Government Invades Detroit

President Obama and his team have ousted GM CEO Rick Wagoner. While Wagoner may be to blame for the faltering auto makers current condition, a President to demand a management change and a private company is unheard of until now.

The Obama administration auto task force rejected the turnaround plans of both General Motors and Chrysler and warned both could be put through bankruptcy to slash debts.

Instead of writing another fat check, the administration will provide only enough money to keep it going for the next 60 days while it develops an even more sweeping restructuring plan under new leadership.

Union workers and bond holders should be listening for a government knock at the door asking (or pretty much telling) them to give in to tough concessions.

While GM (Now Government Motors) seems likely to survive with the administration now at the wheel, Chrysler may not be so lucky. Chrysler, which is controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, was given 30 days to complete an alliance with Italy's Fiat or lose its government funding -- which could force it into bankruptcy.

My twisted theory here is since GM makes Cadillac (Look at the president's limo)they get to live. POTUS has to roll in style. But Chrysler, well the PT Cruiser just doesn't cut it. Maybe they should bring back the DeSoto.

96 state workers paid more than Gov. Rendell

If you want power and fame, run for governor. But if you want wealth, be a professor, a bean counter or a turnpike czar. At least 96 state employees are paid more than Gov. Ed Rendell, whose salary is $174,435. All together, at least 656 have salaries in excess of $150,000. At least 3,836 are paid more than $100,000 a year. Read More

Rendell's latest hire worked for Veon

Gov. Ed Rendell lifted his state hiring freeze to place on his payroll ex-state Rep. Mike Veon's lobbying partner for $102,500 a year. Read More

Common Sense for Mayoral Candidates

This year, Pittsburgh voters will cast ballots for the office of Mayor. The four year term will last until the beginning of 2014. What will the City look like then? It is very difficult to imagine in light of all the major issues the City faces and all the changes Pittsburgh has undergone in recent years. Declining population and school enrollment, staggering debt and pension liabilities, neighborhoods with high crime, excessive spending, crushing taxes and little net job growth appear to have become intractable and a permanent part of the political and economic landscape. Obviously, how the City deals with these issues will play a huge role in what the City will become by 2014. Continue

95% of US Should be Mad

How many times did we hear it in the campaign? "95% of Americans will receive a tax cut under the Obama plan".

As they say down south.... "Horsepucky!"

All that talk about Fiscal Restraint has turned into $8.8 Trillion In Debt. They said they would go "line by line" to enforce fiscal discipline. The budget has more lines then the telephone company, and no one is taking anything out.

Not that any of this is a surprise, but we should be keeping score. Let's add these facts to the score card. During the stimulus debate, Democrats promised a tax cut for 95% of Americans. That tax cut amounts to nearly $13 a week for an average family. 13 bucks is better then nothing, but I doubt it's going to stimulate much. Maybe you can get cheese on your burger now.

This whopping tax credit ends in two years. The Bush tax cuts will expire. At the same time that they are ending their tax credit, the Democrats' budget institutes tax hikes on energy, small businesses, housing and charitable giving. So you get to keep $13 of your money and use it (and then some) to pay for the multiple other tax hikes. Congratulations to those of you who bought hope and change for 13 bucks.

On The Radar

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis (and strong supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act) has so many ties to dirty money, it’s unbelievable. Read Here

Rep. Jeff Flake doesn’t give up. Check out how Rep. John Murtha could finally get the investigation he deserves. Here

PENCE SAYS GOP BUDGET COMING THIS WEEK: U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, talking on Sean Hannity’s radio show, said the GOP budget alternative will be ready this week. “The Republican proposal is going to be built on fiscal restraint,” Pence said. “When our own Paul Ryan, our lead Republican on the Budget Committee, introduces the Republican budget next week you’re going to see a Party that is willing to make the kind of tough choices to put our fiscal house in order. We are going to make the commitment which the Democrats and this Administration are not doing to real entitlement reform…”

Bishop Takes on Obama, Notre Dame

The Irish are fighting in Notre Dame! Bishop John D'Arcy, the Catholic bishop of South Bend, Indiana, will not attend graduation ceremonies at the University of Notre Dame because he uphold the teaching of the church and disagrees with the stem-cell research and abortion views of the commencement speaker President Obama.

He writes: "President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred," D'Arcy said. "While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life."

Last week I posted a story about a bunch of wishy washy pastors who had teamed up with Obama and we holding out hope that more "Christianesque" policy would somehow float out of the oval office. They are turning a nice shade of blue from holding their breath.

The school is facing a growing amount of pressure to rescind the Obama invite as anti-abortion groups have launched campaigns attempting to persuade the Catholic university.

This is supposed to be an institution of higher learning. One that attracts the brightest mind to teach the next generation. Did no one raise a red flag on this idea?

In a written statement Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins noted that the university has been host to Democratic and Republican presidents and said the invitation does not mean the university agrees with all of Obama's positions. But Johnny, Obama is there for one day. Your Bishop who seems to have an issue with all this will be around for awhile.

You might want to rethink the guest list. Maybe Kim Jong Il s available?

