Friday, July 29, 2005

Business Casual Friday

Today's Business Casual Friday offering:

50 People Who Need a Vicious Beating

Can't say I find all these people worthy of a major beat down, but anyway: put your feet back, relax, and take tire iron to Dr. Phil. I know I will.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bureaucracy, Management, & Politics

So the Pittsburgh Board of Edumacation offically tapped either Kermit Roosevelt or a young Douglas Adams to be the new school superintendent.


Question: Does the PghBOE really want someone to run the Pittsburgh Public Schools or do they just want a manager or a facilitator to ratify their micromanagement? Experience hath shewn that these guys are crazy with a capital "BOOGAHBOOGAHBOOGAH!," and should not be left alone with sharp implements, prescription medication, or children.

Still, only time will tell; maybe someone will pretend to be the adult.

On a semi-related note, it is my understanding that the BOE has begun to in-house a bunch of contracts, with the exception of a few contracts with Faith Based Organizations, the majority of which (the FBOs) are centered in areas that did not vote for O'Connor. Is the school board punishing areas that voted for O'Connor in the last election? Are they rewarding those that voted against the Silver Fox? Who's beak is being wet from these deals?

Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Forget all Your Troubles, Forget all Your Pain and Go...

OK, reading JP's article here got me wondering what property does the URA actually own downtown. I mean, we all talk about the conditions Downtown, but, and I may be the only one here, we don't seem to have an understanding as to the scope of the problem.

So I swooped off to the Allegheny County Property Assessment Website and started poking around. After much compiling, some horsetrading for a property map of downtown, and a couple of shots of Marker's Mark, I came up with this map showing the major landowners in the downtown area:

Muchos Gracias!

A couple of notes/caveats:

(1) I noticed that the information that the County has is spotty at best. [Go fig, right?] I can only assume that some of the information just wasn't updated yet.

(2) I noticed that my map is probably out of date. Clearly, the now defunct Lazarus property shouldn't be showing up on the map as "Incomplete." I assume that this is either a problem with the County's information or that the property lines on the map have changed. I can't think of any way to get this information, other than going cross town to the URA and asking.*

(3) The data on this map was pretty messy. PNC Bank, for example, shows up in at least 5 different ways, including mispellings. I think I cleaned up the data pretty well, but I probably missed something.

Anyway, I have no real point here, I just wanted to share. Make of this submission what you will.

* Sorry, my dedication to this blog does not extend to crossing rivers.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Bah! To Hell with This!

Late Friday afternoon and the weekend is tempting me like pudding tempts Delta Burke.

I've completely given up on today. You can only write persuant to our letter of April 21, 2004, as amended, you are hereby notified that you are in breach of the terms of our agreement, as more specifically outlined at Section 2, Paragraph 4 of said letter... so many times before the words lose all meaning.

I think I have Bureaucrat's Block.

Can't even bring myself to write up a decent post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Side Bar

Couple thoughts this morning:

A. I wonder how John G. Roberts Jr. feels about
(1) Leaking the name of a covert CIA agent;
(2) Torture as a means of handling prisoners in Guantanamo;

B. Don't let the SCOTUS confirmation circus distract you from the antics of the Turd Blossom. Do not watch the right hand.

C. Isn't John Roberts a correspondent for CBS news? And who says Monkey-Boy doesn't like the liberal media?

I would have preferred Andy Rooney. (Ya know... the implementation of certain activities by the city of Bridgeport CT pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,42 USC§ 2000d really makes me mad. I mean seriously, what is wrong with you people in Connecticut?)

Or even Dan Rather. (The majority decision on Kelo v. New London is weaker than a sleepy ox with no legs crackling over a hickory fire.)

That would be awesome.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Rant #7592: Stop the Heat

Yes. It is hot enough for me, you worthless piece of shit. Now fuck off.

I'm sick to death of this heat. I'm tired of the haze. I'm fed up with the humidity. It's all making me cranky, irratible, and, above all, sweaty.

