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November 27, 2008 | Link to this story

Local Train Buffs Plan a 'Blast' After Holiday Show

Category: Events || By

Above: A miniature train decorated for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad --- which once bisected Downtown McKeesport --- rolls along the Mon-Yough Valley Railroad. The HO-scale train display, constructed by the McKeesport Model Railroad Club, is slated to undergo major renovations following this year's holiday show. Club officials are also hoping to recruit new members interested in model building, local history and railroads. (Rob Mihalchik photo for McKeesport Model Railroad Club)

. . .


Demolition of the Mon-Yough Valley Railroad? Say it ain't so!

It's true. The operators of the venerable McKeesport-based railroad company are drawing up plans that would reroute its trains through entirely new towns and serve a variety of new industries.

Before you rush to the map and look for the Mon-Yough Valley's tracks, you'd better remember that the MYV is the fictional railroad owned and constructed by the McKeesport Model Railroad Club, 2209 Walnut St.

The club is hosting what it's calling a "pre-demolition" holiday train show and open house from Friday, Nov. 28 through Sunday, Dec. 21.

Hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays, 1 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 12 noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. A donation of $4 for adults and $1 for children is requested.

Club President Dean Liberty Jr. says parts of the Mon-Yough Valley Railroad --- which fills up most of a former Steelworkers' Union hall in the Christy Park section of the city --- are now approaching 20 years old. The club, which was founded in 1950, purchased the building in 1987.

The need to upgrade the HO-scale (1/87th of actual size) model railroad to modern technology and the desire to add new scenery is driving the redesign, Liberty says.

In addition, club members also want the model railroad to become more educational for visitors, and more closely tell the story of the Mon Valley area.

Under one plan currently under being considered, the club would build a new railroad that would run roughly from Connellsville in Fayette County, through Monessen, Monongahela, Clairton and McKeesport.

Along the route, real landmarks would be represented, including coal mines and "beehive-style" coke ovens in Fayette County; steel and glass plants along the Mon River, and the famous pipe mills that gave McKeesport its nickname of "the Tube City."

The club is also recruiting new members --- especially people who are interested in researching local history or learning how to build a model railroad.

An entirely new classification of auxiliary membership will allow new recruits to join for just $10 per month. In addition, anyone joining between now and March 31, 2009 will receive three months' dues free.

Although there are no restrictions on who can apply for auxiliary membership, the classification is designed for high school and college students, retirees or others on fixed incomes, and the increasing number of people who are interested in joining the McKeesport club but who live far away.

The club currently has about 18 members, down from a high of 40. Club officials say the drop has been primarily caused by the declining population of the Mon-Yough area and the recent deaths of several longtime members.

Besides the railroad display, a "white elephant" table and door prizes will be available, and souvenirs and refreshments can be purchased. Parking is available across the street at CP Industries when the plant is closed. Special rates for scout and youth groups are available.

All proceeds benefit McKeesport Model Railroad Club, a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation chartered under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and organized under Section 501(c)3 of federal tax code.

For more information, visit or call 412-664-LOCO.

. . .

Disclaimer: The author is public relations director of McKeesport Model Railroad Club Inc.

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November 25, 2008 | Link to this story

Thanksgiving Holiday

Category: Pointless Digressions || By

Please bear with us as the entire Tube City Almanac editorial staff takes a few days off.

Normal service will resume Monday, Dec. 1.

Garbage collection, U.S. mail, state liquor stores and Port Authority buses will remain on their normal schedules, but sewage deliveries may be delayed 24 hours.

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November 24, 2008 | Link to this story

Cold Can't Chill Santa Parade

Category: News || By

John Barna photo

John Barna photoNeither snow, nor wind nor gloomy skies on Saturday afternoon could keep visitors and participants away from the annual "Salute to Santa" parade, held on Fifth Avenue, Downtown.

Roving photographer John Barna caught the spirit (and possibly a cold) and captured as many sights as he could, like this picture of the clowns, including "Dr. Cuddles."

John wants to know if he can trust a doctor named "Cuddles."

Hey, in this economy, Dr. Cuddles is probably the only professional my health insurance will pay for.

You can see all of the photos in Tube City Online's special gallery.

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November 23, 2008 | Link to this story

Key to the City

Category: News || By

John Barna photo/Tube City Almanac

Above, philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife, publisher of the Tribune-Review, Daily News and other local newspapers, speaks with Mayor James Brewster after receiving a key to the city at Saturday's "Salute to Santa" parade on Fifth Avenue, Downtown.

Below, members of the LaRosa Boys and Girls' Club --- dressed as 1920s-era "newsboys" --- hand out commemorative copies of The Daily News.

More photos in Monday's Almanac.

(Both photos: John Barna, special to Tube City Almanac)

John Barna photo/Tube City Almanac

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November 21, 2008 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted

Category: News || By

Local Vets Honored: The honor guard of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 "Intrepid," based in West Mifflin, marches in front of Mellon Arena during the Nov. 11 Veterans' Day parade in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The unit was awarded second-place in its category by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Post Commander Charles Krebs called cadence for the drill team over the parade route.

Uniforms worn by the team spanned 50 years and numerous conflicts, from Korea through the current Iraq conflict. Members included U.S. Army veteran Jay Jabbour, who served during the Korean War; U.S. Marine Corps vet Bernard Zurawski; and U.S. Army vets Jake Bradich and Mike Mauer.

(Photo supplied by Mike Mauer)

. . .

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is holding a holiday auction to raise money.

Iris Valanti, food bank spokeswoman, says donors who want to support the Duquesne-based charity can also make gifts in the names of loved ones.

The online holiday auction --- which wraps up at 11 a.m. Dec. 3 --- includes prizes from The Club at Nevillewood, local museums and other attractions.

Other gifts include souvenir items, including handcrafted plates and postcards.

Visit the Food Bank's website for more information.

. . .

Preparations are underway for the 24th annual Festival of Trees.

The celebration --- featuring hand-decorated Christmas trees that commemorate different causes, groups or organizations --- will be held from 12 to 9 p.m. Dec. 4 to 9 at Jacob Woll Pavilion in Renziehausen Park.

Admission is $2 for adults. Children 12 and under are admitted free if they bring a canned good to donate to local food pantries.

Parking is free and the building is wheelchair accessible.

Other activities will include sleigh rides through Renzie Park, which will be decorated with luminaria after dark. Pictures with Santa will be available daily from 12 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m., and refreshments will be sold by the McKeesport Alumni and Friends Association.

