Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Going off the Rails

Riffing off of what Rear Adm. Briem (Ret.) had to say about what Diana Nelson Jones had to say about the T today, I think it's interesting to consider the map that Chris posts:

OK, maybe half a map. Moving on...

Now, I don't like being a technological determinist (I think of it as lazy sociology), but on some level I'm a materialist and I believe that our societal condition is reflective of real, tangible things and not just some aethereal Hegelian Thesis. So, I will readily accept that things like the automobile, highways, two car garages, etc. changed the way we approached urban planning. If there's any doubt as to the impact of the automobile on the development of Western Pennsylvania, ask yourself if places like Cranberry, Monroeville, or Robinson Township would even begin to approach their current scale without it.

So, let's step back and consider, for a moment, how the urban fabric would be different if the above map had actually played out. Let's assume, therefore, that by 1985, the entire rapid rail system would have been built, stretching from nearly Armstrong County to the Greater Pittsburgh Airport.

If you read the transportation plan you'll notice two things immediately. First, while it notes that Pittsburgh's population has dipped slightly and is trending downwards, it predicts that the population will move out to the suburbs and the county trend will be a 50% increase in population over the next 15 years. Second, the study believe that the current trends in employment will remain more or less constant all through 1985.

(You may take a good hearty laugh right now.)

OK, so that didn't work out too well, but the planners of the day didn't know that yet. It does note, however, that there's a trend towards personal automobile ownership, but I'm not quite sure it grasped the full magnitude of what was about to happen.

Now, the map above is a little blurry, but there are 8 major corridors: Ohio River, North Hills, Allegheny Valley, Wilkinsburg-East Hills, Monongahela Valley (really the lower East End), Pleasant Hills (really the Mon Valley), South Hills, and the West End. All of these corridors focus in on Downtown, in the wheel & spoke model that Pittsburgh's bus riders are familiar with.

Interestingly, the report suggests that the Downtown to Monroeville Transit Route would be the most used, followed by a route to Route 19 and Castle Shannon, while more people would head towards the County Airport than Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. Highest priorities, then, were the route from Downtown to Monroeville, from the North Hills to South Hills, then to the County Airport.

I guess in some sense, the report was generally correct: the Monroeville Route is pretty much the existing East Busway and the Castle Shannon Route is pretty much the existing T-Line.

But what was not really predicted was the expansion Northward and Westward. The report notes that the demand to go to the Airport was minimal at best. Also, Oakland is presented almost as an afterthought to the planning, with so-called "knowledge economy" still being years after the impending collapse of the steel industry.

Also not taken into consideration is the racial migration and segregation patterns that fully took hold in the '60s. The Civic Arena had already been built, but the Middle and Upper Hill still had some life left in them.

What would a rapid transit enabled City of Pittsburgh look like then?

I think in some sense it would, from a distance, look much the same: the patterns of development (Robinson and Cranberry excepted) are served mostly by the East Busway, T-Line, and North Hills HOV Lane. The creation of a single rapid transit system would have probably caused those areas, particularly Monroeville, to concentrate into more densely organized enclaves to take advantage of the proximity of rail stations. Ergo, I believe that the Miracle Miles Shopping Center would have been more of a Miracle Acre. If you take a look at the development in the South Hills where the T did in fact go, you see fairly concentrated development (although this could also be explained by the tight topography of the area), which sort of backs up this suspicion.

If a line had gone out West towards the airport, however, we would have seen a much different pattern than what we have now. Robinson and South Fayette would not have slouched all over the airport area and people would stop complaining about commuting into Downtown through the Fort Pitt tunnel, because of all the people coming in from Robinson and South Fayette. It might have actually been a halfway decent place to live.

I also imagine that places like East Liberty and Homewood would have not suffered as sharp a decline over the last 40+ years, as these difficult-to-access neighborhoods would have been tied into a larger transit network capable of disbursing residents throughout the county. Perhaps that might have convinced transportation planners that stupid roads like the Mon-Fayette Expressway wouldn't really be needed.

Downtown and the surrounding areas would have probably benefited from the cheap, quick transportation and companies that would eventually seek new office space would seek to be if not in or near downtown then along one of the transit arteries. If anything, the oil crunch in the '70s would have made such sites much more valuable.

