Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I really thought there was nothing to say today, but then this caught my attention: Lycos Europe seems to be hitting that final tailspin.

Why local interest? Lycos Europe is a distinct corporate entity, but still it was founded in part by Lycos. It's too long to write out the back story to this..... but remember when the departure of Lycos symbolized all that was wrong with Pittsburgh? Supposedly unable to find local workers they picked up and moved to Boston, taking with them all the economic growth. Lycos was founded at CMU, would be capitalized with some VC funding out of Boston, given a Bostonian CEO and then moved to Boston unsurprisingly. Thus I think most now say it was a lack of local VC funding at the time, if anything, that ultimately lead to Lycos departure.

But the early history of Lycos really set the stage for the party that followed when it IPO'd pretty much spontaneously in 1996 and then when it was sold to the Spanish firm Telefonica for $5-10 Billion in 2000. Lycos Europe was not part of the deal and kept by Telefonica's subsidiary Terra Networks and has been muddling along until now.

But if you look into it, the total jobs that Lycos would generate in Boston would never really amount to that much. The bust came quickly and Lycos would be resold to the Korean firm Daum for all of $95 million in 2004. You think you lost bucks in the stock market? I don't quite know how the main Lycos is doing these days as a business, but its not what it could have been. The latent thought out there is that it could have been Google and I suppose it follows that Pittsburgh could have been Mountain View. A fun little dream that will remain counterfactual.

One offshoot of all of this.... I don't want to speak for him, but I think that Richard Florida explains regularly how the history of Lycos in Pittsburgh forms one of the datapoints that would lead him to the whole Creative Class thesis. I'm not quite sure you can pin a number on it, but it would be ironic if this is true: I bet that all that forms Richard Florida Inc. these days is a bigger financial enterprise than the cumulative remnants of Lycos itself at this point. Even if that is hyperbole at the moment, and I am not sure if it is or isn't, given the trends at Lycos it may be true before too long.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Down is up

So just a few weeks ago the headline was: Foreclosures Flood in Pittsburgh Region.


Today the headline is: National foreclosures up, Pittsburgh's fall

Pittsburgh's Fall? Nationwide foreclosures up 112% affecting nearly every region of the country. Yet the comparable metric for Pittsburgh foreclosures are DOWN 9%. The "flood" of foreclosures is from a stat that foreclosures here are up 6.9% in the last quarter. Even if that is the best number, does it really constitute a flood compared to the national trend which really is up 112%. and that is a national aggregate, given the regions like Pittsburgh that are well below 112% no matter how you count, there must be regions far far above 112%.

Why the difference? PBT quotes one explanation that the falling number for Pittsburgh is because it "includes outlying counties such as Lawrence, Greene and Fayette." (update: the quote has been changed online and no longer mentions Lawrence or Greene, also the headline has been shortened.. I think the point is the same in the end). I doubt that because Lawrence and Greene are a) not in the Pittsburgh MSA to begin with and b) those counties are so small compared to the region that their inclusion can't make that much of a difference.

Why do I harp on this? Clearly there are real issues in the economy these days. Problems here, problems elsewhere. But getting people confused about the state of the local housing market can only lead to bad decisions. I bet if we did a survey of folks locally, they would not know there was any difference between the headlines in the national news and what is happening on the ground locally. Probably true for lots of things, but in the case of housing the discordance is really extreme. There is plenty to be fearful of financially all around, why fear monger where it isn't needed. Here is a quote from another national report that just came out:
Pittsburgh continues to rank as one of the nation's most stable residential real estate markets, according to a recent study.
That was from a couple weeks ago.. yet it also got little play compared to the stories in the press about the big (6.9%) increase in foreclosures.


If you read the state's press release that came out today on the current employment situation in the region there is an interesting sentence explaining strength in the retail sector:

General merchandise stores experienced record March growth due to a new Walmart opening, an existing Walmart expanding, and many stores opening their garden centers for the spring.
Which is just an excuse to plug in one of the coolest economic info graphics out there showing the growth of Walmart. If you can run it, the wmv file is clearer, but the YouTube version is:


Registrants needed

I was just musing over some domain names that someone ought to register.

No, not me. The season has begun, but the cupboard is bare?

It really is available. Own a piece of proto-Burghosphere history.

No, Bram is not in any trouble as far as I know. But peering into the crystal ball, all I am saying is that there is now a bevy of lawyers regularly mentioned in the same paragraphs as Burgosphere Blogger Bram. Lawyers=trouble and if push comes to shove who knows what may happen.

What is the Pirates record? When does football season begin. I thought I was being cute, but this domain is actually registered. Why?

Think I jest? Mark my words.

already registered..... Maybe it's for sale?


Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday Morning

Any news story that mentions Straub Beer in the first sentence is worth a read, let alone one that links beer and book-lovers. From the Philly Inquirer: A book club that keeps writing new chapters.

Speaking of Straub, I thought Sam had come back when I saw the quote from Antirust in the Sunday paper. I wonder if the PG realized they quoted a blog entry from 3 months ago?
Which bring up those those who may be moving away. Something I should have caught, but again Jim R. has the scoop. Academia meet Steeler Nation: The Journal of Sport and Social Issues has Football Bars, Sports Television, Sports Fandom, and the Management of Home, by ...Kraszewski .2008; 32: 139-157. It's main topic: the "ethnography of a Pittsburgh Steelers fan club in Fort Worth". It really is quite a sweeping look at Pittsburgh culture. In it the author works in mentions of polkas, George Romero, Iron City Beer and Tommy Maddox among other things. I was hoping that this was funded my someone out there, I would have been sure to give them a call. But it looks like an entirely self-funded bit of research. The biggest expense was probably the beer.
As for the Steelers... if you are confused over the news about land and the Stadium Authority on North Side, don't feel bad. How can anything make sense when we keep talking about a "stadium authority" that has no stadium, nor plans to build a stadium. At the very least they should rename it don't you think?
and finally.. a hometown perspective on the Steelers top draft pick.
Steelers.... steel.... a pointer from Steel Strip World leads to this article today in the UK's Telegraph on the state of the Steel industry worth a read: The bell rings time for the steel boom.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Penguins and the New White

I know it does not make any sense, but this image came to mind watching the Penguins White-Out of the Rangers Friday and Sunday.

from StormCab on Flickr

You know, that if they keep this up, somebody is going to want to paint everything in town white.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Where blogs collide

Speaking of neo-media in the Middle East.... as much as blogs have collided with the government and media locally, elsewhere in the world their impact is a bit more dire. Some may know the story of one Saudi blogger arrested last year. Direct from the blogosphere: According to Saudijeans, Fouad was released this morning. and we think Bram has legal problems.....

