Thursday, November 27, 2008


There was a headline on “The Drudge Report” on Tuesday about a Russian analyst predicting the break-up and fall of the USA. Don’t hold your breath, comrade. Today, all across this country, millions of people who go head-to-head on red state/blue state issues will go home, eat turkey, and then passionately go at it again watching Auburn take on Alabama, or Florida play Florida State. And we’ll get about as hot and excited as we do about politics, and none of it will matter. Because when all is said and done, we’re all Americans, together. That’s not something that Russian analyst — or just about anyone else who’s not a part of this raucous, screaming family — has ever been able to figure out. (Corner, Bill Whittle)

I'm also thankful for Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, and the Fair Use doctrine. 2007's Comet post for Thanksgiving, about as relevant as ever, is available here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday: Stay On Those Stories

There are eight of them. Their job is to make sure businesses are paying taxes. That's critical -- city officials say more than $10 million a year goes uncollected. But we saw six of the eight employees making little effort to find any of that missing money. What we did see was so alarming the mayor already is promising a tough response. (WTAE, Paul Van Osdol)

The last time a television news reporter alarmed Our Mayor with apparent malfeasance in city government, it was Marty Griffin and dubious spending at the Housing Authority. Pat Ford was swiftly dispatched to conduct a thorough investigation, and then um ... um ... ah ...

Has anyone yet reported that Councilman Ricky Burgess has been appointed to the Housing Authority board, and made its new chairman? He would be the one to ask about the status of that inquiry into alleged wrongdoing, most likely.

But back to today's story at the Finance Department...

"We expect our employees to give us a day's work for a day's pay," Finance Director Scott Kunka said yesterday. "We take it very seriously. We have [the Office of Municipal Investigations] and we have the Law Department involved."

If the allegations prove true, the employees will be disciplined, he said. (P-G, Team Effort)

Disciplined? Maybe I don't understand the public sector. If I clock in for three or four hours in a function that is supposed to profit my employer, and I go home and play video games instead, I will thereafter be considered a liability and a slacker and be fired. Then some eager beaver who rightfully lusts after jobs which provide generous benefits will come along to take my place.

If, however, six out of eight of these folks are found to be slacking at the same time -- who is it that requires discipline?


Neil deMause, co-author of "Field of Schemes," a book that examines the public financing of stadiums and arenas, said he has never heard of development credits being awarded as part of a deal. He said they definitely qualify as a perk.

"Free land is as good as free money," he said. (P-G, Mark Belko)

There's no reason to get worked up about this again -- for once this is exactly what was delineated on Day One of the arena deal in Spring 2007. It's just that there was so much tough talk about "no local tax dollars" being given away -- and only now it's a headline that "development credits" actually mean something? That land is indeed of value?

The real game will be for how much we sell that parcel of land, and what the Penguins will seek to accomplish with the remainder. Remember that in accordance with the Community Benefits Agreement, a Steering Committee is supposed to be Master Planning that land in a Community Oriented way, which will Drive Development -- except it is on a Strict Timetable before it turns into a Pumpkin at Midnight, leaving the Penguins with Carte Blanche.

Under the arena agreement, if the Penguins don't develop at least 2.8 acres of the Mellon Arena site each year, they forfeit the rights to the land.

Do you mean, they really will be made to forfeit the rights? Or, as with the Steelers on the North Shore, is this to be regarded as set-in-stone either way?

Hey -- don't blame us for being cynical. You've conditioned us this way.


However. This Thanksgiving we have something for which to be thankful.

Parties in the bitter Port Authority labor dispute last night reached a tentative agreement on a new contract at International AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., after four days of special talks unprecedented in their 44-year history. (P-G, Joe Grata)

We don't yet know the details, but as long as management and labor are in agreement, we don't care. I can't fathom what kind of black magic Dan Onorato employed in order to bring these two belligerent parties to a bargaining table in our nation's capital, but if Legacy Costs are actually brought to heel under these new terms, this will be quite the resume enhancer.

If football is a game of inches, political football is a game of oh, about six days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bloggers Rule, Columnists Drool

It's very gratifying to see all this attention paid by the MSM to our humble local blogosphere in light of PittGirl's departure.