Piatt company to buy State Office Building; State offices on move

The same company redeveloping a former department store and an old five-and-dime shop on Fifth Avenue is adding to its real estate holdings Downtown with a $4.6 million deal to buy the State Office Building. Read More

Beer distributors fight sales by supermarkets

The Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Distributors want the state Supreme Court to review a recent lower-court ruling that allows beer to be sold in supermarkets, claiming that if the ruling stands it could lead to "beer sales almost anywhere." Read More

Specter to deliver key vote against unions

In a blow to the labor movement's chief congressional priority, Sen. Arlen Specter said he will vote to block a measure designed to make it easier for unions to organize workplaces.

His decision, announced in a speech on the Senate floor, appears likely to leave its Democratic sponsors one vote short of the margin needed to cut off debate on a bill that has prompted a fierce lobbying tug-of-war.

Mr. Specter closed his statement offering the hope that his decision "should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for my political advantage."


Specter trails in Senate race, poll says

Longtime Sen. Arlen Specter is trailing a Republican rival in the race for the 2010 Senate seat, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

Mr. Specter trails former Congressman Pat Toomey, 41 to 27 percent, the poll said. Twenty-eight percent are undecided, however.

"Pennsylvania Republicans are so unhappy with Sen. Specter's vote for President Barack Obama's stimulus package and so-called pork barrel spending that they are voting for a former Congressman they hardly know," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Richards said Mr. Toomey "has strong conservative backing, but his challenge could be fractured if more Republicans crowd into the primary and split the anti-Specter vote,"

Even though Mr. Toomey lost the 2004 Republican primary to Mr. Specter by less than two points, 78 percent of all voters, including 73 percent of Republicans, said they don't know enough about him to form an opinion.

Overall, voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Mr. Specter by 45 to 31 percent, but he gets a 47 to 29 percent unfavorable score from Republicans. He gets a 60 to 16 percent approval from Democrats and a 41 to 35 percent positive from independent voters, the poll said.

Tax Attack

Does anyone understand we are being held hostage by our government? When tax code is written to punish a small and specific group of individuals, things are out of hand.

Lawmakers voted decisively Thursday to impose a 90 percent tax on millions of dollars in employee bonuses paid by troubled insurance giant AIG and other bailed-out companies. They have effectively said we are seizing your personal property. This folks didn't steal thing money, it was promised (and some would argue earned).

I get why people are pissed off but let's not start a witch hunt here. Football player make a bunch of money. We should use that cash to pay for some things. Why not tax them at 90% for signing bonuses? Or lottery winners, and people who inherit money, or anyone making over $250,000 a year.

The window of the Bush blame game has closed. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he takes responsibility for knowing the stimulus legislation had a loophole that would allow bailed-out insurance giant American International Group to keep its bonuses. Obama's boy, who could not even pay his own taxes, admitted he KNEW about this. I posted this week that the shock and outrage for elected officials is FAKE! They knew and they voted for it. Time after time, the Bush administration, the Obama administration and Congress had an opportunity to attach limits on executive pay to legislation authorizing bailout money. And time after time, they refused.

Inventing new tax code is a horrifying prospect that shreds the constitution and every American who give a rip about liberty should call it what it is. UNACCEPTABLE. Maybe the pitchfork crowd should head to Washington instead of AIG.

Differences in Municipal Taxes and Spending

As discussions of a City-County merger continue and issues surrounding local economic competitiveness are always a concern, it is worthwhile to examine the taxing and spending levels of the region’s municipalities to gain some insight into the differences that could play a role in any potential referendum on a merger and to see if municipal differences might help explain some of the variation in economic growth. Continue

Spector - Toomey "The Sequal"

If you read this blog back in 2004, it's no secret that I backed Congressman Pat Toomey in his effort to defeat Sen. Arlan Spector. I even helped out on the Toomey campaign.

The decision of Sen. Rick Santorum at the time to back Spector over Toomey left a bad taste in my mouth, as it did many others. I still believe that decision played a key role in the Santorum defeat. As fate would have it, Santorum (the conservative) is out while Spector (the RINO) is still in. That must change. Toomey agrees and is out to make it happen.

This rematch would pit Toomey, 47, against Specter, 79, seeking his sixth-consecutive Senate term. Buoyed by conservative irritation with Specter’s barely Republican, big-government record, Toomey came within two percentage points of retiring Specter in 2004.

Welcome to 2004 all over again, yet this time I asking all of my readers to start now and make sure the nameplate on the Spector office door gets changed to "Toomey".

Why? Specter, of course, was one of three GOP senators who voted for Obama's stimulus sham, he has constantly supported abortion and often goes against conservative values. You can bet the recent stimulus vote will be a big issue in a Specter-Toomey primary.

I'm very cautious endorsing candidates. Not that I'm anyone special, but integrity is important to me. I've met and spoken with Pat Toomey. I've followed his work with the Club for Growth and I can say I trust him. Trust a politician??? It's rare but I do. That last sentence could certainly come back to haunt me but I believe in this man enough to take that risk.

While it not "offical", I'm announcing the Pat Toomey is running for Senator. I've already contacted the Club for Growth and I want to work on the campaign. (Anyone associated with the campaign contact me!)