This assumes that the population trends remained the same and that by the mid 1980s, with the collapse of the Steel Industry, the City fathers didn't just throw up their hands and give up on the lines (which is some sense, they did). Not addressed in the plan, of course, are former industry site like the South Side and Hazelwood, one of which, today, is booming while the other remains stagnant. Because it would have been less accessible, I could see that the South Side may have lost it's trendy character to areas like Uptown, which would have been easier to access by the student populations.

Anyway, this is all just a big old thought experiment which needs more than just three glasses of cheap red wine to fully hash out. Planning for such a large project with a large time horizon is hearly impossible. In reality we're kinda stuck with what we got.

Until the Port Authority develops time travel.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Herman Cain Gets Out in Front of Reports Godfather's Pizza is Crap

Breaking News: Not waiting for an accuser's press conference to make news of the latest accusation made against him, Presidential Candidate Herman Cain went to CNN on Monday afternoon to announce: "This individual is going to accuse Godfather's Pizza of tasting like salty garbage... And frankly, I can't say I disagree." Cain added, "I mean, seriously, have you ever eaten it? It's total crap." when specifics are known. Atlanta's Fox News 5, which is scheduled to run its report at 11 p.m., is teasing the interview by calling it names and talking smack about its mother.

More as this story develops.

Herman Cain Gets Out in Front of Reports He is Really Two Midgets in a Herman Cain Suit

Breaking News: Not waiting for an accuser's press conference to make news of the latest accusation made against him, Presidential Candidate Herman Cain went to CNN on Monday afternoon to announce: "This individual is going to accuse me of actually being two little people in a highly complex biomechanical suit." Cain added, "My campaign will respond" when specifics are known. Atlanta's Fox News 5, which is scheduled to run its report at 11 p.m., is teasing the interview with the latest Cain accuser by saying that he was initially approached to play the upper torso and right arm of the Cain suit.

More as this story develops.

Herman Cain Gets Out in Front of Report He Cancelled Arrested Development

Breaking News: Not waiting for an accuser's press conference to make news of the latest accusation made against him, Presidential Candidate Herman Cain went to CNN on Monday afternoon to announce: "This individual is going to accuse me of personally ordering the cancellation of critically acclaimed sitcom Arrested Development in 2006." Cain added, "My campaign will respond" when specifics are known. Atlanta's Fox News 5, which is scheduled to run its report at 11 p.m., is teasing the interview with the latest Cain accuser by saying that he was close to the cast and crew and known solely as "Mr. F".

More as this story develops.

Herman Cain Gets Out in Front of Report He is the Lindbergh Baby

Breaking News: Not waiting for an accuser's press conference to make news of the latest accusation made against him, Presidential Candidate Herman Cain went to CNN on Monday afternoon to announce: "This individual is going to accuse me of being the child of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, kidnapped in 1932." Cain added, "My campaign will respond" when specifics are known. Atlanta's Fox News 5, which is scheduled to run its report at 11 p.m., is teasing the interview with the latest Cain accuser by saying that she was one of two women hired to take care of the infant by the convicted kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann.

More as this story develops.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

David Lynch Tapped to Direct 2012 Republican National Convention

(Reuters) Washington D.C. - The Republican National Committee announced today that it has hired critically acclaimed director David Lynch to direct and produce its August 2012 Presidential Convention in Tampa, Florida.

Speaking on behalf of the 13 member Committee, RNC chair Reince Priebus said that they are excited to be working with an artist of Mr. Lynch's caliber.

"You don't often hear praise of a member of the Hollywood elite from the RNC," said Mr. Priebus to chuckles from the press, "but we want to show that the Republican Party is willing to think outside the box in 2012."

Mr. Lynch is most well known for his films Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and Dune as well as the cult TV show Twin Peaks, for which he won an Emmy award in 1990.

Many have criticized the major parties' national conventions over the last few Presidential cycles as being nothing more than three day ads, with little to no substance or drama. This criticism was being all three major networks' decisions to reduce their coverage to no more than a few hours.

Mr. Lynch was asked what he hoped to bring to the GOP that would help to make this year stand out.

"Well, I'm thinking of using a surrealist ethos in my directing of the convention. I plan to use light and shadow, maybe a large swath of red covering the speakers, a continuous hum and thunk of engines, five giants with bright blue eyes who talk backwards in a low voice, a dwarf in a gas mask dancing around the slaughtered carcass of a donkey, three midgets eating mustard off of a fat woman, and a crazy-looking lady running very slowly to the stage. I think all of that will serve to reinforce the underlying metaphor that the GOP is trying to get out to the voters, namely that of fiscal responsibility, social values, and security at home."

