Friday, February 27, 2009

Foundation of the Month

Love it or hate it, the Pittsburgh Promise now has the support of almost every major charitable foundation in Pittsburgh. The latest donation is $9 Million over 3 years from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
In recent months, Promise gifts also have been pledged by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation ($2.5 million over five years); the Grable Foundation ($5 million over five years); The Heinz Endowments ($6 million over three years); Buhl Foundation ($3 million over 10 years); Pittsburgh Foundation ($10 million over about 10 years); and Massey Charitable Trust ($1 million).
Now that's an honor roll.

On top of that, Pittsburgh and other urban school districts nation-wide are slowly improving their "student achievement" (a nebulous term at best) relative to their suburban counterparts.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back to Priorities

Like Obama listed his 3 priorities for the nation, I list my 3 major talking points on this blog: drinking, public transportation, and general political idiocy with a bit of my questionable morals thrown in to spice things up.

Back to the number one priority - drinking.

Pittsburgh is a drinking city. This guy chronicled bars in all 90 of our neighborhoods. We have a brewery in a church. Hofbrauhaus picked Pittsburgh as their 3rd location in the country. And from football games to art galleries, beer drinking goes with the territory. With proper precautions (i.e. drunk driving education and enforcement), I'm all for it.

For such a city, though, why do we put up with the yoke of the PLCB and the case law?

Oftentimes as a city we look to the East for inspiration. Is that it? We want to resemble the liberal state of Massachusetts (who historically didn't allow beer and liquor sales on Sunday) or Connecticut (who physically places tarps over the beer in grocery stores after 9pm and on Sundays ) or perhaps live-free-or-die New Hampshire (who runs a similar state-run liquor store plan yet somehow manages to have the cheapest prices in the region). If so, we need to start looking West to California, where if you want a bottle of vodka, you pick it up with your orange juice.

Do we really believe deep down inside that drinking is evil? And that we need the PLCB to protect us? After all the wording of the law which created the PLCB says the following:

This act shall be deemed an exercise of the police power of the Commonwealth for the protection of the public welfare, health, peace and morals of the people of the Commonwealth and to prohibit forever the open saloon, and all of the provisions of this act shall be liberally construed for the accomplishment of this purpose.

Or perhaps it's because our state continues to make money hand over fist because of the aforementioned slick setup? In this year of economic downturn, the only bright spot in the economy appears to be liquor sales. PLCB reported record sales last year. They're making so much money they've even hired an image consultant to make us like them more. Fat chance. Personally, I feel if the PLCB is going to pillage my wallet, they should at least turn their excess profits over to the state instead of working on their branding.

Is it really a surprise that when the state gave Pittsburgh options for funding Port Authority their only viable option was a drink tax? No. What's surprising is that we continue to put with it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fat Wednesday

While paczki are a foreign delight to me, the fish-on-fridays and 40-days-of-resolutions all leading up to chocolate-bunny-day are all very familiar to me and my very Catholic Massachusetts hometown. I met my first Jewish person in high school and was under the impression that Catholics were the vast majority of this country until college. Catholicism and I have since parted ways but I still have a soft spot for the various festivities it offers.

In light of being thankful that Jesus hallucinated in the desert for 40 days without food and water, I offer the following news articles that made my day.

1) Abstinence-only education in Pittsburgh schools has been eliminated. One can only hope that some of the millions that Obama is cutting out in his upcoming budget is the sickening Federal governments grants for nationwide abstinence-only education. Needless to say, I have strong feelings on this issue. This is not one of those fond memories of Catholicism for me.

2) The Mon Wharf re-construction actually begins very shortly. One more piece of the city's bike path puzzle is being worked on, and we are one step closer to having one of the most bad-ass city bike trail in the country.

3) Natural Gas prices have dropped for my local supplier. Every time I attempt to wrap my head around commodity charges and gas cost adjustments and distribution charges, my head hurts and some wonk says that it's all good because Pennsylvania gas companies aren't allowed to make a profit while my gas bill edges higher and natural gas prices plummet. This time it still hurts my head, but I double-checked my gas bill for the month, and my rate did actually drop to relatively close to what it was a year ago.