Like in 2004, the political machine will come to life when Arlen Specter pursues re-election in 2010. That's why we must start NOW. While top Republicans back him in tight races, he typically joins Democrats when the GOP desperately needs him. Exhibit A: Specter’s February 13 “stimulus” vote, which will cost more than $1 trillion after interest payments are slathered atop its $787 billion budget

Peg Luksik has already officially announced her candidacy against Specter in next year’s GOP primary. Luksik ran for governor three times in the 1990s – once as a Republican and twice as a third-party candidate. While I admire her efforts and join her desire the defeat Spector, I feel Mr. Toomey is the stronger candidate.

Since 2005, Toomey has led the Club for Growth, a Washington-based pro-market advocacy group and PAC that is one of America’s most influential voices for fiscal discipline and economic progress.

Toomey believes he can bring the Spector era to a close. He won a congressional seat in a Democrat-leaning district that has voted for the Democrat in the last five presidential elections. He was reelected twice, and has never lost a general election. Not to mention he will promote and fight for the free-market at a time when it’s sorely needed.

We will continue to follow Mr. Toomey as things develop.

ACORN to Play Role in 2010 Census

The U.S. Census Bureau is working with several national organizations to help recruit 1.4 million workers to produce the country's 2010 census, including one with a history of voter fraud charges: ACORN.

Full Story

Obama on Auto: Thank Me, Thank Me Very Much

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was just a few paragraphs into an address in Washington when he realised it all sounded a bit too familiar. He was repeating the speech President Barack Obama had just read from the same teleprompter.

Mr Cowen stopped, turned to the president and said: "That's your speech." A laughing Mr Obama returned to the podium to take over but it seems the script had finally been switched and the US president ended up thanking himself for inviting everyone to the party.

Is Obama some sort of programmed cyborg or what? During the campaign everyone ooohed and ahhhed over what a great speaker he is, and he becoming known as the "teleprompt president" over his reliance on the machine when he gives a speech.

Add one to the unemployment numbers. I'm such the teleprompter guy is looking for a new job

Chaplain Resigns Over "God" Ban

Chaplains still speak freely of the Almighty in private sessions with patients or families but, the Rev. Mirta Signorelli said: "I can't do chaplain's work if I can't say 'God' — if I'm scripted.

"Hospice CEO Paula Alderson said the ban on religious references applies only to the inspirational messages that chaplains deliver in staff meetings. The hospice remains fully comfortable with ministers, priests and rabbis offering religious counsel to the dying and grieving.

Signorelli said the hospice policy has a chilling effect that goes beyond the monthly staff meetings. She would have to watch her language, she said, when leading a prayer in the hospice chapel, when meeting patients in the public setting of a nursing home and in weekly patient conferences with doctors, nurses and social workers."If you take God away from me," she said, "it's like taking a medical tool away from a nurse."

Full Story

AIG Bonuses - Pay The Stupidity Fine

By Shaun Pierce

Hey you with the pitchfork marching off to AIG ... can I talk to you for a moment?

Everyone is outraged at the bonus money being paid to some suits at AIG. I understand the reaction. I never was handed a bonus for doing a bad job. That means I never ran for public office. It's a joke my elected (and now offended) readers.

As the bank of Obama tosses billions of your bucks out the window, it only natural to get a bit pissed off, yet we must take a sober moment to direct our anger.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley went duck hunting with a cannon when he suggested that executives of the embattled financial institution AIG apologize, be fired and/or kill themselves for financial malfeasance. Wow. Maybe the death penalty for failure is what we need to the economy around?

Most of this shock and outrage on the part of our elected officials is about as real as a Rolex from a flea market. Do you remember the outrage over the Lehman Brothers bonuses? No, that's because they did not get a bailout when the well ran dry. They did what any respectable American business would do ... they went out of business.

Make no mistake Obama and his gang of politicians knew all about it this. There is no surprise here and there is no true shock or outrage. The problem is that does not play well with Americans who did not know about all this and the president needs to save his political capital that is beginning to fade. So the outrage tug-o-war begins. Which side is more angry?

President Obama has promised to do what he can to stop AIG from spending taxpayer funds on bonuses. While that sounds great, there is a huge danger lurking here. If the government cancels compensation contracts, it could start a dangerous precedent and result in more economic instability. Basically any contract could be worthless if the government knocks on the door. All these really smart bailout folks should have covered this long before the first dime was handed out to anyone. Fact is it too damn late now. Just pay the stupidity fine and shift the focus toward creating future contracts that don't require bonus payments in the case of financial ruin.

Liddy testifies in front of the House Financial Services Committee today. There are few sights as entertaining as watching members of Congress trying to outdo each other in moral outrage.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have history of criminal prosecution

During the past decade, Pennsylvania lawmakers have faced criminal prosecution on charges ranging from entertaining underage prostitutes and charging it to the state, to extorting trips to Disney World. Lawmakers and former lawmakers who have faced legal problems: Read More

Corbett explores run for Pa. governor

Two-term state Attorney General Tom Corbett has taken his first official step toward a run for governor. Read More

Turzai calls for state income tax cut

House Republicans, led by Rep. Mike Turzai want to reduce state revenue by cutting the personal income tax rate to 2.99 percent -- down from the current 3.07 percent, where it's been since Gov. Ed Rendell pushed through an increase that took effect in January 2004.

