Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday: Finding the Old Romances Detestable

Setting aside how you personally feel about Dok's candidacy, does anyone else think this treatment was disgusting?

At the top of the story:

But Harris the younger got his [injury] in a medieval role-playing game, after catching his cleats on a rock while running with a padded sword made of plumbing products. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

Okay, noting that the sword was made out of "plumbing products" was unfortunate, but you're illustrating a contrast with his father. Fine.

Mr. Harris suffered his knee injury during college, while running through the woods during a live-action battle sponsored by NERO, the New England Roleplaying Organization. He had been into the medieval fantasy games since he was 16 and read about them in a magazine for Dungeons & Dragons fans.

Mr. Harris -- who is single -- ... (ibid)

Alright ah, yes, you've already covered this material. If you think it's that important to emphasize which recreational magazines he read in college, knock yourself out, but I hope the biographies of the other candidates will spend just as much time on embarrassing college shenanigans.

Franco Harris said he thought Dok would enter politics one day, but the answer back then was different. "I'm going to be a scientist secret agent," he would say. (ibid)

And those are the last words of the article. I'm going to be a scientist secret agent.

That's what we're left with. That's the take-away. That's the jewel of wisdom they wished to impart.

Once again: if eight-year old Luke Ravenstahl ever expressed an interest in being a rock star astronaut, I expect that the Post-Gazette will spend about six paragraphs exploring that, and also maybe run a photo of him in his Robin underooos. Otherwise this was clearly an assassination.

After the world's strangest endorsement, it also makes you wonder.


Because we know the Post-Gazette knocks it out of the park every now and again.

Zappalas hold posts at casino association, reads the headline. No differentiation. No need to explain the import.

It's sort of like reading, Swine Flu cases rise in Allegheny County.

We have the requisite obsessive covering of tracks:

Those names aren't mentioned on incorporation papers or tax filings, which require a listing of officers and key employees. Neither do they appear in a slew of press releases or advertisements issued this month to influence legislation that would legalize table games and set taxes and fees for casinos that choose to offer them. (P-G, Tracie Mauriello)

Which involves lots of playing dumb:

[Board member Chuck] Hardy said he didn't know the extent of Mr. Zappala's or Mrs. Zappala Peck's involvement except that they had been with the association from the beginning. (ibid)

I mean lots of dumb:

Ken Smukler, who was hired three weeks ago, said the association pays Mrs. Zappala Peck and her father, but he did not know their salaries. (ibid)

Plenty of misdirection:

Mr. Smukler said that, until now, the association's focus had been on litigation rather than legislation.

"There was a lot of litigation that was going on," Mr. Smukler said.

Mr. Hardy contradicted him, saying the association's first two years were spent organizing and securing office space in Downtown Pittsburgh on the 30th floor of One Oxford Centre. (ibid)

(Yeah, that sound like two years worth of work.)

We have some extremely familiar hair-splitting on the definition of lobbying, and hence the necessity of filing reports:

"The association sends e-mails to legislators and we did pay for a radio spot, but that's the extent of what the association has done," Mr. Smukler said.

That sounds like lobbying to Mr. Kauffman of Common Cause.

"By every conceivable definition of lobby law, they're lobbying. They're supporting a specific bill and asking for lawmakers to vote for it," he said. "They're lobbying."

Association officials disagree. The letters to lawmakers represented views of individual casinos, not the association, they said. (ibid)

Conspicuous confusion:

At times it is unclear, even to the association itself, which casinos it speaks for.

The association recently issued a press release "on behalf of" The Rivers, SugarHouse, Foxwoods and Mount Airy, saying those casinos would sue if smaller casinos were allowed to expand.

Five hours later, it issued a correction saying the association does not speak for Foxwoods. And a week later, Mount Airy's CEO George Toth wrote a letter to lawmakers saying he had no intention of joining legal actions proposed by the casino association. (ibid)

And finally, smug contempt for the press:

Mr. Zappala declined to comment and Mrs. Zappala Peck did not respond to telephone messages left last week. (ibid)

Something new to add to the file.

The Pittsburgh Comet is going to retire very early in the new year for the purposes of putting energy into something more lucrative and far, far less discouraging. The problems of our little civilization are above my pay grade and seemingly above anyone's pay grade or apparent interest. Target date for closure is roughly Friday, January 22nd.

We will spend the intervening time and considerable time thereafter praying for rain -- a good long, hard rain in Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County and across wide swaths of Pennsylvania -- and we recommend you all do the same.


  1. Your fortitude has been amazing. I will concentrate on enjoying the blog until its retirement date.

  2. I think it goes without saying that your absence from the local blogosphere will leave a huge void in the way of worthwhile investigation and thoughtful non-satirical analysis. And it is highly unlikely that void will be filled by the local press as it stands currently.

    Also, great video selection.

  3. As above, plus
    I hope the Macarthur people know about you.

  4. Anon,

    The MacArthur awards only go to geniuses. Merely being super brilliant might not be enough!


  5. I happen to think that the profile did a really great job of shedding some light on how serious we should take Harris as a candidate. And--honestly--how could McNulty be given a quote like, "I'm going to be a scientist secret agent," and NOT use it?

  6. The Pittsburgh Comet is going to retire

    Well now that's a damn shame. You've been the best news blogger in town since at least the end of the Burgh Report.

