Monday, June 2, 2008

Monday: Everything Is Illuminated

Matt H wrote the blog post of last week. It was entitled, appropriately enough, Wednesday Things.

Here was one thing:

--Pittsburgh City Council should indeed have their own attorney. It's not right that they have to use the same sources that everyone else use on certain city matters. It is a clear conflict of interest if you ask me. Hugh McGough should be considered and hired for this position. He is an excellent attorney who would get the job done.

We at the Comet would again like to say we take a lot of institutional credit for helping to bring Matt Hogue into the local online publishing realm. We appreciate all the hard work you do for the city.

Just one thing -- Hugh McGough? We doubt it. He's a partner at his own firm, isn't he? The City wouldn't be able to afford him!

Um. Ahem.

Not full time. Good to know that we do have that kind of option available to Pittsburgh when it must navigate certain kinds of legal turbulence.


The city of Pittsburgh is broadening efforts to sell vacant lots as side yards, expanding a program that has tripled in volume in the past year, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has announced.

Since 1995, the city has sought to sell the empty lots it owns. It will now help transfer abandoned, privately owned lots to neighboring homeowners for around $200. (P-G, Rich Lord)

It's like Rich Lord said, "Luke, please, I'll write about whatever you want!"

Three changes have allowed the city to increase the volume to the point that there are now around 115 side yard sales in the works. The first was the city's purchase last year of old tax debts sold by former Mayor Tom Murphy's administration to Capital Asset Research Corp. The debts had slowed sales when Capital Asset insisted on having them paid off.

The second was a push to identify and market potential side yards to neighbors, in which the city wrote to some 1,200 owners inviting them to buy the vacant lots next door.

Third, a doubling of the demolition budget, enabling the removal of 600 condemned homes this year, is creating more eligible lots.

Adding the abandoned, privately owned lots to the program should result in more of the sites becoming side yards, the mayor said. The Public Works Department's Green Team, created last month to plant grass on demolition sites, can call in the Penn State Agricultural Extension to provide a would-be side yard owner with gardening tips.

That's a relief.


And now, a special comment. It has been suggested to us that the story in which Mayor Ravenstahl skipped out on Memorial Day ceremonies in Pittsburgh in order to watch not just one, but a second Stanley Cup hockey game live at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, at an even greater cost to taxpayers, was a "cross-checking." A dirty move, a dangerous play, a foul and a penalty.

Do not expect the Pittsburgh Comet to disown the issue. It was a good, clean hit.

One game in Detroit? Great, let's go Pens. Two games, and skipping Memorial Day? He doesn't feel the duty of being mayor in his gut.

Ravenstahl should have laid a wreath on the river because we all should have.


Operation Safety Net, located near UPMC Mercy in the Bluff, has compiled 16 years of relationships with homeless people in its role as Mercy's street-medicine outreach team. Founded by Dr. Jim Withers and funded by outside grants and donations, the Net is also the subject of a film now making the rounds.

"One Bridge to the Next," a 30-minute documentary made by the BeCause Foundation, co-won this year's Aspen Shortsfest audience award and advanced the Net's reputation as a pioneer in the field of street medicine.

Last week, Dr. Withers gave an online tutorial to medical students in Oxford, England, and taped a segment of "Fresh Air" with host Terry Gross on National Public Radio. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

Just read it.


BOOBY PRIZE: At first we thought this was a good, clean hit by Teacher. Wordsmith. Madman. Then we thought about it.

Well, here [Obama] goes again:

A certain segment has basically been feeding a kind of xenophobia. There's a reason why hate crimes against Hispanic people doubled last year. If you have people like Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh ginning things up, it's not surprising that would happen.

There are several things wrong with this argument -- the sophomoric conflation of correlation and causality, the lazy, sleazy insinuation that blowhards like Dobbs and Limbaugh incite real violence -- but the biggest is this: it's just not true.

There are many reasons the Comet is irritated by TWM, not the least of which because we have difficulty adjusting its font when we cut-and-paste excerpts from it, which we do often.

"Slate's Mickey Kaus has the breakdown here", Madman writes -- and that is basically his argument. The difference between Mickey and the Madman is that Mickey has the intellectual courtesy to write:

Am I missing some Obama data source? Or is this an overly overlooked incident of Obama pulling convenient facts out of the air? ...

To which we can respond, well, how much hate crime is not prosecuted as such, how much is not prosecuted at all, and how much goes unreported entirely because the victims fear they or their loved ones may be deported if they call attention to themselves by going to law enforcement?

Maybe there is data to back these things up. Maybe Obama's statistics come from universities, non-profits and other research groups. We take the Pentagon's estimates of Iraqi casualties together with those of international NGO's -- perhaps there is more to the story. If the story is one's concern.

TWM is happy to just whack away:

In a week when Scott McClellan reminds us what can happen when a President prefers facts of his own making to those that actually exist, it is also worth remembering that at cynical, self-righteous times like these, the Audacity of Hope can look and feel (and smell) an awful lot like the Mendacity of Bush.

You can conduct that symphony, but no way it'll have rhythm.


  1. City is working hard on vacant lots. Really?

    City is doing nothing about Schenley High School -- soon to be a vacant lot.

    And, the city has done nothing about the closed indoor ice rink -- turned into an abandoned, graffiti covered mess -- within a closed park -- ditched by the Penguins.

    The civic arena is going to be an abandoned side yard soon too.

    Remember the parking lot that is now Three Rivers Stadium.... and the land give away there. (I know you didn't forget).

    Will we be doing the same thing again?