Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ravenstahl (R-North Side) On Prevailing Wage Legislation: 'Let Them Eat Ramen Noodles'

It is becoming easier, and more depressing, to foresee next year's path for InsolvenCity.

More than one week after a unanimous council approved prevailing wage legislation, developers' spokesman Mayor Luke Ravenstahl -- sacrificing a head start on his New Year's Eve bender chasing skirts along the entirety of Carson Street, er, devoting some rare down time to his son, er, his holiday -- delivered a veto at approximately 3:30 p.m., timing that complicated, if not prevented, any effort to override that veto by the soon-to-expire council (the city code imposes a 24-hour notice rule with respect to any meeting at which a vote is to be conducted).

A few hours later, and a few hours before midnight's lapse of the current council's authority, members convened at a special meeting to respond to the mayor's demonstration of his level of respect for council.

"This is the way fascists do business," declared Patrick Dowd, awakening from his bizarre, counterintuitive courtship with the mayor and cheering the people who fought to elect him by damning the mayor's cynical manipulation of the legislative calendar turning an accusatory glare toward Bill Peduto and Doug Shields.

Mayor Ravenstahl, reading a statement written by a consortium of developers and approved by John Verbanac communicating his reasoning to council by letter, emphasized Walnut Capital's marching orders his desire to "promote, encourage and . . . incentivize the private sector."

The threshold for overriding the veto was six votes; five such votes were cast. That likely was the most appropriate result, under the rules. But the manner in which the mayor's emerging bloc of flunkies conducted themselves furthers a pattern that threatens to ensure yet another year of dysfunction in InsolvenCity.

The Propositions Board (far right column) includes a new, related set of lines.

UPDATE: A junkie notes that this is not Mayor Ravenstahl's first display of imperious timing.

The Next Council: A New Hope, Or Same Old?

Some voices have contributed apt and concrete points (and interesting, timely background) to the discussion concerning next Monday's election of a council president in InsolvenCity.

(Others, however, have offered nothing better than wisecracks, snide asides and sarcasm.)

The process and posturing may have rendered the result irrelevant. If council can not assemble and maintain a coalition that changes city government's course -- including, but not limited to, resisting the broadband streaming of bad and worse ideas from the mayor's office (and its for-profit subsidiaries, Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and whatever company John Verbanac happens to prefer)-- the choice of a president won't determine much beyond which few miles of city streets are to be resurfaced.

(Don't forget that a couple of council members are convinced Vince Lombardi said, or at least meant, "paving.")

The ingredients for council's renaissance appeared to be in place when Kraus, Rudiak, Dowd, Shields and Peduto formed a progressive majority-to-be (with several candidates for a sixth member of an effective coalition). That progress seems to have become illusory, however, as Dr. Dowd has begun to embody Bluto's "seven years of college down the drain," inexplicably gravitating toward the mayor's office (and the mayor's lackey).

Optimism should accompany each New Year, inclining mention of the bright spots in InsolvenCity's changing government.

Jim Motznik has departed council, passing the Motznik Chair In Advanced Mayoral Fealty to Rev. Rickey Burgess. Motznik takes his sewer boots (right) and old school political philosophy (and resume) to a district justice's office, elected by voters who apparently share Mr. Motznik's theories of constitutional jurisprudence. (This is a list of bright spots for city government, not for the Commonwealth's UnifiedJudicial System.

Labeling Motznik the Ravenstahl administration's most reliable and aggressive sycophant should not discount the energetic servility of Tonya Payne, who is probably looking for ready to start a temporary new gig bridging her bootlicking for the mayor service to the city and her bid for higher office.

Natalia Rudiak seems likely to be, and Daniel Lavelle might be, a welcome force for good in the seats vacated by Motznik and Payne. But if Dowd continues to portray Anakin Skywalker, the consequent disruption in the force may be too great for even two eager new rebel fighters to overcome as a troubled system seeks A New Hope.

UPPERDATE: Atop the Slag Heap is a guess that Theresa Kail-Smith would be the consolation prize were Bill Peduto unable to arrange five votes. This prompts two observations: (1) it is difficult to believe that Natalia Rudiak could embrace the Dark Side this soon, and (2) if Kail-Smith's level of inexperience is considered adequate, why would Rudiak be excluded from consideration? A better bet than Smith-for-president is the Heaper's summary of InsolvenCity 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

North Side Developments (Or, Pissing Away Many Millions Of Public Dollars -- Literally)

Some have claimed that casinos pursue profits by serving alcohol to gamblers to and past the point of intoxication ("an intoxicated consumer is our best customer"), and some might argue a financially stressed casino could be especially tempted to act irresponsibly.

Just sayin'.

Is it too much to ask the liquor control board to investigate the circumstances of Mr. White's reported misadventure? North Side residents already must deal with the effluent of the biggest nuisance bar in town; it seems cruel to expect them to put up with a 24-hour operation producing scenes such as this.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Adjusted Odds: Pittsburgh Council Ringmaster

The emanations from InsolvenCity Council members-to-be as they prepare to select a president ringmaster are so intense they appear to have warped the space-time continuum, because Pittsburgh is now at least a month ahead of Punxsutawney: It seems more and more likely that January 4th will signal four more years of winter for Pittsburgh.

