Filed Under: So-Called Radio Humor || By Jason Togyer
Category: So-Called Radio Humor || By Jason Togyer
I've mentioned before one of my favorite shows is the Canadian sitcom "Corner Gas."
The other day, I watched the Season 4 episode called "The Good Old Table Hockey Game," which incorporates "The Hockey Song" by the great folk singer Stompin' Tom Connors.
Well, then I listened to Mike Lange call Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and one thing led to another ...
Anyway, the tape-splicing elves at Tube City Omnimedia's World Headquarters were busy all night Friday and into Saturday morning.
Enjoy, if that's the word, but please credit the Almanac, and don't use it for commercial purposes:
"The Hockey Song" by Stompin' Tom Connors (with Mike Lange) MP3, 2.8MB (re-edited 7:30 p.m.)
Category: Events, News || By Jason Togyer
Maybe you remember a shortlived sitcom in which Dan Aykroyd played a motorcycle-riding Episcopal priest.
(Don't feel bad if you don't --- nobody was watching.)
Well, Our Fair City has its very own "Soul Man" in the Rev. Dr. Jay Geisler, rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at the corner of Walnut and Eighth streets, Downtown.
A dedicated motorcycle buff since his high school years in the North Hills, Geisler and St. Stephen's will hold their third-annual "Blessing of the Bikes" after this Sunday's 10 a.m. service.
"I'm actually putting back together my BMW 850," Geisler says. (He's painting the fuel tank right now.)
Geisler, of East Pittsburgh, says the service is designed to pay tribute to the bikers and also raise awareness of motorcycle safety among the general public.
He should know --- years ago, Geisler barely escaped serious injury when a woman didn't see him and his cycle and drove in front of him near Wexford.
Geisler flipped over the hood and walked away bruised and sore, but otherwise unscathed.
. . .
His first bike was a little Suzuki 185 that he used to commute back and forth to LaRoche College, and to his summer jobs at Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. plants in Aliquippa and on the South Side.
"I drove that all year around --- I even bought a fluorescent orange snowsuit to ride with," Geisler says. "I even customized it, chromed it out."
When he graduated, he upgraded to a BMW; that bike was sold when he entered the seminary.
Geisler bought his current bike when he got his first pastoral assignment. He's now been at St. Stephen's for five years, and has worked with parishioners to reintegrate the church into the surrounding Downtown and Third Ward neighborhoods.
. . .
Events like the motorcycle blessing help tie the church to the community; so does the new electronic sign on Walnut Street, which St. Stephen's uses to promote events and small businesses around the city.
"We're a church that realizes that your economic situation is as important as the spiritual situation," says Geisler, who notes that the future of St. Stephen's is inexorably tied to the survival of McKeesport.
"A lot of these churches have gotten elderly because the young people have moved away," he says. "There are abandoned churches all around us."
The pastor is also involved in community groups like the McKeesport Neighborhood Initiative, which is developing new, affordable houses for first-time homeowners. Geisler is a director of MNI.
"The people who pay taxes are the homeowners," he says. "What revitalizes an area is when people want to move in."
(It should be noted that Geisler is also an active leader in the Episcopalian Diocese of Pittsburgh; in fact, he's one of a number of clergy who have questioned a proposal by Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan to pull the diocese out of the Episcopal Church in the United States.)
. . .
Geisler has had the opportunity to move to greener pastures, but says he frankly feels called to the Mon Valley.
"My great-grandfather was an Irish immigrant who signed an 'X' for his name," he says. "My father was a steelworker his whole life ... it's one of the reason I've always worked in these milltowns.
"That's why I've been committed here. I didn't have the heart to leave Pittsburgh after all this time."
. . .
The blessing of motorcycles and their riders will be held following this Sunday's 10 a.m. service. St. Stephen's is located at the corner of Walnut Street and Eighth Avenue, near the main post office. Following the blessing, a caravan of bikes will head east to Route 30 and Ligonier. For more information, call (412) 664-9379.
. . .
In Other Business: A friend of mine from the Tribune-Review (I still have a few) says I was unduly harsh in my criticism of the recent Mon-Fayette Expressway forum, which I called a "pep rally" and a "publicity stunt."
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," he says. "Do you still need a good act of contrition?"
Actually, I owe a mea culpa or two myself. In all honesty, the stories written by all of the Trib Total Media papers were very fair and balanced, and took pains to quote critics of the MFX who attended the forum; I didn't detect any pro-highway bias.
