Thursday, December 29, 2005

Death of a Suburb

Levittown, NY, the nation's first suburb, is dying. There are plans afoot to save it: "In the 70's there was the death of the cities, and we're 20 years away from the death of the suburbs. But we can avert that, we can fix the problems and have a renaissance." Build this glitzy thing, add that currently popular type of shopping experience, and everything will be well again. Call it the single-bullet theory for top-down real estate development.

Real Estate is to a large extent about perception rather than quality: cashing in on human vanity and selfishness, the latest trend and favorite stereotypes. Exurbs lure in the middle-class slob and his vain wife with promises of exclusivity, styrofoam Georgian Pediments over the front door, and good schools. Urban areas draw in chic yuppie looking for a trendy 'industrial loft' amidst other trendy, young, sexually active Boho's. How do old-stock suburbs with their small aged (expensive) houses, ageing populations and mediocre schools win this popularity contest? Chances are, they dont.

Levittown does have some natural advantages over newer exurban paradises further out the interstate. Buildings are of better quality, its closer to the city, and existing infrastructure can be repaired at less cost. By providing adequate mass transit, providing a walkable environment, diversifying housing stock and providing government insured home/business improvement mortgages, Levittown might stand a chance. Will the resultant renewal face the same political roadblocks faced in urban areas in the 70's: whitey shouting down diversity of income and race in his neighborhood? Will it ultimately be billions in public and private dollars flushed in another failed government foray into real estate? Will HUD finally be drawn out to the 'burbs to buy out devalued mortgages?

From East Liberty, the whole thing sounds painfully familiar.

Penn DOT's bridge is falling down



Penn DOT knew an overpass spanning Interstate 70 that recently collapsed was structurally deficient, according to the Tribune-Review.

From the Trib:
The overpass was "structurally deficient," and inspectors in March 2004 reported the span was crumbling, said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Gary Hoffman.

Pennsylvania's bridges are in notoriously poor condition. A quarter of all of the state's bridges are rated as "structurally deficient." The national average is 13 percent.

Fixing all state's bridges would cost an estimated $7 billion. Pennsylvania can hardly afford to maintain its crumbling infrastructure, but the state continues to build new roads to the provinces. Like college students with credit cards, lawmakers have used future turnpike toll revenues to underwrite new highway construction.

The Mon Fayette Expressway - a highway that will finally link Pittsburgh to Morgantown and Fayette County (those economic engines!) - will cost an estimated $4 billion (2004). The corresponding debt service could exceed $3 billion, according to an analysis by Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that partnered with several taxpayer advocacy organizations to expose some of the most worthless road projects in the United States.

And to add insult to near-injury...
PennDOT would not provide the results of inspections conducted in March 2004 and in August because the information is not considered a matter of public record, said PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick.

Suck a fat one, Kirkpatrick.

If thats movin up...

Murphy moves out of the mayor's office today, after 12 years of service to the people of Pittsburgh. Bobby O starts next week.

Remember

Don't wake up a fat girl in the morning unless you bring her a snack.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tom Flaherty Looks To Past for Future


Tom Flaherty used his swearing in ceremony as the newest judge at Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to paint a bleak picture for the future of the city he helped destroy. The consummate politician ever eager to find a reporter stupid enough to write about his ranting, Flaherty opened his new career as a judge talking about everything but his new judgeship. I dont blame him. The old maxim of talking about only the things you know applies well here, and Flaherty dont know shit about being a judge. What worries me is that Flaherty, the blowhard rebellious Controller given to commenting on everything and anything, will continue in that capacity as a judge.

"Dateline- PITTSBURGH: Judge Tom Flaherty skipped court today to meet Auditor Jack Wagner for a press conference on the Penguins Arena. Both will outline plans for a new arena that neither has any power to implement. Flaherty promised to yell for the next 4 years, and your coorespondent, Rich Lord, promises to faithfully record his gutter politicking in the Post Gazette."

Here's a question for the Post Gazette: Are you willing to quote anyone in any office when they're commenting on policy, even when it is unrelated to their job? Stop the presses, the President of the Class of '06 at Schenley High School is giving a press conference on the Fire Union Contract! Guess Flaherty isnt going to fade away as easily as I hoped.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

He Shoots and Scores...


Mario Lemieux found a casino operator willing to build an Arena for the Penguins free of charge, provided said casino operator receives a slots license from the Gaming Control Board. They'll even turn the $290M asset over to the Stadium and Exhibition Authority upon completion, granting the city an enormous asset free of charge. It seems, for the first time in the City's history, something might actually be built WITHOUT subsidy. Regional check-toting politicos are dumbfounded... no role for the Grant Street Santa? Turns out government need only provide the right mixture of incentives like slots/liquor licenses, cheap vacant property, good schools & good transit links to make development happen? Too bad for them, its a hell of a lot easier to cut a check than run a good government.

All things considered, this developer is getting quite a deal. The obvious is that slots will probably pay for any arena constructed on site rather quickly. Consider the other factors: The developer is getting 50+ acres of primo real estate on the cusp of the Golden Triangle. If the street grid is reconnected as Lemieux plans, this property is worth well in excess of the $290M investment in the arena. This ain't Fifth/Forbes, folks: for once, the city and the Pens have a shitload of leverage.

Hopefully Lemieux and the city will demand concessions from this casino operator for this stadium. The city and the Pens should be allowed to pick their own development team, determine the site plan for the development, and have strict quality control over the construction process. This town can really push for a quality development, leveraging the value of this slots license to build a solid, TAXABLE asset for this city. For all the expenses we will incur in the coming years, from crime to addiction to poverty, the least we can get is a quality real estate development for the city that throws some green into the city's coffers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pittsburgh Rendell-icans?


Mayor Ed Rendell stunned pundits in the 2002 PA Gubernatorial race, sweeping the Republican suburbs of Philadelphia by touting his cred as Philly's savior. As Mayor of Philadelphia from '92 to '00, Rendell singlehandedly righted Philadelphia's notoriously bankrupt budget, beat back union contracts, and forced new efficiency in government. But the real reason for the "Republicans for Rendell" signs dotting yards from Ardmore to Paoli was Rendell's transformation of Center City and Society Hill. The decrepit neighborhood seemingly transformed overnight from embarrassment to destination, with market ramifications stretching from Washington Bvd in S. Philly to Girard Ave in No-Libs. The Delaware Valley thanked their Mayor by doing the equally unimaginable: voting in a regional bloc for the Mayor of Philadelphia cum Governor of PA.

PNC 3 is a half-baked version of Rendell's Philadelphia miracle. Rendell spent the last 4 years focusing on slots and property tax reform, as Pittsburgh watched its city undergo draconian cuts to public services. As the ship sank, State legislators tried to line their own pockets in the notorious pay-grab. As Russell Nigro found out, this region is pissed off. Most Pittsburgher's dont like ANY state government right now, so the titular head of said government needs a BIG win. Take one huge bank, add millions in state subsidy, and you have a 5th Avenue redevelopment plan. If ya can't earn their love, Eddie, buy it.

Development cycles take quite a bit of time, but the 200k people who work downtown will notice the bulldozers on Liberty and 5th. The economic ramifications of this development will likely not be felt until Rendell's second term expires, at which point he'll be eyeing the White House or Congress. Its a risky thing to gamble one's election victories on soft-market real-estate development: will PNC actually spur development on 5th/Forbes; are we flooding the downtown market with a surplus of Condo developments (500 units this year); will the impact spread beyond that block? This is quite a gamble to get Pittsburghers to make Rendell our Mayor: a real eggs-in-one-basket scenario. Hopefully he mixes this agenda with some pro-active leadership on the City's budget crisis.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Rustic"


Its a York County Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Jim Crow" Metcalfe Says "Get Out" to Black Vote


Promising to protect the integrity of voting in Pennsylvania, Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) wants to restrict the right of an ex-convict to vote. The legislation Metcalfe proposes restricts ex-con's from voting during the term of their probation, even after they are released. This disporportionally affects urban communities, particularly African American ones, where statistics show youth are sent to prision rather than College. Another neat fact about this law... it requires an ID card of some form at the poll. Unlike suburban districts like Metcalfe's, many people urban neighborhoods dont drive and never had a need for a driver's licence or ID card. The only thing missing from Metcalfe's law is a provision for a poll tax.