The nearby McKeesport Heritage Center and McKeesport Garden Club will also be open during the Festival of Trees.

. . .

More than 200 people gathered Nov. 1 for the fifth-annual "All That's Jazz" concert at Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport.

A spokeswoman said $56,000 was raised for the campus' scholarship fund, which brings the total raised over the past five years to $214,000.

The concert was headlined by vocalist Lynn Roberts. Organizers included Jacob Skezas, Clifford Wise, Nancy Seifert, David Pellow, Jan Pokrifka, Brian Hohman and Campus Chancellor Curtiss E. Porter.

. . .

Also at the local Penn State campus, the Greater Allegheny Lady Lions will offer softball clinics in January. To register, visit the campus' website or call Ryan Astor at (412) 675-9460.

. . .

Mon Valley Initiative will host a free pre-purchase housing workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 13 at its office, 305 East 8th Ave. in Homestead.

Spokesman Mike Mauer said that all participants who successfully complete the curriculum --- funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency --- will receive a certificate to obtain low-interest, fixed-rate community development mortgage loans from local lenders.

According to Mauer, MVI's housing counseling program offers group workshops as well as individualized face-to-face counseling. More than 200 Mon-Yough area families have become first-time homeowners using the program during the past year, he said.

Future homeowners can also get information on upcoming MVI home construction. Qualifying homes are being built in Homestead, Munhall, Braddock, North Braddock, Turtle Creek, Rankin and East Pittsburgh, Mauer said.

Potential homeowners do not have to purchase a home through MVI to participate.

Breakfast and lunch are provided. To register, call MVI at (412) 464-4000 or visit its website.

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November 20, 2008 | Link to this story

Controlled Burn

Category: Commentary/Editorial, Sarcastic? Moi?, Satire || By

Almanac Staff Whiner

The Wallboard Township volunteer fire department was dispatched Wednesday night to a reported structure fire threatening neighboring homes.

Engines 435-1 and 435-2 responded to the scene on Michigan Avenue.

When crews arrived, they found two houses burning and a third beginning to smolder.

According to witnesses at the scene, a dispute arose over whether the department should extinguish the blaze.

"The houses are built of wood," Fire Chief George Bushevich said. "They're liable to just catch fire again."

Many firefighters agreed, saying that the homeowners should have built their houses out of fire retardant material.

"I remember, back in the 1970s, I lived in a house like that, and it caught fire," Fire Capt. Chris Dodderoli said.

One of the homeowners, Bill Crysler, countered that he bought his house --- built in the 1920s --- from its second owner.

"I didn't have any choice in how the house was built," Crysler told fire crews. "I had to take it as-is."

But Bushevich pointed out that the risks of wooden houses have long been known.

"It's not our fault," he said. "Don't expect to call the fire department to solve your problems."

Bushevich blamed the homeowners for storing things like old Christmas decorations, newspapers to be recycled, and left over lumber, all of which are combustible.

And he pointed out that in neighboring Sepsis Township, none of the houses were on fire.

"Why can't you be more like the people in Sepsis?" Bushevich asked Crysler and his neighbor, Gerry Modors.

By then, the third house --- owned by Hank Fjord --- had burst into flames. Embers from the burning houses had sparked several additional blazes in the neighborhood.

Bushevich and several officers of the fire department --- all of whom will retire at the end of the year --- mocked the homeowners having purchased what he called "luxuries" like a pontoon boat, an above-ground swimming pool and a gas barbecue grill, all of which were visible in the back yard.

"Sell those first, and go get some sprinklers," said fire Lt. Richard Shelbinski.

He and others argued that the township could next year appoint a blue-ribbon commission to study methods of constructing fire resistant homes.

Several junior firefighters argued that they could douse the fires first, and then argue later about the pros and cons of home construction.

But Bushevich said he would not to supply any water to those firefighters, vowing to drive the pumper away from the scene by himself, if necessary.

Firefighters cleared the scene 20 minutes later. No fire service personnel were injured.

Michigan Avenue has been declared a total loss.

Earlier on Wednesday, Wallboard Township firefighters responded to reports of flooding in the basement of the First National Bank of Sepsis on Old Pike Road.

The road was temporarily closed while fire crews levitated the building off of its foundations using medical helicopters, floor jacks and a complicated systems of cranes and pulleys.

Absorbent material has been stockpiled in the event of further flooding and several fire engines will be kept on alert to pump the basement "just in case," Bushevich said.

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November 18, 2008 | Link to this story

Helen Richey Field Gets Makeover as Celebration Begins

Category: History, News || By

Work is underway to rebuild Helen Richey Field just as McKeesport Heritage Center prepares to open an exhibit celebrating the life of the famed aviatrix.

City council this month awarded W.G. Land Co. of Champion, Fayette County, a nearly $60,000 contract for improvements to drainage systems, the playing surfaces, and other features of the regulation-size ballfield in Renziehausen Park.

Funding for the repair work --- which is already underway --- is coming from the Allegheny Regional Asset District's 1 percent sales tax.

The upgrades will include new sod, new drains and a tarp for the infield, replacing the backstop, relocating the dugouts and other measures that should eliminate the swampy, lumpy conditions which have plagued the field during wet weather.

. . .

The field is named for Helen Richey, the world's first female commercial airline pilot and a native McKeesporter.

On Saturday, following a special invitation-only reception, the nearby McKeesport Heritage Center will begin a yearlong celebration of Richey's life in anticipation of what would have been her 100th birthday next November.

"When I was a kid, that field used to be comparable to Forbes Field, with the exception of the size of the bleachers," Mayor Jim Brewster said. "We need to get back to that level of quality."

Helen Richey Field is currently used by McKeesport Area High School's varsity teams and other baseball teams. All of the work should be complete before WPIAL high school baseball season starts March 1.

. . .

City officials said long-term plans include the possible installation of batting cages, which would bring Helen Richey Field up to the standards of fields at other WPIAL schools.

Brewster said his ultimate goal is to lure the Pittsburgh Pirates and minor-league Washington, Pa., Wild Things to the city for exhibition or charity games.

The city also would like to see Serra Catholic High School --- which presently uses a field in Elizabeth Township for home games* --- play at Helen Richey Field.

Because McKeesport's and Serra's practices and home dates often conflict, that may not be possible.

. . .

Richey grew up on Jenny Lind Street. Born Nov. 21, 1909 in McKeesport, she was the youngest of six children of McKeesport School Superintendent Joseph Richey and his wife, Amy Winter Richey.

