Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Veon Crossed Line, As Did Prosecution (So Far)

Whatever altruism accompanied Mike Veon's introduction to elected office had corroded beyond recognition long before the formerly powerful Democratic Representative was whistled for offenses against the public, but his split-decision conviction should leave citizens unsatisfied for several reasons.

First is the trial judge's refusal to enable Veon (right) to advance a selective prosecution defense, a ruling that will be justifiable only if several dozen additional legislators are charged promptly (on second thought, strike promptly, at least with respect to Republicans).

Second is the trial judge's dubious excusal of a juror for sudden onset of illness, shortly after that juror had turning on one another." After that juror was excused, six days of contentious deliberation turned into a short-order conviction.

Third, the timing of this and related prosecutions has been too convenient for comfort.

Attorney General Tom Corbett first tried Democratic Rep. Sean Ramaley (left), who was innocent, along a timetable that wrecked Ramaley's Senate campaign, paving a Republican's route to a seat that had been held by Democrats for 35 years. Corbett then charged Veon with timing that arranged Democratic scalps trials before Republican voters encountered Corbett's name on a primary ballot. Corbett did not charge Veon's tutor in taxpayer abuse, Republican John Perzel, until it was late enough to defer a verdict until after Corbett's gubernatorial race.

Corbett's partisan grandstanding with respect to federal health care reform reinforces a conclusion that the attorney general's office is being operated as a subsidiary of the Corbett for Governor campaign (right), as does Corbett's inaction concerning the incarceration-for-profit of innocent children.

Corbett is not alone in manipulating official activity for political gain -- Dan Onorato has preserved an immoral and unconstitutional system of misassessments for years, motivated by the same gubernatorial campaign calendar -- but the problem is magnified when the warped decisions involve law enforcement (or lack of it).

The common sense that should have warned Veon against sending his basketball buddies' take-out dinner tabs to taxpayers also causes any sensible person to recognize that a $10 million taxpayer-funded campaign computer system dwarves any pizza-and-burgers checks. Mike Veon was not smart enough to recognize he was crossing the line; he also was not smart enough to devise the scheme that will place him in prison. He merely emulated Republicans who had preceded Veon and Bill DeWeese as leaders of a legislative majority in Harrisburg.

Corbett's first campaign prosecutorial priority, however, was dining Democrats; informed citizens should ask for an explanation.

List-Makers Mayor Invites Council To Exclusive -- And Expensive -- "Afternoon Of Illusion" Show

As Pittsburgh city council members await a top-secret magic show (at which professional illusionists will conduct a one-card monte exhibition, then appear to transform a pothole into a pot of gold), they should ponder whether stories like this could signal a local cascade of stories such as this one. (Song for the next decade? "The Funny Bone's connected to the law firm . . . the law firm's connected to the accounting firm . . . the accounting firm's connected to the headquarters . . . and who said it's hard to find a place to park downtown?")

If decision-makers pass a tipping point with respect to cost-to-value and city-vs.-suburbs ratios, the disappearance of a downtown business district could be no illusion.

As a gesture of charity for the less fortunate, promoters will permit a group of stagehands, ticket-takers and other endangered species to attend the exclusive and magical performance.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nuts, Nuts And Mixed Nuts (With Bacon)

Beyond the arrests and the warning concerning the risks of angry extremism, the Hutaree investigation provides photographic evidence that there is no nut like a religious nut . . .

. . . unless it is a gun nut.

Come to think of it, the Hutarees are both.

Santonio: Too Fresh For Post-Gazette Readers?

A Post-Gazette editor (not sure which one, but I'd focus on the one who least likes his job) has placed a prominent link to Santonio Holmes' Twitterings on the P-G's online front page. Note to P-G editor: A quick call to any 12-year-old should reveal why sending a family newspaper's readers directly to that destination might not be a good idea.

For those disinclined to wade through a thicket of inanity, some highlights from SanTonio10 (or, as not-really-Art Jr. knows him, Excedrin#10):

U as fans . . . Remember u don't cut my check

LMAO all the way to the bank!

and yall will still see me on Sunday making plays

Lesson (Being) Learned: Politicians And E-Mail Addresses Are An Aggravating Combination

The daily receipt of dozens of fundraising e-mails -- 'your contribution by the upcoming reporting deadline is vital to demonstrate that our campaign is [viable] [dominant] [noticed] [leading]' or 'my opponent has called people like you [communists] [rednecks] [traitors] [sub-human], so please send the resources I need to stand up for us' -- has established a new first rule of politics:

Never provide any e-mail address

you care about to any politician.