Also, the Trib is not solely to blame for the selection of the panelists. The forum was co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
I apologize for smearing the reporters and editors involved, and in the spirit of this weekend's motorcycle blessing, I will meditate on Romans 3:23.
. . .
March for Peace Saturday: The Brother to Brother Leadership Forum will host a "March for Peace" tomorrow from Duquesne to McKeesport. The march will begin at 10 a.m. at the corner of Hoffman Boulevard and Duquesne Boulevard (near Kennywood Park) and end at Kennedy Park on Lysle Boulevard.
According to a spokesman, the march will "highlight the need for community reunification and dialogue around the issue of urban violence," which a press release calls "a scourge that plagues many of our communities."
Families who have been the victims of violent crimes are invited to attend, along with residents and elected and school officials.
The leadership forum is a community group created and run by African-American men from Allegheny County that's designed to organize positive community activities like mentoring programs. In March, it hosted a day-long forum at McKeesport Area High School called "All Guns Down: Jobs Not Jail," which attracted more than 400 participants.
For more information on the march, call Rashad Byrdsong at (412) 371-3689 or visit the Community Empowerment Association website.
Category: History, Mon Valley Miscellany || By Jason Togyer
Category: Rants a.k.a. Commentary, The Mo-Fo Excessway || By Jason Togyer
You may have noticed that I didn't go to the Mon-Fayette Expressway "town hall" at McKeesport Area High School last week.
I tried. Oh, Lordy, I tried. In case you haven't noticed, I'm doing independent half-baked guerrilla journalism at the Almanac, and covering events helps me maintain my street cred.
But I do have a real job (you don't think this pays my bills, do you?) and by the time I got done at work, I would have had to race to MAHS.
Besides, I just couldn't muster what Jeff Kay would call "a single dingle" of enthusiasm over the idea of listening to the same old talking heads make the same old talking points.
Maybe I'm a weak man, but I just can't listen any more.
. . .
I went to my first MFX "information session" at First Presbyterian Church in Duquesne during the summer of my sophomore year of high school. That was almost 20 years ago.
Nothing much has changed since then, except that my mullet has become a comb-over.
In case you missed the coverage in the Tribune-Review, the Daily News, and the Gateway weeklies, here were the panelists:
Category: Mon Valley Miscellany || By Jason Togyer
Did you know that if you stop reading your email, checking other peoples' websites, and reading blogs and newsgroups for several days, the world continues to turn?
It's true. So I unplugged for a couple of days. Your indulgence is appreciated.
. . .
Police Shooting in Pittsburgh: A reader emailed me privately to ask why there haven't been any protests yet over Friday's fatal shooting by Pittsburgh police of a man armed with a butcher knife.
After all, he says, several groups protested the May 6 shooting of Justin Jackson up in Mt. Oliver as an example of police brutality.
OK, OK, I realize he's being sarcastic, and while I feel the quicksand rising around my ankles, I'm going to respond anyway.
First, if the cops approach you for any reason and you pull out a weapon --- whether it's a gun (as in the Mt. Oliver shooting) or a knife (in Oakland) --- expect to get shot.
And if a cop shoots you, they're going to shoot to kill. That's what they're trained to do.
So whether Jackson shot at a person, a police dog, the ground or the air, police were going to shoot back, and they were justified in doing so.
But Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper did himself and the force no favors by over and over again equating the life of the police dog who was killed to the life of a human.
I've known enough human police officers with canine partners to understand that the dogs are members of the force, and I also know they hold their K-9 partners in serious regard. I also understand why police officers treat canine officers with that level of respect --- they trust those dogs to defend their own lives.
Unfortunately, that distinction is bound to be lost on the grieving family and friends of the man who was shot --- even if the police officer who shot him was acting properly, and even if the man was clearly in the wrong.
Put yourself in the place of the man's family. Even if he had a criminal record, would you think his life was less important than a dog's?
(By the way, anyone who knows how human police officers treat canine officers also knows that they would have never shot the dog themselves, as Jackson's family and others have alleged. The accusation is ridiculous.)
Furthermore, you'd have to be pretty tone deaf not realize that police dogs have a different connotation to many African-Americans --- especially those old enough to remember the 1960s --- than they do to whites or other ethnic groups. (The man shot in Mt. Oliver was African-American.)
Add all of these factors together, and it becomes apparent why the Mt. Oliver shooting became a natural flashpoint for protests, while the shooting in Oakland is unlikely to generate the same anger from anyone in the community.
