Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Second Chances?

The city of Pittsburgh sure isn't acting like the "Greatest City in the World" this week.  

Five city employees were fired this week, even though they performed their jobs well nor did anything wrong on the job.   Their only crime was being a criminal. 

The Pittsbugh Post-Gazette has been reporting this case for a fortnight, yet has failed to work-up its typical furor over the incident, probably realizing that in some fashion they were the catalyst for the firings of these hard-working city employees. 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette made a hullabaloo in Rich Lord’s July 12 article “Pittsburgh’s Public Works lacking discipline consistency” wherein a city employee who was arrested for a drug charge in 2007 was later fired for the Bull-Shit reason that he failed to mark on his city employment application that he was charged with a felony in his youth.  They should have just fired him for the drug thing, but there are protocols to deal with, so they used this much easier way: firing him for providing false info on his application.  He complained, and rightfully so, that the city was acting inconsistently in firing him, because there were other city employees who were also convicted criminals who failed to 'check the felon box' on their employment applications and were still working for the city. 

In the aftermath of the story, other news outlets demanded to see worker lists and background checks.  The city and Mayor, in typical reactionary fashion, found six more convicted felons that failed to ‘check the felon box’ on their applications, and were originally all suspended.  Five were fired Monday.  (See Pittsburgh Dept of Public Works suspends no-tell payrollers, July 14.)

What’s crazy is that these firings come after quotes from city Operations Diretor Art Victor like:

"Certainly the public trust issue is something that we always consider," Mr. Victor said. "But again, you have to balance that against the fact that you can't discriminate against somebody just solely based on their history."

But that’s presicely what they have done, for the sake of consistency.  And…

[the city] "can't have a blanket statement or blanket policy that we're not going to hire anybody who has a felony conviction. We would be consigning people to a life sentence for something that they've already paid the price for."

Exactly!  As one of the fired workers said,

 "My record is clean, even my city record. I've never even been late."

So the real question is…

"When is somebody's debt to society paid?" as asked by Teamsters Local 249 Vice President Joe Rossi, "Where do we draw the line?"

I say we draw the line at removing the “felon box” from city applications.  There is a reason former felons don't check the felon box:  They don't get hired!  A small lie can mean the difference between a potential interview, and your application in the recycling bin.  Public works isn’t out there providing child care or even handling money, or other high risk jobs.  Public Works trims trees, collects garbage, paints, sweeps streets, drives trucks.  These are not jobs that a criminal record should even be considered about.  If somebody’s debt to society has been paid, it is our job as a society to help reintegrate them back into life.  It’s the most rehabilitative thing we could do.  I say re-hire the fired employees, and at a policy level, I say Ban the Box!  

"They're gonna throw the book at him, Nick.  Your son or not."

~Mr. Gunther, esq.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pittsburgh Villain: Mary Worth

So my campaign to bring Pearls Before Swine to the Sunday Comics Page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper has so far been unsuccessful.  We at the Mt. Washington Brain Trust & Pipe Club have long complained about the continued presence of strips such as Mary Worth and Rex Morgan M.D. in the comics page.  Meanwhile the humorous and irreverent social commentary on the lives of a Pig, Mouse, Crocodile and ‘Zeeba,’ as scribed by Stephan Pastis, fails to make the Sunday cut. 


To quote Harry Liller “I’m amazed at what goes on!”

Mary Worth is boring.  And Pearls Before Swine points this out in wonderful fashion in today’s strip [July 21, 2009.]  Enjoy. (or click on the comic to have a link to the daily Pearls Before Swine site)

Ha!  He puts her in a closet!  That mouse is crazy!

So come on Post-Gazette!  Drop Mary Worth, and replace it with Pearls Before Swine. 

By Lord Johnson

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pittsburgh Villain: Eddie Eiler

There are many great blog posts about the Pittsburgh Police Force and its valiant heroes:  Noble men and women who put their lives on the line each and every day defending the innocent, protecting our streets and bringing justice to lawbreakers. 

Unfortunately this post is not about one of those.

Below we will look at the complicated character that is Eddie Eiler.  (Wow! What a great piece of original Striking Distance art graciously provided by Mario Zucca, who's work can be found at

Detective Eddie Eiler served the Pittsburgh Police Department for many years eventually rising to the rank of homicide detective.  While his early years are shrouded in mystery, it is generally believed that his wife was unfaithful with his one-time partner.  His animosity toward one Tom Hardy has lead some to infer that animosity between Eiler and Hardy stems back to an affair between Mrs. Eiler and Mr. Hardy.  This is all conjecture and highly refuted by some Striking Distance scholars.  Regardless, their antagonistic relationship would only intensify over the years. 

The cuckolded Eddie Eiler allowed his bitterness to cloud his judgment regarding Tom Hardy’s actions as an officer years later when Hardy turned in fellow officer Jimmy Detillo.  Hardy, bound by the family creed of “loyalty above all else… except honor” felt he had no choice but to testify against his cousin and partner for harshly interrogating a suspect.  Indeed, the honorable Judge Helen Kramer would have sentenced Jimmy for conduct unbecoming an officer had he not thrown himself from the Sewickly Bridge. 

Eddie Eiler so enraged by the apparent betrayal of a Pittsburgh police officer, took every opportunity to express his displeasure with good Mr. Hardy.  His outbursts were frequent, and came in the form of verbal beratings and cheap shot punches at policemen galas.  Apparently Eiler valued loyalty above even honor, when it came to the police force.

His final redeeming moment came at the end of the film.  He offered himself up as a lamb ready to be sacrificed.  But, alas, Tom Hardy is not the forgiving type.

