Friday, January 19, 2007


Saturday is the blogging sabbath, at least at the Comet. Please make a note of it. Check back Sunday evening for our weekly Jack Kelly counter-column, and stay tuned for more coverage you can count on!

The Rendell Rx

It's hard to blog about "Prescription Pennsylvania." Not even Rauterkus has tried yet, and that guy's a machine.

Randy Bish, Tribune-Review

Our analysis may be colored by yesterday's P-G Perspectives piece by Ryan Talbot on the 2003 Pennsylvania Wilds Initiative, with the goal "to enhance the visitor experiences in this region, while protecting and conserving these treasured natural resources."

Talbot went on to criticize the extensive oil and gas drilling in the Allegheny National Forest, and the 800 mile ATV trail loop through protected lands, enabled by that initiative.

We are reminded of a clip from the great documentary Who Killed The Electric Car. Paraphrased: "It's an old story. Play public-interest the music. Give industry the action."

Of the 47 separate provisions of Governor Rendell's package, very few (just one?) deal with providing more, or lower-cost, health insurance. A lot will hinge on when, how, and where the Governor flexes his political muscle.

KDKA's Larry Reichart cited a Trib story by Brad Bumsted and Debra Erdley that tells us 7 of the 16 contributors to Rendell's inaugural were from corporate health or insurance lobbies. Even Sen. Jane Orie (R-North Hills) had to tell Larry, "It concerns me ... it does put up a red flag."

No doubt some aspects of the plan are worthwhile; we are especially stoked about the smoking ban. Yet the Comet fears this may be a way for business and politicians to "settle" the health issue only in the minds of Pennsylvanians, kicking the can down the road, until the federal government gets serious about a modern, single-payer health care system.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Half-Truths, Lies, Innuendos, and Conspiracy Theories" (Oh, My!)

Your long-term analysis of McIntiregate is:

1. The bloggers are coming!!! The bloggers are coming!!!

Your medium-to-short term analysis is:

1. Even the most rabid anti-Luke webloggers are conceding that the Regan-Once-Again-As-Fixer angle is way off the mark. So long as this holds, the McIntire story can be credibly described as a mugging. Albeit a well-executed one, given its firm basis in truthiness, and its timing at the ebb of the McNeilly cycle.

2. Since Peduto can not directly attack Ravenstahl on issues of youth and immaturity, for fear of alienating his young-professional base, McIntire seems to be the attack dog. But is he freelancing, or is the arrangement explicit?

3. Having said all that, John McIntire has proven himself not only relevant, but bold, interesting, civic-minded, and richly deserving of good and gainful employment, preferably in our fair city.

4. Those of you who've been enjoying the Bush : Ravenstahl analogies should certainly revel in Brit Hume : Marty Griffin.

5. The "He Lied About It Previously" angle seems weak at this point. It would appear he had denied being arrested, which is true, and not just technically true.

6. The Comet is far more concerned about his claim that after "two to three drinks," his judgement was not impaired. Aside from the very dangerous message, why not cop to some impairment?

7. The Comet also requests the Mayor's presence at all events of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, particularly the March 2 blockade of the CMU National Robotics Engineering Center (Levine, C-P), and any pickets at military recruitment offices.

8. Seriously: if the Fraternal Order of Police takes exception to Ravenstahl's recent tone, and endorses Peduto, all bets are off.

9. Council member Jim Motznik is disappointed in these sort of attacks coming "from an opponent that's way down in the polls." Polls?

10. WPXI Political Analyst Bill Green: "I think it'll probably go away." No, no, no, no, NO! Everything is fascinating, the implications are always profound, and everyone has to stay tuned. Seriously, dude, ANY ONE OF US will be glad to take over for you.

McIntire Lobs Grenade

UPDATE: Clearly, McIntire had something. Tune in tomorrow morning for analysis of just what that is ...

John McIntire's "unofficial, speculative" account of an October 2005 physical altercation between City Councilman Ravenstahl and a uniformed police officer can be accessed here.

The account has Dennis Regan coming to Ravenstahl's rescue, which would explain Ravenstahl's indebtedness to Regan throughout the McNeilly affair.

McIntire claims that police barracks are crawling with first-hand and second-hand knowledge of this incident, but are silent for fear of reprisal. He also claims that major news outlets are dying to break this story first.