I'm not blaming the police, but the aftermath of the Mt. Oliver incident could have been handled more sensitively.
. . .
Kennywood Dispute Settled: In case you missed it, West Mifflin council has approved a settlement with Kennywood that ends the amusement park's lawsuit against the borough.
As Pat Cloonan reported in the Daily News, the borough will lower its amusement tax rate, while Kennywood will pay less than half of what West Mifflin was demanding.
Let's hope that as West Mifflin goes forward, it starts applying the amusement tax evenly and fairly to all businesses and organizations subject to collection.
After all, Kennywood may have agreed to settle the case in order to make sure that its pending sale to the Spanish company Parques Reunidos went through without complications. (The sale is expected to close June 3.)
The settlement doesn't mean that West Mifflin's selective enforcement of the amusement tax was right. It wasn't. Almost inarguably it was unconstitutional.
And for those of you who think, "Well, Kennywood's rich, they could have paid the tax," that's not the point. Remember: All West Mifflin taxpayers, including Kennywood, deserve equal protection under the law.
If a big corporation like Kennywood can have its rights trampled, there would be nothing to stop a borough, city or township from stepping on much smaller taxpayers. Maybe even you.
. . .
Category: Events || By Jason Togyer
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
--- Lt. Col. John McCrae MD, Canadian Expeditionary Force (1872-1918)
Category: News || By Jason Togyer
You've heard the story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody? You know, Everybody thought it was Somebody's job, Anybody could have done it, and Nobody did it.
Everybody --- or at least three local governmental bodies --- shares responsibility for the approach ramps to the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge, but City Administrator Dennis Pittman acknowledges that Nobody's been taking care of them.
A light-pole knocked down in a traffic accident a year ago is still in the middle of the sidewalk; a directional sign at the end of the bridge has fallen over; dirt and debris has collected in the gutters.
That's going to change, Pittman tells the Almanac.
"You're not the only one who sees it --- I see it every day, you see it every day," Pittman says. "It's a portal to the city ... I will guarantee that the kids on our summer crew will clean it up this summer, but that's a band-aid approach, and I don't want a band-aid."
. . .
His remarks came in response to questions from the Almanac about a letter to the editor in Tuesday night's Daily News.
The letter from 10th Ward resident Terri Gorick asked the city to do something about the "blight" along West Fifth Avenue, one of the main entrances to McKeesport from West Mifflin and Pittsburgh.
PennDOT traffic studies completed in 2006 indicate that about 13,000 people use the Mansfield Bridge daily, while about 19,000 people daily use at least part of West Fifth Avenue.
"Keep pushing to make McKeesport 'the place to rebuild,' but first, how about fixing the disgusting sight coming off of the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge --- a major artery into our town," Gorick wrote.
"Signs falling down, major, major potholes and trolley tracks showing through the streets," she continued. "Trolley tracks --- please!"
Gorick's phone number is unlisted and attempts by the Almanac to reach her were not successful.
. . .
The Mansfield Bridge, which is maintained by the county, is a four-lane structure built in 1949 and 1951 that connects the city and Glassport with Dravosburg.
It's slated for a complete makeover in 2009, including new deck, repairs to the superstructure and paint.
The county in November 2005 retained the engineering firm Michael Baker Jr. Co. to oversee the work, estimated to cost $25 million.
But responsibility for the approach ramps is shared by Glassport and the city, says Joe Olczak, Allegheny County director of public works.
"According to the (state Public Utility Commission) the sidewalks, railings, light poles and the ramps would be maintained by McKeesport," he tells the Almanac in an email.
Olczak says he will ask the city about replacement of the light pole.
Pittman says city crews have temporarily filled potholes on the approach ramps, and he vows to talk with Twin Rivers Council of Government and the South Hills Area Council of Government about sweeping the ramps on a monthly basis.
McKeesport and Glassport are members of the Twin Rivers COG, while Dravosburg belongs to SHACOG. Both COGs operate street-sweeping equipment.
"Maybe we need to split the duties between the COGs," Pittman says. "Maybe we trade off months. Maybe Twin Rivers does it one month, and South Hills does it the next month, and the county puts in (some money) ... maybe no one has ever thought about it, and if (Gorick) has triggered it, she deserves a pat on the back."
. . .
Repaving West Fifth Avenue is a stickier problem. The street was last repaved in 1998.
