Friday, January 26, 2007

Declaration of Principle

The Pittsburgh Comet will be the organ of no party or clique, but will honestly endeavor to be the exponent of what its conductors believe to be the Spirit of Pittsburgh. It will deal frankly and in good humor with persons and with parties, endeavoring always to keep in view that moral element which transcends all persons and parties, and which alone makes the basis of a true and lasting prosperity. It will not rank itself with any sect of anties: but with that body of men and women which is in favor of Freedom, Harmony, Civic Progress, and Honor, whether public or private.

Cribbed in substantial portion from The Atlantic Monthly, h/t Andrew Sullivan.

Thank you for joining us. See you on Sunday.


We at the Comet respect the authoritah of Comedy Central. So we pass along this rumor, now with alleged-multiple-blind-sourcing, from their blog:

Vice President Cheney is stepping down. Condoleeza Rice is stepping up. And so, she is weighing a presidential bid in 2008 after all.

Comedy Central's blog previously broke the Rumsfeld resignation, and they sound deadly serious about this one.

You heard it there, first. Because of us.

What Is With That Guy?

Yesterday we saw a P-G Perspectives piece by Eloise McDonald, president of the Oak Hill Residents' Council. She argued against switching Oak Hill developers mid-stream, by awarding the contract for higher-end Phase II development to different interests than those already responsible for lower-income Phase I.

Her rationale was that without access to the Phase II payoff, the Phase I developer would be unable to maintain their property over time. The original plan was a mixed-income, sustainable community, but this new scheme, she claimed, would result in segregated haves and have-nots.

A fine, cogent argument, we thought. Oh, this is how she framed it:

"If we change developers, as housing authority Chairman Dennis Regan has demanded, the current Oak Hill community will be permanently locked into a low-income existence."

That was yesterday. We learn today from the P-G that Dennis Regan quit the Housing Authority. Yesterday.

We thought we had heard somewhere, "That man no longer works for the city." Today's article, in fairness, has Authority Executive Director Meachem assuring us, "He hasn't been involved in any [authority] activities since the time the mayor suspended him. None. Zero."

Still, this brings a new kind of significance to Ms. McDonald's pointed urge that we "follow the money" to see who benefits from switching Oak Hill developers.

Amazingly, Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle opined that Regan's resignation from the housing authority "comes on a sad note, because I thought he was doing a wonderful job."

What Hath Redd-Up Wraught?

Clearly, there's an arms race afoot as to who's tougher on bad landlords.

The P-G's Rich Lord today reports on Councilman Bill Peduto's plan to focus on three small, troublesome student housing zones in and around Oakland. He would require owners of those properties earn a "Certificate of Livability," or cease charging rent.

John Kostelac of the Pennsylvania Landlord Legal Defense Fund claims that singling-out those three zones is illegal and unconstitutional.

Yesterday, Lord wrote of Mayor Ravenstahl's proposed "fight-blight toolbox" for compelling owners to do something about vacant properties.

When some property owners warned a growing "anti-landlord climate" could drive them away, the Mayor replied, "Those that don't comply with the regulations, quite frankly, we don't need them in our community."

Absentee, negligent, "slumlords" are an easy target: voters see the problem, understand it, and have little sympathy. The problem in crafting any solutions is enforcement over time, which means money and follow-through.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Peduto Getting Younger by the Minute

Do you get spam from the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters? So do we. Here's an item that grabbed our attention:

Three (3) members of its Executive Committee are stepping down to work on the Peduto campaign. (Press release) That's 20%.

We are already familiar with campaign manager Matt Merriman-Preston, of Chelsea Wagner renown.

He is joined by Lindsay Patross, co-founder of IHeartPgh, finance director for Georgia Berner for Congress, and one of Pittsburgh Magazine's reigning "40 Under 40."

The third is Dan Lavelle, veteran of Councilman Sala Udin's office, which is all we could find on a quick Google search.

Their committee resignations are temporary. The release states, "While Matt, Lindsay and Dan remain committed to the work of the League of Young Voters, we all agree that it would be a conflict of interest to simultaneously serve on the Executive Committee while working as a paid staffer for a political campaign."

We have long puzzled over neautrality issues in regards to the Pgh League of Young Voters. During the mid-term elections, they seemed quite "in the tank" against Republicans. Comet readers are by now familiar with our national politics. Yet we thought an organization in their position wouldn't want to so brazenly alienate young conservatives.