Why would Daryl Metcalfe of Cranberry Township take such an interest in the voting integrity of poor, urban, predominantly black districts? Gerrymandering in 2000 solidified Republican majorities in Congress and the state house, but Republicans have no defense against voters in state-wide elections. In 2004, ACORN and the Urban League registered and mobilized thousands of urban voters to the detriment of Mr. Bush. Metcalfe doubtless has an eye towards 2006, where Rick Santorum faces an uphill battle against Robert Casey. Casey will doubtless benefit from the urban vote.

As if to highlight just how stupid Metcalfe is, Rendell will doubtless veto this legislation, leaving Republicans explaining to the black voter why they work so hard to supress the urban vote and Democrats crowing about another victory for Civil Rights. Metcalfe really hit a home run with this: not only is it bad legislation, its bad politics. I would say something about how disgustingly immoral and undemocratic such a transparent attempt at voter supression is, but such moral judgements have ironically little standing with good, God-Fearing men like Daryl Metcalfe.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Just War

In 1941, the world was bleeding, dark and dangerous: Pearl Harbor, the London Blitz, and the occupation of France, Poland and China by Fascist regimes. The United States military was woefully unprepared to protect this nation, let alone our allies, from the confident, organized forces of Fascism. Freedom, it seemed, was dead.

Yet before the assembled houses of Congress stood a resolute Franklin D. Roosevelt, outlining the differences between Fascism and Freedom. Roosevelt told Congress, told the Nazis, told the world that
America's inherent moral foundation, our belief in Freedom and Humanity, would carry America to victory over Fascism. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms became a symbol of American idealism. Seven bloody years later on December 10th, Eleanor Roosevelt would sign the first ever International Declaration of Human Rights, enshrining her husband's vision in International Law and lying the first foundations to the benevolent Pax Americana.

The 57 years since Elanor Roosevelt signed the IDHR has been the longest period of peace and prosperity the world has ever known. In America's world, war is rare, poverty and disease fast receeding, and Democracy spreading like wildfire. How then have the Europeans become the inheritors and guarantors of our legacy? On the 57th anniversary of the IDHR, Condi lobbies to protect America's Freedom to Torture: Abu Grahib and Guantanamo representing her vision for America. 57 years to the day, China has undertaken one of the bloodiest supressions of its own population since Tiananmen Square, and I seriously doubt we will respond in any tangible manner. Looking at the Machivellian nations that twice sparked Worldwide War, do we differ? Is this a truly Orwellian Animal Farm moment, where the animals eventually can't distinguish between the pigs and the men?

America's strength has never stood on its ability to inspire fear: only a Fascist and a Criminal lives by the sword. America's strength lies in its ability to inspire hope in mankind. A hope that drives men to live, to fight, to secure and safeguard freedom for himself, his neighbor and his nation.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

60+ Years of Anger


For those desperately missing their Maureen Dowd fix since the NY Times made her "Premium Content," the Top 5 e-mailed articles of the day included a little anti-war gem for the disaffected liberal.

Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, a virulently anti-American British author, took the opportunity of his acceptance speech to rail against American Imperialism post-WWII. Apparently not appreciative of the benevolent peace and prosperity enjoyed under Pax Americana, he claimed that US abuses were as egregious as those of our Soviet counterparts, simply not as well documented. Elated lefties took this opportunity to read the article, and then e-mail it to all of their friends, whom had doubtlessly already read it and e-mailed it to their friends, whom had doubtlessly already read it and...

Harold Pinter railed that Americans are fat, lazy doupes who mindlessly eat the propagandist slop fed to them by the government. Fighting back a yawn, I'm simply surprised he has managed to stay this angry for over 60 years.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Collegiate Football Kicker Scores City Council Presidency


As if Bobby O'Connor weren't enough, Pittsburgh City Council elected Luke Ravenstahl as leader of their austere body. With minds like O'Connor and Ravenstahl at the helm, Pittsburgh can expect the Ship of State to finally be steered into calmer waters...

Ravenstahl took the podium to accept the position of President, evidencing his intense bout with diarrhea with little more show than a look of intense concentration. 45 minutes later, his first act as council president was to authorize a payraise for
city janitorial staff.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

All Aboard

This morning I made plans to take a train from Pittsburgh to State College. Amazingly enough, Amtrak's optimistic schedule has promised to provide me safe passage to the State College area in 2 1/2 hours for only $20. Though no bullet train, I must admit that I was impressed... that was, until I realized the train only provides service to Tyrone, PA, not State College.

Tyrone, a forgotten hamlet at an old Pennsy Railroad junction, is 32 miles from State College. Amtrak follows lines drawn by Pennsy in 1850, servicing Altoona railyards and Cambria Steel in Johnstown. Amtrak continues on Pennsy's original 19th century route at Tyrone, bypassing what the then insignificant, rural academic enclave at State College. That insignificant enclave is now North-Central Pennsylvania's fastest growing economy, while population washes out of Altoona, Johnstown and Tyrone with all the ferocity of the Conemaugh River through a burst dam.

Because of struggling towns like Johnstown, and booming towns like State College, Pennsylvania has a highly dispersed population without access to transit. Amtrak needs passenger-dedicated lines that connect to Central PA's principle cities and towns, while providing swift east-west service to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. If it were possible to cross the state by train in 3 hours, people might opt to take the train cross-state. As a result of this thru-traffic, struggling markets like Johnstown might benefit from increased, reliable transit access. Furthermore, such service would connect these towns to Philadelphia & Pittsburgh Intl' in the same way the Eastern Corridor provides Hartford, CT and Providence, RI with access to Logan, JFK and LaGuardia.

Pennsylvania is historically and geographically responsible for providing for trans-Appalachian travel: a responsibility that has yielded great benefits in the past. With air travel overburdened at the largest airports, cost prohibitive at smallest, and time consuming at all, we should look to providing cost-effective, reliable transit options statewide.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Little Too Nice

Gentrification has long been a word people not-so in the know used to discuss rising urban markets and its effects on the poor folk living in the path of development. Cue bad background music, enter clutch of 'concerned' 20-somethings sipping martinis.

Vodka Martini w/ Lemon: "Well, they are just displacing the poor for the rich, and I think its disgusting. Rich developers just seizing land like that, and damned be those who called that neighborhood home!"

Shaken, Not Stirred: "Really, it is repulsive. Hey, I really enjoyed talking with you, and was wondering if I could get your phone number so we could meet up again sometime."


Philadelphia has been facing a unique front on this war in the Gray's Ferry section of South Philadelphia. Long a ghetto in the shadow of the Philadelphia Gas Works /Sunoco Refinery, Grays Ferry wasnt a shoe-in for successful real-estate development. A recent conversion of nasty barracks & towers public housing into something resembling a neighborhood has changed all that. Nearby residents look on with envious eyes, and Philly's martini-set are talking about the big G in Gray's Ferry: Gentrification.

Frankly, gentrification isnt all that bad of a thing, as long as it doesnt cut existing residents out. I cant say or see how things will proceed in Gray's Ferry... but shit, the place has no where to go but up.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The first and second seal have been broken

Is the administration trying to lose this war? I can no longer tell.

And in other news of the weird...the Guvernator named his predecessor's cabinet secretary as chief of staff. The appointment of a Democrat is sure to enrage the GOP. Hey Pat Roberston, did you know she's also a gay, abortion-rights activist?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Building Up, Tearing Down

This morning's DUQ local news report reported Councilman Bill Peduto proposed a bill limiting construction near residential areas to between 10 PM and 6 AM. Peduto, whose principled leadership dampened the panties of hundreds of youthful MoveOn.org activists, thinks his constituents are unduly impacted by "...all the construction going on in the East End!" Standard sort of take from a City Council myopically focused on residents and skeptical of businesses: "You can make money here, just play by our rules."

I agree with Peduto that we should make demands of those looking to build in Pittsburgh, but councilmen like Peduto have had hundreds of equally great ideas over the past 250 years of our city's existence. The city has hundreds of small (often onerous) rules governing design review, use of funds, labor costs, minority participation, sewer/water line taps, lead paint remediation, historic district designations, material uses, placement of dumpsters, placement of air conditioners, types of landscaping material, etc. Rules are enforced by unresponsive, jaded bureaucrats who often dont know the rules, but are willing to fine for what they perceive as a violation. The "you need to play by our rules," isnt a bad theory unless you have too many god damned rules to play by, you enforce them haphazardly and disporportionately, and you dont help businesses follow them. Time is money, and rules are time. Do the math, and you see why construction is going to Wexford.

