Monday, January 31, 2005

Economic Duhvelopment

OK, for you Economic Development yinzers "aht" there, the big announcement previously anticipated here by Fast Eddie Rendell was a big Turkey.

From the Post-Gazette:

Citizens Bank and Gov. Ed Rendell announced today the bank will be adding 500 new jobs at its call centers across the state, 250 of them at its Pittsburgh headquarters on William Penn Place, Downtown.

Ralph J. Papa, president of Citizens Bank's western region, said the bank expects to fill more than 200 of the local positions by August. The jobs will range from supervisory to entry level positions and will have mostly evening hours, he said.

The bank also expects to provide additional training to 1,525 current employees. Rendell said the Governor's Action Team that oversees business expansion projects has agreed to provide Citizens with $400,000 in an Opportunity Grant and $475,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits to support the new jobs.

Jobs: GOOD! Call Centers: Bad!

Call Centers are low value added jobs for the region. Take a few dozen people out of their MickeyD's uniforms, place them in front of phones in a giant warehouse and BOOM!, insta-Call Center. Sure, they produce jobs, but they don't produce wealth generating jobs. Additionally, there's nothing intrinsic about the Pittsburgh region that would stop Citizens from outsourcing these jobs to India.

This is not smart Economic Development; this is ass-backwards smokestack chasing. [Try to shake THAT imagery out of your head.]

Iraqi Elections

So despite initial pessimism, the Iraqi elections seem to be going OK or at least better than expected. Great! Rah! Rah! Rah! for Democracy.

Some rhetorical questions:

What would happen if, say, a group like the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq gains a strong voice in the assembly? Would their antipathy for the US and their affinity for Iran make our nacent democracy our enemy? Can we walk away, or are we going to have to "enforce correct democracy" on these people.

What if democracy unleashes fractionous passions of the populace, making our 30-day scuffle in Florida look like a slap-fight between quadraplegic mimes. "Hanging chads" may be the least of our worries.

What about the Kurds? Are they willing to stay in the government, or are they going to make a break for it, destabilizing Turkey in the process.

Just some lingering pessimism.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Bureaucrat's Aside

There's nothing more depressing in this job than waking up in the morning, opening up the newspaper, and finding out that you're a dick.

Just thought I'd mention that.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

'Burgh Stories

For my policy inclined yinzer friends, I stumbled across a couple of stories that you may or may not have caught:

First, for those of you who are interested in transit, two of the major foundations are putting up some cash towards the design and construction of the Gateway Center Station for the new North Shore light rail expansion.

Second, Fast Eddie Rendell is going to have an important economic "announcement" for Da Burgh on Monday. Stay tuned.

Third, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh is laying off about 7.5% of its staff because of a $3.5 Million shortfall. This is following the massive layoffs that the city undertook a few months ago.

More later

Friday, January 28, 2005

More on DHS Personnel Changes

I thought a little bit more today about yesterday’s post on the changes to personnel policy at DHS and the return to the pre-Harding days of yore, and, the more I think about it, the more it seems like a desire to subcontract out everything to consultants.

If people continue to leave the government in droves and no new talent can be attracted because of the poor working conditions, then eventually you’re going to need more people to staff projects, right?. [This is especially true if you’re throwing Liberty ® and Freedom ® around like a drunken national-guard pilot.] So either you're going to have to slow the exodus, or improve working conditions if you want to have employees. Of course, consultants could do the work without having to be Federal employees, so the government wouldn’t have to pay benefits, improve retirement pacakges, promote people, or silly things like that.

So that's all fine and dandy, with one glaring problem: the consultants aren’t necessarily looking out for the client’s best interest. The consultants are in it to get paid. Remember the consultant's creed, "If you’re not part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem." Besides, why worry about a problem if you're not going to be around long enough to have to deal with it? The obvious solution is to hire more consultants to fix the problem!

Let's leave that discussion aside for now.