A preliminary estimate put the cost of laying new blacktop at $750,000, Pittman says.
That's three times the city's annual paving budget. Pulling out the trolley tracks --- which have been unused since 1963 --- would add another half-million dollars to the project.
"There is a sincere effort underway to address it," Pittman says. "We've looked at it, and (state) Rep. Bill Kortz and (state) Sen. Sean Logan are looking at it."
The city's hope is that some agency --- such as the state --- will provide money to help underwrite the cost of the repairs.
West Fifth Avenue is a major thoroughfare used by city residents as well as people who live in Port Vue, Glassport and Liberty. But there is no interest from the county or state in taking over responsibility for the road, Pittman says.
"Believe me, we've tried to give it away," he says.
The city's best hope is that planning for the reconstruction of West Fifth Avenue will begin later this year, and that repaving will get underway next spring, Pittman says, though he notes a new crop of potholes will have grown by then.
"We've patched the potholes already and we're going to get the potholes patched," he says. "By then, the screaming (for repaving the street) will be louder, but a solution will be in sight."
Category: History, News || By Jason Togyer
A few newsworthy items of local interest:
. . .
Meeting Tonight in Clairton: It may be too late by the time you read this, but Neil Bhaerman of Clean Water Action notes that a public meeting will be held tonight at 7 at the Clairton Municipal Building to discuss planned environmental upgrades to U.S. Steel's Clairton Works.
My apologies for not getting this item posted sooner. (Sometimes the hamster falls out of the little wheel in my brain.)
Bhaerman says that CWA has helped to create a new group called Residents for a Clean and Healthy (REACH) Mon Valley.
"REACH Mon Valley is a grassroots community group that works to improve air quality and hold local industry accountable to environmental standards," he says. "As you covered on May 5, pollution from the Clairton coke works is a serious issue. They have had a poor history of environmental compliance recently but will soon be embarking on a $1 billion series of upgrades to the plant."
If you miss this event (again, my apologies), REACH Mon Valley is holding its next meeting at 7 p.m. June 18 at the Elrama Volunteer Fire Department on Route 837.
And Bhaerman points out that there will be a public hearing on U.S. Steel's request for a permit to conduct its demolition and construction work in Clairton; that's set for 6:30 p.m. June 5 at the Clairton Municipal Building.
If you're interested in speaking at the hearing, Bhaerman suggests that you call him at (412) 765-3053, extension 202.
. . .
Category: Pointless Digressions, Radio Geekery || By Jason Togyer
The portable toilets are being sucked clean, the crews are sweeping up the leftover cheese cups and hot dog wrappers, and the great geek-out known as Dayton Hamvention, the world's largest gathering of bath-deprived, socially-inept electronics freaks, is finally over.
OK. I keed, I keed. Some of the people do bathe.
Anyway, I just got back from my ... (counts on fingers) ... eighth-annual trip to Hamvention. Sponsored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, Hamvention is billed as the biggest convention for radio and computer buffs in the world, and I don't doubt that.
Each year at Hamvention, just about every major electronics hobby company (along with a lot of minor ones) is there to show off samples of their latest equipment. Some of the stuff they have on sale frankly would require a second mortgage on my house. On the other hand, prices in the outdoor flea market --- which takes up three entire parking lots --- start at "free" and go up from there.
And you literally do meet electronics buffs of all ages, from all over the world; I talked to guys (yeah, mostly guys) from Germany, the UK, Japan and Australia. (Not too many people from sub-Saharan Africa attend. I guess dropping four bills on a trip to the U.S. to gawk at ham radio equipment isn't a good idea when you're trying to scrape up enough for food today.)
. . .
Almanac Readers are Everywhere: So I'm pursuing the books on sale at the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) booth when I literally do a double-take.
There, on the back of a new book called World War II Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion is an endorsement from Tube City Almanac reader and contributor Donn Nemchick!
Written by Pittsburgh-area counselor and behavioral psychologist Lisa Spahr, it's the story of her grandfather, who was held captive in a German POW camp, and the ham radio buffs who monitored overseas propaganda broadcasts to send news of POWs back to U.S. families. Needless to say, I bought the book, and you should, too.
Hey, Nemchick! I gotta drive four hours to find out about this? Sheesh.
. . .
Things Are Tough All Over: Everyone seems to agree that attendance at Hamvention this year was way down, but apparently, no one yet is saying by how much. In the past, annual paid attendance at Hamvention was said to run 20,000 to 30,000 people; one educated guess I saw pegged attendance this year at more like 14,000.