The income tax is paid by individuals and many small businesses, instead of the state's corporate tax. Mr. Turzai said a better way to stimulate the economy is "to put more money back into the pockets of taxpayers and companies" permanently rather than relying on federal stimulus money, which is only good for this year and next.

Mr. Turzai criticized Gov. Rendell for raising state spending overall by about $8 billion since taking over in 2003, from $21 billion a year to a proposed $29 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Mr. Turzai said spending must be brought under control.

Rendell may remove Turnpike commissioner tied to Fumo

Gov. Ed Rendell said today he isn't sure if he'll try to remove Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chairman Mitchell Rubin, whose name came up during the just-ended public corruption trial of ex-Sen. Vincent Fumo.

Mr. Rubin is married to former Fumo aide Ruth Arnao, who also was convicted yesterday on corruption charges, along with Mr. Fumo. Mr. Rubin was mentioned in the federal indictment of Mr. Fumo, with allegations that Mr. Fumo gave him a high-paying "ghost job" where he did little. The indictment alleged Mr. Rubin had a job paying $30,000 a year for five years but requiring little work.

Mr. Rendell, who is from Philadelphia, as are Mr. Fumo and Mr. Rubin, said that although he named Mr. Rubin to the turnpike commission, he isn't sure he has the power to remove him or ask him to resign.

Hello, you are the Gov! You can ask him. Heck I can ask him! Come on Eddie....

Judge scolds feuding House Democrats

A Common Pleas judge has told two groups of feuding House Democrats to try to resolve, by Wednesday, a dispute that has led one side to file a lawsuit against the other. Read More

E-mail may tie DeWeese to scandal

An e-mail provided to defense attorneys in the so-called Bonusgate case might contradict former House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese's longstanding claim that he knew nothing about state-paid bonuses for campaign work. Read More

Senator presses again for beer keg registration

Could the 17th time be the charm? Every year since 1992, state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf has introduced a keg-registration bill. This year, the proposal has gotten farther than it ever has, said Greenleaf, a Republican who represents Montgomery and Bucks counties. Read More

House Republicans Hopeful Stimulus Oversight Committee Will Protect Taxpayers, Stop Waste

Former Erie congressman will serve on panel created to track how Pennsylvania uses roughly $18 billion from the massive spending plan signed into law in February.

Members of Pennsylvania’s Republican Congressional Delegation are encouraged that the Keystone State will be among the first in the nation to create an oversight committee to monitor economic stimulus spending.

Gov. Ed Rendell met with members of the delegation last week and agreed with GOP members’ recommendations that an oversight committee was needed. The governor also confirmed that he was creating an eight-member panel to monitor the $18 billion in economic stimulus funding.

The House GOP members selected former Congressman Phil English of Erie to serve as the delegations’ appointee on the panel. In addition to serving seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, English has experience dealing with federal and state programs in the Pennsylvania Senate and as Erie County Controller.

"The taxpayers of Pennsylvania deserve a guarantee from their elected representatives that their money will be spent wisely as it is invested to boost the state’s economy,” English said. “I look forward to working with the committee across party lines to protect the interest of taxpayers and make the stimulus transparent.”

Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) said with billions of dollars at stake, oversight will be vital.

“Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is spent, so I’m glad the governor is taking some strides toward transparency and accountability,” said Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District). “Pennsylvania needs to be efficient and effective in managing these funds, and I’m hoping this committee will help achieve that goal.”

“With such a massive amount of money being spent by the government in a short timeframe, it’s essential that we exercise effective oversight to make sure this money is being spent properly,” said Congressman Joe Pitts (PA-16th District). “I am pleased Phil English will be a part of the effort. The committee will benefit greatly from the knowledge and expertise gained during his distinguished career as a public official.”

“The people of Pennsylvania expect their elected representatives to be good stewards of the public trust. Where the stimulus is concerned, it is essential that there be accountability and transparency in how Pennsylvania’s portion is spent,” said Congressman Bill Shuster (PA-9th District). “I am pleased to see Governor Rendell taking an active role in this effort.

“I am also pleased that Phil English will serve as the Republican appointee to the committee,” Shuster added. “There is no question that Phil has the depth of knowledge and experience necessary to oversee the proper distribution of the stimulus funds.”

“More so than ever before, responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars is paramount to the revitalization of our economy. And while I did not support this stimulus package and have serious doubts about its effectiveness, one thing is certain -- there needs to be oversight and transparency in the distribution of these federal dollars,” said Congressman GT Thompson (PA-5th District). “I applaud the Governor for taking this critical step and look forward to closely monitoring the committee’s work to ensure that taxpayer funds are not misused or abused.”

Christians optimistic but disappointed in Obama

This story is so stupid I had to post it. It's like sticking your hand in a fire and being surprised you get burned!

