Saturday, October 30, 2010

Infindorsement: Governor Of Pennsylvania

The march of the manacled midgets will, mercifully, conclude on Tuesday. One candidate will deservedly fail, the other will undeservedly become governor. Either way, Pennsylvania will be governed by a man of low achievements and flawed character.

The ample and telling flaws of each candidate -- Democrat Dan Onorato and Republican Tom Corbett -- have been chronicled to a degree that should lead a sensible voter to wonder (1) how in hell these two candidates were nominated, (2) how anyone could justify a vote for either candidate, and (3) whether four years can pass quickly enough.

Rather than waste time attempting to gauge immoral assessment policies against shamefully partisan prosecutions, or misguided policy choices against blatant and bullying hypocrisy, or obnoxious associations against obnoxious associations, voters should ignore these two losers and focus on the tasks at hand for all sensible Pennsylvanians: Securing the shutters as Pennsylvania attempts to survive four years of gubernatorial failings, and ensuring that 2010's winner is a one-term governor.

Not one of these men is worth the energy required to touch a screen.

Infindorsement: Reload in 2014.

Infinonytune: Rock And A Hard Place, The Rolling Stones

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't Dwell On Despair; Seek Silver Linings

Rather than dwell upon the sad points of current events -- disappointment among Pittsburgh's parking privateers, apprehension among Democrats throughout the nation, dread of prison among those who imprison innocent children for profit -- why not consider silver linings?
  • The Not-So-Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale seems lifeless; the parking privateers have largely abandoned attempts to persuade decision-makers to accept the mayor's plan, focusing instead on increasingly bitter recriminations among themselves. The out-of-town privateers are describing Mayor Ravenstahl, Yarone Zober, and their local greasers as lying incompetents to anyone who will listen -- a group that apparently does not include Ravenstahl, who reportedly refuses to take his former privateering partners' calls. The loss of huge paydays from a mispriced deal obviously smarts. But while attempting to establish direct relationships with council members (privateers) or fruitlessly trying to identify something worthwhile to do next (Ravenstahl, Zober, Kunka), the disappointed privateers could embrace a silver lining -- the capsizing of the transaction substantially reduces the likelihood of indictments, convictions and terms of imprisonment.

  • Democrats are dispirited, and consequently bracing for an improbably rapid comeback by the discredited ideologues who broke our country Republicans poised to take advantage of expected low turnout among Americans who hold sensible and majority views. But instead of dreading a revival of gay-bashing, abortion-banning, immigrant-hating, science-disdaining public policy (which is not going to occur so long as Barack Obama is president), Democrats should take heart from the silver lining of the Republicans' undeserved resurgence -- it likely guarantees a second Obama presidential term.

  • The predictable news that former Luzerne County judge Michael Conahan is a likely beneficiary of lessened punishment for his sentencing of innocent children to incarceration in exchange for kickbacks could generate outrage among decent people. But that view would overlook the underlying point that former judge Conahan has begun to cooperate with law enforcement personnel, providing an insider's account of the corrupt scheme and agreeing to testify against co-conspirators. The silver lining -- more of those who paid bribes and profited from infliction of misery on innocent children seem likely to be identified, prosecuted and punished -- could be large enough to stretch across the Commonwealth, from its northeastern corner to the southwestern.

Infinonymous is pleased to perform a public service by directing attention to the bright side of current events.

An Exception To The Lame Covering The Lame

The best journalism concerning the crawl to the governor's office continues to be published by Signor Ferrari, over at Rick's place.

Feds Ready To Tackle Local Failures At Jail?

The ample (in one case, plain-as-your-face) evidence of misconduct and maladminstration at the Allegheny County Jail apparently has reached a point at which even the county executive's myopic focus on blemish avoidance (during a gubernatorial run), and the lack of an angle adequate to motivate a politically attuned district attorney to perform his duty, can no longer keep a lid affixed. The FBI is on the case.

If it develops that guards believed they could get away with battering a harmless prisoner's face, what would that say about Warden Rustin, County Executive Onorato, County Manager Flynn and District Attorney Zappala?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Infindorsement: Pennsylvania House District 20

Want to understand why Pittsburgh is insolvent, has leaked population for decades and can't attract anything bigger than a lemonade stand without a huge public subsidy? Devote a few moments to examination of Pennsylvania's 20th House District.

This district includes the city's North Side -- whose principal contributions to our region include low-grade politicians and raw sewage effluent -- and its nearest northern suburbs. The 20th District's primary voters nominated two candidates, Democratic juvenile Adam Ravenstahl and Republican loon Alex Dubart.

Ravenstahl's self-parody resume marks him as a zero -- leaving citizens to wonder how he snared a UPMC "business analyst" job straight out of college (when UPMC reportedly wasn't hiring) -- but, as Americans are learning as a Tea Party-flavored wave washes some of the reason out of American politics, zero is the lowest number imaginable solely for those unfamiliar with negative integers.

Alex Dubart's value approximates negative five.

A zero against a negative number. That's quite a choice, one for which the Imbestahls who populate the 20th District (and the Post-Gazette's editorial board) should be embarrassed -- and held to account.

Infindorsement: Write in "Abolish This District."