Update: I thought this was just an esoteric weekend post, but it now looks like international news and the world is paying attention to Saudijeans. Regular readers will remember it has been mentioned here in the past. The first was actually years ago.


AlJazeera in the Burgh?

I'm not trying to be bombastic, that headline is literally true. Not quite sure what to say on this... but the English version of Aljazeera has a video feature about the Pittsburgh economy on its YouTube channel. It's curious at the very least, and certainly provides no context. It does paint the economic miasma picture for sure. I can't fault the source any more than I question this PBT headline yesterday which can be misconstrued: Record number of foreclosures in Pittsburgh region in first quarter which I swear they already ran. It has a bit of context with past numbers, but its core fact is that there were 1,187 foreclosures in the entire Pittsburgh region in the first quarter of 2008. Actually if you read the AP version it does not say this is a 'record' number of foreclosures, but actually the 'second highest since 2000' which is a far far more equivocal statement. Most regions of the country are experiencing all time record foreclosures each and every month these days. The stories here all focus on the fact that foreclosures this quarter are 'up 7%' which I am sure is correct. Yet, the previous month the factoid was that Pittsburgh region foreclosures were actually down an unheard of 30%. That must have been some 'record' for sure, yet was barely mentioned in the media.

But that is 1,187 personal tragedies for sure. How many in Cleveland, a region of similar size? According to this source, there were not one but 50 THOUSAND foreclosures in the Cleveland 2007. How bad is it in Cleveland? Even Habitat for Humanity is foreclosing on owners.


Friday, April 25, 2008

past-future Pittsburgh

Governing points out a pretty cool blog: Paleo-Future: A Look into the future that never was. It has a vision of future (past) Mega regions in the US. Pittsburgh looks to be (have been?) the pinky-nail of the Michigan-Ohio Fingers Super-Metropolis. It also is kind of cool that that blog also seems to be a business that someone has scoped out; a business that would never have been viable in the past. That long-tail stuff really is true.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

SRBOC Starboard

There is other news I suppose. Something that has been in the news, and that was mentioned here, has to do with the financing of the Majestic Star Casino. Don Barden is saying that increasing finance and construction costs are pushing the cost of the project from the $400mil range to the $600-$700 mil range or more, with some Swiss financing (and can someone tell Reuters of all places that it is Pittsburgh with an H!). Some question whether he can raise that money, he first said it was not an issue, but today he is saying there is a "conspiracy" trying to prevent him from getting the financing he needs for the project. Conspiracy is a strong word in the legal sense.

Hard for me to address the conspiracy allegation. I have a more fundamental question that does not really depend on whether he can get financing. The underlying question is does he want to? If this project was anticipated to cost around $400-$450 mil then you have to believe there was some profit possible. If the project is now significantly more expensive it seems only 1 of two things has to be true doesn't it? One is that it was always a much more profitable venture than any of us imagined and even at $750+ mil in startup costs it is still worth going forward. That would be amazing if true. The alternative: it was a profitable venture at $450 but will not be this higher cost. Given that Don Barden says he is proceeding, you have to think the former is true and that there was a lot more potential profit on the table than was being talked about. That or maybe these latest allegations of conspiracy are really foreshadowing a more fundamental problem that could put the brakes on the project. We would call that chaff.... hypothetically of course. If true, what then?


city results mapped

I made an interactive map of City of Pittsburgh results from the primary that you can access here. Others have done this in various form, this has detail down to the voting district.

And if you are just using an rss reader of some sort, you may not see that I updated the graphic in the previous post which I put together in the last post comparing the 2002 Gubenatorial primary with Tuesday's results across the state. If you want a larger version in PDF form you can click here.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

'splaining Pennsylvania

Explaining Pennsylvania politics has to be a fools game. The thing about this election was that Rendell supported Clinton while Casey supported Barack while common wisdom was that their supporters had opposite inclinations.

So here is a plot of the 2002 Democratic Primary for governor when Rendell and Casey were fighting it out compared to the results yesterday. Each bubble represents a county and the size of the bubble represents the overall size of Democratic party turnout yesterday.
Note: I updated the figure below just to make a bit clearer what it is showing. The red counties are the only one that 'flipped' as explained here.

What's it mean? Clearly the negative correlation proves the obvious that the Rendell voters in 2002 were much more likely to be the Barack votersin 2008. Yet the story I would say is in just how strong that correlation is (or isn't actually). Philadelphia in 2002 went 78.5% for Rendell while yesterda it was 65% for Barack. That difference probably outweighed the margins Clinton got in dozens of other counties. If Barack had received the same 78.5% yesterday it would have been almost 60K more votes which could have canceled out the Clinton margins in 36 other counties combined. and that is talking just about Philadelphia.

Most counties followed the pattern that Rendell support in 2002 mirrored Barack support in 2008. By my quick count, only 7 of 67 counties 'flipped' support in any way. 5 counties supported Rendell in 2002, but went for Clinton in 2008: Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton.... while 2 counties that supported Casey in 2002 went for Barack in 2008: Dauphin and Union.


quick and dirty

Someone will do a better job, but a quick and dirty look at the results:


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

That's why they count the ballots

No need for me to make any state maps, the GIS world is full of good maps these days. Here is CNN's version. I was just looking at Union County there showing up as an OB county which it is... but it's from 4K Democratic party voters. That probably puts it at half the number of voters who came out in Bloomfield. Though Cameron County, which came in for HC, accounted for a total 655 Democratic Party votes between BOTH of them. That is on par with the number of votes cast within 2-3 blocks of my house.