Everybody Loves Michael

Deep, deep, deep within the Rich Lord P-G article on the nomination of Fire Chief Michael Huss as public safety director, we learn this:

"Even Mr. Ravenstahl's mayoral rival, Councilman William Peduto, has previously suggested that Mr. Huss should get the job."

The blurgosphere would have us believe this is the understatement of the century. You know where to look. The Comet reserves judgement.

In this case, we feel an enterprising traditional-media reporter might make some great hay -- substantive hay -- evaluating this notion. Just make certain you have the towing capacity.

Dan-O: On Q

First the substance.

Host Chris Moore allowed county exec Dan Onorato to lead off with news of new airport area development and projects elsewhere. He trumpeted new warehousing, shipping, and transportation capacity. This is actually pretty awesome, since Allegheny County has been soft and softening in the transpo / warehousing and wholesale trade sectors, and we'll need that economic diversity if we're going to become flexible, and attract innovation. (We spent 20 minutes struggling through the Allegheny Places Economic Trends report, so we're experts now!)

On the new Penguins arena, he pledged that not one cent would come from city or county taxes, which was somehow news to the Comet. So we must ask: really? Or just sort of technically?

My fave moment occured during this arena part, on why local taxes are off the table: "First of all, the city is in financial meltdown -- or, ah, was, we're coming out of that..."

He made a decent case for the controversial Mon-Fayette Expressway, allowing that it's only worthwhile if they bother building ramps near all those old mill towns.

He took a beating on buses, of course. He kept reassuring us the County is still writing the same $25 million annual checks to PAT, and stresses this remains the only dedicated funding available. He was also very frank that North Shore Connector could have happened at a more ideal time , but insisted its better than nothing, and reaffirmed his goal to send the "spine-line" out to Oakland, very next thing.

Now on to style.

We wanted to avoid writing a mash note to Dan-O ... but we won't. There's a reason nobody is running against this cat.

Onorato has the ability to be on top of every policy detail, without losing that "I'm a human being" quality. He conveys great excitement and importance about planning and budgetary matters, just like we dissect the Steelers' rushing game. Most importantly, he avoids the habits of glibness and pablum, or of obviously sidestepping questions. Yet he does manage to stay on safe, constructive ground.

Sometimes he gets a little too excited -- he forgot to show sympathy for a desperate transit rider -- so he could still stand to age another 5-10 years. But we are quite bullish indeed on this man's future.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Los Bloggos Officiale!!!

Everybody go check out our own Wired, Progressive, Peoples Candidate's Campaign Blog!

Oh wait ... you can't. You're not invited.

Guess we have to go sit at the reject table with Napoleon, Pedro, and that girl with the topknot.

(h/t Rauterkus: the candidate who never minds if you visit his blog)

We plebes are welcome to visit, which at the moment only provides contact info. And a logo that looks like something Burton Morris might have designed, after he accidentally ran over his own puppy.

Or you can check out, which does not offer contact info, but sure as spit wants to know yours! And graphics ... GRAPHICS ... well ... you guessed it ...

(h/t The suddenly indispensable Bob Mayo)

Strong Medicine

Deep within the extended John Delano interview (here and here), candidate Bill Peduto reveals that The Number One Problem facing our city is UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY.

The Councilman is definitely aware of the challenge he would face getting this across. He is most likely aware of the pitfalls when, and if, voters actually do understand just what he's saying.

Now consider his claim that "My own city council district (Shadyside, Sq. Hill North, Point Breeze, Bloomfield, Friendship, S'Liberty, N & W Oakland) is the hub of the new economy of Western Pennsylvania."

What does this mean? Matt H had a point when he said Bill Peduto is Pittsburgh's answer to Al Gore.

To a certain extent. Unlike the Last Next President of the United States, getting Bill Peduto to forthrightly criticize his opponent is a bit like hauling a Buick out of a tar pit. But at length, Peduto confessed to three instances in which Mr. Luke Ravenstahl seems to have deeply frustrated and upset him:

1. Peduto voted YES on Act 47 Financial Recovery. Ravenstahl voted NO.

2. Peduto has been pushing city-county consolidation. Ravenstahl has been slower, or more cautious, at the very least.

3. Peduto backed Isle of Capri through the bitter end. Ravenstahl jumped ship prematurely, at least in Peduto's description.

The Comet senses that there may be a Unified Field Theory of a difference these indicate in terms of a contrast in governing philosphies, but this will take time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Liveblogging the State of the Union

Yo, yo, yo Mac ... Comet ... People! Thank you for joining us as we trot out this old weblogging saw!