Infinonytune: Loser, Beck

Local Supermarket Erects Huge Billboard Arguing For Privatization Of Pennsylvania Liquor System

The Giant Eagle Market District store in Robinson -- one of the supermarkets at which you can buy beer, although only if you simultaneously enable Giant Eagle to sell your privacy -- has installed a huge billboard that offers a compelling argument for privatization of the Commonwealth's liquor monopoly.

The substantial stream of search-led visitors who arrive at Infinonymous seeking information about good places to buy beer prompts a link to a list of vendors who enable customers to purchase fine beer in convenient quantities without sacrificing their privacy. Suggested additions to the list welcome.

Infinonytune: However Much I Booze, The Who

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

InsolvenCity Transforming Itself Into InsaniCity

In recent days, InsolvenCity has moved from its traditional mix of low-grade corruption and small-town mediocrity to dangerous insanity:
  • Luke Ravenstahl, after deciding being instructed by the privateers to reapproach council members with another pitch for the Not-So-Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale, dialed up the persuasiveness quotient with three new arguments: (1) council* has been "irresponsible," (2) your plan is a "risky scheme," and (3) you're all* idiots.

    In other words, when the mayor declared a week ago that he would not spend one more minute promoting his proposed lease, he was telling the truth.

  • The Post-Gazette editorial board endorsed Adam Ravenstahl.

  • The University of Pittsburgh has begun to offer parents and students a novel way to avoid skyrocketing tuition. A new Pitt policy disinclines students to seek medical help for alcohol-related problems . . . and dead students do not pay tuition.
* "Ricky Loves Lukey" excepted, of course.

Infinonytune: Basket Case, Green Day

Monday, October 25, 2010

'I Said I'm Not A Witch, But That Doesn't Mean I Can't Base My Life On Superstition'

Christine O'Donnell says God caused her to desire to run for Senate (more than once, apparently), God called her to the campaign, prayer meetings have lifted her in the polls, and God is going to deliver victory.

Ms. O'Donnell did not say, however, whether God is to blame for the stupid things she says and does continuously.

Jamie Dixon Shows How To Make An Assist

Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon was a star in an unscripted role Saturday night.

How many wealthy, busy people driving anonymously along the Parkway North would stop to assist the occupants of an overturned, smoking vehicle, then pry back the windshield to enable an injured, trapped passenger to escape? That's difficult to predict, but it is now easy to know that Jamie Dixon (left) is among them.

When reporters understandably fixated on the celebrity angle of this event, Dixon attempted to direct attention toward other motorists who stopped to help, and toward emergency personnel who freed a second victim.

Is it too late to get Jamie Dixon on the ballot for governor, or too early to conduct a referendum on whether Dixon should become mayor of Pittsburgh, effective immediately?

Stop! In The Name Of Love, The Supremes

Roethlisberger Switches Game Shoes From Jesus Message To Pink Billboards -- For You Know Who

Ben Roethlisberger, prominent representative of esteemed (and publicly subsidized) entities such as the Rooney family, Dick's Sporting Goods and Jesus Christ, sent a message by wearing pink shoes during yesterday's Steelers game.

It was for all the bitches, of course.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Reading: Month Of Sundays Edition

If the United States government would simply tell the truth about its failures and crimes in Iraq, it would not be necessary for Wikileaks (and brave affiliated journalists) to obtain and publish that information. In any event, decent Americans possesses a duty to absorb the information concerning what was done in their name, on their dime, by their government.

Reprehensible mercenaries. Secret torture. U.S. Government lies. Systematic rape. Detention of innocents. Abuse of shackled prisoners. Official disregard of war crimes.

Despite goverment lies and warmongers' delusions, Americans need to know that their invasion of Iraq killed far more civilians than combatants (and that most of the Iraqis labeled "combatants" had no quarrel with the United States until taking up arms because they understandably chafed against an unjustified invasion and botched occupation of their country).

It will take a long time to scrub the blood from American hands, especially those of Americans whose consciences bear the shameful weight of knowing they voted for George W. Bush in 2004.

This Sunday Reading involves a month of Sundays: The War Logs.

Infinonytune: Devils And Dust, Bruce Springsteen

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mayor Invites Councilors To Meeting That Should Be Very Informational (Or Exceptionally Brief)

Mayor Ravenstahl -- emulating a typical eight-year-old in moving rapidly and without explanation from 'I won't waste another minute on parking and pension issues (because there is nothing to talk about other that preparation for state takeover)' to 'I want to talk about parking and pension issues' -- has invited members of council to discuss those issues on councilors' turf, beginning at 1 p.m. Monday.

The mayor's interest in evenhanded analysis or collaboration seems slight -- his invitation referred to the plan that interests council as "irresponsible," and launched rhetoric about lack of "public process" despite a series of council-conducted public meetings -- but council members should attend the mayor's proposed meeting . . . and begin it with a request for immediate and comprehensive identification of prospective privateers, from lobbyists to placement agents, from legal advisors to accountants, from local investors to would-be employees, from vendors to anyone in line for a commission or fee. (In other words, council should express solidarity with the mayor's insistence on a "public process." It also wouldn't hurt for one or two council representatives to contact the other bidder, and perhaps one or two qualified entities that refrained from bidding, before participating in the "showdown.")

Without those disclosures, or the mayor's agreement to abandon the privateering expedition and work toward arrangement of a bond transaction, council members should conclude the meeting by 1:05 (enabling Rev. Burgess and the mayor to conduct a private strategy session). If council members do not fear state oversight of InsolvenCity's pension funds, there is no reason to fear a mayoral decision to take his deflated ball to his side of the fifth floor.