He added, "Also, I expect Kyle MacLachlan to do something with a severed ear."

This will be the first Presidential Convention for both Priebus and Lynch, who previously worked together in the movie Dune where Priebus played a spice transformed Guild navigator.

In other news, not to be outdone, the Democratic National Committee has hired Joss Whedon to direct, Dan Harmon to write, and Mitchell Hurwitz to produce what they expect to be a critically acclaimed, but ultimately commercially unviable Democratic Convention.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Deals Lure Thousands of Lobbyists

On K-Street in Washington D.C., thousands of special interest lobbyists lined up at at the wee hours of the morning, hoping to get a jump on 2012 campaign season.

"I'm really looking forward to getting a good deal on a Senator, maybe a Congressman," said Lloyd Blankfeinn of Goldman Sachs. "I hope to have all of my shopping done well before the Iowa Caucus."

The doors to Capitol Hill opened at 7 AM, prompting a jostling throng to press their way through, making a bee line to the incumbents, which were on special for a campaign contribution and a corporate jet ride. There was a rush on swing state Congressmen and vacant Senate seats.

Elsewhere in the country, lobbyists lined up at state capitols to get bargain local deals. John H. Pinkerton of Range Resources, Inc., a gas fracking company, says he looks forward to this time of year.

"You know, with a little planning, I can get over half of what I want right away. I've already bagged a Governor which came with a [Department of Environmental Protection] appointee. The kids are going to love it and I don't have to worry about last minute horsetrading before votes."

Many lobbyists had ben camped out for days outside federal, state, and local government buildings hoping to be first in line for deals. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform was looking to save money on a Inheritance Tax Scheme.

"I gave the kids a roll back on their marginal tax rate a few years ago, which was great, but they really want an end to the Death Tax this year. I told them if they were good, they might find that Alan Greenspan had left them a little present in their stockings. I really need to get a Commerce Committee chairman today, though, if I'm going to make that promise work."

There were some incidents of violence reported. One in Albany New York where two stockbrokers got into a fight over the last Attorney General and one in Sacramento California where a Coal Industry Lobbyist ran over a member of the Sierra Club in order to buy an EPA administrator.

Black Friday is traditionally the start of the Lobbying Season and set the tone for the next election year. Presidential futures were up in the morning, with Romney, Obama, Perry, and Gingrich all polling higher. Campaigners seemed eager this year to get a jump on contributions, despite an overall weak economy.

Those sitting out the lobbying frenzy this year are reminded that there are only 46 more legalized bribing days until the New Hampshire primaries.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

News of the Something... I wasn't really paying attention

And this shocked and appalled me:

A new survey of New Jersey voters comes to a provocative conclusion: Fox News viewers tend to be less informed about current events than those who don't watch any news at all...

"The results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don't watch any news at all," said Dan Cassino, a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson.

Those who watched Sunday public affairs shows tended to be the best informed on current events, the survey found. Readers of national newspapers also were more likely to respond correctly.
This can't be allowed to happen! This shall not stand! So, in the interest of improving Fox News viewers and making them, as they say, more learned by comparison, I'm embarking on a campaign of misinformation in order to bring down the average knowledge of everyone else. So, I want everyone to remember these new facts:
*The new Prime Minister of Italy is Mario Batali.
*The chief export of Spain is grapes and ball peen hammers.
*The recently lost Russian Mars probe was called the Findus-Gunt.
*Barack Obama cast the decided vote to kill the Supercommittee negotiations.
*The main countries involved in the "Arab Spring" uprisings were Tunisia, Egypt, Hatay, and Aladin.
*The European Debt crisis was caused by credit default swaps on national bonds and Speedos.
*The Occupy Wall Street movement was being funded by Steve Jobs until he died.
*Speedbumps are part of a government conspiracy with the auto industry to get you to buy new cars faster.
*French and Italian are the same language.
*Vladimir Putin has announced his candidacy for President of the Moon.
*Global warming is directly tied to the increase in the number of housecats in the U.S.
*Jello pudding is Evil.
*Gary Coleman was the Anti-Christ.
*Dogs are all Atheists
I hope you all feel dumber for reading this.

Now off to Wikipedia to make hose "facts" official.

Schoolhouse Rocks

From the P-G-est P-G that ever P-G'd:

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board has approved changes aimed at making the district more financially sustainable, including closing seven schools, opening a new elementary school, eliminating single-gender classes at Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12, selling two school buildings and changing some school feeder patterns.

