Monday, March 31, 2008

RMS Fair and Balanced

On March 24th Senator Clinton met with Pittsburgh Trib Reporters and the owner of the Trib, the "fair and balanced" Richard Mellon Scaife. In case that sentence doesn't sound absurd to you... Scaife (through several alias organizations) funded the dredging up of whitewater during Bill's presidency.

The story doesn't end there though... RMS (as his friends should call him) wrote a little editorial this morning in which he PRAISED Hillary. WHAT? He said she showed courage by showing up in spite of the negative press from the Trib. He teased toward the end that he'd consider having his paper endorse her for the April 22nd primary, but then decided he wanted to hear Obama first.

Thoughts:
  • Do you think RMS listens to Rush? Is this a rich guys version of operation chaos? Check out Rush's website where he claims victory in Operation Chaos. I have a whole post worth of things to say here, none of them pleasant. I'll just take a few prescription drugs and try to settle down... Maybe another day.
  • Do any democrats care who RMS or the Trib endorses for the DEMOCRATIC primary? If I was on the fence I'd turn to a coin flip LONG before I checked the trib.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Obama at PSU


Barack Obama spoke at PSU in front of 22,000! 22,000!!! That's awesome, a solid showing for my Alma Mater. I missed him by a week, I'll be up there next weekend for a Third Eye Blind concert (I know, I didn't think they would still be around either) and some time at the bars pretending I'm still a student.

YouTubes:

Expect more Obama posts from me over the next few weeks. I have an Obama staffer in my spare room now, so I'll be a little more on top of it then I've had time for. Hey, I have space in the house but no money, so count it as my donation. Can I write off the value? How much is a room on the Southside worth?

Update: The Post-Gazette published a more professional video.

Sunday Sour Kraut

Before I could get dressed for church I had to do some house cleaning around the Internet. Among the great many stories I found interesting enough to pass on, but not interesting enough to write about:
  • Joe Paterno decided not to greet President Clinton when he was at Penn State. Jay Paterno however, is a Barack Obama supporter.
  • An interesting map of the entire country with each county classified as one of 11 categories. Allegheny County is an "Industrial Metropolis."
  • This website is offering Pittsburghers jobs as paid extras in a movie that will be shot in the Mellon arena. Apparently you have to pretend to like the Pens, that doesn't sound too tough.
  • Councilman Dowd is going to propose a piece of legislation to give City Council more influence in one of Pittsburgh's many boards. The article was billed as more of a "battle" between the mayor and council. I don't see why this has to be part of the battle, if council feels that something needs to be addressed here, let them address it. Criticism and/or charter based oversight between the legislative and executive branches of city government is not a waste of time (within reason of course), it's a vital part of how government operates.
  • John McCain and George W. Bush are NOT the same. NOT NOT NOT the same. To imply that they are and constantly show pictures of them hugging is irresponsible. It's practically swift boating. Democrats at the Daily Kos and elsewhere have been playing this relationship up as an effort to play on people's fears of war. How is this any different then the Republicans playing up the fears from 9/11 to pass silly bills like FISA? We (democrats) have the upper hand in this election why not win it with integrity? I'm sure I'll be back to this as the election progresses.
  • Big Mo (~1935-2007) - The Yellow Footed Tortoise from the Pittsburgh Zoo. I can't wait to make it out to the zoo again sometime soon.
  • I just bought a new TV, so I'm really looking forward to catching the Pens Game in HD today!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Sour Kraut

I think I ranted for long enough yesterday, today you'll have to settle for tidbits that I've found:

  • There's a new downtown market. I think this is a VERY good thing for the city. Downtown needs some residents.
  • Chris Briem gives us another good reason to never just scan the news, especially in the burgh.
  • A Senate (PA Senate, not US) panel voted to pass a bill to the floor to append the state constitution to ban gay marriage. Classy use of time ladies and gentlemen, why solve problems when you can curtail civil liberties? Among the locals: Costa voted against it.
  • Oh, the Penguins, the Penguins are GOOD!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Arena, The Hill and The City