Infinonytune: Welcome To The Working Week, Elvis Costello and the Imposters

Bush Jr. Admits Failure On Iraq Economy Iraq Afghanistan Iraq Social Security Privatization

Former President George W. Bush, speaking in Chicago yesterday, reportedly admitted one failure with respect to his eight years in office: Failure to lose nearly half of seniors' Social Security funds in the stock market.

Infinonytune: Nowhere Man, The Beatles
Infinonytune: I Should Have Known Better, The Beatles

The Admiral Positions Himself Amidships

As the Propositions Board (far right column) has suggested for months, Pat Toomey's longstanding and substantial advantage in polls seemed unlike to survive the "whites of their eyes" period.

More recent research vindicates the expectation that Joe Sestak's strengths -- his record of achievement and service, his sensible positions -- would position him favorably against Pat Toomey -- a former Wall Street trader and nightclub operator-turned-professional ideologue -- as Pennsylvania elects a United States Senator.

The Sestak campaign is disorganized, and its candidate's amateurish speechifying is as risky as it is endearing, but retired admiral Sestak seems strong enough to be a slight favorite against a candidate who craves criminalization of abortion, promotes privatization of Social Security and favors government enforcement of bigotry against gays, especially in a state with at least a million more Democrats than Republicans.

UPDATE: In a contest with two flawed candidates, Dan Onorato is closing on Tom Corbett, suggesting that Democratic malaise and electorate amnesia may not provide the strong springboard on which Republican campaigns must rely. This is additional good news for Joe Sestak, the best candidate by far among the four men seeking the principal statewide offices in Pennsylvania's general election.

Infinonytune: Anchors Aweigh, United States Naval Academy

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Republicans Benefit From Simple Strategy

President Obama has advanced an apt point concerning Republican success in (earlier) polls: During a period of complexity and stress, people crave simplicity, and Republicans have crafted a campaign strategy based entirely on one thing: amnesia.

Just how much amnesia exists among Americans will be illustrated on Election Day.

Why Young People Think Their Elders Are Idiots ... And Why Young People Are Correct

No, not the lame bigotry toward gays -- the other thing.

Runnerup headline: "Why Social Conservatives Who Lecture About 'Limited Government" Are Liars, Fools Or Both"

Infinonytune: China Grove, The Doobie Brothers

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Did The Parking Lease Process Involve Too Much Information, Or Not Enough, Or Both?

One fascinating aspect of the Late Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale concerns the flow of information.

Alan Lazowski, leader of LAZ Parking (part of a last-minute partnership with JP Morgan), has expressed surprise concerning council's long-simmering distaste for the process in which his proposal was accepted by Mayor Ravenstahl and rejected by councilors:
Mr. Lazowski said his team was "elated" to learn it was the winning bidder last month, but surprised to find out later that city officials were deeply divided on the lease proposal.
Billions of dollars on the line, including millions of dollars in bidding costs, and Mr. Lazowski was blindsided when just one council vote was available to the LAZ-JP Morgan-Ravenstahl-[to be determined] proposal? Did Mr. Lazowski never pick up a newspaper or watch a local television news program during his frequent visits to Pittsburgh? Did he never attempt to operate any type of Google-compatible Intertubes device during the past year? None of his colleagues, lawyers, accountants or friends? None of their spouses? None of their children?

If this circumstance fairly reflects LAZ Parking's level of attention to detail in business matters, does anyone want this outfit to be responsible for ensuring that a mechanized parking garage exit works properly after the attendants have left for the night?

Some questions about information flow to the successful bidder (and to other bidders, and to qualified entities that elected not to bid, and to entities that did not qualify) also seem pertinent. Did all bidders have access to the same volume, content and sources of relevant information? Has anyone asked the dropouts why they declined to pursue the transaction? If City of Pittsburgh representatives treated all prospective lessees equally, why were bids so dissimilar. . . or missing?

A bidder might have conducted superior independent research, relied on better understanding and forecasts, engaged better advisors, asked better questions. Or, as too often occurs in bankruptcy proceedings, insiders might have favored one or more bidders with respect to assurances and information (perhaps through unofficial conduits).

Those attempting to chart a proper course concerning pension funds during the next couple of months should probably concentrate on that task without permitting an autopsy to divert attention, but it seems worthwhile to revisit some of these issues when that pressure dissipates.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Joe Miller, Tea Partying Senate Candidate, Conflicted On "Irrational" and "Angry"

Joe Miller, Alaska's Republican nominee for Senator, issued a strange press release in the wake of an odd incident in which his private security guards handcuffed a journalist after a campaign event at a school; the press release disparaged the journalist for appearing to be "irrational, angry and potentially violent."

What is strange is that Miller would disparage the irrational and the angry: They are his base.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Week Begins With Lucid, Intelligent Analysis

The Cometeer today offers a lucid, intelligent, well-thought-out examination of several City of Pittsburgh issues: (1) the police review problem, (2) the contrast between the Shields and Dowd approaches to Marcellus Shale drilling, (3) a comparison of city and state boards administering pension funds, and (4) the apparent demise of the privateers' proposed parking assets transaction.