But this is really why they count the ballots. This is fairly amazing:

Election Returns for District 21

Redistribute 150 votes or so and you can get an absolutely perfect 3 way split. While I clearly didn't have the guts to call this race any more than others, at least I mentioned him as a serious contender from the start. Whoever you supported, it's worth noting that Costa must have been outspent several fold by either of the other two in this race. It seems that while most were talking about Bodack and Frazier, less heed was paid to Costa. Bodack had both money and the ACDC endorsement, Brenda had her elected office (until she had to resign per the county charter that restricts a sitting county council person from seeking another office) and some significant financial support. But Costa with none of that, and no obvious campaign organization, pulls it out. It's hard to tell how much the Drink Tax debate, or the old Living Wage vote affected BF support but at these margins, everything mattered. It all brings to mind the odd circumstances that there is an open seat to begin with here which was the cause of my musings in Be Careful What you Wish For.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Chacun ses Burgh

The view from France in Le Monde today: Pittsburgh, ex-"steel city", a su s'adapter après la crise sidérurgique et attire les jeunes or Pittsburgh, a former "steel city", has adapted after the steel crisis, attracting the young.
and in the NYT on Sunday G. Pascal Gregory writes on the foreign linkages are impacting scientific production with a focus on Seagate's Pittsburgh laboratory. See: How Scientific Gains Abroad Pay Off in the U.S.
Fodder for next week. From the SF Chron: Bankruptcy looking more likely for Vallejo.
and just to keep perspective, even with the primary news displacing most everything there is other news. From Sunday's Trib: Bethel Park reservist an angel in the desert.
tick tock


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Confessions of a provisional pundit

It’s been an adventure for lots of us these last few weeks. The national media clearly exhausted itself trying to fill daily coverage with the minute machinations of the campaigns and wound up focusing some of its attention on the region. For the region it must have been a marketing bonanza on par with any single sporting event. The run-up to the Superbowl, or potentially the Stanley Cup, pale in comparison to the focus we have had waiting for Tuesday to finally come. One difference between the Superbowl and this primary’s coverage has been the international media attention that may not be obvious locally. Personally it reached a bit of ridiculousness in the crescendo with at least brief snippets from me in everything from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde, from NPR to German Public Radio and from CNN to PBS at one point or another. And that list does not include the many folks I spoke with just on background trying to ‘explain’ Pittsburgh (if that is really possible).

So it’s been fun. Speaking for the region it sure beats what we got out of Denver’s Bill Johnson whose own parachute coverage during the NFL playoffs in early 2006 was initially distilled down to Pittsburgh being “butt ugly”. Though Bill did warm up to us a bit in the end. I thought Bill might come back for some election coverage, but I don’t think he made the trip.

The national prism on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania has been both good and bad. It tends to magnify both the successes of the region as well as the warts. Truth be told, I tried to present a balanced picture to most everyone who came my way. Media folks have a tough biz in that they are often fitting in big complex stories into a finite amount of column-inches. So in each story you see with me at least, you are seeing one particular focus and often one particular angle. It seems to me that most came predisposed to write something positive about Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania and most of the coverage reflected that. That’s fine, but realize there is always a larger story out there.

What was there to write about? Pittsburgh and its environs has lots of uniquenesses. If you had to pick one voter story it would have to be the age of the local electorate, something I have beaten to death as a topic. So apologies to those who have read this here before, but for newer readers its important enough to go over again. Age is a particular issue in the primary season where younger voters are far less likely to come out and vote than in the general election. While there is clearly greater interest in this primary which will bring out more voters than usual, it is still going to be one of the oldest voter demographics compared to most anywhere else in the country. The three big factors affecting voter demographics are that we are an older region to begin with, that older folks vote much more often than younger folks, and that a lot of the younger folks in the region are here for just a short time for school and do not necessarily register to vote locally at all before they move on. It does not help much that it is finals week in some schools, though that may be an improvement over years where the primary takes place after the spring semester ends and most students have left town.

It all compounds to create a very unique electorate. In a typical primary, the weighed impact of your average senior citizen in town outweighs maybe 10 folks under 30. With historical turnout this primary season that ratio may drop to 5 to 1. However you cut it, it is clearly in the running for the oldest voter demographics in the country with certain precincts in the city and suburbs having median voter ages over 60, in some cases over 70. That is not something you see most anywhere else in the nation, but as the nation gets older it will become more and more common. That is actually the story the national media should follow up on.

If you don’t believe that, I wish I had a copy of the picture that the Pittsburgh City Paper once ran of the campaign chotchke that was given out. Not little magnets or keychains, not even bingo daubers (though they are a campaign staple here as well), but branded Bob O’Connor pillboxes. That one picture said more than all the numbers I have ever compiled.

But the uniqueness of voting patterns here reflects more than just the age of the voters. Pittsburgh, the city and its environs stand out in other ways. The region typically ranks #1 in the percentage of the population that has been living in their current house for 3 decades or more. Think about that for a second. That is in part a reflection of our older demographic, but it goes beyond that and it really has an impact on election day. Younger voters get both confused and frustrated by the fact that others’ decisions on whom to vote for or against is often driven by issues or circumstances literally decades ago. If you are a 20-something voter who is likely voting for the first time, realize that Aunt Edna has voted 100 times in the same exact precinct, and has known each of those poll workers that you have never seen before for longer than you have been alive. In some cases longer than your parents have been alive. Consider whatever news story dominated the media cycle last week. It may constitute the entire political memory of some voters, but looks much like 100 media cycles that came before it in one form or another and is appropriately discounted by many.

Then there were the unanswerable questions. The truth is that as much media as I have talked to in recent weeks, I wound up turning away more than I accepted. Lots of producers would call and start out with the question of “What does candidate X’s position on Y mean for the Pennsylvania economy?”. I really have not tried to read candidate position papers on most anything, it’s about as painful as trying to watch PCN. I would have to explain sheepishly that I don’t have answers for questions like that. Pittsburgh, the changes here, the economy, or more broadly in context to Pennsylvania I would be happy to talk about and many took me up on the offer. For others their primary focus was typically the political angle which I was decidedly unhelpful with, and they moved on.

Questions about the mythical “Pennsylvania economy” have at their core a curious premise that there is a Pennsylvania economy to talk about. The only real answer I could give is that there is no such thing as the ‘Pennsylvania economy’. The economy of Southwestern Pennsylvania has little interconnections with Allentown or even Philadelphia these days, certainly fewer connections than with nearby metro regions in Ohio, or West Virginia. That has been true from the time of Ben Franklin, but is even more true today than in the past.. Today, the connection between Bethlehem and Pittsburgh may come down to the fact that both are trying to save singular industrial artifacts from our shared manufacturing histories. The Carrie Furnace looks an awful lot like the former steel works in Bethlehem that preservation groups are trying to maintain, but both economies have moved on in divergent ways long ago. Ironically, the exception may be that both regions have also now turned to casinos for post-industrial financial salvation as well, but that is about it. We may be tied together by the range of legal paradigms that define the Commonwealth, certainly these political races give the façade of unity, and the policies that emanate from Harrisburg affect all of us. But in the end, an integrated “Pennsylvania economy” is just a figment.