Here is another unofficial story, based on Comet speculation:

John McIntire was recently dismissed from KDKA and is desperate to stay relevant, especially now. Savvy of how hot the McNeilly story is in the blurghosphere, he launches a wild accusation and enjoys a week or two of limelight. By the time the story is rigorously checked by the much-disparaged mainstream media, McIntire can claim it was just a hunch, that he's half-a-comedian, and that something like that might have happened, anyway. Thanks to all the attention, contract negotiations with his new employer go especially well.

Ravenstahl could immediately get in front this and declare McIntire's story total garbage. He may resist this, because it would only give the MacYapper the attention he craves, and turn it into a "real story." The Comet calls this the John Kerry Miscalculation. The story is already real enough. Besides which, firmly and unequivocally denying something might be just what the doctor ordered.

That is, if the story is wholly without merit...

McIntire's extremely snarky column blasting the Mayor in this week's City Paper includes none of these allegations; we wonder if this was an editorial decision. Elsewhere in this CP issue, ironically, we find a Chris Potter news piece raising questions about aspects of McNeilly's version of events, and sympathetic to Ravenstahl's case.

Developer Spanked by D.E.P.

"It sounds like they're going to get serious," said Bob Keir, co-chairman of Communities First!, a group that opposed the development long before the landslide. "I'm just surprised that the developer is taking the whole hit here. Wal-Mart owns half the property." (Trib - Karen Roebuck)

For its part, "Wal-Mart strongly urges Kilbuck Properties to comply with the requests made by the (DEP) in this order. These actions work toward the same goals as Wal-Mart's -- stabilizing the property and ensuring future safety of the surrounding area. "

The order is not limited to the fine -- $470,000, the maximum allowable under law -- but also will put D.E.P. regulators all up in the developer's grill from here on out.

Kilbuck Properties continues not to answer their phone.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Competition for Onorato???

Under the headline "Onorato Lacking GOP Opponent," the Trib's David M. Brown has County GOP Chairman Bob Glancy vowing that a viable Republican candidate will emerge before the March 6 deadline.

The most tantalizing possibilities are former congressperson Melissa Hart, and U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanon, though neither have confirmed interest.

In a hysterically uncalled-for aside, County Democratic Chairman Jim Burn said his counterpart's talk reminds him of a hockey coach who would "put a goon on the ice" to "create disruption and trouble" when his team has no chance of winning. "If they want to resort to goonism in Allegheny County, shame on them."

Competition for Carlisle!!!

The race for District 9 City Council is shaping up to be a real barn-burner.

With the addition of real estate broker Judith K. Ginyard, the unofficial tally of Democratic challengers to incumbent Twanda Carlisle (pictured) swells to six. (P-G)

According to the Comet's calculations, Carlisle could theoretically defend her seat with just 15% of the vote.

Challenger K. Chase Patterson scored some quality face-and-voice time on WTAE. At age 23, Patterson positions himself as part of a youth movement in Pittsburgh, without mentioning Luke Ravenstahl by name, who won his own Council seat at 23. Patterson struck a conciliatory note in regards to Carlisle's legal troubles, saying he had a sit-down with the incumbent and assured her its "nothing personal."

What Patterson lacks in funding, he seems to make up for with "the stuff": speaking style, presentation, and savvy. He even pounded some nails into some boarded up Homewood buildings, although we wonder how he got permission to so assist the Housing Authority.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"That Is So Absolutely Ludicrous"

Acting City Solicitor George Specter came forward to defend his handling of the Regan investigation, dispute his presence at previous discussions of McNeilly, and deny a cover-up.

The broad impact is that we the voters are once again treated to long rehashings of the whole affair by both the P-G's Rich Lord and the Trib's Jeremy Boren.

There are two currents sweeping the real-worldosphere right now:

1. This all provides ammo for the other mayoral candidates serious ammo machine gun ammo.

2. They're all crooks. I may not even vote in November.

If you are wagering a dinner at Nakama, or your political career, on the outcome of the May 15th election, current #1 gives you some clear handicapping advice. Current #2 is a push.

The acting City Solicitor's move can be credibly interpreted as a tack toward current #1. The Comet highly recommends turning up your speakers and surfing over to KDKA's John Delano, who captures the full emotive impact of Specter's declarations, with repeated Clintonesque emphasis.

Adding what seems to be new news, Delano zooms in tight on the form demoting McNeilly, which Dennis Regan signed in the space provided for "Public Safety Director." The Comet would have prefered to lead this post with that image, but lacking that capacity, we went with our third choice.

