Sunday, February 28, 2010

Neither Snow, Nor More Snow, Nor Even More Snow Shall Keep Anti-Flag From The Stage

G20 soundtrack contributor Anti-Flag, whose early February date at Mr. Smalls conflicted with the start of a record-breaking month of snow, has rescheduled: "Snow Sucks, Let's Party," Friday, March 5. Mr. Smalls Funhouse, Millvale.

This is billed as an all-ages show, but I'm skeptical about anyone under four or over ninety-seven. Everyone else should go.

Sunday Reading: Extremism Edition

Pakistan: The Incubation Of Extremism.

United States: Palling Around With Terrorists.

The Racial Divide: Extreme Restraint.

Life: Pursuing Efficiency.

Art: Enduring (and Enjoyable) Enigma.

Beauty: Extremely Confused.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Are KBR And Blackwater Still In Business?

Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a decorated Green Beret from Pittsburgh who volunteered to serve his country and wanted to take a shower, lost his life.

Politically hard-wired federal contractor KBR, which repeatedly gouged its country while performing the electrical work in the Baghdad barracks in which Sgt. Maseth's shower became an electrocution, has lost its bonus.

Believe it or not, KBR is probably surprised about the bonus.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reg Channels The Sound Of Musick

With this line at today's online Post-Gazette,
Further, as one who didn't go to an Ivy League school, in fact went to the University of Hard Knocks where I received a degree of concussion,

Reg Henry (left) evokes Phil Musick (right).

That's a compliment, Reg.

This, however, is not.

An Idea Announcement Whose Time Has Come (Again)

A campaign consultant Gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato has announced a plan vague request for proposals concerning a transportation line linking Oakland with downtown Pittsburgh.

On the plus side: This makes so much sense, in so many ways, that it is obvious.

On the other hand: The money has already been poured into a worthless hole of favored-union paychecks under the Allegheny River. This isn't the first time Mr. Onorato has checked in with this campaign window-dressing public policy "action" announcement. The blue-ribbon panel features the same old same old from the ossified and obsolete local power structure, labor hackdom, political favor-seekers and public contract greasers.

Also on the other hand: This time, Zober is involved.

The Propositions Board line (far right column, near end) remains unchanged: An Oakland-downtown transportation link is a 10-1 shot.

Kids Decide The Darndest Things (Hence The Common Phrase "Adult Supervision")

Some troubling questions raised on the front page of the New York Times' online edition (example: How many Haitian orphans are orphans?) suggest that Pittsburgh is becoming an international demonstration project on the problems (and disasters and catastrophes) associated with entrusting public policy decisions to randomly selected local twenty-somethings.

UPDATE: A hurricane-like snowstorm tracking from the southeast (since when do hurricane-like snowstorms travel from the southeast?) is predicted to reach Pennsylvania in a couple of days. City of Pittsburgh residents should prepare for a couple of weeks without passable roads, or make immediate plans to visit relatives or friends residing in the suburbs.

UPPERDATE: The P-G's Mackenzie Carpenter, in a softer story, quotes a White House official:
"We're talking about an orphanage that was completely destroyed," said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, who was in Haiti at the time of the airlift. "Anyone who had a heart" would have seen the logic behind letting these children in, he said.

The human heart is designed to work in association with a brain -- and logic is the brain's department.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Grad School Admission Test (Yinzer Edition)

1. If the mayor of a city responds to forecasts of a paralyzing snowstorm by booking a developer's chalet in the Laurel Highlands so he can ski and chase snow bunnies while the city struggles to (mostly) survive the snowfall, that mayor would respond to an Army Corps of Engineers prediction of a "flood of record" by:

(a) arranging a surfing trip;

(b) with the city's public safety director;

(c) at a developer's beach house; or

(d) all of the above.

UPDATE: Agent Ska points to a bizarre test-taking strategy from a man who would be governor.

Monday, February 22, 2010

If Only The Ravenstahl Administration's Plan To Privatize Pittsburgh Public Parking Garages . . .

had been aboard this vessel.