So there's an article in CP, hopefully the author won't mind me paraphrasing his point thusly... The negotiations on a CBA aren't going well. It appears that most of the points of contention are around arena jobs for Hill residents and the size of a "Hill Development Fund" to be created in association with the Arena's building. The Penguins are not active (often) in these discussions. The Penguins aren't there because they believe that they've already entered in to a contract with the city and it's the city government's job to get this squared away. The city, by signing the contract did the following:
  • "gave up their leverage"
  • Established a position of "complicity with the owners of the Penguins."
  • Failed "to support the community against these billionaires"

Are there valid points in this article? ABSOLUTELY. I believe the hill should get everything it can out of this agreement. I believe that this arena should not be built unless it makes the hill a better place. I think it is unfortunate that the Penguins are not directly involved. However, I think this article brushes by several key points:

  1. Mario Lemieux (for the most part) = "the Penguins." They're represented in this article as some no faced organization that has never done anything for the city. Mario rescued the team from a bankruptcy that would have resulted in the teams sale and more then likely departure for a larger market. He also has now payed back EVERY creditor 100% of what they were owed. Everyone, that is, except himself. He received only 66% of what he was owed in back salaries. Also, he's not poor, but he's not a billionaire.
  2. The mayor, the county and the governor had to act fast to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The CBA was going to take time to write. If Mayor Ravenstahl had said "wait I won't sign off on the contract till we reach a CBA with hill leaders." The Kansas City Penguins would not contribute anything but a decaying arena to the Hill District. In the agreement "The Penguins" (Lemieux) again benefit the city by staying here in spite of Kansas Cities offer, which was potentially more lucrative then the one they got from us.
  3. The agreement that the Pens signed with the city DOES specify exactly how much the team owes. If the city wants to give away anything else in these CBA negotiations it can... but the city is paying the bills.
  4. The mayor is the mayor, a CBA is necessary to avoid a lawsuit by leaders of the Hill District but the city government could proceed without a CBA if it chooses. (I think I'm right on this, can someone back me up?)

I propose we all limit our rhetoric here and try to work something out. To the Hill Leaders I would point out, "The city is doing the honorable thing by seeking a CBA and that without the 'Penguins' that you villanize there wouldn't be any excess jobs and money to negotiate about. To the Penguins I would point out, "Playoff revenues are on their way, I know you don't have to, but why not send someone to the table with a few bucks in his pocket to hand out?"

  • Oh, and on the other Hill, the Polish One... They're going green. Interesting story, surprised there's not more news about it. A quick Google search netted nothing but the Blurgh (the blog this news comes from).
  • The new Arena DOES look like a Home Depot.

Crickets

I hear crickets in the Pittsburgh Blog World this morning... I think everybody broke their keyboard responding to the Vehicular War of 2008.

The only thing I see worth noting, Zach Duke had his last start of the spring. Finishing with an ERA of 3.4.

"I'm determined not to be optimistic this year, we're going to be terrible." I'm going in to the corner to say that 94 times (one for each loss last year). So as to avoid the same disappointment I suffer every single April.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fight part 2

It appears I posted a little early, details of the fight were still shaking out...

Rather then be the 5th person to recount the same news stories, I'll point you to the other blogs and their tales of heroes and demons, men and boys (and other things, as the mayor's "masculinity" was challenged).
  • The Pittsburgh Comet has a tale of tri-tipped sai daggers and the potential back and forth massacring of budgets that we may face.
  • The Burgher at the burgh report has been known to have his problems with the "Boy Mayor." He has emphasized his favorite parts of the story in not 1, not 2 but 3 posts about this already.
  • The Pist-Gazette has detailed instructions on how to Lie Like Luke
  • Pitt Girl reminds us that this is the 5th in a series of wars conducted by our hawkish Mayor.

If there was other news last night, nobody saw it. Although Chris Briem reports that 8.5% of riders in the entire PAT system. Interesting...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

FIGHT!