Conservative evangelical and Catholic leaders who went out on a political limb (aka abandoning core beliefs) by aligning themselves with the Obama administration are expressing feelings ranging from disappointment to optimism in their reaction to the president's decisions so far on culture war issues.

Although most of President Barack Obama's moves on abortion and stem cell research have been expected, some right-leaning Christian leaders who took a risk sitting down at the table with a Democratic president feel that several major decisions fall short of the common ground Obama had promised on divisive social issues. Nawww, really?

Obama's reversal of Bush-era restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is the latest example.

"Thus far, I have been disappointed to see little give. There's been a lot of take," said the Rev. Frank Page, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention who serves on a month-old advisory board to Obama's White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. "I've seen little give in the area of relating to the evangelical community as far as life issues." Frank, newsflash, you're being used!

Others point out that Obama is, after all, a Democrat and supporter of keeping abortion legal - and he has promised to proceed with caution on stem cells. Not to mention every Christian with a brain should have known this long before they voted.

Obama "is not doing anything he hasn't said he was going to do during the campaign," said the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical megachurch pastor from Orlando, Fla., and another advisory board member. "So I am not enthusiastic, but I'm not disappointed, because we knew what to expect. I'm encouraged he is not totally flipping to the other side. We've got to be patient here."
Huh? This guy is a megaidiot! What do you think will happen Joel? Obama will wake up one morning and suddenly be pro-life, pro-family join your facade of a church and live in peace and harmony?

One of the four main priorities of Obama's faith-based office is to find ways to reduce the abortion rate, an attempt at common ground. But shortly after taking office, Obama lifted restrictions on federal funding of international family planning groups that perform abortions or provide information about the procedure. If you kill a generation either by abortion or treating them like crops to be harvested for the medical market, eventually abortion rates will fall as fewer people are even born.

Obama's nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic who supports abortion rights (There is no such thing) in conflict with church teachings, for health and human services secretary also has stirred the old culture war divisions.

Douglas Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor, Catholic opponent of abortion and former Reagan administration lawyer who became a lightning rod in the Catholic community for endorsing Obama, said he was encouraged by the administration's first seven weeks. What drug is he on?

He cited the abortion reduction goal, provisions in the stimulus package to help the poor and Senate approval of an expansion of State Children's Health Insurance Program, which Catholics on the left have promoted as a way to improve socio-economic conditions and reduce abortion rates.

Bottom line: Most of these so called pastors would not vote for Jesus if he ran for office because his ideas would be to restrictive and he would not seek enough "common ground" to lull these fools and their sad followers into a hypnotic trance.

Zubik to hold service to apologize for wrongs by church

Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will hold a prayer service April 7 to apologize to anyone who has ever been hurt by someone acting in the name of the Catholic Church.

"If you have been harmed by the church in any way, I invite you to come. There will be nothing expected of you but your willingness to pray with me. No one will bother you," Bishop Zubik wrote in his column in the Pittsburgh Catholic. The service will be held at 7 p.m. in St. Paul Cathedral on Tuesday of Holy Week.

"It gives me a chance, as shepherd of the church during Holy Week, to say that if, in any way, any representative of the church has hurt you, I ask for your forgiveness," he said.

$10 Million Cleared For Take Off

The renovation of a runway at Pittsburgh International Airport, which is mostly used at night for noise abatement reasons, will be one of the first projects to receive federal stimulus funds for airports around the country. Do we have pot holes on the runway now?

The Federal Aviation Authority will allocate $10 million to Pittsburgh International to repair the runway. The county airport in West Mifflin will receive $2 million to renovate a taxiway and relocate a ramp.

Under the stimulus package, the FAA received $1 billion to allocate to qualified airports on a discretionary basis. Federal officials said that funding will be allocated based on a project priority system that addresses airport safety and security, infrastructure, runway safety, increased capacity and mitigation of environmental impacts.

Vendors venting over fire contract

What does Sweden, Ohio and Pittsburgh have in common?

Pittsburgh firehouses are getting new systems for venting diesel exhaust fumes, but some vendors are raising a stink about a city process that excluded American-made products and local installation teams in favor of an Ohio firm that installs imported equipment from Swedish manufacturer Nederman Inc.

At issue is the city's federally funded $977,550 project. The job went to Toledo-area Clean Air Systems Inc.

The city has so far paid $145,252 to outfit four fire stations. The invoice for the Forbes Avenue station totals $41,190, for rail-hose-and-duct systems for three vehicles, or $13,730 each.If the city spends the entire budgeted amount contemplated on its 49 fire trucks and some of its ambulances, its costs will be around $17,000 per vehicle. Of the cost, 80 percent is covered by a federal Department of Homeland Security grant, with the rest coming from city funds.

Mike Miklosko, owner of Hempstead-based EMS Specialty Equipment, which also installs such systems, called the price the city is paying "highway robbery."Mr. Miklosko, said he charges around $6,500 per vehicle. In Canonsburg, he bid $32,000 for a five-vehicle firehouse, winning a competitive process against three other firms.

Bishop's mansion for sale

I was working on an MTV style show called "Clergy Cribs" and this story breaks:

If you want to buy the Gilded Age mansion in Oakland that has been the home of five Pittsburgh bishops, you'll need $2.5 million and enough extra cash to update a large kitchen and six bathrooms.

