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Filed Under: default || By jt3y

June 29, 2007 | Link to this story

This, That, T'Other

Category: default || By jt3y

It's About Time: We all know it. Stanley Denton, a member of the state Board of Control overseeing Duquesne School District, is finally saying it publicly.

Denton tells Mary Niederberger of the Post-Gazette that West Mifflin Area School District's day-late, dollar-short proposal to manage Duquesne High School is a con game:

"This plan feeds on the pain and agony that the [Duquesne] community is experiencing over losing their high school and it gives them a false sense of hope that maybe there is a way that they can keep their school," said Dr. Denton, an assistant professor of education at Point Park University.

"They are not interested in helping Duquesne residents to keep their school open. This plan is created to keep the Duquesne students out of West Mifflin."

Meanwhile, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh indicates that the Pittsburgh metropolitan area is one of the most segregated in the country, and that African-Americans in Western Pennsylvania get paid less and get worse job opportunities than black residents in other regions.

That's not necessarily related to the Duquesne-West Mifflin situation, right?

. . .

Alleghenee Genac Genac Genac: Speaking of Pitt, a couple of people from the Mon-Yough area will be inaugurated today into the university's prestigious "Cathedral of Learning Society," which honors philanthropists who have donated more than a million dollars:

  • Dr. Thomas E. Cadman was born in Homestead and graduated from McKeesport High School. He began his medical career at McKeesport Hospital. Cadman later became a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and a researcher and director of pediatric neurology at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa. He died in March 2006.

  • Thomas Usher, former president, CEO and chairman of the board of U.S. Steel, spent an early part of his 41-year career with the corporation as a management trainee at National Works in McKeesport. He and his wife, Sandra, have directed their recent efforts toward raising and donating money for cancer research.

  • Gordon Vanscoy of Irwin is associate dean of Pitt's School of Pharmacy and a professor of pharmacy and therapeutics. The author of more than 200 scientific papers, Vanscoy is a highly sought-after consultant in pharmaceutical education and training; he and his wife, Bethann, have established an endowed chair and an endowment fund at the school of pharmacy.

They'll join other inductees, including Arnold Palmer, at a by-invitation-only ceremony in Oakland tonight.

. . .

A Reminder: Opinions expressed at the Almanac do not represent those of the University of Pittsburgh, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, or the members of the Coulter Uplift Society.

. . .

Holiday Ro-o-o-o-o-ad: In a lengthy profile, the Boston Globe recounts how Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential hopeful, strapped the family dog inside a car carrier on the roof of the family's Chevy station wagon during a vacation trip in the early 1980s. The dog relieved himself all over the roof.

Maybe Mitt Romney's family thought that the anecdote was endearing and sweet. To me it's just creepy, and it makes him sound like a control freak. You'd strap your dog to the roof of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and then take off down the highway?

Besides, his father was the one-time president of AMC. What was he doing driving a Chevy in the early 1980s? He should have had a Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

Now there's a vehicle that an Irish setter would be proud to pee on.

. . .

CQ CQ K3RAP: I promised to post a couple of audio excerpts from last weekend's ARRL Field Day. First, a little explanation. After making an antenna from 100 feet of bailing wire (cost, four dollars at Able True Value Home Center in North Versailles), I took my 1967-vintage Heathkit GR-54 shortwave radio out onto the back porch and hooked it up.

I bought the old beast at a flea market about 15 years ago. I've got a new digital radio I could have used, but it was a nice, cool Saturday evening and I thought the nostalgia value of sitting with a bottle of beer and smelling the dust cooking on the vacuum tubes would be pleasant.

Well. It wasn't a high-end radio "back in the day," and it was positively lousy when literally thousands of ham radio operators were trying to contact each other on Saturday night. What you'll hear in the two excerpts are lots of people talking on top of each other (it's not a particularly sensitive or selective radio) and me trying to clarify what they're saying with the fine tuning knobs.

(Clip 1, Clip 2)

As I said earlier this week, it was like trying to catch butterflies with a bulldozer. But it was a fun experiment, and maybe I'll go out again this Saturday night if the weather is nice and see what's "on the wind."

Depending on my frustration level, it's liable to be the radio itself when I throw it across the back yard. It should make one heck of a "thud."

. . .

To Do This Weekend: The U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus will perform at a free concert tonight at 1900 hours ... er, 7 p.m. ... at the bandshell in Renziehausen Park.

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Posted at 08:17 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
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June 28, 2007 | Link to this story

Last One Out, Turn Off The Lights

Category: default || By jt3y

New U.S. Census Bureau figures indicate that Our Fair City has lost about 1,600 residents since 2000. (Townships, Cities and Boroughs)

The latest estimates peg the city's population at 22,408, down from 24,040 at the decennial census, or 7.3 percent. The situation is the same wherever you go in the Mon-Yough area, and even tiny gains in places like Rostraver and North Huntingdon are offset by losses in the surrounding boroughs and townships:

Population Changes For Mon-Yough Communities
  2006 (est.)

2000 count


City of Clairton 7,963 8,491 -6.6
City of Duquesne 6,778 7,332 -8.2
East McKeesport borough 2,171 2,343 -7.9
Glassport borough 4,612 4,993 -8.3
Homestead borough 3,486 3,569 -2.4
Liberty borough 2,473 2,670 -8.0
Munhall borough 11,358 12,264 -8.0
North Versailles township 10,414 11,125 -6.8
Swissvale borough 8,909 9,653 -8.4
West Mifflin borough 20,957 22,464 -7.2
Washington County      

City of Monongahela

4,502 4,761 -5.8
Union township 5,450 5,599 -2.7
Westmoreland County      
Irwin borough 4,145 4,366 -5.3
North Huntingdon township 29,432 29,123 +1.1
Rostraver township 11,735 11,634 +0.8
Trafford borough 3,077 3,236 -5.2
Tube City Almanac / Source: U.S. Census Bureau

(Editor's Note: West Mifflin's population is down 7.2 percent. No wonder those schools are so overcrowded!)

I haven't sat down and really parsed the data yet, but my gut reaction is that I don't think people are actively fleeing like they did in the 1980s.

Instead, I suspect we're losing population mainly because residents are dying and no new people are moving to the region.

Hey, if people don't want to live here, that's fine with me. That's more kielbassi and iced tea cartons for the rest of us. We're going for quality, not quantity in the Mon Valley, and if this trend continues, the Mon Valley will become an exclusive artists colony rivaling the Left Bank of Paris.

Paris Hilton, that is.

. . .

Speaking of the Unspeakable: According to a story in last night's News (no story online), a North Versailles woman wrote a fan letter to Paris Hilton and received a personal reply. She's going to auction the letter on eBay to benefit the Cathy G Charities.

The story reports that Hilton is going to try to turn her life around.

Step 1: Wear underpants.

. . .

Quality, Not Quantity: In case anyone was wondering how important the Tube City Almanac really is, yesterday The Burgh Blog linked here and my readership tripled.

Yes, I had three readers. (Rimshot.)

At least the pecking order between The Burgh Blog and the Almanac should be clear. In terms of Web popularity, this site ranks somewhere between the blogs of the Washington County Rock Salt Association and the Muslim Committee of Wilmerding.

A couple of people are accusing me of "outing" or "stalking" PittGirl. Oh, puh-leeze. I narrowed her location down to 27 square miles based on photos of obvious local landmarks. Good Lord, someone get a restraining order against me before I reveal other sensitive details, like the location of the Monroeville exit of the Turnpike.

Even if I did know her identity, I wouldn't reveal it. If she wants to remain anonymous, that's fine with me. I can respect that. But as a guy who writes about the McKeesport area, I thought it was interesting to see that another writer with such a big following is from nearby. That's all.

As for the small size of my readership, it's not the size, it's how you use it. Tube City Almanac strives for readers of quality, not quantity.

As an Almanac reader, you are in a very select group of literate, politically active, and keenly astute people who are interested in the Mon Valley, and who also are very susceptible to flattery.

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Posted at 08:07 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
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June 27, 2007 | Link to this story

Lights, Camera, Answers

Category: default || By jt3y

We interrupt the normal blather that passes for "insightful" "commentary" at Tube City Almanac to reach into the email bag, where we've got a nice message from Mike Wilson, director of the upcoming documentary about Our Fair City:

I saw your post today about the flick and I just wanted to send you a note. I was happy that you took note of my comments to Eric Slagle. The truth is, I spent a month in McKeesport, and I (and my crew) fell in love with the city, the people and the idea that a city could be given a second chance, in the same way that a person could. It's powerful and profound, and it makes me proud to be an American.

Is this an anti-union, anti-democratic-party piece? Of course not. If you saw "Michael Moore Hates America" you know that the title emerges from a scene where I criticize David Horowitz (who, to this day, has not forgiven me), and that the film itself is pretty apolitical. The title incites the left to riotous thoughts, but when they see the film, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I will talk about several sides of what resulted in the collapse of the city, but I'll be fair. There were the unions, the management, the global changes going on, even the malls ... all had a hand in the trouble the city saw and is recovering from. But I promise to be fair... that's kind of why I make docs...

Anyhoo, I just wanted to shoot you a note to let you know that your site was one of the places we went to find info, and where we discovered some of the love we found for the city. I give you my word that I'm not out to point blame, but to make a film that tells the story of an American city that went through a boom, a bust, and is now trying desperately to save itself. And I'm happy that you're talking about it. Feel free to shoot me an email if you have questions.