The Propositions Board (far right column) has been adjusted accordingly.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Iran's Ahmadinejad: Luke, You Are My Father (With Respect To Learning To Handle Protesters)

Agent Ska points to a G20 angle you probably won't find in a press release from the region's ossified, ineffectual power structure Allegheny Conference: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, confronted with allegations of brutal treatment of protestors in Iran, and “awful scenes of violence on the streets,” simply pointed toward Pittsburgh and shrugged, aptly observing
"[T]he American police beat people in Pittsburgh, they arrest people and use batons and tear gas against people."
This was, of course, predictable predicted.

INTERNATIONAL EDITION: Infinonymous' international visitors during G20 coverage included a number from Iran. More than one visit from an Iranian ISP occurred during the most recent week. Might Infinonycoverage have prompted the Ahmadinejad anology? If so -- Luke (and all the gang from Miami, Chicago, and Philadelphia), you are most welcome.

UPDATE: It was only a matter of time before those Infinonyvision clips were back in style. Note to Iranians: It can't be a copyright violation if you do not recognize American law.

No Headline Suffices: Just Watch The Video

Ralph Peters -- who had for years been as consistently wrong about Iraq and Afghanistan as anyone not named William Kristol -- leaves Kristol sucking fumes by encouraging the Taliban to kill a captured American soldier:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Real-Time Evidence For Skeptics Of Any Age

If a child is nearby, here is real-time evidence the magic has begun.

Jane Orie Caught In A Tit-For-Tat Wringer?

If a Democratic prosecutor were to apply the Corbett public integrity prosecution standard to Republicans overlooked by the Corbett campaign public integrity prosecutors, it might look something like this . . . and be similarly unattractive.

UPDATE: Sen. Orie's lawyer has reached (or, at least, says he will reach) reflexively for the thermonuclear devices. If the current launch trajectory is maintained, every current elected official in Pennsylvania could be jailed by spring. (Or maybe not -- if all the prosecutors are behind bars, who would arrange the final convictions?)

UPPERDATE: If Law Claus was quoted accurately and meant what he said concerning his office's "zero tolerance" policy, he might wish to review this report . . . or this one . . . or this one . . . or this one, or . . . (If he likes his job, however, he might not.) But if a "zero tolerance" threshold is genuinely in place, the jeopardy zone might extend beyond current elected officials to include former elected officials.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Latest Grand Jury Leak Indicates Political Campaigns, Official Duties Do Not Mix Well

The Associated Press has received from Tom Corbett's prosecution factory obtained grand jury transcripts that reflect unsavory activity common along both sides of Harrisburg's aisles contain vaguely vilifying allegations concerning Democratic leader Todd Eachus.

These dispatches from the Corbett campaign revelations have, like the recent and curiously timed indictments and grand jury leaks concerning Bill DeWeese, refocused unflattering spotlights on Harrisburg Democrats, shortly after the attorney general's indictment of recently deposed Republican leader John Perzel ended an extended, headline-filled period of Democratic exclusivity with respect to Corbett's corruption investigation.

If happenstance, rather than political calculation, has controlled the timing and D-to-R ratio of these leaks and press conferences, the Corbett campaign has been the beneficiary of a series of remarkable breaks. In fact, the only break that has not gone the Corbett campaign's way involved the trial of former Representative Sean Ramaley, who was acquitted of all charges advanced by Corbett (after those charges extinguished his strong bid for a state senate seat, handing a competitive race to a Republican).

The exoneration of Ramaley has been the only element of the progression not entirely within Corbett's control. But it can't be ascribed to happenstance. It was the work of a jury, the only independent appraisal of Corbett's campaign prosecutorial effort so far. If the point of the "Bonusgate" investigation and prosecutions was to demonstrate that elected officials should not mix partisan politics with official duties, candidate attorney general Corbett might succeed beyond his plans.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

OK, OK, I Give -- By Popular Request, Odds Posted On The Shields-Peduto-Dowd Cage Match

Describing the reasoning would be too depressing, so the lines are posted without comment at the Propositions Board (far right column).

Holiday Specials (this event only): All winning tickets doubled if blood spilled, chair thrown, table overturned, or any philosopher from college introductory survey course quoted on record.

UPDATE: Dowd's BFF line adjusted.

Nothing Like A Unanimous Council Vote To Signal Trouble Right Here In Three-River City

When can a 9-0 vote be bitter, divisive and ominous?

When it's just another day in InsolvenCity.

Today's Post-Gazette recounts a unanimous Pittsburgh city council vote (prevailing wage, for anyone interested) that portends poorly from the perspective of anyone who wants the city to succeed.

Both substantial camps of the current council -- the progressives, led by Bill Peduto and Doug Shields, and the [insert perjorative term here]s, led by Jim Motznik -- aimed nasty, undisguised jabs at Patrick Dowd during what might have been the most fractious journey toward a unanimous vote in council history.

For the moment, at least, Dr. Dowd appears to occupy a bizarre and isolated position between the independence-minded holdovers and the receding group that remains available to the Ravenstahl administration's paving-and-patronage pitches. Repelling a natural ally seems an unaffordable luxury for both Dr. Dowd and the imminent progressive/independent/competent majority whatever remains of a progressive hope on council.

