Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Please Stand By...

Add me to what seems to be an escalating wave of apathy rippling across the Burghosphere. Almost half of my RSS feed seems to be filled with some sort of "Sorry about the lack of posting recently..." post. That's fine by me, although it appears unusual to see so many verbose bloggers suddenly allow for a lull in the conversation, more eloquently expressed by the Ancient Greek phrase "Hermes has entered in," which, if I still had my Philosophy of Social Science notes,would be explained somewhere between a listing of the only First Rate philosophers and Dr. Thayer's inexplicable rants against Mr. Wizard.

In any event, you'll have to trust me on this one: Hermes has entered into the Burghosphere.

For me, at least, there are a couple of really good reasons:
(1) Despite all odds and to Winter's chagrin it seems that, as evidenced by the green peach fuzz on Mt. Washington, Spring has arrived. As any Pittsburgher will tell you, you have to enjoy Spring before we enter into the monsoon season in May/June. Besides, after 9-10hrs a day sitting in front of a computer adding columns of numbers that don't quite total correctly, typing up responses to insane members of the public, and entering information into databases that were last upgraded slightly before the advent of punchcards, I don't want to spend more time than I have to inside.

There's a beautiful world out there, people, just behind the glass in the window in your mom's basement.

(2) My router has been up and down more often than a yo-yo that's gone off its lithium. Needless to say, I can hold a good connection for about as long as it takes to achieve a glimmer of hope... only to have that hope dashed to pieces. If the router is listening, it better shape up before it becomes another electronic domestic violence statistic.


(3) I've been overwhelmed by a general malaise, stemming from all areas; a real palpable feeling of "Meh." I don't like it and it doesn't make for a good posting.

I did write a post on the death of Boris Yelstin the other day (outside in the grass), but I didn't publish it because it bored me. [This article is far more interesting, and far from glowing.]

Anyway, until the malaise passes, my router stops being a dick, and it becomes really unpleasant to go outside, please stand by for further postings.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shave off the Beard Luke!

OK Luke: break out the razor, the playoff beard can come off.

So sad, but at least the Pens got a new arena, right? RIGHT?


Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Fresh off the heals of the aborted post that lauded Pittsburgh's place at #32* on the best place for singles list, comes this disturbing turn of events.

Pittsburgh is #1 in Baby Boomer and Ho Hos Love.**

In addition to a lower than average divorce rate and higher than average marriage rate among boomers, Pittsburgh also ranked No. 1 among the Top 10 cities for flowers and plants given as gifts and No. 2 among Top 10 cities for chocolate consumption.

The chocolatey Ho Hos achievement was announced yesterday by Hostess, the Kansas City-based makers of the Swiss-rolled cakes with the creamy filling and sweet icing, as part of the company's 40th celebration of the tubular treat.

According to Hostess' data, Pittsburghers pound 1.51 Ho Hos per person per day. The only cities that come close are Buffalo/Rochester (1.39), Cincinnati (1.37), and Cleveland (1.15).
I'm not sure which makes me more nauseous: people in their late 50s getting it on, or that bastard Twinkie love-child.

My therapist is going to have a full plate this week. She's going to earn that hazard pay.

*Take that Cleveland!
** With apologies to Al Sharpton.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Pint's a Pound the World Around ($.50 US)

Those of you that follow the international currency markets are obviously aware that the British pound is now worth nearly $2.00, which is the lowest value for the dollar for the last 15 years. From the Guardian:

"This could well prove to be a very significant week for sterling, as we have a string of events which could well propel sterling to break the $2 level," said Martin Slaney, head of spread betting at GFT Global Markets in London.

"Momentum is certainly with the pound right now and there's every chance that the higher volatility we are likely to see this week will take us above $2."

A weakening dollar last November pushed the pound just shy of $2 but it did not quite make it to the key level. The appreciation in sterling prompted a stampede to book flights to New York as British shoppers embarked on pre-Christmas shopping frenzies.
Now, wait a second... does the Pittsburgh Visitors and Convention Bureau know about this? Think about it: the average price of a pint in London is £2.24, which is about $4.50 today.