So, I took a little trip over to the FEC to look at some of the major organizations that do consulting work, just to take a peek at what they’ve been contributing [Rule #4] to the respective parties since 1997:

Accenture: $20,500 (Dem); $65,512 (GOP)
Deloitte and Deloitte & Touche: $65,725 (Dem); $813,400 (GOP)
SAIC: $95,000 (Dem); $177,500 (GOP)
McDonnell Douglas*: $15,000 (Dem); $30,700 (GOP)
Boeing: $798,000 (Dem); $759,025 (GOP)
* McDonnell Douglas only reported for 1997

Hmmm... This is interesting. I’ll admit that I’ve only had my lunch hour to work on this, but the preliminary results seem to indicate that several of the large contracting organizations contribute heavily to the GOP, who just happens to be pushing these, so-called, "reforms". Does that seem to suggest that the GOP is creating policies that would encourage the hiring of more contract workers, who happen to be employees of major contributors? Could I be suggesting that the current administration has less than the national interest at heart?

Perish the thought!

A more substantial analysis [which, if anyone would like to assist on, I’d be most grateful] would take a look at who the major consultants are, how many of their consultants the Feds are employing, what the contributions of these firms were from 1997-present, and what the contributions of the executives of these firms were.

To be continued...

Lessons in Unity from Pittsburgh

Just a nice fluff piece about my hometown for the "yinzers" that read this thing. Does a good job to explain why those of us who grew up there, still seem to obsess over it, despite its flaws.

Gettin' all misty eyed and nostalgic here. Probably time to plan a visit home for the weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

More Politics of THE CITY

Just a quick update on the race for mayor in THE CITY:

Who's in: The Administrator
Who's out: The Snake Oil Salesman
Who's probably out: The Fop (running for re-election, according to the email)
Who still hasn't made up his friggin' mind: The Silver Fox.

Please try to control your enthusiasm.

This post brought to you by: Ooooh... is that a bottle of wine?

"Reform" of the Civil Service

The Washington Post has an article this morning on changes to the Civil Service System in the New Department of Homeland Security. Here's the gist of the new plan:

The new system will replace the half-century-old General Schedule, with its familiar 15 pay grades and raises based on time in a job, and install a system that more directly bases pay on occupation and annual performance evaluations, officials said. The new system has taken two years to develop and will require at least four more to implement, they said.

Under the new plan, employees will be grouped into eight to 12 clusters based on occupation. Salary ranges will be based, in part, on geographic location and annual market surveys by a new compensation committee of what similar employees earn in the private sector and other government entities. Within each occupational cluster, workers will be assigned to one of four salary ranges, or "pay bands," based on their skill level and experience.

A raise or promotion -- moving up in a pay range or rising to the next one -- will depend on receiving a satisfactory performance rating from a supervisor, said officials with homeland security and the Office of Personnel Management.

OK, so a bit of the history on American Civil Service is summarized here, for those of you who remember who the Whigs were, but let me start with a few basic facts:

(1) Government work sucks. All work sucks, really, I mean that's why they call it "work" and not "fun". Have a good day at fun today, sweetie! That just doesn't sound right. Anyway, government work sucks more because of the type of crap that gets dealt with and the people who dish the crap out.

The Brookings Institute has an interesting report on how much life in Civil Service blows since September 11, 2001.

(2) Bureaucrats get trashed and blamed for everything, as we are apparently an easy, faceless, nameless target. Oh for the days when Government was considered a noble profession! The excoriating of bureaucrats has been an increasing trend since the Carter administration, now since picked up by those keen on "reinventing" or "reforming" government. Reagan's "Government is the Problem" quote glosses over some key, valid reason for regulation and oversight... but that still hasn't stopped people for blaming their problems on Big Government instead of themselves.

[As an aside, if "The Ownership Society" fails, is it Government's fault?]

(3) Government pay sucks. It wasn't always like this. Prior to Carter, there was a system that the Old-Timers call "The Golden Handcuffs": workers were given a below market pay, with the promise that should they stay with the government until they were 55, they would retire with a pension equal to about 90% of their salary. Pretty sweet deal for both sides: Bureaucrats are encouraged to stick with their jobs and provide "institutional memory"; Government gambles that it will only have to pay out benefits to the really hard-core employees that will stick it out, and thereby save money. This system was dropped by Carter to a more traditional 401k type plan, basically negating a key distinction between government and private employment.

BTW, all those baby-boomers that were under the old system are quickly reaching retirement age. Washington Post, again, has a nice series on this here. No one has really figured out a way to fill all these upcoming vacancies, despite my prior badgering of the GAO.

Given the above, my first objection to the plan: if I'm a well educated member of the "Creative Class" [FURF!], what possible reason do I have to join Government Service? The work sucks. The pay sucks. The retirement plan sucks. Now, under the proposed plan, I don't even have job security. All that I have now is an overinflated sense of public duty, and that don't keep the utilities paid in the winter. I might as well just join the private sector now that the choice is basically a wash. The Government can't currently attract "The Best and the Brightest."