That unanimous vote, meanwhile, may signal a mayoral veto (prevailing wage, for anyone interested).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Welcome Back, Civil Servant(s) Seeking Insight

Infinonymous has registered sixteen visits from a single City of Pittsburgh-hosted address today.

So far.

Updated Propositions Board: Council President

(Former odds in parentheses):
D.Shields 3-2 (1-1)
B.Peduto 2-1 (3-1)
B.Kraus 35-1 (8-1)
N.Rudiak 35-1 (12-1)
P.Dowd 50-1 (12-1)
R.Burgess 50-1 (50-1)
D.Lavelle 90-1 (30-1)
D.Harris 90-1 (40-1)
T.Smith 90-1 (75-1)

Tuition tax results:
"Universities pay $5M" tickets are to be HELD pending clarification of today's save-face-a-thon.
"City council passes" tickets LOST.
"Schools don't sue if passed" tickets are NO BET.
"Injunction against tax" tickets LOST.
"City wins lawsuit" tickets LOST.
"State invalidates any tax" tickets LOST.
"City keeps a dime" tickets LOST.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

If You Want Advice, Luke, Just Ask For It

One of the most avid, long-time followers of Infinonymous is associated with IP address (which indicates "City of Pittsburgh" -- or "" -- as host).
This user, for long stretches, visited Infinonymous most workdays, often delivered by a Google search for "ravenstahl," "zober" or occasionally a name such as "gabe mazefsky".

Recently, the visits have become rapid-fire, hitting many Infinonymous pages (including comment pages), new and old, sometimes spending mere seconds at each page. A representative batch:

17th December 2009 14:03:33 Page View
17th December 2009 14:49:05 Exit Link
17th December 2009 14:51:00 Page View No referring link
17th December 2009 14:52:15 Page View
17th December 2009 14:59:29 Page View
17th December 2009 15:01:25 Page View No referring link
17th December 2009 15:04:35 Page View
17th December 2009 15:05:22 Page View
17th December 2009 15:05:47 Page View
17th December 2009 15:06:18 Page View
17th December 2009 15:06:33 Page View
17th December 2009 15:07:04 Page View
17th December 2009 15:08:03 Page View
17th December 2009 15:08:28 Page View
17th December 2009 15:10:25 Page View
17th December 2009 15:10:38 Exit Link
17th December 2009 15:11:00 Page View
17th December 2009 15:11:26 Page View
17th December 2009 15:11:59 Page View
17th December 2009 15:12:43 Page View
17th December 2009 15:13:08 Exit Link
17th December 2009 15:13:24 Page View
17th December 2009 15:13:57 Page View
17th December 2009 15:14:39 Page View
17th December 2009 15:14:42 Page View
17th December 2009 15:14:50 Page View
17th December 2009 15:15:07 Page View
17th December 2009 15:15:15 Page View
17th December 2009 15:15:29 Page View
17th December 2009 15:15:48 Page View
17th December 2009 15:16:07 Page View
17th December 2009 15:16:12 Page View
17th December 2009 15:16:47 Page View
17th December 2009 15:18:40 Exit Link
17th December 2009 15:18:41 Exit Link
17th December 2009 15:18:41 Exit Link
17th December 2009 15:18:49 Page View
17th December 2009 15:18:58 Page View
17th December 2009 15:19:07 Page View
17th December 2009 15:19:09 Page View
17th December 2009 15:19:14 Page View

Perhaps someone with more experience or technical insight could provide a better explanation, but a layman's guess is that a City of Pittsburgh employee -- apparently using a city computer, on taxpayer time -- is cataloguing the entirety of the Infinonyverse, perhaps downloading every page.

If this is the mayor's office's way of acknowledging that it needs advice from sources other than Republican "influencer" John Verbanac or Ravenstahl's former high school athletic trainer (pardon, make that incoming assistant parks director and outgoing public affairs director) David White, this could be construed as progress and a compliment.

If so, no need to rely on indirect illumination, Luke Yarone Joanna Gabe whomever: advice is available for the asking:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Igloo's Future: An Ice Floe And A Shove?

By special request (from the author of a proposal to save the Civic Arena), the Propositions Board (far right column) introduces a line on the fate of Pittsburgh's Civic Arena, a marvel whose retractable roof was ahead of its time and opened far too infrequently.

Those pondering a wager should keep in mind that the sole factor controlling the building's fate will be whether the mayor's handlers can find a way to make a buck from the deal, either way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If Dowd Votes For Burgess, Pass The Matches

A commenter has suggested that Pittsburgh city council member Patrick Dowd might vote for Rev. Ricky Burgess in the election of the next council president.

If Dr. Dowd votes for the mayor's toady, it will be time to place InsolvenCity in a paper bag, douse it with lighter fluid, place it on the state's doorstep and ring the doorbell.

Will City Council Promote "Ricky Loves Lukey"?

No -- at least not unless several people are lying.

After fresh research (in response to skepticism from the Comet), the Propositions Board line on Burgess for Pittsburgh council president remains 50-1. The polarization concerning and instigated by the mayor's office, coupled with Rev. Burgess' recent fealty to the mayor, appears to deny Rev. Burgess at least five votes. Even by Pittsburgh pension math, that's underfunded.

The line on council's handling of the tuition tax proposal has narrowed, to 1-1.

