downtown for those two days in, say, East Liberty?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: G-20 Beautification

Am I the only one that thinks that the easiest way to "redd up" the City during the G-20 is to keep our local elected officials hidden away in an undisclosed location?

I mean, I know that Government is Hollywood for ugly people, but dammmmmn!

Although, we should consider ourselves lucky: Danny and Luke are no lookers, but at least Larry Dunn isn't in office anymore.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Obama Denies His Birth on the Moon was Faked by NASA

(Reuters) Washington D.C. - Amid increasing clamor from talk radio, the White House again denied claims that the President was not born in Hawai'i but instead on a Kenyan soundstage that NASA used to fake the moon landings.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs called the claimed "preposterous" and "barely warranted recognition". "I can't believe you're even asking me these questions."

Rumors have swirled previously about President Obama's place of birth, but a call to the Glenn Beck show by "Jim from Texas" who claims to have definitive proof that the President was intimately involved in faking the moon landing.

"You see, Glen, if you look at the photos from the 'moon' you'll clearly see that the rocks are arranged in a pattern that spells out B-H-O. Barack Husein Obama. Also, if you listen closely at around hour 4 Buzz Aldrin clearly says, 'This one's for you Barry, you Kenyan bastard.". Jim also claims to have documentation from a Tom Hanks look alike, stating for a fact that he saw Obama on the moon.

The claims by "Jim from Texas" was repeated by Beck throughout the weekend, and picked up by other members of the right-wing media.

"Obama has repeatedly denied that he did not fake his birth on the Moon," said Rush Limbaugh on his show Monday. "So where is his moon birth certificate? Why won't he produce it?"

Others on Free have speculated that the Obama also brought down the Hillary Campaign through a controlled demolition.

The White House has refused comment, and has directed all further questions to Buzz Aldrin.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Heck of a Guy

I've been mulling over the sudden resignation of Publics Work Director Guy Costa over the last week.

Let me step back for a minute though. A couple months ago on NPR a high ranking Federal Official (I can't recall which) offhandedly remarked that there are two reasons why a High Ranking Public Official would resign, outside of personal emergencies or a better job. The first is a major organizational defeat for the official; the second is a string of minor defeats for the official.

My sense is that Guy resigned for the second reason. With council pressure, a declining budget, Act 47 oversight, and the demands of the 3-1-1 line, Guy was spread pretty thin. The very public reprimand and suspension because of the actions of some underlings was pretty embarassing and was probably the final nail in the coffin.

I can imagine Guy waking up one morning thinking, "What the fuck am I doing?"

With the number of friends (and relatives) that he has in high places, Guy doesn't really have to worry about landing on his feet. Maybe he'll sleep better too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Open Letter to Luke Ravenstahl

Hon. Luke Ravenstahl
414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Dear Mr. Mayor,

As you are undoubtedly aware, it is your responsibility, with the resignation of Ms. Heather Arnet, to appoint someone to fill the remainder of her School Board term. There are, assuredly, many people in the City that are qualified to fulfill the obligations of sitting on this illustrious public body. Indeed, the responsibilities inherent in this office are vast and... OK, let me cut through the bullshit: appoint me.

Look, you've seen the school board, right? Frankly, I don't think I would trust the lot of them to manage a school of fish, let alone a school of children, much less several dozen schools of children. I am quite literally surprised that cable news broadcasts of their meetings aren't interrupted for drool breaks.

Now, as you may have guessed (or may not have guessed), I am slightly more evolved than the typical drooling school board member and can at least form a cogent argument without flecks of spittle hitting Mark Roosevelt. I have some very interesting ideas regarding the sale of underutilized schools, the development of regionally specific curriculum, and figuring out a way to create school pizza that doesn't taste like cardboard.

But, more importantly, my overarching qualification is that I hate children. Well, not all children, just stupid children. I grew up in a time when playgrounds were made of metal, lawn darts were legal, and teachers thought it would be "fun" to play with mercury. Frankly, I think kids today need less coddling and more pummeling. It's the only way that they'll learn that the world is cold bleakness and not rainbow farting unicorns.

If nothing else, somebody needs to benefit from my sadism.

I hope you'll take me into consideration.


The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Sen. Roland Burris

It is disappointing that Sen. Roland Burris will not be seeking another term, mostly because we won't get to hear the incredibly descriptive term "Blagojevich's taint" anymore.

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: eGovernment

I'm not particularly enthused about this eGovernment (or is it iGovernment?) that the Councilman from the 8th Council District is trying to push. I mean, I'm all for a handy Pittsburgh Council District Bullcrap Detector application for my Blackberry Sturm und Drang, but after reading some of the comments left on this site I worry about the level of political discourse that eGovernment will create.

Unless, of course, Luke really *is* a puss bag.*

* There's an app for that.

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Sen. Jane Orie

If Sen. Jane Orie (R-eally Large Bangs) does, in fact, decide to run for U.S. Senate, the real loser is going to be Luke Ravenstahl. Sen. Orie has made a name for herself being (and let's be nice here) a gadfly when it comes to City of Pittsburgh Government. Running for U.S. Senate, I would expect more such criticisms of Democratically controlled urban areas in the coming months in order to keep her name in the news.

