Monday, December 31, 2007

An Open Letter to 2008 A.D.

Dear 2008 A.D.,
As you may or may not be aware, at this time last year I offered my reflections on the passing of one of your predecessors, 2006 A.D., in favor of the more current incumbent 2007 A.D.  Indeed, my assessment of 2006 was quite negative and I cynically believed that 2007 would continue to be much the same. 
As the saying goes, the cynic is never disappointed. 
I realized, however, that I probably did not properly express myself in such a manner so as to affect any real change in the upcoming year.  Therefore, with that in mind, I am endeavoring to address you, the upcoming year, a bit more directly so as to make a positive impact on your annual development.  With that in mind, here is my advice to you: do not suck
Of course I do understand that, given how little the incumbent year has left you to work with, this is a difficult request to fulfill.  After a year of work, Osama bin Laden is still at large, war continues unabated in the Middle East, the value of the dollar has tanked, home foreclosures are on the rise, civil liberties continue to be curtailed, popular music continues its decline, people still know more about celebrities and reality T.V. shows than they know about their government (unless a senator is caught with his pants down in a "wide stance"), consumers continue to buy useless junk that they don't need, a Democratic Congress which has raise appeasement to near Chamberlain levels, unruly children continue to run amok, local politics continues to be roughly comparable to a three ring circus, global climate change has messed a whole bunch of things up, and no one has been able to adequately explain the continued popularity of "popped" collars. 
To make things even more difficult for you, 2007 has left you with an unfinished US Presidential campaign replete with a thousand different candidates, a million different policy positions, a billion hours of TV advertising, and exactly zero chance of a happy resolution.   This quadrennial fracas only seems to escalate, and it'll be up to you, sadly, to try to contain the melee. 
Of course, local politics was a crapfest as well from the general election, to the Ravenstahl arrest scandal, to the Penguins leaving/not leaving/leaving/staying, to the new arena, to the "Ron Air" Ravenstal scandal, to the mass firings of the departmental directors, to the Hill Public meeting Ravenstahl scandal, to the Twanda Carlisle indictment, to the Cyril Wecht kinda-sorta trial, Jim Motznik's short lived blog, the rise (and fall) of Mark DeSantis, Ravenstahl's ethics board scandal, an errant salad at the county courthouse, more useless studies and commissions, miscellaneous Ravenstahl Scandals (not elsewhere classified), a council asking for the end of state oversight, and the general, unavoidable feeling that the whole damned town is going down the shitter.
And to top it all off, 2007 took Kurt Vonnegut, the tragedy which was only slightly mitigated by the fact that Jerry Fallwell was "called home" and Alberto Gonzales was sent packing as well . 
There are, of course, things that could make you better.  Impeachments and indictments across the board would be a good start.  So would getting those civil liberties back.  A progressive and rational environmental and energy policy would be nice.  I would love to see the reemergence of statesmen over politicians.  Less backbiting and more collaboration on the local government level would also be great.   
Oh, and it would be super if you could bring back Arrested Development
So, my charge to you 2008: don't suck.  I realize that after seeing how badly your predecessor was you're thinking that there's no possible way that you could suck more, but 2007 said the same thing last year. 
The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

Friday, December 21, 2007

Addendum to December 13th Guest Commentary

People of Pittsburgh:

I warned you that those dirty, smelly, pot smoking, sabot wearing, tulip picking, windmill chasing, whore mongering, polyglot, dike building, Ann Frank hiding, Eurotrash would be invading our fair Region and look what's happened:

Dutch company Royal Philips Electronics has agreed to buy Murrysville-based Respironics Inc. for $5.1 billion in a deal announced early today.
See! Now we're going to have to put mayonnaise on all of our french fries, start speaking Flemish, drink our beers warm, convert to Islam, and marry our cousins.