Peduto took a strong stand against suburban sprawl in the election, playing rock-star to his lefty supporters. If he really wants to tackle the issue of suburban sprawl, he should be trying to figure out how to make the city business friendly. But then again, how sexy is remedying a charged problem like sprawl with pro-business functionality. Something tells me our political rock-star won't dampen too many panties in the MoveOn.org movement with a pro-business bent.

Construction Ruins a Good Nite's Sleep

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sheriff, Accomplice to Murder, Kingpin

In the grand tradition of Party cronyism, Allegheny County Democratic Committee helped carry two of its best and brightest in the last election. Pete DeFazio and Tom Flaherty both won their respective seats for Sheriff and Judge, instantly transforming two of the most corrupt, inept bastards in county politics into Guardians of Justice. Good Controller, Good Judge? eh.

But today the scythe passes a bit closer to the neck of dirtbag Pete DeFazio, as his right hand man is led downtown in shackles. Chief Dennis Skosnik, pictured right, was brought in on "...Bribery, Case Fixing and Abuse of Power." As the cancerous abuse that wracks the sheriff's office becomes increasingly apparent, maybe Rich Fitzgerald will drop his "principled opposition" to eliminating this essentially worthless office. Fortunately, the trial is being brought in Federal Court: Judge Tom Flaherty won't have the opportunity to preside, and Sheriff Pete DeFazio won't be given the opportunity to lead his comerade to his cell.


The Face of Justice in Allegheny County
Former Chief Sheriff Skosnik

Friday, November 11, 2005

France in Flames

France and America share precious little common ground in our approaches to race and poverty. The famed French Architect Le Corbusier introduced the 20 story ghetto-tower and resultant urban rot to America in the 1960's. French and American approaches to poverty there diverge.

An egalitarian wave of 1960's American optimism built tower in the hearts of our greatest cities. The 21st century wave has struggled to reintegrate those former tower residents back into contextual neighborhoods. We have struggled to provide employment through affirmative action, and urban gentrification has sparked policies allowing poor residents to benefit from appreciating property values. We have addressed issues of racism head-on, and we have worked to identify points of improvement. Our cities are growing wealthy, multi-cultural and multi-racial without flashpoints of fury. Our efforts are far from perfect, but our progress incredible.

France opted to keep the great unwashed at arm's length, isolating the poor in suburban tower-parks. There they remained, forgotten until this month. America prospers, France burns. The reasons for the flash of fury in France's ghettoized pockets of poverty are simple: abnormally high unemployment, resultant low standards of living, and a resultant lack of hope. The noxious racist Frenchman himself, who heretofore only ruined dinner party with his unbearable arrogance, was enough of a spark to blow this powder keg of societal ills to high heaven. Head firmly planted in the sand, Frenchie insists there is no reason to consider race: Societie, Egalitie & Fraternitie is enough to ensure a level playing field.

The short of it is, this isnt going away anytime soon. Though our approaches are different, the results of indifference have always been the same. The United States is still rocked with periodic racial unrest 50 years after Rosa Parks stood her ground in Montgomery, Alabama. France has a long way to go.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Skunked

First game of cribbage... my oponent was skunked.

I know this is newsworthy... brush up on your cribbage skills dear brother. I will see you at christmas.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Good news!

My sister told me that my Grandma is now doing better, completely lucid.

Dad, you better call me soon!

Diane Johnson

On this day, as I prepare to commence with some research, my thoughts are with my grandmother, who lies ill in the hospital unconscious after suffering the latest of three bone-breaking falls in less than two years. I’m not sure that she will recover, and having seen the pain the first two put her in, coupled with dialysis, I’m not sure she wants to. Whatever she wants, I hope she receives.

I spoke to my grandmother a couple days before she fell, and she seemed in good spirits, a joy to speak with as usual, being largely more knowledgeable and likely smarter than me. And then I received a package of clothes from her a day or two after my dad told me she fell, which felt sort of eerie. Our family’s matriarch may soon pass away, but she accomplished more than most will in a lifetime. She helped my grandfather build an oil pipe company employing over 140 people, went to college at 40 years old, buoyed by the feminist revolution, raised three children, and kept my grandfather in line. Diane Seelye Johnson doesn’t put up with any crap.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Zombie Zombie Zombie

I took two Benadryls this morning and felt like a zombie.

Then I drank two cups of coffee.

Still zombie.

Then Maura gave me some Advil with Pseudoephedrine.

Now I'm a twitchy zombie.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


This is part of my view of which you are also jealous. Posted by Picasa

This is my office of which you are jealous. Posted by Picasa

This is me at my new weight in my new office with my new tie in the PR wing. I had green tea that day. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 28, 2005

The 'I' stands for "Indicted"

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff, has been indicted by the 1920s social gadfly, author, and prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

For those of you keeping score at home: Iraq, Katrina, indictments, and a flawed Supreme Court nominee who would have received deeper consideration from the American Idol judiciary than the US Senate.

Can life get any worse for our beleagured heroes in the White House? Maybe Bush will employ this tactic to fight back against the "liberal media."

This entry wouldn't be complete without an adorable portrait of our nation's foremost hatchetman.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Post Gazette turns GOP Rag!

The Post Gazette endorsed a record number of Republicans over the past week, leaving me to wonder if Tony Norman's recent departure for Michigan finally tilted the Editorial Board towards a position of Objectivity... or whether the PG is finally as disgusted as the rest of us.

The reformist tone in the Post Gazette's endorsement of Doug Price & Geneva McKee for County Council, and Bob Hillen for City Council shows that since the advent of Jim Roddey's Republican reformist platform, moderate Republicans have fully assumed the progressive mantle in Allegheny County. Democrats, fresh from endorsing Tom Flaherty for judge, wonder why they are seen as stale and counter-productive. Fighting to give Allegheny County what it really needs (3 more Costas, 2 DeFazios and an O'Connor), they should probably do a gut-check to figure out why the PG & the voters are less than grateful.

Pennsylvania voters are disgusted with failure and corruption at every level of government right now, and standing up for business as ususal is a damned good way to lose. Its not enough to claim to be the party of labor, or the anti-Bush party, or the heretofore progressive party in the same election cycle as the state pay-grab, the county assessment boondoggle & the city fiscal meltdown. Someone needed to stand for change, and the County GOP is up to the task.

Council V. Pres. Charles Martoni (District 8) and challenger Michael Finnerty (District 4) were aptly pinned as party lap-dogs in the PG's endorsement of their opponents. The Post Gazette cited both candidates' opposition to necessary reforms and support for the corruption plagued Sheriff and Treasurer's offices. Bob Hillen's bid for City Council is one hell of an uphill battle; but in a district that sent Republican Michael Diven to the state house, Motznik might have to fight for his seat. For once, I hope voters take a healthy look at the PG's endorsements. Having got the reform religion, it would be a shame to reject good advice from the PG... especially since it was heretofore so preciously rare.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Swallow you, swallow me


It's not quite Friday porn, but it's funny enough to be blogged.

Friday, October 21, 2005

sell-out?

"From: [New Mexico]
Sent:
Tuesday, October 12, 2005 2:14 PM

To: Frank@docdel.com
Subject: So
you're an...Entrepreneur?


I wonder how much money you rake in from those
exhibits. If you took people's secrets as seriously as you claim to, surely
you'd donate your profits to anti-suicide charities, rape abuse centers and the
like...I can't help but pose a query as to the exploitation of others' guilt for
your own financial gain. -New Mexico"

www.postsecret.com

So what I really want to know is... why is it a crime for someone to reap
financial rewards from their art? I don't at all consider the exhibits to be an exploitation of others' guilt. It is not as if the site is presented as anything other than an "art project" and art typically goes into exhibits. I think it is a very nice piece and the contributors willingly contribute their posts for the presented purpose.

But this actually brings an interesting point to my mind. Whenever a not-so-well known artist (especially in music and film) becomes well known and therefore starts to make a sizable profit, he or she becomes a "sell-out"... what does that mean, exactly? I mean, of course, I would be lieing to say it doesn't make me a tad jealous that my talents will not make me millions despite my hard work, but good for the person who can make a lot of money for their talents. I don't think that makes them a sell-out. People who claim as such are jealous and dumb.

Friday, October 14, 2005

PNC Bank Sucks

What I Want, What I Want

I want a bank that doesn't punish me for supporting the home team. PNC of the eponymous baseball diamond on the North Shore (Side) will now charge Pirates fans $10 a year for the privilege of carrying a PNC Park check card. As if it wasn't humiliating enough to be known as a Pirates fan every time I bust out the plastic, now my bank wants me to pay for it, too.