A current Trib editorial packages this as a "lesson" to the Mayor, and a Sunday P-G editorial implied that the Mayor is not smart. Yet both fall well short of calling it a hanging offense. Given the clinical forbearance Ravenstahl continues to apply, the Comet is puzzled that Regan has not seen fit to emerge from his spider-hole.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Eat, Drink, Be Merry

What better way to spend Dr. King's birthday than at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, raising money for Katrina survivors? Catch some great music, eat some pirogi and donate to a much needed cause. All the entertainers are donating their time. Admission is $10, or $5 for the not-so-rich.

Music by: Feral Boys, Paul Labrise, Bingo Coyote, Phat Man Dee, The Deciders, Hellyeah and the Hellcats, Molly in the Crowd, Leslie Addis and Friends, and a special cameo by Bobby Porter. Info: 412-231-2766.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

On Kelly: "The War We Must Not Lose"

Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret who was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration. He is presently a columnist at the Post-Gazette, and can be described as a reliably hawkish unilateralist and free-market fundamentalist. As a special feature of the Comet, each Sunday we will attempt to debunk the dangerous and foolhardy ideas put forth by Pittsburgh's most prominent ultra-conservative.

The best place to take issue with this column is its title. It is certainly agreed that we are in a global war against Islamists committed to our destruction. It is also true that the war in Iraq has tragically become a front in this "War on Terror."

Taking Kelly back to the early days of the Iraq invasion, I would remind him that our president was persistent in speaking of the "Battle of Baghdad." Bush's point was that Iraq is but one battle in a larger war. His intention was to steel us for further military action.

President Bush was correct in this -- so retreat from the Battle of Baghdad does not equate to surrender in the War on Terror. Military history is littered with the corpses of generals too proud to execute a strategic retreat, too galled at allowing the enemy one night's celebration, too arrogant to cede ground to "those people." General Washington made a career of conducting retreat after brilliant retreat, until he had the enemy right where he wanted them.

The notion that withdrawal from Iraq would be an utter calamity is well established, but so is the notion that withdrawal could serve us well. Many retired generals have argued that our continued presence now only inflames passions and provides targets, not to mention shields the Iraqi government from real responsibility.

We have heard that America is addicted to oil; we could well say that Iraq is addicted to Americans.

The bulk of Kelly's column is essentially an emotional plea: a pep-talk (or dressing-down) feeding the very pride that serves us so poorly when conditions call for a strategic retreat.

Our parents and grandparents realized the fascists we were fighting then were really nasty guys; that living in a world in which they were dominant would be intolerable.

If liberals can be chided for thinking every war is Vietnam, conservatives can certainly be chided for likening every war to World War II. Here Kelly is appealing to one of the war's original constituencies -- World War II nostalgists and romantics.

If Manhattan disappears in a mushroom cloud, or oil prices hit $200 a barrel, the effects will be felt even in million-dollar homes, and on the campuses of Ivy League universities.

And here, Kelly whips up another constituency: the terrorized. The very purpose of a terrorist attack is to radicalize the afflicted population and thereby destabilize them, or draw them into a disadvantage. (As to high oil prices, the nation could certainly mobilize to devalue oil, but this is not the kind of national sacrifice that Kelly would like to discuss.)

What we should have done from the get-go was appoint the man we wanted as prime minister (Iwad Allawi was that guy) and introduced democracy gradually, beginning at the local level, then moving up to the provincial and national levels. You have to walk before you can run.

Kelly may have a point here, but much like the liberal who whines that the we oughtn't have gone to war, this ship has sailed. His suggestion that Bush is finally getting tough with Maliki is wholly unsupported, and is the chief worry of even conservative punditry.

Moving forward, the best thing we can do is announce that we are leaving Iraq to its own devices for about two years, at which point we will reassess our interests in that theater. We should withdraw all but a northern force to insulate the Kurds from the worst-case excesses of the present Shi'ite government, and a battery of military and diplomatic advisers.

A large portion of the withdrawn troops should return home, to strengthen our depleted strategic reserve. But another large portion should redeploy to Afghanistan, where a friendly democratic ally needs our help, and where a notorious criminal is emboldening generations of future terrorists just by surviving.

These would be the first steps in a true Plan for Victory -- not for the Battle of Baghdad, but certainly for the War We Must Not Lose.