Thursday: Limping Towards the Finish Line

This is a shame.

Pennsylvania’s $26.4 million share of high-speed rail money from the federal stimulus bill will be mostly focused on improving service that already exists between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, where electrified trains already reach 110 mph and connect passengers to the high-speed Acela service along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters. (Trib, Matthew Santoni)

No wonder Mayor Nutter is able to get whatever he wants out of the State Legislature, whilst we have to organize irate donkey caravans across the mountains to react to news.

It comes on the heels of this:

Pittsburgh officials are reeling from the blow of being turned down for a second round of stimulus money for neighborhood stabilization. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

Everyone seemed pretty shocked. How did that happen? My first thought:

While nearly 400 cities have gone public with ambitious wish lists they’ll submit in hopes of getting some of the hundreds of billions of dollars in anticipated federal aid, Pittsburgh is playing catch-up, keeping what officials say is a $500 million list and another $1 billion in follow-up projects under wraps. (P-G, 12/18/2008)

Maybe. It is possible there has been a continuing lack of clerical rigor. But then I read:

The applications were scored using six factors, the weightiest being need and demonstration of capacity to use the money effectively, she said. (DNJibid)

This money, if it came to Pittsburgh, would have gotten funneled directly through both HACP and the URA. Is it possible that all of the stories that have come out over the past 18 months about HACP and the URA — separately and together — played a role in the federal government’s hesitancy about its “capacity to use the money effectively”? Just a thought.


Council preliminarily passed something called “prevailing wage” legislation yesterday.

The changes were designed to better define what projects would be subject to the prevailing wage or to limit its impact. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Article reads like it was a Rudiak arrangement.

Council bucked a city Law Department opinion, issued Tuesday, finding that it could not put conditions on actions by city-related authorities. (ibid)

That could be a real problem. If a Mayor is in possession of a Law Dept. opinion that says an aspect of legislation is thought to be illegal, he or she can refuse to enforce that legislation without suffering any legal indemnity. See lost & stolen handguns.

“The authority can’t even breathe a breath without the consent and the authorization of this body,” said Mr. Shields, later saying he’d do “unimaginable” things to the URA if it did not comply. (ibid)

Oh, I can imagine plenty.


Speaking of the FBI, it is looking in to the Miles Jordan incident.

Mr. Killeen stressed that the FBI uses a “tiered approach” in its inquiries, that begins with “an assessment phase,” then proceeds to a preliminary inquiry and finally a full investigation. Agents are in the assessment phase on this case, he said. (P-G, Gurman & Lord)

No doubt, a rigorous and professional investigatory process is both necessary and the only fair thing to do. No one should jump to any snap conclusions based upon preconceptions.

“Their actions were correct and law-abiding by everything they received in their training,” FOP Vice President Charles Hanlon said. “The demand by special interest groups that they be removed from the streets is an insult to their hard work.” (ibid)

Why do reporters even go to the FOP for quotes in regards to stories like these? Really? When is the last time they said, “You know what? That guy really screwed the pooch in instance, there’s no question there needs to be some discipline?” Claiming that nothing went wrong here — or in Oakland during the G20, or with the promotions of 3 officers with spotty records — is laughable.

This kind of thing isn’t just a Pittsburgh problem, or I would think even particularly a Pittsburgh problem, but we deserve some Pittsburgh solutions. Our Mayor seems to be moving tentatively in the direction of gaining some common-sense and meaningful civilian control over police department discipline, and he should be applauded for that if it continues.


As you know already, 2PJ’s Dayvoe DeAngelo took some umbrage at Dr. Cyril Wecht’s comments on the radio in relation to a larger discussion about Italian-American stereotypes — and that umbrage was returned.

I have made a serious effort to speak to many Italian-Americans over the past three weeks regarding the meaning of the word “goombah,” which I recently used in a radio interview. In fact, a few friends asked their grandmothers, who were born in Italy, what their definition and societal understanding of this word is. Every one of these people — professional, business, labor, academic — responded the same way. They all utilize and accept goombah as an expression of close friendship, a warm greeting and sometimes even use it to greet a relative like a cousin. (P-G, Cyril Wecht)

It was Dr. Wecht who used the word goombah — twice — and he obviously does not bear particularly warm, filial feelings towards Zappala or Orsini, whom he (now, again) alleges were at fault for the whole criminal investigation into his activities. One could question why in this context Wecht would make even a passing reference to the two individuals’ heritage at all. If they were both Mexican, would he have described Mr. Orsini as Mr. Zappala’s “hombre attorney”? Were they Russian, his “comrade attorney”?

All of which is to say that many of us are once again taking Wecht entirely too seriously. Which Chad Hermann this week reminds us, is not necessarily the best idea:

But the good doctor is surely correct on one count: he is neither hesitant, nor ashamed, to say what he thinks about individuals who have attacked, or attempted to destroy, or criticized, or said an occasional harsh word about, or wrote a simple letter to the editor in opposition to, him or his family. Even when he should be. (Radical Middle)

That’s only Part II — there’s also a Part I, which in addition to being highly entertaining, especially for you literary junkies, is very useful now that the warm, affectionate, generally goombah-like glow surrounding America’s greatest civil rights martyr is beginning to fade in advance of what could be an actual real-life campaign for governor.