Considered a "tomboy" by her peers, Richey's parents wanted her to become a teacher. According to Bob Hauser, president of the Heritage Center, Richey spent a few unhappy months at Carnegie Institute of Technology (present-day Carnegie Mellon) before dropping out.

Her interest in flying was piqued by an airplane trip to Cleveland, and she convinced her parents to allow her to take flying lessons at the former Bettis Field in present-day West Mifflin. Richey earned her pilot's license at age 20.

"Helen really had kind of a natural ability," Hauser says. "She was able to just get into an airplane and take off."

. . .

Reportedly the first Pittsburgh-area woman to earn a pilot's license, Richey was soon in demand on the airshow circuit. In 1932, she and another female pilot set an endurance record by keeping a plane continuously aloft for 10 days with the help of mid-air refueling.

Two years later Richey was hired as a co-pilot by Central Airlines (a predecessor of United Airlines), based at the then-new Allegheny County Airport.

But Richey couldn't seem to get any assignments from the airline. Male pilots resented her presence and refused to allow her to join the Air Line Pilots Association.

Upon being told by Central management that her hiring was a publicity stunt, Richey resigned in disgust. She was hired by the federal government to help mark some of the early national airways.

. . .

Another famous aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, is said to have praised Richey for being a better pilot than she was.

In 1936, Richey set a world's record for flight in a heavier-than-air craft, taking a single-seat airplane to more than 18,000 feet. That same year, Richey and Earhart teamed up to compete in the 1936 transcontinental Bendix Air Races, finishing fifth.

They used the same Purdue University financed twin-engine Lockheed Electra that Earhart was flying with she disappeared the following year.

. . .

During World War II, Richey trained pilots and flew military transport planes. But after the war, a surplus of male pilots and the decline of "barnstorming" left jobs few and far between.

Plagued by depression and kept from the commercial cockpit, Richey died from an overdose of pills in New York in 1947 in what was widely assumed to be a suicide.

Two years ago, a documentary entitled The Helen Richey Story: The Pride of McKeesport reintroduced Richey's story to the public.

. . .

The idea for a yearlong celebration of Richey's life was sparked by Heritage Center volunteer Evette Wivagg, a fan of Helen Richey who loaned a biography of the flier to Hauser.

"When I read the first sentence and saw that she was born in 1909, I thought, 'This is 2008, we've got to have a centennial for her!'" he says.

Wivagg, Hauser and Executive Director Michelle Wardle are part of the committee planning the Richey centennial, along with volunteers Donna Frederick, Joyce McGregor, Joy Johnson, Mary Fey and Joanne Rodgers.

In addition to the exhibits on display, which tell Richey's story through original photos and memorabilia, the Heritage Center will also host a series of activities for children that explore aviation and women's history.

During March, in honor of Women's History Month, a special display of material from the National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas, will visit McKeesport.

. . .

The celebration will culminate with a dinner on Nov. 21, 2009 --- what would have been Richey's 100th birthday.

The Heritage Center also hopes to get a historical marker placed in West Mifflin near the old Bettis Field, now site of Bettis Laboratory.

Hauser says it's a long overdue tribute to an aviation pioneer who would otherwise be all but forgotten.

"She really was feisty --- she wanted to fly and she knew it," Hauser says, "and she stuck to it."

. . .

McKeesport Heritage Center is located at 1832 Arboretum Drive. For more information, call (412) 678-1832 or email


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November 17, 2008 | Link to this story

Pete and Repeat

Category: General Nonsense, Rants a.k.a. Commentary || By

Editor's Note: Due to circumstances beyond our control, we're a little bit swamped.

Here's a "classic" (read: "crummy old rerun") Almanac from the archives. It originally appeared Nov. 26, 2004.

Luckily, this topic was back in the news again this month, which makes it semi-timely.

. . .

News item: Santorum's Penn Hills house gets occupancy permit

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has cleared up another issue that arose after the Penn Hills School District began investigating whether he is a Penn Hills resident.

The municipality yesterday inspected the home he and his wife, Karen, own on Stephens Lane and granted them an occupancy permit. ....

(Code officer Mary Lou) Flinn said the residents are listed as Alyssa DeLuca, Rick Santorum's niece; her husband, Bart, who is not related to Penn Hills Mayor Anthony DeLuca Jr.; and a child. ...

In the county for jury duty yesterday, Santorum, who has six children, said, "We have a nice arrangement there. It works out well. Candidly, we just sort of work it out.

"Sometimes, a couple of my kids stay over there [with the niece and her husband]. We get to stay at grandma's house, and a couple of kids go over and stay with their cousin. To me, that's a family situation.

"I don't know what people's business that is, to be very honest with you. The fact is, I own a home, pay taxes, reside here, go to jury duty. To me, this is much ado about nothing.

"We usually stay at the in-laws. They raised 10 kids there, so they have plenty of room for us. They [niece and her husband] house sit for us; they watch the house."

. . .

You know, Sen. Santorum and I go way back. When I was in college, and Santorum was a freshman legislator, I had a weekly comic strip in the student paper that was semi-biographical and about the Mon Valley. (Come to think of it, it was a low-tech version of the Almanac.)

One week, I introduced a new character --- a conservative, young, and slightly dim congressman named "Rich Sanitarium." (As you can tell, my leaden rapier was every bit as dull back then as it is now.)

A group of College Republicans who hosted a talk-show on the school radio station had Santorum as a guest that week, and he and they took the time to denounce me, which delighted those of us in the newspaper office at the time, any publicity being good publicity.

Nevertheless, I kind of liked Santorum, and I can particularly remember taking a special trip home on one Election Day to vote for him. Who knew that our little joke would eventually get out of control?

Since the Senator and I have this relationship, I thought I'd take today to write a special letter to my friend.

Dear Senator:

The "people's business" is that if I went to Virginia and registered to vote as a Democrat but lived full-time in Pennsylvania, the Republican Party would be all over me like fleas on dogs, and rightfully so. New York Republicans nearly blew their fuses when Hillary arrived to run for the Senate, but at least her husband is living in Chappaqua and keeps his office in Harlem (that is when he's not in Arkansas screwing around with his godawful library --- how big is that thing, anyway? It's at least a double-wide).

You know, the right-wing is fond of talking about the "founding fathers" and the "framers' intent." Well, as I recall it, the framers intended our elected leaders --- that's you, Torquemada --- to be part-time legislators, and to live among the citizens they represent. That's so they would understand the problems and issues facing their constituents.