So today, I'm a content blogger - or at least this morning. Hopefully Luke and Onorato and all their friends and enemies can hold off on stupidity for the rest of the day or till Easter. Perhaps it can be their Lenten resolution? Is that too much to hope? Maybe then I can find something positive to say about Pittsburgh politics every day of Lent.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

There was a recent court case involving Wegmans cafe's selling beer in six-packs. For me, this paves the way to Giant Eagle one day selling a six-pack in a place where I dare to tread. Naturally, beer distributors are upset. They have the monopoly on reasonably priced beer. And by and large, they and their six-pack bar brethren rake in the dough without a thought of appealing to anyone with taste. I see ads on TV with scantily clad woman walking the aisles of concrete-floored walk-in garages lacking any semblance of heat or even warm lighting. They appeal to the common base who wants to walk in, cart out some cases of beer and leave. Currently, the homeless guy scraping together $10 in change to buy 8 oz Coors Light by the 24-pack seems more at home than I do. Most six-pack bars barely edge out in decency with their sticky floors, dim lighting and lack of windows. Now, Wegman wants to sell beer in "cafes." Why are they so far away?

And what do the beer distributors have to say about this landmark courtcase? "NOOOOOOO!!!!! We will fight you in court till the day you die!!!!"

I have a few alternative suggestions for these beer distributors.

1) How about you increase the appeal of your stores? If people want to shop at the beer distributor, they will continue to do so in spite of other options. Painting your garage door is not enough.

2) How about fighting for a tax break on cases of beer? It's often-times more reasonable (and always more convenient) for me to buy a beer at the bar than lug home a case. It's also cheaper to drive across the border to another state.

3) Better yet, how about fighting for the right to sell six-packs, even 12-packs? Then you could be an actual full-fledged store that could actually service well-rounded customers. Unless we revert to Puritan society, laws regarding alcohol will continue to get less and less strict. Things should get easier for businesses catering to this vice. Embrace that. It's not like you're selling cigarettes, which are the target of a public witchhunt.

The state of Pennsylvania's liquor laws encourages people to buy six-packs in bars as "travelers." That is sick. I welcome Wegman's to the beer distributor market and can only hope the laws continue to evolve. By the way, if you're not familiar with Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished, you've got some catching up to do. Go read. I echo his call to write to your local paper. The only way the PLCB and its ilk will be abolished is public outcry against it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Or Why Councilors and Lawyers Don't Mix

Disappointed is an understatement for my opinion on County Councilor McCullough's fraud case. He allegedly spent tens of thousands of dollars of a 91 year old woman with dementia to use for his own political causes. This accusation was from April 2007 and the case was before a grand jury in October. Mr McCullough was actually elected to Council after this case was revealed.

This is pretty messed up. First, why did this case take so long to come to fruition? We're talking more than 18 months from the accusation to the arrest. Second, does this mean yet another special election? At what point will he be forced to resign in spite of being elected while the case was on-going?

Third, why did I have to like this potential crook? This is the only man who responded to my drink tax emails. This is the man who helped fight the legal battle that the drink tax collections are actually used for Port Authority. He is also the man who initially recommended lowering the drink tax to a reasonable percentage.

As 2 Political Junkies (and American law) says though, innocent until proven guilty. And at this rate, McCullough will be up for re-election before the case is finished.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

According to Governor Rendell, the North Shore Connector is a "tragic mistake." (Thanks to Bram at The Pittsburgh Comet for bringing this gem to my attention.)

To that I say, "shut up." You may believe that this T extension is the biggest boondoggle this side of the Big Dig, but to go on record and say it as governor of this state? To lambast this project that will employ 4,000 of your voters for the next few years? That's just irresponsible and disrespectful. Governor Rendell, you need to support your troops. And your troops are the citizens of Pennsylvania. You may not agree with this "war" but do not shit on them.

