Monthly Archives: March 2008

The Marriage Amendment: Kill It

There are so many reasons to deny this amendment’s passage to the floor of the legislature and to the voters of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it’s pathetic.

We would not have expected the 13th Amendment to figure in.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Is the denial of living with loved ones as one pleases a form of slavery? Slavery is the forcible compulsion of a people to act against their will, for some perceived benefit by the master.

This is called the “Marriage Protection” amendment instead of the “No Gay Marriage” amendment presumably because the institution of marriage is of value to the people, and it should therefore be strengthened and held in high esteem. How can we justify subjecting another people to live without this good, so that it can be enhanced for others?

Have we appropriated their freedom? Are we compelling them to live against their will, for someone else’s gain? To assimilate or perish?


Yes yes yes. Homosexuality is different. Homosexuality is a scourge upon civilizations and a cancer to be eradicated.

This is where the 1st Amendment comes in.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Free exercise. Every one of us can to choose to believe your gobbledygook, or choose not to.

Your formal religion may be your evidence — but you may also hold your beliefs because of your culture, experiences, inclinations or intuitions. That also is a religion, a belief system — and you are welcome to it, and welcome to share it.

You shall make no law establishing it. If you want to ban homosexuality because it’s dangerous, you had better show exactly how it is a public health issue or a national security issue.

That is when you are at your most amusing.


Amending constitutions is serious business. We generally do so only when we have problems that the present government can not deal with. Almost always, we do it to expand our rights, not to crack down.

In this case, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania already has outlawed gay marriage. It is illegal. If you don’t like gay marriage, you should be happy.

However, times may be changing slowly, and the people may be on the way to petitioning their government to change the status quo. At that time we will have a lovely debate, wherein we will utilize this good government that has been handed down to us, and we will come to an answer.

We are now being asked to add an amendment to the Constitution simply to prevent people in the future from making their own decisions? What is the reason? Where is the crisis? What is really going on?


Obviously, there are three strong motivations underlying the push for this legislation:

1. Drive a wedge among Democrats
2. Whip up the Republican base.
3. Lash out at homosexuals.

The PA Marriage Protection Amendment is, at its very best, a cynical ploy to further the politics and policies of a certain portion of today’s ideological spectrum.

At its worst, it is a raw and very useless statement of loathing, expressed only for its own sake. It would besmirch the rest of the PA Constitution around it.

Have none of it. Don’t touch it.

Monday: Why Won’t You Wear the Ribbon?

The war rages on. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd plans to introduce legislation Tuesday to give council and the controller some say in the management of the city’s challenged pension fund.

Dowd also authored a letter to URA director Pat Ford requesting that the URA refrain from spending UDAG money until it receives approval from the City of Pittsburgh, as is required.

Contrary to popular belief, these requests are in keeping with the Valentine’s Day proclamation, in which government officials agreed to work together to improve such things as transparency and accountability.

Brian O’Neill wrote a tremendous column about the Battle of the Take-Home Cars, and the various pros and cons spinning out of it for the public at large.

Unfortunately, he neglects to illustrate the bigger picture by summing it all up like so:

It’s very loud, occasionally entertaining, but is more about turf battles than with making Pittsburgh a better place to live.

Cut the mayor’s cars. Cap past years’ budget leftovers. Leave the rest. Move on.

Move on indeed.

What O’Neill failed to consider is, “turf battles” of any sort have not been waged by the august body of council since the institution of the Home Rule Charter. City Council has taken instead to routinely ceding power to the mayoralty, at an ever-increasing speeds, under ever-more aggressive persuasion.

This habit might be having a distinct effect on our mayors, and thereupon the direction of our city — even under mayors as seemingly dissimilar as Mayor Murphy and Mayor Ravenstahl.

(All of which is a long way of saying, Go Patrick Dowd!)


Today is BLOG FOR EQUALITY day, brought to you by Sue Kerr of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents and by the budding Pittsburgh Bloggers Guild.

Today is the day we all write about the proposed state Marriage Protection Amendment ™ making its way through Harrisburg. Feel free to join in and use the attached image. The Comet will chime in later, the better to leech off of our colleagues’ ideas. If there was some confusion as to who should have been invited to participate in BLOG FOR EQUALITY day, the answer is Everybody Everybody.

