Monday, November 29, 2010

@ Wikileaks

Now if you have access to the Internets, you're probably already well aware that the folks at Wikileaks have published a metric assload of Department of State dispatches and communiques, detailing everything from a future reunification plan for the Koreas to Col. Gaddafi's fear of upper floors. It's a fascinating little peak into a world of diplomacy that most U.S. citizens never really come in contact with.

That being said, I have a bit of a confession to make.* You see, back years ago before I was a local bureaucrat, I was an employee with the State Department assigned to several countries that were, shall we say, less than Club Med quality. Seriously, I had the runs for like 2 1/2 years. As I'm reading through the database of Wikileaks, I realized that I actually wrote a good number of these cables. So, I'd like to clear the air a bit and/or retract a few statements I made.

*I did say that Francois Mitterand got "more ass than a bidet," despite being dead, but I did not call him a "Frankish twunt."

*Gorbachev's head should not have been referred to as "the bullseye", that was insensitive.

*Slovenia and Slovakia are in fact different countries, I know this now.

*Not everyone in Togo eats humans.

*Kim Jong-Il is not a very tall man who stands very, very far away from the cameras. He is, in fact, a troop of megalomaniacal dwarf-acrobats.

*Margaret Thatcher is not and never was a looker.

*I once referred to Pope John Paul II as "Funny Hat Man," but I wasn't aware of other priests playing with their "funny hat men" in front of other children.

*The Dutch are not all potheads, just very tall and awfully white.

*The Germans don't like to be referred to as "Hitlerians" or even "The People Formerly Called Hitlerians." Other than that, they are very hard to insult.

*The EU headquarters are not located in a Virgin Records store in London.

*Drinking contests with Russians should be avoided.

*The Vatican is a good place to try to score some strange.

*A misprinted comma on my part led to the break up of Yugoslavia. Don't ask.
I hope this all sets the record straight. I can only hope no permanent damage was done to U.S. Diplomatic efforts... except for the Dutch thing.

*All of this is a lie, but an entertaining lie, I hope.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

North Korea to Invest 10 Megatons in South Korea

(Reuters) Seoul - Faced with an overwhelming economic disaster, Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Il has pledged to invest 10 megatons in its neighbor to the south.

The official North Korean news agency said early today that "the Dear Leader was planning to provide ample opportunities for South Korea to begin a massive re-building program." The South Korean government did not respond to the announcement.

The move by North Korean came as a surprise, as the won has recently decreased in value from 1000: $1 to 1000: a Zimbabwean dollar. Kim Jong-Il had invested heavily in Arizonan real estate up until 2009, when the bottom fell out.

Most recently, the North Korean Government had to seize and shut down 1/2 of its banks, specifically the 2nd Bank of North Korea, which was only open from 10-3 anyway. It's total holding upon seizure amounted to $100 million in dirt and one rock. The rock, however, was later withdrawn by Mr. Jong-Il to make several smaller rocked on arbitrage.

The rock is now owned by the US Department of Treasury following in exchange for several thousand shares of GM stock.

Despite these problems, however, the North Koreans see eager to help solve the global financial crisis through a massive government sponsored make work program.

More as this story develops.

On Transportation (On Donner, On Blitzen)

And so while I was hung over from turkey (and about three bottles of Bordeaux), Jon Schmitz wrote a nice little positive article on the North Shore Connector in the PG. I wouldn't go so far to say that this is a fluff piece, but it is comparable to what I regularly find in my bellybutton.

It's not that I have a problem with the North Shore Connector, in concept. Indeed, high speed dedicated mass transportation should be provided to as many Pittsburgh neighborhoods and outlying suburbs as possible in order to enhance interconnectivity between communities. The NSC (as I will now call it after a further bottle of Bordeaux), however, goes about it in a rather ham-handed way.

To the points raised in Senor (because my computer won't let me put a "~" over the "n") Schmitz's article:

(1) Is this a subway train to nowhere?

Schmitz argues no: this is a line that complements development already underway. While this may be true, the NSC seems to half ass it.