I'm not going to try rehash the whole argument here, but here's the 10 second time line as I understand it:

  1. City Council was set to review a proposal to limit the number of "take home" vehicles available for city officials from 59 to 29, as dictated by the Act 47 Plan.
  2. Mayor Ravenstahl has a conversation with Councilman Kraus at a fund raiser where he informs Kraus of his opinion that if council limits spending based on Act 47 then they should look at their own spending in relation to Act 47. Just how cordial this conversation was is unclear.
  3. Council votes to indeed cut the number of take home vehicles 5-3.
  4. Councilman Motznik introduces a bill that would slash Council's budget and staff.
  5. Councilman Kraus claims that Motznik's resolution is consistent with the in his face threat that Ravenstahl made at the aforementioned fund raiser.
  6. Councilman Motznik says he heard the statement and it wasn't a threat.
  7. Councilman Kraus says "liar liar pants on fire."
  8. Mayor Ravenstahl says No, you're the liar."

2-8 are in this post-gazette article

Thoughts:
  • Can Council and the Mayor's mother come and pick them up before someone throws a tantrum?
  • Ravenstahl, then a member of council, voted to approve the Act 47 plan. Although apparently only because it "would be approved anyway."
  • Why do 59 city employees have "take home" cars? If Luke wants to keep them I'd like to see a list of who has them and why.
  • In neither of the above articles is there a single quote from either side that starts, "I think we should do this because..." or "I voted against this because of X vital city function facilitated by these cars." The closest anyone came to a substantive opinion was Councilperson Harris arguing against an amendment that would eliminate reimbursement for councilpersons' mileage.
  • A humorous note in the article on Act 47 they point out that Twanda Carlisle opposed the Act 47 plan. Now why would she want to limit city spending?

Pittsburgh's Problems According to Jim

So, it took a couple days for it to trickle through the blogosphere to me, but I have now read and pondered, Jim Marczak's Opinion 250. I work in IT and can tell you for sure that there's a lot of room for competent foreigners in the industry (and probably other ones as well). I can understand the emotional argument that "they'll take our jobs," I can. However, what's good for the economy, is good for 99% of Americans and when you consider what is good for the economy you need numbers not emotions. The numbers say H1-B Visas and Outsourcing are good for the economy. It takes a substantial investment (many thousands of dollars) to process the paperwork for an H1-B and you have to show that there aren't any Americans who can do the job. I agree that it should be harder to hire a foreigner then an American, but isn't that enough hoops to jump through? Why have an arbitrary cap on the number of visas?

That being said, so far this year many Democrats have expressed their interest in shutting down our borders economically (see the NAFTA campaign fiasco). I sincerely hope Jim's article made a few Burghers aware that allowing more foreigners inside our borders would be GOOD for us, but I doubt it. In this world of patriotic headlines without substantive stories "They Took Our Jobs" crushes sound macroeconomics every time.

Oh, one other point on this, if we don't allow foreign laborers (skilled or not) in to our tax system then who's going to pay for my baby boomer parents' medicare? If there's a few enterprising young Europeans or Asians that want to help out with that, I'm happy to let them.

Other noteworthy clippings from my morning tour of cyber space:
  • Awwww... Bill Cosby got CMU a puppy, anyone else confused?
  • Penn State received $15.3 Million in Congressional Earmarks. I'm not a fan of ear marks at all, but unfortunately it's how Washington works right now, so get while the getting is good.
  • The Fed lowered rates to 2.75%... I'm waiting to refinance my house when the banks have to pay me.
  • 10 Reasons to love the Bucs - Good stuff.
  • There was something about the Mayor calling the police chief because the officers at Calico Jack's on St. Patty's Day (where the mayor was celebrating) weren't wearing their hats. I have to be honest, I don't read the Trib, so I don't know how seriously to take the "Whispers" section.
  • Interesting note from The Blurgh about San Diegoins or San Diegoites or San Diegoers (spell check said they are all wrong) trying to Party Like it's Pittsburgh

Monday, March 24, 2008

In Case You Didn't Notice...

Touchdown!!!