The school assignment changes approved Tuesday night are for the next school year.

Ultimately, the changes are part of a plan that calls for eliminating about 400 school-based and central office positions to stem the district's growing operating deficit...

The two schools which the board agreed to sell are Pittsburgh Reizenstein in Shadyside to Walnut Capital and RCG Longview for $5.4 million, and the Ridge Avenue building on the North Side to the Light of Life Ministries for $1.1 million.

The Reizenstein developers plan to demolish the building and replace it with a $119 million development that includes housing as well as office and retail space.

The board rejected bids on Schenley in Oakland, Belmar in Homewood, Madison in the Hill District, Mann on the North Side and Morningside.

The new K-8 school approved Wednesday will be in the building now housing Pittsburgh Langley High School in Sheraden, which will close at the end of this school year. Langley High students will be reassigned to Pittsburgh Brashear in Beechview...

In addition to Langley High School, schools that will close at the end of June are:

• Pittsburgh Oliver High School on the North Side, with students assigned to nearby Pittsburgh Perry, which will continue its magnet program open to students throughout the city. Some students will travel to the Oliver building for career and technology programs as well as for JROTC.

• Fort Pitt PreK-5 in Garfield, with students assigned to Pittsburgh Arsenal PreK-5 in Lawrenceville, Woolslair K-5 in Lawrenceville and Fulton PreK-5 in Highland Park.

• Pittsburgh Schaeffer K-8 in Crafton Heights, with students assigned to the new K-8 school in the Langley building. Both the Schaeffer and Sheraden buildings that housed Schaeffer K-8 will close.

• Pittsburgh Stevens K-8 in Elliott, with students assigned to the new K-8 in Langley, Westwood K-5 and South Hills 6-8 in Beechview...
So, if you're counting: that's one high school left on the Northside, none left in the Western neighborhoods, and the elimination of 3 grade schools in the West (taking the number down to 3, I believe).

Now, I don't begrudge the BoE for reducing school space; a declining population necessitates fewer capital resources (i.e., you don't need as many school buildings). Further, I don't necessarily want to get into the discussion of whether neighborhood schools are the model that Pittsburgh should be trying to use; I'd say that there are benefits to that and benefits to larger feeder patterns.

What I'm concerned about, however, is the larger amount of real estate that that's under the control of the BoE that now going to be vacant. These are now, like Schenley H.S. before them, going to be large, vacant, money sucking holes in the Schools District's budget; while there may not be students in there, you still have to light them, heat them, secure them, and make sure, in general, they don't fall down.

I guess my complaint here is that the BoE is making its decisions in a vacuum: the closing of these schools will have a long term effect on the economic conditions of several of these neighborhoods. Without a plan to figure out the next highest and best use for these properties, they will continue to sit as vacant, non-tax revenue generating properties. Now, you would hope that they would enter into this with some sort of end game that both divests themselves of these loser properties and helps out their colleagues in the City Government to generate some economic development.

But this is the School District; anything other than education is furthest from their minds.

Well, education is definitely in the top ten, anyway.

Anyway, my point is that as one of the major landowners of non-taxable properties in the City of Pittsburgh, I can only hope that the BoE has some sort of plan as to how they're going to deal with these properties.

My guess is that they don't and our School District taxes are going to go towards unnecessary expenses.

Monday, November 21, 2011

From the ADB Archives

Smithfield, England (London Gazette, 1381) - Leaders of the so-called "Occupy London" movement have announced a meeting tomorrow with the King to discuss and air greviances relating to feudal abuses amongst the top 1% of the gentry.

"We are disatisfied with the current state of serfdom," said spokesman Wat Tyler. "We want the nobility to be aware that we are willing to cause trouble for them. Since the end of the Black Death, we demand that wages and living standards become for equitable for the remaining 99% of the population."

The so-called "Occupy London" movement arose from the imposition of an unpopular tax at the beginning of the young King's reign. Many have blamed the collusion of vested interests amongst the landed gentry and the Church, exploiting the inexperience of the current administration.

Critics of the movement have called the participants "a rowdy mob of dirty serfs" who are "unclear on their demands." The King's Uncle and Duke of Lancaster John of Gaunt has publicly called for the protesters to "get a job -- one that we make you do because of your feudal loyalty to your masters". Popular bards, under the patronage of the Lord Chancellor, have written controversial ballads ridiculing the movement.