I no longer wish to do my human sprinkler routine every time I step outside. I have now officially run out of clothes to wear that are not soaked with my own sweat and body odor. I do not want to offend the public, members of government or the press with my stank... well, maybe the press.

I do not wish to be mistaken again for Richard Nixon debating in a sauna.

I'm sick of the rain, every day, at 5:30 PM. I'm tired of walking home from my bus stop through what feels like a tropical rain forest. No, scratch that... I'm tired of swimming home from my bus stop. I have been attacked by maccaus, pirahnas, and some sort of hallucinogenic toad, NONE of which are indigenous to this part of Pennsylvania. Yet, somehow this heat, rain, and humidity have all gotten them to think that this is some portion of the Amazonian basin.

This heat must be stopped, whether by act of God or act of derranged evil genius. A good missle at the heart of the sun would work nicely. [Phooey on all of you that protest about the "extinction of mankind," I'm fucking sweaty.]

I recognize, of course, that now that the soltice has passed, I can no longer expect to see temperatures in the lower fifties, and I can accept that.

Until October, however, I'm staying in my bedroom naked with the windows closed and the A/C running at full blast.

I will be using up all of my sick days on this, and I think it's worth it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Happy Bastille Day!

In honor of those cheese eating surrender-monkeys in Parisland, I'm presenting my itinerary for that lesser of democratic holidays in July, Bastille Day:

6:00 AM: Wake up.

6:30 AM: Breakfast; Black coffee, cigarettes, contemplation of the bleakness of existence. Argue that breakfast functions as a bourgeois substitute for real commitment in the world, even if it includes bacon.

7:30 AM: Surrender to Germans. Learn how appreciate Knackwurst, Wagner, and David Hasselhof.

9:00 AM: Complain about the increase of trans-Atlantic hyperhegemony. Laugh at ridiculousness of American President. Pout. [Repeat as necessary.]

9:30 AM: Raise subsidy on agriculture.

10:00 AM: Attack comparable international naval superpower (Greenpeace). Surrender.

11:00 AM: Decrease number of national vacation days from 49 to 48.

11:02 AM: Strike.

11:05 AM: Reinstitute 49 vacation days.

Noon: Lunch; Black coffee, cigarettes. Eat cake.

12:30 PM: Execute King, Aristocracy, Criminals, Clergy, Royal Sympathizers, Arch-Revolutionaries, Revolutionaries, and anyone else who happens to wander by.

1:30 PM: Institute Empire with help of Corsican half-brother; invade Russia.

1:45 PM: Check weather to see why it's so cold in Russia in July.

2 PM: Surrender to Russia, Prussians, Austrians, English, Italians.

2:15 PM: Realize there is no Prussia anymore; Surrender anyway.

2:16 PM: Realize that no one has surrendered to the Italians since 312 AD; hang head in shame.

3:00 PM: Eat Beef Wellington; vomit.

4:00 PM: Plant more trees along the Champs-Élysées. Check with Berlin to ensure proper shadiness ratio.

5:00 PM: Throw up baracades, escape from literary personification of irrational vengeance, get shot, collapse, die, sing. Repeat at Tony Awards.

6:00 PM: Bathe (Optional)

7:00 PM: Dinner: Wine, cigarettes, cheese, wine.

8:00 PM: Night of passion with Mistress, Wife, Au Pair, Revolutionaries, and anyone else who happens to wander by.

Midnight: Surrender to Self.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Paranoia and Occam's Razor

Maria's response to yesterday's paranoia attack is a much more measured and reasonable answer to my concerns than the creation of a vast plot to distract the public from other more important issues. [See Rule #5.]

I learned at a young age, however, that you never watch the magician's right hand; the right hand is the distraction, while the left hand is slipping out handkerchiefs, half-dollars, and rabbits.

But perhaps I give Mr. Rove too much credit.