Summon your muses and let them muse. If you would like to learn more about the Pittsburgh Bloggers Guild, register your interest here.


The inaugural edition of the Conversation at the Post-Gazette was pretty good. The black lettering The Conversation floating over Maria’s head was a bit of a distraction, as was the Michel Lambesque pantone chosen — a neutral backdrop full of Post-Gazette logos might have lent the production a more professional air.

Favorite moment: Dayvoe: “Full disclosure: Maria and I are on opposite sides of this.”

Comet Suggestion: Make these vodcasts embeddable to the blogs. Yes, we know what you’re shrieking to yourself: But then they won’t visit our site, and we won’t get hits! Pish posh.

There is a natural hesitation among readers toward surfing over to a different page — especially when one may not feel like watching “now,” but would like it to be at our fingertips in a day or two. Bear in mind that a publisher can always put commercials directly onto these things! We the bloggers can be your distributors, and we would do it for free so long as we enjoy the content.

Free the information, plunk yourselves out onto the shelf, and everybody wins.

The music was actually really good.

This Man Should Have A Major Ambassadorship

Words can’t describe how good this guy is.

Our only major quibble is the “clearness” of the Clinton economic plan (see Swampland for an extended analysis) — along with the short shrift given to the full implications of Obama’s superior political ability (the better to move legislation from the bully pulpit.)

Charlie does throw down with the Governor about 8:20, after listening to a little too much media bashing.

Friday: NewsTracker 2750

Buon Giorno upsets its neighbors (P-G, Mark Belko)

But Mr. Gargani said he has no plans to build a stairway from the courtyard. He pointed out that he has all required city approvals, including that of the Historic Review Commission, for the deck.

If the deck really does cut in front of other businesses and encroach upon neighbors’ mojo — then that is something. Possibly a miss by the old Planning commission.

“The concept of a deck and people being able to interface with Market Square from two levels, I think, is a neat idea,” he said. “I think it will really activate that corner, absolutely.”

Needless to say, that is the voice of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, a major underwriter of the improvements. C’est la vie.

The LED story goes stealthy
(P-G, Team Effort)

Pittsburgh City Council has canceled a closed-door meeting with Solicitor George Specter on a resolution that would direct Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to put a six-month moratorium on the processing of sign applications.

The Comet is guessing — guessing — that council keen to avoid contributing toward any possible broaches of conduct involving conflicts of interest attorney-client privilege.

Curiouser: the P-G Edit Board whips out its editorial approval already.

Somewhat Related: Pierre 4 Pittsburgh.

Area mayor to marry some dudes (P-G, Anya Sostek)

The ceremony, which has no legal or religious significance, will take about three minutes to perform, but has been generating controversy for more than a month.

Mayor Welch is saying, “Bring it On.” Problem is, will this bring a sense of urgency to the wily purveyors of the state marriage amendment?

The Obama has landed. The Obama has landed. (Trib, Team Effort)

Obama will travel to Hempfield after an 11 a.m. campaign event at Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. Doors open at 9 a.m.

They’re probably lining up right now. How will he possibly live up to his advance hype?

Special Note:

Ed Rendell was on Charlie Rose last night. We will not embed it to the blog nor link to it, because frankly, he’s too good.

One thing among many he wanted to impress upon us was his version of the expectations game. A 20-point win for Hillary, he said, would be colossal, inconceivable, of historic proportions, fuhgetaboutit. Hillary will be seen to have dealt a resounding blow if she wins by 10 points.

Ten points. That is 45-55. Adjusting for the malarkey factor from our Governor, whom we are guessing in this would want to get away with the biggest, boldest possible bite, the Comet is presenting a rational spread of 16 points.

42/58. That’s not the game, that’s gospel.

In other words, if Clinton gets up into the 60’s, then Obama is in some actual, legitimate trouble — but if Obama claws his way above 45 (bearing in mind the Pennsylvania terrain), then Hillary’s situation in the whole race becomes completely untenable.

Thursday: Bingo Bango Bongo

1. Northside United would like you all to be aware of a major meeting tonight at 6 PM at Northside Common Ministries, 1600 Brighton Road.