The cost of serf Labor has increased since the cessation of the plague, but feudal Lords have refused to increase wages amongst the peasantry. The previous administration had pegged wages to pre-plague levels, causing further consternation amongst the serfs; many have been unable to find employment at livable wages.

"We are committed to our cause," says Tyler, "and we intend to fight the Lords of this land until our demands are met."

The meeting at Smithfield with the King is scheduled for early tomorrow. The King's Knights have warned the protesters that they are willing and able to use violence, if necessary

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water Authority

And then there's this kerfluffle brewing at PWSA:

A year of frustration at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority boiled over Friday when city Councilman Patrick Dowd called the agency's board "pathetic" and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office accused him of grandstanding.

The PWSA's top management job has been vacant since December, when executive director Michael Kenney resigned amid questions about his ties to a vendor.

Mr. Dowd, one of six board members, says the management void has existed far too long. He became angry Friday when fellow director Scott Kunka suggested postponing the search for a management company that could oversee operations on at least a temporary basis...

Asserting that the board's main roles are to hire top management, make policy and hold managers accountable, Mr. Dowd said, "we have failed in each of those categories, and our failure is pathetic, and it is enormous."

The comments brought rebukes from Mr. Kunka, who is also Mr. Ravenstahl's finance director, and state Rep. Dan Deasy, D-Westwood, the board chairman.
According to my contacts over at PWSA, Mr. Dowd's comments need to be submitted to staff in writing within 5 days so that they can be reviewed for 30 days for comments by PWSA consultants, at which time Mr. Dowd will need to resubmit his motion with the necessary changes for a second review. After the re-resubmital, PWSA staff will re-review for 60 days and ask for additional corrections that they forgot to mention the first time. After the third review, PWSA staff will call a meeting with Mr. Dowd asking what this submital is and why they haven't seen it before, reminding him that they need at least 30 days notice before they can approve any submital. Mr. Dowd will then protest that he's already submitted the comments to PWSA three times at this point and that they are perfectly aware of them. PWSA staff will deny all knowledge of this and make Mr. Dowd submit for a fourth time, which they will lose under a stack of paperwork until it decomposes and is used in a onsite water retention system that PWSA doesn't let you build anyway. By now, everyone involved will have retired and the point will be moot.

Fortunately for Mr. Dowd, this is the PWSA "fast-track". The normal process involves a fight to the death with spears and pipes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pittsburgh controller expects more from building inspectors

From the Tribune-Review:

Pittsburgh's Bureau of Building Inspection has made strides since a 2008 audit lambasted the department for failing to respond to complaints in a timely manner, City Controller Michael Lamb said today.

But a lack of new hires and the slow adoption of a new computer system has caused complaints and permit requests to back up, he said.

"Given the resources, they have been making decent progress," Lamb said upon releasing the results of his office's 2011 performance audit on the department. "But I thought they'd be a lot further along than they are."

John Jennings, acting chief of the department, did not object to the findings...
Whoa!  Wait a second!  Back the fu' kup!

"Acting" Chief of Building Inspection?  Wait, that can't be right... Let's see... there was Ron Graziani (fired 2007), then Dan Cipriani (resigned 2008), then Sergei Matveiev (resigned 2009)... so, yeah, I guess it sounds like we've been without a Chief of Building Inspection for almost a year now.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there some sort of deadline to fill these types of city jobs permanently?

Hell, sounds like BBI's been going through more Directors than Darrens on Bewitched.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ADB's Theatre Critic Corner

In 1980, Alain Boubil and Jean-Marc Natel released a concept album about the travails of prostitutes, workers, and students, which was universally panned by the French theater critics. Re-released, revamped, and retranslated into English sometime later, that same musical, Les Miserables, has gone on play for over 10,000 performances and win multiple Tony awards. A new, stripped down, off Broadway version has been playing for the last several weeks, bringing a new interpretation to the classical musical.

The story is familiar to any follower of musical theater: Jean Valjean, recently freed from prison for stealing a loaf of bread, tries to redeem himself, while being endlessly pursued by the ruthless Inspector Javert. On the way, Valjean saves a destitute woman's daughter and gets wrapped up in a Paris student Revolution. In this new version, however, most of this story has been cast off in favor of focusing solely on a modern retelling of the student rebellion part. It is a bold attempt at reframing the plot of the musical away from Jean Valjean and towards the everyday people building the barricades of Paris.

