Monday, September 01, 2008


Thought it would only be fair to point out the great letter to the editor in the Trib yesterday that takes me personally to task. Apparently one David L. Brock of the North Side thinks I am overly positive on the region. With semantic creativeness that I envy Mr. Brock says that I
"minimize our endless decline with unctuous baffle-gab and deceptive half-truths, seemingly to convince people that if we just think positively, we'll all live to see a wonderful future -- a future that has never arrived and, with Mr. Briem's help, never will. "

It is always a good day when I learn a new word. Indeed bafflegab is a word. Amazingly enough, the phrase "unctuous bafflegab" exists nowhere in the google universe other than this first use.

I always encourage the people who write to me disagreeing on this or that to write letters to the editor, so more power to Mr. Brock. What is bizarre is that the folks I am supposedly in cabal with are typically folks who complain much more loudly than he about what I say and as often as not call me Dr. Doom or some other such nonsense. So it is always curious to me how people take what I say. A lot of confusion is probably my fault as often as not for not being clear enough.

Semi-seriously, if you read the original article that seems to have set Mr. Brock off, it was such a nothing little article of 350 words that was little more than a pro-forma look at recent census estimates for the City of Pittsburgh. I am not sure I am anywhere very positive on the state of the City and he seems to conflate my prognostications on the state of the 'region' generally. It's such a common confusion that you always need to ask people which Pittsburgh they are talking about when discussing nearly anything.

The letter attributes Mr. Brock as being from the North Side which is a bit odd since the letters punch line is about how he and fellow disgruntleds are going to move out. (move out of the city or region I am unclear). Think about that though. I presume Mr. Brock has been here for more than a few years and has not left yet? People do indeed vote with their feet. Just odd that he is still around.... logic has it he must be more positive on city living than the thousands who have indeed left before him.


Anonymous Johnny G. said...

I will say this, Dr. Doom, you are much more upbeat and peppy--kind of like "Up with People"--when discussing regional population loss, as opposed to pensions. I mean, you are pretty consistent with the message of "Give the region 25 or 30 years, all of our grandmothers and mothers saying the rosary at the right moment, and Luke Ravensthal's 8th administration, and we may then finally show population growth again!"

That said, as one who used to get worked-up over your op-ed pieces much more than I do now (that I know you're a secret, double-blind Navy operative who could have me rendered at any time), you do portary an air of power in your writing. Seriously, it is an art that you must teach me one day.

Anyhow, so where is Mr. Brock these days? We know that little comment about doubting that he lives on the North Side was just to throw us off the trail. Some nice black ops site in Bulgaria, Khazachstan, or Angola, perhaps?

All kidding aside, anyone who thinks you are part of the problem and not the solution really needs to meet you. You are one of the few people who can convey through facts the very real challenges facing this region. And I know you recognize the continued departure of families from the City of Pittsburgh to be one of those serious challenges.

Monday, September 01, 2008 8:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that you miss the point of Mr. Brock's response. What he was getting at is the local "experts" cited in PG and Trib articles always seem to want to avoid reality because, in so doing, they get to avoid the political/economic components of the problems. When the census comes out and validates these numbers, 2 more years will have gone by and nothing will have happened, no political solutions will have been offered, and we'll be two years farther down a bad road.

Monday, September 01, 2008 8:48:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I doubt I missed the point. I actually get email like what he sent into the paper pretty regularly. Though few are as well written.

I actually didn't address the real unstated point of his letter which was that I speak for the Mayor or Yarone somehow which really is just baseless.. or would be news to all three of us I am quite sure. It's part and parcel of a common theme some believe that everything in town gets decided in some secret back room that controls the public message in all medium.

But the article in question as not about the big picture, it was about a few new numbers the census released that didn't deserve the press coverage they got. If the topic really is about the causes of the city's population decline, I think you can search this blog and the public record to find references where I emphasize more than most anyone else in town that the city's population decline is likely to be continuing unabated for some very obvious reasons including the lack of internatioanl immigrants to the region and the asymetric tax rate vis a vis its suburbs. Beyond that it's hard to address what was in the letter because it was so vague and rant-like. "political" components? That could mean anything or nothing. Everything is political at some level.

Monday, September 01, 2008 9:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Jerry said...

Yeah, I was also a little confused about what Brock would prefer you do. Stop being so positive, I guess ... then what? Maybe people like him, not to mention the countless complaining callers to 104.7 and similar radio stations, think of themselves as modern Jeremiahs, warning us of our impending doom unless we change our ways. That's the kindest thing I could say about people like that. I'll give him credit for coming up with an original googlewhack, though. That's pretty impressive.

Well, this seems like a good time to mention that I read your blog every day and appreciate your analysis. So not everyone in Pittsburgh thinks you're unctuous.

Monday, September 01, 2008 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

Chris - Some people are developing a "you're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem" mentality. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But that letter writer miscalibrated you to a significant extent, especially in light of your sorties into public transit.

"... the asymetric tax rate vis a vis its suburbs." Go on ... it sounds almost as though you'd favor political consolidation that pointedly *takes into account* the city's legacy costs, integrating the burden of responsibility with the rest of the county.

That would make it easier to sell some of the extraneous political issues.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008 8:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, the language and tone of the letter sounds a lot like Colin McNickle. Could the Trib be writing its own letters to the editor? Think about it: David Brock is the founder of Media Matters. And the North Side address? I think it's a joke letter that the Trib cooked up. It's pretty well known that the Pittsburgh version of the Trib, with its small circulation, has trouble attracting enough coherent letters to fill the LTE space.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

While an intriguing thought, it probably isn’t CM. As a friend pointed out, Mr. Brock has sent in letters to the editor that have appeared in the PG as well. Scroll down that link to the one titled “Regional Ruination”. He certainly has an issue with most everyone, Democrats for sure and their “Business leader associates”… not quite sure who that means.

Funny story.. when I was in college there was a student publication that exists to this day I think… Business Today I think it was called. For some reason I remember how it was a big ‘scandal’ how the student editor was caught filling its own letter to the editor space because there wasn’t much content coming in. I think she had to resign but wound up being pretty successful soon after college.

And thanks for reading: Jerry, Bram JG and sundry lurkers (up to 250-300 unique users daily on active days... not including those reading solely with RSS aggregators).... this experiment continues.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Ann Landers said...

Yeah, I used to work for a trade magazine where we made up the Q & A's written in to our "experts". Had a great big industry reference book as a source. Along those lines, I sometimes wonder about the PG's "Cat's Call" advice column. And of course, the Trib's "Whispers" pushes a similar envelope.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 9:12:00 AM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

If "all the smart people leave," as David Brock suggests, then why is Pittsburgh (proper) exceeded only by Washington D.C., Boston and San Francisco in the percentage of residents between the ages of 18 and 39 with an advanced college degree?

And if "all the smart people" really do leave, then the fact that he's still here might be a bad omen for him.

I have my gripes about Pittsburgh and the region, but I also believe that there's a nasty undercurrent of people who hate Pittsburgh simply for the sake of hating Pittsburgh -- and they're just as much part of the problem as any hike in the drink tax, splinter in municipal boundaries, or stop sign at the end of a Parkway East on-ramp.

Thursday, September 04, 2008 12:36:00 AM  

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