I won't print my complete reply to Mike, but I want to make sure no one thinks I was pouring cold water on this project. I am actually very excited about Wilson's film; if I'm hyper-sensitive, it's because I've lived here for 30-plus years and watched the media, particularly the Pittsburgh TV stations and newspapers, kick around McKeesport and the rest of the Mon Valley for a long time.

I don't think that the political viewpoint that Mike Wilson or any other journalist might bring is necessarily a bad thing. Potentially, it's a good thing. I'm more worried that there will be a knee-jerk reaction that might prevent this film from getting the exposure it deserves. That's not Wilson's fault, but it is a possible hurdle.

Frankly, one big problem in this country is that the left is getting its news from leftist sources, and the right is getting its news from rightist sources. We'd be in better shape if more liberals would read National Review or Reason, and conservatives would watch "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" or read Mother Jones, instead of us picking news sources that reinforce our own prejudices.

Mike has offered to address any questions. If you have any, email me and I'll be more than happy to pass them along.

. . .

What, No Fava Beans?: Also in the mailbag, Chris Potter of City Paper writes to say that he's best served "with a nice Riesling." He's also issued a warning to his staff "to keep an eye out for a tiger wielding cutlery."

All I'm saying, Chris, is that if you hear growling and feel hot breath on the back of your neck, it might not be Colin McNickle from the Tribune-Review.

. . .

In Other Business: Former Cornell Elementary School security guard Thomas Hose goes directly to jail, without passing "Go" or collecting $200, after pleading guilty to holding Tanya Kach captive in his house for 10 years.

Allegheny County Judge John Zottola sentenced Hose to 15 years in state prison. Let's see how Hose likes being cooped up.

According to published reports (Post-Gazette, Trib), Hose actually interrupted Kach's statement to the judge to argue that by keeping her prisoner, he was protecting her.

Hose hereby wins a Tube City Almanac Lifetime Achievement Award for Pure, Unmitigated Gall.

Meanwhile, former city funeral director Robert Winston has pleaded guilty to theft and abuse of a corpse. You'll recall that the former owner of Newman-Winston Funeral Chapel on Jenny Lind Street was supposed to cremate the remains of more than 19 babies and 300 stillborn fetuses from Magee-Womens Hospital; instead he stored them in his garage.

Winston says he ran into financial difficulty before he could fulfill the contract. It's nothing like the financial difficulty he's about to face --- at least six families are suing him.

. . .

Despite Popular Demand: I promised yesterday to post some audio from Field Day. I've got it, but I'm going to hold it for tomorrow. Try to curb your enthusiasm.

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Posted at 07:42 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
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June 26, 2007 | Link to this story

Adventures in Hackitude

Category: default || By jt3y

Now, in a special investigative report you'll see only at Tube City Almanac (mainly because it's not all that investigative or special), our crack research team has determined that PittGirl, author of the popular Burgh Blog, is from the Mon-Yough area ... in fact, PittGirl is actually "NorwinGirl"!

(SFX: Needle scrapes across record in jukebox.)

The signs have been there all along. Her fascination with Westmoreland County police blotters. Her trips to the Giant Eagle on Route 30. Her references to living "16 miles from downtown."

Lately there have also been several mentions of the Homestead High-Level (OK, the "Homestead Grays") Bridge. Your Honor, we all know that no one who's a native of the Mon-Yough area uses the Parkway East if they don't have to. I'd like to introduce as Exhibit A this report from Google Maps which indicates the distance from Pittsburgh's City-County Building to the North Huntingdon Town House.

Note that "16 miles" from the City-County Building puts us in the vicinity of Penn-Lincoln Memorial Park, across from the former Hi-Way Tux Shop.

(SFX: Gasps of amazement. A woman in the gallery screams.)

Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit Exhibit B --- last week's photo of the sign outside Berks ("Berks! Berks!") Mens' Wear in Norwin Shopping Center.

I say that PittGirl is a Trib-subscribin', Kerber-Dairy-ice-cream-eatin' kind of lady who knows how to get from Markvue Manor to Harrison City without using Route 30.

I suppose there's a chance she's also Penn-Trafford Girl or even Hempfield Girl ... maybe Murrysville Girl ... but Dr. Pica Pole, director of the Tube City Online Research Laboratory, says there's a "74 percent probability" that PittGirl is from North Huntingdon or Irwin. (There's a "100 percent probability" that I just made that up.)

Join us, PittGirl. You know that underneath your worldly and street-smart exterior, there's a big-haired girl who wants to drink iced tea from the carton and walk around the Mon Valley wearing stone-washed jeans with high heels.

Off-stage, I can hear the other freaks shouting "One! Of! Us! One! Of! Us!"

. . .

P.S.: Did anyone else notice that thing started out as an "investigative report," segued into a courtroom scene, and wound up as a bad horror movie? Talk about your hack writing.

. . .

Dot's Not All: At the invitation of Alert Reader Bill, on Saturday afternoon I visited White Oak Park, which is along the border with (crashing piano chord) North Huntingdon! That's where McKeesport-based Two Rivers Amateur Radio Club was holding its Field Day festivities.

Sponsored each year by the American Radio Relay League and other amateur radio groups from around the world, Field Day is a test to see whether local clubs and other "hams" are capable of getting on the air and staying in communication in the event of a major catastrophic emergency.

Along with a portable power plant loaned by AT&T (Cingular Wireless) and members' tents, camping equipment, and portable antennas the club had established a successful base within a few hours Saturday morning near the water tower on Carpenter Lane and was operating on four different radio wavelengths. One member was making better than one contact per minute with operators in the U.S. and Canada.

There's a perception that hams are all laboriously clicking out messages in Morse code on telegraph keys with antique radios. Several Two Rivers operators were using Morse on Saturday, but mainly to conserve bandwidth and to punch through atmospheric noise --- code has a way of cutting through the static.

Otherwise, the Field Day set-ups were modern, using computer-controlled receivers and loggers and digital signal processing.

Special thanks to Vickie Petrulis, N3XBX, and Chuck Gessner, KC3ET, for their hospitality; if you're interested in amateur radio, the club meets the third Tuesday of each month, except August and December, at McKeesport Area High School on Eden Park Boulevard.

. . .

Stay Tuned: I should have said "most hams" are using modern equipment. I'm using junk. I was talking to someone from the club using the rig in my car when the microphone crapped out in mid-sentence. That's embarrassing, to say the least.

When I got home, I got about 100 feet of steel bailing wire and strung a simple antenna from the back porch to the end of my property line. Then I connected a couple of old 1970s-vintage shortwave receivers and listened into Field Day activities for a while. Total cost of the receiving set-up: About $10.

Well, it was like trying to catch butterflies with a bulldozer. I'll post a few audio excerpts for you tomorrow and you can see what I mean.

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Posted at 07:35 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
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June 22, 2007 | Link to this story

Et Tu, Chris Potter?

Category: default || By jt3y

cartoon © 2007 Jason Togyer Tube City Almanac

Oh, Chris Potter, how could you? At the end of a perfectly nice column in City Paper you had to take a gratuitous slap at Our Fair City:

And that's just the beginning. As state law spells out, "No change in classification ... shall become effective until 10 years after the certification" of the population loss. In the meantime, the courts would appoint a commission to recommend changes to the government structure. Pittsburgh would become a third-class city only if city officials did nothing to act on those changes.

Granted, city officials doing nothing is a foregone conclusion -- especially if taking action might threaten their jobs. But there's another, much more likely, option. The legislature could rewrite the definition of a second-class city, so it included cities with fewer than 250,000 people. Harrisburg did this after the 2000 Census, to protect the status of Lackawanna and Fayette counties.

Still by 2030, it's at least possible we could have a whole different city ... a place like, say, McKeesport. Reformers take heart!

Now, just what is that supposed to mean?

For the benefit of Mr. Potter, we asked Dr. Pica Pole, director of Tube City Online's research and development department, to compile a chart comparing McKeesport with its slightly larger, noisier neighbor 12 miles north:

Pittsburgh has ...   while McKeesport has ...
a symphony   a symphony
a public library system   a public library system
a public park system   a public park system
a waterfront   a waterfront
Pittsburgh also has ...   while McKeesport has ...
a city-school combined wage tax rate of 3 percent   a city-school wage tax rate of 1.7 percent
a mayor who’s a former college football player and ... er ... that’s it  

a mayor who’s a former vice president of Mellon Financial Corp. and old enough to shave

Act 47 distressed status   a budget surplus

You know, Potter is onto something. If Pittsburgh works hard and really applies itself, by 2030 it might be up to McKeesport's standards.

. . .

OK, I'm being facetious. But you get my point. McKeesport has long been the butt of Pittsburgh's jokes, just as Pittsburgh has long been the butt of ... well, everyone else's jokes.

One of the goals of Tube City Online since its founding in 1995, and the Almanac, which went online in 2003, has been to promote things that McKeesport and the Mon-Yough area have now, in the present, instead of pining for what's lost. It also tries to foster pride in the community, because frankly I'm damned tired of people feeling apologetic because they're from the Mon-Yough area.

The region has a lot of problems, but it also has a lot of opportunities. We need some of the young people who have been educated at McKeesport or South Allegheny or Serra or West Mifflin or Duquesne or East Allegheny to go to college and raise their families here, instead of moving to Cranberry or Murrysville or Peters.

And we need people who have moved away to come back and start businesses here. The nonprofit and government sectors can't carry the entire load. Why plow up 20 acres of woodland in North Versailles when we've got lots of buildable land, cooperative local officials, and big tax incentives in McKeesport, Duquesne, Clairton and elsewhere?