The supporter's argument doesn't address these matters. Their argument is "This plan allows for easier pruning of underperforming employees and prevents deadwood from hanging on to the bureaucracy ."


The private market has enough of its share of deadwood, otherwise Dilbert and Office Space wouldn't be nearly as funny. Good employees (except those of us with "over active public duty glands") will leave, if they haven't already, for better, or at least "less bad" benefits. Marginal employees will now leave, as the choice between Public and Private employment has become a wash. The underperformers will do just enough not to get fired, but no more, just like they always do.

Now, the second part of my objection: if I'm being judged on "performance," to what standard am I being held? Am I rewarded for doing my job, or rewarded for pushing projects that are important or projects that the local member of Congress considers important? Is my boss' performance measured on how well she follows marching orders from the administration or how well she follows the rules?

As I've indicated in a previous post, bureaucrats aren't necessarily supposed to follow the will of the majority; we are supposed to follow the rule of law. If you allow the mob to control how the laws are enforced and on whom, you not only undermine equal protection, you also risk violating Rule #2. Once you start blurring the line between politics and bureaucracy, you start back down that road to patronage.

In sum: Working for the Government sucks at a basic level. This proposal merely exacerbates the increasing Federal employee vacuum, the real problem at hand. Political patronage is bad.

That's enough for now.

This post brought to you by: Cups of Coffee #'s 1-3.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Today a doctor with a flashlight shows us where budget projections come from.

Because of the recent budget problems in THE CITY, all the departments in THE BUREAUCRACY have begun to forecast a list of priority projects based on which projects have money committed to them, which have had some precommitments, and which are in "the pipeline". Now we can predict how much money we're going to need for the next eight years for all of these projects.

Next we're going to predict the weather in Central Park on October 15, 2011 at 2:34 PM [partly cloudy, 54 degrees, wind from the southwest], the winner of World Series in 2007 [Yankees], and the date the aliens will finally land [trick question: already here!]

According to chaos theory, no projection, however well reasoned, is any better than a shot in the dark. Minor fluctuations in tax rates, employment, national debt may cause vast differences in the amount of resources we will have and therefore number of projects we'll be able to do.

But I spent today doing this futile exercise anyway. Turns out that we have 80 priority projects costing $650,000,000... and about $13,000,000 to do it with. Of course, they're still working on the list of "must-do" projects.

I'm looking at this as an excuse, nay, an "opportunity" to cut out the crappy projects. ['Course, that would leave me with nothing to do.]

Update October 28, 2007: Boy was I ever wrong on the Yankees!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Other Rules:

Some other rules, not associated with bureaucracy, but are, in fact, associated with drunkenness:

1) Never drink anything that you can't identify;
2) Never drink anything that your Evil Friend gives you;
3) Never drink anything that comes in a test tube.

I managed to follow all of the above tonight.

This post brought to you by, White wine, Red wine, Red Wine, Beer, Beer, but no Evil Friend drinks...

Transit & Rule #4

I’m a little swamped today, with the plethora of tasks that are piling up, so I can only dash out a brief post right now, hopefully to be followed by a more substantial analysis.

Both Furrow and Jonathan Potts have some very in depth discussions on Pittsburgh’s Port Authority Transit projects and the proposed Mon-Fayette Expressway. Both seem to be puzzled over the rationale for these endeavors, but both agree that these are bad projects.

Bad projects! No biscuit!

So, while I go and brush up on all the back story involved (THE BUREAUCRACY has done little work with the DOT and even less with the State of Pennsylvania), I’ll leave you with Rule #4, “The Money Rule”:


This post brought to you by: That light headed feeling you get from missing lunch.

Monday, January 24, 2005


Although I'm not a big fan of his political leanings, William Safire's final columns in the New York Times were quite good. This one in particular is very insightful; a bit of advice to those would be op/ed contributors.

[Subscription may be required.]

Feeling Thor

I'm going to spare you the unpleasant details, but when it's cold and dry outside I tend to conduct electricity. A lot of electricity. Like big blue bolts out of my finger tips. Seriously.

I've already blown out a telephone receiver from sparks from my lips, [not as sexy as it sounds] and I have to avoid personal contact else I ZAP potential clients/customers.