2. Excellent column by the P-G’s Brian O’Neill on the energy we put into remedying “the grand mistakes of the past”, and a plea to restore the street grid … in Allegheny Center. Killin‘ me!

3. Absolutely exquisite article by the C-P’s Chris Young, representing not only a great opportunity to catch up, but to wake up and smell Paul Coffey. (See, Mark Belko, you’re not the only one who can lead with hockey puns!)

Samantha Power: The Monster Lady

Most of us know Samantha Power as the Barack Obama staffer who called Hillary Clinton a “monster,” then asked that the remark be considered off-record.

It was not.

Samantha Power was Obama’s chief foreign policy advisor, or at least one among several, depending who you talk to.

Power was a frequent guest on the Charlie Rose program,which is how we got to know her as the Genocide Lady, for her writing and reportage on the global genocide beat.

Here is Power most recently on 02/21/2008:

Here is Power on 09/19/2002 (There’s that year again…):

Elsewhere on YouTube is footage of Ms. Power, apparently stopped on the street by a reporter, apologizing profusely for her comments about Sen. Clinton. She describes herself as a “political rookie” who is very sorry.

We really enjoyed a blog post by Time Magazine’s Joe Klein on Time’s blog, Swampland.

Now, here is the meat of the post. Here is Samantha Power in earlier, happier times, rooting and roaring for Barack Hussein Obama at a rally on Feb. 2nd 2008:

She gets better as she goes. By the end, she is making the strongest case for Barack Obama, and one that should strike fear into the hearts of neoconservative swine everywhere — a working legislative majority.

New Pens Arena Design

This image was sent to us by an anonymous jokester who attended the latest presentation of the new Penguins arena, apparently along with us.

Click to enlarge:
The Comet has been hesitant to criticize the actual, physical design of the building, preferring to focus on the design of the street grid, and other issues of community involvement.

Our “city watcher” sums his / her indictment of the design up in one word: an embarrassment. At least for an urban design. By comparison, he / she does have some kind things to say about the new Columbus arena.

For now, to read about the latest breaking updates in the arena design, see this P-G Mark Belko joint. Quick thoughts: Was height ever an issue?

New Concerns About LED Appeal (Update x3)

A memo from mayoral chief of staff Yarone Zober fell off the back of a truck and bounced into our inbox.


The concern arises due to the nature and timing of the filing by these four members. On the afternoon of March 12 after the closing of the zoning counter and locking of the office doors, which are open to the general public only until 3:00, four Council members and their legal counsel arrived at the zoning offices at 4:15, knocking on the locked doors to file their appeal after the official close of business. Staff, recognizing the significant (and unusual) occurrence of Council members seeking to file late, reopened the office and the counter to register the appeal.

There are concerns that Council, whether intentionally or not, may have used undue influence and a possible abuse of power to enter into a legal proceeding by filing an appeal after the close of business, possibly in violation of the law. These concerns are being reviewed to examine the potential legal issues presented by the situation, the significance of the late filing, and issues related to the use of Councilmanic authority to file legal documents that members of the general public would not have had the same opportunity to file after the close of business. In general, in matters of law the processes in place for the general public do not allow for the late filing of documents in legal proceedings nor the use of power or authority to change those filing deadlines.

While abuse of power and undue influence issues need to be examined further, those matters are not what drive me to write this email today. Rather, we, the City, are concerned about the process followed…


It has been suggested to us that this line of argument belies a desire not to have to argue the case on its merits.

The Comet is a little more generous towards this. If we ever found ourselves arguing before a quasi-judicial body, we also would use any and all legal arguments that might be our disposal.

UPDATED: Via the P-G’s Rich Lord….

Mr. Shields called Mr. Zober’s communication “a very disingenuous attempt to disallow the representatives of the people access to their legal options.” He said City Planning Director Noor Ismail allowed the 4:15 p.m. filing. “What are they afraid of?” he asked of the administration.

In addition, City Solicitor George Specter requested a closed-door meeting with council to discuss something having to do with the matter that for now falls under the category of “threatened litigation.”

The Comet’s assumption for now is that Lamar Advertising warned of a lawsuit against the city if its permit application gets reversed at the Zoning Board of Adjustment or the Court of Common Pleas. Specter would then be trying to impress upon council members that their appeal may harm the city.