What accounts for the dramatic decrease? I blame the generally aging population of ham radio buffs, combined with record-high gasoline prices ... and prices were actually about 10 to 15 cents higher in Ohio than they are around Pittsburgh.
It's not easy to solve the second problem. As for the first problem, the ARRL, the U.S.'s biggest lobbying group for ham radio, issued a press release on Saturday urging ham radio buffs to embrace new technology as a way to attract people to the hobby:
(ARRL President Joel Harrison) noted that many hams attribute their affinity to "Amateur" Radio as launching their professional careers in radio engineering, satellite communications, computer science and wireless communications.
"This is less about defining a new course for Amateur Radio, but simply recognizing a course that has always been a precept of radio amateurs and the ARRL," he said. Referring to the federal rules and regulations for Amateur Radio, Harrison explained that one of the defining principles of the Service's very creation by the government is the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.
Category: General Nonsense, Pointless Digressions || By Jason Togyer
I've been out of town for several days and just returned home late Sunday night. Normal service will resume shortly. Did you miss me? Did you notice? Do you care?
Never mind, I'd rather not know the answers.
. . .
As a public service, I've been asked to mention that there has been a rash of vandalism incidents up in Christy Park. Several homes --- apparently mostly vacant ones --- have been broken into and trashed.
If you live in the area, keep an eye on the neighborhood and call the cops if you notice something suspicious.
Not to make light, but I came home to a house that was trashed, too. Not by the burglars, but by the slob who lives here (namely me). If burglars did break in and wreck the place, I'm not sure I could tell the difference.
. . .
In other news, the Tribune-Review and its sister papers (including the great, not-so-gray lady of 409 Walnut St.) are hosting what's billed as a "town hall meeting" at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the auditorium of McKeesport Area High School to discuss the Mon-Fayette Expressway.
Panelists include Joe Kirk, executive director of the Mon Valley Progress Council, which boosts the construction of the expressway; state Rep. Joe Markosek of Monroeville, chairman of the governor's transportation committee; Andrew Quinn, director of community relations for Kennywood and a strong supporter of the expressway; Chad Amond, president of the Monroeville Chamber of Commerce and another expressway backer; and Joe Brimmeier, executive director of the state Turnpike Commission.
I don't mean to imply that the panel is a little bit biased, but to paraphrase Gene Weingarten: Asking these guys if you need a new expressway is like asking your kid if you need a puppy.
The chances are 100 percent that every single panelist is going to enthusiastically back the MFX, which begs the question: Why even host the discussion? It's not a debate, it's a pep rally.
Anyway, with the price of gas nearing $4 a gallon (premium hi-test is already over $4 in the Mon-Yough area), I think these folks ought to be challenged on whether building a new highway is sustainable, let alone desirable.
Perhaps the $3 billion they're trying to raise would be better spent on improvements to the network of surface roads in the Mon Valley: Route 837 through Homestead, Whitaker, West Mifflin and Duquesne; Lysle Boulevard in the city; Lebanon Church Road in Dravosburg and West Mifflin; Braddock Avenue in Braddock and Rankin.
All of those roads are already served by public transit. Widening them, adding new sidewalks and bike lanes, creating pull-off areas for buses, and timing the traffic lights to reduce congestion would provide immediate benefits to the surrounding neighborhoods.
It also wouldn't saddle the state with additional new, expensive infrastructure that would need to be maintained.
I suspect that Braddock Mayor John Fetterman (an outspoken opponent of the expressway) would rather have a four-lane, tree-lined boulevard (like Ardmore Boulevard) going through Braddock than a highway zipping over Braddock.
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I hear the washing machine calling my name. My vacation socks aren't going to wash themselves ... although judging by the smell of them, they may be able to march to the laundry on their own.
Category: Events, News || By Jason Togyer
Category: Sarcastic? Moi? || By Jason Togyer
Sometimes commenting on local news is like shooting fish in a barrel:
. . .
All Fall Down: The building that collapsed on Sixth Avenue last week was owned by something called "Comfort Air Products Inc.," which according to the Daily News has not returned repeated calls seeking comment.
"Comfort Air Products" is actually the Edward L. Kemp Co. on West Fifth Avenue, which as the Almanac has reported before, owns many derelict or dilapidated buildings in the city, including, according to Allegheny County records, the Penn-McKee Hotel.