George Allen Mosley is Executive Vice President of the Americanize America Foundation and adjunct Professor of Racism and Intolerance at Liberty University

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mayoral/Pittsburgh 250+ Fact Checking

Here's a quote from the P-G regarding Mr. Ravenstahl's inauguration speech:

He said a young George Washington saw the confluence of three rivers as "an ideal place to build a fort, to make a stand," and said that's what it is today.
While George Washington did survey the forks of the Ohio and did recommend the site as a location for a fort (later Fort Prince George), one should also remember that he also thought that building a fort, in the middle of a forest clearing, in a valley, with a stream running through it was a good idea too.

And then he surrendered to the French, thereby starting a world war.

So, take the whole George Washington thing with a grain of salt.

Twelve Score and Ten Project

The Pittsburgh 250 Project has announced its awardees (awarders? award recipients?) for regional and grassroots projects to receive a total of $1 million in funding for activities and events occurring during the region's 250th anniversary in 2008. Unfortunately for me, once again my submitted project (George Washington Pooped Here: a multimedia, full sensory examination of Pittsburgh Regional Outhouses, Privies, and other Toilets) was rejected in favor of Walkin', Fishin', and alleged Mule House related projects.


Still, a lot of these activities & projects are pretty damned cool. I'm particularly looking forward to the giant headless steelworker at the Southside Works, but mostly because I hope to use my anthropomorphism ray to crush my enemies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Modest Open Letter to the Mayor: A Pittsburgh Promise Proposal