Add a bean burrito lunch and I may level all of Downtown.

So, I hope I don't get charged with assault and battery.
I'm really sorry about that pun; I feel dirty now.

This post brought to you by: Rayden, God of Thunder & Protector of the Realm of Earth

Guidelines for Government Inaction

Minor annoyances first thing Monday Morning:

(1) If you're going to call me to discuss a matter of utmost urgency, don't call my office on Saturday. I understand that if you work 40 hours a week, you may not have time to talk during the weekday. Given the current state of Labor relations in this country and the general pull of the Labor unions at the beginning of the last century, I am also working a 40 hr. work week. [Suprise! Suprise!] I have a life outside work, you know. People that call before 8 AM, after 5PM, during lunch, or on Weekends, don't really want to talk to a human being, for, if they truly wanted to talk to someone, they might want to try and call during, let's say, business hours.

(1.b.) If you're going to call me to discuss a matter of utmost urgency on Saturday at 10AM, don't call back at 10:30 AM. Not at 11 either, or 12, or 1. Take the hint people: I am not here

(2) If you're going to call me to discuss a matter of utmost urgency, it would be helpful to me if you would explain what this "urgency" is, rather than leaving a rambling message about "how we need to talk" or to "give us a call back." If you want a productive dialogue, try giving me some information so that I can be prepared to, I don't know, help solve your problem.

So, because of (1), (1.b), and (2) listed above, I have no real desire to return this call.

This post brought to you by: Cup of Coffee #3

Sunday, January 23, 2005

CITY-Wide Mass Suicide

OK, when you throw three interceptions and commit one fumble in the AFC championship, you just may not have the stuff that it takes to make it to the Superbowl.

That being said, buckets of Kool-Aid will be distributed on every street corner to the denizens of THE CITY. Please don purple sheets and black Nikes. NOW IS THE TIME OF THE GREAT CLEANSING! THE HEATHENS WILL BE BURNED ALIVE AND THEIR FLESH DISTRIBUTED AMONG THE CHILDREN. THE END TIMES HAVE ARRIVED AND THE ANTI-CHRIST HAS ARRIVED

I'm done now.

This post brought to you by: Six beers, and great sadness.

The Wild and Wonderful World of Jim

I'm feeling nostalgic this morning, so I've whipped out something from the archives.

During my Freshman year at [Non-Descript University] so many years ago, my friends and I met this Rhode Islander named Jim. We didn't know him that well; we assumed he was a reasonably smart guy and funny guy. One day during the course of a basketball/volleyball/tennis-like game that one of us had invented, an errant ball thrown by JM whacked Jim violently in the back of the head. Ever since that moment, the gentlemen of our dorm started noticing that Jim's intelligence had started to slowly decline and by the end of the year, Jim's I.Q. seemed to have hit rock Jim, sort of like Flowers for Algernon, only in reverse. We were afraid that Jim would eventually be relegated to the position of "Tending the Rabbits" with his friend Lenny. While we later determined that Jim had always been dumber than a box of dumb and the whack on the head did nothing to precipitate any of the following actions, there are those who still blame JM for turning Jim into a babbling idiot.

Well, maybe not a babbling idiot, but definitely an idiot who (and I'm serious here) wanted to go on a road trip to Belgium and offered to pay for gas.

Brad failed out of school at the end of the first semester when he copied an Engineering assignment verbatim from a classmate. He's now either a mutual fund manager, a motorsports champion, or works for the current administration.

I'm betting on the latter.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Cover songs

Over a shot of what tasted like Easter throwup, Furrow and I had a discussion about the greatest cover song ever. I maintain it is All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dillon as covered by Jimi Hendrix. Furrow has some different ideas.

While Furrow makes some points, I still hold by my original statement: All Along the Watchtower is the greatest cover, ever.

Those that say otherwise will be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes. [The revolution will be about minutiae, apparently.]

This post brought to you by: Red Wine.

A Bureaucrat's Aside

There are a lot of ugly people downtown in THE CITY, and I just don't mean regular ugly... I mean CARNIVAL ugly.


Today we're suffering from, what is known as a "voluntary illness" or a "signal that you had to too much fun".

Long story short: Red Wine, Red Wine, Red Wine, Bourbon, Green, Beer, Beer, Irish Car Bomb, Shot that tasted like Easter threw up in my mouth. Yes, it's always a good night when you can shoot the moon (Wine, Beer, Liquor, Mixed Drink).