The epic 'could I look any dumber or any more disingenuous' display by county toadie Tim Johnson WTAE report on "sabotage" in the county assessment office (spotlighted by the Comet) keeps the "county in contempt on assessments" line in play, although the deadline has moved into spring. (Related: As pathetic as Johnson's performance is, the Post-Gazette's handling of this story may be worse.)

The Hons Has Left The Newsroom At KDKA

When speaking into a microphone held by a local broadcaster, it often is difficult to concentrate on the topic at hand because of cascading thoughts: How did someone this oblivious get this job? Is this one worse than the one from the other station who was here earlier? How can this person not remember what we discussed 90 seconds ago? Should I just grab the microphone, ask myself the obvious question (or just a relevant question) and answer it? If were to reply that 'It is difficult to respond because my Neptunian overlords are attempting to contact me on my other frequency,' would this reporter just nod vacantly and say, 'Yes, I understand . . . please elaborate on that for our viewers. . . . '

Fred Honsberger, however, was different. He seemed interested in substantive analysis, and was able to contribute to a debate. He could wing it too much for my taste, particularly in longer interviews, but he never was vacant. Far more opinionated than other local interviewers, Fred nonetheless was courteous and generally fair, on and off the air. (I understand some in his audience considered him a bully, but I never experienced it.) It bothered me that Fred was invariably more interested in gathering background information after an interview concluded than when preparation might have improved the on-air exchange, but he seemed to be familiar with, even curious about, many issues. In Pittsburgh, that distinguished him.

Despite Fred's reflexive straying into partisan territory, and his years conducting true-believer talk shows, I considered Fred Honsberger a journalist. I knew, from his time as a straight news reporter in extended formats and on deadline, that he could write a proper sentence and an informative report. Not once, not even during hour-long interviews or contentious exchanges, was I tempted to strangle him with a microphone cord for crimes against journalism.

Therefore, for Fred, who died today, at 58:

-- 30 --

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recent Propositions Board Activity

The Propositions Board (far right column) states odds on selected events and local, state and national elections.

New to the board: the proposed threatened never-gonna-happen Pittsburgh tuition tax. Anyone who believed the educational institutions would flip a dime the city's way consequent to Luke's threats has already lost; the smart money expects the eggheads to win in court and in the legislature.

Ravensthal indictment lines are unchanged by the separation announcement, and Luke's wife is still quoted as roughly five times more likely to turn state's evidence than Luke's mom is. For betting purposes, the separation is a non-event.

Rev. "Ricky Loves Lukey" Burgess has all but nailed down the "Mayor's next BFF on Council" payoff with a series of obsequious moves, although Theresa Smith is still a longshot and Darlene Harris apparently will do anything if enough asphalt is involved.

Luke announced he (instead of his campaign fund) is paying Richard Sprague, but tickets should be held until someone explains how he could afford it.

Carrie Prejean paid off as the newest social conservative to fall from grace (sex tape), but after reloading the lines she is still a favorite to be revealed anew as a Bible-banging hypocrite.

The G20 fallout is far from finished, but anyone who bet that the "trophy photo" cops would be disciplined was right -- no thanks to anyone in Pittsburgh, of course, because the reprimands were issued in Chicago. A massive lawsuit by a team of big-time lawyers is rumored, so the amounts might change for the lines involving payouts to victims (and lawyers).

Wagers, comments on posted odds and suggestions concerning unlisted events are welcome.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

If You Can't Step Away From The Screen (Vol. 5)

My taste in holiday movies occupies a broad range -- if anyone can top It's A Wonderful Life to Bad Santa, let me know. (Movies starring any member of Tiger Woods' harem do not count.)

One of my favorites features few traditional holiday trappings, focusing more on the human motivations and interactions -- expected and unexpected -- that make holidays worth preparing for and experiencing. A standard-issue professional on a business trip, played by Steve Martin, strives to reach his unexpectedly elusive home for Thanksgiving, helped and hindered by a more complicated and roadwise traveling salesman, played by John Candy.

Martin's character reminds me why I want to be home for holidays; Candy's reminds me why a younger me volunteered to work on holidays. Together -- it is almost purely a two-man show -- they generate laughter (several transcendental scenes and, I'd wager, ample ad-libbing) and unexpected insight (writer and director: John Landis). Suitable for the family, although not as airbrushed as much of Landis' work, and scheduled for the TV Land channel on December 18, beginning at 9 p.m., from 1989: Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Politics Mag Peddles Politico Porn -- Purported 'Influencers' List -- At Pennsylvania Society (Plus: Why Are These People In New York?)

It can be difficult to get a word out edgewise while gang-shoveling free, fist-sized shrimp in, but Pennsylvania Societeers are an elite corps up to the task, especially when politico porn -- this list of "most influential" political Pennsylvanians -- circulates on Society weekend in New York.

The lists (50 Republicans, 50 Democrats) feature the same level of attention to non-photographic editorial content one encounters in Hustler -- other than the obvious picks, the lists appear to have been authored by a random-name generator. But several inclusions and omissions stimulated interesting conversation.

On the Republican side, Christine Toretti's listing seems stale; a salute to whomever misspelled Glen Meakem's name; and it is always nice to see InsolvenCity Mayor Emeritus Tom Murphy's former fundraiser, Leslie Gromis Baker, mentioned.