Dear Mr. Mayor,
I must congratulate you on your exceptional commitment to the Pittsburgh Promise program and your desire to provide college scholarships to qualified students residing in the City of Pittsburgh.  Indeed, such a program will not only encourage middle class families, who would otherwise flee to the suburbs, to stay in the City and will provide a much need impetus to the Pittsburgh Board of Education to keep their standards high. 
I must further congratulate you on your recent success in receiving a commitment from local health care giant UPMC to donate one million dollars a year in both outright and matching funds to the program.  I am sure that this act will encourage other civic minded organizations to donate what they can to the betterment of the city. 
There are two points, however, that I notice as a cause for concern.  First, even with the generous endowment of ten million dollars over ten years, the program is still a long way from being fully and sustainably funded.  If my estimates are correct, the program will need at least $100 million to be truly functional. 
Second, UPMC seems to seem fit to attach the extraordinary provision that its donation be counted as credit against future taxation, should enabling legislation permitting the taxation of non-profits be enacted.  This, to me, seems to undermine the very outcome desired from a future taxation of non-profits.
As you can see, the twin problems here of an underfunded program and an undermined taxation system basically creates a situation in which no one is better off.  I would like, if I may, present my own solution to our collective problem. 
You may or may not be aware, Mr. Mayor, that I am not just a humble civil servant and part time masked crime fighter.  In real life, I am actually the heir to a vast fortune from my grandfather's invention of that little plastic tag you find in clothes that is supposed to hold on tags.  My father, in a flash of financial brilliance used the money to patent the copyright symbol and bought the rights to the colour taupe.  We have also diversified to include holding in the Repossession and Credit Collections industry, news media outlets that specialize in the disappearance of attractive white women, and Internet porn.  Without displaying too much false modesty, I can assure you that we are very, very wealthy, so much so, in fact, that we briefly considered buying a local newspaper as a hobby and to advance the cause of the International Astronomical Union against the infidels that still consider Pluto to be a planet. 
With that said, I would like to personally donate Five Hundred Million Dollars ($500,000,000) to the Pittsburgh Promise, with no strings attached.
Given the generosity of my donation, however, you'll understand of course that there are strings attached to it.  Also, given the enormity of the donation, you'll of course realize that the strings attached will be commensurate with the amount.  In my opinion, however, my request is not overly burdensome. 
It has not escaped my notice, that the Pittsburgh Region lacks a cohesive, coherent leadership structure.  Some councils of government have had limited success and some cross municipal cooperation has worked, but overall there is generally a lack of coordination for the region's common good.  This problem exists, however, not only outside the walls of Pittsburgh proper, but within as well, where neighborhoods, corporations, politicians, and special interest groups battle for ever shrinking slices of tiny, tiny pie.  While risk is inherent in any major financial investment, I am not comfortable with throwing my money at any organization in such disarray. 
In my mind, there is only one way to solve this general problem: in the event that the appropriate enabling legislation is enacted, I will claim the office of King of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. 
We originally believed that we should ask for an election, an acclamation, or some other conveyance of the public trust, but we soon realized that would only undermine the legitimacy our reign, which must be based on the Divine Right.  Moreover, we can see how certain republican elements in the region would seek to invalidate, what we consider to be, our necessary and proper station. 
We promise to be a benevolent monarch, but you will understand that, as King, we will be assuming certain extraordinary powers necessary to the functioning of the office, including, but not limited to:
* The Crown will assume all publicly owned land in the Region;
* The Crown will be exempt from all taxation;
* The Crown will have the right to collect all taxes and fees;
* The Crown will have the right to raise an army for public defense;
* The Crown will have the right to summon and dismiss County, City, and other municipal councils;
* The Crown will give, upon the advise of his ministers, assent to all legislation; and so forth.
We believe that such powers are reasonable given the extraordinary contribution we are making to this region.  We may consent to be referred to as "King of the Pittsburghers" instead of "King of Pittsburgh" pending the advice of our ministers.
As our first acts,
* We would immediately dissolve all municipal boundaries in the area of "Southwestern Pennsylvania" to form the City-Region of "Pittsburgh and Allegheny".
* We would merge any and all authorities, boards, commissions, and so forth, as necessary.
* We would declare the Official Languages of the Region to be English and Yinzer English.
* We would begin to issue charters, titles of nobility, and letters patent in our name.
* We would establish several orders of Knighthood for Service to the Crown including the Order of the Angry Drunk Bureaucrat (OABD) and the Order of the Unnecessary Post-nominal Suffix (OUPS)
* We would invade Mt. Oliver, burn it to the ground, and sow salt so that nothing would ever grow there again.
* We would allow for indoor smoking, provided that the smoker is, in fact, on fire.
* We would sell the City's rights to the Casino to Erie.
* We will not permit any of our subjects to use the word "defenestrate."
Future acts would include putting down the inevitable peasant uprising in Mercer County and setting up Yinzer colonies in Washington D.C., Myrtle Beach, and South Florida. 
We are already preparing the crown jewels for our royal ascension and are accepting applications for Titles of Nobility.  Should you be amenable to this arrangement, we will arrange a time and place prior to our coronation for you to pay us homage. 
H.R.H. Arthur David Beverly the First, by the Grace of God, of the Kingdom of Pittsburgh and Allegheny and her other Realms and Territories King-Elect, Most Serene Dominus and Imperator, Defender of the Forks of the Ohio, Pater Patriae, OADB, OUPS, PhD
P.S. If you still want to be involved in our government, we can make you Marquess of The Charles Street Valley or Earl of Four Mile Run or something.  Think about it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Smithers! Unleash the Pittsburgh Promise Tax Credits

In regards to the announcement that local medical behemoth UPMC is asking for tax credits, PittGirl is torn between thinking that this is a brilliant move to reward the organization for its generous contribution to the Pittsburgh Promise and thinking that the Mayor is the toadying Smithers to Jeffrey Romoff's (UPMC's CEO) Mr. Burns.

I don't think I'm nearly as torn on the matter, except to say that Smithers is at least a competent toady.

In what can only be described as a high stakes shell game, the Mayor is pushing council to OK a pre-emptive tax break to a non-profit (untaxed under current law) for matching funds contributions made to a mayoral pet project.  Now, don't get me wrong, the Pittsburgh Promise idea has a lot of... erm... promise, but it's hardly the type of program that is essential to the City qua its function as a City, as would be road maintenance, public safety, zoning, tax collection, parks, etc.  Those things are the kinds of services that the City would be paying for with the money that it could receive from a UPMC tax contribution which it doesn't receive yet anyhow.  