Kemp's advertising plays up its long heritage in McKeesport. It brags that the company has been "heating and cooling the Mon Valley since 1888."
But allowing buildings throughout the Downtown area to deteriorate --- and fall down --- doesn't do the city or the Mon Valley any good.
If you're installing or repairing an air conditioner this summer, and you call Kemp, ask them why they own so many buildings in the Mon Valley ... and also ask why you should spend your money with them instead of someone else.
No, McKeesport isn't a great market for real estate development, but it seems unlikely that (for instance) the Penn-McKee site --- one block from the marina and the Palisades, and next to the Jerome Avenue Bridge --- is completely unmarketable.
. . .
Les Taxis de la Médiocrité: A French company has acquired Allegheny County's principal taxi operator:
Veolia Transportation is the North American arm of Veolia Transport, based in Paris. Founded more than 150 years ago, Veolia operates cabs, buses, rail and maritime transportation services in 25 countries and employs more than 72,000. The North American unit does business in 18 U.S. states, including major markets such as Boston, Denver and Baltimore.
Pittsburgh Transportation, based in Manchester, is the county's largest privately held transportation group. It operates 685 cabs, limos and buses; employs more than 300 people; and engages 450 independent contractor/drivers. It also owns Peoples Cab, Express Shuttle, Embassy Coach/Limousine Service, Star Paratransit, PTG Charter Services and Freedom Coach. (Tribune-Review)
"Floating trains ... sounds like science fiction!" South Fayette High School sophomore Eric Wise declared when he and other gifted students visited Maglev Inc. facilities in McKeesport.
"Well, I saw the work with my own eyes," he said after touring the RIDC Park shop that holds the first 22-foot-long sections of guideway ever built in the United States for a magnetically-levitated, high-speed train line. (Post-Gazette)
Category: Pointless Digressions, Politics || By Jason Togyer
A couple of political things are bugging me. Let me set up my soap-box here on the corner of Fifth and Walnut, hitch my pants up to my armpits, and say a few things:
. . .
First, for God's sake, stop forwarding Internet hoaxes. A friend just sent me a photo of Barack Obama supposedly holding a telephone upside down. The accompanying email said: "When you are faking a pose for a camera photo opportunity, at least you can get the phone turned in the right direction! And he wants to be President? Dumba--!"
Uh, yeah. Obama doesn't know how to talk on a telephone. And the person taking the picture also doesn't know how to use a telephone, and didn't notice that he was using it upside down. Right.
Doesn't anyone realize how stupid that sounds?
For crying out loud, it wasn't even a good photo-editing job, and when I searched Google for "obama" and "phone," the very first result was a discussion of the fact that the picture is a fake.
It also wasn't an original idea. Someone used the same joke against George W. Bush several years ago.
You might think that things like this don't make a difference. But they do. How many people think that Obama is a Muslim based on unattributed emails? Plenty of people in West Virginia, according to a story in the Financial Times.
(I'm personally trying to figure out how people are holding onto that stupid idea apparently at the same time that they're complaining about Obama's Christian pastor, who married him and baptized his children as Christians.)
For the love of Mike, if something seems too good to be true, check your facts first. And please, don't send me anything else about how Hillary Clinton is a Communist, or how John McCain had a daughter out of wedlock, or how certain oil companies are funding terrorists.
All of those emails are crap. Learn to use Google. It's your friend.
. . .
Second, several people have recently told me that they're not voting for anyone for president, because all of the candidates are the same, or because there are no good candidates.
Really? There are no good candidates?
Category: Cartoons || By Jason Togyer
Category: Events, News || By Jason Togyer
The long-awaited renovation of Fifth Avenue is set to begin later this summer.
City Administrator Dennis Pittman says the $929,000 project --- which will include new sidewalks, traffic signals, street lights, and the restoration of Downtown's main commercial street to two-way traffic --- was delayed until the remaining concrete archways of the Midtown Plaza Mall were removed.
This week, city council awarded a contract for nearly $60,000 to MB&R Piping Co. to demolish those archways. Funding for the demolition was provided by the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
The support beams are the last remaining part of the parking deck that once formed an overpass over Fifth Avenue, turning the already-narrow corridor into a tunnel. Work should be complete by June 30, Pittman says.
Fifth Avenue's reconstruction is being funded by the state's Home Town Streets initiative.
. . .
As for the failed Midtown Mall itself, Pittman says demolition of the interior is largely complete, and several potential tenants are interested in the space.