Violated Two of the Sacred Rules of Drinking: "Never drink anything that Evil Friend gives you" and "Never drink anything that you don't know what it is". Usually Evil Friend buys unrecognizable drinks, so the violation is usually a two-fer.

As we were sobering up in the bar at around 2AM, we watched "Striped Shirt Guy" try to hook up, badly, with a girl way out of his league who was obviously disinterested in him. Striped Shirt Guy would move in to make out, she'd dodge, he'd try to talk to her again, move in, dodge, talk, etc. This repeated itself for 10 minutes until she bolted without warning. Striped Shirt Guy tried to follow but couldn't quite nagivate the bar without using the wall for support. He then went off to try to find someone else to hook up with, and failed at that too. Hysterically funny.

Last call is an incredibly scary moment where you realize that the hot girl you were talking to is only really hot in the dark. If you were sober you'd understand that hot girls don't hang around until last call; they've already been taken home.

Striped Shirt Guy followed us out into the below zero weather, wasted, and without a jacket, probably on the hunt for an after hours party to nurse his wounded pride.

This post brought to you by: Advil

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Men's Health Magazine has a ranking of Cities by Intelligence. [I'm assuming here that they are referring to "Metropolitan Areas" (MSAs) rather than actual Cities, proper.] Minneapolis, Minnesota ranked at number 1; Fort Wayne, Indiana ranked at the bottom

The measurement, however, raised my hackles: "We based our rankings on the number of bachelor's degrees per capita, the number of universities, inhabitants' SAT scores, state creativity scores as assessed by Catalytix and the Richard Florida Creativity Group, and the number of Nobel Prize winners for physics and medicine born within the towns' borders." (Emphasis mine).

Now, for those of you not cool enough to know about him, here's the nub of Dr. Florida's thesis: "Creative" people are the key to the new economy. Get them to move to your city and you're set. [Citation] If you visit the website you can find out how "CREATIVE" your city is or even how "CREATIVE" you are. It's all fun in a really "CREATIVE" way.

He defines his "CREATIVE CLASS" to include people in science, engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment who create "new ideas" and around whom revolve a slew of "CREATIVE PROFESSIONALS" in business and finance, law, health care, etc.

Don't worry, you're probably not cool enough to get it. Go steal his book and read it for yourself. If you get past all the people bending over to kiss his behind, you'll end up having a lovely object suitable for bludgeoning yourself to death.

I'm not a fan of Dr. Frankenflorida, as I feel there are several BIG problems I have with his theses... his festering pile of theses.

FIRST: The thesis is like Gertrude Stein's commentary on Oakland California: "When you get there, there's no 'there' there." Similarly with Florida, and despite the praise and the plaudits, his thesis is unworkable as a guide to economic development. What he offers as suggestions for cities are merely well disguised rhetorical examples. He lauds bike trails, architecture, parks, museums, etc. as creative engines... but never goes on to say whether these should be the economic development blueprint for a City. Rather, he goes out on a limb to say that creativity is good and cities should do creative stuff. Thanks, that helps.

SECOND: Have you ever TRIED to fund "Creative Stuff?" Go to a bank and try to get a loan for something "Creative?" Try asking your mortgage broker. I'll admit that this is sniping, but it brings me to my third point:

THIRD: As a City, how do you value a "Creative" Good versus a "Necessary" Good. This is, at its nub, a "Guns or Butter" debate: should a City provide WiFi (Creative Good) or Extra Police (Necessary Good)? Bike trails or Paved roads? Museums or Schools? While some would argue that this is a false dilemma, I would argue that a City's resources are finite and the choice is very real.

FOURTH: The Creative class is, like, everyone. 'Cept Bureaucrats, it seems. Meh.

FIFTH: Well, let me take that back: the poor do not have a role in the Creative Class, it seems. The prerequisites for this class appear to involve at least some level of advanced education and presumably some excess cash. The poor are excluded and have to wait for the trickle down effects of the Creative City.

SIXTH: This thesis is soooo 1999. The ability of City's to compete based on their ability to attract "The Creative Class" is, I'll admit, a very real factor if there's a strong labor market. My strong hunch is that people choose their jobs on (1) their interests and (2) the salary. Somewhere after that is the coolness of the City. I wouldn't leave my job based on the amenities of another city; more money and a better position, absolutely. The City is a tiebreaker of less importance and it becomes even less important in a soft labor market. Dr. Dickie Miami's thesis made sense in the mad-capped '90s... but here in the Naughty Aughties, not so much.

