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Pittsburgh’s saviors

Chris Briem at Null Space on the Politico series “The Robots That Saved Pittsburgh:

“I do hate to ask a simple question, but how many folks in Pittsburgh are actually employed in any industry or research related to robotics? … The bigger question is whether Pittsburgh’s success was due to robotics, other information technologies, Marcellus shale, eds and meds, financial services, airlines (not), cupcakes, the G-20 summit here or the rebirth of manufacturing? …

“Failure is an orphan as they say, but success has many mothers. For me, whatever success Pittsburgh has of late derives first and foremost by not being able to identify any one true success. For long the potential ‘replacement’ for steel was desperately sought, but never found. Maybe we have stopped looking, and as a result maybe we have found it? That, or maybe we have just stopped pushing women out of the labor force.”

Gold-medal corruption

James Surowiecki of The New Yorker: “Whatever happens on the ice and snow of Sochi in the next couple of weeks, one thing is certain: This Winter Olympics is the greatest financial boondoggle in the history of the Games.

“Back in 2007, Vladimir Putin said that Russia would spend $12 billion on the Games. The actual amount is more than $50 billion. (By comparison, Vancouver’s Games, in 2010, cost $7 billion.) Exhaustive investigations … reveal dubious cost overruns and outright embezzlement. …

“Sochi is emblematic of Russia’s economy: conflicts of interest and cronyism are endemic. … And, while the sheer scale of graft in Sochi is unusual, the practice of politicians [everywhere] using construction contracts to line their pockets and dole out favors isn’t.”

English only, please

The Borowitz Report: “The Coca-Cola Company ignited a firestorm of controversy [last] Sunday with a Super Bowl ad that appeared to make the inflammatory claim that other languages besides English exist.

“From coast to coast, viewers reacted with outrage and horror … ‘I was enjoying the Super Bowl with my family, and suddenly, out of nowhere, comes this ad suggesting that there are other languages that aren’t English,’ said Carol Foyler, a mother of three from Akron, Ohio. … ‘My kids shouldn’t be exposed to garbage that’s just going to confuse them.’

“The Alliance for Responsible Advertising, a conservative watchdog group, … issued a statement demanding that Coke apologize for the controversial ad and promise never to air it again: ‘Last night, Coke assaulted millions of Americans with its misguided and inappropriate view that other languages exist,’ the statement said. ‘In the future, we strongly hope that Coke will keep its crazy theories to itself.’ ”

AFL-CIO is pro-XL

Matthew Yglesias at Slate: “The AFL-CIO is moving this winter to support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This has some people surprised on the grounds that the project is set to create very few permanent jobs.

“The issue here, however, is all about the building trades unions. The building trades have been backing Keystone for a long time because from the viewpoint of a construction worker all jobs are temporary jobs. Actually building the pipeline will involve thousands of construction workers.

“The larger union federation had been staying studiously ‘neutral’ out of concern for larger issues of coalition politics, alliance with the environmental movement, etc. But there’s no big countervailing forces inside the labor federation against the building trades’ interest in the pipeline.”

Take a look at transit

The Allegheny Institute wonders what happened to a 2007 law that gave the Department of Transportation authority to conduct periodic performance reviews of all transit agencies in Pennsylvania receiving state funds: “After nearly seven years, there is as yet no performance review report for the Port Authority and [Philadelphia’s] SEPTA. It is surprising because these two agencies together receive almost 90 percent of base operating allocations for mass transit. …

“Perhaps it would be prudent for the Transportation Committee chairs to inquire as to whether reviews of PAT and SEPTA are forthcoming soon and, if not, why not.”

Compiled by Greg Victor (

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