"Nah, it wouldn't do any good.  On the other hand..." 
~Tom Hardy

By Lord Johnson

Friday, July 10, 2009

Details of a Boat Jump

It warms the ol' pipe tobacco that there are other admirers of Striking Distance out there.  I found this website that goes into great detail about the boats (Chris Craft Capris) used in the filming of the movie and some great little tidbits about the dramatic boat jump scene near in the final chase sequence.  Did you know they actually had multiple boats take multiple jumps off of Dam #6 on the Allegheny River?  I sure didn't.  But I'm so glad I know now!

Enjoy this site at called Century Classic Power Boat,  (I'm a little jealous we didn't call our site that actually) at

"Come on, Tommy,  are you mad at me?...  I shot my dad."
~Jimmy Detillo

(Can this be!?! More amazing Mario Zucca Striking Distance Art!  My pipe tobackee can hardly believe!  Check out more of his stuff at

By Lord Johnson

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Ranting and Raving

1. First, a rant against the driver of bus 31D - a bus that is part of the same public transit system that insists on increasing my fare 1000% every year (mild exaggeration). Mr. Crazy Bus Driver, I do not like being scolded. Especially if I'm being scolded because I look like what must be another incredibly hot girl living in the greater domain. Allow me to elaborate:

Me: Does this bus stop at the incline?

Crazy Bus Driver (CBD): Does this bus stop at the incline?

Me: Um, yes. The incline?

CBD: Does this bus stop at the incline?!

Me: (puzzled look)

CBD: It stopped there last night didn't it?!

Me: Um...

CBD: You asked me the same question last night!

Me: Uh, I didn't take a bus last night. I walked.

CBD: HA! (And not an I'm-being-funny Ha!, it was a yeah-right-you-LIAR HA!)

Me: (stunned)

I'll be honest, it takes a lot to get me stunned. Especially silent and stunned. But in my defense, the guy looked like a loon, and the whole thing was a little surreal. And now that I got over being stunned, I would like to say that I do not pay a million dollars a month (slight exaggeration) to be yelled at by a Crazy Bus Driver! Thank you.

2. On to the rave- no amount of hassle by a crazy bus driver can diminish the joy I experienced today from eating at the Chicken Latino in the Strip District. It was DELICIOUS!!! Soooo delicious. The chicken was fantastic and the sweet fried plantains were out of this world.

With food like that one, this city must truly be the Most Liveable City in the Universe! (Way better than chocolate ice cream.)

By: Lady Rivera

Pissing-off More Strangers

It has come as a shock a surprise that people who are not Mt. Washington Brain Trust & Pipe Club members, nor even residents of the sacred domain, have 1) visited our humble blog and 2) left with a fair amount of anger at our well-reasoned and insightful posts.  That fine gentleman who claimed that Pittsburgh was the "Best City in the World" and that chocolate was the best ice cream flavor certainly didn't seem too pleased with us, but that was an isolated incident.  Or so I thought...

During a recent occasion when I was wasting time leading up to an important deadline (like I am right now) I chanced to revisit some of the Brain Trust's first blog entries.  I was shocked to find that the one of our earliest attempts received a belated comment.  Let's Rohm These Streets where I rant and rave about the possible namesake for the alley behind my house, recieved the attention of one Wendy Goldman Rohm.

Ms. Rohm, who was probably far too gracious in her remarks, said in response to my accusation of her being an "unpopular novelist":

"i noticed your post while updating my google files. just a correction, while i have had no street named after me (!), i am not an "unpopular novelist." i am a New York Times bestselling author of narrative nonfiction, not novels. thanks for the attention anyway! best, wendy goldman rohm : )"

Let this be an official apology.  I apologize for calling you an unpopular novelist and recognize that you are indeed a...
"New York Times bestselling author and literary agent, [who] has taught and lectured for MediaBistro, Yale University, onboard the QEII, and at numerous universities and organizations in the US, Europe and Asia. [And] has presented her writing and book workshops since 2002."

I was quite mistaken in calling her an unpopular novelist.  Indeed she has received quite a bit of attention for two of her books, one being a lengthy narrative about Bill Gates and Microsoft's troubles of the 90's, and another about Rupert Murdoch, I think.  While praise for her writing workshops has been nearly unanimous, the response to her books has been anything but.  

One critic called her piece about Microsoft:
...a book that is by turns salacious, unbelievable, and dated. Not a good mix at all. -- Business Week, Steve Hamm 

I personally am witholding judgement.  Though, one piece of her prose that was quoted on the website WindowsITPro was interesting, though hopefully not indicative of her entire writing style.  In a Windows website's unsurprising pan of the book we recieve the quote:

"Sleeping, a low hum in the chest, skin reddened by sun, head tight, seams of the skull traced like an etching across the crown taut with the monotony of time. It seemed he'd traveled farther than his thirty-nine years. Feet crossed at the ankles, lower lip slack as if having given up: all having been spoken. Echo in the sleeping brain. Traveling across water. Miles of it. Air like water filling his lungs, dreams billowing like balloons grasped in a fierce wind."

So Ms. Rohm I apologize for my mistaken comments, and will never call you a novelist again.  I promise.
Tom Hardy: "I feel like an asshole"
Vince Hardy: "Maybe you are an asshole... you always were kinda strange."
Tom Hardy:  "I had you as a role model."
Vince Hardy:  "You got that from your mother"
Tom Hardy:  "Let's leave Mom out of this."
Vince Hardy:  "Gladly!"

(YOWZA!  Frasier's dad and John McClain in a car together, expertly rendered by one Mario Zucca.  He has a website at, where you can see many of his Pittsburgh City Paper covers and much more!)

by Lord Johnson