Also, Governor Rendell, you may want to look up the definition of tragic. War is tragic. The Titanic went on a tragic journey. Romeo and Juliet is a tragic story. The North Shore Connector was probably not the best use of money, but this construction project is NOT tragic. Let's stop the gratuitous hyperbole and keep Pennsylvanians working. Or perhaps you'd like to fund some more amphitheatres?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why Can't We Be Friends?

The latest in Pittsburgh politics rivals the plot of Gossip Girl. Mayor Ravenstahl and Councilman Peduto are both requesting bids on revamping our street lights in Pittsburgh. Both are noble causes (because they're the same.) I've previously stated that I think revamping the streetlights is a great idea. But how much effort is being wasted in this duplicity? Yes, Peduto was stepping on the toes of the Mayor's new sustainability coordinator, but Peduto did act on the idea first. Council and the Mayor's office need to compromise on a plan going forward and stop wasting our time and money.

These antics tell me that neither the existing Mayor or anyone on the existing Council deserves my vote come next election. I wish someone would rise above acting like a high school girl and actually lead this city. Carmen? I don't know anything about her and she already sounds better than the ninnies currently pretending to govern our city.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Rules

In recent economic times, there is a simple rule of thumb. Don't fly on private jets, give extravagant bonuses, or plan "lavish parties" while begging for money from the government. This is a lesson learned the hard way by automakers and financial whizzes alike. The auto executives learned to carpool. However, North Shore Constructors are a little slow on the uptake. Luckily(*), we have an executive-leaning Onorato to slap them around. Angry Onorato canceled their upcoming shindig to celebrate completion of the tunnels.

Port Authority's take? The party had nothing to do with them. They weren't even invited (which is pretty mean, don't you think?) In truth, Port Authority also doesn't have the clout to make a phone call to stop the party. However, the American public won't care about little details like that when judging us on the front page of USA Today. They'll care that this is just one more instance of wasteful spending during a recession when companies should be saving for the next rainy day instead of holding their hands out for yet another bailout. Thankfully, Dan Onorato decided to take up the mantle of leadership and rain on their party.

No party until AFTER we get the money. Cool? Thanks! In the meantime, how about a potluck?

(*) Yes, I never thought I'd say much positive about Onorato either. I'm glad he's proved me wrong.

Monday, February 16, 2009

21st Century Here We Come

Better late than never, the Post-Gazette appears to be embracing modern technology.

As a geek, it's reason enough to smile - every slaying in Allegheny County harnessed and displayed by Google maps. You can even zoom in for the satellite-view of areas you wouldn't dream of driving by. Next, can Google incorporate these dangerous areas (as input from city police department data through a slick API) into their driving directions to reduce the risk of stumbling upon an untoward neighborhood?

As a concerned citizen, it paints another picture of course, forcing us to realize that most of us live in an entirely different world than those folks in Homewood and the Hill District. There was a shooting up the street from me last year, but my experience can't compare with the regular violence and drugs that determines those lives. And for the folks in Shady Side or Mt Lebanon or out in the depths of Allegheny County with their white picket fences? Watching "The Wire" on DVD is as close as they'll get. It's easy to ignore those city problems and focus on why the fire department is taking so long to rescue your cat from its perch in a tree.

All this data in the hands of citizens can only be a good thing. But we need to do something with it. Is that more funding for police in dangerous neighborhoods? Is it more community outreach? More money for inner-city schools? In the least, we can say it's more. Thanks to the Post-Gazette for having the foresight to post this map on their front page and hopefully wake some of us up.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thanks Senate! (for real this time)

  • High-speed and inner-city rail: Went from $300 million in House bill to $2.25 billion in Senate to $8 billion in final version. There also is a $6.9 billion provision for public transit.
  • But where is that money going? California is in line for the lion's share, and I think they deserve it. I'd love to see high-speed rail throughout this country, and California is truly embracing it. They've planned state tax dollars for it, and they have a solid plan to connect San Diego and San Francisco. Second in the running is the Las Vegas to Los Angeles which would dovetail nicely, but thankfully the Federal government likes to distribute its wealth on both sides of the Mississippi.