Then there was the 2nd biggest topic of trade, specifically international trade and the election. Candidates I think become trapped in the trade debate and certainly the history and future of trade are big topics. If anything I tried to explain the context of trade here which is like so many things different from the trade issues of the past and different from that in many other parts of the country.

One trade angle I would try to pitch to journalists was a funny story from a few years ago. Nobody took me up on it (any biz journalists still desperate for a story still reading?), probably because it was too far in the past, maybe too esoteric or just too high on the wonk-quotient.. So maybe this is just interesting to me. But when the early Bush administration imposed some steel tariff’s on the European Union, there was an incidental story related to Pittsburgh that was never caught by US media. It turns out that the EU at one point proposed a series of counter-tairiffs. I like to think there was some uber-wonk in Brussels trying to answer the question of what products could be hit with tairiffs that would target the regions that would benefit from our steel tariffs. It turns out that one of the products they originally selected to place countertariffs on was “Nuclear power plant parts”. I am pretty sure the goal of that particular product on the list was to hit Western Pennsylvania specifically. But did anyone here notice? Not a whit as best I can tell. But it did make news in Europe because at the time, Westinghouse here was owned by BNFL, which stands for British Nuclear Fuels Limited. Someone across the pond noticed that these specific countertariffs were really only going to hurt Europe based businesses in the end and complained about it.. so it made more news over there than locally which is telling.. and that was before Westinghouse’s decision to stay and expand in Pittsburgh. The punch line is that trade is an awfully lot more complicated than in the past and certainly a lot more complicated than the way it is talked about in stump speeches on all sides.

So, do I have a clue what will happen on Tuesday? Not really. I could name more things that I suspect are being unaccounted for in polling than we are comfortable with. Some things work in OB’s favor, some in HC’s. When it’s over we will do the obligatory deconstruction of what happened, but beyond some last minute media spasms when the results come in, the national media will move on and we will be left talking to ourselves again... but that is ok. If Pennsylvania is seen as a toss-up state in the fall, we may get some of the limelight back for a time, but given all the other states out there it will be a diluted version of the all-Pennsylvania all the time coverage of recent weeks. The national media will now obsess on the national election until November for sure. Now that we are approaching the end of April, realize that it is only a year away from municipal elections across Pennsylvania in 2009, which means petitions, endorsements and campaigns are all but months away at this point.

But wait, I am jumping the gun, there are a few hours left. But very soon the important question will be: when do the Penguins play next? As always for those who make it this far, thanks for reading.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's all in the food....

Mike M. says it is all about the food. and what am I reading this uber-political pre-election weekend? Take a look at Corduroy Orange's post on the past, present and future of Pittsburgh's Turner Dairy Farm.


Friday, April 18, 2008

something smelly this way floats

I try to leave environmental topics to those far more expert than me... However this is something... Wired reports on a new study out of Purdue itemizing the regions that are the biggest producers of CO2. No Pittsburgh MSA county is in the top 20 on their list, but take a look at how many nearby counties are:

4. Cuyahoga, Ohio (Cleveland), 11.144 million tons of carbon per year
14. Jefferson, Ohio (Steubenville), 6.278
15. Indiana, Pa. (Indiana), 6.224

Here is there image of emitters across the US. I took the liberty of blowing up a section for Pittsburgh and the Ohio Valley. Pittsburgh would be somewhere under the 'a' in Cleveland I think.

And if you didn't catch it on PBS' Nightly Business Report last night, they had a segment looking specifically at Pittsburgh's neo-Coal industry.


Who are you going to vote for......

No, not Hillary or Obama... but are you supporting John, Rob, Dennis or Jennifer? Many of you are going to be faced with that exact question next week.


Flipping channels last night I came across a debate for candidates running to be Pennsylvania State Treasurer. It is the only contested primary among Pennsylvania row offices this cycle actually. (on the D side that is, Tom has no opposition in the R primary). Not exactly a show most would be interested in, but you figure if there was any audience at all it would include me. I could stand all of about 90 seconds of it before I reached my pain threshold. What was kind of funny was that they would occasionally scan the audience wherever this was being held. From the expressions in the sparse audience it looked like a class in a reeducation camp. Somewhere the boss said go down and watch the debate and I am not sure most were happy about it. The moderator didn't even seem like she wanted to be there even.

The only thing I could give the candidates or the producers credit for was that the answers being given were short and concise.. in the 90 seconds I watched I think I heard several answers given, whereas in some of these presidential debates it takes that long as preamble before anyone starts to answer a question. You almost forget the question by the time you get to anything resembling an answer.

I once did a little consulting trying to figure out what drives state row offices results in these primaries. The answer was not much. Some support will go to candidates from voters' home regions where presumably they may be known. Some support will go to those who have run in the past. You see some gender impact, the very few women running for Pennsylvania state offices means that if there is a woman running she gets some small benefit. but beyond that it has historically been a whole lot of white noise.

Want to know more? You can read the AP coverage of the race.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

meet the candidates - or is that meet the voters

Watching both the hockey game and the debate last night I really wondered what the local TV ratings were for the two events. Anyone know?* It also made me realize something. At least in my voting district, I am quite sure there are many more yard signs up for the race for the local state rep than there are for Obama and Hillary combined. I wonder how many places can say that... and what does it mean? That Tip O'Neill was a wise fellow.

So you may not be interested in this particular race, but there is a bigger picture to this. For balance, here are the most recent flyers for each of the 3 candidates for Pennsylvania's 21st Legislative District. You can guess that I have comments, but let's just go through the list... in a random order:

First off, Candidate #1:

and candidate #2:
and Candidate #3.

What safe conclusion can we draw from those? I will stick with: Helvetica rules**!

* Ask and you shall be answered. Trib has the TV ratings.

** See comments. JT points out I must turn in my typographers card.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How do states compare to Pennsylvania?

