Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Never Scared

Remember those meandering, impossibly dry, philosophical SOTU speeches we'd all grown so tired of by this time last year? Mike Gerson, ex-chief scribbler and current crazed religious zealot/nondescript advisor to the president, used to write 'em. They were heavy on vision and big ideas (see: democracy, marching, freedom, karate, Jesus, etc). After that, things got a tad hazy. Details were never Gerson's bag, though he was an amazing writer, and penned, in my opinion, one of the best presidential speeches in recent memory, Bush's "special relationship" remarks before the John Locke Society in England, in 2004. Now it's Bill McGurn's turn behind the man behind the dais, and it doesn't look good. McGurn is a conservative hack writer and pundit who relishes domestic programs like the dead-on-arrival "ownership society"; unfortunately, he's writing speeches for a foreign policy president who needs to remind the American public (in detail!) of the tough choices staring it in the face.

First up: Iraq. Sorry, but we ain't leaving, folks. The current troop draw-down measures have taken place only in parts of the country outside the perilous Green Zone, notably the Kurdish north. That's because a) the Kurdish peshmerga can actually fight for itself, b) the Iraqi army, contra Rumsfeld, can still only operate where there is close to zero chance of it inciting a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis (like protected areas of western Iraq, becalmed by large Marine contingents), and c) everybody else is getting the hell outta Dodge. So an American force, numbering at least 100, 000, will be necessary for a couple more years, barring, I don't know, a complete cessation of all ethnic, religious, and sectarian differences among the Iraqi people.

Iran. It's like Iraq, but with a different letter and slightly more Jew-hating. This one's tough. There's no reason this "axis of evil" member should be permitted to enrich uranium and develop Da Bomb. However, the Bush administration has severely bungled the initial stages of diplomacy in this matter. Now the US is five years away from a nuclear-armed rogue state between two of its pet projects and the soft power methods available to State and Defense seem completely lost on leading White House officials like Condi Rice. It's time to spell out sanctions. All together now: O-I-L E-M-B-A-R-G-O. Oh, and gas prices will rise in the interim, that you can count on. Time to be straight with Americans, Mr. President. And don't forget to dangle that military option.

And finally -- Global warming is for real. Sure, we can study it some more, but only insofar as our research creates a more fertile (and profitable) ground for alternatives to our current fossil fuel dependence. This too may take years. Stupid pork-barrel and Ted-Stevens'-wet-dream spending projects like drilling in Alaska won't do much to put a dent in long-term energy prices. Actual competition, not cronyism, is what will lead to a greater domestic incentive for hybrid vehicles and cleaner factories. But, until then, the Congress can force Detroit to make good on its fuel-efficiency proposal and drive down our increasing demand for Middle East oil.

The world is suddenly a very dangerous place again. Let's hope this president can better articulate the hard choices facing this nation, and where we go from here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bush's Telling Comments

"I'm mindful of your civil liberties and so I had all kinds of lawyers review the process," Bush told some 9,000 students, soldiers and dignitaries in the audience.

I would think that a president who was "mindful of your civil liberties" would scrutinize a warrantless wiretap program with his own heart, mind, and soul. Having a "bunch of lawyers review" anything is a way to:

a) legitimize the illegitimate
b) ensure technical legal soundness

Such a basis for making decisions on a slippery slope can only lead to the inevitable slide down the hill.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Open the Old Cigar Box"

RJ Reynolds opened a new store in Chicago targeting refugee smokers driven from their favorite bar, coffee shop, etc. by laws banning smoking in the public sphere. The Marshall McGearty Tobacco Lounge in Chi-town's upscale North Side, services those cigarette smokers jonesing for a new home. "It's the only place around that I can drink coffee and read the papers and smoke my cigarettes anymore," as one client put it. But from my over-stuffed wingback chair at Blooms Tobacco on Pittsburgh's South Side, I can hardly shed a tear.

Cigars have been banned from the public realm since Eleanor Roosevelt threw Winston Churchill out of the Lincoln Bedroom. We're scorned on the streets, in restaurants, at bus stops and on train platforms. When restaurants tightened up smoking rules so many years ago, among other things creating the first "Non-Smoking" sections, cigarette smokers turned a blind eye while their cigar chomping brethern were swept out the door. Cigar smokers are so thoroughly ostracized that cigars are even banned in the House that Art Built! With apologies to Martin Niemoller, long persecuted Cigar smokers can't caugh up too much sympathy: "First they came for the Cigars, then they came for the Cigarettes..."