Inside the massive wrought-iron gates at the main entrance, Bishop Donald Wuerl received President George W. Bush, and Cardinal Giovanni Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI, visited Cardinal John Dearden.After he was appointed bishop of Pittsburgh in 2007, David Zubik lived there for two weeks before moving to a two-room apartment at St. Paul's Seminary in Crafton. The house is for sale because Bishop Zubik did not wish to live there, said the Rev. Ron Lengwin, a diocesan spokesman.

Another "attaboy" to Bishop Zubik

City Council to vote on ban on couches, mattresses on porches

Having a couch, love seat or spare mattress on your porch could be illegal in Pittsburgh if City Council makes final a tentative vote it took yesterday.

All of the council members present voted for legislation banning mattresses, box springs, sofas and upholstered chairs from non-enclosed porches, primarily to prevent the celebratory burning of such items, as has happened repeatedly in Oakland.

Yeah keep those things in your home and drag them out after a win.

Full story

Pittsburgh 14th Most Unhappy City

In 2007 Pittsburgh was rated as ‘America’s Most Livable City’ (Places Rated Almanac), and this past January it was crowned as the 6th best city in ‘Top Ten Places Where They are Hiring’ (Forbes). Both of these rankings received a lot of media coverage and were embraced by local officials as proof of how well the City and region are doing. Not so much with the lastest listing. Continue

Casino Led Renaissance?

Speaking at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s annual meeting, Mayor Ravenstahl told his audience that 2008 building permits for large scale projects ($10 million or greater) showed that Pittsburgh was experiencing its third renaissance. Does the permit data really suggest yet another renaissance is underway? Unfortunately for the Mayor, a closer examination of the permit numbers calls into question the notion that a renaissance is at hand. Two serious flaws are discovered in this closer inspection. One, the Mayor’s permit total is far higher than the true total. And second, the renaissance, if there is one, is casino driven. Continue

Congressman Bill Shuster Calls for Responsibility in Home Ownership

In the middle of the bailout bonanza, it's a novel idea to consider the 92% of folks who live within their means and work hard everyday to make ends meet.

Republican Bill Shuster for the 9th District of PA seems to think it's time to honor those who actually factored some responsibility into their choices. After all, most of us are paying our mortgages on homes we plan on paying for. Yet the bailout cash give away does not contain a page for those people. Here is what he writes:

It seems to me, and many of my constituents back home in Pennsylvania, that Congress is spending all of its time and energy rewarding those who acted irresponsibly. We must not ignore those who have played by the rules and lived within their means.

Our current economic problems aren’t limited to the sub-prime housing market, reckless borrowers or predatory lenders. Millions of Americans who pay their bills on time and make good decisions are facing financial difficulties through no fault of their own. Responsible homeowners are being left out of the equation. That must change.

Just because responsible homeowners are paying their mortgages on time doesn’t mean they don’t need help. We must recognize responsibility.

That’s why I introduced legislation to give homeowners who pay their bills on time an incentive to continue to keep being responsible. My bill is as commonsense as it is simple. If you own a home and you’ve paid your mortgage on time you’ll get a $5,000 tax credit.

That’s it. It’s not a bailout, another taxpayer backed debt obligation, or a big government solution. It’s a way for hard working American families to keep more of the money they earn so they can keep acting responsibly and help our economy grow.

The Administration claims their plan will help 1 in 9 homeowners. My common sense plan helps the other 8 out of 9 homeowners the Administration and Democrats ignore. To pull ourselves out of this crisis we need real change. We must pursue policies that foster a culture of responsibility, not the culture of dependency and irresponsibility the Democrats are following. My plan does just that.

I, along with my House Republican colleagues are looking for commonsense solutions to our economic problems.

It nice to see an attempt at helping the people that keep this country going. You can keep up to date on how this develops at Congressman Shuster's website.

Anytime hard working Americans are given a chance to keep more of what they earn I cheer. I have not been cheering much lately.

Congressman Bill Shuster represents Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District. He also serves as a Deputy Republican Whip.

On The Road To Socialism? We've Arrived!


In his campaign and inaugural address, Barack Obama cast himself as a moderate man seeking common ground with conservatives.

Yet his budget calls for the radical restructuring of the U.S. economy, a sweeping redistribution of power and wealth to government and Democratic constituencies. It is a declaration of war on the right.

The real Obama has stood up and lived up to his ranking as the most left-wing member of the Senate.

Barack has no mandate for this. He was even behind John McCain when the decisive event that gave him the presidency occurred — the September collapse of Lehman Bros. and the market crash.

Republicans are under no obligation to render bipartisan support to this statist coup d'etat. For what is going down is a leftist power grab that is anathema to their principles and philosophy.

Where the U.S. government usually consumes 21% of gross domestic product, this Obama budget spends 28% in 2009 and runs a deficit of $1.75 trillion, or 12.7% of GDP. That is four times the largest deficit of George W. Bush and twice as large a share of the economy as any deficit run since World War II.