With respect to the first point, concern about the G20-related emasculation of the Citizen Police Review Board is warranted -- but tempered by the fact that Vic Walczak and other lawyers for those abused during the G20 event have assembled another review board, this one comprising the judges of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

With respect to the second and third points, the analysis seems cogent.

With respect to the fourth point, the Cometeer's continuing objections to dismissal of the The Not-So-Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale evokes a fine exchange from My Cousin Vinny:
Judge Chamberlain Holler: Mr. Gambini?
Vincent Gambini: Yes, sir?
Judge: That is a lucid, intelligent, well-thought out objection.
Gambini: Thank you, your honor.
Judge: Overruled.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Number Seven Jerseys Are Still In Style -- And, No Doubt, Still Being Sold By (And To) Dicks!

A 20-person group marched to and assembled near Heinz Field today to mark Ben Roethlisberg's return to professional footballing by protesting his conduct, drawing insults and jeers from a number of Steelers fans who not only like the Steelers' quarterback but indeed to continue to wear his jersey.

This prompted some initial bewilderment -- what type of adult would wear a number seven jersey yesterday these days? -- but wonder soon gave way to way to recognition as the reasons to stick with Big Ben apparel emerged. There are at least seven:

1) Who wouldn't like to walk on tabs and get away with it?

2) Somebody needs to teach college girls not to get so drunk!

3) Big Ben -- spokesman for Dicks everywhere!

4) A guy with a private police force is cool.

5) Big Ben played for Jesus --ostentatiously -- as a rookie.

6) Where is it written you must tip a waitress?

7) Big Ben -- back on Jesus' team!

So . . . wear 'em proudly, Roethlisberger fans!

Sunday Reading: Mission Accomplished Edition

Iraq: Mission Accomplished, Episode 43(a).

Afghanistan: Mission Accomplished, Episode 43(b).

Homeland Security: Mission Accomplished, Episode 43(c).

The Kevin Quigley Public-Private Partnership Driveway: Mission Accomplished -- 'What, you got a problem with that?'

Mathematical Economics: The missing middle class.

The Upper Crust: The "income defense industry."

Infinonytune: Shady Lane, Pavement

DeMarco, Orie Step Up Mailing It In For Senate

Despite Democrat Dan DeMarco's less-than-energetic campaign, the contest for the Senate seat currently occupied by Jane Orie has become one of the few interesting local races. Democrats had not planned to chase Sen. Orie, but a politically charged indictment of the incumbent Republican may have generated a competitive contest between two flawed candidates.

Neither seems to be running against the other; DeMarco appears to be walking rather than running, and Sen. Orie is running against the Zappalas.

Some of Sen. Orie's mailers (and some from the DeMarco campaign) are available at North Pittsburgh Politics.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Orie Campaign Takes Voters To The Movies

Jane Orie's most recent campaign flyer, delivered to voters this week, is by far her best yet, resembling a great movie poster.
The title: Jane Orie For State Senate

The producer: Senate Republican Campaign Committee

The taglines: "Jane Orie Wants Answers: The Political Insiders Want Her Out" and "Jane Orie Is Taking On The 'Good Old Boys' Network: Now They Want Her Out"

The heroine: Jane Orie, "fighting to end 'cozy' deals given to political insiders"

The villains: Steve Zappala, the Connected D.A.; Charles Zappala, the List-Maker; Greg Zappala, the Money-Maker; and other "members of a . . . network"

Guest star: Cyril Wecht, M.D., J.D., Dem.: "Steve Zappala . . . said that anybody who screws with me or my family is going to be indicted"

Story by: Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Memorable scenes:
  • "If you paid taxes in Allegheny County in the last 20 years, a sliver of the bill went to members of an informal network . . .

  • "$32 million in payments were documented to network-related businesses from 2005-2009"

  • "Greg Zappala, the District Attorney's brother, financially benefitted from county bond deals in 1996 and 1999"

  • "J.P. Morgan made a large sum of money in a bond deal in the Onorato Administration. Greg Zappala worked at J.P. Morgan at the time"
Quote from star: It's always the Zappalas!

Infinonytune: Janey Don't You Lose Heart, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Parking Privateers Expand Pitch While Claiming Surprise (And, No Doubt, Erecting A Gangplank)

Today's developments with respect to the Suddenly-Not-So-Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale:

With hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars at stake, the privateers have reacted to council's lopsided rejection by launching a never-say-die, full-court press. They have apparently switched strategic gears, approaching council members directly (after ignoring most council members for months) to request (1) an opportunity for communication and (2) an open mind. Privateers are claiming that the Ravenstahl administration misled them with respect to council members' votes, sentiments and desire for direct participation in the process.

Lobbying has become frenzied, with some formerly behind-the-scenes players emerging for direct pitches.

Privateers also are attempting to expand outreach among neighborhood groups, in some cases involving events and meetings scheduled to occur after Tuesday (the day on which a council supermajority seems destined to bury the proposed lease).

Local fallout includes anxiety among professional firms that invested substantial effort in devising, documenting and promoting the proposed transaction, ostensibly for a contingent fee; one firm's partners have been told that millions of dollars are at risk.