Profiles In Determination, Local Edition

● A nation overflowing with obese fifth-graders and diabetic adolescents should try to send Mt. Pleasant teacher Fran DiVecchio to every school in the country for an inspirational and educational assembly. Ms. DiVecchio dropped 100 pounds from a small frame and is trying to help others find the path, with practical advice and a mantra: You can have excuses, or you can have results; your choice.

● In the final nationally televised minute of Pitt's 70-65 victory against Villanova on Sunday, a Panther illustrated the determined, team-oriented play that has enabled Pitt to defeat more talented teams several times this season. When a teammate's ill-conceived inbounding pass traveled the length of the court and was headed out of bounds, Gilbert Brown (left) (or was it Jermaine Dixon -- the point is that it was selfless) ran the ball down, got one hand on it as he leapt into the seats, and sent the ball back to the court, where it apparently grazed a Villanova player before rolling out of bounds. Results: The Pitt player landed a few rows into the seats under the basket; Pitt retained possession with a small lead; the Panthers outlasted the third-ranked Wildcats; and the Associated Press lifted Pitt from 19th to 12th in the rankings. This still appears to be a rebuilding year for Pitt, but a program that can start 10-4 in the Big East (which has five schools in the current top 12) after losing Sam Young and DeJuan Blair to the professional draft qualifies as established.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Braddock's Carpetbaggers: Onorato Is Obvious, But The Zappala Angle Is A Mystery

Allegheny County's Executive and District Attorney have advanced competing economic and community development proposals in the wake of UPMC's uncharitable (but exquisitely profitable and competitively ingenious) abandonment of Braddock.

Dan Onorato's UPMC-friendly proposal seems natural -- even predictable -- in form and substance; in form because economic and community development is an important part of the county executive's job description, in substance because Onorato is Jeff Romoff's faithful government affairs coordinator. (The Post-Gazette -- ignoring or, more likely, forgetting -- the tissue separating Onorato from UPMC in public, actually refers to Onorato's proposal as "the hospital plan.")

Steve Zappala's proposal (and participation) is more difficult to decipher, for at least two reasons. First, why would a district attorney conduct a press conference addressing a specific economic and community development project? Second, on whose behalf is Mr. Zappala advocating?

The district attorney's job is to enforce criminal laws. Regardless of how depraved one considers UPMC's treatment of Braddock, no one has responsibly alleged a crime. Zappala's role in the Braddock debate consequently is inexplicable, even if there were not myriad situations within Zappala's jurisdiction that have deserved (but not, apparently, received) the attention of a prosecutor. (In fairness, the district attorney conspicuously cleared one prominent case -- oops, sorry, that one must have slipped out of the 'none of his business, even if it was his brother' folder). (That's brother Greg, right)

That point shades into the second perplexing part of Zappala's involvement: On whose behalf is he proposing a project?

Cynics might wonder whether he is pushing a real estate deal or a public contract or perhaps a government license for one relative or another. The skeptical might speculate that his family members are undisclosed, but highly paid, mouthpieces for an interested entity. The jaded might wonder whether he could be attempting to divert attention from other circumstances, or competing for camera time in preparation for a statewide political campaign down the road.

The next time a district attorney calls for cameras concerning an economic development proposal for Braddock, or any other community, perhaps at least one reporter will consider asking why the county's chief law enforcement official is devoting time and energy during business hours to something other than investigating and prosecuting crimes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Party On, GOP: The Earth Night Is Still Young

The good times just keep rolling for conservatives and Republicans.

A Department of Justice decision to overrule a finding of professional misconduct (new determination: "poor judgment" and ideological blinders) places John Yoo and Jay Bybee one step closer to getting away with providing legal fig leaves for torturers, the Conservative Political Action Conference (co-sponsored by the John Birch Society) was a rousing success, and the CPAC straw poll winner for next president is Pittsburgh native Ron Paul.