What's the average price of a pint in Pittsburgh? $2? $2.50 if you're drinking something good? $4.50 if you're drinking something really, really good? Dude! I know like five places that have $.25 drafts and $.10 wings... that's like, what, £.20?

WHY AREN'T BRITS BREAKING DOWN PITTSBURGH'S DOOR TO SPEND MONEY HERE? This is primo marketing materials for the Vistors Bureau! Why aren't these guys all over this? I should be seeing signs, flyers, banners, TV ads, Internet ads, Email Blasts all with the same message to the UK: "Come to Pittsburgh and Drink Cheap Beer!"

Or are they just going to Cananda to get real beer?

Someone's obviously dropping the ball here.

Tag(s): ,

An Open Letter to Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature,

Look, I don't know exactly what it was that we did to piss you off, although having seen An Inconvenient Truth, I suppose I can probably guess. Whatever it was specifically, I'd like to say that, as a duly selected representative of the human race, we'd like it very much if you'd cut it out.

OK, we get it; we screwed up. We're sorry.

I know you're angry, but you're acting out (what with the wind, the rain, the snow, the freezing temperatures in Spring, and the gray -- the endlessly oppressive gray) in non-productive ways. It's just not healthy behavior.

I know that you wish that we'd just grow up, collect our things, and move out. You and dad probably assumed that all of your kids would have left the nest by now. We just need a bit more time to get some stuff worked out and then we'll be out of your hair.

Mother's Day, I'm sure you know, is coming up soon. We promise to get you something nice. Flowers perhaps... or maybe candy... but if you're going to keep acting this way, we're just going to get you a card again.

We're sorry, we have to say this, but you're a bitch sometimes.

With love,

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat


Friday, April 13, 2007

Bill Buckner Named War 'Czar'

Washington (AP) - Former Boston Red Sox First Baseman Bill Buckner has been tapped by the President to act as the new War 'Czar' to coordinate military activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Buckner, who achieved notoriety in the 1986 World Series for committing an error that would later allow the NY Mets to go on and win the championship, will report directly to the President.

A White House spokesman speaking on behalf of Tony Snow announced the appointment around noon today.

"The President was looking for someone who can shoulder great responsibility in the face of equally great criticism.

When asked why he accepted a job that was turned down by several high ranking military personnel due to the perception that the position was merely a "scapegoat", Buckner was reflective.

"Since '86, I was continually blamed for losing the [World] Series, spit on by fans, mocked, jeered, and burned in effigy. Even when the team owners couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag, spend money wisely, or hire competant players, I got the blame. Year after year, I got the blame... until '04.

"Once they actually won the championship, I was plum out of a job and I realized I kind of missed being blamed for the horrible mistakes of others. This is old hat to me.

Mr. Buckner will start his new post next week, but has already been subpoenaed by the House and Senate, where he will be asked to explain why he's mismanaged the war since 2002.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

More on Twanda

The Carlisle arraignment seemed to come out of left field for a lot of people... in the same way that a fly ball comes right out of left field for the Pirates: you hear the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, but you get beaned on the head anyway, because you were too busy stomping on a beach ball that wandered its way onto the field. If you were paying attention to the ethics board criticisms, the investigations, and so forth, you would have realized that something was going to go down, it was just a question of "when."

What did catch me completely by surprise was the sheer number of charges. I would have figured there would be an ethics charge and maybe something regarding campaign impropriety, but certainly nothing like the laundry list that came down. We're talking Ben Woods level crime here.

Now, it is, of course, improper to assume that the Councilwoman is guilty, and she is entitled to her day in court where she can rebut the charges against her. Still, just from the news reports, Ms. Carlisle is guilty of transgressing at least one of The Rules of Bureaucracy over there to the left: #2 ("The Sixty Minutes" Rule).

It's a hard rule to follow, I know.