State Official Reveals One Aspect Of The Horror

James B. Allen, secretary of the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System, inadvertently revealed today why some InsolvenCity officials have been hysterical in warning against the consequences of state oversight of pension funds. A Post-Gazette report indicates that while discussing with council members the contours of prospective state oversight, Mr. Allen actually mentioned "nonpartisan bidding requirements for bond work."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yinzer Admission Test: Parking Section

2. A Council supermajority voted to reject The Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale because
    (1) Constituent messages were running 95-98 percent against the privateers (in a town in which 2-5 percent of the population was personally involved in angling for a cut of the privateering proceeds)
    (2) The proponents of the proposed lease engaged in remarkably little effort to persuade council members of the proposal's merits
    (3) The sole council member to vote for the mayor's plan forfeited his colleagues' benefit of the doubt long ago
    (4) The overwhelming sentiment among independent financial and legal professionals consulted by council members ranged from "no" to "hell, no"
    (5) Council members determined that a state takeover had been misleadingly demonized by privateers
    (6) All of the above
Extra credit for discussion of your answer.

Infinonytune: Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Elton John

Those Who Watched Pension Fund Burn To Ground Are Poor Candidates To Conduct Rescue

It appears city firefighter union leader Joe King was no more successful in pleading for the Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale at council chambers today than have been the other union leaders sent to scare council members -- Council President Darlene Harris, in particular -- during recent months.

Before anyone listens to a word from Mr. King (left) on this subject, he should be compelled to answer this question: Where were the union leaders when the pension fund on which their unions' members rely was being dissipated by politicians (and their cronies) year after year after year? (Other than sucking down the free Ahrns at fundraisers for those politicians and at parties thrown by those cronies, of course.) The evidence indicates Mr. King and his colleagues have failed to protect pension funds for many years; is there any reason to believe they have changed course?

Infinonymous: Talking To The King, Joe Grushecky

The Vividly Unprincipled Life Of Diana Irey

Washington County Commissioner (and Tea Party leader) Diana Irey has loudly talked the conservative line -- free-market economics, small government, fiscal discipline -- when promoting Republican candidates, including herself.

At the most recent meeting of commissioners, the Tribute-Review reports, Commissioner Irey "said she is philosophically opposed to government subsidizing businesses" . . . moments before she provided the deciding vote to pledge millions of local taxpayer dollars to arrange a $20 million federal loan to a privately held business whose founder and CEO is her former colleague as a Republican commissioner, ostentatiously wealthy social climber Joe Hardy.

It appears government assistance isn't socialism, in the world of newly minted socialists Diana Irey and Joe Hardy, if the recipients are centimillionaires. But it is vivid hypocrisy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Momentarily Astute Life Of Joanna Doven

Mayor Ravenstahl's spokesperson, Joanna Doven, issued incontrovertible insight today:

"Residents deserve a lot more from their government."

Well stated, Ms. Doven.

Infinonytune: For Once In My Life, Tony Bennett/Stevie Wonder

The Conveniently Forgetful Life Of Joanna Doven

With Luke Ravenstahl on a longshot Chinese takeout run, the task of braying dutifully as the Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale is declared "dead" (and beyond "crazy math" resuscitation) has been entrusted to mayoral mouthpiece Joanna Doven, who warned today that "the clock is ticking."

Deadlines are tight, but the schedule was controlled by the Ravenstahl administration, which (1) spent the better part of a year hatching its privateering plan in secrecy and (2) secured an arrangement that prevented competing plans from being considered until the late-in-the-game unveiling of the mayor's proposal.

It's tough to take seriously complaints about a bad deal from people who stacked the deck.

Infinonytune: Already Gone, The Eagles

Why Settle For Faux Hicks When The Genuine Article Winks In Your Direction?

John Raese no longer must settle for out-of-state actors to portray "hicks" promoting his candidacy for governor of West Virginia: He now has the formal endorsement of a genuine out-of-state hick, former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Raese's inherited fortune originated in West Virginia, but his pink marble driveway (right), limousines, homestead exemption and family are located in Florida. The craving for a "hicky" veneer consequently reflects self-awareness (the carpetbagger candidate probably does not own a "John Deer" hat, for example).

Infinonytune: Green Acres, Eddie Albert/Eva Gabor

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ravenstahl Administration Does The Right Thing On Pension Subpoena, South Side Lawlessness

The Ravenstahl administration has announced a mature, productive response to city council's subpoena concerning provision of fresh(er) pension data to state officials: The relevant information is to be provided, without acknowledgment of the subpoena's validity (or establishment of precedent in that regard). A good result from several perspectives.

City officials also deserve credit for a fine first step toward enforcing laws, regulations and civilized norms along South Side's Carson Street corridor throughout the weekend. According to the Post-Gazette, police encountered spontaneous applause from residents of the alcohol-saturated (and, on Fridays and Saturdays, urine-stained) neighborhood as they issued parking citations, arrested public urinators and investigated the weekly shooting.

Rich Lords Over List Of Democrats' Officers

The Post-Gazette's Rich Lord probably does not have a vote with respect to leadership positions of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee . . . but he appears to exercise veto power, at least concerning who is to be publicly listed as an officer.

First, Mr. Lord removed Ed Grattan (far left, smaller star), whom the ACDC website had long identified as the county committee's finance chair -- until Mr. Lord published an apparently inconvenient summary of Mr. Grattan's conduct, after which publicity Mr. Grattan's name departed that website.