A couple things still bug me:

(1) I'll admit that Rove's a smart guy, if a bit ethically challenged. Still, you would have thought that it would have crossed his mind once, if not three times, that directing reporters to a CIA operative (covert or not) would be shady. [See Rule #2] That seems to be a dumb move on his part.

(2) Let's suppose, however, that Rove's lawyers are telling the truth and that Rove didn't know that Plaime was covert (and therefore did not break the law) or that Rove, technically, never outed her by name. Rove is still being dumb for not covering his butt by letting the investigation into Cooper and Miller slowly fade away. Perhaps this was a calculated risk: no reporter, in Rove's mind, would ever cave to pressure to divulge a source and therefore he's safe. Still, several quick words to the President (specifically, "Geez George, this investigation is really making us look like schmucks; why don't we back off and try this a different way"*) would have, if nothing else, slowed the investigation down to a crawl. Instead, Rove allows this problem to fester away slowly.

If Rove isn't doing something sneaky (well, sneakiER) here, then he's being sloppy and stupid.

Both are good reasons to fire the Turd Blossom.

*This raises an interesting point: Clearly, Rove could have skewed the investigation without telling the President that he was involved, clearing Dubya of all culpability, but he apparently didn't. I'm no longer privy to Bush/Rove discussions, so I can only speculate what went on between them. Did the President actually know Rove was involved? If he did, that seems like obstruction of justice to me; if he didn't, Karl's been making him look bad behind his back. So what DID the President know and when did he know it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

QPxB?, QxR! Check

If you play chess you'll know the conventional wisdom which teaches the value of pieces:

Pawns are each worth 1 point;
Bishops and Knights are worth 3;
Rooks are worth 5;
Queens are worth 10; and
Kings are, for all practical purposes, worth an infinite number of points.

The calculus that players do in their heads is whether to risk a piece in exchange for taking a opponent's more valuable piece.

If White takes Black's Bishop, but in turn loses a Rook, it is a net loss to White (-2). If White takes Black's Bishop, and in turn loses a Pawn, it is a net gain to White (+2).

Of course, the other part of the game is to force your opponent into dilemmas and traps. Does White, for example, take Black's Bishop or its Knight, knowing that one may be an advantage in later stages of the game? Or, perhaps White should retreat from both and attack on another part of the board. There are tradeoffs and sacrifices to be made and the smart player will know which pieces are expendable and which are valuable.

Now, with that in mind, there are two major pieces in play on the board for the current administration:
(1) Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove and
(2) The yet unknown Supreme Court nominee.

Karl Rove is a very powerful utility piece for the White House, as we all know. The Supreme Court nominee will, we assume, be a long term investment in the power of the Right Wing.

Let's assume that nothing happens in the White House for light or transient reasons. If so, the recent revealing of Rove's role in the Plame makes no sense. For a man as powerful as Rove to let an official inquiry get this far without it being stopped seems, at best, incompetent and, at worst, stupid. It baffles my mind that the man behind the curtain wasn't looking after his own interests... unless there is more to this than we think.

This all may be a distraction for those that are paying attention from the real battle on a different part of the board, namely, the Supreme Court Nominee hearings. The Democrats would love to take down Rove; the media would love to see blood, anyone's blood, in the water. I'm not going to underestimate the craftiness of these guys; White House may be sacrificing its Bishop in order to advance its Rook.

A carefully chosen candidate, just far enough Right for the Administration, would be able to slip past the public review while the hubbub over Rove reaches its boiling point. The Right Wing gets another foothold in the SCOTUS, Karl Rove gets a pardon, and the Democrats are back to playing defense.

Check. Or am I paranoid?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Home is where the... no, wait you can't afford it.

Saw this while trawling for things to talk about:

...Real estate experts warn that housing prices in many markets are too quickly outpacing the incomes of most workers. The widening gap affects families across the country, from Washington D.C. and Rhode Island to Florida in the South and Nevada and California in the west.

In California, the situation has long been the worst: Only 17 percent of households could afford a home with a median price tag in April, according to the California Association of Realtors.