Memo to Jim Rohr: I'm going take the big, blue microphone and stick it up your posterior.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

John Perzel Hounded for Payraise


John Perzel, pictured surrounded by pigs and dollar bills, defended his massive payraise. The Tribune Review and the Post Gazette report he lied to the students about the limo he rode to the event. But to a legislator prone to lying, Pennsylvanians less than surprised.

Smurfs, 16 Kids, and Johnny's in the Closet



UNICEF launched a new ad campaign aimed at quelling the historically warlike instincts of Belgian. Like any nation wedged between the pacific borders of France and Germany over the last 200 years, Belgium surely needs warned against the maurading nature of mankind. UNICEF's campaign, featuring the effects of warfare on the village of the Smurfs, was doubtless planned to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Waterloo wherein Belgium played its historic role as Playground of the Gods. The Smurf-orrific clip featured a dead Smurfette, and an orphaned baby smurf crying in the mud. Belgians complained that an accurate portrayl would have included mustard gas and goose-stepping SS. Perhaps UNICEF should have run the ad in Saudi Arabia?

From Arkansas, again fertile ground for the smurf ad, newly born Smurf fans abound. An Arkansas woman gave birth to her 16th child on October 13th. Dad, who is apparently thrilled to death to be so overwhelmed with children that none ever receive adequate attention, said he'd like a few more: "We'll take what the Lord gives us." Dad says this not realizing that his 15 yr. old daughter Janna knows a bit about making babies herself, and that her deeply religious twin John David, has spent lots of time in the locker room showers staring hungerly at the same football player Janna blew just two hours previously.

Less fortunate in their sex-capades is this Squirrel Hill burgular, caught in the act as he robbed a Hobart Street apartment building.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Stunning Parking Violation

Frank Caruso, 66, is the picture of bucolic life in Mt. Lebanon. Owner of a pizza shop in one of the community's quixotic boutiques along Washington Road, Caruso has been a fixture in the local business community of this wealthy suburb for decades. Residents like Caruso's pizza, and find his thick accent and poor command of English charming. How then does this shop owner, respected in the neighborhood, so successfully obscure his darker side for so long. How long has Frank Caruso been Mr. Hyde?

July 21st was a typical summer day in Mt. Lebanon: the sun shining on the white faces of those God's perverse creation chose to bless with inordinate prosperity. Children smiled and skipped along the brick-paved sidewalk, shops bustled with activity. Yet not was all well in Normalville. Behind the wheel of his car, Frank Caruso seethed with unspeakable undefinable rage. Like the Grinch and his sneer towards Whoville, like the Theodoric with a hungry eye towards a vulnerable Rome, Caruso cursed the wealth of happiness around him. He was determined to either wreck it, or have it for his own.

The angels in heav'n ceased their singing in horrified expectation as Caruso's venomous mind unleashed his plot. The wicked sinews of his evil heart pulsed in delicious expectation as Satan bade evil forth into God's creation. As Caruso pulled his car across a sidewalk, the once blue sky swirlled blood red. Horror! Caruso had blocked the sidewalk to a clutch of walking senior citizens, several would-be bicyclists, and 14 members of the US Special Olympic Wheelchair Racing Team on their final qualifying lap around the neighborhood! The churchbells of Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian hearlded the coming Armageddon: God and Man's Law on Appropriate Parkage of Transport, sacrosanct since Justinian first decreed that no chariot might unduely block passage in the narrow streets of Constantinople, has been violated.

The Mt. Lebanon Police, however, were fast to respond. They fought with Caruso, made him move his car, then pulled him over again for good measure. At the second pull-over, they declared the 66 year old man a threat, tasered the bastard and took him in.

In heav'n there was much rejoicing!

Bored Suburban Cops: 141
Rational World: 2

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Oldest Story

Exactly two days ago I was taking stock of an irrational decision I had yet again committed myself to. It seems I was skittering down a narrow country route, in eastern New York, bravely fording a fresh Hudson River tributary, formerly a road, in what was the worst weather I had seen all year. My SUV was being attacked by columns of heavy rain and the road (what was left of it, again) was innocent of street light, making this trip especially brainless in retrospect. It was only 6:30 in the evening yet there wasn't another car in sight. And all this for what? For a beer. No, not just for a beer; for a beer and a meeting in a slimy bar with two relations, only one of them amorous. I was cursing myself aloud, wondering very deeply what the hell I was doing hydro-planing in this unsturdy 1997 Ford Explorer, at my advanced speed, in terrible weather on a hash of a country road.

You're a real idiot for this, you know. You have to pull over and let this pass. You could crash the car out here and they wouldn't find you till tomorrow. Maybe later than that. PULL OVER.

Anyway, I made it. I didn't pull over and I didn't crash the car either, but I considered very seriously the reasonability of both. The decision to keep going was mine alone and if it all ended badly, well, whose fault was that? I could accept the accumulating danger as long as I had a choice in the matter. Now place all this alongside the experience of my co-worker, a pleasant young man of equal age, whose mother was instantly killed in a car wreck here less than two weeks ago. I did; I thought about this woman's death, plus the possibility of my own, as the Explorer lost all purchase with the road on that flooded Saturday night. She had been driving very early in the morning along a west-to-east interstate route, from Poughkeepsie to Danbury, Conn., or perhaps some indistinct point between. The car was struck from behind by a driver in the left lane -- a thoughtless girl, only twenty-three, sleep-deprived, careless -- and was propelled forward across two lanes of oncoming traffic from its original place on the right, fish-tailing, swerving, flipping, disintegrating. The next morning's newspaper framed it starkly: in the feature photo, dropped dead-center, was an overturned slab of metal embedded in a grassy depression on the interstate highway's shoulder; it was difficult to locate the ghost of the car anywhere in this picture. It was very bad.

Most of us will continue to be lucky in matters of life and death. The people we love will not be ruthlessly taken away. Our time here will not be unexpectedly cut short. We must all experience loss, yes, but not so sudden -- above all not so painfully sudden. Our entire health-care industry is dedicated to the banality of death: the slow decay; the gradual slipping away; the final goodbye in the hospice. Without this kind of preparation, death defies all forms of explanation. Collaterally, it makes life seem hapless and random. When my brother returned from Iraq after a tour of more than a year he was graciously unscarred. I never contemplated for even a second what it would feel like to see a newspaper photo injuncting me to live life without him, to pick up the pieces after that kind of inexpressible grief. Now this young man, my co-worker, must do just that. When I saw him last I was confronted with the possibility that I would never be ready for that type of death, for an absence of choice or preparation in the most severe circumstance confronting a human being. I wanted to be comforting. I didn't know what to say but I tried. I think I attempted to offer Shakespeare or John Donne but they were insufficient, so I stopped myself before sounding like a fool. Hemingway was the same thing. Yeats too.

The only reason I write this now, in what could fairly be construed, I agree, as a criminal attempt to insinuate myself into someone else's personal pain, is the fact that a) the car wreck story is public knowledge, and b) enough time has past to allow me to weigh my words infinitely better than I could ever chance to speak them. I had hoped to understand, in plotting out this essay, what this poor person could be going through, but that is elusive and maybe even impossible, as I now realize. Writers today talk as if they're confronting the possibility of occupational obsolescence: they say the language, via technology, is changing too fast to commit to posterity. How can one capture a fluid reality when the words don't even exist to define it? But they forget another side: the evergreen failure of these words and narratives to conquer, let alone describe, the elemental facts of life and death. In moments of incredible pain, the receding power of language and words to combat ugly randomness, not the corrective power of art, remains the story most familiar.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Friday Porn: Sunday Edition

Esquire, a magazine written for sophisticated and virile heterosexual males by gay men, has recently unveiled its newest "Sexiest Woman Alive" honoree. And the winner is (drum-machine roll, please) ... Jessica Biel!! Yes, Ms. Biel and her breasts grabbed the crown after Esquire showcased the issue on October 6, in New York. What are her just-christened duties you ask? As Esquire's "Sexiest Woman Alive" Jessica Beil must: 1) continue to be hot; 2) be hit on by Mickey Rourke; 3) resume hotness; and, 4) remind me again of a single movie she was ever in. (God! It's totally on the tip of my tongue. The one where she's in that rain-soaked tank top. It was called, ummm... Dammit!)