Still with me?  Good.

So, if you can't figure it out, it sounds like UPMC is betting that the law will, in fact, be changed to allow non-profits to be taxed and is trying to pre-emptively offset its losses.  

The problem, of course, is that once UPMC does it, there is precedence for other non-profits to pull the same kind of crap, earmarking money that would have gone into roads/bridges/trash collecting/etc. for a mayoral fancy.  If that happens, we still have the status quo... which, as you know, is Latin for "the mess we're in."

Of course, the City may have the last laugh: if the Pittsburgh Promise works out, perhaps down the road we'll have smarter politicians and a smarter voting public that won't fall for this type of bullshit.  

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guest Commentary by Private Citizen George Allen Mosley

When I found out that our beloved, family-owned Kennywood was to be sold to a private company, I was crushed. When I found out that it was being sold to a group of dirty, greasy, taco-eating Spaniards, I was enraged. Now, to make matters worse, I find out that the venerable horse racing institution known as The Meadows is to be sold to a bunch of goose stepping Nazi Austrians. Let me tell you, I am livid.

It's bad enough that those lazy, good for nothing Spaniards are jumping over the border and taking our jobs, but now we also have to contend with these Aryans trying to take over our world with their wienerschnitzel and their oompa-music and their ethnic cleansing.

I mean, whatever happened to good old AMERICAN companies, like Bayer or the Westinghouse Electric Company or Marconi? Why don't we have those kinds of red white and blue companies anymore?

Next thing you know, we'll be up to our ears in dirty, slitty eyed, monkey faced, Dutch coming here blowing up our churches, marrying our daughters, and driving down our property values.

When my grandfather immigrated here to Pittsburgh, it certainly wasn't so some foreigner could take his job.

George Allen Mosley is Executive Vice President of the Americanize America Foundation

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

(Feral) Animal Farm

If you've been following along in the P-G or on the Pittsburgh City-Council pay-per-view channel* you would have noticed that Darlene Harris is pushing to get animal control moved from Public Works to Public Safety, to wit:

Ms. Harris said Friday that she will propose moving the division from the Public Works Department to the Public Safety Department, professionalizing its management and shifting its focus. Then it can better control feral animal populations and teach people about pet care, she said.
Because, when I think of "pet care" I think of Michael Huss... or at least more than I think of Michael Vick.

Now, this all, of course, makes perfect sense in light of former Councilperson Twanda Carlisle assertion back in July that "In 2007, cats are more aggressive than they used to be."

I can only assume that this moves means that, despite all the joking that was done, Ms. Carlisle was absolutely correct and that there are currently roaming street gangs of cats, dogs, birds, turtles, hamsters, ferrets, and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs assaulting old women, dealing crack, and generally terrorizing the populace of the City of Pittsburgh.

Or perhaps Al Qaeda is on the verge of developing the suicide Guinea Pig.

Or maybe Chinese counterfitters are saturating the American market is knock off Shitz Zhus.

Or maybe Super Chicken is off the Super Sauce again.

I'm glad we're on top of this situation.

*After 10 PM the legislation gets a little "blue".

Kennywood Bought Out By Spanish Firm

Announces new "Haunted Castile" Dark Ride
The Potato Patch to Switch to all Tapas Menu
Phantom's Revenge Roller Coaster Renamed "Franco's Revenge"
Rick Sebak Sobs Inconsolably
Flies Remain at Half Mast in Memorial

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mayor's Office Celebrates Entire Week of Not F@#&ing Up

A month after he was elected mayor of Pittsburgh, and two weeks before his inauguration, Luke Ravenstahl managed not to fuck everything up for a whole week.