First, a disclaimer. The Comet Workstation is actually not located in the Comet Theater, but rather in the Comet Commissary. And we can't move it, 'cause its up on egg-crates. Since we'll be darting to and fro, you won't quite be provided with liveblogging so much as life-likeblogging. We hope no one accuses us of fraud and deception.

Keep it locked on this post, and refresh. We'll be spending the interim watching footage of John Delano and Bill Peduto (h/t Poplicola) so you don't have to. We will earn points crazy fast!

8:30- Here are the global, non-negotiable rules:

When he mentions 9/11, mushroom clouds, or something happening on "our soil," drink!
When he says "Moving Forward," drink!
When he invents a word (eg insurrectatiable), or a new nonexistent source of clean energy (eg lithium steam), drink!
When He stands to applaud as She remains seated, drink!
When She stands to applaud as He remains seated, take a long, healthy draught!

You may add house rules if you wish; Wonkette has their own, but remember Her Royal Blogging Highness now works for Time. We predict that with these alone, you'll sleep well at night.

9:02 David Brooks says be prepared for "fewer applause lines." I always watch PBS because I like Brooks & Dunn ... I mean Shields & Brooks.

9:06 One of these days, one of the MEN will show up to Congress in a bright, bright red suit.

9:14 All this sucking up to Madame Speaker. I guess he'll take applause where he can get it.

9:16 The suspense is killing me ... HOW is the state of our union????

9:17 You can see it in Nancy's eyes ... how IS the state of our bloody union?

9:18 Ooh, first partisan applause line: "We can do it w/o raising taxes!"

9:20 Huge deficits? No, we wouldn't want our children to have huge deficits. That'd be awful!

9:23 Okay, I realize he gave a State of the Quagmire address two weeks ago, but he's already into the laundry list, and he hasn't even paid lip service to Iraq.

9:26 Affordable Choices Grants: Rendell will love those! More vague healthcare half-measures to fit in with his own!

9:29 So once again, he wants a temporary worker program, but no amnesty. Think it'll woik? It'll take a miracle...

9:31 "Tonight I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal..." MARS, again?

9:33 Oh my stars -- the SERIOUS challenge of global climate change? It sounded like saying the words actually hurt a little.

9:35 "To win the war on terror, we must take the fight to the enemy." Sorry, that staying on the offense question surely has not been settled, not in the way you mean (though at least now we're getting somewhere with our drinking game...)

9:40 Has Hezbollah taken American lives? I could be wrong, but...

9:41 Is it me, or is Hillary wearing a sort of sk8er boi mullet...

9:42 God, even Cheney looks bored with this March of Freedom crap. And like maybe he's gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now...

9:45 That rhetoric about it's not like us to leave our promises unkept yada yada, was well done. Meaningless, but he'll get high marks. So is this new strategy bit -- sigh -- so he'll get the standard S.O.T.U. bumpage.

9:48 He's still committed to victory in Iraq. And preventing extremists from closing in, wreaking chaos, the creation of safe havens. Like it's not already happening. Good thing he sedated us with his health care agenda beforehand.

9:50 "Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure!" No, they voted to strengthen your hand at the UN, whom you proceeded to ignore and defy. They voted to destroy the weapons you guaranteed existed. You provided the failure.

9:53 I think Condi's the only woman in that chamber that could've gotten away with wearing jet black. And with screwing up 9/11.

9:55 Yes, the number of people getting AIDS drugs is skyrocketing. And because you discourage family planning and sex education, that number will keep skyrocketing.

9:57 Wowza, who's that fox behind the Son of the Congo, and to his left?

9:59 Hey, she's Somethin Somethin Clark! Entrepreneur and philanthropist! Tre hottie!

10:02 This guy took a bullet for his buddy, refused medical care, kept firing grenades, and only got a silver star? What do you have to do for gold, rip out bin-Laden's heart with your bare hands?

10:03 That's it, sportsfans. You don't have to go to your home districts, but you can't stay here. Never did find out how the state of our union was going.

10:05 He signs autographs after these things? I hope those don't turn out to be earmarks...

Thank you for joining us! We may do it again sometime, though we feel we may already have seen a shark passing below. Tune in tomorrow for continuing Comet coverage.

"Gonna Fly Now"

Let the record show, we think having 300 people attend one's evening rally, in this weather, way out east in Highland Park, is pretty impressive, and lends some credibility to one's boast that "Folks, we all know that this is the people's campaign." (P-G, Rich Lord)

It would behoove the Comet at this point to provide some real meat, and for that we refer you to declared mayoral candidate Bill Peduto's talk with Larry Reichart on KDKA, where the incumbent regime was critiqued thusly:

1. "Our budget ... doesn't get us out of any financial distress."