Add that 28% of GDP spent by the U.S. government to the 12% spent by states, counties and cities, and government will consume 40% of the economy in 2009.

We are not "headed down the road to socialism." We are there.

Since the budget was released, word has come that the U.S. economy did not shrink by 3.8% in the fourth quarter, but 6.2%. All the assumptions in Obama's budget about growth in 2009 and 2010 need to be revised downward, and the deficits revised upward. Look for the deficit for 2009 to cross $2 trillion.

Who abroad is going to lend us the trillions to finance our deficits without demanding higher interest rates on the U.S. bonds they are being asked to hold? And if we must revert to the printing press to create the money, what happens to the dollar?

As Americans save only a pittance and have lost — in the value of homes, stocks, bonds and other assets — $15 trillion to $20 trillion since 2007, how can the people provide the feds with the needed money?

In his speech to Congress, Obama promised new investments in energy, education and health care. Every kid is going to get a college degree. We're going to find a cure for cancer.

Who is going to pay for all this? The top 2%, the filthy rich who got all those Bush tax breaks, say Democrats. But the top 5% of income earners already pay 60% of income taxes, while the bottom 40% pay nothing.

Those paying a federal tax rate of 35% will see it rise to near 40% and will lose a fifth of the value of their deductions for taxes, mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

Two-thirds of small businesses are taxed at the same rate as individuals. Consider what this means to the owner of a restaurant and bar in Los Angeles open from noon to midnight, where a husband and wife each put in 80 hours a week.

At year's end, the couple find they have actually made a profit of $500,000 that they can take home in salary. What is the Obama-Schwarzenegger tax take on that salary? Their U.S. tax rate will have hit 39.6%. Their California income tax will have hit 9.55%.

Medicare payroll taxes on the proprietor as both employer and salaried employee will be $14,500. Social Security payroll taxes for the proprietor as both employer and employee will be $13,243.

In short, U.S. and state income and payroll taxes will consume half of all the pair earned for some 8,000 hours of work.

From that ravaged salary they must pay a state sales tax of 8.25%, gas taxes for the 50-mile commute, and tens of thousands in property taxes on both their restaurant and home.

And, after being pilloried by politicians for having feasted in the Bush era, they are now told the tax deduction they get for contributing to the church is to be cut 20%, while millions of Obama voters, who paid no U.S. income tax at all, will be getting a tax cut — i.e., a fat little check — in April.

Any wonder native-born Californians are fleeing the Golden Land?

Markets are not infallible. But the stock market has long been a "lead indicator" of where the economy will be six months from now. What are the markets, the collective decisions of millions of investors, saying?

Having fallen every month since Obama's election, with January and February the worst two months in history, they are telling us the stimulus package will not work, that Tim Geithner is clueless about how to save the banks, that the Obama budget portends disaster for the republic.

The president says he is gearing up for a fight on his budget.

Good. Let's give him one.

City planning commission OKs tent theater

That old-time rock 'n' roll will be returning to Station Square this summer, with a curfew.

In a unanimous vote, the city planning commission cleared the way yesterday for the reopening of the outdoor amphitheater at Station Square after a three-year hiatus.

But just like the last time oldies acts, rock bands, ethnic festivals and fright shows entertained folks at the South Side complex, all performances must be completed by 11 p.m., in deference to those trying to sleep on Mount Washington.

The planning commission attached the curfew as one of the conditions in approving the amphitheater. As before, acts will perform under a big tent.

Pittsburgh Concert Group, which will operate the amphitheater, hopes to have the venue open by the end of May, attorney Irving Firman said. Shows are expected to run through the end of October, concluding with annual Halloween fright nights.

The amphitheater, to seat 3,500, will be built in the parking lot west of the Sheraton at Station Square, the site occupied by the former Chevrolet Amphitheatre, which closed in 2006.

Forest City Enterprises, the Station Square owner, did not renew the lease because land was needed for its bid for the city's slots casino, which ended up going to the North Shore.

The Station Square amphitheater could be the first of three at the confluence of the three rivers. The Steelers are planning a $12 million year-round indoor-outdoor entertainment complex on riverfront property next to Heinz Field and are seeking $4 million in state aid. The casino, west of Carnegie Science Center, is building a 1,000-seat outdoor riverfront amphitheater.

The commission also OK'd plans for two hotels to be built by Kratsa Properties. A 135-room Fairfield Inn and Suites, costing up to $15 million, will be completed by July 2010 on Federal Street near PNC Park. Kratsa also is developing a $25 million, 155-room Hilton Garden Inn at Ross Street and Fourth Avenue, Downtown.

Family Advocates: Ask the Senate to Stop the Child Porn Lawyer from Becoming Dep. Attorney General

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved President Obama's pick for deputy attorney general, David Ogden, despite a deluge of protest from Christian and pro-family advocates who object to Ogden's extensive history defending child pornography and hardcore pornography giants. Full Story

Abortion Worker Arrested, Jailed In Death Of Baby Born Alive During Botched Abortion

Gonzalez was charged with the unlicensed practice of a health care profession resulting in serious bodily injury, a second degree felony, and with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, a third degree felony. Full Story

North Shore Disconnection OUT OF MONEY

You know that $500 million dollar hole in the ground downtown? While drilling under thew river is now done, the account funding this stupid idea seems to have a hole in it as well.