On the Democratic side, Ravenstahl/Onorato handler John Verbanac -- a Republican -- made the cut. This seems attributable more to the lack of insight that left Dave Matter, Dave Malone, the Goodrich boys and the Zappala empire off the list than to any legitimate conclusion that Verbanac belongs on a list of influential Democrats.

Listing Kevin Kinross -- a one-trick pony whose horse has not yet proven ready for the top tracks -- while omitting Lazar Palnick (center of photograph, at the right hand of Cliff Levine) is flat-out silly.

Most insiders seemed unimpressed, but nonetheless fascinated, by the lists. If nothing else, the lists spawned some great jokes, none of which will be repeated here.

UPDATE: No jokes, or off-the-record revelations, but a few observations:

Chris Doherty's campaign for lieutenant governor appears strong. People seem interested, and he delivers on substantive policy.

Tom Corbett excites no one, but no one is prepared to cross him publicly (or discuss the Ramaley verdict) in a party that defers to authority and money. Reminiscent of the greased-rail locomotive that brought George Bush Jr. out of Texas. Let's hope this version doesn't include an invasion and botched occupation of West Virginia.

Mary Beth Buchanan's political future does not appear to exist.

Democratic gubernatorial discussions consist mainly of hollow expressions of confidence in public, nervous (almost neurotic) handicapping in more private settings.

Can anyone explain why Democrats attend the Pennsylvania Society weekend? The Society tolerates Democrats solely when it is time to meet hotel room and catering guarantees. And even if Democrats break the Republican grip on the Society's neck, why not insist that the annual event become a Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-Hershey rotation? A 'buy Pennsylvania' campaign sounds bulletproof.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sandler rings in the holiday season (thrice)

Adam Sandler makes Hanukkah a great holiday for everyone:

Reassuring news in version number 2: O.J. Simpson ... still not a Jew

If first two songs didn't do it for you, here's number three:

Luke To Students In Pittsburgh: Drop Dead; Infinonymous To InsolvenCity: Drop Deader

Luke Ravenstahl has been huffing, and now he's puffing . . . and, in the end, he just blows.

Perhaps the reason the Boy Mayor washed out of Pitt as an undergraduate involved mathematics. After labeling his proposed $15 million annual tax on tuition the "Fair Share Tax," Luke -- bidding against himself, the traditional strategy of the desperate or the daft, or, as in this case, the desperate and daft -- indicated that $5 million would suffice, which means the original proposal was a "Three Times What's Fair" Tax reminiscent of Dan Onorato's fondness for overtaxing less-affluent property owners and non-teetotallers.

The underlying issue is that the mayor and his constituents want other people's money to pay the tab for Pittsburgh's long-running bender. The city -- dullards electing losers who hire scammers and cronies to wreck pension plans and waste economic development funds -- is responsible for the debts, and has undertaxed itself for decades instead of funding its taste in inefficient government.

The other people, not surprisingly, object to bailing out unrepentant and unreformed city residents. To get to students' money, the city would be required to get past the courts and the legislature. I doubt it could survive either, even after installing as new city solicitor the best person for the job a North Side 'hooder with low-rent political ties. The Propositions Board (far right column) will feature suitably long odds on the implementation of a tuition tax.

Luke is spending the weekend in New York. No, not hanging out with his Big Apple road trip pal Ron Burkle (Burkle has banked his arena subsidies, so Luke is off the 757). Instead, Luke is ogling the genuine clout here at the Pennsylvania Society events. Whatever made Luke and his handlers think they could outmaneuver the Pitts and CMUs and UPMCs is a dangerous delusion for a guy whose real title is Mayor of InsolvenCity.

Until the City of Pittsburgh acknowledges responsibility for its failures, changes its ways and accepts accountability, neither students nor its neighbors nor anyone else should be expected to fund the dysfunction that is InsolvenCity.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is The County Trying To Be Held In Contempt?

Is Dan Onorato attempting to provoke Judge Wettick into issuing a contempt citation associated with non-compliance with court orders involving assessments? That issue is being discussed along Grant Street this morning, at least outside the county executive's conference room. The more interesting point: Has it has been discussed inside that conference room?

Fitzgerald Asks: I Know You Are, But What Am I?

County Council President Rich Fitzgerald reportedly has accused at-large Republican Chuck McCullough of lying when proposing legislation that council members have admitted they passed without reading.

McCullough has threatened to sue, which should remind everyone to be cautious with respect to calling others liars.

On the other hand, I think the Supreme Court has ruled that truth is a defense. So there should be no problem in pointing out that if this report of Rich Fitzgerald boasting about a ninth consecutive operating budget without a tax increase is accurate, Rich Fitzgerald was expressing something other than the truth.

Dan Onorato To Allegheny County Homeowners: If You Want Any Help From Me, Move

If you are a struggling homeowner in a rough patch of Allegheny County, you learned on Wednesday that Dan Onorato (right, with one of his interns) appears to be so committed to ensuring that you continue to pay unconstitutionally high property taxes (subsidizing affluent residents of better neighborhoods) that he is willing to disregard court orders, risking a contempt citation and incarceration, to preserve that unlawful unfairness.

If you are a newly settled homeowner along Israel's West Bank, fretting about international pressure to restrain use of disputed territory, however, Mr. Onorato assured you recently that he has your back.

