Sunday, March 22, 2009

Of Hometowns, Politics, and Basketball

A Weekend Wasted isn’t a Wasted Weekend

Clairton Bits of Tid: We have written about our hometown in the past, mostly about the heyday of the 1950s when the steel mills paid hefty property taxes which in turn allowed the community to thrive and prosper and pretend they were uppity, although they knew they were humble. Then as every boom turns to bust so did the steel making industry in the U.S. With the property taxes from the mill no longer a source of income personal property taxes were unable to fill the gap. Civil services were sliced and diced until at one point Clairton could not even maintain its own police force and the county assumed those duties. The brain trust that left to attend college settled elsewhere in jobs nad professions not sustainable in Clairton. The City withered.

Some chose to stay and fight: Many second, third, and even fourth generation Clairtonians stood valiantly against the coming times as business closed and population dwindled. But the pride of the Clairton Bears and its athletic teams continued to fight on as though the ghost of Ken Stilley, Jim Kelly, Andy Berchock, Judge Dickson, and the many other football stars cheered them on. The team overcame odds as CHS repeatedly whipped opponents whose schools were larger. Their economy might be dying but their hearts are strong. But that damn economy!

Few bad mortgages here: As the housing bubble burst in other parts of the country, toxic mortgage loans in Clairton were nearly nonexistent for their values had sunk to prices considerably less than the price of a new car years earlier. My good friend and former CHS classmate Dr. Ron recently sent me a newspaper clipping that summarized housing values in Clairton and surrounding communities. In 2007 Elizabeth Borough and Glassport, just across the river from Clairton the median price for homes were $ 54,000 and $ 38,000 respectively, while the mean price of a home in Clairton was $ 19,000. In 2008 Elizabeth Borough median housing price rose to $ 58,000 while Clairton’s median price dropped to $ 16,500, or 25% less than a used Honda. With housing at such levels, and some beautiful, well kept homes in Clairton, I would not be surprised for a renaissance in housing as the economy grows.

Ah, March Madness: This was a near-perfect weekend. Plenty of good college basketball filled the television screen. We celebrated my goddaughter’s fortieth birthday, a good friend’s sixtieth, and a neighbor’s eightieth. Most of those near and dear to my heart have employment, and college basketball dominated the weekend. Of course all my teams did not win thus I didn’t win any pools, but the weather was nice. And, oh yes, my federal income taxes have been filed. My 401K sucks. Probably should have invested my money in a Ponzi scheme. But life is good overall. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Wrath of Basketball Gods: March Madness is a phrase that probably very few jocks or basketball fans know is borrowed from the Bard. That’s Shakespeare’s Hamlet for those of you who were absent that day. Not to be confused with his Julius Caesar who was told to “Beware of the Ides of March.” That refers to March 15, 44 B.C. the date Caesar was murdered. So Sunday was the 2,053nd anniversary of his death. But for fans today is the last day for amateur bracketologists to try to figure out which teams will advance to the NCAA Big Dance. As usual the cigar-chewing fat and pompous cats from the NCAA loaded up on conference favorites – as many as 7 per, and largely ignored those who happen to be out of the Eastern Standard time slot. Also, with all the talk about saving money and energy by keeping teams close to their home campus.... not so much.

Need some new material: The past eight years have been heaven for talk show hosts, pundits, and others that make fun of politicians. One of the lines about former President Bush was that he received a memo that 2 Brazilian soldiers were injured in a skirmish. His response was, “How many is a Brazillion?” Well, the never-ending circulation of opposition emails by the Bushies has taken a page from that spoof and decided to attribute it to President Obama. The joke was that Obama didn’t know the difference between a trillion and a Brazilian. It had something to do with the bailout but the joke fell flat. Let’s face it; Democrats are better at partying, joking and having a good time and Republicans are better at being corporate. When they try to invade each others territory neither does it well.

Material for the Republican jokesters: Ok, let me try to help the Republicans out: AIG was able to justify the $ 165 million in bonuses because they just made $ 170 billion – in bailout money. Iowa Senator suggested AIG execs should follow the Japanese model and either resign and apologize or commit hara-kiri (suicide). Fellow Republicans thought he’d given them too many choices. AIG promised to use some of the bailout money for a public works project. They plan to build a big toilet to flush the rest of the money down. After several setbacks for Cabinet appointments, Obama is going for a safe bet to head the Food and Drug Administration; Rush Limbaugh. The hardcore Southern Conservative Republicans are said to be searching their grandfather’s trunks for confederate money. There is talk that the cost of books in the George W. Bush library could exceed $ 30.President Bush has made the transition to ranch smoothly but Dick Cheney is having a hard time not being president any longer. AIG is changing its name to AICG fos “All I can Get.” Nancy Pelosi and J. Edgar Hoover wear the same style of dress. America now has its first minority president and first vice president with hair plugs.

Before today’s curtain drops: I have a friend who boasts that he was living with a cute girl for several months – until she realized he was there. Reader Sandra admits she has a short fuse. She wonders if you choke a smurf, what color will it become? Then there was my friend Pete who was such a sadist he refused to beat a masochist. Ok, ok, that’s enough for today.

A little blogging music Maestro... “Basketball Jones,” featuring Tyrone Shoelaces.

Dr. Forgot

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