    It turns out there's lots of other cities lining up for that money. Atlanta and Baltimore are also fighting for East Coast Maglev money. But did you know New York wants a high-speed line from Albany to Buffalo? How about Dallas to Houston?

    Does Pittsburgh have an edge? Pennsylvania is home to one of the measly 3 Republican Senators that voted for the Stimulus who also happens to be a fan of high-speed rail and came under LOTS of flack for voting against the grain. If Specter can turn around and bring some serious federal dollars here for Maglev, I'm sure he'll be back in good graces with his voters if not his party.

    Back in November, some Maglev money was magically discovered for which Pittsburgh was a top contender.

    Finally, on the campaign trail, Obama said the following:
    "One of the things I have been talking about for awhile is high-speed rail connecting all of these Midwest cities - Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis."
    Surely, that counts for something. Obama didn't explicitly mention Pittsburgh but as Jim Russel at R2P has mentioned, Pittsburgh is a key connector between the East Coast and the Midwest. The first step to that is Maglev Pittsburgh. The $4 Billion and higher price tag makes $100 Million for the North Shore Connector seem paltry, doesn't it?

    But don't hold your breath.

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Kudos to Kuhn's!

    After a shaky "financing" round, Kuhn's is now ready to move forward with constructions plans for a grocery store in the Hill District.

    This is really a win-win situation for Kuhn's. Thanks to the URA, Kuhn's only has to spend 15% of the cost of construction and tada! new grocery store. The catch? They have to stay open for 10 years.

    According to Google Maps
    , it's at least a 35 minute commute to the nearest grocery store (Giant Eagle on the South Side) from a central location in the Hill District. No wonder they're clamoring for a grocery store. Those residents have been missing out on those oft-touted benefits of urban living for the past 3 decades. Now they're on target to have a full-fledged pharmacy-bakery-deli-one-stop-shopping-bonanza by 2010.

    The real hat-trick will be if this Kuhn's can help revitalize the Hill District while invigorating downtown living. If folks in the new downtown lofts feel comfortable enough to head into the dreaded Hill to do their grocery shopping, that would even be a win-win situation for taxpayers.

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Opposites Attract

    In a surprise move, Station Square announced yesterday that they had an investor to re-open the Chevrolet Amphitheater previously closed because of confusion over the new casino. How much is it costing to re-open this venue? $50,000. That's a far cry from the $12 Million entertainment complex being planned on the other side of the city.

    The North Side hotel-entertainment-dining fiasco has caused a lot of grief among North Side residents, but Governor Rendell is almost begging to add $4 Million to their pot-of-plenty in spite of this mind-numbing recession. I expect he'll recommend legalizing and taxing prostitutes to pay for this project.

    Certainly seems suspicious to me that Rendell is so eager to hop on-board this latest North Side boondoggle. Is it because of pay-to-play politics? Is it because he's distracting us from the truly evil deeds he's playing over in Philly? If anyone knows, I'm sure they've been paid off. But I'd sure feel better about it all if there was some reform in Harrisburg ala the GOP. Maybe then we can have realistic projects like the Chevy Amphitheater that add value to the city while not costing the region an arm and a leg. In the meantime, we'll be subsidizing Toby Keith's new restaurant.

    Don't get me wrong. I believe the more venues/hotels/restaurants the better. Let the people decide. But I also believe that if you can't afford it, you shouldn't build it/buy it/rent it - unless of course you're giving major kickbacks to the residents and raising their quality of life. Now is the time for Rendell to listen to the North Side residents and insist on a landmark community benefits package ala the new arena.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Thanks Senate!

    The Pittsburgh Trib has a nifty breakdown of the House bill versus the Senate bill. To bring around the stimulus bill to semi-local issues:

    First, the Senate decided to remove $25 BILLION in state grants from the stimulus package.

    No state block grants = higher state taxes.