Mr. Lord struck again recently. Mr. Lord referred to local attorney (and longtime ACDC solicitor) Jack Cambest not only in an analysis of Pat Risha's career at the busy intersection of business and education but also in a multi-part examination of the List-Makers (whom Mr. Lord, unnecessarily deferential to Inficopyright, labeled "The Network"). As of yesterday, and as predicted, the ACDC website has pruned Mr. Cambest's name and title from its list of officers.

The ACDC website lists four officers -- chair, vice chair, secretary, treasurer -- with no indication of whether the local Democratic Party has a finance chair or solicitor. Can anyone illuminate this situation?

UPDATE: The website changes do not prove that any change in status among the Democratic Party's officers has occurred (hence the request for illumination, and the qualification of Mr. Lord's apparent veto power as being limited to public listings).

UPPERDATE: A program for the ACDC's October 7th Kennedy-Lawrence dinner lists Mr. Gratton as finance chair and Mr. Cambest as solicitor on the cover but does not include biographies or photographs of them inside (where other officers' biographies and photographs are printed).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Reading: Traveling Edition

Mojave, CA: Why drive when one could travel like this?

Mountain View, CA: Why drive when one could travel like this?

Western Pennsylvania: Time to schedule some desirable one-way trips?

Higher Education: Opportunity should follow merit, not inheritance.

New York-to-Providence: A short but instructive trip on Amtrack.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Taste Of What Tea Partiers Want To Serve

A taste of what America would look like if social conservatives' Tea Party-flavored nanny state is realized:
Makes nuggets fashioned from mechanically separated chicken sludge look downright delicious.

Insiders Say No City Councilor Refused To Lend Colleagues A Hand On Pension Data Subpoena

A mayor-side source continues to deny it, but uniform council-side reports indicate that no member of Pittsburgh City Council declined to sign the subpoena directing InsolvenCity administrators to deliver pension data to state officials.

Councilors Smith, Burgess and Dowd reportedly were not in the City-County Building when a staffer circulated the subpoena documentation for signatures; six signatures were adjudged adequate, so the subpoena was issued without waiting for absent councilors.

Rev. Burgess has all but confirmed that he was not asked to provide a signature -- by circulating a blistering e-mail among his colleagues, objecting to his lack of an opportunity to sign consider signing the subpoena authorization.

City-Council Building custodians continue to scrape eyebrows from fifth-floor ceilings consequent to Daniel Lavelle's decision to authorize the subpoena; the extent of Lavelle's departure from lock-step mayoral companionship will be further illuminated Wednesday, when council members begin to vote with respect to the Suddenly-Not-So-Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale.

InsolvenCity Still Crowing About G20, But Will Soon Be Begging ACLU For Mercy, Payment Plan

A bizarre story about bumbling FBI agents vandalizing innocent American citizens' vehicles to conduct clandestine surveillance is an apt introduction to the next stage of the long process of addressing the government abuses associated with Pittsburgh's mishandling of its G20 event.

The ACLU filed its lawsuit during September, which means the plaintiffs' lawyers should begin to receive documents and other evidence from the defendants later this month. (It's a federal court-supervised process, which means the city law department and its insurer-supplied colleagues will have limited opportunity to rely on their customary rope-a-dope tactics.)

The main event -- revelation of systematic and unlawful abuse of citizens, assignment of blame and awarding of damages -- is likely to occur in 2011 or 2012, but an instructive appetizer course should be served before the end of this year, when details concerning widespread and improper government spying begin to emerge.

(Expect the defendants to ask the court to restrict the plaintiffs' entitlement to publicize the evidence; expect a federal judge to stop laughing long enough to sign an order denying the defendants' request.)

Revelation of evidence might incline more victims -- not only those with bruises, but also those who were not aware they were being abused by police misconduct -- to file complaints. At some point, that specially purchased insurance limit might begin to look less comfortable (not for plaintiffs, or course -- they would be entitled to tap general InsolvenCity accounts to collect court judgments -- but for taxpayers).

Is City Council paying attention to this enormous contingent liablity? Or to the conduct that created it? This 30-second video alone (left) may be worth a million dollars, and the video on the right distills how silly the city's arguments will appear to a jury (stay with it to the end):

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Official: Jane Orie Has Become A True-Blue Democrat For Halloween This Year

Remember that person, back in school, who misperceived an inadvertent return of a glance as a signal of interest, then couldn't be shaken from the dream?

For northern tier Democrats with mailboxes, Sen. Jane Orie has become that person, moving from awkward "accidental" encounters to strained proximity to full-throttle, pathetic stalking.

Another glossy campaign advertisement touting a true-blue Sen. Orie has arrived at homes of Democratic registrants, this one saluting the senator for "fighting to clean-up the Gambling industry," which is a strange way to describe getting indicted (even before considering the grammar and capitalization elements of standard English).

As has become customary, a Democratic representative who does not support Sen. Orie(Bill Kortz this time) is quoted. The backgrounds are blue. The word "Republican" appears solely in six-point type and solely as required by law "Paid for by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee."

The tagline is "Jane Orie: Fighting For Us." Which doesn't ring true, because for these advertisements' audience, Jane Orie (and what she fights for as a Republican leader in the state senate) is Them, not Us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Suddenly Assertive Council Shuffles The Deck On The Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale

Six councilors order enough starch for their shirts to generate a subpoena, then show enough game to deliver the subpoena as the mayor travels to China?

Daniel Lavelle steps up for a major-league at-bat, while Patrick Dowd can't find a pen?