Speaking of Mr. Hermann, I’m due to be a guest of his on his webcast, The Chad Hermann Show Radical Pittsburgh on the Pay Side, or PGCross, tomorrow. Not sure when it’ll go online, but I consider it a very fitting cap to my blogging run.

Which brings us to the third and final Comet Apology. It’s not very classy at all to explain why you were angry at someone in the midst of apologizing, but since it’s a public apology I’ve got to set the stage:

The first thing to understand is that we were having a disagreement about what to make of Barack Obama’s then-famous speech on race relations. I considered it a sporting disagreement, but at the same time I can’t deny that something about it was getting under my skin — and related to that, I think my inability to comment along in his space made me inclined to be a bit more extravagant and cavalier in how I approached him in my space. He became a favorite, or even preferred target of mine on occasion, and for his part he had critics which were drawing far meaner and less legitimate conclusions about him than I. This prickly atmosphere is only to explain how I came to be prepped to act ungenerously.

So that’s background. More background is that I found out only at Mark DeSantis’s election results-watching party that Chad had been consulting for the DeSantis campaign. Of course that was mostly okay. Then later, when I found out casually through an acquaintance that Chad had begun working at least in some capacity for congressman Tim Murphy, suddenly I made the determination this was not okay. Instead I decided to get all offended, professionally of course — he’s blogging, and once again he’s working for people, and I’m Mr. Standards and Practices in Blogging, I am the authenticity police, I am the Decider.

So instead of telephoning or e-mailing the person about whom I was about to write a story — and probably, in the process, write a much more interesting one that would have moved the entire subject matter forward — I decided to rip the cover off him, suggest strongly that he’s a hack, and see in which direction my little cockroach would run. As it turned out, he didn’t do anything outwardly entertaining in reaction to this abrupt and spiteful gesture, but I can only imagine the trauma this might have caused him professionally, or personally, or what have you. I didn’t find out until much later that he didn’t appreciate it very much.

Even then it took a long time for me to realize where and how I was in the wrong — and in the process, started to further understand that I couldn’t consider myself just a jester anymore, that people read me and, lord help them, took me seriously, and that I’d have to think seriously about what I published and how what I was writing affected people. For teaching me that and for handling my classless error with as much class as he actually did, I thank him.


So yeah, I’ll be going on Chad’s P-G program tomorrow, look for it next week. I’m sure he’ll ask me what I’m up to next. Since I’ll be in the Post-Gazette building Downtown, I guess I’ll bring some updated resumes with me. After the interview, I think maybe I’ll call a limousine, have it deliver me to a County office building, and have them fax my resume to any and all potential employers. Then I’ll hand them the bill for the limo (a full day’s service), take home a County laptop for further job-hunting, and maybe drop off a load of laundry for them to do for me.

If they give me any trouble, I’ll accuse them of “nickel and diming” me while calling them all “goombahs” and “loyal bushies”.

8 thoughts on “Thursday: Limping Towards the Finish Line

  1. Anonymous

    Not sue why one of the 2 political junkies felt it was necessary to step into the ring with Dr. Wecht. It accomplished nothing and distracted from the issue.

  2. Anonymous

    How come when someone like Wecht says something offensive about Italian Americans we are supposed to dismiss it as “don't take him seriously.” If it were any other minority group there would be outrage and it would be said to indicate deep rooted problems in society.

  3. Mark Rauterkus

    Wait. I don't see all the dots Bram. You called Chad H a hack. Then you said that it was unprofessional to call a blogger on the undercover payroll a name, such as a hack.

    Are you sorry now because you are going to be on his closed content show?

    What am I missing. Why be sorry. Are you sorry people took what you wrote and thought it was meaningful?

    Or, are you sorry you had to be woken up to those perceptions regarding the light you cast?

    Here is an idea. Podcast about you being podcasted because that is the only way I'll see it as I don't pay for the P-G+ thingie.

    And, while in the P-G, ask about the subscriber levels to that service too. Is the PG doing about the same as Newsday?

  4. Bram Reichbaum

    Mark, I'm sorry that I reported new news about a not-very public figure without first seeking his side of the story, even though we'd been in frequent and very cordial e-mail contact. I'm also sorry I lent some people an excuse to invent labels like “undercover payroll”, as though all bloggers make regular and thorough financial disclosures regarding themselves and let's say their spouses when it might conceivably be relevant to a discussion of let's say taxation of non-profit properties (heck, we should be thankful simply that we always knew his real name). And I've been feeling sorry for some time. I'm just getting a backlog of personal notes out of the way now because the blog is closing. Now, would you like to criticize me again for that decision as well? In your response, please let me know how you feel about Bruce Kraus and the OVERLORDS.

    Bring it on, Cyril. I'm waiting for your letter. 😉

  5. Mark Rauterkus

    I wasn't sure what you were sorry about. Thanks for clearing that up. Yep. I agree it is good to check with the other side so as to be objective if that's the ticket to avoiding a guilt trip. Makes more sense now.

    I'm not sure what you mean about Bruce Kraus and the Overlords. Perhaps you're just trying to bait me. ??


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