Monthly Archives: January 2007

Random Political Analysis

With all the excitement before the big event tonight, our morning at Comet HQ is a little hectic. We’ll just spit some awesome political analysis at you, and call it a day.

Candidate Bill Peduto joined the Honz Man this morning to talk red-lights and blogs. Once again, he trotted out the line that obviously, if he was behind the McIntire story, wouldn’t he have held onto it until late April?

Well, no. Releasing it late would minimize its impact, because by April, fewer voters are still undecided. By setting off a scandal in January, a week before your campaign kick-off, awareness and interest in the mayor’s race was stretched two months longer than usual. That’s key, if you’re a challenger who needs to make up a lot of ground in an off-off-year election. Every time we hear this “evidence,” we start to wonder.

The P-G reports of nine candidates in the race for District 9 City Council. An anonymous analyst broke it down for the Comet this way: “This is like the race for Homecoming Queen at Taylor Allderdice. Five different Jewish girls are running, so of course the hunky’s gonna walk away with the tiara.”

Hats off to Jeremy Irons … I mean, Jeremy Boren, at the Trib, for writing what will remain the finest piece yet on the blurghosphere (for at least another week).

“I don’t think we can point to any blogs yet that have had an impact on a huge number of voters,” Pitt Prof. Stuart Shulman said. “But a lot of people have looked at blogs as bringing a new level of democratic activity.”

“Young people expect a level of interaction and real-time delivery of news and information, and blogs provide that more successfully than mainstream media outlets,” said Khari Mosley of the League of Young Voters. “So blogs, message boards and online communities of all kinds become like virtual coffee shops where you can find out what your neighbors are talking about and join the conversation.”

And, of course, there was the Burgh Report’s coup, stumping the Mayor on the propriety of allowing City Solicitor George Specter to remain Acting for so long.

Finally, KDKA’s Jon Delano now has his own blog, and let me tell you it is just adorable!!! His first question — whether or not blogs ought to be taken seriously — has resulted in just two content-screened comments thus far: “Unfortunate” and “Ridiculous.” Rest assured, the Comet will be tracking the goings-on of this HOT new blogitrolla.

UPDATE: The Busman proves he’s hipper than all of us with an Audio-Mashup of Peduto and Ravenstahl discussing Blurghosphgate with him..

Politics Ain’t Beanbag

Okay. Let’s put aside the Comet’s pretentious idealism for a moment.

Anyone who thinks Councilman Jim Motznik’s foray into the blurghosphere was tactically senseless, stupid or ill-advised, must have spent the summer of 2004 living on Mars. In a cave. With their eyes shut, and their fingers held tightly in their ears.

Put another way: If Rich and Jeremy find themselves maneuvered into the Magazine section, and all the wannabe Riches and Jeremies follow suit, would that be helpful to a challenger? Or an incumbent?

Put a third way: karma’s a bitch, ain’t it, Johnny?

The educated and interested listeners of WDUQ were just told by their Mayor that we should all worry less about pie-fights in the blogosphere, and more about public safety. Oh and by the way, you’ll have your new arena by Friday.

Say whatever you want about either one of these candidates. Neither one of them is hurting when it comes to the strategery department. Especially one of them.

Look alive, Pittsburgh.

Today’s Idea: Support Public Transit

More revenue for public transit will always be preferable to less revenue, no matter what happens to service. And getting funding is always going to be a struggle, right? We’re practically begging already.

Why not market bus passes more aggressively to people who, frankly, don’t need them? Public transit can partner with public television and public radio a couple times a year, and work it like pledge drives.

Have P.J. Maloney, Chris Fenimore, and other pledgemeisters tout the community benefits of reliable mass transit, the joy of reading and relaxing during a commute, and the refined pleasure of meeting your neighbors along the way. Play the pride card, the guilt card, the repetition card. Include clips from local celebrities and athletes.

Government can’t do it alone. We need you, you who care so much about the strength and vibrancy of our community, we need your support of strong public transit. If you donate just $30 a month, we’ll thank you with your own 12-month bus pass — a full year service! For $50 bucks, we’ll let you go see Andre Rieu or some crap!

Best part: maybe some of those folks will actually use the bus, decide they like it, and keep their bloody automobiles in park!

Media F.Y.I. on Bloggers

We think its wonderful that established figures in politics and the media are starting their own blogs. We can’t wait until they get the hang of it.

Note that only those established personalities “slumming it” in the blurghosphere are conducting themselves like acid-tripping weasels with attention deficit disorder. The great mass of Pittsburgh webloggers, though often passionate, provocative and amusing, are conducting themselves with baseline civility and professionalism.

When the P-G’s Rich Lord calls the blogosphere “the scene of vitriolic commentary and rumor circulation,” we’re getting a bum rap because of those moonlighters, who think they’ve discovered some secret, morals-free, standards-free zone. Just be aware.