On one day, Tuesday, City Council asked for an end to state fiscal oversight; Don Barden said he'll move forward on his North Shore casino next week; and the mayor agreed not to veto an ordinance on police domestic violence. Late in the day, the Mayor decided against selling high school drop outs to UPMC for organ harvesting purposes.

Each decision was a tough one, but as the Mayor approaches his December 20th inauguration, he faces a long selection of potentially disastrous decisions that are yet to be made.

For now, the 27 year old Mayor seems content to rest on the laurels of the bad decisions that he has not yet made. Saying that "with the budgetary shortfalls and discussions with the County and the State regarding administrative mergers, there are plenty of ways that I can completely fuck up."

"I struggled with trying to get my message out there for a significant period of time because of some of the other things that arose throughout the campaign," he conceded, adding "I hope that the citizens of the City will realize that there are times when I will, unfortunately, not act like a complete horse's ass 100% of the time."

Mayoral spokesperson Joanna Doven in a press release itemized several ridiculously bad ideas that the Mayor had chosen not to pursue including using the Public Works asphalt plant to construction a giant statue of 1980s T.V. star Peter Scolari urinating champagne, paying off the City bond debt with his Discover card, and a controversial plan to sell the Fineview neighborhood for money for hookers and blow. The mayor also wisely chose not to tell a CMU computer science class that if they hung around with Asian students they "would get all slitty eyed."

Duquesne Law Professor Joseph Sabino Leger said the mayor's ability not to act like a total putz for a week is a sign of growing maturity in the young politician.

"Still, with the number of decisions that the mayor needs to make on a given day, it will only be a matter of time before he supports an amendment to the City Homerule Charter banning the use of gerunds. I believe he has a long way to go and we can expect more fuck ups in the near future."

The Mayor's Office's Task Force on Bad Ideas is due to present it's recommendations to the mayor on January 3rd at the City's first annual Children's Handgun and Liquor festival.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Rule #29

For Sue:

There's always a disparity between those that know how things work and those that have no clue how things work. Unfortunately, those that have no clue about the way things work, details of problems, potential implications of choices, and the law often find themselves in the role of "manager".

In the Governmental world, these are Politicians and their appointees.

So, you can imagine the problems that result when Politicians and their assorted cronies try to fiddle with is what is, by right, the responsibility of those with actual knowledge of the details, i.e., the Bureaucrats. There are oftentimes perfectly good reasons why things are done certain ways, whether it is because of precedent, law, or fiscal obligation. Appointees and politicians, who are not content to stay within their realm of general "policy," often find the need to meddle needlessly... with annoying and potentially disastrous results.

The One-Eyed Fat Man once referred to it as "Children playing with nuclear weapons." I put the resulting fracas a little bit more delicately as Rule #29:

Rule #29: It is very easy to make difficult decisions when no one has a clue what's going on.

Of course, no one should begin to even consider the slightest possibility that I'm even suggesting that this is in anyway a reference to the current Pittsburgh mayoral administration. Anyone who thinks so is sadly mistaken about that being in any way the case, for surely it is not... even if it was.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

This Blog Will Now Cost 10% More

OK, so the drink tax is now a done deal and only too late do I realize this was merely a trap to silence this blog.

On one hand you have a tax that funds the Port Authority; on the other hand, you have more expensive drinks at Gooski's, the Squirrel Cage, Penn Brewery, Mitchell's, Mullaney's, Piper's, D's, Big Jim's, Silky's, Sharp Edge (Emporium AND Creekhouse), Fat Head's, Ryan's, Kelly's, Buffalo Blues, and The Church. Your's truly is dependent on all of the above to power this blog.

Without the bus, I don't have the mind numbing tedium necessary to think up things like comparing the Mayor to a less competent George W. Bush without the whole "Male Cheerleader" thing.*

Without the drink, I don't have the fuel necessary to power my profanity laden rants and the protection necessary to keep the Downtown free WiFi waves out of my brain.