I'm not normally a hockey fan until the playoffs start (literally better then half the teams make the playoffs, so why bother with a regular season?). This year is an exception though, the Pens are not just good, they're fun to watch. Seriously, even if your not a sports fan you have to try a game. They're young, they're excited and they are playing out of their minds.

Frickin Cool

So far so good on the no newspapers thing. Though I did sneak a glance at the post-gazette yesterday and noticed this interesting piece about just how screwed up politics are in my native Mt. Lebo.

The hunt for better news and information through blogs registered one HUGE victory that more then makes up for it's failure to keep track of little old Lebo. About a month ago I went through the process of filling out my absentee ballot form for the upcoming primary. A friend of mine asked me to help him through the process too. I gave him the form and he asked me an interesting question, "What district am I?" That proved harder to determine then you might think.

A week or so later I noticed a post by Chris (not Sid) Briem on his blog where he had a map of the voting districts. I commented to ask if he had a good map with the districts overlayed on a street map, so I could find out what district my friend lives in. Chris didn't have such a map, but the man is not easily deterred, actually producing a google maps overlay!!! He discusses the overlay in this post. It loads slowly, but it's worth the wait.

I take two lessons from this. First, Chris Briem rules. Second, there is a lot of power in using the blogosphere as a collaborative organ for digesting and creating information. I think there will always be a need for payed journalists, I just think we need to find a way to integrate the worlds to create a more optimized way to distribute information. I know, this is vague, but I'm still forming opinions on how to do this.

Related Readings to Think On:
  • Al Gore's Assault on Reason - He talks extensively (between ridiculously long whiny rants about how he would have been a better president then GWB) about how one way media platforms (primarily TV) have kept the average American from being an active participant in the information age. It's a good read, though there are entire chapters that are skipable.
  • An interesting post from Jim Russell (another long-time Burgh Blogger) on the starting of a regional newspaper and whether or not a regional newspaper has a place in the transition to "new media."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blogs Only

Lately I've been coming across more and more good blogs, particularly in Pittsburgh (which is what I care about most). With this in mind, I'm going to take a brave step. I'm going to give up newspapers for a few weeks and see how well I can survive on blogs alone.

The blog roll you see to your right, are the blogs I will follow. I think my only real hole is a good national news based blog. I'll keep an eye open for such a blog and would be happy to take suggestions. I know this could be quickly fixed by latching on to an rss feed from a news source, but I want to keep it to blogs alone.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pittsburgh - The Story of an American City


I just found this book, though I'm sure more avid readers have been aware of it for a long time. There are several well thought out historical essays including one by David L. Lawrence himself. Additionally, there are a ton of really interesting pictures. Some of my favorite pictures...
  • Page 222 "The Smithfield Street Bridge at Rush Hour" - of course in 1890s that meant several horse drawn carriages coming across the river.
  • Page 249 "The Pirates in 1983" - Handle bar mustaches on baseball players, where have the good old days gone?
  • Page 62 Plan of the city in 1795 - This plan of the city shows the two old ponds in downtown (since covered up) and the sand bar in the Monongahela where they planned to grow buckwheat.
  • Page 600 "The New Subway" - I like it because it shows the old trolley cars running through the tunnels.
  • Page 296 "South Side" - The steal furnaces running at the J & L plant. This is currently the Southside Works.
  • Page 354-361 "The Flood of 1936" - You have to see it to believe it.

There are many other beautiful and historically interesting pictures as well as a magnificently detailed timeline at the end of the book. I found it on Amazon for only $13.57.

I'm back...

The last several times I started blogging, I was trying too hard. I had a grandiose vision of being this voice for improving Pittsburgh and for social and economic justice here. As it turns out, There is no need for that... Pittsburgh is blessed with some very skilled bloggers and you can count on them for the news and commentary that keeps local government (and sports team management) honest.

I'm back (in my third start as a blogger) to simply point things out when I think I have an opinion worth listening to, a story worth telling or even a joke you haven't heard.

Enjoy,

Burgher Jon