Friday, October 07, 2005

America talks, Cripple listens

I'm trapped in an Hampton Inn hotel room 20 miles east of Atlanta. I could go without ever seeing another piece of cherry wood in my life.

Too drunk to drive, too alone to care. But wait. Hampton Inn has an extensive selection of cable channels. I haven't watched this much television - in one sitting - since I had mono. I'm enthralled with the Time Life infomercial. Greg Brady and some sex kitten in a tight-knit sweater are pitching a compilation of forgotten soft rock and disco ballads. Music from the 1970s draws out my romantic qualities. I must buy.

Before I commit four easy payments of $29.99, I ask myself if there are any other dubious products worth purchasing. I flip, flip, flip again. My clicker lands me on C-SPAN. It's a 25th anniversary celebration show. Some dope, Joel Lawrence Steinberg, Fairfax Virginia's preeminent mental midget, is reading a trite self-authored essay about the virtues of C-SPAN.

Joel gives me a headache.

I recall that my dear pal, the inimitable Dain Pascocello, has also contributed an essay to C-SPAN's contest. Read it here, America.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

best and worst foods...

Poptarts? Toaster Pastry? Donuts? Death-in-an-individualized-wrapper?

reminiscing with a co-worker about favorite treats in youth, I can see what my parents were doing... and successfully so. Frozen orange juice concentrate instead of ice cream ... homemade popsicles made from real juice... ovaltine... (I wonder if any of that is still any good...)

So, I decided to do some google research as to the best and worst things I can be feeding my kids... Thank goodness PB&J was not on a list of nono's!!!

www.mercola.com/2003/oct/18/worst_foods.htm

My kids love processed pre-packaged food as much as the next... poptarts... donuts... popsicles... fruit rollups... yogurt so thick with sugar it doesn't slide down a wall and it takes up paint with it during cleaning...
but perhaps we'll stick with the fruit and cheese.

a palestinian perspective

A used-to-be-good-friend-of-mine is a Palestinian refugee from Jordan. I suppose that is what you would call him, anyway. His father was a Palestinian, yet the used-to-be-good-friend-of-mine didn't set foot on the soil of Israel/Palestine until age 21. Nevertheless, I had the pleasure of discussing the most recent pull-out of Israeli's from the Gaza strip with the Palestinian father. I consider him to be a wise man. He considers all sides, he thinks very carefully before he speaks, he recognizes a difference between Jews and Israelis (though I don't think Jews always acknowledge a difference) and he speaks slowly. Speaking slowly always gives the sense of wiseness, I am sure. He believes that the pull out of Israeli's was not in any way linked to an Israeli attempt at peace and that this prophecy will come to a head when there is no further movement toward peace and there are no Israeli pullouts from the west bank. He says it is simply a matter of an overconsumption of Israeli troops to patrol the Gaza strip for some 8000 Israeli settlers. Truth? Falsehood? I expect the truth lies somewhere between aljazeera and cnn.

Corruptopopulis

Scanning the Post-Gazette today, I noticed the news establishment has finally uncovered Pennsylvania's great idea for complying with a recent Supreme Court ruling requiring states to treat out-of-state wineries and in-state wineries the same.

While most affected states have opted for progress by unfettering out-of-state wineries to ship products to citizens, Pennsylvania has maintained its long government/mafioso grip on the liquor industry by actually instituting a level of bureaucracy to comply. Now Pennsylvania wineries will have to distribute to in-state citizens through the LCB.

That's right local businessman, kiss the Don Harrisburg's ring and give him his taste.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Breasts, Bibles, and the Meta-Media

You will likely think this post is all over the place, but rest assured you will be treated to a titillating discussion of breasts and bibles. This will, in a roundabout fashion, lead back to my commentary on blogs as meta-media, having read an interesting 25-page novicle that Daingerous sent me a couple months ago from The Atlantic Monthly by David Foster Wallace about (conservative) talk radio and John "Call me Zig while I spell out N-I-G-G-E-R on the air" Ziegler.

You see, on the bus today, I kept looking at this woman's enormous breasts, that to my defense, were a little more visible than absolutely necessary, right down to the flesh-colored lacy brassier. I mean, come on, was she looking for an audience? I didn't stand there amongst my morning EBS brethren and gawk or anything, but I looked furtively a couple of times, to verify my previous glances. What did the rest of the gaggle think of these jiggling phenomenons? Disgust? Arousal? To steal a quote from a source I can't remember, I could go either way. Disgust because what's the point in showing them off if its improper to look. Arousal for obvious reasons.

Right next to the woman with the elephantine breasts sat another lady with cotton up to her ears, perusing a dog-eared bible. I guess people read and re-read bibles in sort of a transcendental-meditative way, rather than reading new books for actual knowledge. All the amens, and begats, and lyrical platitudes translate down to "Om" from where I'm sitting. Clearly, people can't read and re-read the bible looking for knowledge, especially since everyone just takes the parts of the bible they like. I bet big-breast lady is a Christian but reads the modesty references a different way than bible-lady.

To pork or not to pork? Is coveting okay if no one else finds out? Do bushes really talk?

I suppose religion is our meta-media for drilling down into what the bible means, and like talk radio, you can join a group that likes the slant you do.

Like the news, the bible says everything! And it says it sincerely, just like the news does, seeming to present the topic of spirituality and God as an answerable kind of thing. But is there an answer any more than there is an answer to why some kid gets struck by lightning at his 8th birthday party? Probably not. Okay, no. Is there an answer to the age old questions, should she be showing and should I be looking?

Thank God almighty for the meta-media, for talk radio, for my little blog, that lets me and John Ziegler talk about the real truths in life, about breasts on the bus, unabashed revelations of people, and why people read the bible. You aren't going to see a lot of breasts on TV.

And thank God for religion, because the bible is as meaningless by itself as a FOX news broadcast. Next time you pick up that over-used text, have a little perspective, and realize the best religion comes from the best people, not the best translation. That's gotta meta-mean something.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

If I get scrolled

If I get scrolled off of the page by one of Eric' long-winded ploitical rants, there's gonna be hell to pay at Summerlea Manor.

I led with that sentence to get the writing juices flowing, but unfortunately I have been unable to generate anything else since starting this post, and am still at a loss for what to say.

Oh well.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

God Bless America, pass the Ribs.

My daily morning walk to work follows Ellsworth Avenue to South Highland on my way to East Liberty. Passing the multiple bus stops and coffee shops, I get an opportunity to gawk at the hundreds of 20-something women waiting for the 71C to Oakland. Good way to start the morning right.

As I passed Spahr Ave. this morning, the air filled with the acrid stench of burning oil that exceeded even the worst of fumes from the busway. I turned. The small shops along Ellsworth were obscured by a cloud of white smoke. Leading this environmental catastrophe, a 1985 Chrysler Mini-Van with a gigantic American flag magnet plastered across the hood.

The ribbon thing is ridiculous, but a huge American flag? I was waiting for the cloud to dissipate, so I could see Patton's helmeted head protruding from the top of the van, screaming orders to the 5th Corp marching lock-step behind him. What the hell could possibly be flagman's rationale. Is he worried about being mistaken as an 'enemy combatant' by the airforce; in which case, green body and white star on the hood, Tex. Maybe its worse: he actually lives between Brit Hume and R. Lee Ermy. Ever since Ermy started strutting his shit in fatigues, and driving to work in a 1956 G.I. Jeep Willy, flagman has been in the dumps. Not this week though... he is showing a Nazi SS Officer's enthusiasm for the American cause in advance of Brit's Saturday afternoon Barbeque/Loyalty roasts.

As he passed, I saluted. Judging by the scowl on his face as he stared at me, I was the wierdo. It seems that, inspite of my best efforts, I'm never going to get my invite to that f**king barbeque.

The Ironies of Modernity

Today, while clipping articles for an international standards body, I came across the following author names: Manish Bhuptani and Shahram Moradpour.

Can you guess which of these four name-words Word did not recognize?


?!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Debt Reduction Fire Sale

This morning, the Washington Post brought to light another revenue generating idea conjured up by the House Resources Committee. A "brainstroming paper" accidentally leaked to the public, details a possible fire sale of federal parklands & historic sites to help lower the ballooning federal debt. The committee Chairman, Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) estimates that such sale of assets could add 2.4 billion in new, one-time, federal revenues. Among the assets suggested to go on the block are Roosevelt Island just off the National Mall, the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in NW Washington, and 15 other federal parklands. And why not some may ask. After all why should the government spend money preserving the home of a prominent, but little remembered, leader of the Civil Rights Movement when the funds are badly needed to bring democracy to Iraq?