    But it's okay because we'll all get a $1,000 per couple tax credit for the next 2 years. Don't worry, if you phase out of the tax credit (at a combined income of $140,000), there's a loop-hole for you. The Senate also decided to add a fix to the Alternative Minimum Tax. "The change would save a family of four an average of $2,300." Glad to see we're focused on who needs the money during this recession. How about you save a family of four who's making under $150,000 per year $2,300??? Between those 2 tidbits, we've got $210 BILLION of the stimulus. The Senate and House are ignoring that Bush's stimulus checks did almost nothing to help the economy and the people are not clamoring for a check.

    The people were actually excited about the prospect of a major infrastructure investment. The Senate decided to chop out $43 BILLION for rail and general public infrastructure repairs. They leave the infrastructure component at about $55 BILLION or about 6.5% of the package.

    But wait, there's also lots of money for energy.

    The Senate thought energy was so important they added $11 BILLION to that area. Maybe we'll see some of that trickle down to $25 Million for Pittsburgh LED street lights? Fat chance. Instead the extra money is divided out like this: $4.6 BILLION for fossil fuel research and development; $6.4 BILLION to clean up nuclear weapons production sites.

    The Senate also decided to sneak in an auto-makers bailout by allowing folks to deduct interest on their auto loans as well as extending tax benefits to companies losing money. Another $16 BILLION down the drain there. And they'll give all of us a $15,000 coupon if you buy a house in 2009. Except in Pittsburgh where most houses cost less than $150,000 so we'll only get 10%. Another $35 BILLION there.

    All in all. This "stimulus" is a gigantic mess that is mostly managing to alienate the American people from their overlords in the House and Senate. With $838 BILLION to play with, you'd think they could manage to please someone. Instead, the Democrats appear to be setting the stage for a major Republican come-back in 2 years.

    Of course, at least all this money is being spent in the USA. And I'd rather have a deficit based on spending and tax cuts that benefit my family rather than spending the staggering trillions of dollars on destroying and rebuilding Iraq.

    Monday, February 9, 2009

    Cleveburgh vs Pittsland

    This weekend, I roughly followed the dated 36 hours in Cleveland piece by the New York Times with some yelp help thrown in. I was drawn to the inevitable comparisons between the two struggling rust belt cities. Looking for the city's equivalent of Primanti Brothers left me stuffed at Cleveland's kitschy and charming Sokolowski's.

    Oakland = University Circle a little further from downtown but more accessible via RTA
    Bloomfield = Little Italy with less Thai food more Italian food
    Tremont = a trimmed down Shady Side
    Ohio's City's awesome West Side Market = our beloved Strip District
    The Flats = Station Square

    Deserted downtown = deserted downtown

    My first impression of Cleveland in spite of the dirty piles of snow (they get about 20% more snow than Pittsburgh) was very positive. It reminded me of a European city with its wide boulevards, grandiose statuary, and classically styled buildings from the Convention Center to the Library.

    The highlights of the weekend were definitely the West Side Market and the Great Lakes Brewery. The West Side Market is another European addition to Cleveland - a giant hall with everything for sale from bratwurst to pierogies to chicken gizzards to cannolis. The Great Lakes Brewery and Bar is an outstanding ambassador of the city. Not only is the beer great, they give hilarious tours of their eco-friendly brewery and have a packed-to-the-gills bar all adjacent to the West Side Market.

    As rock music is not my biggest interest (and the $22 price tag a big deterrent), I steered clear of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Instead the Cleveland Museum of Art was a nice cap to my weekend. It's currently under an ambitious re-construction plan with only half of the galleries open to visitors - the rest re-open in June, but you can still check out their crazy collection of medieval armor and swords.

