Friday, May 4, 2007

Things You / We May Have Missed

Dan Fitzpatrick of the P-G warns us of a gathering robot invasion of Pittsburgh by Carnegie Mellon. At first we thought it'd be like the awesome dinosaur invasion of several years ago, which made narrating the Just Ducky Tours a heck of a lot easier, especially during long traffic delays. But it turns out these are going to be actual, functioning, boring robots.

Yesterday, the P-G endorsed Bruce Kraus in the 3rd by a whisker over Jeffrey Koch. In so endorsing, they seemed to reveal a blanket preference for challengers over incumbents, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Pittsburgh gives rise to some unique conservatives, as evidenced by Fred Honsberger's bellowing defense of the smoking ban.

Mayor Ravenstahl is getting serious about minority hiring, reports the PG's Rich Lord. The blurghosphere should applaud, opines the PH's Matt Hogue.

There are ten days left until the election!! (h/t Bill Peduto, who like us, reads The Note, h/t the Trib's Vellucci & Wereschagin. We wonder if Bill dislikes its new cluttertastic layout as much as we do.)

YouTube ... becoming ... less hip ... must ... use Jumpcut, or Viddler, or some crap ...

We have been meaning to alert you to the existence of this new life form, whom we recently encountered at Bootcamp.

"iJustine" is an ordinary Pittsburgh girl that enjoys blogging, creating viral content, social marketing, and receiving overstuffed envelopes from Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. More power to her.

We cannot shake the fantasy of this Justine engaging in some kind of climactic duel to the death with julie_gong, whom we gather is in the same line of work, only on behalf of beer, which we understand.

Anyway. Learn more about our strange new world at Tasty Blog Snack.

PS -- Does anyone know why sometimes, when we post a picture or a video, our text reverts to this irritating single-spacing? iJustine? Bootcamp people?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The City Paper Election Guide...

... is somehow disappointing. Of course, it's not entirely their fault, as editor Chris Potter owns up at the outset: "This was supposed to be a different article."

Potter gamely tries to explain the sclerosis of our local politics, whether it's due to the withdrawal of Bill Peduto (whose internal polling is now approaching the mythic dimensions of Paul Bunyan and his big ox Blue), the crushing weight and prohibitive regulations of the Democratic machine, or the unhelpful incompetence of the Republican party.

Joe Mistick opines that the lack of top-tier activity this year is a "fluke," suggesting perhaps that it might be time to trot out other pundits for these articles.

We did learn that Jeff Koch chews tobacco during press interviews, and that Bruce Kraus is an interior designer. Actually, we already knew that last bit about Kraus, but it somehow seems more salient now that we know that Jeff Koch chews tobacco during press interviews.


We were infinitely more infotained by Potter's column on Rick Swartz, challenger for the position of county executive. In so columnizing, Potter goes here:

Because there might be another reason the Republicans aren't fielding a candidate of their own: Maybe Onorato, a pro-business social conservative, is the Republican in this race.

While Swartz goes there:

I tell homeowners: If you can't afford the tax rate in that community, then find a community with a lower rate. Owning a home in Uppper St. Clair isn't an entitlement.

Bloggahs: Where have we been on this race? It may be quixotic of us (which we just learned derives not from the term quizzical, but the novel Don Quixote), but for the next twelve days, wesa gonna do oursa part.

Experimental Sports Post

The P-G's Gene Collier waxes sardonic upon the Pirates "irredeemably flaccid offense" in light of yesterday's two-game thumping by the Chicago Cubs.

Crumpling to the occasion, the Pirates essentially stunk for more than four hours, eventually sending the adult portion of the audience muttering toward happy hour.

Adam LaRoche attempts to explain himself, and his .132 average, to Dean Kovacevic. We have no suggestions for how to cure this:

"I'm not seeing it," LaRoche said, his voice as quiet as his bat had been in grounding out twice, striking out and flying to center for the final out. "It's the ball. I'm just ... not ... seeing the ball."