Roosevelt Island promises to be a particularly profitable development oportunity. An interested developer would be able to jam plenty of luxury condo units & small but tastefully decorated retail locations onto the small garden oasis on the Potomac. Prospective residents will no doubt flock to get a piece of the action. Who wouldn't want a condo with sweeping views of downtown Washington, and easy access to nearby National Airport (less than 1/2 mile away). Heck, living directly under the filght path, a resident wouldn't even need to go to the terminal, simply stand on their roof with a prunning hook and snag a jetliner as it takes off. The Post probably sums up the wisdom of this proposal best with a quote by Craig Obey, the spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association:

The nation undoubtably faces pressing financial obligations, for which Congress must come up with creative measures to address. Putting America's heritage on the block, in order squeeze out a few more pennies (2 billion is a pittance) to meet short-term need is not simply unwise, it is a breach of public trust.

Gaza, Bagdad, New Orleans

When Gaza was turned over to the Palestinians last month, pundits predicted that militants-turned-governors would be drawn into the political process through their newfound responsibility. People will tire of the militant's Intifada when the the militant's government is incapable of providing water, electric and employment. Its not hard to patch together a few Kassam rockets for an afternoon of smiting infidels, but building water treatment plants requires cooperation with people in the technological know: Israel & America. Palestine has seen a few bumps on this road, but the theory seems to be morphing into reality. The Palestinian Authority is working hard to legitimize itself by building infrastructure and providing stability.

Looking eastward, to Bagdad, the world's greatest superpower has fallen flat on its face. America can't provide basic security, let alone point to successes in our infrastructure projects. Most Americans were disgusted with Bush's inability to adequately cope with Katrina; but the true tragedy is that the Press allowed Lake Pontchartrain to drown out images of the Euphrates running red with innocent blood. If it aint Katrina or Rita, its Cindy Sheehan and a US body count on the front page. If it bleeds, it leads... just as long as the blood is American.

Our responsibility in Bagdad, as it is in New Orleans, is to rebuild as quickly as possible. Bush is willing to drown New Orleans in a flood of money, hoping to smother the images of dispair burned into America's conscience with reconstruction projects. But in Bagdad, there are no construction projects. For all of America's might, we can't even control the streets. As the spin-machine churns out conflict and confusion, Americans will disagree over responsibility for Katrina. However, over 2 years since the fall of Bagdad, Iraqis pray for basic security. From the standpoint of policy management, this presidency has been an abysmal failure.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Dover Downs: Fragmented Gov't Cuts More Ways than One

In a Harrisburg Courthouse today, Dover School District will face off against 1,000 years of the corrupting influences of the Enlightenment. Though honesty, truth and reason rarely get a fair shake on the banks of the Susquehanna, hopefully this ruling will smack the zealot back into his cave.

Dover is one of 501 school districts in our balkanized, Byzantine Commonwealth run by a locally elected school board. The 20k citizens of Dover, with a median income of $45k, are solidly blue collar. Though church attendance is high in this rural area, college attendance is not: only 11% of residents have a bachelors degree or better. Statistically, Dover could be in York, Berks or Allegheny County: its par for the course. How is it then, that somewhere between Radnor and Edgewood, reason gives way to darkness. Underneath the unbroken canopy of trees you see from your $39 seat on Southwest flight from Pgh to Philly, you've got a Gun Toting, Bible Thumping Friend in Central Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania's fragmented government includes thousands of feifdoms from which any fringe element might decide to seize control: for personal interest, ideology or enrichment. School District elections are decided at the poorly attended primary races. Only 528 votes (10%) separated the top and bottom vote-getters at the May Primary for Sto-Rox; only 945 (10%) in the high-profile Mt. Lebanon race. As a result, schools are operated through the closed circuts of local politics. All too often, this means boards focused more on intrigue and personal pettiness than good government.

Consolidated government might help to beat back the absurdity we now see in Dover. Though this religious fringe is a potent force in Central PA, it is by no means the majority. Parents can love God and Sanity at the same time, and few would agree their children should learn about the Dinosaurs and Unicorns on Noah's Ark in a Biology Class. A larger school district would likely be harder for insane groups of religious wackos to seize in an electoral coup. We should consider this as Pennsylvania's name is sullied on presses from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.

Socks today, gone tomorrow

I learned today that it is the socks that make the man. I woke up this morning bright and early, good little worker bee that I am. I needed to head in to the office a bit early to put the finishing touches on a market analysis for a legal client, before my boss's 11am meeting.

Noticing that Rita's last gasp was coming down all around me, I scoured my room for my umbrella, and then the rest of the house. But I came up short, and headed upstairs to wash off the weekend grime and consider my options. After brushing, shaving, and some steamy musings in the tub, I came up with three options and decided on the last.

1. Wake up Urg or Grak and ask if they have an extra umbrella.
2. Take the one in the hall closet and deny, deny, deny if it doesn't belong to the absent roommate.
3. Bingo! Pack a bag and change at the office.

Choosing the charitable option, I packed up and headed off.

Shoes, pants, shirt, jacket, tie, papers, bus fare. Check check check check check check.

Wait! Andrew very confused in morning. Time for inventory.

Shoes, pants, shirt, jacket, tie, papers, bus fare. Check check check check check check. What if boxers get wet on the way? Boxers. Check.

And so I arrived at work, and after changing, I realized when it comes to mind over morning, morning always wins.

Hiding my bare ankles all day until I could buy some socks at lunch, and wearing my jacket to hide the void in my belt loops, I also learned another lesson today.

Don't tell Russell about your sockless feet if you don't want others to know.

Win One for the Gipper

The sky is newspaper gray this Monday morning. After months of spectacular weather, life is returning to normal thanks to the rain from Hurricane Rita. Here's a story about life, death, and football certain to add a little cheer to the disgruntled Steeler Nation.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Lazarus, Garfield and Managing Decline

'And the dead shall rise to eternal life,' so sayeth the faithful to the jeering sneers of athiests. Athiests have a point: no one has seen the dead rise, thus why should we expect something that is seemingly impossible to happen again?

Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood, set on the southern face of Mt. Garfield, is far from dead. Thanks in large part to Bloomfield Garfield Corp., Garfield thrives inspite of serious socio-economic undercurrents, blight and disinvestment. Coffee shops, bars and theatres serve a multi-cultural clientele on Penn Avenue, as new housing rises deep in the neighborhood. Resurgent Garfield, given up for dead in the 1980's, sends the city-planning athiest back to question his lack of faith. But Garfield's progress still stands in the shadow of Pittsburgh's bleak demographic trends: there are fewer Pittsburghers every year, and we're sprawling out over an increasingly large geographic area. Are we rebuilding our cities and bringing more people in, or are we just moving people around town?

Today, a 1960's senior highrise joined East Liberty's towers in the dustbin of planning history. The Housing Authority, apparently a bastion of the faithful, wants to resurrect this isolated site with 'mixed income for-sale and rental housing.' Bordered on 3 sides by Allegheny Cemetery, on the 4th by a wholly depopulated neighborhood, completely undermined and partially reclaimed by nature, such a housing development is the anthesis of strategic development. It will not aid housing values in Garfield, it needlessly competes with other urban housing without adding value, and will not spur further invesment in nearby neighborhoods. Worst yet, this "if we build it, they will come" attitude ignores demographic realities. A large stand-alone project like this will likely not even sustain itself. Building on top of isolated Mt. Garfield was a mistake in 1960, rectified with today's demolition. Why make the mistake again with even less people to fill it in 2005?

Mt. Garfield should be converted back to woodland, and investment should work to bring more people back into the older Garfield neighborhood on the slope. New housing on vacant lots in Garfield would encourage existing residents to reinvest in their properties and build a contextual, sustainable community close to shopping, bus lines and more people! Such a plan will increase density in Garfield, creating a more vibrant neighborhood. As for undermined, abandoned Mt. Garfield; lets make it into a park or arboretum. Buildings are not necessarily the best, highest use for land: close proximity to greenspace will increase land values and quality of life for Garfield's residents.