    Things we can learn from Cleveland?
    • Better bus shelters and bus lanes. They have special lights for their bus lanes which give them an edge over normal motorists. They have bus shelters that remind you more of getting on a light-rail line than anything else.
    • Use light-rail judiciously to connect important places. They don't have a large light rail system, but it does connect downtown to the west side to university circle. They also connect their airport directly to a mall downtown which contains a hotel. How sweet is that?
    • More city hotels - no visitor to the city should have to stay in Greentree unless they really really want to.
    • Our own market - we even have the South Side Market House - invite regional butchers, bakers, and farmers to sell their wares in the winter months. Pittsburgh has an eating and cooking culture that can support multiple foodie-areas and being able to step inside the market on a cold day is a wonderful respite.
    • More cheap parking - almost every downtown parking lot had super-cheap weekend rates - not just the ones owned by the city of Cleveland.

    Things Cleveland can learn from Pittsburgh?
    • More cohesive neighborhoods. Perhaps this can only come with time, but the only time I really felt I was in a full-fledged neighborhood was in the quaint Little Italy. Everything else just seemed a little too piece-meal - like our currently evolving Penn Ave district.
    • A better alternative city paper. Our City Paper blows their Scene out of the water. I understand they have more pages to fill in the live music department but their Scene doesn't talk about politics at all. After the Short List, my favorite part of the City Paper is their off-beat take on local politics.
    • More ethnic variation - aside from European offerings there was a dearth of international options at the West Side Market. Considering that Cleveland has 7 times the Hispanic population of Pittsburgh, I was disappointed to see only 1 booth of the 180 booths of the West Side Market selling tortillas. The Strip in Pittsburgh is a treasure trove with its Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European stores.
    • More reasonable restaurants. Cleveland has PLENTY of over-priced hoity-toity food and a fair share of super-cheap college eats, but not enough in-between. Without my pre-trip yelp research, I would have been lost for a reasonable dinner in the city.
    • Less Blight. Pittsburgh has its fair share of blight in certain areas but on the main route between University Circle and Downtown, there were more abandoned buildings than I could shake a stick at. It would greatly improve a visitor's first impression of Cleveland if some of those eyesores were demolished. How about turning mid-town into a nice big green space filled with cross-country skiing, biking and walking trails?

    Overall, I had a great weekend in Cleveland. If you haven't been there, hop in your car and drive the scant 2 1/2 hours next weekend. As one Browns fan told me: "You have the Steelers, but we have Great Lakes [brewery]."

    Friday, February 6, 2009

    Breaking News

    What a quiet post-Super Bowl week it's been. The big news item was the hard-hitting
    that the Steelers celebratory parade being paid for by the taxpayers - just like every other parade in the city.

    Also, Pitt may expel some couch-burning bus-shelter destroying Steelers fanatics. Good for them.

    And the NFL has cracked down on local awesome t-shirt makers Commonwealth Press. Hopefully you picked up your Tomlin "Yes We Can" shirt before it went contraband. The black-market value of that shirt has now sky-rocketed.

    Mr Chief Executive woke up from his Super Bowl hangover today to intervene on behalf of an airport sculpture. Phew. That's why we pay him the big bucks. Now, there's no fear of the airport ever operating in the black. I expect Mr Mayor will recover some time mid-March.

    Thursday, February 5, 2009

    How I Love Taxes

    Trying to cut costs at the state level? How about this one? Charge inmates for toilet paper and soap.

    Next, maybe state employees can pay for their toilet paper, too? And how about charging people $10 when they have jury duty? While we're at it, let's get rid of those pesky free defendant's attorneys.

    Personally, I believe that if our society creates criminals then we need to pay for their attempted rehabilitation. While they may get free books in prison, they do not get a college education. When they leave prison, they should not be in debt for their years of servitude. They'll have a hard enough time finding a job.

    If you want to be innovative with the budget, how about the criminals monitor the new legalized video gambling machines? We can pay them 72 cents per day for staring at the computer. While we're at it, let's take Pgh Comet's suggestion and legalize table gambling at the casinos to get them off our backs about video poker. Though I think Las Vegas has proved time and again that gambling addicts can support however many slots machines you give them.

    While we're at it, why don't we legalize some drugs that the inmates can package up for us, and we can tax them?

    And how did the tobacco lobbyists pull this one off? Only state in the nation with no tax on chewing tobacco and one of the few with no tax on cigars? Heck, my tobacco-naive self was under the impression that cigars were basically cigarettes and that the two were taxed equivalently. Silly me.