Health zealots are apoplectic that RJ Reynolds might skirt no-smoking laws. Some are looking closely to find ways to shut the smoking parlor down, others energetically predict its failure. With NYC and Chicago smoke free, and other cities following their lead, one wonders what more the smoke-free camp can possibly hope to accomplish. Has success quenched the fire of this purist purge, thus sparing Marshall McGearty. Or will this last bastion of tobacco, where two or three might gather in the enthusiastic pursuit of bad health, be relegated to the ash-bin of history? In spite of my indignance, I can't help but to be sympathetic to cigarette smokers in the Waterloo Parlor of Chicago. Here's to RJ Reynolds, and the last gasp of the mighty cigarette! If only because we cigar smokers well know that it sucks to smoke alone.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Casino Zapped

Isle of Capri Casinos promised to build a new Penguins Arena free of cost. They brought in associate Nationwide Realty, developer of the successful Arena Complex in Columbus, Ohio, to develop $1 Billion in Real Estate in addition to this project. Such a development could potentially yield $28 M in annual real estate tax revenue, not counting payroll taxes from new jobs. 18 varied state and local officials enthusiastically endorsed Isle of Capri's plan and its ability to kill three or four birds with one stone: Lower hill development, Penguins Arena, etc. Yet, no word from Bobby O, Danny O or Fast Eddie on whether this plan is a good idea or not.

Why the reticence? Perhaps its because Harrahs and Forest City Enterprises, huge donors to all three aforementioned Democrats, also had the good sense to include a Zappala in their plans. Take an enormous developer like Forest City Enterprises, add a dash of strategically donated election funds, and cook the whole thing with the brother of a mobster cum District Attorney. Volia!

Peter Leo, writer of the PG's Morning File, has been sponsoring a slogan contest for the Steel City. I have a modest suggestion: "Pittsburgh, Bought and Sold."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006



Pitt and Duquesne Students, who show their appreciation for their adopted City by littering South Oakland and the Southside with broken beer bottles, vomit, student-slum tenements and passed-out freshmen, WONT BE ALLOWED TO VOTE IN A COUNCIL RACE. Call the UN, The League of Pissed off Voters has issued a Press Release announcing an election is being Hijacked!

Thank God local political rock-star, Billy Peduto, will stand behind his 20 something supporters and oppose this Fascist, Republican, Communist, evil, Rick Santorum, Industro-Military Complex, partisan, Christian-Right, George Bush, MiLiTaRiStIc, Iranian, Soviet-style election manipulation! He has vowed that since this election date isnt convenient for everyone in the district, the date MUST be changed. Students too busy drinking and f**king in Cancun... as opposed to being too busy f**king and drinking in South Oakland... must be accomodated.

Fortunately, students werent about to let this issue pass quietly. Council President Ravenstahl, a 20 something dedicated to keeping the people he parties with every weekend from voting in this special election, was caught off guard. "Shit, dudes, I'm so f**kin Sorry," he stammered to the crowd of assembled students rallying for the right to vote. Protesters responded with bristling fury. "Same Sex Couples should be granted the same benefits as Everyone Else," protestor Rage Liberalstein shouted in response to Raventsahl's plea for understanding, "You F**king Christian Fascist!"

You'd think that Peduto, who got whupped by Bobby O in Oakland during the mayoral, would realize he cant count on more than 1% of the student population actually getting out the vote. Peduto dutifully continues to toe the line for a vocal minority constituency that doesnt vote... At least he'll get props from the Pittsburgh City Paper and Front Weekly.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Food, food, food

This weekend I creatyed 15 pounds of dough, 20 quarts of tomato sauce, 2 foccacia pizzas, 3 pizzas, 2.5 lbs. of salmon stuffed with 1 lb. of crab, and 5 loaves of bread.

"You gotta be a playa. Get lean, get fit, and remember... the first thing they check is your leather."

Friday, January 06, 2006


Ariel Sharon is gone. In the span of 48 Hours, it is apparent that the future is completely undefined. No one... the NY Times, the Economist, nor the Washington Post, is willing to give analysis beyond a cheap want ad: "Kadima/Israel Seeks New Leader."

A year and a half of progress literally hangs in the balance... and things arent looking good. Mahmoud Abbas has all but lost control of Gaza, and looks set to lose his election to moderate, pacifist Hamas. Kadima, set to win upcoming Knesset elections, is rudderless. Will it be the overly pacifist Labor Party, or the remaining right-wing wackos at Likud who run the show?

Stop the presses... I'll give the first formal analysis. All sources say, we're probably fucked.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Vox Populi

I want a white one, like Celanie's. I'm more cosmetic, it has to be cute.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thoughts for the New Year's

1. Keep telling yourself that though you don't like the abortion protesters, sad old vindictive wrinklesteins that they are, you'd die for their right to protest. But one of these days...

2. Soft robe makes you happy in the winter.

3. Go to the new gym downstairs.

4. Dont pay $4.99 for a shoebox full of cheerios again.