UPDATE: The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat has the art from Wednesday's hearing before Judge Wettick.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Inspiration From An Unlikely Local Source

Before reading this article, I would have bet against finding inspiration in anything related to the current or recent Pittsburgh Pirates.

On the other hand, anyone as smart as Ross Ohlendorf is unlikely to remain in Pittsburgh one moment more than the rules of major league baseball require, so anyone wishing to root for him in a Pirates uniform should hurry.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Curious Coincidence?

The Post-Gazetteer who contributed to the first extended article concerning Luke Ravenstahl's marital separation is (or was, at least until arrested by Luke's storm troopers on the Cathedral of Learning lawn) the police beat writer.

Separated . . . Or Connected?

Are these stories connected?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Beacon From The Cathedral Of Learning

Most of what has been occurring around here lately -- Ravenstahl on the city budget, Onorato on assessments, UPMC stabbing Braddock's heart, for starters -- has been too depressing for words, but this is not.

A triple threat (chemistry, history, French). Truman Scholar. Truman-Albright Fellow. Chancellor's Scholar. Rhodes Scholar. Eleanor M. Ott is a beacon.

I wish her well, wherever she moves after graduation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Today's Americans stand on the shoulders of those who strove before them, beneficiaries of centuries of ingenuity, sacrifice, intrepidity, investment and effort throughout the world.

For most Americans, Veterans Day is a relatively minor holiday; another workday or schoolday for most. Even when mentioned by a colleague or a newspaper article or a radio broadcast, it is a passing thought, particularly among those outside the relatively thin slice of America currently shouldering the military burden with sweat, anxiety and blood.

More than one million persons have accepted active duty in the military service of today's United States of America. All have been volunteers, pushed by patriotism, practicality and perhaps other factors in varying measures.

Millions of other veterans have completed their service. Some enlisted, some were conscripted. Some pursued danger, some had no choice other than to confront it. Some accomplished great missions, some have been sent on fools' errands. Some were required to overcome not only the enemy but also the ignorance and bigotry of their peers or superiors. Nearly all have distinguished themselves, whatever their orders, by simply doing their duty. Some returned as heroes, some (including heroes) returned to a society that treated them like dirt. Some returned in caskets, some never returned.

More than one million persons have died in the military service of the United States. At a technical level, Memorial Day honors the dead and Veterans Day honors the living. All, however, deserve a moment of reflection, a kind thought, a measure of gratitude today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ricky: I Love Lukey

City council member Rev. Ricky Burgess has confirmed his desire to be Luke's bitch president of Pittsburgh's City Council. The Propositions Board (far right column) is leaning toward paying Burgess tickets in the "Motznik's Successor As Luke's BFF On Council" category.

Rev. Burgess (left, with a couple of sketchy characters, plus that guy at the podium) says that, because Ravenstahl was elected by a "vast majority" of Pittsburghers, Rev. Burgess is ready to "move the city forward" through collaboration with the mayor.

I suppose a reverend, by definition, must believe in fairy tales -- but are divinity schools not permitted to teach math?

P.S. A fascinating (non-scandalous) rumor is circulating along Grant Street about that guy next to Rev. "Ricky Loves Lukey." Should have more in a day or two.

P.P.S. Could this be the type of progess that causes Rev. Burgess to propose turning council into a "Ricky Loves Lukey" show?

An Amaz(on)ing List Of Literature

If you are easily amused, check this.

(If you know Luke Ravenstahl, send the link to him. He'll spend three hours, minimum, on it, and that will be three hours less damage inflicted on the city.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How Our Home Teamers Fared In The Big Game

As the first game of the National Healthcare Series unfolded, attention focused on a local angle -- how a local player would perform under pressure, especially if events placed him in an important position at a crucial time. This Pittsburgh-area congressman had not yet proven himself; even among fans, few knew much about him, and what was known generated questions concerning his motivations, his background, his reliability, his heart.

The stakes were high enough that teammates and fans disregarded the sketchy parts of his record and assumed he would come through when it counted. Suspense built as events moved toward a gripping late-night crucible, and it became apparent that his performance could determine victory or defeat.

And then he proved himself with the right vote at the right time (just before midnight). Stilling fears about his awkward background, his uncertain leanings, his creepy pals (some of whom he bunks with -- literally), he provided an invaluable vote for healthcare reform.

Never again doubt Mike Doyle (left) in the clutch.

Another local Democrat, however, has some 'splainin' to do. He dithered. He contributed nothing substantive to debate. He consumed the time, effort and spirits of Democrats for months. Yesterday, he voted for a nasty, overreaching amendment that pandered to anti-abortion absolutists -- but even that did not break his supporters, who were willing to see it as a distasteful but practical ('one step back, two steps forward') tactic.

And then, at the defining moment of his term as a member of Congress, Jason Altmire (right) inexplicably stood with Michele Bachmann, Joe Wilson, Steve King and Mike Pence, and voted against healthcare reform.

If a credible, persuasive explanation of Rep. Altmire's conduct exists, he should provide it promptly. His constituents deserve it and his legislative career appears to depend on it.