H/t to the Communitity Indicators blog for pointing out this series of posts from American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. The topic: How do states compare to Pennsylvania.

AP coverage of the dozen candidates running in the Republican primary for Pennsylvania's 5th Congressional District.

And this is interesting... The Philadelphia City Paper has two stories based on undercover reporters in the two campaigns. Read I was an Obama Volunteer and I was a Clinton Volunteer

More of those folks out east peering into the Burgh. See John Baer's John Baer: Clinton has reason to celebrate in western Pa. I wonder, do we send similar agents to Philly for reporting back home. Seems like a trip for McNulty.

Speaking of Philly.... Big debate tonight. Just a rerun, but the election space with majority party registration data as of November (so not including changes in the last month):


Casino cometh

Just catching up on casino news.......

The Trib has this piece titled: Credit crisis adds $180 million to Pittsburgh casino cost. Which says the cost to build the casino has gone up from around $400mil to over $600mil. Reuters says they are actually negotiating a $720 million dollar loan. If that represented a bigger construction project I would ponder the larger economic impact here, but if this is just sheer financing costs then its not an impact on the ground here. What really makes me wonder is that if you look at an economic analysis done before Don Barden was awarded the license, the whole project could have made some sense from an IRR standpoint in the $400mil range. It raises the question of how profitable the venture is if it costs $600+million to get off the ground and what that means.

MTR Gaming (remember them) lost $$11.4 million in 2007 and chairman and chief executive officer Ted Arneault has announced he is resigning.

Waiting for all those free drinks down at the casino when it opens? The AP reports that comps may be on the exit ramp because Atlantic City casino revenue went down for the first time ever last year. Those extra credit costs may be to blame if the North Shore is not a free drink zone here.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

not a flat Commonwealth yet

Something interesting in the Economist: The joys and drawbacks of being able to work from anywhere.

Which sparks a question: It will not be soon, but when does Somerset County become a suburb of the Washington, DC metro area? That came to mind reading this news article in the Somerset Daily American about how local officials there are focusing on increasing broadband infrastucture there.

If you think the Somerset question is a little out there... consider that the distance between Wellersburg, PA (in Somerset County) to Berryville, VA (in the Washington DC MSA) is 60 miles as the crow flies. Of course there is some interesting topography between the two. It may be a little less inconveivable when you also factor in the idea that a lot of DC jobs are not strictly for telecommuters.. but those who have the flexibility to work from home a day or two a week, something that is not uncommon in the Federal workforce.


Deconstructing Downtown

If you really tried to make a diagram of all the competing rivalries and infighting that have all come to a simultaneous head down on Grant Street, I don’t think you could do it on two dimensional paper. It’s not just a collision of the many political factions that coexist in what we call city government, but you have the collision new pols and old, of the traditional media and the internet, of mainstream journalists and bloggers and even of competing media organizations. Then throw in competing business interests, money of course, and let’s not forget the legal actors. It all defies description. I think there must be some allegory to the story of Flatland in all of this. If you were to cast the characters, who would be the squares? the circles? the isosceles triangles? or the Chief Circle. Oh, never mind.

If Flatland isn’t the right tool to understand all of this, is it all a simple example of the butterfly effect, chaos theory or just plain old entropy?

So much for my attempt at metaphysics…. How about this? Things are just messed up. This is all going to be very painful.


Monday, April 14, 2008

PA Polls

I think the political junkies (broadly that is, little P and little J) in town are going to have an induced bipolar episode trying to keep track of local and national events at the same time. So just remembering there is this election coming up soon:

WSJ's number guy asks: Is Clinton’s Pennsylvania Lead Really 20 Points?

and Political Arithmetik has the data: Pennsylvania Dem Trend Sensitivity


Monday pot luck

The view from Detroit: The Detroit Free Press has an omnibus look at the Pittsburgh economy, past, present and future as seen through the eyes of a region looking at some tough times ahead. See: MICHIGAN: ROAD TO RECOVERY; Different city, similar story, subtitled Pittsburgh rebirth proof that Michigan's industry may not define it forever. by Katherine Yung. Check out their front page today.
B____-gate? So should it all be called Billboard-gate or Blog-gate? Maybe even Bram-gate? No matter, but if you think it's over I would bet not. Pittsburgh Indymedia has an interesting piece with some background on Lamar Advertising.
Coal and Politics. I bet those have never been linked before. See the WSJ today: Coalfields Turn Into Battlefields; Push for New Plants Divides Democrats In Rural, City Areas. By STEPHEN POWER in Wise, Virginia, and NICK TIMIRAOS in Levittown, Pa.April 14, 2008; Page A6

On the casino watch: NY Times magazine on Sunday had a look at the rise and fall of the gambling policy: Bad Bet

The view from Wheeling: Wheeling-News Register has some comments in a recent editorial on the city/county consolidation talk here: I really am not sure what to say about the accompanying cartoon:


Sunday, April 13, 2008

media bloopers - (mis)counting voters

Here is a serious media blooper. The Financial Times of all places is having problems with numbers. Yesterday the FT had yet another of these stories on the Pennsylvania primary coming up. See: 'Reagan Democrats' Switch their allegiance.

The core of the article is a bar chart showing how the numbers of registered Democrats and the number of registered Republicans has flipped in just the last 6 years. That chart looks like this:

The problem is not that the numbers are just wrong by a little, but the 2002 numbers are backwards. It says that as recently as 2002 the number of Republicans in the state exceeded the number of Democrats by more than half a million. It's the other way around! Check the numbers yourself: here is the table of data for 2002. It clearly says 3.2 million Republicans and 3.8 million Democrats. That chart and the text of that article are based on it being the other way around.

I can guess how this happened. If you go through the data for each year and what you will see is that in 2002 Republicans were listed the first column while Democrats were listed in the second column. In all susequent years Democrats were listed in the first column. Somebody didn't notice the switch and assumed the 2002 data had Democrats listed in the first column. I noticed this when I made a similar chart of the time series for registration data which I posted earlier. I actually extracted the data not realizing the columns switched, but when plotted it was immediately obvious that the big flip in registration was a data issue. It's not really a question of fact checking, it's an issue of applying the eyeball test.