It's impossible to determine how candidates acquire the addresses, in part because some of the beggars' names are unrecognizable and their races four states away, but it appears lists are sold, bartered or otherwise circulated among campaigns. These messages currently evade spam filters (a mark against spam filters). This plague seems to get worse every week. Save yourself now.

Calling Paul Harvey . . . Calling Paul Harvey

A Maryland driver has been punished, by plea bargain, for striking and killing a 22-year-old Zelienople native during her afternoon jog along a Frederick road a year ago. The victim, Elizabeth DiNunzio, a Seneca Valley graduate, was said to be training for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

The penalty: A $500 fine.

Plus $103 for court costs.

The prosecutor expressed satisfaction that the plea agreement imposed the maximum fine on the defendant.

There must be more to this story.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Notice To Santonio Playas: No Arrest, No Payout

PROPOSITIONS BOARD NOTICE: Today's installment of "The Steelers Way" (time to retire that "higher standards" line, Coach -- although Santonio does set a standard of sorts) does NOT affect Propositions Board (far right column) tickets. The lines concern arrests -- not police investigations, lawsuits, settlements, consent decrees or anything else short of handcuffs.

Otherwise, there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to keep up with adjusting those lines. Unless and until Santonio Holmes is arrested, hold those tickets.

Also, given the multitude of incidents, a clarification: The time of arrest -- not the time of the underlying offense or any collateral development (lineup, lawsuit, cell phone photo) -- governs all "Next Steelers Arrest" wagers. In other words, if a wide receiver gets arrested before, say, a quarterback, it doesn't matter which guy smacked which of the "bitches" first.

UPDATE: An astute Infinonyreader suggests that Holmes is merely campaigning to join Jeff Reed (left) and Ben Roethlisberger (right) as Steelers captains.

UPPERDATE: Luke should tell the Sports and Exhibition Authority to come up with up a grant for the Steelers to improve their hard-to-read website. Otherwise, yinzers' cataracts could bankrupt Obamacare.

UPPERERDATE: Had anyone offered to wager, before this morning, that PittGirl and this site would have used identical photographs today, that bet would have returned a few bucks. But had someone put a hundred behind the proposition that the Infinonyverse would feature full frontal Santoniosity (indirectly) while Pitt Girl refrained . . . two armored cars couldn't have held the winnings.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Reading: Sporting Edition

Johnstown: The Hansons are leaving the building.

InsolvenCity: A sporting proposition.

Morgantown: WVU in Final Four -- fifty years ago.

The Campaign Trail: Fouls called.

The Vatican: Even fouler.

Big Ben's Boner: Or maybe police already have the DNA?

Another Curious Case Of Donkey Kicks Donkey

Another strange twist concerning petition challenges:

One of the registered Democrats named as filing the aborted challenge engineered by Democrat Dan Onorato's campaign against Democrat Joe Hoeffel is one Greg Malinak, reliably identified as this Greg Malinak, a member of the staff of Representative Jason Altmire, also (at least periodically) a Democrat.

Why would an Altmire staffer help one Democratic candidate file a lame challenge against another Democratic candidate's petitions? Someone should ask Jim Burn.

UPDATE: A source from Camp Altmire reports that Mr. Malinak left the position of outreach coordinator recently and is no longer associated with Rep. Altmire's congressional office or campaign.

UPPERDATE: Several sources from Camp Altmire emphasize that the Congressman had no role or preference with respect to Mr. Malinak's participation in the petition challenge for Onorato against Hoeffel. For those who understandably infer that a staffer's political conduct reflects a boss' preferences (or orders), several people familiar with the situation indicate that Rep. Altmire takes an unusual (some would say refreshing) "hands-off" approach to staffers' off-the-clock activities.

Emil Faber's Legacy Endures: Knowledge Is Good

Emil Faber got it right: Knowledge Is Good.

The University of Ottawa and protesters, therefore, got it wrong by denying Ann Coulter an opportunity to speak. If some people choose to idolize a barren, bigoted, fornicating, bottle-blonde spinster as a spokesperson for family values, her words should be heard.

Google, on the other hand, appears to have lived up to Faber's motto by discontinuing its mainland Chinese search service instead of complying with the Chinese government's demand for censorship. (IBM, however, could benefit from some soul-searching.)

Knowledge can be disconcerting or even damning, powerful to a point at which even a Pope cannot avoid the judgment of truth.

Whether in the context of caricatured polemicists, faith-rattling disclosures, or investigation of a series of shady circumstances involving city governance, Emil Faber's insight endures: Knowledge Is Good.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Kid Candidate's Campaign Shifts Gears: Scenes From A Fancy French Restaurant

The Post-Gazette notes that Adam Ravenstahl has made some adjustments to his campaign's Intertubes machine, but does not mention the recent delivery -- to those desiring to continue to do business with the City of Pittsburgh who might wish to support the even younger Ravenstahl's campaign -- of invitations for a fundraising reception at one of the many hospitality venues located in the 20th District Mt. Washington's elegant LeMont.

It is unlikely reporters will be permitted on the premises as Yarone checks names off the city's vendor list the endorsed Democratic candidate expounds on his philosophy of governance over hors d'oeuvres and Iron City Grey Goose, so the riff-raff must settle for an educated guess concerning the evening's highlights:

3:10 p.m.: LeMont owner Ed Dunlap calls the mayor's office to assure that everything is in place for a successful event, closing with "and you can tell the mayor I selected the waitresses personally."

4:58 p.m.: The Ravenstahls arrive at LeMont, whose parking valet immediately points to a discreet sign and tells them, "sorry, guys, we only take applications between 2 and 4 . . . here, you can fill these out, bring them back tomorrow -- after 2."

5:04 p.m.: "Hello, Mr. Mayor," says general manager Alex Colaizzi, walking briskly past as the Ravenstahls climb the stairs to the dining room. Colaizai discreetly stops Adam and advises him, in a low voice: "Shift starts at 5, not 5 after. And you wear our jacket, not that crappy suit, to bus tables here. I won't tell you again."

5:15 p.m.: A man standing at the sign-in table tells John Verbanac's secretary: "It's B-u-r-g-e-s-s, but even if my name is not on any of those lists, it's OK. I'm a friend of the mayor."

5:32 p.m.: "Yes, I know I told you no press," Yarone Zober explains to the volunteers at the sign-in desk, "but these two are from the Post-Gazette editorial board. That's different. They're OK."

6:08 p.m.: Adam Ravenstahl, seeing Dave Malone enter the reception, stops mid-word in the high school football story he is telling a red-headed waitress and approaches Malone. As Adam extends his hand with a smile, Malone throws his coat over Adam's arm and says "great, kid, thanks . . . now how about scaring me up a Three Olives and grapefruit . . . just a little ice, OK?" Malone nods to Kevin Kinross: "Love this place. Best service in town."

6:09 p.m.: Zober, seeing Malone slip a fiver to Adam, abandons Ed Grattan and rushes toward them, waving his arms: "No cash, no cash! Personal checks only! C'mon, guys."

6:10 p.m.: Luke Ravenstahl hears the commotion and emerges from a linen closet, a half-step ahead of a different red-headed waitress.

6:11 p.m.: The leader of the UPMC contingent immediately heads off Luke and is overheard: "Look, Luke, it's just that some people in your office seem to be forgetting something . . . for chrissakes, we hired the kid, didn't we?"

6:23 p.m.: Kevin Kinross addresses the crowd: "Dan couldn't be here tonight, but he asked me to tell all of you that he knows Alan Ravenstahl will give the people of the North Side every bit the level of public service that the entire city has come to expect from Luke, and as governor, Dan will be counting on Alan to help us move forward . . . except on assessments, of course. They will never change as long as Dan is there to protect the taxpayers."

6:26 p.m.: Adam Ravenstahl, standing next to Greg Zappala, tells Mark Nordenberg: "So, like, chancellor is, like, it's like president or something? So you're, like, in charge? That is so cool, 'cause I been, like, thinking about going to legal school, you know, in case I want to be, like, district attorney or something."

6:41 p.m.: "It's, like, so cool," one redhead tells the other. "They're, like, brothers, and we're, like, sisters. How old do you think they are?"

6:43 p.m.: Zober asks the Post-Gazetteers: "InsolvenCity? What the hell does that even mean?"