SEVENTH: Am I, THE BUREAUCRAT, being chastised for not championing creativity? Do you know what irony is? Do you really think that GOVERNMENT is the best dynamo for Creative change? Are you sick of the rhetorical questions yet? In the words of a coworker: "Are you a millionaire from [Local Tech Start Up] complaining that there's nothing for you and your "Creative" friends to do? Well, get your millionaire friends together and show us the money!"

As you can see, I'm sick of the people rushing over each other to lick Dr. F's undercarriage. He amounts to an intellectual Flim-Flam Artist who has the amazing ability to get people to pay him for telling them what they want to hear.

Anyway, THE CITY did OK in the stupid list, for a George W. Bush America and we're in the middle of the pack somewhere. Not that I put much stock in Men's Health, or as a friend of mine put it "Gay Porn-lite". [To be fair, he's the one with the subscription.]

This post brough to you by: Nothing... I've been writing this crap for an hour dammit!!! Time for a beer!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


So, THE CITY abounds with rumors.

First rumor: The Snake Oil Salesman is running for the mayor's office. This is odd considering that the Silver Fox hasn't declared yet. One would think that because the Silver Fox has or at least seems to have such a strong relationship with the Governor, it would seem foolish for the Snake Oil Salesman to alienate one of his biggest guns in THE STATE Party.

Not a rumor, but relevant: The Snake Oil Salesman is suing the Mayor's Office for cutting its funding... even though THE STATE mandated it and other departments in THE CITY were also hit hard, if not worse, than his office. That doesn't really sound like a guy who really has the best interests of THE CITY at heart.

Second Rumor: A player, whom we shall call, "The Churchman", has become attached to the Silver Fox's campaign. The Churchman seems to be seeking out a very powerful position in a potential Silver Fox administration, ultimately hoping to become Chairman of THE BUREAUCRACY. This is interesting because The Fop, as I recall, used to be Chief of Staff or some such nonsense to The Churchman. That leads one to question whether The Fop is really serious about this campaign, or if he'll back down in deference to his former employer.

This post brought to you by: Red Wine

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It's cold... Damn cold!

Three degrees above zero is damn, damn cold.

I know that there are those that are still on the fence about "global climate change," but last week it was 65 degrees out. Now it's 3.

I'm just sayin'.

This post brought to you by: Beer #1

Monday, January 17, 2005

Economic Development in THE CITY

Once upon a time many moons ago before Sigourney Weaver, my specialty was in Economic Development, which is a nebulous area not readily understood by the general public. My personal belief is that there are areas in which Government intervention in the Market is necessary; the Market is only 100% efficient in theory and, when left on its own, it will tend toward inefficiency in the short run. [Whether that inefficiency balances out in the long run is subject for debate... but as Keynes said, "In the long run, we're dead."]

So, I believe that there is a legitimate role for Government in Economic Development.

The problem with Government, however, is that so many people conflate it with Politics, and everyone has an opinion as to what to do in Politics. Unfortunately, most people don't quite understand the situation and are quick to jump in with their own ridiculous ideas as to what "should be done". Which is why talk radio is so successful: idiots spouting off their damned "easy" theories of how to fix things.

And yes, the irony of this blog has not been lost on me. Although, I'm going to try to talk about this whole subject in a more technocratic and academic way.

Anyway... one of the basic goals of Economic Development is the creation and generation of Wealth. Creating wealth, for a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), results in (1) the creation of more wealth, (2) the creation of more tax revenue for the MSA, and (3) political stability for the politicians. [Politicians like to be able to say that they created X jobs... which leads to Y votes.] Creating wealth, at its most basic level, creates a higher standard of living, and is sort of the overarching goal of Wealth.

And if you want to talk about the Aristotelian concept of Happiness and how it relates to the telos of mankind, we can do that too.

Back to Economic Development:

Wealth comes about through marginal productivity in an MSA: we do things better and more efficient than you. One thinks about Silicon Valley for IT or Austin TX for Hardware or, a classic example, Pittsburgh PA for steel. In each case, these regions were better and more efficiently than everyone else in what they did and were able to convert that "surplus" into Wealth.