The Director, who's name escapes me, has managed to cobble together a lavish al fresco set along with a cast of hundreds. Where one would have expected to see an impressive rotating set, the director has, instead, chosen to immerse the viewer with in the action itself. This is not "theater in the round," rather, it is "theater around you."

Costumes are set in the modern period, with students, workers, and military all thoroughly represented. If anything, the attention to detail is a little too good: the actors themselves have a overpowering odor which is jarring, but fits within the context of the narrative.

The music too has been stripped down to it's barest roots; where one may have expect to hear such rousing songs as "One Day More," instead one hears incessant drumming, a clever play on the tension between the battle that is about to break out and the creative forces of the performers.

If there is a major flaw with the performance it is this: the director chose to drag out the activity before the storming of the barricade for far too long (several weeks too long, in this critic's opinion). The result is a bit of an anti-climax, although several people have assured me that the final scene will come as an utter surprise.

For all of its flaws, however, this version of the performance has already begun touring to excited audiences. The performance in Oakland CA was met with standing room only, shouting crowds so large that the police had to be called in to disburse the frenzied mob.

In all, it is an excellent performance, even if the director's message isn't very clear. I expect it to join the ranks of musicals like Rent, showing the gritty underbelly of New York from the safety of our theater seats.

(Terry Teachout is the Wall Street Journal's Theater Critic)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Budget Battle Book

If you were forced against your will to City Council chambers today*, you will have heard the mayor's annual budget address.  As always, the Mayor promised to invest more capital dollars into the various Pittsburgh neighborhoods, which has become sort of an annual right of fall to be forgotten about by the Spring... sort of like NBC's primetime lineup.

If I recall correctly, there was a significant amount of money set aside in the previous year's budget for capital improvements, all of which eventually failed to materialize.  The Mayor's Office said they really needed that money for some really important stuff, while Council sat around in stunned silence like it was left with the bill at a fancy restaurant.  In any case, the Mayor totally promises this time to divvy out the money to the neighborhoods and pinky swears that he has no current plants to yank the money at the last minute again.

And you wonder why the last three Mayors have campaigned on a platform to "invest more in the neighborhoods."

Anyway, there's a couple of more line items in the budget that people are glossing over, but are important to note:

* Removing the Doug Shields smell from Council Chambers - $5,000
* Lottery tickets - $10,000
* Inflatable bouncy castle - $4,000
* Three threatening looking guys with bats to stand outside of the PWSA offices - $15,000
* Hair gel - $7,500
* 311 Staff Person - $0
* Zober Wrangler - $55,000
* Three even more threatening looking guys with bats to stand outside of the Parking Authority offices - $40,000
* Ick-Ray Itzgerald-Fay Estruction-Day Und-Fay - $100,000
* Walrus Repair (Northside) - $33,000
* Pothole Repair - $7.34
* Mt. Washington Based Space Laser - $200,000,000
* Levitating Tables - $5,000
* New old funk smell for Department of Finance's Office - $15,000
* Cello - $300
Once again, the West End gets totally stiffed for much needed Walrus repair.  Typical.

No word on when the Council President will issue her shadow budget for the Northside.

*Don't laugh.  It's happened to me before.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

David L. Lawrence Convention Center destroys jobs

When the David L. Lawrence convention center opened in 2003 as the world's largest "green building" it was hailed for it's energy operations, waste reduction, and sustainable operations.

Yesterday, however, the Center for American Energy Independance released a study showing that because of the "eco-friendly" nature of the convention center, hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region have been lost.

"This convention center consisistently uses less energy than buildings twice it's size," says CAEI CEO Tucker F. Borstal. "Every kilowatt hour that the convention center saves is a job removing the top of a mountain in West Virginia that is lost. Every ton of trash that is diverted from the waste stream is a landfill operator diverted to the unemployment line."

The study said that creating buildings such as the convention center is bad for the economy, because it does stuff that doesn't make other people as much money now. It cited a further study that showed a correlation between the drop in energy usage to a drop in CEO Stock option payments.

A spokesman for natural gas fracking conglomerate Range Resourses said that the presence of the convention center is just "proof that Pittsburgh government is unfriendly to mining beneath homes, shooting an undefined liquid into the rock, and leaving any potential mess for future generations to deal with. That kind of thinking is just down right unAmerican."

Supporters of the convention center say that it is a powerful symbol for the next wave of Green Technology, of which the region hopes to be at the forefront. Critics, including ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson, say however, that such a future is a pipe dream.