But leasing the space has been delayed because of the archways, he says.
Although the parking lot was demolished nearly five years ago, the concrete supports left behind were "a major deterrent," Pittman says.
Why? "Pigeons," he says. "They wait up there and get you."
(Pigeons! "PittGirl" is right!)
. . .
The Fifth Avenue work isn't the only improvement coming to a main street in the city.
City Clerk Patricia Williams announced that the DCED has awarded a $250,000 grant to install sidewalks along Walnut Street between the 15th Avenue Bridge and the Christy Park area.
Besides making it more convenient for people in the Third Ward to walk to Christy Park businesses (or vice versa), the sidewalks will add to the usability of the nearby biking-walking trail.
In other trail news: Council also gave its approval to convey more right-of-way for the segment of the trail between the McKees Point Marina and Duquesne.
The right-of-way will connect the former Union Railroad Bridge to the trail via Center Street, on the former National Works property.
. . .
Marshall Drive Extension: Work to extend Marshall Drive to Route 48 should get underway before the end of the year.
Mayor Jim Brewster said this week that the city is still waiting for a review to be completed by the state Department of Transportation. The contract will probably be awarded before the end of the year.
Extending Marshall Drive, which serves the Haler Heights area and Serra Catholic High School, will add a traffic-light controlled intersection.
Currently, the only access to Marshall Drive is via two blind intersections between Route 48 and Old Long Run Road; those intersections have been the scene of many accidents.
If the approval process isn't complete in time to get the work done before asphalt plants close for the winter, Brewster said, the paving may have to wait until Spring 2009.
While the state has awarded the city $800,000 to put toward the Marshall Drive project, the city will have to make up any funding difference between the grant and the final cost.
Besides the obvious safety improvements, completion of the extension will make vacant land near Tom Clark Chevrolet more marketable, Brewster said, noting that increased business tax revenue should offset any cost to the city.
"Sometimes people say, 'If you can't afford to fill my potholes, how can you extend Marshall Drive?'" he said. "These are two completely different pots of money."
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To Do This Weekend: McKeesport Little Theater presents Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite," through May 18. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Dinner will be served before this Saturday's show, but reservations are required.
The MLT is located at 1614 Coursin St., near the Carnegie Library and Cornell Intermediate School. Call (412) 673-1100 or visit their website.
Category: News || By Jason Togyer
Mayor Jim Brewster's new goal is to "fire Blue Cross-Blue Shield" as the city's health insurance carrier.
The pledge comes after Highmark, the Pittsburgh region's Blue Cross licensee and its dominant health care provider, raised the rate on one city plan by $620,000 --- nearly 84 percent.
According to city Controller Ray Malinchak, the increase amounts to approximately $16,000 for each of the 80 city hall, public works and other administrative employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement with Teamsters Local 205.
At last night's city council meeting, Brewster called the increase "obscene" and said that Highmark officials have declined to discuss their decision, except to say that the rates were increased because of an spike in the number of claims filed by people covered under the policy.
However, Highmark will not release the number or type of claims, the mayor said. "We already asked for it," he said. "We can't have it."
"It's a very emotional issue, because if you have children or you're elderly or you have health problems, you start to worry that you're going to lose" your coverage, Brewster said, "or you're going to have to pay a lot more out of your paycheck."
If passed directly along to city employees, the increased premium would cost each of them about $325 per week, he said.
. . .
The city learned of the increase when it was invoiced on Friday.
"I think it's a complete corporate embarrassment that (Highmark) did not even contact this city or this mayor and give us any advance warning," Brewster said. "Nothing."
Although the contract with the Teamsters has specified Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage since at least 1994, Brewster said it allows the city to substitute an "equivalent or better" health insurance plan.
The mayor said he met this week with Local 205 President Bill Lickert and other union officials, and the Teamsters understand the city's need to shop for a less-expensive alternative.
Brewster has already scheduled a meeting with another health insurance carrier.
Highmark's "attitude is there aren't many other vendors out there," he said. "Maybe they don't think we're smart enough (to find one). They say, 'Well, Mr. Mayor, just raise taxes.'
"Well, we're not going to raise taxes," Brewster said. "We'll give them a little taste of McKeesport competitiveness."
. . .
Councilor Paul Shelly asked Brewster if the city could purchase health insurance jointly with other governmental entities --- for instance, neighboring communities --- and increase the risk pool to save money.