UPDATE: Rep. Altmire has issued an explanation, albeit one neither credible nor persuasive. (Whom are these collegues he expects to be "working with," now that the Democratic infantry has moved on without him? And what sequence of events toward a better bill could have been promoted by his "no" vote? Did he ask anyone to read this gibberish before he posted it?) Given the press of events and the likelihood he was shortstaffed on the weekend, Rep. Altmire should be given until the close of business on Monday to extend and revise these remarks, ideally working toward the "credible and persuasive" standard.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Proud Moments In Local Government

During a public meeting featuring "shouting, interruptions, profanity, insults and, at one point, the throwing of a copy of the amendment to the floor," Allegheny County council members gathered their composure and provided the leadership for which their beleaguered constituents yearn:
Amid the arguing, the members agreed that in the future they would not vote on amendments without reading them

Lest we discount this advance, note that some local public servants seem incapable of learning anything. Today's exhibit is Urban Redevelopment Authority mouthpiece Megan Stearman, who, for a City Paper article surveying the wreckage at the former Iron City brewery, said:
"The decision to grant Iron City Brewing money to upgrade operations was still a good business decision. They had up until that point provided jobs and tax revenue for the city."

It is difficult to decide which is worst: That she is dumb enough to believe this, dumb enough to say it even if she believes it, or disingenuous enough to say it if she recognizes that it is a crock.

Lest one conclude (on ample evidence), however, that there is no adequate public servant in these parts, an antidote is provided by Dr. Bruce W. Dixon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

McClintock Campaign Concedes Mayoral Election

The campaign of Dr. Jonas R. McClintock issued this statement:

The campaign of Dr. Jonas R. McClintock (affectionately known as "The Boy Mayor" during his first term as Mayor of Pittsburgh, 1836-1839) has conceded that Dr. McClintock has not been elected to a second term as Mayor of Pittsburgh.

"Although it was tempting to believe that a candidate with Dr. McClintock's record and credentials would be successful against the other candidates presented," a campaign spokesman said, "it was difficult to overcome a situation in which many of Dr. McClintock's strongest supporters have been dead for more than 150 years, and the others have been dead for more than a century."

"In a perfect world, a candidate of Dr. McClintock's caliber would have been the overwhelming preference among City of Pittsburgh voters today," the spokesman continued. "But if this were a perfect world, Dr. McClintock would not be inside a cold, dark, damp box."

Dr. McClintock will not be available for comment.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Infindorsement: Mayor Of The City Of Pittsburgh (The Argument For A Vote For The Boy Mayor)

No phony suspense here. Luke Ravenstahl will be re-elected. The City of Pittsburgh will continue to decline, amusing itself along the way with boastful delusions of adequacy.

Citizens should nonetheless vote. But for whom?

Kevin Acklin is a man without a party (at least, that's his story and he's sticking to it . . . so far). His campaign has been useful, if only for directing attention to the tip of the iceberg that is John Verbanac. He has no chance to win -- not because he carried several handicaps into a campaign relying on city voters (a strong education, professional accomplishments, correct pronunciation), but instead because he failed to avert a split-the-anti-incumbent-vote situation. Anyone who couldn't recognize and/or solve that problem is no choice for mayor of a decaying city.

Franco "Dok" Harris is a man without an adult resume. He seems altruistic, energetic and thoughtful, but his record is that of a strong candidate for class president. He, too, is to be faulted for failing to arrange a two-person race (even if that required a coin toss with Acklin). If Dok ever perceived a genuine prospect that he could win this race, the world is still one huge Dungeons & Dragons game to him. Dok's time may come . . . but not yet.

Luke Ravensthal is a boy who embodies another decade of avoidable decline (which makes him the "obvious" choice in the mind of Post-Gazette editorial writers). An apt fit for today's City of Pittsburgh, much as today's Iron City beer (brewed in Wisconsin for yinzers who failed geography) and today's Pirates (league-leading bobbleheads) are.

If these three were welded together, we'd still be short of one legitimate candidate to tackle the job of reviving the City of Pittsburgh. What is the rational voter to do? In this least-of-lesser-evils context, one candidate is plainly superior. That candidate: the Boy Mayor.

It would be disingenuous not to express some regret with respect to this endorsement. The Boy Mayor is not an ideal candidate; no one first elected in his 20s could be. It is difficult to identify strong points in his record as mayor. Plus, every reasonable person would agree he is brain-dead.

Which is not surprising, because he has been buried in Allegheny Cemetery for more than a century.

This Infindorsement belongs to Dr. Jonas R. McClintock, left, Pittsburgh's original "Boy Mayor." (Not to be confused with the city's Original Gangsta Boy Mayor, right). Elected at 28 after battling the cholera epidemic of the early 1830s, as a physician. Described as presiding over the first "cut" that turned Grant's Hill (a mound, at the east end of Pittsburgh's downtown, whose grade had prevented progress in developing the city) into Grant Street (a street whose current inhabitants prevent progress in developing the city).

Mayor McClintock's advantages over the incumbent seem obvious. Better education. Record of public service. No known relationship with John Verbanac, Yarone Zober, or Tiger Woods. Mayor McClintock's military record consisted of assembling a Civil War battalion rather than militarizing Oakland for an assault against hackey-sacking Pitt students. And Dr. McClintock seems incapable of hurting Pittsburgh in the next four years, being dead since 1879.

