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Read My Apocalypse

In politics, media and sports, the end appears to be nigh

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How do you know Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey's re-election campaign is getting desperate? His latest TV ad lauds the wisdom of...City Controller Tom Flaherty. That would be the same Tom Flaherty of whom Roddey's fund-raising materials have said, "Tom Flaherty...and [his] cronies in the old Democrat machine will take us back to the dark days of blasted budgets, mishandled appropriations and hiring based on political friends."

The TV spot cites numerous times during the 1990s when Flaherty warned that the city's budget policies would result in collapse sooner or later. The point is that Roddey's rival, County Controller Dan Onorato, should have listened to Flaherty when he was a city councilor voting for those budgets. Still, when Roddey starts paying homage to Flaherty's prudence, the End Times may be at hand. If either Roddey or Onorato proposes tattooing county residents with the Mark of the Beast in order to buy or sell, you'll know for sure.

In what may be the sounding of another trumpet on Judgment Day, the state legislature is devising a plan to rescue Pittsburgh from its financial crisis. If reports from the capital are true, Harrisburg may seek to create a five-member financial oversight board whose members will be chosen by the governor and the legislature. The mayor and city council would have to submit the budgets to this board for approval.

And even as the state ponders reducing the mayor's power to run his own government, local reformers want to expand his power over the school board. A commission Tom Murphy appointed to study the troubled school district has, to the surprise of no one, released a report urging that the school board be appointed by the mayor instead of elected. In the unlikely event both reforms take hold, future mayors could have more power over the school board's budget than the city's.

"High levels of student achievement will require a concerted city-wide effort with intensive...community involvement." So saith the schools report penned by the mayor's commission. But since it advocates doing away with electing school-board members, we have to assume it doesn't want that involvement to be too intensive. It asserts that "only broad, sustained community support for a bold agenda of reform will succeed in bringing fundamental change," but its entire premise is that getting broad and sustained support for a bold agenda is impossible. Otherwise, why would we need appointees?

And if we can't be trusted to elect school-board members, how can we be trusted to elect the mayor who appoints them? Although given the talk about a new financial review board, maybe the state legislature is already taking care of that problem.

No matter what happens, thanks to Murphy we'll always have Heinz Field. And thank God for that -- without it, the Steelers might be a 2-3 team that gets humiliated by the Cleveland Browns on national television. Hey, wait a minute …

For a moment during that Oct. 4 embarrassment, I was actually sorry Rush Limbaugh resigned from ESPN's pregame show. Rush, of course, touched off a firestorm by opining that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb got more credit than he deserved because "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." Still, I'd like to see him explain Tommy Maddox's good reputation up until now. Is it because Pittsburgh has been desirous that a white quarterback do well?

Speaking of Rush, what's remarkable about his departure is how many columns in the allegedly liberal Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have rushed to his aid. I've counted nearly a half-dozen columns lamenting his departure, by writers including Brian O'Neill, Ron Cook and Mark Madden -- all of whom say that while they disagree with Rush, it isn't fair that he got fired for doing the very thing ESPN hired him to do: make waves.

Maybe it isn't fair. But how fair is it that he got the job at all? He doesn't know anything about football. ESPN fired him for the same reason they hired him: He stirs up controversy. Live by the sword, die by the sword -- sounds fair to me. Anyway, Rush is popular only because the media has been very desirous that white conservatives do well. At least, I assume that's why there are so many of them on the airwaves. There must be some kind of quota at work, right?

By the way, when Monday Night Football canned Dennis Miller -- a hometown boy, no less -- in 2002, only one Post-Gazette column I could find bemoaned his departure. Rush departed after making remarks that offended millions of people, while Miller's biggest crime was just not being that funny. What is it with these columnists who leap to Limbaugh's defense while hanging a native son out to dry?

Sometimes you wonder who the liberals really are around here. Take the local response to disclosures that someone in the Bush administration leaked the identity of a CIA agent to columnist Robert Novak this summer. The editorial page of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review -- the supposed arch-conservative rag which runs Novak's column -- opined on Sept. 30 that such a leak would be "a heinous, traitorous act made all the more horrid by the alleged politics behind it." The Trib even called for a special counsel to investigate.

That one-upped the P-G's own editorial the same day, which doesn't question the propriety of having John Ashcroft investigate his own bosses. And it took a much harder stance than the P-G's national security writer, Jack Kelly, who on Oct. 4 demonstrated his national security expertise by arguing that revealing the name of a CIA agent isn't a big deal. By the end of his piece, in fact, Kelly was accusing Democrats of McCarthyism.

State Sen. Jack Wagner (D-Beechview) is offering a resolution urging Congress to reduce the voting age to 17. In a press statement, Wagner notes "We allow 17-year-olds to enlist in the armed services with their parents' consent," and reasons, "If they are to put their lives on the line for America's defense, they should have an equal say in electing our leaders."

I'm all for it: Young people should begin exercising their inalienable right to blow off elections as soon as possible. Still, most young people I meet are more interested in reducing the drinking age. They utter such stirring slogans as, "If I can die for my country, why can't I have a beer?" (And you thought Rush Limbaugh was being deprived of his civil liberties.) If you want young people at the polls, Sen. Wagner, sponsor a referendum lowering the drinking age. Or perhaps, raising the draft age.

Of course, none of this would be a problem if we just turn over the entire government to appointees.  I expect someone to nominate a Beast with 10 horns and seven heads to preside over it any day now.

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