Meanwhile, Ed Bouchette profiles the Steelers 7th (!!) round draft pick, Dallas Barker, a great big wide receiver who only needs to work on his speed.

Must ... Pave ... Everything!!

Mild-mannered television news reporter Bob Mayo of WTAE hits the streets to cover the city paving controversy.

It now appears that although Ravenstahl is going to "study" or "look at" returning to a computerized system, for now he's more comfortable trusting the instincts of council members and public works employees.

We never understood the argument that since we have less money for paving than we used to, we must scrap the computer system, or it will keep demanding that we repave too much. Can't we, uh, just punch in a new number?

"That is a false argument," said Peduto. "The program is created to be recalibrated by budget. So if we only have $6 million to spend in any given year of the budget, the priority is given to the streets that need it the most."

It's a wonder what these new-fangled computing machines can do!

Blurghosphere Drama

Patrick "Maureen" Dowd gets drawn into a heated late-night exchange in the Burr Reporr comments section, treating us to closest thing we'll see to a District 7 debate.

Da Busman reveals that it could take up to a month to replace Dick Skrinjar, because the Mayor is insisting upon "no artificial timetable" for withdr-- er, hiring somebody else. This looks like one of those posts where he's trying to say something without actually having to say something.

Mike Madison accuses the Tribune Review of being "sleazy," for having lifted a quote of his from the Post-Gazette without attribution.

The Admiral has not been kidnapped, and detained in gimp-fashion, by disgruntled, entrepreneurial police officers. Whew.

UPDATE: Mmmmm .... heated late-night exchange with Maureen Dowd ... ghughughugh.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Back to the Future

A P-G Early Returns piece this morning framed today's scheduled debate about pavement management as a test for Councilman Peduto.

Turns out, he is precisely as effective as a think-tank gunner as he was as a mayoral candidate. Uncannily so. From this afternoon's update (victory lap?) by Rich Lord:

That meeting could be moot, as the mayor appears to have decided in favor of a more objective system.

"The mayor has directed [Public Works] Director [Guy] Costa to utilize a pavement management system," said Deputy Public Works Director Mike Gable. The city is in the process of evaluating systems to determine which would work best and which are compatible with the city's overall management software.

Remember this piece by P-G columnist Brian O'Neill? Still delicious.

Meanwhile, Councilman Motznik spoke out against accusations of politics playing a role in street paving. We didn't catch exactly what he had against returning to a computerized system, if only to erase the appearance of impropriety.

Developers Unearth Old Garbage

"The crew brought out a shortened post and the archaeologist on site blew it off," Mr. Nixon said. "We found it laying discarded on a rubble pile."

The ax-hewn timber was part of the original defenses of Fort Pitt, a significant national treasure dating back to the French & Indian War and Pontiac's Rebellion. All traces of it must now be buried under concrete so as to make way for funnel cake vendors.

Last fall, unidentified human remains were also unearthed at the old battleground, but fortunately the renovations did not pause.

Mr. Nixon works with the Fort Pitt Preservation Society, a radical fringe group that believes a solemn memorial to the fallen heroes of three clashing civilizations could potentially be a greater civic asset than booths for dueling cell-phone providers.

The P-G's Don Hopey reports that the state conservation department is condescending to use radar technology to map the old wooden fence, revealing the awareness of everyone involved that this is a monstrous idea that future generations will seek to reverse.

The Smoking Ban: 14 Hours of Joy

A state appeals court has already put the kibosh our very short-lived smoking ban, until it gets around to ruling on the appeal by two local restaurateurs. The P-G's Anita Srikameswaran could make a career of this.

Anti-tobacco groups are incensed; the ban lasted just long enough to irritate, and not long enough to demonstrate its utility.

Eat n' Park, the place for smiles, will allow five of its locations to remain smoke-free, said an official.

"We might be waiting forever for the state or the county," he said. "We do believe in the long term the right thing to do is to go smoke-free. We need to understand what the impacts are if we do that by ourselves."