As it stands today, the North Shore Connector is vying for $117.8 million in stimulus funds to complete its plan to link the new Gateway Subway Station with two new stations on the North Shore in a 1.2 mile extension through two bored tunnels underneath the Allegheny River.

At $553 million, today’s plan is a scaled-back and substantially more costly version of the original, which for $393 million promised to extend the T another 0.3 miles from the Steel Plaza Station to the Convention Center.

Last month, the Port Authority publicized its options if additional funding is not available. To delay the project would cost $3.5 million per month. To shut down completely would run about $20 million to secure the work sites.

Port Authority advocates point to cost escalations in building the Rivers Casino, more than a third over the original budget set when it was called Majestic Star Casino, and the new Penguins arena, about 10 percent above its initial budget as of November.

That to me seems like this is all just a guess in the dark at best. If stimulus finds are tossed into the hole, will it even stimulate anything?

Aside from the money-already-spent angle, the Port Authority is emphasizing a major stimulus focus that the agency hopes will fetch it priority — if the tunnels sink, more than 2,000 jobs associated with the project would vanish as well.

Former Rep. Pat Toomey is considering a renewed challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in next year's GOP Senate primary. His decision, announced in a state

It was snowing irony in Washington on Monday when global warming activists descended on the District like a storm -- but got beaten to the punch by a blast of wintry weather that incapacitated the city.

Global warming activists stormed Washington Monday for what was billed as the nation's largest act of civil disobedience to fight climate change -- only to see the nation's capital virtually shut down by a major winter storm.

Schools and businesses were shuttered, lawmakers cancelled numerous appearances and the city came to a virtual standstill as Washington was blasted with its heaviest snowfall of the winter.

It spelled about six inches of trouble for global warming activists who had hoped to swarm the Capitol by the thousands in an effort to force the government to close the Capitol Power Plant, which heats and cools a number of government buildings, including the Supreme Court and the Capitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called on the architect of the Capitol to stop burning coal at the power plant last week, cancelled her appearance at the rally because her flight to Washington was cancelled.

Article ToolsAbout the AuthorJames O'TooleEmail AuthorCall 412-263-1562James O'Toole is the Post-Gazette's politics editor. He has covered politics an

Former Rep. Pat Toomey is considering a renewed challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in next year's GOP Senate primary.

His decision, announced in a statement yesterday, represents a switch in plans for the prominent conservative, who had previously said he was considering a bid for the Republican nomination for governor. His decision comes after Mr. Specter joined Maine's two Republican senators last month in providing the only Republican votes for the Obama administration's massive stimulus package. If Mr. Toomey were to take another run at the incumbent, it would cheer many Republicans who have long been critical of Mr. Specter over his moderate to liberal positions on social and economic issues.

Mr. Specter responded to the news of a possible rematch with the Satchel Paige quote he's frequently repeated in response to questions on potential opposition.

"Never look behind, somebody may be gaining on you," the veteran lawmaker said in a statement released by his office. "I'm running my own race with blinders. I'm not looking over my shoulder at who my opponent may be."

A renewed Toomey challenge would be welcomed not just by conservatives, but by the many Democrats who covet the Specter seat for their party. A tough primary would force the incumbent to spend money that would otherwise be available for the general election. And it would have the potential to push Mr. Specter to the right in an attempt to woo potential supporters of the conservative Toomey.

Mr. Specter's campaign committee had more than $5 million at the end of 2008. But Mr. Toomey -- outspent 5 to 1 by Mr. Specter in 2004 -- may be significantly more competitive next year on the strength of the national associations he has nurtured leading the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.

Their rematch would also be determined by a Republican electorate that since 2004 has suffered significant defections among some of the more moderate voters that have traditionally been a key constituency for the former Philadelphia prosecutor. With Pennsylvania's closed primary system, those former Republicans now registered as Democrats would not be able to support Mr. Specter unless they once again switched their party registrations.

So far, Joseph M. Torsella, the former president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, is the only announced Democratic challenger for the Specter seat, although a handful of other Democrats have expressed interest in the race.

Drug court lends woman money for abortion

A county prosecutor is criticizing the decision by a special court for drug offenders to lend a woman $275 to have an abortion.

Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio says he'll stop sending cases to the county's Adult Drug Court if it happens again.

A drug court counselor loaned the woman money because her parents had disowned her after she had a child and she became pregnant again. The woman had been in drug treatment for 18 months and the counselor was concerned she would relapse into drug use without the abortion.

It was not immediately clear when the loan occurred. It came from a fund created by a $5 weekly fee that drug court defendants pay.

Pa. senators question cut to hospital funding

Even as the state struggles with a growing budget deficit, senators yesterday questioned why the Rendell administration is proposing to cut at least $20 million to hospitals that disproportionately serve Medicaid patients as well as the uninsured poor. Read More

Wagner -- Don't sell State Office Building

With the economy in shambles, now is not the time to be selling the State Office Building, Downtown, state Auditor General Jack Wagner said yesterday. Read More