If you're a native of McKeesport and the surrounding area, consider doing something for your community. Nostalgia for the "good ol' days" (which weren't always that good) is nice, but let's plan for tomorrow.

After all, we don't want Pittsburgh to catch up with us.

. . .

In Other Business: If Jefferson Hills rejects a planned Wal-Mart Supercenter, the developers are ready to build in Clairton. So report Marge Smykla in the Post-Gazette and Pat Cloonan in the Daily News.

The last thing we need is another Wal-Mart --- by 2010 we'll be able to drive from Pittsburgh to Greensburg through the parking lots of Wal-Marts --- but this seems like a win-win situation for Clairton residents.

. . .

To Do This Weekend: Decide whether Chris Potter is best served with white or red wine. The Two Rivers Amateur Radio Club joins ham radio buffs from around the country in celebrating "Field Day" near the water tower at White Oak Park. Radio fans with ham licenses can check in on the club's repeater at 147.120 mhz, while scanner buffs can listen. ... McKeesport City Fair continues through tomorrow night at Helen Richey Field, Renziehausen Park. There's a petting zoo, rides, games, and food. Ride all night for one price ... Animal Friends holds a rabies clinic at McKeesport Fire Department Station No. 2, Eden Park Boulevard. Cost is $8, and hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Dogs must be on leashes and cats must be in carriers (except tigers). Call (412) 847-7076.

To Do Next Week: The first "lunch on the lawn" event of the summer will be held at J. Clarence Kelly Park (the old railroad tower on Walnut Street) at 11 a.m. Wednesday ... McKeesport Heritage Center holds its book release party at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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June 20, 2007 | Link to this story

Avast, Ye Scurvy Dogs!

Category: default || By jt3y

I was home from work about three weeks ago and had an odd visitor in the afternoon. A guy in his early 20s, looking entirely too eager, was on the front porch. He was dressed too self-consciously hip to be a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness.

"Can I talk to you for a few minutes?" he said.

"I'm kinda busy," I said, because I was.

"Well, I'm here taking a survey in your area about dining out," he said. "You like to eat out, right?"

I rolled my eyes. "What are you selling?"

He showed me a gift certificate to a so-called "upscale" chain restaurant located at the Waterfront in Homestead. It's one of those restaurants with fake kitschy crap hanging on the walls. Those of you who know my dislike of chain restaurants with crap on the walls know that it wasn't an enticement.

"All you have to do is answer a few questions about dining out, and we'd like to give you this voucher, absolutely free, for $50 in free food from Fancy Chain Restaurant With Crap On The Walls," he said.

"Thank you," I said, "but I'm not interested."

The guy practically stuck his foot in the door. "All you have to do is answer some questions."

"No, thank you," I said.

Now he was pissed. "So I guess you don't like to eat out for free," he said.

"I do," I said, "but not at your lousy restaurant." And I closed the door on him.

. . .

I'm not 100 percent sure, but I have my suspicions, that this guy was working for a multi-level marketing company. Only someone who had been brainwashed ... er, I mean, highly trained by skillful professionals ... would have been that persistent, and frankly that rude, when I said "no."

The excellent website Consumerist has been investigating a company that hires recent college graduates and promises them a career in "business-to-business sales." After indoctrinating them with techniques that some would describe as cult-like, it sends them out on door-to-door sales calls.

If you're a recent graduate or a current student looking for a summer job, and you see an ad on Monster, CareerBuilder, or some other service offering "entry-level sales and promotional jobs," compare it to one of these to make sure it's not a scam. Jobs that promise "limited and immediate" openings, "intensive, hands-on training," and "unlimited growth potential" should set off alarm bells, according to Consumerist.

. . .

Another young salesman came to my door over the weekend. He had the same overly-enthusiastic, cheese-eating grin. "I'm not trying to change your religion," he said, "I just want to talk to you for a few minutes."

"I'm listening," I said through the screen door.

"I'm conducting a survey on behalf of the Pittsburgh Pirates," he said. "As a reward for answering a few questions, we'd like to give you a voucher good towards your purchase of tickets to an upcoming Pirates home game."

"I'm not interested," I said.

"That's cool," he said, "but can I write down why not?"

"Yes," I said. "Write down that I'm tired of Mr. Nutting screwing over the fans, and that I'm not spending a dime on that team until they draft some decent players."

He started to laugh ... and wrote it down. I suspect I wasn't the only one who told him that. I wonder if he's still working for the Pirates, or whatever marketing company sent him out on that suicide mission.

. . .

Now along comes a message from Officer Jim about a proposed "walk-out" to be staged Saturday, June 30 when the Pirates play the Washington Nationals at PNC Park:

I've been hearing about this for a while now, and I am seriously thinking about taking off and going. I doubt it will change anything, and I doubt if enough people will do it to make anyone notice, but I'm really thinking about it.

The Pirates and the Nationals, by the way, are two powerfully sucky teams. The vacuum of suckage created at PNC Park that night might be enough to pull the aluminum right off the Alcoa Building.

Average White Guy and Pittsburgh Sports Insider have more. The idea is for a large group of ex-Pirates fans to show up wearing green T-shirts (to represent all the money that the Nutting family has pocketed) and to walk out, en masse, following the third inning.

The problem with this plan, as several people have pointed out, is that the Nuttings are still collecting your ticket money, whether you stay for three innings or the entire game. Plus, you're disrupting the game for other people. But I certainly appreciate the sentiment.

I wonder if a better protest wouldn't be for private boat owners to gather in the Allegheny River towing banners or signs. Maybe the protesters should stay out in the parking lot and tailgate during the games.

Or maybe we should send multi-level marketing salespeople to the homes of Bob Nutting and Kevin McClatchy every day until they start putting some money back into the team.

On second thought, that could backfire. I wouldn't put it past the Pirates to start pushing Amway and Herbalife in the concession stands.

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June 19, 2007 | Link to this story

On a Slow Boat to China

Category: default || By jt3y

A couple of weeks ago I treated the sleek, gray Mercury to a tune-up ... new spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter. I was at an auto parts store in Our Fair City (hmm, that narrows it down now that Carquest has closed) and in an attempt to make small talk with the cashier I read the side of the spark-plugs and said, "Gee, made in the U.S.A. At least something still is."

She snapped at me: "Well, maybe everything wouldn't be made in China if Americans weren't so lazy and overpaid."

Though I thought about whipping my union card out of my wallet, I bit my tongue --- especially since she still hadn't approved my check yet. But I thought to myself: "You're working in an auto parts store. Do you think you're overpaid?"

. . .

Americans work more hours and get fewer holidays than any other industrialized nation, according to study after study and story after story.

There are still pockets of laziness and featherbedding, and yes, I've heard all of the stories about guys sleeping in cranes at National Works in the 1970s and blah, blah, blah, but I'd argue that overall, American productivity is probably at its highest point since World War II.

American quality is up, too --- among carmakers, Ford beat Toyota in the latest J.D. Power survey of best-made automobiles.

It's just difficult for American factories to compete with the Chinese since they're not allowed to put antifreeze in children's cough syrup and lead paint on toys.

Nor can American factories cut wages to ensure profitability, especially since they're not allowed to employ children or slaves.

. . .

I love the products sold in dollar stores, Wal-Mart and elsewhere that feature big American flags on their packages and then, in small print, say "Designed in the U.S.A." On the back they say, "Made in China."

But I saw a new variation on this the other day at a store in Olympia Shopping Center. It had an American flag and in tiny type underneath said, "Proudly distributed in the U.S.A." I didn't know whether to applaud the manufacturer's ingenuity or throw up.

Other than the war in Iraq and our deteriorating foreign policy, I'd really like to see one of the presidential candidates say something --- anything --- about the imbalance of trade and our collapsing manufacturing sector. Personally, I think it's much more destructive than illegal immigration.

Simply blocking imports isn't the answer, nor are prohibitively high tariffs. But we certainly have a right to defend ourselves against products that are making people ill.

. . .

Ultimately, some of the blame falls on us for not complaining to stores and manufacturers. But even if you try to buy American --- and I do --- it's becoming more and more difficult to find any products made here. Even extremely high-end goods are starting to come from China.

The steel industry was the canary in the coal mine. Its collapse foretold the decline of the American textile and furniture industries, and with the Chinese about to enter the U.S. car market, the already-shaky domestic automakers could very well be the next to tumble.

The "creative class" might pipe up (no pun intended, McKeesporters) and tell me that smokestack industries are dead, but not everyone is qualified to work in academia and research. And for defense purposes alone, I'd argue that we need to have some manufacturing base in this country.

Besides, even creative jobs (like journalism!) are being sent overseas. Unless you're in some service industry that depends on face-to-face contact, like retailing, your job could very well be the next to go.

("First they came for the steelworkers, but I wasn't a steelworker ...")

. . .

Blame Wall Street's continual demands for higher profits from American corporations. Blame Congress for gutting American trade policy and slashing regulatory budgets. Blame pundits who have prescribed "free trade" at all costs and damn the consequences.

But for crying out loud, stop blaming American workers.

. . .

P.S.: Besides curing a nasty little hesitation that had developed on acceleration, the tune-up improved my gas mileage by 3 to 4 mpg. If you're tired of paying $3 for a gallon of gas and your car has more than 90,000 miles on it, consider a set of plugs.