Therefore, what could be said is that the ability of an MSA to create better products and services more efficiently will give it a competitive advantage over other Regions and lead to Wealth creation. What could also be said is that inefficiency is bad and drains away resources from the production of wealth.

The logical conclusion is that Government's role in Economic Development is to promote policies that (1) allow the market to create better products and services, (2) allow the market to act more efficiently, and (3) remove barriers that create inefficiencies.

Well, that's enough theory for now. More later.

This post brought to you by: $1.40 small, regular coffee.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Politics of THE CITY

The subject of my future posts will have a lot to do with the relationship between the political life of THE CITY and the bureaucratic life of THE CITY. Let's go over some basics:

Bureaucracy is the antithesis of politics: Bureaucracy is a firm adherance to the rules and regulations, while Politics is the firm adherance to the Will of the Electors. Politicians will constantly try to twist the bureaucracy to serve their needs ("credit claiming" in order to win elections), while Bureaucrats will resist as often political directives are "suboptimal" when compared to other choices. "Suboptimal" also includes, for the record, the potential for the bureaucrat to be fired, sent to jail, or otherwise violate Rule #2. So there's this tense dance between the Politicos and the Bureaucrats, each trying to lead (or at least guide) the other.

The result is often that nothing gets done... which, on the national level, isn't always that bad: the Bureaucracy is a check on the Politicians. If you were a strident member of a political party, would you really want the other party to have absolute control over law and be able to change it in a whim, or would you want some inertia to slow that process down? Would you really want the other party to be able to impose its will instantaneously, or would you want some delay so that you can minimize the effects of the changes?

Of course, we the Bureaucrats get trashed for being slow and ponderous (we're defending against the tyrrany of the majority!) and treating people like crap (that's democracy and equality, baby: all y'all get treated like crap).

Enough with the theory... let's get to some of the major players in political life of THE CITY:

The Mayor: Generally disliked across the city. Went through a spate of building projects during his term; THE CITY slouched towards bankruptcy. The mayor gets most of the blame, which may or may not be warranted. Announced some weeks ago that he's not running for mayor again.

City Council: Sort of like the Superfriends of THE CITY... only without Superman, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern... well, really without anybody with any "super" powers, not even Black Vulcan. So you're left with Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder-Dog. Only there's nine of them. While some of them have some blinding flashes of insight, and while they are often very knowledgeable about matters in their district, these are the class of people that can be categorized as parochial.



The Silver Fox Used to be on City Council. Lost to The Mayor last time around and was given a post at THE STATE as a sort of consolation prize. Left the post at THE STATE to... Well, we don't know yet. We assume that he's going to run again, but hasn't declared his candidacy.

The Snake Oil Salesman Works for the City now as the Controller; is also the Chairman of the Local Dominant Political Party. Also has not declared his candidacy. Not necessarily a bad guy, but entrenched in the muck that is the Politics in THE CITY.

The Administrator A bureaucrat himself, is in charge of an agency that would baffle most people outside of THE CITY. Interestingly has championed the elimination of his own job. Positioned himself as an "outsider". Only viable candidate that has officially declared.

The Fop On City Council now, Represents the wealthiest and trendiest area of THE CITY. He's into this whole "New Economy," "Creative Class", thing. Has come support with the younger crowd, but doesn't seem to have a full grasp of what is involved in running THE CITY. Oh, yeah, and an enemy of THE BUREAUCRACY. Has not declared his candidacy either.

So that's the overview of the starting lineup of the race. There are other players, but we'll get to those in future posts.

This post brought to you by: Sunday Morning

Saturday, January 15, 2005


I never usually get emotionally involve in football....but today was a bit different.

My team won. Good news. Two missed field goal and fate helped us on our quest.

Very happy.

This post brought to you by: Eight beers; dem Stillers.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Cause of (and Solution to) this Blog

So originally when this blog was pitched to me on Monday, the idea was that I was supposed to be drunk every time I wrote in it. I thought this was funny, but there are several problems with this concept:

(1) As I drink more, I become much more incoherent and lose my ability to type. And while this holds tremendous comedic potential, it also means that I may slip and reveal some dark sordid secret like my fantasy involving Lindsay Lohan, a bottle of butterscotch syrup, and...

WHOA! Almost had me there. I can't give away too much, not now.

Moving on.