6:54 p.m.: Adam is back with his redhead: "So, it's like, if you graduate in June, and I'll be in Harrisburg as, like, a senator or something, so maybe you could come up and, like, visit this summer . . . "

6;55 p.m.: Zober tries to calm down the UPMCers: "Look, I wasn't there and so I don't know what he said. But of course, if he's elected, no one expects you to keep paying him. If he misunderstands, I'll take care of it."

6:59 p.m.: Heard from inside the linen closet: "Does it really matter how old I am? Ever been to Seven Springs?"

As Michael Kenney And Associates Take On Water, Burgess And Dowd Reach For Lightsabers

Today's special meeting of Pittsburgh Council concerning the profitability of public-private incest the water authority's "special handling" of an opt-out waterline insurance plan for customers established several points:

First, anyone who believed Patrick Dowd had lost all contact with the Force and succumbed to the Dark Side was mistaken.

Second, anyone who believed Rev. Ricky Burgess' surprising transformation to Sith Lord was not yet complete was mistaken.

Third, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority should enclose a small packet of Vaseline with each bill, at least until a United States Attorney is installed in this district.

Note to Darth Dan Deasy: Jeff Skilling was well-qualified, too. As were Bernard Madoff, Kenneth Lay and Richard Nixon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"I Ain't Waitin' All Day For Him . . . This Ain't No Cab Service" (The Ballad Of Curtis Mitchell)

Although systemic flaws might merit questions aimed higher along the command structure, any reason to second-guess Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Mike Huss' handling of the mishandling of Curtis Mitchell's fatal interaction (or lack thereof) with city paramedics evaporated when these statements reached the public's ears:

"He ain't [expletive] coming' down, and I ain't waitin' all day for him . . . I mean, what the [expletive], this ain't no cab service."

"How about that (10 fruitless calls in 30 hours)? He can wait."

"Oh, well, he'll be fine. Go back to sleep."

Those are the words of people who should expand their employment horizons beyond the paramedic field.

Huss also deserves credit for speaking directly with Sharon Edge, Mr. Mitchell's girlfriend, about the city's failures, investigation and response. It may be counterintuitive to many observers, but Mr. Huss may be limiting the city's eventual liability exposure by communicating forthrightly with Ms. Edge and the public.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chongs, Bongs and Doobie-ous Propositions

Astute followers of the Propositions Board (far right column) noticed a "Chong fundraiser" line (3-1) posted a couple of months ago with respect to the Altmire district race, then observed that the line narrowed (1-1) a few weeks ago. A couple of e-mail correspondents considered that line a joke, claiming no candidate or political party would willingingly associate with a convicted felon (other than by vote of the people, of course), even if the underlying conviction illustrates an opponent's lack of fitness for office. The "Chong fundraiser" line has CLOSED, however, because the county Democratic Committee is selling tickets for a May 5th event at the IBEW hall on the South Side. Congratulations to those already holding winning tickets.

A reader asked about the lack of a "conviction" line in the "Big Ben's Boner" section of the Propositions Board. An oversight. Corrected.

Some Dan Onorato fans have scoffed at the lines related to the Democratic primary campaign for governor. The topic deserves, and will receive, detailed treatment; until circumstances change, the three-peas-for-the-nod lines stand.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Reading: XY Edition

If any person could make pro 'rasslin respectable, it is former world chamption Bruno Sammartino.

Well, maybe not with respect to the modern farce into which Studio Wrestling has devolved. At a gathering with today's pro 'rasslers, even spotting most of them 40 to 50 years, Bruno (and Jumpin' Johnny) would be men among girls.

Bruno Sammartino is part of a generation of Pittsburgh characters -- such as Porky "Daddio of the Radio" Chedwick,
Angelo "World's Longest-Serving Bartender" Cammarata, Bill "The Human Pivot" Mazeroski, Wendy "Party Line" King, Cyril "Celebrity Pathologist" Wecht and Arnold "Arnie's Army" Palmer -- everyone should try to meet at least once.

Sunday Reading: XX Edition

Mt. Lebanon: If The Region Has A Future, It Is Anna

Washington: The Nuns School Bart

The Bench: Judging Without Judgment

Washington: Nancy Wore The Pants At 'Kiddie Care' Time

UPDATE: Speaker Pelosi, walking arm-in-arm with Rep. John Lewis toward the Capitol and a historic vote concerning health care legislation,, carried the gavel used to enact Medicare legislation 45 years ago. Nice touch.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Advice For Republicans: Quit Offering Advice

First, Republicans warned that Democrats would experience political doom if Democrats did not enact health care reform: "If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him," declared Sen. Jim DeMint.