So rework the bar chart in your head and reread the article to see how much of it still makes sense. Yet, I bet most will internalize the headline and I will occassionally hear the false factoid that registration recently flipped in the state for years to come. Maybe they will issue one of those corrections nobody reads.


Saturday, April 12, 2008


RF has an oped in the WSJ on the Rise of the Megaregion. Some have placed Pittsburgh in the Great Lakes Horseshoe. There are many other definitions. Personally I wonder when the term Cleveburgh, will be used in the local media in anything but a trivial way. Maybe we should just define ourselves by the region's watershed?


Friday, April 11, 2008


That Rustbelt place: h/t to Polysigh for a heads up to a new blog: Rustbelt Intellectual.

Saintly Pittsburgh? and now we are measuring some important things... see Forbes' compilation America's Most Sinful Cities. We are pretty... unsinful? Reminds me that I have a friend who worked at a company that collected data on pharmaceutical sales across the country. I once joked with him that if I could get that data I could come up with a Viagra Index for regions of the country. Could have some fun with the media with something like that. Someone will do it eventually.

Evermore PA coverage: Philly Inquirer had a good writeup yesterday on the changing population trends in Pennsylvania. Today they follow it up with: A Tale of Two Cities.. and the Economist weighs in with: Welcome to the Super Bowl subtitled Post-industrial Pennsylvania will decide whether Hillary Clinton can continue with her presidential bid.

iPhone-less Burgh: I just thought it curious that this Business Week story references the Apple store in Shadyside as a case in point about how the international iPhone shortage extends even to Pittsburgh. Wasn't there some brief story and debate when the iPhone was first introduced that the Pittsburgh store was one of the few that did not immediately run out of stock? I forget the details on that.

Lessons from Alabama: Here is an interesting headline from Jefferson County, AL: Bond insurers pledge to work with Jefferson County on debt crisis. Did anyone ever get think of talking to Pittsburgh bond insurers when looking at the long term financial plan. and Bloomberg weighs in with: Largest U.S. Municipal Bankruptcy Looms in Alabama. There is an interesting question in that of what you are measuring to come up with descriptors like 'largest'.

Back at home. Not to be self-referential, but before people start asking.... If you read McNulty's piece in the PG today: Black Democrats torn between candidates. Most of the data from me he is referencing is all in this: Voting Patterns by Race in Allegheny County.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range

First off, for my out of town readers I have to admit this is all kind of embarrassing.

Secondly, you just can’t make this stuff up. If you were writing this as fiction, it would not be believable enough to sell.

What am I talking about? I would recount the story du jour here in Pittsburgh, but it’s quite convoluted and still in flux. The current version goes like this.

Clearly an important local story, but is it anything bigger than that? Allegations of conflict of interest are not that exciting in the end and certainly not things that have been absent from government since… well, since there has been government. What’s the bigger story?

So if you have not read the news, don’t even try to follow this. Even if you have read the news, it’s hard to describe. It’s kind of in the middle, but one starting point for this is when one Alecia Sirk was hired as the spokesperson for the mayor. At the time there was this little issue of a blog she had been writing for some time. Nothing wrong with blogging (I hope!). It was a bit of a personal blog, but who should knock anyone for speaking from the heart. Nonetheless, it was a little too far out there to be continued while the same author was also speaking in an official capacity. The blog was, unsurprisingly, quickly taken down. So keep in mind is that none of this would have played out as it has if there had never been this hyper-honest blog out there in the first place.

I would say it’s mostly rational behavior at this point. The blog was taken down, new job accepted and everyone moved on.. There was this little technical sidebar that nothing on the Internet is ever really eliminated. What was that Oliver North quote? “I thought when I hit erase, the email was erased”… or something like that. Of course that was 20 years ago. So thanks to Google cache many many folks out there retrieved and content of the blog and most certainly saved it for future posterity. Who were they? Historical preservationists? Voyeurs? Political malcontents or just neb-noses?........ Or none of the above?

Now the following is speculation, but I don’t believe much in coincidences. I suspect that the content of Ms. Sirks blog was deconstructed in fine detail some time ago. I would call it forensic blogging if that is a term. Nonetheless, somebody out there figured out that a vague reference to “JV” in Ms Sirk’s blog was also Lamar Advertising real estate manager Jim Vlasach. It appears that the blog described a gift that JV had given to her which at the very least had the appearance of a conflict of interest with her job, and more importantly with her husbands job either with City Planning or the URA. If that had come out say 6 months ago, it might have looked bad for all concerned, but it might not have been as big an issue… at least not as big an issue as quickly as this all transpired yesterday. Whomever was smart enough to sleuth this out was probably smart enough to sit on this little unverified fact. Wait until when? Who knows, but then opportunity always comes knocking.

In recent weeks the big political story in town became a tussle over a permit to put a billboard on the new transportation center downtown. The details of that story are pretty boring and the short version is that the public debate gets a bit ugly from both a political and personal perspective and in the end city council votes to disallow the billboard. You now edge into the bizarre a bit with Tuesday’s news (yup, that was all just two days ago… or a political month at least down on Grant Street) that the same Lamar Advertising filed a lawsuit against the city council folks who were opposed to the new billboard.

So maybe it was all just a low probability event that the revelation of a possible passing reference to the real estate director of Lamar Adverting in just a single line of a long ago deleted blog surfaced the day after Lamar Advertising filed a suit against 5 sitting council persons.

Sure it was.

Since that is almost too hard to believe, you are left with the conclusion that the filing of the lawsuit provided an opportune time to inject this little fact into the public discourse. Would it have made it out there eventually? It might have been thrown out there in due course to minor effect, but given the timing of this the effect was magnified.

So one summary could be that Lamar Advertising thought it was playing hardball not realizing that it didn’t have the winning hand. No matter what happens with their legal case at this point, they lost their own ace in the hole if a new URA head gets appointed. You could say that they chose to play with fire and got more than a bit burnt.

But…… something still nags at me a bit. From the first news on this, I will tell you that I always found the whole topic of the billboard important, but nonetheless a bit overblown in how much political machination it was producing. Again, I am sure it’s an important issue, but given all the other dire things going on in city government it’s a question of priorities. Something never really added up to me.