First, while the line does reach into the North Shore, it doesn't reach into the North Side. The City has already invested many millions of dollars in the adjacent neighborhoods of Manchester, Allegheny West, and Central North Side, but they don't get to appreciate a T-stop unless they walk under a highway, down a cavern, past the river Styx, fight a legion of rabid monkeys... etc. While they train doesn't go nowhere, it doesn't exactly go *somewhere*.

Second, if you look at the flyover ramp next to the casino, it seems very difficult to imagine how this line will eventually go *somewhere*... like, say, to the airport. I mean, if it went underground, paralleling the Northshore Expressway or event the CSX lines, servicing Manchester, Marshall-Shadeland, Brighton Heights, etc., I could see opportunities for future expansion, but it sort of stops and runs right into the casino. And, while I am no expert of Real Estate acquisition, I would think that this would be a problem.

It's like PAT is planning on a 100 year time horizon in which the Morlocks have risen from under the earth and have destroyed everything in their path, at which time the Port Authority can extend light rail service to Findley Twp. Unless you're a forward thinking Morlock, this doesn't make a lot of sense.

(2) Can they afford it?

The question is wrong. It isn't really "Can PAT afford it" but rather, "does it provide a net benefit to the region?"

I would say no.

Rather than connecting, say, the two of the most commercially developed areas in the state (Downtown and Oakland), PAT has decided to connect the 2nd most commercially developed areas in the state with a slight outlying area to the 2nd most commercially developed area in the state.

That doesn't make a lot of sense to me, especially considering that the East Busway was designed to be eventually converted into light rail and could relatively easily be repurposed to that end.

Now, I may be completely hammered on a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sam Adams, but it doesn't really seem that the Port Authority is really keyed into the long term economic development plans of the City of Pittsburgh. While service to the Northshore is nice and all, (as built) it doesn't really serve a long term economic development strategy. Rather it seems to advance a bureaucratic fetish to build stuff because money is available and stuff needs to be built.

I mean, I hope that I'm proved wrong and that come April Steve Bland will announce an multi-billion dollar project to connect the airport to Oakland. I will not, however, be holding my breath.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things We're All Thankful For...

Just wanted to give a run down of all the things certain folks are thankful for this year:

*Mayor Luke Ravenstahl - Lawyers who will still sue for innuendo. Twitter.

* Mayoral Chief of Staff Yarone Zober - The Dark Side of the Force and impressionable young Jedi.

* Council President Darlene Harris - Dogs, Puppies, Pups, Pooches, Mongrels, Mutts, Canines, Cats, Kittens, Kitties, Pussies.

* Councilman Doug Shields - Staff, Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill, Hazelwood Greenfield, parts of Oakland, rain, sun, trees, streets, houses, friends, family, cartoons, radio, radio ships, Israel, Jacobian architecture, buildings, Legos, Eggos, pancakes, butter, milk, cows, goats, chickens, 10 out of 11 herbs and spices, Colonel Sanders, Bernie Sanders, sandblasting, vodka, cigarettes, cigars, Topic Bars, lawyers, the pay level for District Justices, Antonin Scalia, Tony Soprano, Tony Bennet, spelling mistakes, televised Council Meetings, the Town of Temperanceville, Susan B. Anthony, Lebron James, NBC, TSA, CIA, NKOTB... (and so on for three hours until we got tired of transcribing)

* County Executive Dan Onorato - Missing the opportunity to be a one term Governor.

* State Rep. Paul Costa - Being a Costa. Weed.

* Senator-Elect Pat Toomey - A new government job that allows him to eliminate other government jobs.

* Ex. Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin - Certain Americans born every minute.

* Former President George W. Bush - That black guy and the short attention span of the American Public.

* President Barack Obama - The hopes and dreams of the American people and their unwavering determination in the face of adversity. And that Presidential elections are held every four years.

* The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat - Squash
Happy Thanksgiving


Just because it's not Thanksgiving without Arlo Guthrie...

Radio Based TV Sitcoms & Thanksgiving Humour

As is our tradition...

WKRP Turkey Drop - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Igloo to Receive Diplomatic Immunity

The City planning commission today approved the demolition of the 49 year old Mellon Arena, but in a stunning move the Obama administration has appointed the structure as Ambassador plenipotentiary to Canada.

The move, orchestrated by the group Save the Mellon Arena, effectively prevents the demolition of the structure, which now has full diplomatic immunity.