The Trib's Bonnie Pfister includes some reaction from local bar owners.

"Aw, jeez," said North Side tavern owner Mark Wade, upon hearing about the reversal.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Behind the 'Sphere: The 5th Floor Shakeup

We slept in last Friday, failing to tackle the morning news-check until mid-afternoon. Halfway finished, we noticed the Post-Gazette had added an item to its "Breaking News" banner: Dick Skrinjar got canned.

We sprung into action, trying to find the perfect image of Darth Vader hoisting the Emperor overhead before tossing him down a ventilation shaft.

Have you ever run a Google Image search for "Darth Vader"? There are better uses of one's time.

A useless half-hour later, we received an instant message from The Burgher, asking if we had heard the big news, and providing a link to his fresh new post.

The Comet and the Burr Reporr rarely collaborate directly, but much like He-Man and She-Ra, when we do the results are often impressive and memorable.

During our brief chat, the Burgher avowed that Yarone Zober "was on a rampage" that morning, and claimed multiple sources testifying to said rampage.

We would have liked nothing better than to provide you with the casus belli -- but nobody was talking. Our stalwart compatriots throughout the MSM seemed to fare no better. The new mayor was doing some routine housecleaning to make room for his own loyal patrons. Nothing to see here.

The ironic thing is, although we don't know any better, we are positive most of you do. Many readers of the Comet are themselves local political and media cognoscenti, and the last six months of blogging have taught us that there are a lot of open secrets in this town.

Apparently, "everybody" knew about the Heinz Field incident before "anybody" did. We have heard rumors of personal peccadilloes that would make your toes curl -- but never on record. Rick Earle deserves a Pulitzer for identifying Denny Regan as Marlene Cassidy's "boyfriend"; heretofore the pair were always referenced caustically as "sharing a residence."

Fine, then. Keep your dirty little secrets. The Comet will move on to raking muck where the raking is good.


As to the shakeup itself -- the Comet has heard it said far and wide that "Luke is a good kid," but nobody cared for "the people around him." Tops on that list was always Skrinjar, closely followed by Cassidy. Zober occasionally made that list, but with nothing like the regularity of the former two.

In addition, the secretive and paranoid attitude of the Mayor's press office was becoming too great to handle.

We remember during the Ron Air kerfuffle, Ravenstahl's statement that "You (the media) have your jobs, and we have ours."

We are mindful of ethics board nominee Penny Zacharias getting hustled through city hall to escape reporters, for no discernible reason.

And we continue to despair that the Mayor always looks and sounds like he is suffering through a prostate exam whenever a microphone is placed nearby.

If the personnel changes made last Friday serve to break up this poisonous dynamic, and bring a little more innocence and joyfulness to the Mayor's office, we are all for it.

It took us five days to make the mental adjustment, but this denizen of the blurghosphere is ready to give the Mayor a gold star. And if it required a rampage by his chief of staff to accomplish it, we look forward to more such rampages as necessary.

Bodack Infers. Dowd Implies.

According to P-G Early Returns, "Mr. Bodack has now fired back with his own letter, promising full documentation of his use of city resources, and taking umbrage at Mr. Dowd's inferences."

My advice to you, Mr. Dowd, is that you'd better stick to attacking me. Mary Kay and the rest of my staff are way out of your league.

The Dowd campaign has retaliated with a spreadsheet that purports to illustrate payments made from Council to consultants of Mr. Bodack, including this Mary Kay Abdulovic, suggesting what the Comet can only describe as a Carlislian Scheme.

Tuesday Bullet Points

Anita Srikameswaran of the P-G gets to announce that yes, Virginia, there is a smoking ban. James G. Mitchell of Mitchell's Restaurant goes into history-onics:

"We faced the Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Great Flood and now we're facing another possible threat to the survival of the oldest restaurant in Pittsburgh."

The new most popular resource on the blurghsophere can be found HERE.