I realize that the life of a Senator can be awful busy, what with the 160 days of work per year, and the free office, and the paid staff, and the meals with the lobbyists and all that. But perhaps you might find some time if you gave up being the self-appointed moral arbiter of the United States, and instead came home. That's your Penn Hills "home," not the place in Virginia where you actually live.

You remember Penn Hills, right? That's where the taxpayers have been paying to send your kids to charter school, even though you only come back to visit. It's kind of funny to people in Penn Hills, because you apparently don't think you should actually have to (gasp) live amongst the teeming wretched refuse of eastern Allegheny County, but you have no problem if they pay your way.

It's a funny thing. Some of the refuse is feeling a little slighted. I can't imagine why.

There's also a precedent here. You know, once upon a time, there was a U.S. representative who didn't live in the South Hills congressional district that he was supposed to represent. It seems he was spending most of the year in Washington, D.C., instead. Along came an young opponent who pointed out the very same hypocrisies that I've just pointed out. The good burghers of that district rose up in their righteous indignation and tossed the bum out of office.

Remember that? You should, because that's when Doug Walgren lost his seat, and Pennsylvania's little treasure named Rick Santorum went national.

Anyway, if you ever need directions to Penn Hills, let me know. (It's east of Pittsburgh, which is exit 57 off of the Turnpike. And more good news: Because of the strike, the tolls are reduced this weekend!)

In the meantime, if the carpetbag fits, then wear it.

Your Pal, Jason

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November 16, 2008 | Link to this story

To Hell With You, 'Cause I Got Mine

Category: Commentary/Editorial, Rants a.k.a. Commentary, The Blacktop Jungle || By

I've written before about my high school history teacher, the late, great John C. Mamajek, and his immortal summation of the modern American character:

"Hooray for me, and to hell with you. I got mine."

There's a lot of that going around these days. And nowhere is it more evident than in current discussions of the U.S. auto industry.

Listen to talk radio or read some blogs, and the message comes through loud and clear: "Let 'em go out of business. Good for them! Bunch of lazy, overpaid auto workers."

In other words: "Hooray for me, and to hell with you. I got mine."

. . .

The main problem faced by GM, Ford and Chrysler is that they're saddled with health care and pension benefit costs that foreign companies don't pay.

How do Toyota, Honda, VW, BMW, et al avoid paying those benefits? Do their workers not get sick? Do their workers not get pensions?

No. The Japanese and German governments pay for those benefits. That knocks an easy $1,500 off of the price of each car made overseas.

But just mention socialized medicine or government-funded pension plans in the United States, and you're labeled a communist or worse.

. . .

Look, there's no such thing as a free lunch. If you don't want the government to fund health care and old-age pensions through taxes, then you're saddling businesses with those obligations. So don't go complaining and whining when the businesses finally ask for help.

The alternative is to go back to the glory days of the Industrial Revolution, when workers died at their machines and companies didn't need to pay for health care and pensions.

Or those good ol' days of "traditional American values," when people who lost their jobs had to give their children away to orphanages and go to work on the "poor farm." (There used to be one in Homestead, which is why the borough has a street named "City Farm Lane."

. . .

Plenty of liberals and left-wingers also believe in the dictate, "Hooray for me, and to hell with you. I got mine."

They argue that American auto companies deserve to fail because they "weren't competitive" --- they produced poor quality cars and too many inefficient trucks and SUVs.

Wrong. First, GM and Ford are producing cars of equal or better quality than the Japanese and Germans.

The top 10 compact cars for "overall quality" by J.D. Power and Associates include a Chevy, a Ford and a Pontiac.

Of the top 10 "midsize cars," five of the top 10 in overall quality are U.S. makes, and the top-ranked car is the Chevy Malibu.

Yes, GM, Ford and Chrysler kept their profits high by producing trucks and SUVs. Why? Because, as noted last month, large vehicles have a bigger profit margin, which helped the "Big 3" subsidize production of small cars and fund the health care and retirement programs that everyone takes for granted, but nobody wants to pay for.

. . .

Finally, plenty of people on the left and right are saying "Let Detroit go down the tubes. I don't live in Michigan. Things are tough in the Mon Valley, too."

In other words, "Hooray for me, and to hell with you. I got mine."

What do you think they make at U.S. Steel's Irvin Works? Sheet steel for the auto industry. They get the slabs from Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock. Those plants get their fuel from Clairton Works, which makes the fuel from coal mined in Washington and Greene counties, which is shipped in trains, trucks and barges, whose workers buy clothes, food and other essential items in local stores, and ...

Well, you see where this is going. You got yours, and to hell with the auto industry, but when it hits the fan, it's going to splatter the Mon-Yough area (and the rest of the country) hard.

. . .

American automakers need to produce more fuel-efficient cars. (Ford, to its great credit, was moving in that direction long before the current recession.) But they have to last long enough to get to that point.

Yet Senate Republicans --- some of whom lost their bids for re-election this month --- and President Bush want to block aid to the U.S. automakers.

It's one last "F-you" to working men and women as they head out the door. It's also their way of punishing the United Auto Workers for campaigning hard for Democrats this year.

Luckily, they gave themselves nice, fat government-funded retirement and health care packages --- benefits that auto workers, apparently, don't deserve --- and they're thinking:
"Hooray for me, and to hell with you. I got mine."

The question is --- if the U.S. auto industry is allowed to fail, will the rest of us have ours for very much longer?

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November 14, 2008 | Link to this story

More Shameless Self-Promotion

Category: Shameless Horn-Tooting || By

I'll be Rev. Jay Geisler's guest Saturday morning on WMNY (1360). We'll be playing The Swamp Rats and the Arondies and we'll have a sports report from Sam Vidnovic, followed by the T.L. Sound of Magic Music for Young Lovers on the Mighty 1360!

No, not really. Father Jay, pastor of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, has started a new weekly program about the Mon Valley, and we'll be talking about entrepreneurship in regards to the G.C. Murphy Co.

I have no idea what time it's airing, and it's not listed on the station's website.

If I were you, I'd get up at 5 a.m. and just listen until noon to be safe.

Do it for me. You'd do it for Randolph Scott.

Hey! Put those fingers down!

. . .

(P.S.: Just found out the program airs at 6 a.m. Saturday. That's 0600, as in, "Oh, my God, it's early." Because it's so early in the morning, at the end of the program, Rev. Jay blows me up real good --- don't miss it!)

(P.P.S.: Anyone who recognizes the source of all of those movie and TV quotes without clicking on the links is officially a bonafide nerd, and I would know.)