"This is indeed a great victory for architecture," said Rob Pfaffmann spokesman for the group.

This afternoon, the State Department issued full credentials to the building, which is expected to remain in Pittsburgh for some time rather than travel to Ottowa to meet the Governor-General of Canada.

The Mayor's Office has already contacted John McClane, a noted specialist in revoking diplomatic immunity.

More as this story develops.

Open Letter to the Transportation Security Administration

Dear Ballgrabbers,

Look, I get it: the world is a scary, scary place full of people that want to kill us, blow us up, and generally make us stay at home in pants wetting terror. I know this because I've sat through several Michael Bay movies, and I can say without fear of contradiction: that man wants to hurt America.

But seriously, are you really protecting the country, or are you just overreacting in the hopes that doing something, anything will look better than doing nothing? The bad guys are always going to be trying to find new and exciting ways of causing mayhem. It's what they do; it's in the job description. That doesn't mean, however, that wildly flailing at "security steps to take" is going to solve anything.

As much as I love the choice between getting groped by a balding, middle aged agent or getting a cancer inducing picture of my junk, it's really a false choice. You can have security without having to be molested in public. It's in the Constitution... not the "junk" bit, they took that out... but the searching and seizing, yes. And, even though it doesn't say it, I would think that the "in public" bit has got to be implied.

I mean, even Michael Jackson and the Catholic Clergy had the good sense to keep that kind of molesting crap secret.

I'd like to believe that you don't want to do this. I know the deal with bureaucracies: some guy up in middle management has decided that everyone's doing Policy X now, and he's managed to convince his superiors of the same. Now you have to fondle the sweaty balls of some overweight tourist from Des Moines, and he's back in the nice, non-ball grabbing office trying to figure out if the TSA can get passengers to willingly stow themselves in 3 by 3 foot cubes... you know... for safety. I'd also like to believe that you hate this guy and would easily give him a *cough* more thorough examination if you ever had the chance.

But, of course, when you find that single 4 oz of Listerine that some housewife has kiestered in the hopes of having good, fresh breath when she lands, we'll know that all the violations of our persons were well worth it.

Until the bad people think of something even more clever.

Me, I'm taking the train.


The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

Monday, November 22, 2010

Unconfirmed Vatican Report: Pope OK with "Hard Tackles" in NFL

(Reuters) Rome - In an upcoming encyclical to the Church in the United States, Pope Benedict XVI is expected to announce that hard tackles in the NFL are morally permissible when running a 3-4 defense.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl (SS), speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the Pope was moved by the horrible penalty calling so far during the 2010 NFL season.

"The Bible says that we must love our enemies," said Wuerl, "It does not say that we have to ease up in the split second before the QB releases the ball. I mean, Christ! Tom Brady isn't Jesus."

This would mark a change for the Vatican, who had traditionally favored a West Coast style offense and had been keen on protecting its wide receivers. It also marks an incremental step forwards towards the full acceptance of blitzing as a football lifestyle, observers said.

The Pope had been criticized for not running the ball on 4th & goal during last Sunday's game against the Saints.

The encyclical Capras Goodell futuit is in its final final draft, according to Vatican insiders, who expect the Pope to also come out against the use of artificial turf.

Security Administration to Begin Driver Pat Downs

(Reuters) Washington D.C. - Transportation Security Administrator John S. Pistole has announced that the TSA will begin random pat-downs of drivers of U.S. drivers for "security purposes."

"We're clearly concerned about weapons, bombs, poisons, water bottles, lipstick, and nail clippers being brought on board civilian aviation craft, but until now, there's been a blind spot in our terrestrial transportation security. This blind spot ends today."

Changes are the result of a routine traffic stop in West Hackensack NJ, when a driver was pulled over under the suspicion of carrying a 4 ton nuclear warhead in his Mazda Miata. Mr. Pistole said that, while the resulting strip search and grope-fest resulted in nothing more conclusive than a three year old Malo Cup, this doesn't mean that the American public shouldn't be terrified.

"Sure, there's one guy in Hackensack that didn't have a bomb... this time. But there are hundreds of other automobiles that could potentially be carrying something lethal: a bomb, anthrax, gasoline... We need to search ever car. You know: for safety."