Clearly this is speculation on my part, but this all leads me to another hypothesis…. Did someone know about the potential hammer hanging over Lamar? Could that explain why the issue of blocking the billboard was pressed farther than it might have been in other circumstances? Makes an awful lot of sense to me at least if you think Lamar was baited into their lawsuit. Poking the tiger is one thing, but what if the goal was really to get Lamar to do something extraordinary, like say filing a fairly high profile lawsuit? If even partially true, who knew Henry Kissinger was moonlighting on the Mon?

Where does that leave us? Just the other day the Mayor had successfully moved out in front of an issue by announcing his fairly unqualified support for city county merger issues. Instead of perpetually reacting to issues being generated by others, for a few days everyone was reacting to him which was probably one of the goals. It was a fairly brilliant political move if nothing else. It worked for all of a couple days. And while I said recently that mayor-council relations may have appeared strained of late, they actually were not as bad as periods not that far in the past. Now I presume the worst. I think it’s a matter of public record that the mayor and Pat Ford were pretty close. His untimely ouster may necessitate a green line being drawn down the middle of the 5th floor of the city county building. Brace for collision.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

da plot boss

I just have to say I don't know whether to laugh or cry. As is in the news, 5 city council folks are being sued over their opposition to a billboard that was to go on the new Transportation Center Downtown.

So just fyi. The official Prothonotary I mean the Department of Court Records filing is online here: Lamar v. Shields et al. update: Let's help out those search engines and provide a fully OCR'd version.

Really, what is there to say? When was the last time city council persons were sued like this over a matter of their public actions? There really are some great quotes in the complaint. The defendants "developed a plot, under the auspices of their elected office". Makes you think the mob has taken over city council, but there has to be more to this.



CNN has an interesting article on the state of the economy in Wilkes Barre, PA. Which sparked a question? Downtown Wilkes Barre has a B&N Bookstore??? While Dahntahn's B&N remains closed. (yes, I know, I am told there is a B&N in Point Park College, but still).

and nothing at all to do with Pittsburgh as far as I know; just interesting to me. For the financial wonks out there: a story that would be funny if not so serious in the FT today about what amounts to open warfare between the hedge funds of the world and the sovereign state of Iceland. From a purely self-interested perspective, a devalued Icelandic is great for those looking to visit. Hard to find anywhere in the world the US dollar is worth much, making travel expensive. If you have never thought of it, Iceland is a great place to visit.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

more on google pics

The Smoking Gun follows up on the case of a Pittsburgh couple suing google over pictures of their house posted online. So does the Consumerist (although I would warn there is a less than family friendly picture in that version). 85 comments on the Consumerist as well.


voter registration

PG follows up on stories about how Pennsylvania voter registration may see all time record.... yet it seems to not be the case in Allegheny County at all, which is still below peaks of recent years.

Here is the recent trend in Pennsylvania Voter Registration among major parties. Which is for November of each year and does not include the most recent data being reported in the news, but not officially compiled yet. News accounts say the D number has gone to 4.2 mil and the R number down a bit. We may learn a lot by looking at where in the state the new potential voters are registering when enough data comes out. The changes seem to be focused in specific areas of the state.

I don't like registration numbers for the most part. especially for comparisons with the past. The conflate real and notional voters who are on the roles solely because of motor voter and other sources which have been adding inactive voters to the roles in increasing numbers. For some more detail on registration stats in the county, I once looked at the perennial belief that there were somehow nonexistent voters impacting local elections. I beat that topic to death in this old post: Mythical Dead Voter.


WSJ's Gerald Seib has an early look today at the fall election geography from both sides of the aisle: Blue states, red states, big states? Voters could redraw electoral map.


and to use their terms... one laurel and one lance to the online Trib.

They have a really nice flash graphic of some Pennsylvania Voter Demographics if you have not seen it.

The lance you ask? I have been trying to make sure that this was not some uncaught malware on my computer, but I am pretty sure it isn't and it is only happening for certain online links on the Trib. But on that link above and selected other stories, I have clearly seen the Trib redirecting clicks to before bringing up pages. It's not obvious and I think it is being done randomly (i.e. not everytime you bring it up to make it less obvious), but it is certainly happening for me. Anyone else notice that? If true, it's not exactly the way it's supposed to work.


Monday, April 07, 2008

PA still under the microscope

The national media focus on Pennsylvania continues. Who can make sense of any of this.

AP reports on: Pitched Contest for Pa. Youth Vote. Yet Politio says: No campus surge for Obama in Pa

AP says: As economy worsens, Obama says rivals are behind the curve. Locally, why things may not be going as expected. One of the regions within the state that typically fares less well economically has a counterintuitive perspective. One local headline over the weekend is: Fay-Penn says economy making progress

Maybe it takes an outsider's perspective? What do the Brits think? They are just as confused. Cool map though.

and just random media you may have missed. On Friday the WSJ had a writeup on the quasi-profit health care industry in the US with some obligatory mentions of UPMC. See: Nonprofit Hospitals, Once For the Poor, Strike It Rich - With Tax Breaks, They Outperform For-Profit Rivals. By JOHN CARREYROU and BARBARA MARTINEZ. April 4, 2008; Page A1

on the Cleveburgh watch....From Brewed Fresh Daily is this blog post: Multiple Cities? Too Soon Too Fast.


Sunday, April 06, 2008



Saturday, April 05, 2008


More on diasporan-san Jerome White in the Times Online (UK) and in the Yomiuri Daily Online. and a note on the cultural dissonance he generates in a blog/journal called Flux. Also in JET this month.


Friday, April 04, 2008

anti-google Burgh

I am sure this will be run everywhere here.. but from the Smoking Gun is the AP story on a Pittsburgh couple suing google over the pictures taken of their house. SG even uploads the pictures to make a point. The obvious result is that the legal defense of privacy in this case will create uber-scrutiny. Might be a good advertising piece for the region, people from all over the world will see how much land you can get here at a fraction of the price elsewhere. If this lawsuit had merit, imagine what the millions of people who show up in Google Earth Hacks have to say.