With so much great news for conservatives, nearly lost in the flurry is a report that three in ten Texans not only believe The Flintstones is a documentary dinosaurs and men roamed Earth simultaneously, but actually are willing to admit it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

'Here We Go, Head Lice, Here We Go'

In six cases at the Westmoreland County Prison, decent people find themselves rooting for the head lice.

Mary Beth Buchanan Comes Out Firing On Marty Griffin Show, But Neglects To Aim

Mary Beth Buchanan appears (or, more accurate, sounds) to be no better a candidate for Congress than she was a prosecutor. She launched her campaign this morning by visiting Marty Griffin's KDKA radio show without an appointment, exhibiting an understanding of defamation law as lacking as her self-preservation instinct.

Buchanan called Griffin shortly after hearing Dr. Cyril Wecht criticize Buchanan's failed prosecution of Dr. Wecht. Objecting to Dr. Wecht's appraisal of the cost to taxpayers of that misadventure -- while offering similarly unsubstantiated figures and strenuously resisting invitations to quantify that cost in detail because there is "no price tag you can put on justice" -- Buchanan engaged in an awkward and contentious ("I am trying to answer your question, if you would shut up") exchange highlighted by her threat to sue Griffin for defamation.

The basis for the threat: Griffin's restatement of Wecht's estimate that the fruitless, five-year full-court press against Wecht cost taxpayers $20 million.

Buchanan's defamation claim is destined to go nowhere because American law, to promote debate, stacks the deck against defamation claims -- unless the allegedly defamatory statement falls within one of four special categories. It is easier to hold a speaker accountable in a case that involves (1) a claim of contagious or loathsome disease, (2) an imputation of unfitness for a relevant profession or business, (3) a charge of impotence or lack of chastity or (4) an accusation of criminal conduct not supported by a conviction.

The fourth point makes Buchanan's mention of defamation suprising, because it evokes her notorious -- and questionable -- assertion, in the wake of the dismissal of all charges against Wecht, that she nonetheless considered the former coroner guilty as formerly charged.

Buchanan therefore is pointing indignantly to the cookie jar, forgetting that her other hand is still in it.

One of Buchanan's first acts as United States attorney was to hire a full-time mouthpiece. Some questioned the necessity (and expense) of that move at the time, but Buchanan's first press release and radio interview as a candidate demonstrate that when she insisted on a chaperone, she knew what she was doing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Curtis and The City (Or, Canary In A Coal Mine)

The canary's name was Curtis; the coal mine is Pittsburgh.

The boy, confused by the canary's death, and still searching for answers in a situation that seems inexplicable to him, turned to anger.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cornyn Turns Pussycat When Big Dog Is Around

Everything is bigger in Texas, the saying goes.
The saying is right, at least with respect to giant pussies.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Profiles In Pittsburgh Politics And Public Affairs (Zappalas, Ravenstahls, FOP Blowhards Edition)

We learned a few things about local politics and public affairs recently:

• What is the last remaining shred of dignity of a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania worth? Between $215,000 and $340,000 annually, depending on market conditions, according to recently disclosed transactions.

• Is there no end in sight to the generosity of the Ravenstahls in devoting their talents and estimable experience to public service? Apparently not -- Adam Ravenstahl, 25, has reportedly decided to decline an offer from the Harvard physics faculty and seek election to the Pennsylvania legislature from the region's leading source of low-quality politicians and high-quality crystal meth, Pittsburgh's North Side.

• Could anyone top Joe King's lack of self-awareness in shameful defense of the indefensible in public employee conduct? Yep.

One assumes Pittsburgh police union president Dan O'Hara was unable to add an offensive comment because was busy preparing FOP paperwork charging Jordan Miles with brutally assaulting the police officers' tree branch with his cheek and gum.

Fifty Bucks Says Every Dollar Was Inherited

While the next installment of Idiot, Moron, Imbecile (shaping up as a Family Feud, with police escort) was receiving its final polish, this guy went off the standard classification chart and created an entirely new category.

"This guy," of course, is the buyer, not the haphazardly shaped hunk of metal.

Whomever the buyer is, he's an early favorite for next mayor of Pittsburgh.