The lawyers who ostensibly provide legal advice to council are said to be constructing the arguments against council's authority to enforce ths subpoena?

The scary monster from Harrisburg revealed as a Tough Love teddy bear?

The Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale is beginning to follow the trajectory of the Fifth-Forbes Project (which may take a moment to recall, because it never got past a half-baked drawing board).

Infinonytune: New Kid In Town, The Eagles
Infinonytune: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yinzer Admission Test: Parking Section

1. Council's issuance of an extraordinary subpoena (directing InsolvenCity's executive branch to discharge its high-octane, fingerprint-free delivery boy and provide raw pension data directly to state officials) means
(a) a veto-proof majority of councilors has expanded its legal and financial advice horizons
(b) the entities that bet millions on the List-Makers' ability to deliver the mayor -- and the deal, and the fees -- are painstakingly reevaluating their positions
(c) at least a dozen lawyers, in at least three cities, are currently devising a plan to avoid compliance with that subpoena (estimated aggregate rate: $108/minute)
(d) today was the final day the city law department could offer to provide legal advice concerning the Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale to council members without risking a call to bar disciplinary authorities
(e) city taxpayers likely will soon learn whether the Ravenstahl administration placed them (and/or pension beneficiaries) on the hook for privateer fees payable even without a completed transaction
(f) unsmiling men in Chicago and New York are considering which horrible accidents could befall the touts who claimed to be able to deliver the deal
(g) all of the above

Extra credit for discussion of your answer.

An Educator's Lesson On Honoring Commitments

If reportedly-soon-to-be-former Pittsburgh schools superintendent Mark Roosevelt is inclined to set a personal example for students by disregarding a five-year commitment, it seems reasonable to be ambivalent about whether the door smacks him on his way out.

It might be worthwhile to send him a bill for replacement search costs (the amount of his bonuses seems a handy figure), followed by a breach-of-contract complaint if that bill is not paid.

If Natalia Says It, It's Got To Be Good! (Perhaps This Extruded Pink Stuff Excepted)

An indirect tip from Natalia Rudiak has placed a new blog at "Your Next Stop?" (center column): Fooducate.

Unless you already can identify -- and, therefore, strenuously avoid -- the substance whose extrusion is depicted at left, plan to devote an hour or two to your first visit to Fooducate.

Infinonyhint: It's not strawberry soft-serve.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Boy Mayor Who Cried Wolf Is Exposed

This is what Mayor Ravenstahl has been shrieking about as the end of the world?

This is the ethical landscape at the intersection of Pittsburgh and the parking pirates -- an "advisor" charging the rubes on Grant Street to vouch for that advisor's business partner -- even before the public discovers where the List-Makers fit in? (The prospective privateer calls the List-Makers' cut "community relations and involvement.")

Pittsburgh City Council members have found one more reason to ditch the Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale: Merely by avoiding a sale, they would save the city $8-$10 million in privateering fees.

Councilors also have encountered one more point regarding which they require independent legal advice: the conflicts of interest associated with the relationships among the privateers, the city's advisors, the mayor's office, the city law department, and the mayor's playmates.

P-G Editorialists: With Problem Solved By Firing Russell, We Expect Big Things From Our Pirates!

Demonstrating its knack for uninformed, wrong-headed analysis, the Post-Gazette's editorial page outdid itself today with a remarkably off-base rant that might have been stolen from a drunken fan whose closest proximity to a baseball field involved watching Little League games as a parent.

If John Russell emulates Jim Tracy (who, after being fired by the worst club in baseball history, promptly took the Rockies to the playoffs) or Jim Leyland (who won the World Series one year after leaving InsolvenCity), don't expect the P-G editorializers to notice: They'll be too busy nuzzling the Nuttings.

Graduates Display Value Of Religious Education

The products of religious schools have exhibited exceptional form lately, across the curricular spectrum.

English: At a national press conference concerning the obvious police abuses solid-as-vapor economic dividends of Pittsburgh's G20 experience, InsolvenCity Mayor Luke Ravenstahl demonstrated the value of a North Catholic education by declaring that he would tell South Korean officials preparing for a successor summit: "I hope they do as good as we did."

Government: Another North Catholic graduate, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, demonstrated the value of his civics classes in crafting a proposal to condition drilling permits on hiring of Pennsylvania residents. That proposal's flaw, as those who did not attend North Catholic have mentioned, is obvious conflict with the United States Constitution. (Pitt's law school also gets credit for Mr. Onorato's education, although it appears constitutional law was not part of the curriculum during Mr. Onorato's period of attendance.)

Biology: Christine O'Donnell's biology instructors must be beaming after hearing her defend the faith by declaring that evolution will remain a "myth" until she personally witnesses monkey moms spitting out human babies. Less reliant on church teaching, but nonetheless reflective of the value of science education grounded in religious dogma, was Ms. O'Donnell's warning that American scientists have created mice with fully functioning human brains.

Civics: Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina apparently liked the lessons of his church-sponsored school so much he wishes to impose theocracy on the entire nation. Among Sen. DeMint's more recent dogmatic declarations has been his claim that single women are fit to serve as teachers solely if they are virgins. Tellingly, this means Sen. DeMint thinks that Christine O'Donnell is too slutty to be trusted with schoolchildren.

(Parents may wish to check whether it is still possible to obtain a partial refund for transferring students to public schools.)