Brewster said the city is investigating the legal implications, but that he's already approached the McKeesport Housing Authority and the McKeesport Area School District.
The city is also considering a complaint to the state Insurance Commissioner.
. . .
The health insurance increase wasn't the only unexpected bill handed to city councilors last night.
By a 6-0 vote, they also awarded an emergency $42,000 contract to Patterson Home Improvements to repair the roof at the former municipal building on Lysle Boulevard.
Although city offices have moved to the old McKeesport National Bank building at Fifth and Sinclair streets, the 1959 structure at Lysle and Market still houses the police and fire stations.
Police and fire personnel are expected to move in a few years to a new regional courthouse and public safety building on Walnut Street in the Third Ward.
Malinchak and Councilor Darryl Segina questioned where the city was going to find the money for the roof repairs.
Brewster said at least three tenants --- state Sen. Sean Logan, the Regional Chamber Alliance, and the Twin Rivers Council of Governments --- have asked about leasing offices in the Lysle Boulevard structure.
The rental income would more than offset the cost of the repairs, the mayor said.
"The alternative to not doing this is continued damage," Brewster said, which would make it impossible to sell or lease the building.
Category: Politics || By Jason Togyer
I don't want to discuss the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his relationship to Barack Obama, which has been beaten to death by talk radio and cable TV news.
But according to stories coming out of Indiana, about half of the people who voted against Obama in the Democratic primary say that Wright's controversial remarks --- especially the sermon where he said "God damn America" --- were an important factor in their decision.
Exit polls in Pennsylvania, where white Catholics went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, indicate that many voters here were also offended by Wright's remarks.
Well, hang onto your hats. You'll only read this at Tube City Almanac.
By accident, I have unearthed similar radical sermons by a local Catholic priest who has been endorsed and praised over the years by many politicians and community leaders, including several mayors of Pittsburgh, state Rep. Dave Levdansky of Elizabeth, Andrew "Lefty" Palm of the United Steel Workers of America, and Duquesne University Chancellor John Murray.
And I demand to know why these people haven't denounced this left-wing anti-American zealot the way that Barack Obama was forced to denounce Wright.
Here's what this local priest said about the Iraq war:
What have we to be proud of? Licking a nation of 19 million people and a tired army that had not mastered modern military science? Its real soldiers were outnumbered three or four to one.
That was not a war but a punitive expedition against an outmatched foe. But it pleased George Bush, who likes the idea of being a "war" president a la FDR and Wilson, and our war-like people for the most part enjoy the excitement and pumped up tension of war, especially one against a tin-horn "strong" man.
Remember, we have never tasted firsthand here at home the horror of a modern war.
Seers in the White House are relieved that, according to public opinion polls, the American people are not bothered by the overkilling of Iraqis.
If the polls are correct, we Americans are not a good people, but are heartless and selfish. Now the God who, the self-same polls assure us, we believe in ... will surely punish us and our children severely. It will go much worse for us that we believe in Him and actually do much in His name which we invoke ad nauseam.
But I hope against hope that the polls are wrong because I love my country. I fear for her soul ... Are we really that evil?
Category: News || By Jason Togyer
Category: Mon Valley Miscellany || By Jason Togyer
Category: Cartoons, Mon Valley Miscellany || By Jason Togyer
Category: Events, General Nonsense || By Jason Togyer
Alert Reader Bob asks: "I know you've publicized it before -- but could you kindly republish the info regarding how and when one might listen to your (radio) show?"
Well, if you were in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., our nation's capital, you could go to the National Zoo ...
Oh, sorry, that's how to see a komodo dragon, the world's largest living lizard.
If you were in the vicinity of Oakland, or anywhere that Carnegie Mellon's WRCT-FM (88.3) can be heard, you could listen from 12 noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays, following the "Saturday Light Brigade."
If you're out of range of WRCT's massive flamethrowing 1,750-watt directional signal (it's not for beans in the Mon Valley, because it's aimed west), you can also listen online at wrct.org.
You also could listen to WKHB (620) in Irwin on Sunday evenings at 7:15 p.m. ... following the "Scriptural Rosary."
Yep, it's one heck of a lead-in I've got on WKHB. Most Sundays, my audience consists of literally dozens of shut-ins, along with a handful of elderly people who think it's still WHJB in Greensburg. ("Can I speak to Nellie King? What time's the farm report on? Do you have the score of the Hempfield game?")
. . .
In Other News: A few items of interest from Penn State
McKeesport Lower Fox Chapel: