Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Tale Of Two UPMCs (And A Plea To Mark Nordenberg On Behalf Of Standard English)

The Post-Gazette's Sally Kalson reminds Pittsburgh that, behind the unattractive face of UPMC, thousands of employees work to heal their neighbors. Those rank-and-file employees did not create the anticompetitive health care system, have not manipulated that system to crush competition and communities, and do not spend their working days compromising and overrunning elected officials and regulators. Most of them help patients without million-dollar compensation and often with distinction and even sacrifice.

The ugly aspects of UPMC sometimes occlude these points, making Sally Kalson's reminder useful.

On the other hand, could someone ask Mark Nordenberg to require -- if UPMC desires to continue to derive the benefits of using "University of Pittsburgh" in its name -- that UPMC engage the English Department to proofread billboards, print advertisements and broadcasting scripts? UPMC's abuse of standard English in commercials should embarrass the university at least as much as the fabricated figures flexible mathematics used by the Department of Athletics when counting football crowds during the early years at Heinz Field.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Goddam Phony, If You Really Want To Know

If you really want to know the truth, J.D. Salinger was an indolent goddam fraud.

After sponging off his well-off, indulgent parents as a serial washout, this Salinger misfit sponged an entire adult life as the beneficiary of unearned privilege from a crappy novel about some indolent goddam fraud whining about unearned privilege.

When he wasn't writing a crappy novel, which was basically his entire goddam life, this phony bastard was interrupting his weird, antisocial ways only to conduct a series of weird, loser relationships with creepily younger woman. Salinger was the kind of guy who lived with his parents in his 30s, then, in his 50s, would talk a nice, intelligent, awe-struck and immature 18-year-old girl into his bed, bang her for part of a year, then move on. A real creep. I mean, anybody could see it.

Face it. The only people who bought Salinger's novel were school district purchasing clerks, acting on orders from goddam English department administrators adopting the previous semester's reading list by rote for 50 years . . . because kids can't complain about the crap they're assigned to read, and even if they complain, who cares?

I mean, do you know anybody who ever bought a Salinger book with his own money? Anybody? I mean, other than phonies?

What a load of crap. The book and the guy, both. A real phony.

Pittsburgh May Be Running On Fumes, But There Is Still At Least One Big-Leaguer In Town

Maria Sciullo of the Post-Gazette recently observed, aptly, that Pittsburgh has been overrun by smaller-than-life characters in recent decades.

So long as Bill Mazeroski is around -- say, rounding second, thoughout the ages -- however, it will be easy to overlook the lesser characters. Bill James has described Maz's defensive performance as the greatest of any player at any baseball position, and called Maz's defensive contribution to his team the greatest in professional baseball history. Add the 1960 home run and -- perhaps most important -- the humility and decency, and Maz would be a giant anywhere.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The State Of Our Union Is . . . Weird

After President Obama's State of the Union address, and Fox News' contributors descriptions of a "flat" and "defiant" speech that indicated the President has learned little in recent months, Republican rebutter Bob McDonnell is walking to a podium in a weird setting -- an assemblage of supporters who have transformed Virginia's state legislative chamber into a minor-league version of the United States Capitol -- so that Gov. McDonnell, a graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University and confirmed representative of Lesser Jesusland, can spout Scripture by his very position at that podium demonstrate that the Republicans have learned even less.

UPDATE: Forgot to predict that Gov. McDonnell would assure Americans that Pres. Obama sides with the terrorists. Nailed the "spouting Scripture" part, though.

UPPERDATE: Not too shabby, particularly for a flat, defiant performance.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Comet Of Pittsburgh's Future Could Take A Lesson From The Ghost Of Coaching's Past

Thirty years ago, when Joe Paterno was 94, sports fans' thoughts naturally turned toward Paterno's retirement plans, and a sportswriter turned those thoughts into a question concerning Paterno's future in college football. Paterno's response: "What do you want me to do . . . leave it for guys like [Barry] Switzer and [Jackie] Sherrill?"

I put it to you, Bram: Do you intend to leave southwestern Pennsylvania for guys like Ravenstahl? Zober and Zappala? Onorato and Orie? For the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review?

Three decades later, Paterno is still winning (at a cow-town school, no less, that couldn't build a basketball program if the last keg in town were at stake), still refusing to play Pitt, still sporting shoe-polish black hair, still demonstrating lucidity periodically . . . well, you get the picture.,

The point is, the Comet's time has not passed.

Don't do it, Bram.

Haitian Orphans' Tale Reconfirms The Rule: There Are No Saints Under The Microscope

Predictably, the closer the examination, the more muddled the conduct, judgment, and motivation of everyone (12-and-under excepted) involved in the Haitian orphan story becomes.

By the time we reach the high-def version of the story -- the "secret meetings" and similar intrigue -- it probably won't be much fun to watch.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Protesters Finally Put The "UP" In UPMC

Citizens protesting UPMC's heartless (but profitable and competitively ingenious) decision to destroy Braddock close Braddock hospital began to attempt to put the "UP" in "UPMC" today by visiting Pitt's campus and delivering a letter to the University-owned home of Pitt's chancellor, Mark Nordenberg.

A UPMC spokesman The Post-Gazette stated that "UPMC and the university are legally separate entities" but otherwise ignored (as has become local newspapers' custom) the long-puzzling issue of Pitt's relationship with UPMC.

UPMC gets commercially invaluable prestige, and a thin but effective ethical cloak for its rapacious, obscenely profitable business operations, from the use of the university's name. What is Pitt's end of the bargain? The short end, if UPMC's relationship with the entire region is a useful barometer, but Braddock and the region deserve an answer to the question.

Roughly 50 protesters assembled near the chancellor's house, watched by University police officers. Those officers confirmed that neither Luke Ravenstahl nor Dan Onorato was involved in the situation by refraining from using tear gas launchers, rubber bullets, military-grade acoustic cannons and other weapons against the peaceful protesters, by declining to arrest and smack around peaceably assembled citizens, and by not declaring Devonshire Street a martial law zone (final selection on Infinonyvision, center column).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sure Bet Weekend: Joe Grushecky, Bill Toms (Lovebettie And Anti-Flag To Follow)

Joe Grushecky will perform at the Meadows gambling hall's Silks stage (interstate 79's exit 41, between Canonsburg and Washington) this Friday and Saturday, beginning at 8 p.m. each evening. No charge for the show; the management is banking on the lure of slots to fund the events.

Bill Toms will throw a CD release party at Moondogs (Blawnox) on Saturday night, 10 p.m.

Lovebettie's Video Premiere Party: Pittsburgh's Hard Rock Cafe, Saturday, January 30, 10:30 p.m.

Anti-Flag brings the "Economy Sucks, Let's Party" tour to Mr. Smalls (Millvale), Saturday, February 6. From Pittsburgh's G20 soundtrack, One Trillion Dollars:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If Anderson Cooper Is Irritating The Governor, Cooper Might Be Asking Worthwhile Questions

Despite Infinonylove for the McMutrie sisters, and admiration of their determination and sacrifice, a few questions about the pomp-and-politics extraction were nagging even before CNN's Anderson Cooper began to voice concerns on the ground about the prospect of prospect of undesirable side effects of the extraordinary operation.

Some have mentioned the local political angling angle, but that issue seems relatively minor (so far).

As wonderful as the sight of the children's arrival in Pittsburgh was, everyone should hope that it was accomplished without disadvantaging the injured or starving to comfort the less-needy, without immoral line-jumping, without diverting scarce and invaluable resources (runway time, security) from greater moral imperatives. (Everyone also should hope no religious discrimination is involved in this story -- no religiously biased door into that orphanage, no religiously slanted door out of that orphanage, no role for religion in determining who was evacuated from the island first.)

There is no evidence (or little evidence) that the well-connected few benefited at the expense of the imperiled many, but there is also no evidence that good intentions did not generate lamentable consequences, and Anderson Cooper shouldn't be the only one interested in questions or answers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

McMutries Salvage Hope In Local 20-Somethings

Lest anyone draw from the Ravenstahls' delusions of competency that no pair of local twenty-something siblings could have a positive effect on society . . . presenting the McMutrie sisters .