Of course, this may not necessarily endear her to the residents of the Commonwealth's Cities, but I somehow doubt that's where she expected her power base to be anyway.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Visiting Harrisburg

There's this story (I'm not sure if it's apocryphal or not) that Jay Ward and the geniuses behind Rocky and Bullwinkle went to the White House one day in the early 1960s with a petition to make "Moosylvania" a state. Unfortunately, the day they chose to visit was the first day of the Cuban Missile Crisis and they were turned away at the gates.

That's pretty much what I would expect if I were the Mayor of Pittsburgh, going to the State Government to beg for budgetary relief.

Tune in next time for "Act 47, Cavaliers 54" or "The Pension is Mightier than the Sword"

Planning to Plan (Part the Next)

From the P-G:

The city of Pittsburgh is looking for consultants to help it plan future uses for its open spaces and preserve its historic places, officials announced today.

Those would be the focuses of the first two chapters of what could grow into the city's first true comprehensive plan, a guide for where development should and shouldn't occur, and a blueprint for what should go where.

"When you don't have a comprehensive plan that ties all of the players in together, everyone goes off and does their different things," said City Planning Director Noor Ismail. The emerging set of plans, which would have to be approved by the Planning Commission and City Council, would be "a blueprint for our future."

Pittsburgh has 1,400 vacant parcels plus steep hillsides that defy easy development. Its 35.9 acres per each 1,000 people makes it relatively spacious among major cities, Ms. Ismail said...
So, tell me Rich: is it technically "burying the lede" if you mention the most interesting part of this whole article in the second paragraph? I suppose it's a shallow grave of an article.

So yeah, the really important phrase there is "the city's first true comprehensive plan," which, if you're following this to its logical conclusion means that City Planning has been planning the City without a plan up to this point.

I'm not sure if this is frightening or just disturbing; frightening because it means that we've just been winging it and disturbing because it means that (if you believe the national media hype) we may have not been doing a bad job at winging it.

Alternatively, we're going to find out that the new plan has no use for ad hoc approaches to City Planning... especially when it comes to billboards.

Monday, July 06, 2009

On Vacant Land and Demolition

Chris Briem inadvertently tied a couple things together for me the other morning.

First, there's this article from the P-G, which Monsieur Briem references, regarding the hazards of landslides to property owners in the City.

Second, there's another "woe is us" themed article from the Trib, continuing the Scaife Leviathan's mantra of "We suck," making me once again wonder if Maggie Scaife got all the Xanax in the divorce.

Third, there's this (frequently misunderstood) article from the Daily Telegraph about the impending demolition of Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Well, not really, but that's the way that people are reading what could really be called a "managed downsizing."

What basically ties the whole thing together is that, yes, at one point Pittsburgh had 600,000 people within its borders. In order to accommodate a population of that magnitude, one surmises, residents must have been stacked like cordwood. Indeed, if you look at the housing stock up and down the Mon Valley, from the Southside Slopes through to Duquesne, you will see that, yes, people were, in fact, stacked like cordwood with houses built in places that no sane engineer would ever dare to put them.

Of course, the particularly nasty housing stock was not for the upper or even middle management, but rather for the poor shlubs who worked down the mills. Even by the standards of the day I'm sure that these homes would be considered "less than modest," to underplay the term quite significantly.

So, it doesn't really surprise me that Pittsburgh has a huge mass of housing, built in places that it shouldn't really be, with densities that are unbearable by today's standards, and with building and amenity qualities that do not meat the needs of today's consumer.

What's different between Pittsburgh and Detroit when talking about the demolitions in the third article above is that when we demolish a building in the City, they can be absorbed into the hillsides or be relatively unobtrusive in our topographically separated neighborhoods. In flat Detroit, however, demolitions are not interrupted by hills and valleys, and it leaves behind a very noticeable scare on the urban landscape.

And then, for Pittsburgh we have the added advantage that comes with not building anything else on a hillside: Wal*Mart doesn't fall onto Route 28.

But I digress.

As Chris shows, a properly targeted vacant land strategy can actually increase the value of the remaining properties and make the City a better (if less dense) place to live.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Alaskan Politics

Given today's announcement, does anyone else think Sarah Palin's been "Hiking the Appalachian Trail"... or is she just as politically savvy as a bag of moose poop?

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: PA State Budget Impasse

Do State employees get not paid double if they work today, or is that like dividing by zero?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside: Furries

You know, I have nothing against Anthrocon's yearly pilgrimage to the Burgh, however, with all the rain we've been having, several hundred wet, Furries sounds unappealing at best.

I mean, *real* wet dog smells bad enough, but imagine the stench from a giant wet beaver.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside: Media Notes

You know, if your sole source of news was the Tribune Review's website, you probably wouldn't know that Minnesota had a new Democratic Senator this morning.

Why do I get the feeling that the Editorial Board has its fingers in its collective ears shouting "LALALALALA! If I don't know about it, it didn't happen!"