Road checks will be placed at random intervals along major US highways. Drivers can opt for a "backscatter" radiation scan or a mechanic can disassemble your car by the side of the road. Delays to drivers are not expected to exceed 12 hours per check. Drivers will also be subjected to personal examinations, the results of which will be forwarded to your primary care physician at no extra charge.

Local reaction was mixed to the news.

"I'm not sure how I feel about this," said Betty Cunningham of Blawnox. "Sure, I think that it's a dehumanizing violation of our civil liberties, but on the other hand, I'm really scared of Muslims."

UPDATE: Drivers should be aware that a man in a white tank top and blue cuttoffs seen lurking at the North Somerset rest stop is not an authorized TSA agent. Drivers should not allow him to perform pat downs, no matter how many badges he shows you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Art (Not Garfunkel)

Looks like the City found a bunch of public art hidden away in some secret vault somewhere:

Five sculptures that were stored for years in a public works warehouse are being put back on pedestals four years after one artist's persistent queries led to their discovery.

This morning, a crew from Mangery & Sons hoisted Peter Calaboyias' stainless steel sculpture "Five Factors" into place on a concrete slab behind the baseball field in Mellon Park, Shadyside....

"Five Factors" was one of four sculptures chosen in a 1971 public art competition and placed atop the garage at the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library. They were among the first contemporary sculptures to be displayed as public art in the city. At the time, the city required that 1 percent of the construction budget for a public building be spent on art.
All of which makes me wonder is there some position in CitiParks or City Planning that involves someone wearing a fedora, carrying a whip, and battling Nazis in a hunt for lost Pittsburgh Treasures or is it more like a giant warehouse where Yarone Zober is hiding the Ark of the Covenant? Either way, how do I apply for that job? And where do I get a good quality whip*?

Also, is that warehouse place that the City is hiding my generous donation of a priceless portrait on velvet of Luke Ravenstahl taking a #2? I really think that should have been put on public display. I mean, I don't know much about art, but I know what people like.

*That question's directed at you, Zober.

Demolition Planned to Occur at Addison Terrace

The Pittsburgh Housing Authority may demolish the 734-unit Addison Terrace development in the Hill District and replace it with a social and architectural gulag designed to strike fear in the hearts of Pittsburghers for the next several generations.

The authority board voted this morning to seek federal approval to demolish the existing units for low-income residents and to seek architectural certification from the Le Corbussier School of Unspeakable Abominations.

The authority's executive director, A. Fulton Meachem Jr., said the new housing would not be based on any preconceived design notions, except that they will not fit in to the surrounding neighborhood, will be isolated from public services and business districts, and will generally try to avoid making the experience better for anyone involved in the project. The authority will strive to avoid innovation in Public Housing, choosing instead to plop housing units down on HACP owned property in much the same manner as a dog does its business on the neighbor's lawn.

"We estimate that the project will take 5-8 years for HUD to review, then 3 years for us to review internally, and then another 10 years for us to screw it up and have to go back to HUD for a waiver."

No cost estimate was available because the planning is in the early stages, Mr. Meachem said, although it's projected that a huge request for additional funding from the City of Pittsburgh will be made at the last minute.

Mr. Meachem said the new development would mirror projects in Garfield, in that they will little public input from the surrounding neighborhood and force residents to remain isolated.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Buses, Parking & Pensions (Oh my!)

There's probably many good reasons why I'm not the head of the Port Authority of Allegheny County... the most obvious of which is my well documented, if unusual, collection of Smurf Erotica... but slightly less well known is my ability to see an opportunity when it's staring me in the face. I, of course, am speaking about the proposed sale of the City's parking assets to fund the ailing pension system. Steve Bland is missing a golden opportunity here.

Now, if I'm head of PAT I'm doing one of two things:

First, I'm out in front of the public, news cameras, reporters, random people with nothing else to do, talking about how good this plan will be for you. And, of course, by "you" I mean "me". For, you see, I'd bet that despite the apparent elasticity of demand for parking, I'm guessing that increased parking rates are going to happen, and are going to drive(!) people to taking public transit, solving my own budget problem.