(2) I may post at work if the fancy strikes me.... and they will fire my ass if I'm drunk... even for a noble cause such as this.

(3) I may post in the morning. Drinking before noon is sad.

(4) If I'm prolific, people are going to think I'm drunk all the time. And then someone is going to call an intervention. And then I'll spend weeks in rehab. And then I won't be able to post. QED

So Drunk AND Angry... either one or both. If you have a problem with drinking, assume that I just have a chip on my shoulder... If you have a problem with anger, assume that I'm ripped.

If you have a problem with both... well, you probably didn't make it this far in the post.

The post was brought to you by: VODKA MARTINI.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Rules (pt. 2)

So in yesterday's post we learned to always write things down, otherwise Authority X will come down on you for destroying very important piece of property "Q". If you don't write things down, all hell will break loose; fire will fall from the sky; darkness will cover the land; dogs and cats will live together...etc.

Today we learn that Authority X is suffering from what doctors call a "collective cranial-rectal inversion". Bear with me, the story gets complicated.

Authority X received a request for destroying said very important piece of property "Q" back in October. Never told Subcontractor Z that they needed more information and a revision to the plans...please ignore that they had 3 months to do this and get the paperwork together. I, for my part, paid Authority X money for the Destruction of Very Important Piece of Property Permit back in December; I did keep the receipt for the checks (see Rule #1). So Authority X has payment for the Destruction of Very Important Piece of Property Permit, but is screwing around on the approval.

Yesterday, I helped to unleash the might, majesty, and terror that is THE BUREAUCRACY in order hurry Authority X along in their approval process and to finish said destruction of very important piece of property "Q". We flexed our muscle and get to them exactly what they need to them so that they can approve everything once and for all...

But they also sent our checks back to us.


While we were working on this problem.

While we were talking to them.

And we only found this out now.

Today, Authority X has approved the Destruction of Very Important Piece of Property Permit, but refuses to release it, because we haven't paid them.

Which brings us to Rule #3: Nothing Simple is ever Easy.

I'm staving off a violent out-burst by banging my head repeatedly on the desk in the hopes that I pass out.

This post brought to you by: Authority X employee "D.W." who seems to have caused this mess

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Rules

There are Rules to being a bureaucrat.
Dozens of them.
Break the Rules and you're screwed.

Today I broke Rule #1: "Document everything you do: if you didn't write it down, it didn't happen."

The corollary to Rule #1: "A person's word means jack-squat."

So today's problem is the direct result of a project for which I received authorization from Magical Pixies that live under my filing cabinets. These very persuasive sprites convinced me that Authority X had OK'd a project, the destruction of piece of property "Q". Unfortunately, the Pixies had just lost their secretary because of budget cut backs and the pixie in charge was out sick, so no one could write a memo today, but they were really, REALLY insistent that I could authorize the destruction of important piece of property "Q". I took the Pixies at their word, because Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny had personally vouched for their veracity.

I told contractor A the good news from my impish friends, who told subcontractor Z who destroyed said very important piece of property Q at my request. Subcontrator Z goes back to Authority X for final sign-off, only to find out that Authority X never OK'd this destruction and that what Z was doing was not only illegal, but immoral, and unethical. So Z, A, and Q come back to me looking for who told me the destruction of said very important former piece of property was OK'd in the first place.

I'm now in hiding in place R, which is as far away from Z, A, Q, and X as I can get. The Pixies have not come back from their lunch break, and their machine isn't picking up.

Which brings me to Rule #2, "The 60 Minutes Rule": "Never do anything that would cause Ed Bradley, Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Steve Croft, Leslie Stahl, or even Andy Rooney to persue you down a hallway with a camera crew."

*60 Minutes* can ALWAYS find ne'er-do-wells... I wonder if they can find Pixies.

This post brought to you by: MY OWN IDIOCY

First Angry, Drunk, Bureaucratic Rant

The worst part of the job is waking up in the morning, opening up the paper, and finding out that you are a complete and total a**hole. The obvious solution to this problem is to cancel your subscription.

Us bureaucrats are angry because we get no respect, we're treated like s**t, and we're identified with everything that's wrong with government. We're the scapegoat, because we're easy. So we're angry. And we drink. A lot.

So I hope to accomplish nothing by this blog except to be generally angry, exceptionally drunk, angrier, drunk again, and perhaps to encapsulate horrible mispellings.

This rant brought to you by: VODKA MARTINI (2)