Thursday, August 30, 2007


I was driving home from work yesterday, through the South Side, only to discover that once again McArdle Road is closed. Then today, there's a massive water line break in Oakland, which is, of course, a recurring problem in Pittsburgh.

I added these facts together and came to one inescapable conclusion: This city really needs a new hockey arena.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

That dare not speak its name

I'm as happy as the next guy to see closeted gay right-wing senators being exposed as hypocrites, but I don't think it's right that Larry Craig was arrested for making gestures that could be interpreted as an invitation for sex only by other men who were also looking for sex. (Or in this case, an undercover police officer.) True, I'd be suspicious if I saw some dude leering at me from the next stall, but--until today--I would not interpret foot-tapping, or even a foot coming under the stall, as an invitation to engage in anonymous gay sex.

Maybe I'm just naive.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

The last full measure of devotion

When I read this story, I couldn't help but remember that the First Lady once said, when told that the American people were suffering from the Iraq War, that "no one suffers more than the president and I do."

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The least of these my brothers

Jason talks about our crumbling mental health system--and how Pennsylvania is pulling out another brick.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great

An op-ed in the Baltimore Sun explains that the Republican war against birth control continues, quietly:

Mr. Romney was acknowledging something more. He implied an opposition to the birth control pill and a willingness to join in their efforts to scale back access to contraception. There are code phrases to listen for - and for those keeping score, Mr. Romney nailed each one.

One code phrase is: "I fought to define life as beginning at conception rather than at the time of implantation." The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as starting at implantation, the first moment a pregnancy can be known. Anti-abortion advocates want pregnancy to start at the unknown moment sperm and egg meet: fertilization. They'd also like you to believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that the birth control pill prevents that fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. …

The American public is unaware of the new wave of anti-contraception activism by opponents of abortion, which makes it much easier for politicians to appease the anti-contraception base. Take, for example, President Bush. While he has delivered some big anti-abortion victories for the religious right in the last seven years (Supreme Court Justices John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., and the so-called partial-birth abortion ban), anti-contraception work has taken up more of his energy. He attempted to strip contraceptive coverage for federal employees; appointed anti-birth control leader David Hager to the FDA panel that approves and expands access to contraceptive methods; chose another contraception opponent to oversee the nation's contraceptive program for the poor; defunded international family-planning programs, and invested unprecedented sums into sex-ed programs that prohibit mention of contraception.

You gotta love these Republicans. For years, they railed against welfare recipients breeding like rabbits at the expense of hard-working Americans. So we put limits on welfare. Made people go to work. Fair enough. There were plenty of good reasons to reform welfare.

But now Republicans, who once bemoaned that poor people kept popping out babies, would deny them the means to prevent those pregnancies in the first place. Oh, sure, the poor can practice abstinence. Like Newt Gingrich. Or David Vitter. Or Rudy Guiliani. (Unless you believe that he and Judith Nathan had a purely platonic relationship while they were wrecking Rudy’s first—oops, I mean second—marriage.)

The party of a president who once said that government is the problem, not the solution, wants the government to strip you of your right to decide when--and if--to have children, and how many to have. It just doesn't want the government to pay for them once they are here.

(Thanks to Jason for the tip and my Python-inspired headline.)

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Maybe a marketing study could be our mascot

Metroblogging Pittsburgh riffs on fears that Steely McBeam misrepresents the city's modern image, and I put in my two cents, which I reproduce below:

Steely McBeam, of course, isn't the mascot for the city; he's the mascot for the Steelers. Do people in San Francisco fret that the 49ers don't accurately reflect the city's image?

Frankly, I think we obsess far too much about what people think of us. I don't think our image, or stereotypes about our past, are what stunt our economic growth. If all the resources and energy devoted to marketing Pittsburgh were devoted instead to solving our very real and tangible problems, like our ballooning debt, crumbling infrastructure, and struggling school system? We might end up with a city we can all be truly proud of--and one that could sell itself.

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Drugs are bad, mmmkay

Dispatches from the war on drugs, here (hat tip to Andrew Sullivan) and here. At one time, we might have said that there was no greater threat to our civil liberties than the war on drugs. Now, not so much.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Maybe they can call the arena team the Pittsburgh Corporate Lawyers

The Post-Gazette reminds the city's image-obsessed civic guardians to lighten up about the Steelers' new mascot:

Here's the observation: Perhaps those who care about the city's image -- ourselves included -- should put aside their branding concerns and lighten up. The Steelers are the Steelers and that won't change; they are not the Corporate Lawyers or the Health Care Managers or any other representatives of the "new" Pittsburgh. If they are going to have a mascot, he is going to look like Steely McBeam.

Who else would we have? After all, Sophie Masloff is saving herself for the cheerleaders.

I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

But seriously, when will we stop being embarrassed by our industrial heritage? Our past--and alleged obsession with it--is not what holds us back, at least not nearly as much as some people think.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Mascot McStupid

Steely McBeam? I didn't know that the Steelers were looking for ironic mascot nicknames.

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On being burned at the stake

I have a book review posted at my other blog.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

How could we possibly forget?

Boy, am I glad I didn't see this exchange this morning. I might have thrown up my breakfast:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Republican presidential contenders sparred over abortion on Sunday but generally agreed the United States must remain in Iraq as part of the war on terror.

"Just come home," countered Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the lone dissenter on a debate stage when it came to Iraq. He said there had never been a good reason to go to war in the first place.

"Has he forgotten about 9/11?" interjected former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

I can appreciate how the governor feels. I'll never forget the rage I felt when all those Iraqis piloted those planes into the World Trade Center, and then Saddam Hussein threatened to unleash his weapons of mass destruction if we dared to retaliate.

Seriously, I'm glad Mitt Romney said that. It's proof that you can be a wingnut Republican and still get elected governor of one of the most liberal states in the nation. And to me, it's another reminder just how scary this field of Republican contenders really is--and how stupid they think their fellow countrymen are.

(If two unscientific online polls are to be believed, Ron Paul cleaned everyone's clocks. Click here and here.)

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pot pouri

Rudy has a bad idea for reforming the health care system, and the death penalty ain't such great shakes either:

My recently completed study of the 124 exonerations of death row inmates in America from 1973 to 2007 indicated that 80, or about two-thirds, of their so-called wrongful convictions resulted not from good-faith mistakes or errors but from intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions by criminal justice personnel. (There were four cases in which a determination could not be made one way or another.) ...

The malicious or even well-intentioned manipulation of murder cases by prosecutors and the police underscores why it’s important to discard, once and for all, the nonsense that so-called wrongful convictions can be eliminated by introducing better forensic science into the courtroom.

Even if we limit death sentences to cases in which there is “conclusive scientific evidence” of guilt, as Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts has proposed, we will still not eliminate the problem of wrongful convictions. The best trained and most honest forensic scientists can only examine the evidence presented to them; they cannot be expected to determine if that evidence has been planted, switched or withheld from the defense.

The cause of malicious unlawful convictions doesn’t rest solely in the imperfect workings of our criminal justice system — if it did we might be able to remedy most of it. A crucial part of the problem rests in the hearts and souls of those whose job it is to uphold the law. That’s why even the most careful strictures on death penalty cases could fail to prevent the execution of innocent people...

Whether they are guilty or innocent, executing people is not the mark of a civilized society.

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