Or alternatively, instead of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority buying these garages and meters, as in the Lamb plan, I'm making a play to buy them myself. Now, you're probably saying "the Port Authority already has a budget deficit of it's own...I mean you just mentioned it in the last paragraph for Pete's sake." While that's true, and shame on you for pointing out my flaws, (1) this would be a capital investment on PAT's part, (2) there's already precedent for PAT owning parking garages, and (3) doing stupid shit has never stopped PAT in the past.

OK, so if PAT owned all these garages, what would they do with them? Well, if you've watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, you'll know the answer.

No, I'm not talking about wanting to nail the animated chick with the huge... bike racks. I mean the insidious plot of Judge Doom: buying the trolley line so he could dismantle it in favor of a cars and superhighways. Only this would be the opposite of that.

And there you go! Two problems solved: pension gets partially funded and PAT eliminates a competitor to it's business model. And maybe we'd rid ourselves of the cartoons in City Council while we're at it.

Of course, there's a big obvious flaw in the plan: something tells me that the Port Authority doesn't have a supervillain on staff.

"Yet," he says, twirling his mustache.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

... Well She Shouldn't Have Been Such a Slutty Municipality

And so Bram and Chris have been (musing? ... mulling?... one of those) over the threat of a boycott by the Marcellus Shale Coalition if the City of Pittsburgh doesn't allow gas drilling within its borders:

If Pittsburgh City Council doesn't want Marcellus shale gas companies drilling in the city, industry officials said they could take their non-drilling business elsewhere.

City Council plans to decide Tuesday whether to ban the drilling. The industry could move meetings such as recent conferences to the suburbs or friendlier towns, said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group based at Southpointe in Washington County.

"The city is doing its best in its portrayal of this industry to say, 'We don't want hotel and meeting spaces to be filled with this industry,' " Klaber said. "And my members are saying, 'Why would we go Downtown?' "

The coalition brought $735,000 in direct spending to Pittsburgh in September with its first membership meeting, according to estimates by VisitPittsburgh. The group had several other smaller gatherings in the city.
All of which is like saying "If you don't give me the opportunity of raping you first, I'm not taking you out to dinner later."

Council readied its rape-whistle and passed the ban anyway.

Probably a good time to take a municipal self defense class.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Local Blogger Can No Longer Tell Satire from Reality

(Reuters) Pittsburgh, PA - At a hastily convened news conference this afternoon, a local Anonymous Blogger today revealed that he can no longer tell satire from reality.

"I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on reality, but there I was watching C-Span and there's this Congressman from Oklahoma saying that we should take the babies of undocumented illegal immigrants and put them to work in fields until they're old enough to be shipped back to wherever they're from. And I'm thinking to myself: 'is he putting me on?' And then I realize, I wasn't sure. He may have been serious."

The Blogger was referring to recent comments by Representative Tom Cole (R) who faced a tough uphill primary battle against a TEA Party backed candidate who repeatedly called Representative Cole "Soft" on the immigrant issue.

Seeking to bolster his reputation as a solid conservative, Rep. Cole took to the airwaves today with his "Put Babies to Work" program. Rep. Cole has also proposed eliminating Medicare in order to pay for an elderly health program and eliminating unnecessary governmental intrusion through an extension of the PATRIOT Act.

The Anonymous Blogger's frustrations ran high during the press conference.

"I mean, you hear this stuff and you think, 'Naw, that's too crazy,' and then it turns out to be true. I mean when the line between satire and reality gets so blurred that you can't tell the difference, you got a real problem, right?"

Dr. Isaac Bickerstaff of Trinity College has written extensively on the use of satire in modern life and he shares the Anonymous Bloggers concern.

"You see," said Dr. Bickerstaff via a phone interview, "I could say that eating babies is a perfect way to bring back the American economy (indeed, given the size of American children, the nation would never go hungry again), but if someone goes out and starts gnawing on 2nd Graders, well, that's just not right. Tasty, perhaps, but not right."

The Anonymous Blogger was swift to point out that he wasn't sure what this meant for the rest of his blog.

"I don't know, really. I'm having trouble with understanding the ridiculousness of reality, I guess. I'm not even sure if this post is satire or not. I think it is. Most of it, anyway. I'm not even sure who that Dr. Bickerstaff was."

More as this story develops.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.