Matt H Exposed

Infamous pro-Ravenstahl web presence “Matt H” has been exposed in the comments section of the local weblog The People’s Republic of Pittsburgh. Matthew Hogue, 22, is an employee of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, and devotee of the late Mayor Bob O’Connor. LINK

The Republic‘s author, who himself goes by the alias Admiral Richmond K. Turner, expressed regret that the “outing” took place in his own civil, dignified web space. We at the Comet seriously considered whether or not further amplification was appropriate.

We decided that by engaging so energetically, for so many months, in what can only be described as a blatant public relations campaign in support of Mayor Ravenstahl, Matt H went out of his way to make himself a public figure concerned with public business, thereby meriting public scrutiny.

Hogue is also a city employee, who until four days ago would have served under the controversial former chairman of the housing authority, Dennis Regan.

Matt H’s identity was uncovered by another frequent blurghosphere commenter, Smittyfromtheflats. The first evidence to surface was a September P-G column by Tony Norman, in which a Matt Hogue lovingly recalled the recently deceased Mayor O’Connor. Matt H denied any connection.

Then Smitty produced an archival Burgh Blog post in which Yarone Zober, who had just stepped down as Deputy Mayor to become new mayor Ravenstahl’s chief of staff, acknowledged praise by Matt “Logue.” Matt himself corrected Mr. Zober, revealing himself.

But this was long before he became a local phenomenon, renowned for his prickly and sometimes offensive baiting of blog readers supportive instead of Bill Peduto.

Matt H’s Myspace profile has also surfaced. The page has since been made inaccesable to all but the owner’s approved contacts, yet screenshots have been captured as images by Dean, another blog commenter.

The Comet would like to close with the words of Matt H’s virtual bounty hunter, Smittyfromtheflats:

Matt from now on your “hands off”…i respect the fact that at 16 you became a political soldier,got yourself a job via Bob o,and continue to be loyal…congrats

When Technocrats Attack

“My people who support me — the ones that write checks — don’t sell asphalt for a living. They’re not looking for city contacts.”

This was not lifted out of context. This was a forthright body-blow delivered by Bill Peduto on KDKA’s “The Real Deal” with Marty Griffin (Ravenstahl’s turf?).

Safe to say that when the campaign fundraising reports are submitted on Wednesday (h/t P-G Early Returns), we will not be shocked by Team Peduto’s unexpected strength. Peduto is laying the groundwork for spinning his monetary disadvantage into a populist advantage.

Ravenstahl “thinks there are a lot more important things to be talking about,” apologizes for nothing, and invites scrutiny of Peduto’s own contributors. There really wasn’t much he could say.

The Comet will be tracking the money-as-evidence-of-machinery charge, the frequency of the “asphalt” meme, and whether or not it conjures more images of honest, hardworking Americans, or the layabout Sopranos on their “no-work jobs.”

Boren to be Wild

With fifteen (15) distinct weeks remaining before the election, The Tribune-Review’s Jeremy Boren starts our week off right with a cup of hot oatmeal and an in-depth look at the differences between our mayoral candidates.

After an enlightening-to-no-one lead graph on age, experience, and marital status (being married doesn’t count with voters until you have children how much would that kick ass as an April surprise?), Boren cites four votes as especially illustrative:

1) Act 47 state oversight. Ravenstahl, AGAINST. Peduto, FOR.

There is broad agreement that Act 47 has been beneficial, so the Mayor will have to explain this vote, and possibly admit an evolution in thinking.

2) A buffer zone for protests around abortion clinics. Ravenstahl, AGAINST. Peduto, FOR.

Will this issue gain traction? Will Peduto try? Can the Mayor make it a 1st Amendment issue, or does it contribute toward his “Bush Factor”?

3) Dealing with Twanda Carlisle’s spending fiasco. Ravenstahl PASSED limits on discretionary spending, Peduto FAILED TO PASS an outright ban on walking-around-money.

This places Peduto even more fixedly as the reform candidate; but people like money, and like when it walks around some.

4) Tax Increment Financing for PNC office tower. Ravenstahl FOR. Peduto AGAINST.

Oddly, this would seem to align Peduto with the Trib editorial board (think, “Mr. Rohr, give back the public money”), which in turn would align Ravenstahl with the Heinz Endowments.

Finally, Dick Skrinjar chimes in with this one:

5) Ravenstahl for Council President. Ravenstahl FOR. Peduto FOR.

Just like Ravenstahl has some explaining to do on vote #1, Peduto at some point must forthrightly explain this, whether or not it’s a Skrinjar trap.

Interesting: Much of the analysis in Boren’s piece came from the Allegheny Institute — a local conservative think-tank — and it was mostly in Peduto’s favor. If Bill Peduto can swing being the candidate of experience, and the candidate of reform, and the candidate of conservatives — that is something.

BTW, the Allegheny Institute has a blog, which accepts comments, and is totally worth following.