Did The Burgh Lose A Contest Whose Winner Got A Ravenstahl While The Loser Got Two Of Them?

Some people apparently look at Bristol Palin (right, with vodka bottle) -- who became pregnant and a high school dropout at 17 (and a broken-engagement single mother at 18) despite the advantages associated with being the child of a governor (left, with wink) -- and think, "if that unqualified but politically connected bimbo can be a (part-time) ambassador for abstinence and start a lobbying and consulting firm, my equally unaccomplished life has 'state representative' written all over it."

Pittsburgh's North Side is beginning to resemble a Married With Children episode, except in the yinzer script the guy whose resume leads with "high school football" doesn't sell women's footwear at Gary's Shoes at the mall -- instead, he follows a freakish path to become a small-town mayor, or uses his second-team all-conference place-kicker trophy as a springboard to the state capitol.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Drip, Drip, Drip: Bailing Out The Water Authority One Predatory Insurance Policy At A Time?

Illyrias appears to be properly outraged (although she might be using "smarminess" when she intends "scumminess" with respect to apparent scamminess involving predatory insurance).

As Pittsburgh Firefighters Beclown Themselves, Mouthpiece Joe King Stumbles (Putting It Mildly)

City firefighters union leader Joe King -- normally so garrulous that prosecutors sometimes invite him in to continue chatting (sometimes with immunity)-- was unusually quiet in the wake of a string of egregious incidents involving firefighters.

Until today.

He should have stayed quiet.

In particular, Mr. King embarrassed himself with a comment concerning union member Timothy B. Coyne, subject of an extended police complaint: After a city homeowner objected to Coyne's urination outside the home, Coyne "burst through the front door and grabbed [the victim] by the throat," slammed him against a wall, entered the home with at least four friends and began screaming at the victim and his friends. The charges: burglary, simple assault, loitering, criminal mischief and public drunkenness.

Mr. King's assessment? Mr. Coyne "stumbled."

That's not stumbling; that's storming. Stumbling is when you overlook for decades the retirement fund mismanagement that threatens every firefighter pension. When the subject is violent home invasion conducted by a gang, the word is storming.

Mr. King also bristled when objecting to any rush to judgment against the half-dozen city firefighters awaiting court dates for drunken rampages or drunken driving (or both): "They have their privileges and rights to due process." The city, he said, should not prejudge the defendants until the legal process resolves the criminal charges.

Mr. King then promptly prejudged an incident involving city firefighters, a duffle bag stuffed with cash and a citizen's complaint to police: "Unfounded," Mr. King declared the citizen's claim.

Mr. King should focus on a different word -- "unfunded" -- and to do so quietly; his recent comments introduce gasoline to a combustible situation, and anyone associated with firefighting should know better.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King

Had Martin Luther King, Jr. survived America's racism to enjoy the benefits of the civil rights campaign he led, he might be celebrating an 81st birthday today.

Instead, although we continue to endure the stupid ramblings of one of Dr. King's contemporaries among men of the cloth, we must be content with the memories and results of Dr. King's courage, strength and wisdom.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Unsolicited Advice Series: Doug Shields

Hey, Doug


I have no interest in your amendments. I said as much last year and I see no point in being inconsistent on the matter. I have, in my own estimation, already spent ample time on the matter and I am very comfortable with the language I and all the rest of the Council, including you, already voted.
Good day.

does not look like this:


Another Cretin, Another Gun, Another Dead Police Officer: State Trooper Paul G. Richey

Another cretin, another unregistered gun,

another dead police officer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Two Dispatches From The Amusements Desk

• The Pittsburgh Mills destination retail anybody-who-can-pay-rent development -- whose inherent struggles are compounded by a weak commercial real estate market (even the heavily subsidized, glamorous Bakery Square is said to be shedding retail tenants, despite snagging the Googlers) -- has returned to its withered "destination attraction" roots with an announcement that it intends to split sixes against the dealer's ace plans to construct an indoor waterpark.

Cyril Wecht, M.D., J.D., (whose political career seemed at rest until Mary Beth Buchanan kicked the wrong sleeping dog) is reported to be considering chasing the Democratic nomination for governor. Dr. Wecht has more professional accomplishments than the rest of the Democratic field could aggregate, would out-debate that field with his tongue tied behind his back, and has name recognition the other candidates can only envy. This development -- distributed by KDKA rather by ink, presumably because Dr. Wecht has disliked the Post-Gazette for decades -- could turn the campaign into a funhouse for spectators (although not for the participants). Even a strong rumor about Wecht joining the fractured, complicated race for what has apparently become the (slightly) less desirable nomination alters the relevant lines at the Propositions Board (far right column).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Great Joe Rollino, Still Bending Quarters With His Fingers At 103, Stops Counting At 104

The Windstar minivan is an abomination that should never have existed.

Here is another story.

Just Wondering: Palin, Onorato, Baldwin, Luke

Just wondering:

• whether Sarah Palin's new Fox News contract requires her to become a bottle blonde to comply with Fox's "gold standard" (or, instead, her journalism degree earned at a half-dozen undergraduate schools scored a rare brunette exemption)?

• whether the primary reason Dan Onorato hasn't endorsed Arlen Specter yet is that Dan is having a hard time excusing the senator's switch from Republican to Democrat?

• whether Luke Ravenstahl genuinely fails to recognize that city employees' alcohol-fueled public tussles with police is an issue toward which he probably should not direct additional public attention?

• whether, when ostensibly pursuing the progressive vote, Mr. Onorato will mention that he passes the Republican Party's litmus test?

• whether veteran Pitt football eligibility coordinator defense attorney Craig Lee genuinely believes that Jonathan Baldwin's celebrity was responsible for Baldwin's charges (for unsolicited contact with a female classmate's buttocks) instead of for the acquittal (by Judge Sasinoski, Pitt '78?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pittsburgh's Budget-Balancing Strategy Revealed

The city's emerging strategy -- chronic hiring of deranged drunks and other social flotsam -- has begun to work: At current rates, criminality-related attrition should pare city payrolls to affordable levels within months.

The public costs associated with skyrocketing unemployment rates among relatives of city Democratic Committee members and drinking buddies of the mayor must be calculated and considered, however, before reaching any conclusion regarding the strategy's long-term effectiveness.

News Flash (For The Tribune-Review, At Least): Musick, Best Writer In Trib History, Still Dead

Phil Musick, whose brilliantly crafted words improved both of Pittsburgh's newspapers (Press and Post-Gazette) and local broadcasts (WTAE radio, KDKA television) for many years, died recently. More recently, he was mourned. Even more recently, he was buried.

Those who rely exclusively on the Tribune-Review for news are (among other obvious and severe deficiencies) unaware of Mr. Musick's passing, because the Trib still has not published an obituary. This oversight intentional slight is curious, for several reasons.

First, it has been a slow news period at the Trib. Today's website edition, for example, leads with this banner: "Fanfare's Fabulous Fetes of 2009." Second, as any junior high school news editor would know, Phil Musick's life and death were newsworthy.

I'm not suggesting the Trib should have put its best writer on the Musick obituary -- come to think of it, that would have been difficult. No, make that impossible . . . because the best writer in the entire substandard history of the Tribune-Review was in that casket.*

Before Phil Musick caught on with newspapers, he was sports editor of the Trib. It appears his decision to leave Greensburg for Pittsburgh created a grudge that survives four decades, overcomes common decency and was enforced over his dead body.

As Ron Burgundy said (with one notable exception, which seems especially apt but shall go unstated here): You stay classy, Greensburg.

* This is no slur toward the reporters at the Trib -- goodness knows those people take enough kicks every time they remember where they work -- but instead a recognition of Phil Musick's genius. There was none better at the Press or Post-Gazette, either.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

If You Can't Step Away From The Screen (Vol. 6)

Comedic bombasters Bill Murray (Saturday Night Live's lounge lizard, Caddyshack's Carl) and Harold Ramis (author of Animal House) are an unlikely pair to arrange one of the most special effects in film -- the audience's easy acquiesence in the impossible.

That trick is particularly impressive if employed in the service of a thoughtful, subtle story. Add intelligent comedy and the neighborhood becomes rarified enough to be a prime beneficiary of Allegheny County's reassessment policies.

Murray and Ramis use an ingeniously (but ridiculously) recurring device to construct a changeless world, then use that world to chronicle a character's change. The character, with the film, becomes reflective and instructive -- to the point of redemption by self-awareness and Andie McDowell.

Reflective, instructive, funny and smart would recommend any film. Add the distinctions of being the medium's best treatment of Pittsburgh television news, of Punxsutawney and of an underappreciated holiday, and the result is an enjoyable film so memorable its screenwriter and fans are discussing it constantly -- by blog -- nearly 20 years after release.

If you can't step away from the screen, aim that screen at TVLand next Sunday (January 17), beginning at noon, for a great movie, Groundhog Day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Weekend Pastimes

Friday, January 8, 2010

Some People Can Make Even A Worthwhile Development Seem Like A Bad Deal

Legalizing gaming gambling seems appropriate (for the same reason no one should be arrested for using marijuana, burning a flag, communicating with a public official with a single finger or buying a beer before noon on Sunday -- the "free country" issue) . . . so why do doubts emerge about Pennsylvania's expansion of table games every time Ed Rendell says a word about it?

Mayor Proposes Prevailing Unavailing Wage Bill

The developers' association Ravenstahl administration has announced that it has gutted revised the prevailing wage legislation enacted by council in December and sandbagged on New Year's Eve vetoed by the mayor.

The second mayoral display of disdain for city council in the year's first week suggests a pattern, and this installment seems especially strange. Seven members of the unanimous council that approved the original proposal are still seated, and at least one of the two newcomers is a natural supporter of the original bill. (Robert Daniel Lavelle's position presumably can not be known until Jake Wheatley and Yarone Zober inform him of that position, nor before Mr. Lavelle has had an opportunity to switch positions.) The lack of friendly quotes from council members accompanying the mayor's announcement indicates today's proposal was a unilateral effort instead of the result of any bridge-building.

The mayor deserves credit for operating on the better side of the domestic abuse issue, although his proposal to include stalking among the disqualifiers could generate unexpected issues.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Unsolicited Advice Series: Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger deserves some slack, because he has fared better than most whose bank accounts and privileges have swollen before their brains reached maturity -- it appears the person he has hurt the most by carelessless has been himself.

Ben could benefit from a few offseason resolutions, however:

First, he could learn a lesson from Barry Sanders, perhaps the most talented running back in American football history. Sanders never played in a Super Bowl . . . primarily because the Lions are the Pittsburgh Pirates of professional football, but in part because Sanders too often ceded yardage (he lost nearly 1,000 yards during his career). A nine-yard loss followed by a 13-yard gain is thrilling, but it also is third-and-long. Fifty-sack offenses must overcome an avoidable incline.

Second, he seemed pudgy this season. One with Roethlisberger's build and constitution can withstand a great deal of stress and abuse before age 30, from poor diet and late nights to hundreds of hits from the biggest, strongest, fastest, meanest dudes around. Roethlisberger, almost certainly without recognizing it, is at or near his physical peak, and extra stress on his joints could make him less productive and injury-prone during his career's (and life's) second half. An unattractive aspect of football transforms exceptional physical specimens into 45-year-olds who can't get out of bed or nevigate stairways without difficulty.

Third, and most important by far, someone should advise him that no amount of touchdown passes or heroic drives or successful scrambles or even youthfulness can begin to excuse anyone -- especially someone with a million dollars in monthly income because he is fortunate enough to play a sport today's public prefers -- who stiffs waitresses, small businesses, and others trying to earn a livelihood. Anyone who can't handle a decent tip or pay a tab is not a big-leaguer, let alone a champ.

Tip like a champion, Ben.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another Delusion Of Adequacy From The Palins

Nineteen-year-old Teen Abstinence Ambassador Bristol Palin was unable to complete high school, or to operate a condom successfully, but she believes she is ready to launch her professional lobbying and consulting career.

Wild guess: The other girl (the one holding the nearly-polished half-gallon of Captain Morgan rum) is the new company's chief financial officer?

Ms. Palin, who also was unable to seal the deal with her child's father and objects to a request for joint custody, faulted her baby daddy in a court filing for acting "for his own self-promotion."

Before laughing too hard, consider that in Pittsburgh, Bristol Palin would probably already be mayor.

Mayor: What Garage Lease Plan Lacks In Fiscal Soundness, We'll Compensate For With Speed

The new year is not a week old, but it already seems like old times in the City of Pittsburgh's mayor's office: A frantic, insider-rigged rush toward a dumb, poorly understood transaction that will burden the city for decades.

Who knew Tom Murphy was back in town?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sound Of Musick Stilled (I Think I Think)

Phil Musick's deftness with words and and observations made his sports columns, general reporting and radio broadcasts indispensable to Pittsburgh for many years. Phil contributed to just about every major medium in Western Pennsylvania, including at least one he outlasted, but he did not survive this morning.

Phil Musick, praised primarily for printed work, also was a fine broadcaster (the inverse of Myron Cope, revered for his airborne activity by an audience that generally was unaware that Myron had been
one of the nation's great sportswriters
during a period in which the printed word was king).

Phil (Peabody grad) and Myron (Allderdice) could play any position on the field, with talent and flair, because each was a writer. Period. End of story.

-- 30 --

Democratic Primary For Governor Reaches Town

The only most Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania governor established a Western Pennsylvania operation. Matt Merriman-Preston (left) seems a good fit for Joe Hoeffel (right); unlike too many of his local peers, Matt would be a Democrat anywhere.

After Council's Reshuffling, All Hands On Deck!

The practical wake of Pittsburgh City Council's reorganization bears watching -- and, for the principals, shaping.

The most important overnight development, as always: The City of Pittsburgh is one day closer to the point at which it will be forced to (try to) fund long-term obligations with current revenues.

If council is to address the city's insolvency and broader dysfunction effectively, it will require a coalition (a crew of six, at least) that works as a team (rather than as individuals advancing personal interests), focusing primarily on broad issues (rather than on paving and similar street-level concerns) on behalf of the entire city (rather than for particular neighborhoods).

Every member of council can contribute to progress.

Darlene Harris, holding the ship's wheel, is pivotal. She could help by steering council away from the shortsightedness, stubbornness and compartmentalization that led foundations to withhold funding when she was leading the school board. I believe her better, wiser angels are up to the task.

Bill Peduto, Bruce Kraus and Doug Shields -- destined to be the nucleus of any worthwhile coalition -- not only must rigorously maintain a sensible and independent bearing but also must be gracious and practical enough to bring others aboard. Magnanimity, mates, lest the ship be lost.

Patrick Dowd would be an enormous asset were he to stop flailing and accept the life preserver his recent rivals should be smart enough to send his way soon.

Robert Daniel Lavelle might start working his way off the poop deck -- after a first day aboard that would have led directly to the gangplank in a less graceful era -- by declining to don the scarlet URA.

Theresa Kail-Smith could deploy her premature promotion and conciliatory bearing as a foundation for bridge-building with the mayor (on behalf of council as a whole).

Natalia Rudiak seems called to forego a learning curve in balancing her genuine interest in district-level issues (and the related self-preservation instinct) against the urgent need to tackle citywide issues that threaten to capsize the entire operation.

Rev. Ricky Burgess could improve the situation by giving voice to the moral component of the pressing need to change the city's course (and, like Mr. Lavelle, by refraining from cashing in the chips associated with his work on behalf of the mayor).

If the U.S.S. Pittsburgh (left, in her glory days of yesteryear) is to avoid running aground (and a formal rechristening as InsolvenCity), it needs all hands on deck.

UPDATE: Agent Ska's field report.

UPPERDATE: McIntire is yapping more prosaically than is usual, and perhaps more realistically (contrasted with optimistically) than some.

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Infinaugural Day Roundup

1) The mayor's inaugural oration about bridge building and consensus and new relationships? I do not believe he meant any of it -- or that he expected anyone on council, in the legislature, at the universities, or sitting in the average class of second-graders would be gullible enough to buy a word of it -- so why not use the opportunity to discuss something more realistic, such as eradicating city debt or the Steelers winning that big playoff game next week?