"I mean, come on! Look at the world! You really think that reducing energy dependencies or making smart decisions for the long term is any way to live?".

The CAEI report will be available for purchase on baby seal skin later this week.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This Post Goes to 11/11/11

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.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The 800 Pound Nittany Lion In the Room

So, let me start out by saying that I don't do "serious" very well. I've read through some of my earlier posts and I've found them trying to be stuffy and important (like you do when you're starting out). I can do "funny" or "irreverent" or even "witty" on occasion, but "serious" has always been a stretch for me. But, since there's no real way I can not not talk about it without seeming out of touch, I shall do my best. Please forgive, gentles, if this comes off as crude.

Let's start out with this: one of the few -- very few -- points that all Americans seem to agree on is that child molestation is always wrong.

Abortion: toss up.

Capital punishment: maybe.

Clean & water: perhaps.

Child molestation, however, doesn't get any gray area. While I can't say I've thought about it too deeply, I don't think anyone could really come up with a mitigating circumstance that defends child molestation. In fact, I would say that the only gray area we seem to tolerate is whether child molesters should be locked up indefinitely or whether they should be chemically castrated.

We're pretty solid on this particular point.

Now, we get to Joe Paterno.

If you've read the Grand Jury report, you'll know that Joe had second hand knowledge of an incident involving Sandusky in which Sandusky, I believe the description is, "anally raped an 11 year old in the shower". That's a pretty damning charge. Elsewhere in the complaint, there's talk of inappropriate "hugging" and "wrestling", which one could rationalize as being perfectly innocent. I would argue that "anal rape" is probably not perfectly innocent.

(Wait. Why am I qualifying that with "probably"? There's no probably about it!)

Now, Joe did report the matter to his boss, which is what he was supposed to do, per school policy. What he didn't do, however, was pass this information onto the cops. Did he do right by the school? Yeah, probably. Did he do what was ethically or morally right? No. No. A thousand times no.

One could ask, however, that without the benefit of hindsight if we were in a position like Joe's, would we know the right thing to do?

The answer of course is, "What? Are you f*cking crazy? You've just been told that a coach anally raped an eleven year old boy? Yes, you go to the f*cking police, you a-hole!"

Now, personally, I don't understand the deification of JoPa. Perhaps it's because I didn't go to Penn State; perhaps it's because the smarter half of my family went to Pitt. So, you'll understand that I don't understand why the students at Penn State would riot in support of him. I'm just assuming that Penn State students would riot over anything, in much the same was as any WVU student sees any couch as tinder.

Should Joe have been fired? Yeah, he should.

Is he taking an unreasonable amount of the blame for this? Probably; if you read the Grand Jury report, you see a string of missed opportunities and people ignoring what should have been an obvious to spot crime.

Should other people also be charged as complicit in a cover up? I think we're going to find out that answer really damned soon.

So in summary: child molestation is bad (and I feel awkward for feeling like I even have to write that).

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Election Night Special

A change of pace from our traditional election night video...

Get Aht 'n Vote

Vote already!


Think of it as practice for American Idol.

Monday, November 07, 2011

More Proof the Real Estate Market is F@(&ed Up

Just when I thought I wasn't going to have anything to write about tonight that didn't have to do with "improprieties" at Penn State* there's this:

The city Urban Redevelopment Authority board will vote Thursday on a recommendation to enter into exclusive negotiations with PMC Property Group for the acquisition and redevelopment of the John P. Robin Civic Building at 200 Ross St.

PMC is proposing to convert the building, which houses City of Pittsburgh, URA, and city housing authority offices, into 100 residential units plus possible first-floor commercial space. It is offering $1 million for the building.
I've been in that building once or twice in my local government career and I can say without fear of contradiction that it is the third or fourth worst government building in the City. I can only assume that PMC is shorting asbestos in an attempt to corner the Mesothelioma market.

*There was no way I was going to be able to make that funny.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

2010 Endorsements

Long time readers of this blog (both of you) will, of course remember that I refuse to directly endorse candidates for any particular office. Partially, this is to avoid the appearance of any impropriaty, but mostly it's because I've become so cynical that I see all politicians as lying bags of crap. That being said, you have to vote for someone on election day.