The P-G's Mark Belko previews the showdown at the Planning Commission today, and reveals what the Steelers may be getting at:

He added that if some accommodation can't be reached, one solution could be to close the casino during major events while a more in-depth traffic study is done. The science center now closes during Steelers game days.


The P-G editorial board endorses Ricky Burgess in District 9, calling him "head and shoulders above the rest of the field" because of his attention to our "massive debt and pension obligations."

Meanwhile, the TRIB editorial board mercilessly cheers on the Port Authortity cutbacks.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Power of the Commonwealth Compels You!

Last Monday, in a remarkably bloggy-style post entitled "Just Askin'...", the gang at the P-G Early Returns reported on an official information request that Patrick Dowd filed against Len Bodack, mostly dealing with campaign expenditures.

"Because of your hesitance to appear publicly, and because the taxpayers have a right to learn the answers, I file the request for the following information in accordance with Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law, which compels you to reply within 5 business days."

We were asked nicely to "Stay tuned for Mr. Bodack's response." How's that coming along?

Stonewall Democrat Endorsements

District 3: Kraus
District 7: Dowd
Controller: Lamb
County Exec: Swartz

This may not be an exhaustive slate. For example, Ricky Burgess appeared as of last night to have narrowly won the endorsement for District 9. This would have been a bit of a shock, as the Reverend is first and foremost a Reverend, and was reportedly frank and honest with the GLBT group. However, there has since been some confusion; there will soon be a re-vote for District 9.

The selection of Rick Swartz will shock no one, as Dan Onorato not only declined to answer four of their questions, but somehow deleted them from the questionnaire. The questions were about gay marriage, sex education, and abortion. In light of a widely speculated gubernatorial run by Onorato in 2010, the Comet must classify this as An Issue.

Luke Ravenstahl did not return the questionnaire at all, although this did not result in an endorsement for the Pirogi.

The Race for Sheriff

A P-G article by Gabrielle Banks reads as well-nigh an endorsement of acting Sheriff Mullen, in the three-way primary for Sheriff of Allegheny County.

Anthony Costa: PROS - Wants to review overtime violations, pursue a less hostile work environment. CONS - Named Costa.

Damon J. Brown: PROS - African-American with international military experience as a police trainer, describes self as "humanitarian." CONS - Yucky allegations of domestic violence.

William P. Mullen: PROS - Wants to restore honor and dignity to the sheriff's office. CONS - Hand-picked by predecessor, who wears ankle-bracelet as a condition of house-arrest.

Smoke 'Em if you Got 'Em

Today could be the last day for smoking in bars and restaurants, reports the P-G's Anita Srikameswaran. The injunction against the county-wide ban expires at midnight.

"Until we hear otherwise, we're going to enforce it and treat it as the law in the county," said Kevin Evanto, spokesman for Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato.

But don't throw out those ash trays just yet. Legal efforts spearheaded by Mitchell's Restaurant and the Smithfield Cafe, and bankrolled by Big Tobacco, will continue through the 11th hour. The Comet will be following the story all day long.

County Solicitor Michael Wojcik expects that today Judge Della Vecchia may grant the request to extend the injunction. But because there is no timeline in which the higher court must issue a decision, the ordinance, at least with respect to bars and restaurants, could be in limbo for a while.

Establishments with fewer than 10 employees and less than 10% of food revenue are exempted from the ban; some feel this dilutes and confuses the law beyond workability. However, those businesses need to have applied in advance for the exemption; the list of successful applicants will be released later today.

The Comet is more concerned about simple compliance; surreptitious primary research has indicated that many tavern owners feel they have some scheme, or the right connections, to defy the ban.

Smokers themselves are more philosophical about the new law; it is well known that they enjoy feeling miserable and persecuted. KDKA quotes an Elaine Price of Hazelwood:

"I've already been pushed outside, and treated like a leftover shoestring so to speak, so it doesn't bother me at all."

Meanwhile, Eat n' Park reports an increase in sales at those locations that have already gone smoke-free.