By May, the median home price in California climbed to $522,590 — more than double the price in most other states. To buy the typical home with monthly payments of $3,067, a California family would need to earn about $122,700 to qualify for a conventional loan.

In other high-cost states, the situation is not much improved. The average family in Florida earns nearly $44,000, which fell 26 percent short of the amount needed to finance a median-priced home last year, according to a study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

National statistics show that families can afford a home in many other cities around the country. The typical household earns about $56,323, enough to buy a home costing $250,900 and 133 percent of what's needed to afford the median-priced home of $188,800, said Walter Molony, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors....
Frankly, that's pretty scary, as it is indicative of the economy at-large and the ability of this housing driven economy to sustain itself. Combined with Fester's post from two months ago, I'm wetting my pants.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Rule #11 (?)

In my fleshy, non-technologically mediated existence, I don't usually strike people as being a Bureaucrat. I suppose they're assuming that Bureaucrats have beady little eyes, grubby little hands, and cloven hooves. People mostly, instead, tend to regard me as an unruly drunk with a penchant for pyromania, and not as a petty minded Bureaucrat. I'm honestly not sure how I'm supposed to take this.

In those brief times where I can both put together a coherent sentence and resist picking up a book of matches, I often find myself drawn into discussions with random strangers about the nature of local/state/federal government. Inevitably, there's a lot of misinformation that gets spread around the conversation, so I try to resist telling people that I work for The Bureaucracy, by tap dancing around the issue, muttering something about the weather, and lighting their shoes on fire.

Once on fire, people tend to forget whatever it was they were talking about, and choose, instead, to stop, drop and roll. The upshot of this is that I don't have to explain their misunderstandings on the role of The Bureaucracy, what it does, and what it does not do. It's hard to explain to people that the solutions to the problems they are looking at are often much harder than they realize and that there are, in fact, some more important things to do.

I'm not a fan of discussions that begin, "The City should...", "We need to...", or other such rhetorical nonsense. The City should provide water taxis, one such discussion began, blithely ignoring that funding for such an endeavor would be more suited to paying down interest on the City's Pension fund or that the City isn't the one that does the water taxi service anyway. These discussions are rarely productive, descending more quickly into rants and navel gazing than positive actions, such as writing a member of Congress, lobbying City Council, or shaving the dog of a Borough Manager.

But I digress.

My point is this: There's always a mysterious, vague, faceless person out there screwing over the public. This is a the person that doesn't pave the street at PennDot, doesn't shovel the roads at Public Works, won't approve your building permit at zoning, and drove the City deficit higher than Phish concert goer. He (or she) is narrowminded, petty, stubborn, incompetent, and should be fired for gross negligence. In sum:

A Bureaucrat is always an asshole to someone.

Or, as a corollary, as Sir Michael Phillip Jagger said,

You can't always get what you want.

Or, more colorfully put,

Public service often involves waking up in the morning, opening up the newspaper, and discovering that someone, somewhere out there thinks that you're a dickhead.

And yes, I'm that dickhead.

One of those is Rule #11, although I can't decide which. This might be Rules 11-13, but I'm not sure right now. I'm open to suggestions.

Now go away, or I'll set you on fire.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Rule #6 (Redux)

So, I wake up this morning to look at the headlines and notice two competing, incongruous headlines in the PG:

Pittsburgh's finances are OK at midway point


General Assembly votes itself a 16% base pay increase

Now, let me get this straight: the State Legislature hammers the City of Pittsburgh for months to tighten its belt, and turns around to spend money on its members instead. Does this seem unethical, immoral, or just plain wrong to anyone else? But it's not just the City, of course:

Minimum wage hike, out.
Pay raise, in.
Mass transit funding, out.
Pay raise, in.

Harumph. What did I say about politics and good government...?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bureaucratic Thought of the Moment

It's tough to get things done when your organizational chart looks like a series of squished spiders.