The big sin here is that not only did Carlisle (allegedly) do something stupidly illegal, but that she got caught (allegedly) doing something stupid and illegal. And while it is often hard to judge when an action would trigger a visit from the Investigative News Team, I've come up with a little a shortcut, nay, a moral maxim which may help those with lingering ethical dilemmas:


And if you're still unsure and have lingering moral questions, let me clarify further:

I hope this helps.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Carlisle to be Arraigned

Oh my
Pittsburgh Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle will be arraigned this morning on three charges of theft by deception, three charges of criminal conspiracy, three charges of violation of the state Ethics Act, five Election Code violations, and three charges of failing to file required financial disclosures.
Guess my meeting is cancelled for today. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Young Ones

Blah, blah, blah, keep young people in Pittsburgh, blah, blah, blah. From the Blah-G:

Fresh off the news that the region has lost more people this decade than any other metro area outside of New Orleans, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today announced the formation of a commission dedicated to keeping young professionals here...

The group will meet six times a year and will submit quarterly reports to the mayor and council on policy matters important to young professionals. It will break into committees that will provide advice to the administration on "economic, social, political, cultural, diversity and clean-and-safe matters," the mayor said....
Is it me, or is keeping young people in Pittsburgh an obsession around here, like right up there in front of the Penguins, and right behind the Steelers? The old guard 'round here basically falls over itself to attract youthful urban, hip types. Everything has to cater to the "young" and, occasionally, "the restless". There are days that I think we're about three council resolutions from turning the City County building to a cyber-cafe/half pipe combination.

And, by the way, nothing instills the vigor of youth like "committees" and "reports". Back in the day, I used to go down to the bar with a group of my buddies, have a couple of shots, and start going all Robert's Rules of Order on everyone's ass until we were forcibly adjourned sine die. Good times.

Having been a young person once, I can state the two reasons that I chose to stay here back in the day were (1) that I was a true yinzer at heart and (2) because there was a job opportunity for me here. Had either of those not been true, I would have hightailed it out of here faster than you could say "References Available Upon Request."

Seriously, unless the City is starting up Yinzerfication camps or be willing to guarantee a job for each and every yuppie out there, I think there's only one solution: duct tape.

It's no worse than another youth commission and would frankly hold together longer.


Sham boom?

I know a little about housing (enough to get me in trouble anyway) and I vividly remember the S&L scandal back in the late '80s, so when I hear about this kind of stuff, my bowels feel lighter and I spend all evening doing laundry. From the WaPo:

Many experts have concluded that the nation's real estate boom of recent years was fueled in part by weakened lending standards that sparked excessive demand and drove up prices. Now, some are worried that the looser standards may have permitted a boom of another kind -- a big expansion of mortgage fraud.

No one knows exactly how extensive the crime has become, but new data from the federal government suggest that it has jumped tenfold since 2000. Prosecutors are finding cases all over the country in which sham transactions, based on fraudulent appraisals, led to homes changing hands at far above their real value. Mortgage lenders failed to carry out the most elementary safeguards.

In some neighborhoods, mortgage fraud became so extensive that it drove up overall home prices. That is what happened in Atlanta. Hill, 50, was convicted last month in what authorities call one of the biggest mortgage-fraud cases in U.S. history. It involved 400 fraudulent loan applications; nearly $100 million in mortgages; and 120 closing attorneys, appraisers, mortgage brokers and others who prosecutors say were in on the scam...

Thirty years ago, most Americans got their mortgages at a savings-and-loan association from bankers who obeyed conservative lending rules. But sweeping changes in the finance world have created a far different system. It has helped raise homeownership to record levels, but many real-estate professionals say it also has led to far looser lending standards.

Nowadays, instead of poring over paperwork for weeks, lenders often verify loans through electronic underwriting programs in which numbers can easily be tweaked. About 70 percent of Americans get their home loans from independent mortgage brokers, many of whom are paid bonuses for pushing higher-interest loans.
Now, there are three things that I want to mention here:

First, the housing/mortgage industry sets itself up for scams: developers want houses to sell and push realtors (hungry for commission) to sell to buyers who are set up with mortgages that they can't afford, which are packaged into bonds and sold to Wall Street. The whole thing can quickly devolve into a ponzi scheme if people are either ethically challenged or not paying attention. With the home buying frenzy that has transpired I wouldn't be surprised if there is a real, underlying crisis here.