    Seriously, Mr Rendell, I don't care how you make the money, just as long as you don't introduce the 10% 2009 Emergency Budget-Filling Tax on alcohol that stays on the books for the next hundred years. How's Johnstown doing these days?

    Wednesday, February 4, 2009

    Heads In The Sand

    I expect that the small-town folks in West Virginia have their heads in the sand and can pretend that their sweet little hometown teenagers haven't heard about S-E-X yet. If they really feel the need to envision that their precious darlings would never do that, don't watch TV, and that all parents will tell their kids "when the time is right," let them. They can also move school districts when their baby gets pregnant or get an abortion under the table.

    But in Pittsburgh??? Where 14% of births are by women under the age of 20??? What do they think? Every one of those girls had sex just once with her long-term boyfriend and was really unlucky???

    It's criminal to be teaching these kids abstinence-only education.

    The biggest reason? STDs.

    If a teenage girl gets pregnant, it's unfortunate and it's a burden on the system and it's another girl who will never go to college and be working 3 jobs to support her single-mom kids. That's unfortunate.

    But if she gets a disease because her boyfriend said: "It's just a blowjob you don't need a condom." Or: "I'll pull out, baby." Or: "I promise I've never been with anyone." That's just willful neglect. That's criminal in my mind.

    Of course, if it was me, I'd take it a step further. I'd give out the birth control pill in high school and packs of condoms. I'd introduce baby-prevention classes - teaching those girls that babies are a huge responsibility and that they can do a lot more in life than just have kids. And those kids will have a better life if they can hold off a few years. Most importantly, I'd offer free STD testing just like over at Club Pittsburgh. I'd have STD-awareness fairs. I'd make sure these kids know the dangers and the responsibility.

    But luckily for you, there are moderates and conservatives amongst you that will prevent all that from happening. Instead, they're fighting for "abstinence-plus." Don't you worry, there will be no icky condoms involved. But it's a start.

    Tuesday, February 3, 2009

    Black & Gold Profits

    If you're in business in Pittsburgh and you did not make a boat-load of extra money over the weekend, you need to re-work your strategy.

    Every bar on the South Side was packed starting at 12pm on Sunday. By the end of the night, I'm sure there were some 5-figure tabs.

    I stopped at 3 stores on Monday before finding a copy of the Post-Gazette, after enduring almost unbearable loading times on the newspaper's website. One day they'll find a way to effectively cash in on website hits and double all their writer's salaries.

    Dick's Sporting Goods re-opened its 13 area stores immediately following the Super Bowl and sold out of most gear. People stopped to buy clothing on the way home from their partying - or maybe as a stop in the partying process?

    If you're a coffee shop downtown, stop reading. You should be peddling your hot cocoa and steaming cups of joe on the street today to those 250,000 freezing fans waiting for the parade.

    Or you can be sentimental like Eat'n'Park and let your employees go watch the parade. But I'd recommend having already cashed in by selling Black & Gold cappuccinos for the past 3 weeks alongside your Steelers emblem cupcakes. Not everybody can have Smiley Cookies.

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    On Why I'm Hoarse

    I headed down to the South Side to watch the game yesterday, camping out at a bar for 12 hours or so. This was my first Super Bowl in Pittsburgh, and I've never seen anything like it from gorilla suits to gold go-go boots to posing with the superstition-laden Steelers teddy bear. People at our tables came from as far-away as Youngstown, Rhode Island, New York, and "here."

    In good news, I survived the drinking binge (with lots of pacing) and the after-party in the streets. I saw lots of cops in riot gear, but didn't have the opportunity to see them exercising their crowd dispersal skills. As far as I could tell, there was just intense good cheer and drunkenness.

    In extra good news, contrary to previous reports, there will be a parade tomorrow.

    In not-so-good news, the revelers set some fires and broke some windows. More than 100 were arrested last night. But I'm sure you all knew that.

    See you at the parade! Let's try to leave the city standing.