  7. We would all miss you. I hope it'll only be an interruption. Please accept my compliments.

    Fill a cup to its brim and it is easily spilled;
    Temper a sword to its hardest and it is easily broken;
    Amass the greatest treasure and it is easily stolen;
    Claim credit and honour and you easily fall;
    Retire once your purpose is achieved - this is natural.
    Tao Te Ching

  8. Bram, I will hate to see you go, what happens to Bram on Saturday, January 23, 2010?

  9. he comes out of the closet

  10. Bram - You will be missed!

  11. Thanks guys. Anons 7:00 and 7:27 are going a little overboard ... why not just award me a Nobel Peace Prize? But it's nice to be appreciated. Besides, unlike the trend in ending blogs, I'm giving the Comet plenty of time to go out with due style.

    Anon 9:49 - Are you the old Pittsburgh Left? Where you been at, man? No, "coming out of the closet" would be no reason to shutter a blog that I can see, but it's good to see my old haters coming out to pay their respects.

  12. Bram, I agree that your blog's become a valuable resource for junkies of local politics. Before you leave, please give us a retrospective, your favorite stories, what surprised you, what you learned on the local political beat.

    You've gone above & beyond, thank you. Happy trails.

  13. somewhere a tiny sweaty tyrant is smiling.

  14. Besides, unlike the trend in ending blogs, I'm giving the Comet plenty of time to go out with due style.

    Glad to hear that.

    Thanks Bram.

  15. As long as you don't become ANY mayor's Chief of Staff! But, Joe Sestak might need a smart strategerist for these parts by then.

    If there's something I've learned via the Comet commentary and source links, it's that a ridiculous amount of dough is spent on political PR/branding campaigns, ie propoganda. I'm sure our own little 7-county Weimar will welcome you into the fold. If just to contain you towards shutting you up.

    BTW, I've worked w/ a couple of Macarthur recipients that are most likely not actual geniuses but are innovative, boundary-pushing and lacking resources. No, Bram isn't in the league of the Grameen Bank founder, but Lee Breuer? Guillermo Gomez-Pena? Sure. Plus, they appear to have a whole grant portion dedicated to media.

  16. My #1 bit of advice to all local advocates, bloggers and otherwise, has always been: "Don't burn out."

    Think fixture.

    To that note, the trend these days is twitter and facebook has been on the rise too.

    I've got my main account, @Rauterkus, where I follow= 2,001 (limit at 2K) and 1,172 follow me; and I've made 4,133 tweets.

    My MR & Running Mates blog is at 9,375 visible posts. A slew of other blogs and wikis are out there to other levels of input.

    Presently my main www sites,, & elect.Rauterkus have been down for a couple of months, getting a re-tooling of sorts. The one day peak was >7000 visitors, years ago. Even my blast list is down from >10,000 contacts -- but it still lives and bucked recently to twist the arm of WTAE TV to post the entire debate #2 onto the web.

    Sending tweets is easier. Go with the flow of the time. Carry your weight.

    Pittsburgh has had a rash of lightweight retirements and too many crow about un-engaged voters. Heavy. so don't go to the dark side of being un-engaged, as in retirement. Just lighten up. Tweet into the sunset.

  17. Re Dok: My son is into fantasy gaming, D&D, etc. So I could take McNulty's take on Dok personally. But I don't. There's nothing wrong with fantasy gaming, and there's nothing wrong with Dok for engaging in it. But you know what? My son's not running for mayor, and given his personality and interests, I don't think he would be a good fit for the job. That doesn't mean he's not a great guy, he just shouldn't be mayor. Same goes for Dok.

    Re: Comet retirement. You've done a great job Bram, but as you probably know, none of us are indispensable. Jeez, seems like only yesterday when we all thought we couldn't like without PittGirl. LOL.

    So the king is (soon) dead. Long live the king! I'm sure another blogger(s) will step up, maybe not in the same fashion, but to the same end.

  18. Anon 9:48 - Exactly. Not sure who it'll be though, could be one of the anonymites. Maybe it's "their turn" again. PS I was pretty rad though even when the Burgh Report was going strong, if I do sayso myself. For a while there I had quite the echo chamber going.

  19. Let me buy you a drink the night of 1/22/10 as a way to say thanks for all your great work.

  20. Dang I like this video...sad...but..damn..i like it.

  21. You'll be missed, but you'll be back. We can't stay away, even if folks (and our families) want us to.

  22. Bram - who will I turn to when I want to know what is going on in burgh politics? Instead of retiring why not take a page from the great Mike Madision himself. While Mike was traveling all over the world he stopped blogging at Pittsblog, but he got back into blogging and even expanded to include additional bloggers. I assume so that Mike didn't feel the pressure to produce a blog post on a regular basis, and if you think about it, that's kinda what The Burgher did by adding you and I to the Burgh Report, before he closed shop. After I moved down to NC I did the same thing, so I still have someone covering the green beat up in the burgh while I figure out what heck is going on in the Research Triangle area.

    The Comet is a great resource and flashlight on all of what is good and bad in Pittsburgh politics - you filled a huge void that was left when the Burgher went silent. You should try adding a few like-minded contributors before closing down shop entirely. Give it some thought.

    And about the Dok thing in the PG - I am pretty sure that Dok is not embarrassed the least bit about the D&D quotes, in fact, I am sure he volunteered that information knowing that they would publish it. He doesn't care if people think he is a geek because, well, he is one. Kudos to him for not giving a damn what other people think about his nerdiness.

  23. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed our blog since running into it a few weeks ago. You'll be missed--

  24. Sorry to hear you're shutting down The Comet.

    Best of luck with your new ventures!

  25. Did you all see this?

    I'm quoted too.