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November 14, 2008 | Link to this story

Now We Need the 'Dropkick' Part

Category: General Nonsense || By

Someone P'd in my car yesterday.

What's worse, they also M'd, U'd, R'd, H'd, Y'd and S'd, all over the back seat.

Tedco Construction and Millcraft Industries have donated to the G.C. Murphy Company Foundation the MURPHY'S sign that once decorated the Forbes Avenue side of the store in Market Square.

(They're the same letters visible in this photo, just above a devastatingly handsome man. You can't see him, because he's behind me.)

Until someone figures out what to do with them --- or where to display them --- they're living in the basement of Tube City Omnimedia's World Headquarters.

If no one wants them, maybe we'll sell them to a family named Murphy. But they'd better have a pretty big mailbox.

And to think I started writing the book with a couple of file folders full of newspaper clippings. Now I have an entire house full of accumulated garbage collectible memorabilia.

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November 13, 2008 | Link to this story

City's Santa Parade to Feature Publisher Scaife

Category: News || By

One of Pennsylvania's wealthiest and most publicity shy philanthropists will serve as the grand marshal of this year's "Salute to Santa" parade.

Richard Mellon Scaife, heir to the Mellon and Scaife fortunes and publisher of the Tribune-Review and Daily News, will ride in the annual holiday parade on Fifth Avenue, Downtown.

The parade begins at 12 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Palisades ballroom on Water Street.

Marching with Scaife will be eight members of the LaRosa Boys and Girls Club.

LaRosa Club Executive Director Tom Maglicco said the youths will be dressed as 1920s-era "newsies" and carrying Daily News bags.

Scaife's attendance had been rumored since last Wednesday's council meeting, when Mayor Jim Brewster inadvertently mentioned the invitation before city officials were ready to make a formal announcement.

City Administrator Dennis Pittman today confirmed Scaife's participation for the Almanac. The details are being coordinated by Daily News staff, including General Manager Rob Hammond and staff writer Jennifer Vertullo.

With a fortune estimated at more than $1.4 billion, Scaife is ranked No. 355 on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

In addition to his flagship Tribune-Review and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Scaife's newspaper empire now includes dailies in Monessen, Connellsville, Tarentum and Kittanning; nearly two dozen weeklies, including the Norwin Star and West Newton Times-Sun in the Mon-Yough area; and free shoppers like the Pennysaver and 51 Corridor.

The parade appearance is a rare public event for Scaife, who has carefully guarded his privacy over the last 30 years.

But the publisher has become increasingly close to Brewster. The two dined several months ago at Pittsburgh's exclusive Duquesne Club; Brewster reciprocated by treating Scaife to dinner at Tillie's, the landmark Italian restaurant in the city's 11th Ward section.

In June, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported that the industrial park on the city's former National Works site was under consideration for a possible Tribune-Review printing plant.

And since purchasing the Daily News in April 2007, Scaife's philanthropy has more frequently touched the Mon-Yough area. He recently donated $400,000 to the LaRosa Club.

Scaife's donation will be used to erect a new 50-by-75 foot gymnasium and multi-purpose area next to the club's headquarters on Ravine Street.

"We're really grateful to him for providing additional programming activities and an additional building to enhance our programs," Maglicco said. "We have a lot of programs going on and with only one gym, we have next to zero practice time. With the additional gym we'll actually be playing hockey and soccer and baseball."

More than 600 children and young adults now belong to the LaRosa club.

The "games pavilion," to be erected on the site of an existing basketball court, will be open on two sides, he said, but provisions will be made to weather-proof the facility in the near future. A groundbreaking ceremony is likely within three weeks.

Featuring local high school bands, drill teams, emergency personnel and other civic groups, the city's annual Christmas parade is among the largest in Western Pennsylvania, and prizes are awarded to the top entries in each category.

After being organized for many years by the Downtown McKeesport Association, the parade is now under the coordination of city Recreation Director Jim Brown.

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November 12, 2008 | Link to this story

Now More Than Ever, Please Give

Category: Mon Valley Miscellany, News || By

It's that time again. No, not time to bag up 14,192 maple leaves that fell in your yard despite the fact that the tree is in your neighbor's yard, God love 'em, as Joe Biden might say.

No, I'm talking about United Way time. Many employers are running their United Way campaigns right now. Back in 2004, I compiled a list of eligible United Way agencies from the Mon-Yough area. It's become an annual tradition around here (mostly because it makes it look like Tube City Almanac is published in the public interest).

Yes, the economy is down, and we're all hurting. But local charities are hurting even worse.

Many agencies, like Womansplace or the YMCA, lean heavily on foundations and corporations for grants and donations.

With the stock market doing its best impression of the Titanic, foundation investments are down 30 or 40 percent, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. That means they have less money to give away.

And don't even think about trying to squeeze money out of a company right now. Hell, General Motors and your local bank are looking for donations themselves.

So, if your employer is running a United Way campaign, please consider giving as little as $5 per month in a payroll deduction. And to keep the money in the Mon-Yough area, write down a specific code number for one of the following United Way eligible agencies in our community.

That ensures that the money is spent locally, where it can do the most good.

Most of these agencies receive United Way money only if you specifically request it, so if you want to help Meals on Wheels or the Salvation Army, you need to say so. United Way donations are tax deductible, so this should give you a nice bump in your rebate check next year.

(Also: Most employer-run United Way campaigns allow you to remain anonymous, so you won't be pestered by fundraisers.)

If you know of any other local groups that are participating United Way agencies, add them in the comments section below, please.

City of McKeesport ("Our Fair City")

American Cancer Society, Mon-Yough Division: 1311
Auberle Home: 339
Boys & Girls Club of McKeesport: 7051
Consortium for Public Education*: 2910
The Intersection: 433
Long Run Children's Learning Center**: 406
Lutheran Service Society (Meals on Wheels): 3040
McKeesport Hospital Foundation: 888454
McKeesport Collaborative: 9514
Mon Yough Community Services: 343
Mon Yough Community Services, Angora Gardens: 7061
Mon Yough Community Services, Center for Substance Abuse: 251
Salvation Army, McKeesport: 4875
Sonshine Community Ministries***: 4306
UPMC McKeesport hospital: 360
UPMC McKeesport Diabetes Center: 9354
UPMC McKeesport Oncology Center: 4905
UPMC McKeesport pediatrics center: 4904
Womansplace: 479
YMCA of McKeesport: 112
YMCA of McKeesport, Residential Program: 112
* --- formerly Mon Valley Education Consortium
** --- formerly McKeesport Pre-School for Exceptional Children
*** --- formerly Associated Lutheran Missions

To see a list of United Way participating agencies located in the Mon-Yough area outside of Our Fair City, click on the "more" link ...