And, of course, I'm a contentious drunk, so I don't drink and drive... I drink and bus. [If you've never ridden the 61C and puked into the change box, well, you're a better person than me.]

But anyway, I'm not saying that the drink tax is directly aimed at me, but I have stocked up on beer, wine, vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon, port, mead, and sherry**, so I can exploit the "stay-at-home-and-drink-in-the-dark-alone" loophole in the law.

I hope you're happy, John DeFazio.

* Give me a break... I got a ride home today.
** But no Jägermeister.... that's just nasty.

Delays, Casinos, and What Not

Glad to see that things as silly as public approvals aren't holding up the construction of the new casino. From the P-G:

The city Planning Commission late today agreed to delay the public hearing for consideration of the design of the $450 million North Shore casino until Jan. 15.

The Riverlife Task Force early today sent the city a letter asking for the delay. As a result, the commission plans to hold the public hearing and the vote on whether to approve the design on the same day.

The public hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday, the same day as the ground-breaking ceremony for the facility. The ground-breaking will proceed as scheduled.
OK, maybe that's snark; getting a contractor to start, stop, start, restart, re-stop, and re-restart is about as painful as watching The Day After Tomorrow in a theater filled with 15 year olds. So, I can understand why Don Barden doesn't want to cancel digging in below zero weather.

No, wait, I don't... unless there's going to be hot chocolate... and space heaters... and it's inside.

Actually the most surreal part of the whole delay is that the attorney that held up the public hearing is Cliff Levine, a former Murphy appointee to the Planning Commission and former chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustments. I mean, if anyone knows the law in this matter, it would be Cliff.

In a larger sense, however, it seems like a microcosm of the current political situation in the City, where it appears that former long-standing political advisers have been pushed to the side in favor of new, inexperienced blood.

But maybe that's me.

Oh, and it would be nice if the public meeting wasn't the same day as the approval, but then again, I'm a big fan of being, you know, informed about stuff.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow Laughing Matter

There are days that I think that people of this Region believe that global warming has already pushed Pittsburgh into a climate more akin to Atlanta, and therefore are in no need of any of the skills useful for driving in inclement Winter weather.

Today, of course, is one of those days. So, for those of you that think that have already stocked up on milk, bread, and toilet paper and obviously think that we're going to die, I'm going to offer you some advice:

Stay off the fucking road.

Seriously, people. I know that we're not in northern Manitoba where it thaws out sometime around July 3rd, but we are in northern region and we should be prepared to deal with winter weather appropriately.

For example: as an alternative to driving down a hill with your foot on the brake, why not slide the car into 2nd gear instead, using the mechanics of the car to control your speed?

Or, if you have a truck, SUV, or other behemoth that has four wheel drive, why don't you learn how to use it. Alternatively, if you have a truck, SUV, or other behemoth without 4 wheel drive, why don't you just leave your car in the garage and slowly kill yourself through carbon monoxide poisoning, as you are obviously a waste of skin and good sense. And just to give you the little extra oomph you're going to need: yes, the world knows that you have a small penis.

Additionally, you may become aware that your car may not be able to drive in quite the same manner as it would when it is 80 degrees and sunny out. This may mean that your Toyota Tercel may not be able to make it up many of the "horizontally challenged" street in the City quite so easily. This does not mean, however, that you should gun your engine, slide sideways, stall out, and drift backwards into oncoming traffic. That is something that PennDOT in its driver safety manual calls "a stupid ass thing to do."

As a courtesy measure, you should clean off the snow laden roofs of your vehicles. As much fun as it can be to pretend that you're outrunning the blizard in your rear view mirror, those drivers behind you (of various degrees of driving competency) may use the opportunity to playfully plow into your rear end or, and this is my personal favorite, bust out your tail lights with a five iron concealed under the floor mats in my back seat.

And, of course to those of you that live in or visit to Lawrenceville: if you ignore the chair and take the parking spot that I worked for 20 minutes to clear out, I will bust your skull in.