Second, Pittsburgh hasn't really seen the housing boom like Boston or California did, so I doubt that we'll see widespread fraud. I think, however, that it's more likely that you'll see a lot of these marginal buyers who were sold homes and mortgages that they can't afford begin to enter foreclosure. This will probably be a bigger problem in poorer communities, although it will be more pronounced in more affluent neighborhoods.

Finally, because of the lack of appropriate regulatory oversight, this may only be the tip of the iceberg. How much of the GDP in the last 5 years has been as a result of housing? 6%, perhaps? Imagine what would happen if this was all a sham.

Anyone know if Neil Bush a real esate developer nowadays?

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Bureaucrat's Aside

It's very important to me that, during the course of my job, I bring a certain level of eruditeness and sophistication to my bureacratic writing and force the readers of my prose to crack open a dictionary at least once. [I get a kick back from Merriam-Webster.]

I'm currently trying desperately to fit the word "antediluvian" into a memo, which is harder than it sounds... especially when the subject relates to reallocated fund balances or governmental liability for automobile injuries sustained in the course of public business.

That is all; carry on.

Friday, April 06, 2007

More on the Hill

I said this was coming. Did anyone listen to me? Nooooo!

Let's get down to it: Why should any of the self identified Hill District Representatives have a right to dictate terms to Barden, Mario, et al? How are we to know that their interests actually represent the interests of the neighborhood at large? Why shouldn't we be listening to another group of self identified community leaders? Are their voices any less valid?

What knowledge and experience is being brought to the table by this Coalition? What value is being added? What happens if they are ignored? What if their demands contradict the economics of the project?

Who would control the money. Who would benefit monetarily? Who would lose? Who is being set up as a patsy? Who is sleeping with who? Who's brother needs a job? Who is up for re-election? Who is hoping to make political hay out of this? Which interest is being served here, really?

Is this supposed to be the "leadership" of the Hill District, or is this just opportunists masquerading as leaders?

Or is this, perhaps, just 100%, all-American racketeering disguised as community development?

I'll let you all answer those questions yourself. 500 words max. Cite your sources appropriately. (Hint: the answer is not "The Man")


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Random Outburts

It's a sandwich, not a life altering event! Toasted or not-toasted? Now move!

You realize, of course, that this is your job, right? This is what they pay you to do.

Lady, the sign says "Do Not Enter" you can't make a right turn! Now, I don't care, but that rapidly approaching bus might.

You're high on glue aren't you? That's the only explanation for your stupidity, short of massive brain trauma.

Why did you think that was my job? Do you even have the remotest concept of what I do, or were you mashing buttons on your phone at random?

How hard did you have to work to rise to this level of incompetance?

You suck!

Your lips are saying "I can help," but your eyes are saying, "I need to be beaten senseless."

You! Make a decision! Shit or get off the pot!

Ah! I didn't realize that it was my day to deal with the circus freaks.

In this country, it's called a "side walk", not a "side stand" or a "side block-other-people."

You are a pompous waste of air in a poorly tailored suit!

Only three words can describe what you just did: Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Why couldn't your parents have "just been friends" instead?

I... no, it would take too long to explain what is wrong with you.

Yes, I look like I care, but you look like a person who doesn't know when they're wrong.

I'm going to have to stop you there: my doctor tells me I'm only supposed to get 30 milligrams of stupid per day.

Get out of my way, already!

No, no, no that's not the floor you're looking for.

Explain to me again why it's my job to bail you out of your problems?

Who are you and how did you get my number?

You... you... ah, hell! Just fuck off already!


Monday, April 02, 2007


Those of you that may read other external "news" sources may have heard that former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson (R) is contemplating a run for President, based mostly on his powerful experience as Rear Admiral Joshua Painter in The Hunt for Red October.

You may also have heard, however, that because of his current duties as District Attorney for the TV Series Law & Order (Duhnk-duhnk!), NBC may be unable to air up to 100 episodes of the series due to FCC "Fair Use" laws. With the original Law & Order (Duhnk-duhnk!), Law & Order SVU (Duhnk-duhnk!), Law & Order Criminal Intent (Duhnk-duhnk!), Law & Order: Trial by Jury (Duhnk-duhnk!), Law & Order: Elevator Inspector Unit (Duhnk-duhnk!), Law & Order: the Musical (Duhnk-duhnk - JAZZHANDS!), and the oft panned Law & Order: Real World (Duhnk-duhnk YOU WHORE!), Fred's 100 episodes accounts for nearly 1/10th of one percent of all Law & Order Episodes.