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November 11, 2008 | Link to this story

Veteran's Day

Category: History || By

A crowd of 1,200 people waited late into the night outside the Baltimore & Ohio station on Fifth Avenue for some sign of the troop train carrying Marines home from the Pacific Theater.

It was just after 2 a.m. on June 22, 1944, when the big B&O steam engine at the front of the train finally chuffed its way across Lysle Boulevard.

As the cars clattered to a stop, the cheers were long and loud.

On board was USMC Lt. Mitchell Paige, McKeesport High School graduate and Allegheny County's first winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II.

Six days later, thousands more lined the streets as a day-long motorcade carrying Paige, his parents, and wife Stella wound its way through 21 Mon-Yough area boroughs and townships.

(But first, Paige had to do his laundry.)

This Veteran's Day, we salute one of the toughest McKeesport Tigers of them all --- Lt. (later Col.) Mitchell Paige, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor 65 years ago this year, and who died five years ago this week.

Read more in the Local History section of Tube City Online, where we tell the story of Mitchell Paige.

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November 10, 2008 | Link to this story

Monument Unveiling Slated for Vet's Day

Category: Events, News || By

A new memorial to slain city police Officer Frank Miller will be dedicated during tomorrow's Veteran's Day observances.

The monument to the rookie patrolman killed 15 years ago today is located at Memorial Park, Downtown, which was recently refurbished and re-lighted by city public works crews.

Ceremonies begin at 10:40 a.m. The park is located on Lysle Boulevard at Market Street.

Miller, a Murrysville native and a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was attempting to arrest Andre Harper, then 39, near the corner of Fifth Avenue and Tube Works Alley on the afternoon of Nov. 10, 1993. Police had received complaints that Harper, a vagrant, was harassing passersby.

As Miller tried to take Harper into custody, the two men struggled. According to prosecutors, Harper took Miller's .357 service pistol and fired three times, striking the officer twice.

Harper was convicted of first-degree murder in 1996, but the results of that trial were thrown out after the state Supreme Court ruled that jurors should have been told that Harper had a history of schizophrenia. A second trial in 2002 reaffirmed the first verdict.

A monument to Miller was dedicated shortly after his death, but was defaced by vandals, city officials said. The new monument was donated by Chris Odasso of Willig Funeral Home, Ninth Avenue.

Also tomorrow, city officials will read a proclamation in honor of George Rose, former commander of American Legion Burt Foster Post 361, who died recently at 94. Rose was one of the driving forces behind local Veteran's Day and Memorial Day remembrances, officials said.

. . .

In Other Business: A high-profile "very important person" has been asked to serve as grand marshal of the city's "Salute to Santa" Christmas parade.

City Administrator Dennis Pittman confirmed that an invitation has been extended to a well-known Pennsylvanian, but officials have not yet confirmed his attendance.

A confirmation is expected later this week; the VIP's participation would amount to a major coup for the city and a vote of confidence in efforts to revive its flagging Downtown.

An announcement made at last Wednesday's council meeting was premature, Pittman and other city officials said.

Already slated to participate is WTAE-TV (4) morning news anchor Kelly Frey.

The parade is slated to begin at 11 a.m. Nov. 22. and is among the largest holiday parades in Western Pennsylvania. It typically attracts drill teams, marching bands and emergency vehicles from throughout the region.

Bands and drill teams are judged and prizes are awarded.

Traditionally sponsored by the Downtown McKeesport Association to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season, the "shopping" aspect of the parade has declined along with the demise of most of the retail stores on Fifth Avenue.

This year, the parade is being organized by the city's Parks and Recreation Department. Mayor Jim Brewster said that although DMA had done a good job in keeping the parade alive, the organization "no longer has the horsepower" among its remaining members to handle the task.

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November 08, 2008 | Link to this story

New Homes Rise in 7th Ward

Category: News || By

Almanac photo

In a city with a surplus of vacant residential buildings, it might seem counter-productive to build more houses.

But Lani Turner, executive director of the McKeesport Neighborhood Initiative, says it's part of a bigger strategy to make the city an attractive hometown again.

"We have a lot of houses that are pretty bad, and people don't want to live in them," she says. "A lot of demolition has to occur yet."

Turner was one of seven local and state officials and community leaders who joined about 100 city-area residents to cut the ribbon Thursday afternoon on four new houses nearing completion in the Seventh Ward.

The houses on the former Union Avenue reservoir site, near Centennial Elementary School, will be ready for occupancy Dec. 16. Three more homes are being built next year.

All of the homes --- with a list price of about $150,000 --- are spoken for. Turner says finding buyers who want to move back to McKeesport hasn't been a problem. In fact, as Turner talked to a reporter, a young woman approached and asked how she could get more information about the MNI.

The Union Avenue development, which features three- and four-bedroom, split-level homes, will bring the number of new MNI homes in the Seventh Ward to 20. It was funded in part by a $100,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank's Affordable Housing Program.

Over the past few years, MNI has led efforts to construct about a dozen new housing units in the neighborhood, including a three-unit condominium.

MNI's construction programs accomplish several goals, Turner says. Besides adding quality new housing, they remove blighted properties that depress property values.

"When we built one of the houses down there on Jenny Lind Street, we had to demolish a beautiful old home," she says, "but the foundation had collapsed, and there was no way to salvage it ... some of these old houses, people really can't buy them. It would cost more to remodel and rehabilitate them than it costs to build a new one."

The Seventh Ward was one of several city neighborhoods where working people rubbed shoulders with the region's wealthiest businessmen. These days, many homes are abandoned; many more are owned by absentee landlords who scrimp on maintenance.

At the ribbon-cutting, Mayor Jim Brewster remembered when he and other local kids played ball and fought around the reservoir, then snuck into Menzie Dairy Co.'s plant on Riverview Avenue for "free" chocolate milk and orange drink.

The Menzie plant, which closed in 1976, was vacant for decades before being torn down to make way for new housing.

"We've invested a lot of resources into the Seventh Ward in terms of demolition and paving," Brewster said. "I know we've got a lot more to get to. But these things are expensive, and much of what we do, we do through grants and hard work."

Residents in other neighborhoods have questioned why so much money is being spent up on the hill, he said, but eliminating vacant, blighted buildings and clearing land for new houses has a benefit across the city.