Even the supremo top-of-the-line platinum jobs won't set you back more than $3 or $4 each. Throw on a set of new plug wires, too. AC-Delco, Autolite and Champion plugs are made in the United States, and others are, too. Even if you're not mechanically inclined, it's not hard to do yourself, or have a local garage do it when you're in for state inspection.

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June 18, 2007 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted

Category: default || By jt3y

We'll get to today's Almanac after this word from our sponsor, Mayorex Exterminating. Remember, one call to 412-55-LUKEY stops pest infestations before they disrupt your golf tournaments or other sporting events.

. . .

Flicker Ticker: Regarding Saturday's Almanac, let me make one thing perfectly clear. There's no question that Michael Wilson is talented and that he can capture McKeesport or any other subject on film.

The problem --- if there is a problem --- is that hiring the director of Michael Moore Hates America instantly alienates a certain percentage of the potential audience. Rightly or wrongly, some people who otherwise might be sympathetic to this documentary are going to view any project that Wilson does with a certain amount of suspicion, instead of judging the project on its own merits. They're going to be looking for hidden biases, even if there aren't any.

It's similar, though not as bad, as if Michael Moore himself or, say, Al Franken were involved. Even if Franken were the funniest thing since the Marx Brothers (I find him tiresome) some percentage of consumers immediately reject his work because of his past political projects.

I am willing to give Wilson a chance and I'm rooting for him. I'd be more comfortable if someone more neutral were working on the project, but perhaps a controversial, contrarian viewpoint is exactly what we need.

For the record, by the way, the Tube City Almanac is neither neutral nor fair and balanced. We love the Mon-Yough area. So nyahh.

. . .

‘Worst ... Musical ... Ever!’: Alert Reader Jonathan sends along this screen-capture from the website of A Local Newspaper. I was on the stage crew (cough, cough, dork!) for the musicals in high school and frankly, a fatal car-accident might have been more entertaining.

. . .

Uh-oh, Better Get Maaco: You probably heard that they finally dug up a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere that was buried in a time capsule under the lawn of the Tulsa, Okla., city hall. As noted before in the Almanac, one of my all-time favorite cars is the 1957-58 Plymouth, but lawdy, they were rust buckets.

The poor '57 in Tulsa was no exception. It didn't help that the concrete used for the burial vault was porous.

Think about that if you're pre-planning your funeral. You might as well get the cheapest casket they offer.

Or have them bury you in a '57 Plymouth.

On second thought, give me the Plymouth and I'll trade you a casket.

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June 16, 2007 | Link to this story

Saturday Update

Category: default || By jt3y

This is a rare Saturday update. Alert Reader John has found the trailer for the upcoming documentary about Our Fair City, which was mentioned in the Almanac on Wednesday, and Eric Slagle of the Post-Gazette had a story in Thursday's paper.

The trailer is here. Go watch it. I'll wait.

(Jason whistles tunelessly, checks watch.)

. . .

OK, welcome back.

First things first: In the interest of full disclosure, I was approached last year and asked to help on this project. I met with the philanthropist funding the film, Arthur N. Rupe, as well as Jim Hubbard of American Film Renaissance, who was helping Rupe find a director and screenwriter. I also met with someone doing research for the film.

Mr. Rupe is the founder of Specialty Records and promoted early African-American rock 'n roll talents like Little Richard and Sam Cooke when few mainstream labels would record them. He also gave a young musician named Sonny Bono his start in the music business and one of his employees was Barrett Hansen, aka "Dr. Demento."

If you know that I love '50s R&B and rock, you may also know that I worship the ground that Dr. Demento walks on. To put it bluntly, Art Rupe is one of my heroes. Talking with him was one of the great thrills of my life, and I had to restrain myself from giggling like an idiot.

After selling Specialty Records, Rupe went onto greater success as an entrepreneur in real estate and other fields. He's used his income to fuel a heck of a lot of charitable concerns, and has done a heck of a lot of good, including here in the Mon-Yough area.

Nevertheless, it was obvious to me that I wasn't the right person to help on this project. First of all, my number one priority was finishing the Murphy book. Second, I know nothing about filmmaking or script-writing. (Mr. Mamajek never even let me run the projector in high school.) And third, it was clear that Rupe and Hubbard are working from a different political perspective from mine.

But there are no sour grapes at Tube City Online. There is sour cream, sauerkraut, there are even atomic sour balls, but no sour grapes.

. . .

Earlier this week, I noted that I had made the mistake of mentioning Michael Moore's Roger & Me to Rupe and Hubbard and got my ears blistered.

I was about 15 when Roger & Me debuted, and I saw it with my mother at the Rainbow Cinema in White Oak. We kept nudging each other throughout the film because it rang so true to what was happening in McKeesport. When the movie ended, mom said "they could have made that movie here."

As a documentary, Roger & Me is deeply flawed and often dishonest. But Moore captured the feeling of living in a milltown when the mill shuts down as few others have ever done. Since then, Moore's done some shabby work and has become a parody of himself, and that makes me sad.

The director of the upcoming McKeesport film, Michael Wilson, is also the director of Michael Moore Hates America. Hubbard is the co-founder of American Film Renaissance, which was launched in 2004 as a conservative film festival designed to balance out Hollywood's liberal bias.

Now, I'm no leftist. In fact, a number of people in the local "indymedia" collective think I'm a reactionary. I do believe, however, in the value of public education, trade unionism, separation of church and state, and sensible government regulation, and I think the country has gone too far in the opposite direction.

I think you understand why I wished Rupe and Hubbard every possible success and offered any help I could. I even suggested a list of people they might talk to. But I didn't think in my heart of hearts that I should work on this project.

. . .

Anyway, I watched the trailer. Wilson told Slagle that he is not making a political film, and that it is nothing like Michael Moore Hates America (which, by the way, got generally good notices). Says Wilson:

"One of the things that concerned me about the town was that the government is stepping in and doing this top-down development and that, to me, seems wrong. I believe the government should be involved in as little as possible. But I think there is a point that you get to in a city like McKeesport, where, if that doesn't happen, the city is doomed.

"They're kind of doing it the right way," he added. "They're building infrastructure here ... but they're also giving business big tax breaks."

By George, I think he's got it.

Frankly, approaching the Mon-Yough area's problems from a center-right or right-wing perspective is not a bad idea.

The only people who have paid any attention to the Mon Valley's steel towns for the past 25 years have been liberal academics, professional protesters, and self-styled socialists and labor activists. They talk nice words, but don't ever deliver.

We need to build a culture of entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency in this area --- we need to breed another Edwin Crawford (founder of McKeesport Tin Plate Company) or John Sephus Mack (chairman of G.C Murphy Co.) or Walter Shaw Sr. (Murphy's president) or Art Rupe.

I am just desperately hoping that the film does not take the Democratic Party and the Steelworkers' union and stuff them up our rear ends.

Please, please, if anyone from this project should see this Almanac: The national political climate is completely dysfunctional and the country is suffering. The right has gone farther right and driven the left farther left. Please don't drag a bunch of neo-conservative talking points into this film.

If you do, a certain number of people will instantly write it off as "propaganda." If this film really captures the struggle to save McKeesport, we need people to see it. We don't need them to say "right-wing baloney" and walk away.

. . .

I don't think Art Rupe would do anything to hurt McKeesport. It sounds like Mike Wilson has gone into this project with an open mind. I am looking forward to this with trepidation, but also with a sincere hope that the filmmakers are doing right by us.

If nothing else, just remember that the last two movies filmed in McKeesport were Striking Distance and Dogma.

Hell, even if this movie were a remake of Triumph of the Will, it couldn't possibly be as bad as those two turkeys.

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June 15, 2007 | Link to this story

Ties That Blind

Category: default || By jt3y

One of the men's stores in Our Fair City --- I think it was David Israel, but it could have been Kadar's --- used to run an "ugly tie contest" on Father's Day to play up the stereotype that kids always got dad a tie for Christmas and his birthday. The owner of the "ugliest tie" (which was put on display) got a prize each year.

I actually tried to get one going this year in cooperation with a local disc jockey who has a men's wear store as a sponsor, but the store said "no way." The owner said he didn't want to be associated at all with the word "ugly," which kind of misses the point. Maybe I'll try again next year, but there are few local men's wear stores around any more.

I wouldn't participate because I think I would have a good chance of winning. I've always worked jobs where I had to wear a tie, if not every day than at least on a regular basis, and while the regular rotation is fairly new and sedate, there are a few real "clinkers."

In fact, my hobby for a few years has been scouring the thrift stores and buying ties from defunct local stores, and since many of them faded out in the 1970s and early '80s, I've got a few beauties. Big, wide polyester jobs from Cox's and Gimbels, and skinny narrow knit ones, too.

Most of them are so hideous they can't possibly be worn, but a few do appear from time to time --- for instance, that royal blue job with the fluorescent orange swirls that's in the picture. That'll wake up your co-workers on Monday morning. It makes me smile every time I wear it.

Surprisingly few people ever say, "That's one ugly tie, Jason." They must think I just have terrible taste, and I do, but that's not the point. I know these ties are ugly. That's why I like 'em.

Recent news reports indicate that "casual days" are falling out of fashion as employers institute dress codes again, and that means ties. I can't wait.

I've got a lime-green job from Troutman's in Greensburg that's going to knock the boss's eyes out.

. . .

Speaking of Ugly: As an Alert Reader told me, "Anytime someone says something isn't a racial issue, you can bet it's a racial issue." Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the town meeting at West Mifflin High School last night, which is just as well, because my brain would have exploded. Read the stories in the Tribune-Review and Post-Gazette and see if your brain doesn't cramp, too.

More than 150 people showed up to complain about the idea that the state might force West Mifflin Area High School to accept students from the now-closed Duquesne High School. According to the papers, only one lonely woman showed up to speak in favor of the plan.

I have no proof that this a racial issue --- and maybe it isn't. But in any case, this wild and vocal reaction doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense.

First of all, we're talking 200 students total. That's 50 per grade. That's two homerooms per grade, tops.

Second, the line between Duquesne and West Mifflin is invisible. If Duquesne's school system goes down the drain, we condemn future generations to poverty and the city to an endless spiral of decay.

That's going to run down West Mifflin, because the problems will keep spreading up the hill. West Mifflin should have a vested interest in Duquesne's well-being for no other reason than self-preservation.

Third, the idea that West Mifflin School District is "overcrowded" seems suspicious. West Mifflin has at least one school building completely empty and has sold off several others. The Mon-Yough area is bleeding population. Where's this "overcrowding" coming from?

Finally, if there were "tensions" between West Mifflin and Duquesne before, as some parents fear, they sure as hell have been aggravated now. West Mifflin has spent the last year basically telling Duquesne students and their parents that they're not good enough for West Mifflin schools. If the state does force West Mifflin into a merger with Duquesne, PTA meetings are going to be awfully tense.

This could have been avoided. Instead of Pittsburgh Public Schools managing the Duquesne district, West Mifflin could have entered an agreement to run the district, sharing office personnel and jointly purchasing supplies. Support staff could eventually have been shared as well.

Slowly, Duquesne students could have been sent on a tuition basis to West Mifflin schools --- perhaps starting with the younger grades --- until a merger was effected in a few years.

But that didn't happen. And instead of being focused on education, we're focused on ways to keep us more separate. Who suffers? The students of Duquesne High School, and ultimately our whole Mon-Yough region.

Do you know why Pittsburgh lags the rest of the country in entrepreneurship and economic development? One huge reason is that talented people of all races look around at our segregated neighborhoods and get the hell out of here.

Bang! There goes one more toe. Shall we try shooting ourselves in the other foot now?

. . .

To Do This Weekend: The Greater Pittsburgh Soap Box Derby will be held Sunday morning along Eden Park Boulevard near McKeesport Area High School. Racing gets underway at 9 a.m. Visit its website for details ... McKeesport Symphony will hold a free concert at the Renzie Park bandshell at 7 p.m. Sunday as part of the city's summer concert series. Call (412) 664-2854.

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June 14, 2007 | Link to this story

Kiss My Rebuttal

Category: default || By jt3y

Letter to the editor, "No response from Village," McKeesport, Pa., Daily News, June 13, 2007, p. 6:

I am still upset and very disappointed with the McKeesport International Village. I thought they would get back to me with a response to my letter, but nothing. I still cannot believe how they feel they are right about not letting us dance because we are not ethnic enough.

Western Square Dancing had been around for a very long time, with people of all nationalities performing this dance. But you people in charge of entertainment feel we are not ethnic enough. But most of all we are Americans, which should give us the right to dance.

Ethnic people are allowed to perform, but we Americans are only allowed to pay to get in and pay for food and spend our money on all the ethnic people. Once again, we think you are really wrong. Once again we Americans are pushed aside and let these foreigners have their way with America and you at the Village are backing them. (...)

I think everyone who agrees with me, please let me know. I really feel like a lot of you feel the same as we do. Write to the Daily News and let them know about how you feel about us Americans being pushed aside ...

Martha Bradley
Elizabeth Twp.

. . .

Dear Martha:

I am not an official representative of anything. Hell, I'm not even a resident of the city. But this is the second of your ridiculous letters to appear in the Daily News, and since I'm the self-appointed chronicler of things around the Mon-Yough area, I've deputized myself to respond.

I cannot prove that you are a far-right crackpot, but I have some strong suspicions. It's actually kind of refreshing to read your letters. I thought your particular brand of prejudice went out before the Great Depression.

Martha, you live in the United States, the richest, most powerful country in the world (even if it has been mortgaged to the Chinese by Congress and Wal-Mart). And you think the City of McKeesport is pushing around Americans? The City of McKeesport?


(Note: I am not laughing "with" you, Martha.)

I understand you feel badly. I felt badly, too, when "Dukes of Hazzard" was cancelled, but I was 11 years old at the time. I grew up.

Grow up, Martha.

Let's set aside for a minute the fact that most, if not all, of the performers at International Village are second- or third-generation Americans. They're hardly "foreigners."

First of all, you do not have a "right" to do anything. You're not even a McKeesport taxpayer, for cripes' sake. Who are you to tell the City of McKeesport who they can and can't invite to anything?

Don't tell the City of McKeesport what to do. It has enough damned problems without your Bill O'Reilly-esque wing-nuttery.

Second, I've said this before at the Almanac, but it bears repeating in capital letters and bold type: AMERICANS ARE SURROUNDED BY AMERICAN CULTURE EVERY SINGLE DAY. WE DO NOT NEED TO CELEBRATE AMERICAN CULTURE IN AMERICA.

International Village celebrates cultural traditions that are disappearing. Arrogant, conceited Americans with a sense of entitlement are in no danger of disappearing. Your letter is ample proof.

Now, if you'd like to celebrate American culture in Hungary, Italy, Poland or one of those other places full of "foreigners," hey, buy yourself a ticket. I'll chip in money to send you out of the country.

Leave International Village to the Tamburitzans, and I'm sure the Tammies will be happy to leave the John Birch Society to you.

I hope the Village's organizers give your letters the response they deserve --- which is none. Frankly, they work too damned hard for you to accuse them of some sort of bizarre discrimination against fellow Americans.

Personally, as an International Village attendee, I have no more desire to see square dancers at International Village than I want to see McDonald's hamburgers on sale there.

Come to think of it, "McDonald" is a Scottish name, and "hamburgers" are named after a city in Germany. Maybe you should try complaining about them next.

A grandson of Hungarian and German immigrants (a.k.a. "a foreigner")

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June 13, 2007 | Link to this story

Opie and The Tiger

Category: default || By jt3y

P.S.: Everyone is talking about Pittsburgh Mayor Opie "Luke" Ravenstahl trying to get his picture taken with a tiger.

Didn't that happen back in March here at Tube City Almanac?

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June 13, 2007 | Link to this story

You Ought To Be In Pictures

Category: default || By jt3y

A film crew is in McKeesport right now doing preliminary work on a proposed feature-length documentary about Our Fair City. I've known about this for some time, but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to say anything.

Well, one of the members of the crew posted the information on his blog yesterday, so I guess the cat is out of the bag.

I don't want to spill too many beans (mixed-metaphor alert: a cat is out of the bag spilling beans) because I don't know if I'm supposed to, but a prominent philanthropist with McKeesport roots is underwriting the project. At last report, the documentary was going to look at the city's history and the challenges that have faced it since the steel mill closings of the 1980s.

Maybe this will do for McKeesport what Groundhog Day did for Punxsutawney. (On the other hand, I suppose it could also do for McKeesport what Jaws did for beach vacations.)

Just don't mention Roger & Me, which examined the effect that the decline of the auto industry had on Flint, Mich. I made the mistake of making that comparison with someone involved in the McKeesport project and my ears are still ringing.

. . .

Speaking of History: I have a confession to make. I've gotten a sneak peek at the new history book compiled by the McKeesport Heritage Center.

It's not supposed to be released until June 26, but a little birdie let me see an advance copy. It's a real beaut.

The book is being printed by Arcadia Publishing, a South Carolina-based company that has turned quickie history books into a cottage industry. You've seen Arcadia's sepia-toned paperbacks at the book store --- they currently have volumes out about Duquesne, Homestead, Greensburg, Latrobe and the Pitt Panthers, among other topics.

(I even saw one last week about Forest Hills. You wouldn't think there would be enough old photos to fill a book, but there are.)

My problem with some of the Arcadia books, as I've mentioned before, has been their uneven quality. Some of the books are excellent, but others are padded out with poor-quality photos, multiple views of the same subject, or blurry postcards; I have a feeling Arcadia will print whatever you send them.

That's not the case with the McKeesport book, which is titled, fittingly, McKeesport, and I don't think my reaction is mere chauvinism. Volunteers at the Heritage Center obviously took a lot of time compiling and selecting the images, many of which are of exceptionally high quality.

The Heritage Center has an extensive photo library that includes many pictures donated by the late Irv Saylor, longtime chief photographer of the Daily News. Add the G.C. Murphy Co. archives, photos taken by the Redevelopment Authority, and many, many others donated, and they have a deep selection of professional quality shots available.

If you grew up around here, you've seen some of them before, like the photo of the ill-fated pedestrian mall on Fifth Avenue in the early 1960s. But many others have probably never been published before --- like family photos from prominent and not-so-prominent local residents, for instance.

This is not a full-blown history of McKeesport. It's a photo book, and the information is contained in the captions. But as an inexpensive reference source it's going to be invaluable. And because it's mostly pictures, it's a lot of fun to look through.

Besides the obvious nostalgia value this will have for current and former residents, I hope it becomes a teaching tool for kids to learn about local history.

While the book will be sold in stores and online, Ellen Show of the Heritage Center says they would appreciate it if you'd buy it from there --- the proceeds will more directly support their activities. To reserve a copy, call (412) 678-1832 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The book costs $20, payable at delivery.

After June 26, the book will be on sale in the Heritage Center, 1832 Arboretum Drive, Renzie Park.

Tell 'em Tube City Almanac sent you. You won't get a discount or anything, but tell 'em anyway.

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June 12, 2007 | Link to this story

It’s Not Television ...

Category: default || By jt3y

Today, in lieu of useful content, it's more alleged humor from my alleged radio show.

This is a clip from Sunday night's travesty broadcast, but the bit is actually a rerun from a couple of months ago. I reused it for reasons that will become obvious if you listen.

The link opens in a new window.

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June 11, 2007 | Link to this story

Nutting From Nutting

Category: default || By jt3y

Josh Yohe is off Bob Nutting's Christmas card list.

Yohe's column from Friday's Daily News isn't online, so you'll have to take my word for it when I say it was on-target and pulled no punches.

Like many sportswriters and baseball fans, he's disgusted at the way that Nutting, chairman and majority stockholder of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is running (or is that ruining?) the team.

They're disappointed that the team didn't draft star prospect Matt Wieters because he would have cost too much to sign. They accuse Nutting of putting a cheap product on the field at the expense of quality.

If Nutting is running the Pirates to make them as cheap as possible, it should come as no surprise. "Cheapness" has been a virtue of his family newspaper chain for decades.

Ogden Newspapers dominates West Virginia (according to one estimate, it sells nearly one in every four newspapers in the state) and southern Ohio, and it has properties in other parts of the country as well, including several in central Pennsylvania, like the Altoona Mirror.

I've seen probably 10 or 12 different Ogden newspapers on a semi-regular basis over the years. They're not the worst newspapers I've ever seen, and there are some real bright spots among them.

Unfortunately, however, many Ogden papers look slapped-together; instead of local news coverage, they're stuffed with cheaper syndicated features. Chris Stirewalt, a commentator for WBOY-TV, the NBC affiliate in Clarksburg, says the Ogden chain's key to success has been "lean newsrooms and aggressive ad sales" which has left many West Virginia towns with a newspaper that "reads like a Rotary Club bulletin and is staffed by those too busy to think."

I've been told candidly by ex-Ogden reporters that the line between the "news," "editorials," and "advertising" is thin to non-existent. Last year, to cite one notorious example, the newspapers "sponsored" a visit by President Bush to Wheeling.

Certainly I've seen a lot of "stories" in Ogden papers that seemed to boost particular local businesses by name. I don't know for sure, but I suspect those stories were a reward to the businesses for advertising in the papers.

It's one thing to print "advertorial" stories if you clearly label them as paid content, but it's a little bit distasteful when you don't disclose that to your readers.

There are some very talented, dedicated people working at Ogden Newspapers --- I've known some of them --- who turn out quality journalism. But unless they're very dedicated to the communities they cover, few people can afford to make a living on the penurious salaries Ogden pays reporters.

There's been little written in the big journalism "watchdog" magazines about Ogden's operating style, possibly because it's a privately held company that operates mainly in very small towns, out of the view of the news media "experts" in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

But the company's holdings also include larger markets like Wheeling, where Ogden owns both the morning and evening papers; and Fort Wayne, Ind., where they bought the afternoon News-Sentinel. I've never been to Fort Wayne, but I've been to Wheeling, and the Ogden papers there (the News-Register and the Intelligencer) don't look like the products of a media market large enough to be rated by both Arbitron and Nielsen. They certainly don't look like the flagships of a big media conglomerate.

I give Ogden a lot of credit for keeping two newspapers operating in places like Wheeling, Parkersburg and Fort Wayne. Not many publishers are willing to do that. In many Appalachian towns, Ogden's resources have probably kept alive papers that might otherwise have failed under independent ownership.

On the other hand, Ogden's dominance in West Virginia has arguably kept out potential competitors. And although the Mountaineer State could use some quality, hard-hitting journalism, that's not likely to happen under Ogden's penny-pinching ways.

Bemoan the woeful Pirates all you want --- they stink out loud. While I've been a Pirates fan since grade school, like Bob Braughler, I don't intend to spend a dime on them until they try --- try --- to become competitive. (And don't tell me about "small-market teams" when Cleveland and Milwaukee are leading their divisions.)

But the Nutting family's supposed stinginess with the Pirates is just part of a pattern that hundreds of writers and editors in Ohio and West Virginia have seen before. And while I'd like to see the Pirates winning, I suspect people in places like Wheeling would be more interested in seeing better quality news coverage.

. . .

(P.S.: I guess you can add to the long list of newspapers where I'm persona non grata.)

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June 08, 2007 | Link to this story

Zappala Comes A-Courtin'

Category: default || By jt3y

(Today ... Downtown Development and Duckling Photos! Who could ask for more?)

. . .

First, The Good News: A vacant lot near the McKees' Point Marina and at the entrance to Downtown may soon be developed after being empty for more than 30 years.

The bad news? It's for a satellite county courthouse, which won't pay taxes.

The so-so news: If it happens, it's development that will bring traffic back to Fifth Avenue --- namely court workers, cops, lawyers, and people waiting for cases to be called --- which could support local businesses, which means jobs. But some proportion of the people hanging around will be criminal defendants.

Anyway, Jennifer Vertullo had the story in last night's Daily News:

Mayor James Brewster announced Wednesday that the city is working with the DA's office on what could be a $4 million construction project at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Market Street.

Parties have been engaged in discussion for years --- envisioning a Mon Valley location for satellite courtrooms, row offices, bond clerks and attorneys. Now, the project is becoming more than a vision.

City Administrator Dennis Pittman said Zappala wants a land commitment by July 1. He said city officials are confident the district attorney will bring County Executive Dan Onorato on board and the facility will be built McKeesport.

For the life of me, I can't understand why there's no appreciable development between Market Street and the marina.

I would have thought by now that someone would have bought the Penn-McKee and either demolished it or renovated the first floor for storefronts with little businesses to cater to people at the marina or the Palisades, which is currently buzzing several nights per week. Instead ... nada. Zilch. Bupkis.

I would surely have thought that the part of Fifth Avenue near the Jerome Avenue Bridge could support a couple antique shops and a candy/convenience store. Maybe a nail salon? Am I nuts? (Don't answer that.)

Instead, that area just claimed another victim --- the Carquest auto parts store that was located in the old R&J Furniture building at Sixth and Market closed its doors last month.

The land being used, incidentally, was the site of the old Memorial Theater, Kadar's Men's Wear and Coney Island Grill until the 1976 fire. The corner lot has been vacant since then; the Memorial, which closed after the fire, was torn down in 1985.

Well, maybe the courthouse, if built, will light a fire under some developers. It would be nice to have someplace Downtown to spend money besides GetGo and Family Dollar.

. . .

See “Penn-McKee Progress, Lack Thereof”: Which brings up another point ... what's going on with the Penn-McKee Hotel?

The Penn-McKee is the first sight to greet visitors to the Palisades or the marina, but it's been closed since 1985. It's not architecturally significant, but it does have great emotional value to McKeesporters and was the location of the first debate (in 1947) between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

It was removed from the city's demolition list more than a year ago because the owners claimed a buyer was imminent. Instead of being renovated, however, the Penn-McKee is just another year older and moldier. If it's being actively marketed, I haven't heard anything, and this website for "Penn-McKee Place" has never been updated.

The hotel is owned by something called "See Bee Inc.," but according to county records, the tax bills go to E.L. Kemp Inc., the heating and air-conditioning contractor on West Fifth Avenue.

If you live in the city and you're having E.L. Kemp work on your A/C this summer, ask about it when you call.

. . .

Yinz Are Smart: Tube City Almanac doesn't have a large readership (about 500 people per week), but dang, the audience it does have includes some smart cookies. Alert Reader Bulldog says the story of the "USS McKeesport" breaking off of the bow of the USS Pittsburgh in 1943 is no "urban legend," and is documented in the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, published by the U.S. Government and available at Pitt's Hillman Library. Shonuff it's on page 323 of Volume 5:

On 4 June, PITTSBURGH began to fight a typhoon which by early next day had increased to 70-knot winds and 100-foot waves. Shortly after her starboard scout plane had been lifted off its catapult and dashed onto the deck by the wind, PITTSBURGH’s second deck buckled, her bow structure thrust upward, and then wrenched free. Miraculously, not a man was lost. Now her crew's masterful seamanship saved their own ship. Still fighting the storm, and maneuvering to avoid being rammed by the drifting bow-structure, PITTSBURGH was held quarter on to the seas by engine manipulations while the forward bulkhead was shored. After a 7-hour battle, the storm subsided, and PITTSBURGH proceeded at 6 knots to Guam, arriving 10 June. Her bow, nick-named "McKeesport" (a suburb of Pittsburgh), was later salvaged by fleet tug MUNSEE (ATF-107) and brought into Guam.

However, The McKeesport Anti-Defamation League is demanding a retraction from the U.S. Government on that "suburb" comment, and unless the Navy wants an angry tiger on their doorstep, they'll do the right thing.

. . .

Make Way For "Jericho": Both my brother and my friend Clarke Ingram made The Burgh Blog this week. If Ralph Edwards had shown up, I'd have thought it was "This Is Your Life."

Clarke has been one of the top two people in the country behind the movement to save the TV show Jericho, while that was indeed Alert Reader Officer Jim who made the Post-Gazette for his role in saving several ducklings from a fate worse than Chinese food.

And now, in a story you'll see only at Tube City Almanac (and for good reason), we have exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the thrilling rescue of the cute widdle baby ducklings. Informed sources tell the Almanac the ducklings were last seen paddling around the Westinghouse pond in Schenley Park.

. . .

To Do This Weekend: George Westinghouse Days in Wilmerding continue, with fireworks set for tomorrow night. Attractions include rides, food booths with ethnic and "all-American" favorites, bingo and other games. The Westinghouse "castle" and George Westinghouse Museum will also be open. Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. today and 4 to 11 p.m. tomorrow. Call (412) 825-3000 or visit

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June 07, 2007 | Link to this story

A New Word for Debacle

Category: default || By jt3y

In case you missed it, Chris Briem of Null Space has apologized for what he calls his "superficial mischaracterization of the fine City of McKeesport." As only a humble chronicler of various minutia, I cannot officially accept apologies on behalf of anyone, but I'm happy to pass it along.

And since yesterday was the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, it's worthwhile to remember these stirring words:

. . .

Amessment: Speaking of Null Space, make sure to read Briem's comments on the assessment mess.

As he points out, Allegheny County's base year system is just as screwed up as the systems in neighboring counties, some of which haven't re-assessed their properties since the 1980s.

Do you think it's fair that the new McMansions going up in Hempfield and North Huntingdon are being assessed at 1973 values? I don't either.

Properties should be assessed every year or two based on their fair-market values. Period. Some people will see their taxes go up; some will see their taxes go down. (In the interest of full disclosure: Mine would go up.)

People can rant about "fairness," but there is no way that a "base-year system" --- freezing tax assessments at some arbitrary year in the past --- is "fair." It's inherently unfair, and that's what Judge R. Stanton Wettick pointed out this week by saying it's unconstitutional.

I hope Allegheny County does appeal this decision to the state Supreme Court, and I hope they do overturn base-year systems, so that all of the counties in the metropolitan area are forced to compete on a level playing field in terms of property taxation. There is no way that the Mon-Yough area can compete for development with places like Cranberry Township as long as Butler County is still valuing properties at their 1969 levels, for crying out loud.

In the meantime, I am formally coining a new word to describe the property tax valuation system in Pennsylvania:

A•mess•ment (ə-mĕs'mənt) (n.) (c. 2007): The act of screwing up the evaluation of the taxable worth of property by politicians who are trying to placate voters instead of using the fair-market value of homes and businesses. I wish I knew what my school taxes were going to be next year, but I can't make out a budget because of the amessment.

. . .

Anyway: Someday soon I'm going to write a bit about metropolitanism and how State Senator W.D. Mansfield, publisher of the Daily News, almost single-handedly wrecked metropolitan government in Pennsylvania. I need to do a bit more research.

You'll notice that Pittsburgh stretches through West Mifflin almost to the border of McKeesport. Pittsburgh at one time was trying to annex McKeesport just as it annexed Allegheny City and was gobbling pieces of (then) Mifflin Township to make it happen. Mansfield vowed to stop it at all costs.

I don't know if Our Fair City would be better or worse off as part of Pittsburgh, but I do know that having a dozen municipalities around McKeesport instead of one or two, and 130 in the county instead of maybe a dozen, is wasteful and inefficient.

It seems to me that reducing all of the different communities in Allegheny County to the city of Pittsburgh, a few third-class cities, and a couple of townships would make a lot of sense. I doubt I will see it in my lifetime, unfortunately.

. . .

Valley Hotel P.S.: I deleted the entry on the Valley Hotel --- apparently the photos that were sent to me weren't "long, lost, mysterious" pictures, but were snapped at the Valley Hotel itself, which has a whole wall of vintage pictures on display!

Until I get permission to put them back up (probably in Tube City Online's "History" section) from the hotel's owners, I've pulled them. And go have a fish sandwich at the Valley Hotel or something --- it's brain food. You don't meet many dumb cats, do you?

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June 06, 2007 | Link to this story

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

Category: default || By jt3y

As the Mon-Yough area's leading online source of misinformation, I feel compelled to mention the ongoing, vocal protest against Ferree Kennels, the city-based animal control company that's under fire for what activists say is cruelty.

What started as one or two people protesting owner Ken Ferree's use of carbon monoxide to put down stray cats has turned into war, with animal-rights activists (you'll pardon the expression) "dogging" Ferree at local council meetings and trying to get his contracts canceled.

On Sunday two dozen demonstrators picketed his kennel on Lysle Boulevard and on Monday speakers urged West Elizabeth council to rethink its decision to authorize Ferree to trap and kill strays.

Besides the carbon monoxide, protesters are also upset that he's killing cats without collars the same day he catches them.

In Tuesday's Daily News, reporter Stacy Lee quotes Ferree as saying the activists are "radicals" and that they're conducting a "vendetta" against him that includes insults and slurs.

I've noted before that Ferree doesn't make a strong case for himself. He says that using carbon monoxide to euthanize animals is not against the law, but testifying before city council last year, he called it "an approved method that's used by people who commit suicide."

That's not exactly the image you should want your business to project, unless you're Jack Kevorkian.

And according to the News, Ferree was put on probation in April 2007 by Forward Township supervisors after a heated dispute with a resident there.

This all makes it difficult to sympathize with Ferree and also helps me understand why the so-called "radicals" are able to generate such outrage.

The Mon Valley needs more businesses, and I don't want Ferree to lose his. I don't think he's a sicko, and I don't think calling him "Hitler" and "fat bastard" is appropriate. On the other hand, if he wants to hang onto his contracts, he'd better "put on a happy face" and be nicer to taxpayers. A little kindness and humility would go a long way toward ending this controversy.

And nobody asked me, but maybe Ferree should modify his business practices. Perhaps all kitties go to heaven, but he doesn't have to send them there so quickly.

. . .

In Other News: Several outlets report that Chesterfield's Restaurant on Route 30 in North Huntingdon Township is being sold. (Here's Chuck Mortimer's story in the Tribune-Review.) The property is being leveled to make way for a Starbucks and a Walgreen's.

Owner Barbara Braun and her late husband, Jack, founded Chesterfield's at the former Ben Gross' Supper Club 24 years ago. I've never been a big fan of Chesterfield's, but I'm in the minority; a lot of people love it.

I don't think we need another chain drug store, and if we do, why doesn't someone redevelop the Norwin Shopping Center across the street? But I wish Mrs. Braun the best of luck --- after more than 20 years, she deserves the right to do with her property as she wishes.

. . .

U.S.S. McKeesport: Multiple Alert Readers sent links to Chris Briem's blog Null Space, which on Monday mentioned what I thought was an urban legend:

June 5th is the anniversary of the date when the cruiser USS Pittsburgh had its bow ripped off by Typhoon Cobra in the South Pacific. The ship would not sink and would make it back to port sans bow. The bow itself actually did not sink and was dubbed the USS McKeesport. The Navy probably didn't appreciate the irony of how improbable cooperation was between the City of Pittsburgh and one of its suburbs.

I've heard that story too --- that sailors dubbed the smaller portion "U.S.S. McKeesport" --- and I'd like to see confirmation if anyone has it. The real S.S. McKeesport was a merchant marine vessel that provided emergency supplies to refugees after the German occupation of France in 1940, and was later used by the Red Cross.

S.S. McKeesport was torpedoed and sunk by a Nazi U-boat in April 1943; one crewman died of exposure to the icy waters of the North Atlantic, but 68 others on board were saved. The ship is honored each year with a wreath-laying ceremony at the McKees Point Marina.

I realize the truth is not funny, but it has the virtue of being more interesting, I think.

. . .

‘Suburb’ My Ass: Pardon my French, but the real thing wrong with the story of the "U.S.S. McKeesport" is that McKeesport is not a suburb of Pittsburgh, dammit!

Or have we lost that battle?

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June 05, 2007 | Link to this story

Welcome to Blogsport (or is that McKeesweb?)

Category: default || By jt3y

Yes, Google may be a soul-crushing entity that's destroying newspapers, but I love it. I'd gladly pay for my monthly Google use much like I pay for my telephone --- in fact, I use it more than the telephone --- and I'm astonished that it's free.

One of Google's many features is "blog alert," which allows you to scan blog postings for certain keywords; Google then mails you links to blog entries in which your keywords appear.

Naturally, one of my Google alerts is for Our Fair City, and that blog alert has turned up all sorts of interesting things over the last few months:

. . .

Mom's Diaries: This purports to be diary entries from a Mon Valley woman who was born in 1929 and died in 2004. It's either actually the diary entries of this woman or it's a fantastic conceptual art project, or maybe it's both.

If you're looking for salacious details, don't bother. Instead you get entries like this one for the first Tuesday of June, 1978:

School. Called Carol. Dave came. Had lunch. Waited for his car. Worked on garden. Carolyn brought sprayer. Trimmed hedges. Harry had game. Had early supper. Went to stores. Kroger, Gold Circle, Murphy Mart & Giant Eagle.

. . .

The Well Ministries: This McKeesport-based ministry, which includes the contemporary gospel group "Chalice," has a blog, where I learned that apparently some neb-nose has been calling the cops because the band's bus was parked along Versailles Avenue (you may have seen it next to Castle Printing).

"Isn’t there something else for people to complain about?" asks Kris Rhodes of Chalice, and being very familiar with the neighborhood, I tend to agree. Maybe some of these busy-bodies could cut the grass in some of the vacant lots. There's a happy ending; according to a subsequent post, Mayor Jim Brewster has confirmed that the bus was fine where it was.

. . .

Casey's Old Country Corner: Reports on local rasslin', including the very-active semi-pro and pro circuit around McKeesport.