From our stringer in Rio

Maybe I missed it, but this seems to have not been noticed by the Burghosphere, fodder that it is:

Bernardo Katz, uma vez que tinha planos de reconversão Pittsburgh's lutando Beechview bairro, mas agora está enfrentando, no mínimo, US $ 5 milhões em sentenças e hipoteca foreclosures, se mudou para o Brasil. Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority encerramento processo iniciado em quatro Beechview propriedades no mês passado, alegando que Katz havia caído por detrás do seu empréstimo. S & T Bancorp, baseado em Indiana, Pa., deu início encerramento em pelo menos 11 Katz-propriedades também. Max Feldman, Katz's Coraopolis à base de advogado, disse Katz está a viver no Rio de Janeiro e não estava imediatamente disponível para comentar. Katz telefone no escritório do Monte Líbano foi desligado, e seu celular não aceitaria mensagens. Katz, um cellist por formação, em primeiro lugar veio a Pittsburgh no início da década de 1990 e começou a investir em imóveis logo depois. Ele encontrou algum sucesso, especialmente no Monte Líbano, onde ele possuía um bloco de propriedades em Washington Road que ele desenvolveu em lojas e *

I jest over a serious issue, this could be a real problem for some folks.

* Disagree with the translation? Blame the gnomes (or trillions of transistors) working for Google translate. I didn't pick up much Portugese (at least none that I can repeat) when visiting the Azorean NATO fueling piers decades ago. Obrigado.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

city county

News today that the committee* looking at City/County issues has issued its report:

Government for Growth: Forging a Bright Future—Built on Unity, Efficiency, Equity, and Equality—for the People of Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh

For some of the history getting to this point you can take a look at my: Primer on regionalism and local government fragmentation in the Pittsburgh region.

There is also this oped coincidentally from Nashville on Tuesday that mentions Pittsburgh government and reminisces on their city/county consolidation all of 45 years ago. See: The anniversary of Metropolitan government is worth celebrating.

* as disclosure: that would be the committee chaired by my boss' boss' boss' boss, or something like that.


Googling Pittsburgh

Just for the local wonkerati... In addition to the voting distict maps I put up earlier, here are some Google map overlays for City of Pittsburgh Neighborhoods also, the KMZ file directly.

View Larger Map


Pittsburgh City Council Districts

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts

Pennsylvania State House Districts

I will try and keep these consolidated on my map page.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

most mediocre first-place team ever

Too funny... now that they have started out the season 1-0, Slate declares the Pirates "the most mediocre first-place team in baseball history." Farther down in that running article there is a section where the author suggests prodding the presidential candidates to come up with plans on how to save the Pirates from themselves. It gets worse... they quote a Washington Post article that goes:
Okay, folks, here's the deal: We need to fill precisely 4.22 column-inches of type with information about the faceless, tasteless Pirates, and as usual we're not sure we can do it. But guess what? We're already at .95 inches, and we're just getting started! Wait—make that 1.19 inches. ... Should they finish below .500 again (and let's be honest, how can they not?), they will tie the Phillies of 1933-48 for the most consecutive losing seasons. (By the way, that's 3.53 inches, and we haven't even had to mention new manager John Russell, Capps's promise as a closer or the vast potential of the Snell-Gorzelanny duo.) There: 4.22 inches. Piece of cake."


Pittsburgh's Third Rail: Parking

I really have nothing to say on the main issues at hand in this piece: Pittsburgh Parking Perks which was in the Trib decrying some free/low cost parking perks for some city and county employees. But I do note an odd set of economic numbers thrown together. Note this paragraph:
Finance Director Scott Kunka said lower parking costs offset employees' "low"salaries. The average city worker makes $44,000 a year, according to city records. The estimated median household income in Pittsburgh was about $31,800 in 2006, according to U.S. Census figures.

I wonder why "low" is in parenthesesquotes? It's not that it is just a bit editorial, but does it make sense? Obviously, the implication is that $44k is high compared to everyone else as noted with the $31.8K number. But median income counts something pretty different from average wages. Lots of households in Pittsburgh have no wages whatsoever, but they still have income. You get lower median household income because median income lumps together the many households in the region on fixed income.. i.e. those on Social Security, even those on welfare or with no income at all with those who have one or more wage earners. So that comparison is apples and oranges if you are analyzing workers' wages.

That begs the question, is that quoted salary low relative to other wages in the region. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average total compensation per job in Allegheny County region was $51,636 in 2005, so 3 years ago. Inflation alone will have pushed that up a bit since then. Actually if you look at wages just for Downtown workers, arguably the comparable group of who city workers in question are competing with for Downtown parking. the average payroll in 2005 for workers in area code 15219 was just over $60K. The bottom line: how much city workers earn compared to what their jobs are is just a tad bit harder to analyze than just throwing out a median household income number which is mostly non sequitur .

But there is even more parking news, it's like the energizer bunny of Pittsburgh politics. I see that there is additional news that new Pittsburgh city Councilor Pat Dowd is taking on the perennial deficit in the city's parking permit program. I won't comment, but I have in the past in excruciating detail that you just don't want me to repeat. See: Zen and the Politics of Parking in Pittsburgh if you can bear the blathering.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

meta meta blogging: the state of blog relations

Writes Like She Talks gives a heads up to something that may be needed in the Burghosphere. A PR firm has put out a white paper of sorts on the State of Blog Relations. It seems to address the nexus of the Blog world and Public Relations, however defined.

WLST also points out another factoid that I missed. In some population data released last week, it seems that Cincinnati has grown to now be larger than Cleveland for the first time ever. Should we be worried? If current trends continue the Cincinnati region will be larger than Pittsburgh in 2018, not that far away. Better get some more people to move out to Lawrence County, but keep their jobs closer to Pittsburgh. We need to add Lawrence county to the MSA so we don't suffer the ignomity of Cleveland's fate, or at least stave it off for a few more years.


the politics of small numbers

I think I said earlier that the whole delegate counting obsession could be a quant's nirvana this political season. It's a fine line between nirvana and nightmare. Unclear or indecipherable rules for assigning delegates are just the beginning of the problem. If you wanted to produce chaos, or at least confusion, I am not sure you would have done anything differently than set up the Democratic Party primary process as it has played out. You are not supposed to need probability distributions to explain the delegate counts of elections that have already taken place.

For ever more parsing, here is a new angle: a site called the New Editor dissects the national popular vote margin in the Democratic primary. A stats-guru (literally) Andrew Gelman replies. My own tweak on the numbers.. if you took the primary results thus far and apportion delegates according to how the electoral system actually works... i.e. all or nothing by state, you get an ever different perspective.

I had produced a straight red/blue map of the state earlier, but here is the detailed version. If you click on the image you will get a some additional popup information with registration information for each county.