We need to start managing decline in a sane, market-driven manner: building housing that benefits our neighborhoods, not just itself. It might sound like blasphemy to the faithful, but some of the dead need to stay in their graves.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Proactive Government

Dateline Cleveland:

While researching earlier this week, I stumbled upon a Plain Dealer article (Secret Squad, 10/13/04, B1) detailing the furtive intrigues of the City of Cleveland Heights Police Department. Yes the good old CHPD has found a new way to occupy the dull hours between staffing the ubiquitous speeding traps & goose-stepping practice, by rooting through neighborhood garbage cans. The CHPD has secretly established an undercover trash squad to carry out the task. According to testimony given by Detective Dolan in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, the squad goes "down the street just like the garbage men would, wearing a garbage outfit...and pick[s] up the garbage [from suspect houses]." Dolan further testifies that garbage pulls take place as often as three times a week, and in some areas every day. Once the garbage is pulled, the squad sifts through looking for drug paraphenalia & evidence of other crimes in order to establish sufficient probable cause to support a search warrant. Apparantly, users are absentminded enough to frequently toss baggies & pipes in with the household rubbish, and leave the whole incriminating bundle by the curb without a second thought. The CHPD has simply undertaken to collect/accept these early Christmas presents.

How can this be legal you ask? The case of California v. Geenwood (S. Ct., 1988) established, in a similar trash pulling case, that there is no legitimate expectation of privacy when information (read: garbage) is conveyed voluntarily to a 3rd party (read: waste managment & the eager hands of the trash squad). In other words, the Supreme Court is of the opinion that if you're fool enough to put incriminating evidence out on your front lawn every week, don't be surprized when the police swing by to take a look. Given the general ignorance of the lack of privacy of one's garbage, your friendly local trash squad is no doubt pondering the question: what's in your wastebasket?

Note: appologies to the sagacious reader for not including a link to the Plain Dealer article discussed above. The "newspaper" in question, being written mainly with quill & Parchment, does not include substantial archives on line.

You're Fulla Shit

Fulla, a new Islamic Barbie Doll in Syria that is fast outpacing the original in sales, reflects the country's increasing religious conservatism. Syria, once a secular state, now boasts a doll with her own prayer rug, (transilated to Pittsburghese) a babushka, and even authentic looking scars from where she was publically flogged by her father and a dozen of his drinking buddies for sleeping through the morning call to prayer. Advertisements say you can tell Fulla, "your deepest secrets." Syrian intelligence services, who have equipped the doll with radio transmitters, emphatically agree!

"Daddy's going away now. He won't be back for a long long time."

There are no plans for a male companion as of yet, but perhaps a husband. I suggest the new Mohammed doll come dressed in black fatigues, with his own green Hezbollah bandana and AK-47. Accessories include flammable American and Israeli flags.

editors note: this is incredibly racist, inflammatory, and written to drive traffic.

Bottle Up And Explode

A story in yesterday's National Enquirer stated that G.W. has fallen off the wagon. If you thought George Bush sober was a belligerent prick, just wait until he knocks back a fifth of Beam. Forget those man whores North Korea and Iran. He's eyeing the club's bouncer. How do you say "Noo-ku-lar holocaust" in Mandarin? I'll leave it to Daingerous to add his blistering wit to this story.

We report. You decide.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Katrina's Revenge

Last night I had an argument with my smug roommate, arguing that Bush's lack of preparation for Katrina was inexcusable. The poor response was due to unqualified staff at FEMA, I argued. Perhaps the former head of the Arabian Horse Assn of America was in over his head when New Orleans drowned. My smug roommate (MSR) ridiculed me, saying that such preparations were impossible, and no one would have done a good job. He even argued Katrina would simply wash away troops & provisions stored 200 miles north of the coast in advance of the storm. Nothing could be done!

Under MSR's logic, our final salvation still lies with the village Shaman, who will beat his magic horse femur against a hollow log to ward off Katrina-sized storms. Paying 1/3 of my salary to the Fed, the most expensive item in my budget besides booze and hookers, I naively expect as good a bang for my buck from the Fed as I get from other expenses.

With Rita threatening the coast of Texas, the Washington Post reported the following:

"In Washington, the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, R. David Paulison, outlined a massive effort to pour military equipment and provisions into Texas ahead of the hurricane's landfall."

MSR, you are a jackass. Bureaucracy is supposed to be proactive, not reactive. A former Admiral, Paulison seems to recognize that fact. Texas is fortunate for it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Go Forth and SMITE

God is apparently still pissed off at the Gulf Coast.

Monday, September 19, 2005

G&T, Light on the Ice

"Meet us at Margarita Mamas," squealed the already drunk blonde on Brad's phone. "I've never been, you?" I asked Brad, who responded with a shrug.

East Enders rarely roam from our native habitat, fearing the all-white polo-clad suburbanites that descend on Station Square every weekend. Standing awkwardly on the dancefloor, Miller Light in hand, Bethel Park jostles with 55+ clones to get as close as possible to the lone 3 girl dance-party or a cluster of bachelorette revellers. He'll try to pick up ANY scantly clad girl, sneak her into his parent's house, and hopefully cop a feel on the family room couch before he prematurely ejaculates in his smiley-face boxers. The effect... Margarita Mamas offers bad music, a no-dance dance floor, and Steelers chants about every 4-6 minutes.

I walked into the bar, pissed that I had already blown $8 to park and $5 in cover. "Two Beefeaters and Tonic," I say to the greased-up tough-guy bartender. Guy got a snout like a pelican, but he is clearly the stud in this corral of smack-offs. He grabs two plastic cups and fill them to the brim with thoroughly crushed ice. I start waving frantically... Christ, a booze-free evening at this dump would be a fate worse than death. He makes eye contact, pretends he didn't, and spritzes the glass with gin.

"$10.00."
"There's too much ice. I didn't want so much ice."
"You shoudda said sumthin."
"I did. I was waving my arms, and you saw me. There's too much ice."

He gives an incredulous look of disbelief. What a challenge! Like I asked him to strain the Artic Shelf from the sea with a plastic colander. After a series of theatrical Italian hand gestures, 'whaddaya whaddaya,' the ice is out and 1/2 a drink remains in the glass. My anticipation that the meathead would fill the balance with booze was apparently mistaken. "$10.00," he says.

I threw a $10, grabbed my drink and walked away. "Don't f**king come back," tuff-guy yells. Apparently, he expected a tip for his comic indignance. I smirk.

"Don't worry about it."

Aborted Brilliance

The best sitcom on broadcast television will air the its third season premiere tonight, but no one will be watching.

Arrested Development (FOX MONDAY, 8 PM) is the recipient of critic praise and winner of numerous accolades. But it's had trouble capturing the attention of the mindless masses entrenched in front of the boob tube. Last year, it ranked 115th amongst prime-time programs. AD is indubitably the best program on Fox (better than the tired Simpsons and conflicted Family Guy). Perhaps its writing is too smart and storylines too complex for Joe Coachpotato to understand.

Wake up, philistines!

As I walk to work each day

As I walk to work each day, I see many faces, many cuts of clothing, many asses, many strides. Scowlers and lawyers and daydreamers, maybe each is all at sometime, but on their way to work they are one thing or another. Some of my fellow Pittsburghers walk along at ease, and some hurry toward whatever task drives them from bed each morning. I wonder as I pass the men and women in their pea green scrubs what disaster they are coming from and which they leave. It's hard to tell if the people going home as I go to work, a different direction on the same bus, are worn out or just tired, but having been both, I wish them the latter.

Pittsburgh has a a lot of big butts, and that's probably not terribly true when compared with the national average, but yes on an international scale. And so I wonder if the people with the smaller butts are happier or going to better jobs, or if the fat, overweight, obese and chubby have it better. If my current trend continues, I hope it is the latter.

What's his story, the drunk guy sprawled out in front of Penn Station. And the woman whose breasts are bunched together with orange lace, and a sheer sweater, before 8 in the morning? She must have a sexy job. I wish I had that lawyer's suit -- I bet it wasn't cheap. Do I get to bill $500/hour if I get one? Do I get the woman in the orange lace? I'd prefer the former.

How many of these people love? Smoke? Drink coffee? Complain? Watch Friends?

Do I care? Do they share?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday Porn: That's So Cute I Wanna Puke Edition

Who's a good boy? He's a good boy. In addition to devastating the Gulf Coast and displacing thousands, Hurricane Katrina also left many animals in the region without homes. Thankfully, many people have already been united with their pets, but hundreds still remain sans owners. So get yourself down to Baton Rouge and adopt a dog or a cat. It's worth the trip if you can make it, and you'll be granting a furry friend a better life.

But, until then ... Dance, you wonderfully tiny dog, dance!!