That final reason is enough to make a write-in vote for Dr. Jonas R. McClintock for mayor the most appropriate act by any City of Pittsburgh voter on Tuesday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Note To P-G: Time To Try A Non-Shelter Chimp?

The Post-Gazette editorial board endorsed four Superior Court candidates, ignoring the best candidate -- Judith Olson, currently a judge of Allegheny County's Court of Common Pleas -- while picking a local mediocrity (Temp Smith), ostensibly because of his "enthusiasm for writing opinions." Mr. Smith has been forced to curb his enthusiasm for writing judicial opinions to this point, of course, because he has never been a judge.

How does the P-G editorial board determine its endorsements? After this
performance, the most plausible explanation involves a dartboard and a chimpanzee.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Infindorsements: Judicial Candidates

Next Tuesday's Municipal Election includes a number of judicial elections that deserve voters' attention. Infindorsements:


Easy call: Jack Panella (left) deserves a vote. Jane Orie Melvin does not.

Judith Olson (right) is the best candidate on the ballot. Kevin McCarthy is next-best. If you can find two other worthy candidates in this vote-for-four race, vote for them.

Not one of the candidates generates enthusiasm. Patricia McCullough comes close.

Phil Ignelzi (left) is the best candidate by a substantial margin; Joe Williams also deserves a vote. After that, the only rule is avoid a vote for Michelle Zappala-Peck.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weeks That Was: Functionaries Follow Form

While Infinonymous operated on autopilot (without radio contact) for a few weeks, most locals adhered to standard courses:

● The boy mayor lied about the influence of a Republican political operator/creamskimmer within his administration (despite clear signals his opponents possessed documentary evidence that would demonstrate that influence), got caught, and edged simultaneously closer to political impenetrability and eventual indictment. The Propositions Board lines on indictment remain unchanged; they already reflected the Verbanac/Grattan/Zappala angles (far right column).

● Dan Onorato demonstrated that nothing (short of Judge Wettick's posting of armed assessors in county offices) will deter him from attempting to perpetuate immoral property tax windfalls for the rich at the expense of less-affluent communities and poor taxpayers.

● Mary Beth Buchanan (whose continued presence at the Federal Courthouse remains the best thing Luke Ravenstahl has going for him, because nothing protects a compromised public official better than another compromised public official), whose office apparently failed to mention that it had received recordings of privileged communications between incarcerated defendants and lawyers, assured us that her office did nothing wrong, and asked everyone to take her word for it. Meanwhile, she managed to find a moment (amid a hectic schedule of convicting waterpipe-selling comedians and failing to convict ostensibly felonious faxers) to finally charge the central figure in what she called the largest fraud in the history of the region -- several years after the fraud was publicly revealed -- then promptly watched the suspect walk on a modest (by the standards of a case in which more than $100 million is still missing) and unsecured bond. If anyone deserves an unsecured bond, it's a guy whose office contained a secret room that contained safes said to contain wads of foreign currency, gemstones worth $20 million, watches worth $1 million and a sack of unregistered handguns -- and, perhaps more pertinent so long as Buchanan remains United States Attorney, was a major holy-roller, a big-time Republican donor, and a member of the 2003 Republican Chairman's Honor Roll.

● Clownish court candidate Michele Zappala Peck burnished her credentials for local political ascendancy by being revealed as a down-low mouthpiece (not even a legal mouthpiece, just a mouthpiece) at the low-down intersection of politics and the gambling industry.

● The Post-Gazette news columns advanced the public interest by revealing the newest Zappala-casino connections (and associated recordkeeping and disclosure issues), overshadowing the P-G's failure to connect the dots concerning Verbanac and the mayor's office years earlier.

● The Post-Gazette editorial page crapped its pants by arguing that Joan Orie Melvin's appointment as a magistrate in her fifth year of lawyering was an accomplishment and mark of quality (rather than the sure sign of political hackery) in a state Supreme Court endorsement that ignored the paramount issue of redistricting, then crapped the entire fourth floor's pants by issuing a fawning pass to Ravenstahl on the still-unraveling Verbanac revelations. (Hint to P-G: More revelations are on the way, so someone could save the newspaper further embarrassment by telling the editorial page writers to take a couple of months off.)

● The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police (led by Chief Nathan Harper, right) has apparently decided to address documented police mistreatment of a Pittsburgh resident on a Pittsburgh street by letting the Chicago Police Department's Internal Affairs Division handle it (much as Pittsburgh's professional journalists appear to be leaving G-20 aftermath coverage to collegiate reporters).

● Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg continued to refrain from uttering a syllable in defense of Pitt students abused during the police-state seige of Oakland. Perhaps Pitt students could satisfy their arrest-related community service requirements by conducting a comprehensive search for Nordenberg's manhood and conscience?

● UPMC demonstrated a search would be pointless with respect to any shred of a conscience (which, we now learn, is not a requirement for nonprofit or charity status). At UPMC, the profit-bone is connected to the influence-bone, the influence-bone is connected to the nontaxpaying-bone, the nontaxpaying-bone is connected to the profit-bone . . . and that's the entire anatomy.

● Jeff Reed was arrested again but his 'next Steeler arrested' tickets lost (see Propositions Board, far right column) because Matt Spaeth beat him to the handcuffs by a minute or two, generating an upset victory for holders of 'field' tickets.