"The end result is that (vacant lots) go on the tax rolls, and guess what?" Brewster said. "Our tax revenues go up."

Work on bringing housing to the old reservoir site began in 2000, but preparing the land for construction and arranging the funding took longer than anyone expected.

"When we first walked this site, it was a mess," said Robert Bobincheck, director of strategic planning and policy for the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which is underwriting the mortgages on the homes. "Now, you can see hope. This is the fruition of all of the time and money that's been invested."

General contractor on the reservoir project was Wayne Homes of Uniontown, Ohio. Other partners included the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, McKeesport Housing Corp., Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Almanac photo

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November 06, 2008 | Link to this story

City Reconsiders State's Offer of 'Help'

Category: News || By

City officials are trying to decide whether Gov. Ed Rendell's "early intervention" program for financially-strapped communities is a case of "spending money to make money," or more like a pig in a poke.

At issue is a $92,000 agreement with an information technology expert who is scheduled to review the city's aging computer systems and recommend a replacement.

Entering the governor's early intervention program --- designed to keep municipalities out of Act 47 "distressed" status --- could qualify the city for up to $200,000 in grants to replace those computers.

The state was supposed to front the money for the IT consultant; city taxpayers would have provided incidentals in the form of photocopying, office space and other non-cash assistance.

But with the state cutting $289 million from its budget due to revenue shortfalls, the Department of Community and Economic Development has now asked McKeesport to guarantee up to half of the consultant's fee.

That doesn't sit well with city officials, who plan to meet Monday with a DCED staffer and then decide whether to pursue the program.

Off the record, a few officials wonder how the state could afford to pay $200,000 for new computers if it might not be able to pay the consultant's fees.

Mayor Jim Brewster told city council at Wednesday's meeting that entering the early intervention program does not necessarily mean that the city would seek distressed status, which would put McKeesport under the control of a state-appointed oversight board.

"The state doesn't want communities filing for Act 47, and the last thing the state consultants want to tell you is that you should be filing for Act 47," the mayor said. "But the reality is that like many other communities, we are borderline Act 47. We have been able to be creative so far."

There could be other benefits to the city besides the computer help if it seeks assistance from the early intervention program, Brewster said. Money would be available for state experts to examine other aspects of the city's operations and recommend ways to improve efficiency and save money.

City Administrator Dennis Pittman described it as a "physical" or "checkup" of McKeesport's financial well-being.

Still, upgrading what the mayor called the city's "archaic" computers would be the first and most immediate benefit.

Some members of council, like Councilman Darryl Segina, wondered Wednesday whether the program was worth it.

"It's kind of ironic that we have to spend $46,000 to have someone tell us we're broke," he said.

. . .

In Other Business: Council by 5-0 vote approved the transfer of a vacant lot at 1111 Fifth Ave. to the city Redevelopment Authority, which will in turn sell the lot to McKeesport Candy Company. Councilors Michael Cherepko and Paul Shelly Jr. were absent.

Formerly the site of the Henry B. Klein men's clothing store, that building, which had fallen into disrepair, was torn down this year.

City officials had planned to turn the lot into a small parklet, but were approached by McKeesport Candy and decided to sell it instead. The sale price is $5,000 and costs.

"That will put it back on the tax rolls," Brewster said. "It was always our intention that if we could get some commercial development on that property, we would make it shovel-ready."

The candy wholesaler, which is among the largest on the East Coast, could eventually use it for parking or expanding its present building, officials said.

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November 05, 2008 | Link to this story

Red Valley, Blue Valley

Category: News, Politics || By

Map (c) 2008 Tube City Online

How blue was our valley on Election Night? It depends on which communities we're talking about.

An analysis of unofficial but complete results from Mon-Yough area cities, townships and boroughs in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland indicates that while some areas rolled up big margins for Democratic candidate Barack Obama, others went for Republican candidate John McCain by double-digit margins.

All of the Mon-Yough area's cities --- McKeesport, Duquesne, Clairton and Monongahela, Washington County --- went for Obama, in some cases by margins of three or four to one.

Urbanized boroughs, such as Glassport, East McKeesport, East Pittsburgh, Turtle Creek and Wilmerding also went for Obama, but generally by 6 to 10 percent.

Suburban and rural townships and boroughs went for McCain, including Jefferson Hills and Lincoln boroughs and Elizabeth and Forward townships in Allegheny, North Huntingdon and Sewickley townships in Westmoreland, and Union Township in Washington.

Turnout was well over 50 percent in all of the Mon-Yough area communities examined, and over 60 percent in many precincts.

Although communities with significant African-American populations, including the city, Clairton, Duquesne and North Versailles, were won by Obama, his margins of victory in those municipalities were so large that it's reasonable to assume that a clear majority of white residents also went for the Democratic candidate.

That suggests that party affiliation was a stronger motivating factor in the election than racial preference. For example, Mon Valley communities that went for McCain --- such as Liberty Borough, which the Arizona senator carried by 7 percent --- have often leaned Republican in the past. (The borough's mayor for more than 25 years has been Republican Ed Slater.)

Some selected highlights:

City of McKeesport: City residents went for Obama 5,816 to 2,396, a margin of more than 3,400 votes. McCain won only two precincts: Ward 8, District 4 and Ward 12, District 2. In two precincts, McCain's votes were in single digits, and in two other sparsely populated districts in the city's First Ward, no votes were recorded for the Republican.

Port Vue: Obama carried the borough by 38 out of 1,756 votes cast.

White Oak: The borough went for McCain by 230 votes. Obama won a single precinct (District 2), and unofficial returns indicate a tie in District 4.

Clairton: The county's third-largest city went for Obama by 1,659 votes, or a margin of 48 percent.

Dravosburg: Obama and McCain were in a statistical dead-heat; with 905 votes cast, the Democrat led by nine votes, or less than 1 percent.

Elizabeth Borough: The borough went for McCain by 28 votes, or about 4 percent; that's lower than in the two townships it straddles, Elizabeth and Forward. The former went for McCain by 12 percent, and the latter by 8 percent.

West Elizabeth: Meanwhile, directly across the river from Elizabeth, the borough of West Elizabeth went for Obama by 20 votes, or about 9 percent. Jefferson Hills, which surrounds West Elizabeth on three sides, went for McCain by 16 percent, or 898 votes out of 5,488 cast.

Finleyville: The tiny borough in Washington County went for Obama by 12 votes, or about 7 percent. But Union Township, which surrounds Finleyville, went for McCain by 10 percent, or 276 votes.