2) The mayor's inaugural oration about his family, and in particular his wife? I root for reconciliation. I'd buy the champagne.

3) The mayor's inaugural oration about "Old Pittsburgh" and "New Pittsburgh?" No point in mentioning a New Pittsburgh until Old Pittsburgh settles its tab.

4) Did the Trib photographer consciously depict the "bridge" metaphor with Darlene Harris' arms reaching to span the figurative chasm between Old Pittsburgh Jim Motznik and New Pittsburgh Bill Peduto? (Did anyone catch whether Magisterial District Judge Motznik concluded the oath by declaring, 'I don't give a damn whether it's constitutional or not, I say you're president.')

5) Any chance Robert Daniel Lavelle will explain the reasoning underlying his first day trifecta -- shooting for Finance (and failing), refraining from casting a conciliatory vote for Harris after the conclusion was obvious, and revealing himself to be a scheming ingrate -- or will we be left to infer that he left his reasoning at home on his first day of schooling?

UPDATE: Luke's buying at the Priory, beginning at 7 p.m. See you there!

UPPERDATE: Interesting mood at Ravenstahl reception, blending unconvincing 'we won by stopping Peduto' with more convincing 'we won so we're still the mayor.' Kail-Smith and her posse showed (Dr. Dowd included); no sign of anyone who voted for Harris. Best story: Lukesters dodged a bullet -- apparently no one told the Priory this event would be open to public, but bad roads meant booze didn't run out.

Congratulations, Council Member Natalia Rudiak

Congratulations to the filly just gated for her first run around a muddy track. After just a few steps, she already seems to be several lengths ahead of the other newcomer.

If Natalia Rudiak is not serving as council president within a few years, something is grotesquely wrong with City of Pittsburgh government.

OK, I wish I hadn't written that. Sorry, Natalia.

In (Attenuated) Praise Of Darlene Harris

City Council President Darlene Harris wants the City of Pittsburgh to succeed and wants to do the right thing.

Darlene Harris does not appear to be corrupt. She has not (yet, at least) succumbed to the private-box-private-jet-private-lawmaking temptations associated with big-money interests' courting of elected decision-makers.

An NBA scout would write, then underline, "low ceiling" at the top of her chart. "Good work ethic" and "instinctive player" would follow.

If Darlene Harris relies on good people, ensures she has good information and good advice, and can assemble a six-vote coalition, she could be a welcome chaperone for progress in the City of Pittsburgh.

Did Bill And Darlene Bust A Move All Night Long?

Was the deal that swung InsolvenCity's council presidency to Darlene Harris genuinely hatched this morning . . . or was Bill Peduto's concessionary post-midnight tweet --
Finally, Comet
& Hoagie are saying Smith has votes - I'll wait till AM - good night

-- an old school gangsta move that played the playas?

If nothing else, everyone -- and everything -- has been smoked out.

Stock market tip of the day: Asphalt.

To The Victor Goes A Spoiled Mess Of A City

Surprising nearly everyone, Pittsburgh's City Council selected its new president by random lot among all city residents, er, went with the first person to order the cheese combo at Primanti Bros. in the Strip after 10 a.m., er, elected Darlene Harris as its president.

Ringling Bros., meanwhile, is expected to announce this afternoon that it has offered a two-year deal to each member of council and is pursuing a longer-term sponsorship arrangement with InsolvenCity.

The Intertubes Are Overheating This Morning

Infinonymous is more popular today -- before 10 a.m. -- than it is in the average 24-hour period. (Since the internationally acclaimed siege of Oakland, anyway.)

Who is Intertubing this way this morning? And why?

The first question is easier to answer. Just about every law firm in town (and some in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and D.C.). Lots of university traffic, mostly from Pitt and CMU. The banks. The city-paid Googler, and someone who arrives by Googling "Onorato" every time that name is mentioned. The URA. "County of Allegheny." State legislature.

(Plus, a first-time customer from the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania. Hi, Jim.)