With any luck, if Sen. Thompson runs there may be an hour in the day that Law & Order (Duhnk-duhnk!) is not on.*

But considering that NBC would suffer "irreparable damages" from the loss of advertising revenue, somebody needs to come up with some creative solutions that would allow Law & Order (Duhnk-duhnk!) to remain on the air without violating FCC rules. I have two suggestions:

First, in the age of digital technology, it is certainly not beyond our abilities to graft a new virtual head to Mr. Thompson's body, preferably one with gravitas and one that doesn't make Sam Waterston's eyebrows stand out. I'm thinking Ed Asner, 'cause he kinda looks like Sam Hill but I could also see Jar Jar Binks because of his virtual acting experience.

The other option is to provide all the candidates with their own series on NBC. Picture a "Fraiser"-type series with Mitt Romney and his family of Massachusetts Mormons or a drama with Hillary Clinton as a paranormal psychic who can talk with the recently dead. Rudy Gulliani can join the cast of SNL (as he has the experience) and John McCain can be on a "Real-Talk Express" Reality Show. Dennis Kucinich gets an infomercial for spray on hair.**

The advantage of this is obvious: good shows with high viewership will increase a candidate's visibility, and translate into votes at the poles. Indeed, if the recent American Idol results are any indication, over 350 Million people will turn out to vote for the next president in 2008.

Of course, this all presents innumerable problems. Which candidate would do comedies and which would do dramas? Who gets Prime Time and who gets Late Night? Is Bill Richardson really suitable for family time? Can NBC really afford to stock up on John Edwards hair product? With over 70 declared, major candidates and several hundred undeclared and minor candidates, is there enough room in the NBC line up to fit them all in? Will NBC need to create a whole new network devoted entirely to political shows? Will it be free or like that horrible Red/White/Blue Olympic Triple Cast they did a few years back?

But, which ever solution they pursue, it can only improve the NBC line up.*** Joey? The Black Donnellys? Identity?

Yuck. Give me Newt Gingrich in a wacky situational comedy with Michael Richards any day.
* It's on right now. Go on and check. I'll wait.
** With the demise of the WB, Barack Obama is SOL.
*** Thursdays excepted.

Tag(s): ,

Supreme Court: EPA Can Regulate Emissions

Justice Taggart, writing for the majority: "I'd say you had enough!"


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mayor's Race Rumor

The word on the street is that the Post-Gazette will report tomorrow that former O'Connor Chief of Staff B.J. Leber will drop a bombshell on the current administration.

According to trusted ADB sources, Leber is in posession of several documents stretching back to the beginning of the previous administration, that implicates several members of the current administration in actively using public materials to build private swimming pools, using public employees as personal valets, and appropriating public funds for "strip clubs, Turkish baths, and prostitutes."

Ravenstahl and many members of the current administration have been reported to be continually high on a variety of prescription medications as well as several illicit substances, including cocaine, heroin, and Schlitz.

Additionally, Leber asserts that the Ravenstahl Administration is involved in bugging and wiretapping the campaign offices of Bill Peduto and is actively covering up its relationship with three burglars that were arrested last June 17.

Further, during the 2007 mayoral campaign Ravenstahl and his wife had invested in and lost money in a development project around the Ohiopyle State Park. The administration is attempting to cover up a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation which could result in criminal charges against the two principals in the Ohiopyle project.

Finally, the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa is about to expose an arrangement of an alleged weapons-for-hostages deal. The operation was discovered only after an airlift of guns was downed over Nicaragua two weeks ago. Dick Skrinjar, who was captured by Nicaraguan authorities, initially alleged in a press conference on Nicaraguan soil that two of his coworkers, Max Gomez and Ramon Medina, worked for the CIA. These arms were to be exchanged for the freedom of the recently captured British Sailors.

No word on how this may affect the Mayoral campaign.

Read tomorrow's P-G for more details on Leber's early April surprise.