West Newton: A popular stop on the Youghiogheny River biking/hiking trail, West Newton went narrowly for McCain --- voters gave the Republican a 34 vote edge out of 1,304 votes cast.

North Huntingdon: Norwin-area voters massacred Obama; the Democrat failed to win any of the township's 24 precincts. McCain racked up 10,123 votes to Obama's 6,063, a margin of 63 to 37 percent. Irwin went for McCain by 18 percent, and North Irwin by 22 percent.

Rostraver: Township voters went for McCain by 4 percent, giving the Republican a 190-vote margin.

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November 04, 2008 | Link to this story

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Category: Politics, Rants a.k.a. Commentary || By

Deep thoughts from a shallow mind:

. . .

Republican candidate Monica Douglas was still running attack ads against incumbent state Rep. Dave Levdansky on Mon Valley cable TV systems more than an hour after the polls had closed.

If that's the kind of genius that Douglas would have brought to the state legislature, it's a good thing that Levdansky was re-elected.

No, it was obviously Comcast's foul-up. Heckuva job, Comcast!

It's a good thing people in the Mon-Yough area are paying like $50 a month for basic cable, because Comcast obviously needs that money to pay for highly skilled technical talent. ("Running election ads after the election? That's Comcastic!")

. . .

P.S.: I couldn't help but think of an old "Saturday Night Live" gag which had the winning candidate running attack ads against the loser after the election. ("You lost the election, Fred Peete. Now Mack North says, 'Eat Me!'")

. . .

Everyone has been talking about the "Bradley effect" --- the theory that white voters tell pollsters they're voting for a minority candidate, but actually vote for the white candidate.

Well, I voted on my lunch hour in my mostly white, mostly older precinct, and there was a line of people waiting to vote, all wearing Obama T-shirts. There was one person electioneering --- one of the borough's Democratic committee members, handing out Obama and Kortz slate cards. One of the election judges told me we'd had nearly 300 people vote before 1 p.m. We usually have about 200 all day.

Also, a quick ride around the Mon Valley indicated (at least to me) that the Obama-Biden yard signs came out in force on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

So, was there a "reverse Bradley effect" in the Mon-Yough area? Were white voters planning to vote for Obama, but afraid to say so for fear their neighbors would get upset?

. . .

Obama is going to owe organized labor big-time. Depending on how you feel about trade unionism, that might be a good thing or a bad thing. (Personally, after 30 years of declining union membership --- and a not-unrelated decline in wages and labor standards --- I don't think it would be a bad thing for the pendulum to swing back a little bit.)

Greene and Fayette counties are pretty conservative, rural areas, but Obama fought McCain to a virtual draw. I have to suspect that the vigorous support of the United Mine Workers union overcame many people's doubts.

And I came home last night to find a door hanger from the United Auto Workers (I'm a member) reminding me that the union had endorsed Obama and Biden, and urging me to vote.

. . .

Not to take anything away from Barack Obama, but John McCain ran a really lousy campaign.

And the reason --- in my uninformed opinion --- that McCain ran a really lousy campaign was because he was trying to appeal to right-wing reactionaries within the GOP, instead of the independents and conservative Democrats who have supported him the past.

It didn't help that McCain --- in an unsuccessful attempt to get Republicans on his side --- had spent the last four years aligning himself with one of the most unpopular presidents in a century. That was a little bit like tying your life raft to the Titanic.

Perhaps McCain would have had a legitimate chance if he had run as the elder statesman and the "voice of moderation" in the Republican Party.

What if McCain hadn't spent four years brown-nosing George Bush? And what if he'd run as a moderate Republican and picked someone like Mike Huckabee to be his running mate?

Huckabee would have appealed to the religious right, while McCain would have appealed to Democrats and independents, and maybe the election would have gone very differently.

. . .

Another question: Did the Republican smear campaign against Obama backfire?

I wasn't inclined to like Barack Obama, mainly because I have a knee-jerk reaction against anything that's trendy or new. But the more I saw and learned Obama, the more I liked him. I suspect I wasn't alone.

Millions of people watched the debates and saw Obama as a calm, dignified presence. (He was as cuke as a coolcumber, as a famous moose might say.)

But the Republican Party kept painting Obama as some kind of wild-eyed radical. I suspect those attacks harmed McCain's credibility more than Obama's.

. . .

And finally, I'll leave the last word to my 97-year-old grandmother, with whom I spent Monday afternoon.

"I'll be glad when this election is over," she said. "I'm sick of the commercials and the phone calls and all of the newspaper articles."

"Me too," I said.

"I think the black fellow is going to win," she said.

"I do, too," I said.

"I think he'll do an OK job," she said.

"Me too," I said.

"He couldn't be any worse than that man we have now," she said. "He's the worst president I've ever seen."

"Worse than Herbert Hoover?" I asked.

"Worse than Hoover, worse than Nixon," she said, "and I didn't like Clinton, either."

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November 03, 2008 | Link to this story

I Approved This Message

Category: History, Politics || By

They don't make commercials like this any more.

(Tip o' the Tube City hard hat to the Internet Archive.)

(P.S.: It's a very busy week at Tube City Online world news headquarters, on the hill overlooking Our Fair City, so regular updates this week may be slow. Your patience is appreciated.)

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November 02, 2008 | Link to this story

Sunday Funnies

Category: Rants a.k.a. Commentary || By

In developments that rocked the tri-state area, the Post-Gazette today endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, while the Tribune-Review endorsed Republican John McCain.

In other news, someone preached to a choir, the sun rose in the east, and a dog bit a man.

Meanwhile, P-G columnist Jack "Let God Sort 'Em Out" Kelly noted that "less is known about Barack Obama than about any major party candidate for president in modern history," proving that TV waves and wi-fi signals still aren't penetrating the rock under which he lives.

In business news, the 800 millionth badly edited YouTube video promoting one candidate or the other was uploaded, prompting Al Gore to apologize for inventing the Internet.

Finally, the waaaaaa-mbulance has been dispatched to Upper St. Clair, where the coach of the football team is still complaining about the McKeesport Tigers' thrilling come-from-behind victory in the first round of the WPIAL AAAA playoffs on Friday night.

Reports that Upper St. Clair likes imported brie with its whine could not be confirmed, because we were too busy laughing until the tears ran down our legs. The coach is blaming the officials, when everyone knows you're supposed to blame the liberal media.

And yeah, Serra lost. Hey, give 'em a break. They won six games this season. That's more than they won during my entire four years in high school.

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