(From the McKeesport Symphony to wrestling matches to gospel music, you can't say we don't have something for everyone.)

. . .

National UFO Reporting Center: A McKeesport resident reports seeing "a bright light in the sky" on Nov. 28, 2004, at 11:50:57 a.m. I don't know why it just showed up on my Google blogs alert, but it may be a government cover-up.

As for the "bright light in the sky," I have confirmed that other Mon-Yough area residents were frightened by this object, some of whom have never seen it before. It was called "the sun."

. . .

Life in Routineville: An Alert Reader of the Almanac who no longer lives in the area, but who has family here and keeps up with events. Sadly, he hasn't reported any UFOs lately, nor on any rasslin' matches, but read it anyway.

. . .

Basically Decent: Anythem, another Alert Reader of the Almanac, hasn't reported any UFOs either, but she's reported lots of other things at her blog, written from a secret, undisclosed location in the Steel Valley.

. . .

Effect Measure: This blog about public health on Memorial Day carried the story of the death of a McKeesport steelworker from the turn-of-the-century who was immortalized in the song "He Lies in the American Land."

The song, by Andrew Kovaly of McKeesport, was covered by Pete Seeger and inspired a song by Bruce Springsteen.

. . .

Club Favorite: I'm not sure who Luna Beth O'Shea is, but she seems to be from the Mon-Yough area and is heavily into 1970s and '80s nostalgia, which should put her Flickr photos right up your alley.

She's also into posing outdoors with a minimum of clothing, so the link is marginally not-safe-for-work; you have been warned. (And I know you're all going to click it anyway.)

I'll tell you this much: After seeing Luna, you'll never think of the slag pile in Duquesne or Kentucky Fried Chicken in quite the same way. (Keep your "Finger Lickin' Good" jokes to yourself, please.)

. . .

Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association: There was a nice discussion here of the life of former U.S. Marshal Stan Holland, a firearms instructor at the McKeesport Sportsman's Association and elsewhere. Holland died of a heart attack recently at age 60. (The Post-Gazette had an obituary on May 22.)

. . .

Serendipity: This local blog, written by "Merge Divide," checked in May 11 on the controversy over the prayers that open meetings of McKeesport city council. The Almanac spouted off on the same topic, but Merge Divide gives the opposing viewpoint, which I respect and understand:

To me this is simply a matter of common sense and pragmatics. I have yet to hear a compelling reason why prayer should be included in governmental meetings. What purpose could it possibly serve? The moral authority of any particular governmental body rests in the respective Constitution(s) of the locality in which it resides. That should be enough legitimacy. Why add an extra layer of assumed authority that by its very nature is deeply personal?

. . .

Metroblogging Pittsburgh: Meanwhile, a med student assigned to UPMC McKeesport says the Almanac is all wet when it questions the value of the Mon-Fayette Expressway (aka the "Mo-Fo Excessway," with a tip of the Tube City hard hat to the Angry Drunk Bureaucrat):

The roads to the Mon Valley communities are two-lane, heavy with traffic lights, and not fast-moving. I now understand why the community leaders here think they need a highway ...

The fine young progressives of Pittsburgh, including Bill Peduto, have been loudly against the Mon-Fay as promoting sprawl and the hollowing out of our urban core (it'd help form a beltway around the city).

I'm no particular fan of highways or sprawl. Still, when I look West towards the airport, I see thriving businesses that feed off the airport, Robinson Town Centre, and the combination of the Parkway and the 28X.

When I look southeast, I see lots of available cheap land, already built up with streets and sewerage, and Kennywood as a built-in draw. It makes me wonder whether a bit of sprawl might be a fair price to pay for bringing some of our almost-dead towns back to life.

. . . One of the genealogy blogs at coughed up a 1902 history of the McKeesport police department. You have to register for to read it, unfortunately, and that should keep you busy for a while.

. . .

Anyway, that's Google's roundup of blogs that have recently mentioned McKeesport, Allegheny County's second-most livable city, as voted by the Tube City Places Rated Almanac. To quote Tom Lehrer, "there may be many others but they haven't been discovered," so feel free to add 'em in the comments or email me.

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June 04, 2007 | Link to this story

A Word From Our Sponsors

Category: default || By jt3y

It's Monday, so it's time for more alleged comedy from my alleged radio show.

I'm not doing embedded audio links any more because they tend to slow down people on dial-up connections ... click here to open a link in a new window.

(You can click on the photo to purchase a finely crafted, diecast-metal 1/18-scale model of a 1966 Cadillac funeral coach. It's a perfect Father's Day present, as long as Dad isn't too worried about his own mortality.)

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June 01, 2007 | Link to this story

And ... We're Back!

Category: default || By jt3y

First Things First: This morning I awoke to find a "free sample" of A Local Newspaper on my front porch. This is at least the third time recently that they have delivered a "free sample."

I'm so glad they're delivering "free samples" of a product that's been around since 1786, because otherwise I never would have heard of it.

I mean every time I walked into GetGo or 7-Eleven and saw those big piles of flat, printed material near the entrance, I wondered, "Gee, what's inside those?" Now I know, thanks to the "free sample"! Boy, what a dummy I was!

Seriously, A Local Newspaper (a.k.a. "The Toledo, Ohio-based Block Bugler" to the editorial page of the Greensburg-based "Tribune-Astonisher"), the reason people aren't subscribing isn't because they haven't heard of you.

Perhaps they don't have time to read you, or perhaps they're using that nasty, rotten Interweb that the kids are always "surfing up."

I like newspapers. I really, really do. (They don't like me, however.) I like newspapers so much that I recently subscribed again to the McKeesport, Pa.-based Daily Soon-To-Be-A-Trib-Total-Media-Joint after a decade of buying it on the newsstand.

Besides the fact that the McKeesport Daily STBATTMJ offers news about Our Fair City that I can't find anywhere else --- it has a "unique selling proposition," as they said in the 1950s --- it also has local obituaries, so I can check and see if I died. (And it has "Snuffy Smith." He's still fightin' them revenooers, God bless him.)

I also often buy a Washington Post and a Noo Yawk Daily News, even though they're damned expensive, but they're also damned well written. I subscribed to the Christian Science Monitor because it's got superb international news coverage. Those newspapers have "unique selling propositions."

A Local Newspaper wants to deliver 12-hour-old wire stories to my front porch in a soggy, sodden mess. That's "unique," I'll admit, but it's not a "selling" proposition.

So thanks for the "free samples," Local Newspaper. You would make better use of your time by trying to figure out how to (1.) improve your local content, (2.) minimize your dependence on wire copy, and (3.) make money on the Interwebs. You know, lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

'Cause the whole cursing-the-darkness bit is making metropolitan newspapers look like the buggy-whip makers of America circa 1920. And I haven't received any free samples of buggy-whips lately, if you get my drift.

. . .

Good News You Missed: Then again, underneath all of the wire stories, you find things like this from Eric Slagle. More stories like that, please, and "sample" me again.

. . .

In Other News: The state Department of Education is finally taking Duquesne High School out to the farm:

Gerald Zahorchak, secretary of the state Department of Education, said Tuesday that he will ask the district's board of control to dissolve the high school at its June 5 meeting and will ask the Legislature to give him the power to select multiple districts to take Duquesne's approximately 200 high school students. (Karen Zapf, Tribune-Review)

Naturally, West Mifflin school directors are busily welcoming their neighbors with open arms. (Ha ha ha! No, they're erecting barbed wire fences and machine-gun nests. The brotherhood of man, the milk of human kindness, etc.)

We can lament the loss of Duquesne High's identity and its sports traditions, but public school does not exist to support sports teams. It exists to prepare young men and women for productive careers.

The evidence is overwhelming that Duquesne School District is not able to do that. The young people of Duquesne deserve better. Yes, pause a moment to mourn the loss of Duquesne High, but cheer that someone has finally come to their senses.

. . .

Speaking of Coming to Their Senses: The Allegheny Institute of Public Policy is bemoaning the fact that the state has been subsidizing Duquesne to the tune of $16,000 per student, "far more," they write, "than the 'rich' district of Mt. Lebanon." This is proof, they say, that Duquesne has not been treated "inequitably."

It should be obvious that Duquesne can't possibly generate as much tax revenue as Mt. Lebanon. That's what's meant by "inequitable":

  • One mill of property tax in Duquesne generates $16,000.

  • One mill of property tax in Mt. Lebanon generates one mill generates $2 million.

The idea of "equity" in public education is that a student should be able to move from Mt. Lebanon to Duquesne --- or Steel Valley or West Mifflin or West Jefferson Hills, for that matter --- and receive roughly the same education. Clearly that isn't the case.

Don't "think" tanks have dictionaries? "Equitable" means "dealing fairly and equally with all concerned." (Like "Equitable Gas Company" ... they hose the customers, but they do it equally to everyone.)

The only "equitable" solution would be for Pennsylvania to have many, many fewer school districts and a uniform statewide tax. Right now we have "separate" and "unequal," and if it looks like Jim Crow, and squawks like Jim Crow ...

. . .

To Do This Weekend: Pittsburgh Area Jitterbug Club is holding its annual Summer Beach Bash today through Sunday at the Palisades, Fifth Avenue at Water Street, starting with a party at 7 tonight. Dances are from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. today and Saturday, and the Daddio of the Raddio, Porky Chedwick, will be tomorrow's special guest. Tickets are only $15 each night. Call (412) 551-0830 or visit the club's website.

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