Of course, that doesn't mean you have to vote for anyone that's technically on the ballot. You can always annoy the poll workers and write someone in. So, if you feel cynical like me and want to amuse yourself, here are some names you should consider writing in:

(1) Barack Obama - OK, sure, he's probably not going to give up his current job for, say, district magistrate, but you never know. I think I would rather deal with building code violators than leading the free world, but that's me. Plus, Mr. Obama has the advantage of not being mistaken for some other "Barack Obama".

(2) Dan Onorato - Dan's not standing for election this time around. That's probably good for him, but I don't think he's been properly punished for being so mediocre a county executive. Write him in for school board if you think he should suffer a bit.

(3) Doug Shields - Doug lost a bit for district magistrate earlier this year. Probably for the best; Doug's not really -- let's say "qualified" -- to be a judge. That being said, Doug will now be left to his own devices and will probably be living on the street within a matter of weeks yelling incessantly at people. He needs the work, people.

(4) Mickey Mouse - Classic write in candidate, marred only by his previous association with the John Birch society.

(5) Tasty Cakes - Nobody bakes a cake as tasty as Tasty Cake. (Editor's Note - I think those radio commercials are getting to you.)

(6) Salvador Dali - He's dead, but that's never stopped him before. He'd make a good County Treasurer.

(7) Richard Mellon Scaife - Also technically not alive, but if you're going to vote for a lying sack of crap, you might as well vote for a professional.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Brief Aside

I was busy all night making a fennel and onion tomato sauce* so I didn't have time to write anything of substance. Plus, I finished off a bottle of Shiraz by myself, so I'm roughly as competent as any random State legislator at this point.** So, for the next thirty seconds or so I'm going to type strange words just to fill up space.

Bingle bongle dingle dangle lickey-doo lickey-da ping pong lippy-tappy too tah.

And Number 23: I don't want to eat a pear.

And that fulfills our blogging quota for the day.


*Oooh. Look 'e's multi-dimensional! Fancy that!
**If that doesn't scare the willies out of you, nothing does.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Several hundred members of Occupy Pittsburgh, who may or may not have been communist fascist Muslims according to unnammed sources, and their supporters (who potentially could have been draft dodging unwashed america hating hippies) marched through the streets of Oakland tonight without BURNING DOWN PRIVATE BUSINESSES AND GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS.

There were no arrests and no reports of damage by protestors (as far as anyone is willing to admit, given the pressure that the OBAMA administration has sought to support these protests), who marched in the streets surrounding the University of Pittsburgh campus, according to Pittsburgh police Cmdr. George (who may or may not be covering for nefarious ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT OVERLORDS).

Elizabeth C. Pittinger, executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board, monitored the protest and said police exhibited "extraordinary patience and restraint." And as far as we no there were no MASS RAPES OF INNOCENT COLLEGE STUDENTS.

Pittinger said marchers, who did not have a permit and did not CAUSE MASS CHAOS IN THE STREETS OF OAKLAND, spilled into the streets and obstructed traffic for a short time before heeding orders from police to keep to the sidewalks AND STOP HATING AMERICA.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review contributed to this report.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Worldwide Bullshit Markets Crash

(Bloomberg) New York City - Bullshit shares plummeted again today on the New York Shit Exchange, as nervous investors faced the possibility of a glut of Bullshit on the world markets.

Bullshit ended today's session at $10/Barnum, a record low for the commodity, which has been fallen steadily since September 2001.

"People are tired of Bullshit," says Bullshit trader Hans Delbrig. "We've seen a general rise in the availability of domestic Bullshit, which has served to depress prices, which in turn causes more Bullshit traders to dump more of it into the world market. The availability of cheap Chinese Bullshit only serves to depress the markets further. And now we have this Greek Bullshit to deal with."

This morning, the European Central Bullshit Bank dumped 1,000,000 Barnums of Bullshit into the world Bullshit supply, in hopes of driving down the cost of the Bullshit it will take to resolve the Greek Bullshit crisis.

Among the major purchasers of Bullshit is Newscorp, who refines and packages Bullshit for domestic consumption. Newscorp, however, has hedged their bets by also investing heavily in the cheaper, and more widely available, Horseshit.

American Bullshit centers (New York, Washington, and Los Angeles) remain strong, but small, local Bullshit producers have been hurting.

Joe Anderson, a part time High School Football Referee says that he used to be able to produce a Barnum of Bullshit in a year.

"Parents always said to me 'That's real Bullshit Ref!' and I was proud of my work. Now, I can barely make it."

It is hoped that Congress will deal with this issue after the November elections with another Bullshit bailout plan.