Addendum to the frenetic commuter

Last night, I pleaded to my roommate a case for mutual roadway acknowledgement amongst co-worker commuters. She was less than sympathetic to my cause. For those outside the know, I recently posted that I experience quite the awkward feeling when I speed past my co-workers. Should I beep? Do the half-hearted wave? Salute?

"They probably don't even think about this. Why are you giving this so much thought?"

I asked that she place herself in their role and tell me what her reaction would be.

"I'd look up in the rear view mirror, grumble your name, and take another sip of coffee."

I have imposed my own neuroticisms on my colleagues. That's a shame. I was hoping everyone could be as self-conscious as me about seeing acquiantances on the parkway. This really is about my aggressive style of driving. The mobile masses aren't used to making quick decisions (outside the BQE) and when someone like myself ignites a driving revolution in Pittsburgh, the bums are resentful.

Get out of my way, a-hole. Decision maker coming through.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Archbishop Joe McCarthy

Cardinal Ratzinger, flexing a love of linear authority and ideological purity first learned in his childhood days as a Hiter Youth, is turning on the church's celibate gay population with the loving Iron Fist of Christ. Still knee deep in sexual abuse allegations, and perhaps exorcizing some personal repressions of his own, the Pope made an inherently illogical leap: gay men molest boys.

The Vatican's religious KGB, styled after the effective Wahabbian Islamo-Cops in Saudi Arabia, will be monitoring activity on seminary campuses. They're looking for evidence of, "New Age and eclectic spirituality, evidence of homosexuality," and free-thinking faculty. Dogmatists are warned to... "watch out for signs of 'particular' friendships." Seminary students are encouraged to not smile at eachother, and the word Love will be replaced with either 'Appreciate' or 'Value' or some other amorphous, spiritually drained word that doesn't draw suspicion.

"For God so Loved the World, that He gave his only begotten Son, so that Whomsoever believed in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

What's that? You queer or sumthin? Get outta here before we bust your face... in God's mercy.

Casey widens lead over Santorum, poll finds

What could be worse for a powerful incumbent senator than trailing his rival by 11 points 16 months shy of the election?

Trailing by 14 points 14 months before the election.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Urine Trouble, Mr. President

Those spinmeisters over at the White House are geniuses. In order to deflect attention away from his FEMA bumbling, it seems Karl Rove has suggested to George W. Bush that he regress into childhood -- as demonstrated by this adorable note he scribbled to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during this week's United Nations World Summit. Oh, you're good, Rove.

Seriously, though: "I think I may need a bathroom break"? You're the leader of the free world and you're asking permission to make pee-pee? Remember all that "mandate" talk? How you were gonna concentrate on cultivating your legacy in your second term, President Bush? I'd say all that's lost now that this will be remembered as the least moronic thing you've ever written. I need a shower.

The People's Casino

City Council voted unanimously today to apply to own and operate one of the casino licenses designated for the City. Hell-bent on embarrassing the city by routinely passing measures that are unconstitutional, illegal or patently absurd, City Council continued this grand tradition of legislative embarrassment through this latest act.

Free Markets:
Joe King, soon-to-be-jailed President of the Firemen's Union, offered to represent casino employees while soon-to-be-jailed Sheriff Pete DeFazio monitors legal compliance. Giving the Democratic Party a quid-pro-quo slushfund or crony-stable has always bode well for local government.

Honor and Honesty:
The incorruptible Twanda Carlisle, famous for using tax dollars to buy books on Gay Black Men and paying her mamma's boyfriend $10k for 'unspecified consulting work,' worried about the Corrupting Influence a city owned casino would have on elected officials. Having raised the spectre of widespread corruption, she voted an emphatic YES! for a city-owned casino!

Casino Operations as Proposed by Doug Shields: Bobby 'Black Jack' O'Conner will be manning the card tables while Scruffs Deasey and Pips Peduto bounce the drunks and collect 'bad debts.'

Who are these morons, and who the hell elected them?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Round One

The prosecution of those people and organizations deemed responsible for the deaths of fellow evacuees following Katrina's massive destruction began today. Good. The owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home have been charged with negligent homicide following the discovery of 34 bodies at the Chalmette, La., facility. Stay tuned.

On Retirement, Weakness and America's Soul

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Social Security into law, the United States was amidst the greatest economic crisis the industrialized world had ever witnessed. As millions of society's weakest died from privation, the President peered deep into the soul of America to see if it really existed. Could a civilization be a civilization if it allows its weakest members to perish from want amidst plenty? As Roosevelt knew well, the path from vigorous health to physical infirmity is a well travelled one. All humans literally age and decay over time... or as my brother points out, despite our best efforts, the mortality rate is still at 100%. Society must protect the weakest, because every citizen will eventually fall into vulnerability through the trials of illness, economics or time.

In the wake of Katrina, 45 bodies were found at a retirement facility. This latest grotesque chapter in America's greatest tragedy lays bare our nation's soul as it never had before. The vulnerable were left to float, but the healthiest of the vulnerable were able to escape with their lives through cagey ingenuity and physical strength. These 45 elderly, the weakest of our society, died of basic privations available in abundance not 200 miles away in Texas.

Perhaps we have a greater crisis on our hands than a basic question of preparedness. Perhaps America, basking in the unprecedented wealth of the world's first 'Hyperpower' since Rome, simply never took the opportunity to look down from the elevated freeways that carry us past those undesirable places and asked why such places exist. Perhaps the culture that carried this President to the helm, one of Tax Cuts, 'self-sufficiency' and personal salvation, was too busy on the Up and Up to bother looking down. Perhaps the saddest truth lies in Bush's careless uncontested nominations to various integral service posts throughout the government... perhaps we don't give a damned.

I don't have the answers, and would deplore any LBJ knee jerk government program to solve our issues immediately... Sadly, these aren't immediate problems, they're historic. The Ghettos of Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles will likely stay as they are, as America's temporal concern for them blows away with the deadly Winds of Katrina.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Brown Out

Brownie, we hardly knew ye. It was reported today that our man in Louisiana, FEMA director and big crybaby Michael Brown, tendered his resignation. Brown's quitting follows directly on the heels of Operation Huge Embarrassing Failure, also known as the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Personally, I respect Brown's decision to step aside. Now is the time for our government to move forward in the recovery process, placing the needs of its affected citizens above mere political concerns, producing, finally, a new Crescent City which will serve as a model of good governance and the spirit of free enterprise. Whoops -- spoke too soon.

Tale of Two Churches

Last week, at Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, PA, the Rev. Lee Clark gave a sermon in which he decried the Fed's abysmal efforts to save the sunken city of New Orleans as racist. Before the all white congregation of Bethesda, this seemingly misplaced African American minister spoke a story often repeated in Black communities and often ridiculed in white ones. Black America, having often found itself victim throughout the history of the US, sees this as yet another chapter in a sordid tale of a downtrodden people. White people see the seemingly exclusively sea of black refugees, and can't seem to figure out why Black America is angry: "Well, those people lived in the ghetto half of town, which happened to be beneath sea level. Of course its all black." Read that rationale through several times, and ask yourself why you wouldnt be offended by every last word of it.

There was of course quite a flap, as Rev. Lee was on occasion a bit over the top. White Presbyterians, often supporters of our embattered President, don't like to be called racists. They aren't racists, and they shouldn't be called as much. The problem seems to stem from the fact that no one is a racist anymore, but not a damned thing is getting better. Do years of apathy qualify as racism? Therein lies the question that remains unanswered but will continue to fester for generations to come. In the end, feathers were smoothed, and a not-so-wealthy congregation ponied up $10,000 towards the relief effort... a monumental sum considering the church's paltry annual budget.

One mile away, at Round Hill Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Dr. Lowell Meek stood before his congregation, running his idiot mouth as he is wont to do. "Some have said that New Orleans was flooded by a vengeful hand of God, smiting our Modern Day Gomorrah. I can't say if they're wrong or right." Unfortunately, Round Hill sits too far above the Monongahela River for God to smite this modern day Pharisee by similar means. There was no outrage over this absurd statement as there was at Bethesda. Rev. Meek gave his congregation the opportunity to be smug, judgemental Christian Moralists whereas Rev. Lee challenged his to prove their Christian worth.

The congregation at Round Hill, significantly wealthier than Bethesda, is offering to send baseball-sized stones with their $1,000 check to Katrina relief agencies, so the remaining sinners can be dispatched in the old-fashioned way. At Bethesda Christians heeded the call of their faith, dug deep into their wallets and their hearts, and a little light was born.