Infinonytune: Witchy Woman, The Eagles

Monday, October 4, 2010

Post-Gazette's New Legal Blog Omits Report Of Local Newspaper's Noteworthy New Counselor

The Post-Gazette today introduced a new feature, Ipso Facto, the "news crossroads of Western Pennsylvania's legal community."

Ipso Fact omitted mention of one of the most fascinating recent developments at Pittsburgh's bar, however, despite the story's location right under the Post-Gazetteers' noses.

When Pittsburgh mayors from Sophie Masloff to Luke Ravenstahl have required an authority board member, a solicitor, an advisor or a spokesman, they have frequently engaged Frederick Frank (left), a prominent and esteemed lawyer.

When Mayor Ravenstahl sought to pave a path on which he could steer InsolvenCity toward his Great Pittsburgh Parking Garage Sale, for example, Mr. Frank provided a handy and timely legal opinion that stiff-armed competing proposals.

When former mayor Sophie Masloff visited City Council recently to promote the mayor's parking plan, one council member recounted her insightful private pitch: "I'm going to scratch yer eyes aht if you don't vote for Fred Frank's plan."

Mr. Frank's positions along Pittsburgh's public-private interface establish him as a firmly embedded insider -- and therefore a curious candidate to represent the leading newspaper that covers that interface.

Newsroom sources nevertheless report that Mr. Frank has added the Post-Gazette to his roster of clients, perhaps as successor to first-rate media lawyer Tom McGough (right) and Reed Smith, the P-G's longtime law firm. (Mr. Frank's website identifies his areas of practice as family law, campaign finance, government relations and appellate practice; there is no apparent record of experience representing a newspaper.)

A newspaper whose news columns report on the city administration and whose editorial pages advocate for a controversial (and apparently senseless) parking deal hires a lawyer who represents or directs city agencies, advises elected officials and is hip-deep in the current parking controvery? This appears to constitute news (and quite a professional plum for Mr. Frank), even if no newspaper is prepared to report it.

Infinonytune: Lawyers, Guns And Money, Warren Zevon

Another Season For Losers On The North Side (Plus, The Pirates -- And Nuttings -- Still Stink)

The Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday concluded, with another loss, a season in which they accomplished the Triple Frown -- worst record (57-103), most games behind in their division (32), worst run differential (-277) -- not only in the National League, but indeed for the entirety of major league baseball.

After providing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to greedy and inept Pirates owners, the public has a team that loses more frequently, has a lower payroll, and draws fewer fans than was the case in Three Rivers Stadium -- and yet is profitable, with no incentive to improve its performance on the field.

The losers who promoted the stadium giveaway promoted economic development as a reason to subsidize the baseball club. At least five storefronts from failed restaurants (two of the restaurants were publicly subsidized, too) are shuttered within one block of PNC Park, however, including the location closest to the ballyard's entrance (that one was closed throughout this entire season). One of the non-subsidized restaurant victims of redevelopment had operated successfully for decades before the URA, the Sports and Exhibition Authority and Mayor Tom Murphy offered to help.

Like the city the represent, the once-proud Pirates have become a bankrupt -- morally and competitively, in the Pirates' case; financially, in the case of InsolvenCity -- and a laughingstock. The principal difference is that the National League publishes standings, attenuating fans' delusions of adequacy with respect to the Pirates.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Reading: American Way Edition

Farmington: In search of the American way.

The doctor's office: In search of the American way.

The admissions office: In search of the American way.

Wallingford: In search of the American way.

Infinonytune: America, David Bowie (Concert for New York)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Orie Campaign: The Indicted Candidate's Blues

It's easy to feel sorry for Jane Orie, political target of the Zappala family, especially if one ignores Sen. Orie's conduct.

Indictments being somewhat injurious to political campaigns, it is somewhat understandable that the Orie campaign would grab a spatula and put some new makeup on its candidate. But, believe it or not, this Orie makeover has traveled a concealer too far. (For the guys: Concealer is the layer that addresses wrinkles, blemishes acne scars and -- depending on how much is used -- craters up to a quarter-inch in depth).

One recent mailer, designed for the Democratic registration mailing list, omits mention of Sen. Orie's service as Republican Whip membership in the Republican Party, but prominently features a relatively positive quote from Democratic State Sen. Jay Costa. ("Relatively positive" in this carefully confected context, at least; 'she's a hard worker' could also apply to someone who put in for overtime shifts at a concentration camp.) Costa has endorsed Sen. Orie's opponent, Democrat Dan DeMarco.

Another mailer designed for the non-Republican audience, which reached mailboxes yesterday, involves a more complete makeover: One side depicts Sen. Orie (right, in a more natural wardrobe) in a bright blue suit, walking with senior citizens dressed in blue and red. The other has two shots of Sen. Orie in blue clothing, with a nondescript "fighting for us" message against a blue background, top and bottom. (The only red molecules on the entire side: the candidate's lipstick.)

Looking at these mailers, one might conclude that a new candidate -- not the dogmatic conservative with a 15-year red-meat record in Harrisburg -- is running as the Republican in the 40th District. But most readers familiar with Jane Orie are unlikely to be fooled -- her Republican handlers apparently couldn't get their candidate to change the hair.

Infinonytune: (Everyday) I Have The Blues, Eric Clapton
Infinonytune: How Blue Can You Get?, B.B. King