2. "Economic development has been slow ... our priorities are backwards."

3. "Investment in our neighborhoods has been slow, and people haven't been brought to the table."

WPXI adds this nugget:

4. "Peduto said if elected he would reopen the city's contract with firefighters and consolidate city and county services."

Now for the fun stuff:

When asked by Larry if Ravenstahl's age and inexperience are issues, Peduto responded no to age, quipping "I wish I was 26," but yes to inexperience, citing his own twenty years of experience, and how he got where is with "hard work and determination..."


"And discipline."

When in doubt, candidate Peduto seems to have appropriated the words Independant, Responsible, and Experience as his go-to soundbites. We will be tracking how often Peduto gets his IRE aroused.

Throughout today's coverage, there was also the sense that Peduto's campaign would be best captured by the slogan, "It's the Neighborhoods, Stupid!"

Except that would be a clear violation of any "clean campaign" pledges that the candidates might, at some point, be invited to accept.

The brass ring for political analysis goes to Morton Coleman, aide to former Mayor Joseph Barr, and current professor emeritus at Pitt, captured by the Trib's Jeremy Boren:

"He will be both the reform candidate, and he'll play the experience card against Ravenstahl ... Peduto is a talented guy, but I think he has an uphill fight."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Continuing Unfortunateness At MacYapper

John McIntire has been fighting the good fight against the Rush Limbaugh / Fox News / Drudge Report machine for over a decade, and it appears he has finally been corrupted by it.

His latest post includes an open plea for more Ravenstahl dirt from his readers, with the vague suggestion that he's heard something juicy. He is not asking for criticism of the Ravenstahl budget, of city services, or of development projects. He wants evidence of frat boy behavior, an overload of testosterone, and immaturity.

Also, since he is done misrepresenting the original Ravenstahl incident -- remember, his claim that Regan was involved? -- he has gone on to misrepresent Ravenstahl's clear misjudgement in denying that incident, once again backed by just enough "truthiness" to inflate the issue. We believe, as most do, that McIntire's account of the denial is shamelessly exaggerated and inaccurate.

McIntire has come to the conclusion that in order for the best candidate to win, that candidate needs to have media surrogates doing the campaign's dirty work: promoting poorly sourced and exaggerated rumors, smearing character, and low name-calling.

He may tell us he's just engaging in "snarkery," but that's what all the Limbaughs and Hannities and Savages of our world do: excuse themselves from fair and civil discourse when it serves their needs.

We believe candidate Bill Peduto when he denies any connection to McIntire's odious campaign. Johnny Mac's not doing his man any favors. If he keeps this up, people will have to start asking Mr. Peduto if he condemns McIntire's ugly, classist rhetoric.

Mr. McIntire, righteous statesmen don't win the way the charlatans do, by taking the Rush / Fox / Drudge path of dirt and distortion. Real statesmen, like the first President Clinton, win by elevating the debate, while making the issues personally relevant to the voters.

I can sense the good left in you, John McIntire. Let go your anger.

Race and Pittsburgh Football

We don't have anything profound to say on the matter, so we'll call this an "open thread."

We just really wanted an excuse to post this picture of el Rushbo sporting a Big Ben jersey while doing the Heisman, currently above-the-fold on his homepage.


D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerl, formerly our own Bishop Wuerl, is being pressured to withhold communion from Catholic legislators who support abortion rights, reports the P-G's Ann Rogers. His response:

"You're talking about a whole different style of pastoral ministry. No."

This became an issue with John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign, and is on its way once again with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"I don't believe Archbishop Wuerl is doing his job," says the Rev. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.

Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, is "appalled that Archbishop Wuerl not only is not going to do anything about this, but has publicly said so."

NBC's Christmas edition of Meet the Press featured a "debate" between Archbishop Wuerl and Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the evangelist Billy Graham. The discussion was extremely friendly, and any differences were very subtle. Both agreed abortion is wrong.

Lotz's message was essentially: "Christ is flesh," and, "Only Jesus can save you."

Wuerl's message was essentially: "God is love," and, "We should listen to what Jesus taught."

Here we go, Pittsburgh, here we go!

On a related note, P-G columnist Ruth Ann Daily today offers some challenging ideas on the shifts underlying abortion politics as science marches onward.