In this scenario, the plaintiffs on council would have to make a judgment call as to whether or not Lamar’s potential lawsuit has merit, and if so, the severity of the consequences in the case of a loss — which would be another good thing to take to a Council Solicitor. As we know, many on council currently hold the opinions of Cat Specter in somewhat higher regard than those of her father George.

UPDATE x2: Somebody needs to photoshop a sassy beret on George.

UPDATE x3: To the extent that we are having fun at the expense of Mr. Specter (by all accounts an excellent legal mind and a classy guy) we are only doing so because of issues involving the organizational chart…

We All Knew It Would Come to This

Pittsburgh Councilman Jim Motznik introduced legislation today to slash council’s staffing and its practice of tapping leftover funds from prior years and transfer $310,000 from its accounts to a public uses. A colleague said it reflects a threat made by the mayor last week. (P-G, Rich Lord)

The mayor either really wants to protect what he views as encroachments by council upon his administrative domain, or he is really upset that council took away his friends’ free vehicles, fuel perks, auto maintenance and auto insurance.

Or both. Let’s be fair.

The mayor said he simply challenged Kraus to curtail council’s spending under the provisions of Pittsburgh’s five-year financial recovery plan created under state Act 47 — the same provisions Kraus and other council members used to justify reducing the number of take-home cars from 61 to 29. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

There is some question as to whether or not the reduction of each council member’s staff budget from $82,000 to $61,000 annually represents the current requirements of the Act 47 oversight boards.

If state overseers had previously waived these reductions during negotiations, the council could surely vote to resist these cuts as political retribution. They already paid their dues today for having enacted the take-home vehicle legislation, in the form of having their own mileage reimbursements stripped.

If Ravenstahl however has them on the facts, it would be hard for council to justify a double-standard when it comes to obedience to Act 47. This would mean council staffs would be slashed by 25% — resulting possibly in some layoffs, and almost certainly some veteran staffers moving on to greener pastures.

However, such a move by Ravenstahl would involve “reopening” the current budget. Once the budget is opened, it is opened. Once opened, that enables this new council to curtail ballooning spending in the Mayor’s own office, as well as the Finance department and others, that previous councils had not the independence to resist.

“The reality is if you’re going to live by the sword, you’re probably going to have to deal with both sides of the sword,” Motznik said.

What we are dealing with is more like the 12 edges one encounters on a set of tri-tipped sai daggers.

Additionally, at today’s meeting Councilman Ricky Burgess stated that the Administration lacks the “masculinity” to make changes to the take-home vehicle policy, and stated that Councilman Jim Motznik is the Ravenstahl Administration’s “hammer.” (Burgh Report)

The temptation is to bemoan the self-destructive seeming childishness of this on all sides — but for the time being, the Comet is absolutely in favor of the melee.

City government has been erring on the side of unitary command and profligate spending for far too long. If it will take some real-life, messy lab work in order to figure out where the real zones of control and balances of power are, then that is what it will take.

It is far better than the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil approach, which is not why anybody was elected to anything.

Dave Fawcett: Changing Teams

Our mystery politician referred to in the last post is Dave Fawcett, former Republican at-large member of County Council. Described as a moderate Republican, or even a liberal Republican, but certainly a lifelong Republican, Fawcett switched registrations to Democrat an hour ago.

At a small press conference at the Allegheny County Dept. of Elections, Fawcett said that we have three great candidates for president to choose from. However,

“In my mind there’s only one who’s truly non-divisive, who can bring unity, and who can — who is proving themselves to be a true statesman, and that’s Barack Obama.”

Without mentioning any specific instances during the campaign (though he was given the opportunity), he repeated several times his statement about being non-divisive, and about unifying the country.

When asked rather aggressively and repeatedly by one reporter how he can explain his support for someone with ties to the Rev. Wright who has been photographed with Louis Farrakhan, Fawcett could only laugh it off. “I’m not voting for the Rev. Wright, I’m voting for Barack Obama.” He went on to say that he found Obama’s speech addressing the whole subject very impressive.

In answers to other questions, Fawcett confirms that he is now a Democrat for life, and that he is not running any election interference on behalf of Rush Limbaugh or other Republicans. “Nobody who knows me would think that of me,” he said.