The second question merits contemplation. More on that later.

UPDATE: Numerous referrals from Facebook. Can anyone explain?

UPPERDATE: The Propositions Board (far right column) lines on City Council President (and Dowd vote) are CLOSED. Also, management feels compelled to advise that the Prevailing Wage Veto Letter Author lines on Tiger Woods (let alone that Tiger passed it on from one of his harem girls) were posted in jest, but management will continue to take those wagers from those who insist.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dowd Is Mumbling Incoherently . . . And Promising To Vote The Same Way Tomorrow

The public Patrick Dowd has always danced to a different drummer. Sometimes, different drumming produces an ingenious Hey Ya (emulated 11/4 time signature), a sublime Money (mostly 7/4 time signature), or the remarkable work of Keith Moon. More often, however, it produces gibberish . . . such as Dr. Dowd's tweet this afternoon:

In January 2010 I hear "seasoning" "experience" "proven ability" but this time last year I heard "hope" "change" "new directions".

This comment, part of a series setting up Dr. Dowd's vote for Theresa Kail-Smith for Pittsburgh council president, evokes the campaign themes of Barack Obama.

Obama? The Columbia grad. Harvard lawyer, magna cum laude. Editor of the Harvard Law Review. Summer associate at Sidley and Austin. Constitutional law professor at a top-ten school. Author. United States Senator.

Only a sadist (or, in this case, a masochist) would invite a comparison of Obama's record to that of Kail-Smith, whose resume aims squarely at soccer-league treasurer, local Democratic Committee secretary or PTA president.

Just as only a fool or a fraud would endorse entrusting an insolvent, dysfunctional city -- already burdened by a hopelessly inadequate mayor -- to an unqualified council president and an even less qualified finance chair.

UPDATE: The Tribune-Review has an election eve dispatch; the Post-Gazette, apparently, does not.

UPPERDATE: Welcome, first-timers. For needed context, please see this, this, and this.

(Speaking of prescient Infindorsements . . .)

With So Much Substance Available To Lambaste Luke Ravenstahl With, Who Needs Rumors?

A Busman's Holiday trip, suggested by the Heaper (and rare because the Busman hadn't been behind the wheel much lately), generated a reminder of Luke Ravenstahl's preemptive shot of celebrated, accomplished and snarling Philadelpia lawyer Richard Sprague across Pittsburgh's bow.

Sprague's substantial specter doesn't generate much Infinonyfear, for at least two reasons.

First, I don't recall much pre-announcement reference to rumors concerning the mayor's marriage or libido at this site -- even during the period in which dodging rumors added ten minutes for any walk along Grant Street.

Second, the issue does not seem relevant -- for the most part -- to public debate.

No one outside the Ravenstahl residence -- and perhaps not even the participants -- knows whom, if anyone, is responsible for the separation. Even were one spouse to be demonstrably faulted, a link to public affairs would not necessarily be established.

Some aspects of the situation, unrelated to rumor or innuendo, merit criticism. A carefully depicted (left) facade of politically perfect family life -- at public events, on election day(s), in earned media -- was disingenuous. The announcement's timing was politically calculated, and it is difficult to square the claim that Luke is paying a top-shelf Philadelphia lawyer's bill from personal funds with the published mayoral salary. These points deserve mention, but only because they involve a public official acting in public.

Erin Ravenstahl deserves deference, even with respect to complicity in campaign-driven facade. She appears never to have aspired to public attention, even when especially dumb luck pushed her fledgling family into an flukey floodlight. There is no indication she was aware of, let alone participated in, any of the unattractive episodes of the Ravenstahl era. As prominent young people in Pittsburgh's public eye (and restrooms) go, she appears to be exceptionally unobjectionable.

Unless evidence emerges of an inappropriate tie between personal and official conduct (concerning the public purse, a security detail, or another angle that periodically trips up a public official), Luke Ravenstahl, too, seems entitled to some slack.

There is no need to rely on rumors to find more than ample grounds to condemn, if not ridicule, Luke Ravenstahl's performance as mayor (and -- who can forget -- member of council) of Pittsburgh. Sticking to the substance seems appropriate.