UPDATE: So, we just learned that today is Blog for Choice Day. The theme is "Why Are You Pro-Choice?" I am pro-choice because growing up, my mom told me so. As I progressed through highschool and college, my ladyfans reminded me that it was so. Later, I discovered a sound justification in Roe v Wade:

"This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

On Kelly: More Bumbling by the FBI

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, we will attempt to debunk the dangerous and foolhardy ideas put forth by Pittsburgh's most prominent ultra-conservative.

In an obvious effort to switch terrain, so as to steer clear of Comet criticism (unlikely), or to avoid the phenomenal crisis-at-hand for which he continues to accrue liability (more likely), Jack Kelly spends this week's column on the recent history of domestic counterintelligence.

I'll get you next time, Kelly. Next time!!!

Seriously, this week's offering exposes the flaw in promising to fully critique a Jack Kelly column on the same day it was published, every week. Lacking extensive knowledge of the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 World Trade Center plot, we would have to research these events and the four books he cites by Peter Lance and Bill Gertz. Well played, Mr. Kelly. No longer will the Comet promise same-day debunkery, but rest assured it will always arrive in its own sweet time. You'll just have to stay tuned like everybody else.

We will say those books don't look like serious works of scholarship, but rather like pulp on O.J. Simpson or Natalee Holloway. But you can't judge a book by its cover; maybe the liberal publisher is to blame. Meanwhile, we highlight today's upshot:

The revelations in Mr. Gertz's book make it all the more urgent that responsibility for domestic counterintelligence be removed from the FBI and placed in competent hands.

We sure hope Kelly's not talking about the Pentagon. The culture of the military, though admirable in many ways, is not at all suited to navigate the actors and associations of the domestic theater, and possesses nowhere near the requisite institutional transparency.

If he means the CIA, (didn't we consolidate these?) it's not as though they've been a bumble-free, bullet-proof, slam-dunk of an operation. Maybe that's why he declined to name his alternative intelligence outift. As someone in Jack Kelly's own party once said, "Criticism alone is not a strategy."

Maybe same-day debunkification is possible after all! But no more promises.

Preservation Pittsburgh Defends Ramparts

We've been hearing about this new advocacy group Preservation Pittsburgh for a while now, and we've been wondering when they were going to get around to Fort Pitt.

A P-G piece has Preservation Pittsburgh offering to mediate between the Fort Pitt Preservation Society, on the one side; and on the other (inhale) the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Riverlife Task Force, and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

We wish them luck, but that equation seems way out of balance.

The Comet had intended to only hyperlink the Good Guys, but heck, with the right application of pressure, any one of these parties could come 'round. So here goes:

The P.A. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Riverlife Task Force

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Give 'em what-for! I mean -- be eloquent and respectful!

McIntiregate: Epilogue

WPXI's Rick Earle: You weren't involved in an altercation with the police officer?

Mayor Ravensthal: Absolut--

Earle: You categorically deny that?

Ravenstahl: Absolutely not.

That's it. Once the fiery meteor of McIntire's story entered our atmo-sphere, most of it burned up in a harmless spectacle. The above sniplet from a 3-month old investigative report is all that remained, solid to the core, striking young Luke in the tuchus.

The Comet transcript is in agreement with the one over at TPJs, if you allow their edit of the confusing double-negative in the Mayor's clear denial, and if you allow our emphasis on "categorically" as appropriate. Now then:

1. Some people will view Ravenstahl as a liar, who can never again be trusted with public business.

2. Some people will forgive the lie as a miscalculation, intended to cover-up a meaningless but embarrassing personal incident, which could too easily be exaggerated and lampooned by unscrupulous political enemies.

3. There is no reason to believe that the group represented by #1 will reach anything like critical mass.

4. If your political fortunes are tied directly to either Peduto or Ravenstahl, your brain will make you believe either #1 or #2, respectively, and that anyone who reaches the other conclusion must be stupid or insincere.


The good news for Bill is that people are paying attention. His challenge now is that he has to be for something -- he has to be for something popular -- and he has to be for something popular that Ravenstahl is against.

That's easier said than done. It is Ravenstahl's job to support things that are popular. But it is not impossible.

The kerchief drops tomorrow.

Are You Ready For Some Football?

My very earliest memories of reading a newspaper are of reading the Post-Gazette's Gene Collier. Yesterday's column "New Orleans is the story, not the Saints" reminded me of my good fortune.

In fact, just browse through the recent history of Collier's prose here. A tasty beverage for the first Comet reader who can identify "the kind of player who wants his arm down the dolphin's throat when the game is on the line."