On Kelly: Don’t Prejudge the Surge

Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret who was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration. He is presently a columnist at the Post-Gazette, and can be described as a reliably hawkish unilateralist and free-market fundamentalist. As a special feature of the Comet, we will attempt to debunk the dangerous and foolhardy ideas put forth by Pittsburgh’s most prominent ultra-conservative.

Jack Kelly informs us that both Al-Qaida and the Mahdi Army are already surrendering for fear of the surge! Huzzah! He offers three bits of evidence.

“First, al Qaida appears to be retreating from Baghdad. A military intelligence officer has confirmed to Richard Miniter, editor of Pajamas Media, a report in the Iraqi newspaper alSabah that Abu Ayyub alMasri, the head of alQaida in Iraq, has ordered a withdrawal to Diyala province, north and east of Baghdad.”

The al-Sabah newspaper is part of the U.S. backed Iraqi Media Network, created by the Coalition Provisional Authority, and run by the Pentagon’s Psy-Ops division. Seasoned journalists quit IMN because of heavy-handed CPA oversight. In March of 2004, it was nominally handed over to the Iraqi government, where it remains state-owned, and its credibility remains in the toilet. Sourcewatch.

Jack Kelly just spoon-fed us Pentagon propoganda. Ah, but what of the confirmation by Richard Miniter of Pajamas Media?

Richard Miniter: Author not only of “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush is Winning the War on Terror” (Oct. 2004), but also of “Losing Bin-Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror” (Sept. 2003). You be the judge.

Pajamas Media: A notorious collection of exclusively conservative bloggers and pundits. Its founding editor, Roger L. Simon, wrote in Oct. 2005: “As for the run-up to the war, in looking back I think it was a big game of charades that everybody understood. Despite what was said, the obvious US motivation was geo-political.” LINK

This is more charades. Miniter’s source, the “military intelligence official,” is plainly a Pentagon propogandist, who is “confirming” a story in their own house organ, al-Sabah. Moving forward:

“Second, the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Iranian-subsidized militia, the Mahdi army, is responsible for most of the assaults on Sunni civilians in Iraq, is cooling his rhetoric and lowering his profile.”

“Third, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri alMaliki is putting more distance between himself and Mr. Sadr, upon whose bloc of votes in parliament he had relied for political support.”

If Kelly actually believes there’s anything of substance to al-Sadr’s cool rhetoric, or alMaliki’s distance, we have about nine or ten local bridges we’d like to sell him.

“Don’t prejudge the surge” is the title. “It just might work” says its subtitle. “Efforts to write it off in advance as a ‘failure’ are, at best, premature” he concludes.

This war didn’t begin last month. We know the generals have been skeptical at every step, though silenced by the civilian leadership. We know this surge foolishness was concocted by the American Enterprise Institute, not by military commanders, on the ground or elsewhere. We know General Patraeus, god bless him, can only muster an uninspiring “it might work,” because his president won’t tolerate insubordination.

We’ve had enough of this misbeggoten and mishandled war, Mr. Kelly, and we’re ending it.

Stop What You’re Doin’…

… ’cause Robert Firth is about to ruin, the image and the style that you’re used to.

The last page of the P-G’s Forum, called “The Next Page,” features a bold proposal for Port Authority Transit. It reorganizes the system into streamlined core routes, with short local circulators and a plush Downtown circulator. The authors claim not only that this would better serve riders, but will also save costs on a par with the draconian cuts we’re facing.

We at the Comet are not equipped to evaluate the fine points of the idea, but we find ourselves being persuaded. The staff of Informing Design, Inc., headed up by this Robert Firth, have put together an innovative comic-book style polemic that is neither condescending, irritating, nor easy to refute.

Their proposal is based on a system developed in Curitiba, Brazil, and has been adopted by Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Cleveland. We doubt that such awesome innovations would be welcome in Allegheny County. Besides, there might be start-up costs to consider.

But we strongly urge Mr. Firth and company to utilize this format for delivering pro-active, instead of re-active, policy suggestions; for contributing to thorny foreign-policy discussions; and for delivering endorsements in local political races.

Pension Road Trip

The P-G’s Rich Lord reports that all nine members of city council, and a rep from the Mayor’s office, are going to Harrisburg next week to lobby for statewide pension reform.

Councilmembers Doug Shields and Jim Motznik were the point-men for outlining the strategy to the press. This could be an attempt to prevent pensions from becoming a political football between mayoral candidates, at least for now. The unity on display by this happy caravan is not just for the sake of the state legislature, but the local electorate. Remember Councilmember / Candidate Bill Peduto has already indicated unfunded pension liability as Pittsburgh’s greatest looming problem.

It’s a pity, though. Ten united Democrats from Democratland, off to ask for some Democrat-style big government intervention. With Harrisburg so evenly and interestingly divided, it would be nice if we could add a cabal of fiscally hawkish Republicans. Shame to have to summon Jim Roddy to play this part again. How about some of those names we’ve seen dropping? Melissa Joan? Mary Beth? Hons Man? Bueller?