Some may have found it too fanciful or grandiose, but if anything less than Dennis Roddey's epic tribute had run to mark the occasion, I'd have been pretty upset. Less heralded but no less appropriate was Eric Heyl's straighter obituary.

Ruth Ann Daily chimed in with personal reflections and admonitions yesterday, and today Tony Norman shouts out not only to PittGirl but to Pierre 4 Pittsburgh and the gang at Carbolic. It's nice even to have haters like Mike Seate feel compelled to pipe up.

But so as long as we have your attention:

Getting back to T-Noble's column today, on the topic of Mayor Ravenstahl's surfeit of campaign cash and dearth of opposition:

In today's economy, who has $500 burning such pigeon-sized holes in their pocket that they're willing to throw it at a mayoral campaign that faces no tangible opposition beyond a few feisty blogs?

Which got us thinking for about the trillionth time: why must it be this way? Or more precisely, why are we "feisty blogs" so rarely joined by any feisty columnists?

Editorials are well and good, but there can be no doubt that a newspaper columnist commands the requisite space, prominence, and artistic license to really reach out and grab readers, invite them to think about something, make it fun and make it edifying at the same time. Sometimes, our columnists do this (brilliantly) on a matter of local substance. But soooo rarely!

Let's put it this way. How often does Maureen Dowd devote one of her columns to the joys of gardening or the frustrations of modern technology? When was the last time Paul Krugman marked the changing of the seasons or the sheer passage of time? Can any of us recall Joe Klein muse that election season is upon us once again, and gosh it will be interesting to watch the pageantry unfold? Can any of us recall Robert Novak leading us to the crux of an important issue, and then breaking out into song?

These national figures grab readers right in the frontal cortex, forcing them to examine complex issues of great moment at almost every opportunity. No punches are pulled towards Presidential or Congressional bogeyman. Specific advice is offered perpetually on economics, matters of justice and political strategy -- along with withering ridicule as necessary.

Most importantly, it is all done with a sense of fierce urgency, of emergency: if I don't let them know, who will? We can't let this message, this ideology, this potential compromise, this perspective stay unknown for another moment. In fact, we can't let it fade into the recesses of last week -- we need to keep repeating it, refining it, expanding upon it. Events are upon us.

The national columnists we enjoy seem to regard their columns as mighty weapons, precious national resources. Too often -- and at the Comet we try to point out every occasion on which the opposite is true -- Pittsburgh's columnists seem to regard their own as something to fill with pleasantries, equivocations, sighs, shrugs and meandering meditations. Polemic Muzak. At least when it comes to local politics.

Is it any wonder mere blogs are left to lead the charge toward a more prosperous and hopeful civic future? Is it any wonder that future remains stubbornly on the horizon? Is it a coincidence our politicians have nobody to run against?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday: T-Minus Seven Days

Your transit strike may be ready in as little as one week. (P-G, Joe Grata)

KD/PG with Pat McMahon: LINK; with Steve Bland and Richard Taylor: LINK.

The Post-Gazette points us toward this trove of slowly floating data, at which one can compare Pittsburgh (by which we mean Pittsburgh and everything within a 200 mile radius) to similar regions of the country. Did you know for example that the Pittsburgh region ranks below average on local government taxes per capita? Here we were led to believe we are the most dreadfully taxed region ever, ever, ever! (PittsburghToday)

Passing unenforceable legislation is all the rage. Let's put that willfully negligent state Legislature "on notice", why don't we! (P-G, Edit Board)

On why there are suddenly like four million hotel projects in development in Pittsburgh: We don't know. (Null Space)

MEDIA ADVISORY: Today. 4:15. 1360 AM. Mark DeSantis, Chad Hermann, John McIntire, and myself. For some reason. On Renaissance Radio. (UPDATE: Or wait. Is that what a Media Advisory is? Rather, isn't that when you are letting the media know you are going to be available to them? What is this then? SHAMELESS PLUG.)

Here is a link to the podcast immortalizing last month's blogstravaganza. Lots of points were left on the field, but rest assured that this time if anyone tries to peddle that weak, "All the good bloggers have quit because blogging is stupid" stuff, there will be heck to pay.