More recently, Republicans have warned that Democrats would experience political doom for enacting health care reform: "I believe if they ram the bill through the House like this, they will lose their majority," said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor.

(One House Republican today upped the ante by declaring that Democrats, by enacting health care reform, would kill his father: "This bill would put him in the grave -- literally!")

Two responses: First, even if the American public disfavors health care reform, if Americans would consider voting for Republicans barely a year after the Bush Jr. administration left office, that would establish that American voters will forgive (or forget) just about anything.

Second, with the world still smarting from Republican failures, unless the first two words out of a Republican's mouth are "I'm sorry" or "I apologize," no American should much care what follows.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Altmire's 'I Will Vote No" Statement Indicates Health Care Reformers Have Enough Votes

Jason Altmire released a statement today indicating House Democrats have secured the votes necessary to pass health care reform (again) he will vote against health care reform.


A poorly maintained secret is that Congressman Altmire's health care vote the first time around was one of the final few recorded by the Clerk, because Rep. Altmire was not prepared to vote against reform unless the bill was positioned to pass without his vote.

Today's announcement suggests Rep. Altmire has been advised (after today's caucus, from which headcounter Jim Clyburn emerged with a "we will have the votes . . . when the roll is called" confidence) his vote will not be necessary to ensure a victory for reformers this weekend.

Announcing an intended vote today seemed dumb for two reasons -- circumstances could change, and this is yet another unnecessary slap at Democratic supporters by a still-learning politician -- but Democrats seem entitled to ignore Rep. Altmire's most recent misstep and take heart from the signals sent by Reps. Clyburn (and, perhaps inadvertently, Altmire) this afternoon.

Challenging Times Concerning Political Petitions

The petition-poaching season (the week or two following filing deadlines for elected office) is brief, but sometimes eventful.

Dan Onorato's campaign challenged Joe Hoeffel's petitions, then it didn't, then Onorato (left, with a junior aide) claimed his campaign had never done any of it.

Progress Pittsburgh overstated the situation with the headline "Has Dan Onorato Lost His Mind?" -- by about one-tenth of one degree.

Hoeffel filed roughly seven times as many signatures as were required, suggesting that Onorato's primary motivation was to exploit his funding advantage by bleeding Hoeffel's scarce dollars. The Onorato camp's stated explanation -- that fear of a Hoeffel challenge to Anthony Williams' petitions triggered the Onorato challenge, and that learning that Hoeffel had not challenged Williams' petitions caused Onorato to withdraw -- would not place Onorato in any more attractive light. For an ostensibly confident campaign based primarily on building a perception that its candidate's nomination is inevitable, the Onorato camp's unnecessary revelation of insecurity was a strange misstep.

Another interesting point: Veteran Republican overachiever Mike Turzai, state senator from the North Hills, has challenged the petitions of an unknown Democrat, Sharon Brown. One of the three registered Democrats named as a challenger is a David J. Malone -- who shares at least a name with a big donor to Democrats who also happens to be a prominent local beneficiary of the decisions of pragmatic Democratic elected officials (such as Tom Murphy). Malone (right) is among Luke Ravenstahl's biggest funders; Malone and Turzai are part of Ravenstahl's "problem-solving" pension panel.

Unless the situation involves two David J. Malones, why would two-way Democratic player Malone and Republican heartthrob Turzai form a tag-team to scuttle an inconsequential Democratic primary candidate? Someone should ask Jim Burn.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

James Gambrell Delivers

Diana Nelson Jones' account of James Gambrell's activated kindness is worth your time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Great Moments In Local Government

The Post-Gazette reports progress:

Pittsburgh, Allegheny County to merge financial computers

If this generates cost savings, imagine the benefit when they starting pooling purchases of red ink.

Parking Push: List-Makers Luke Just Sent In JV

The junior varsity of the region's ossified, self-aggrandizing, counterproductive power structure has reportedly endorsed the
List-Makers' mayor's plan to place InsolvenCity's long-term, citywide parking concession in the hands of privateers.

Key points for the Downtown Partnershippers: Free parking for church ladies (page 24), appropriate planning for Super Bowl parades (page 22) and -- surprise!! -- their cut of the cut-rate pie (page 23).

Kucinich A "Yes" On Health Care; Where's Jason?

Dennis Kucinich has declined to "go Nader" on health care reform.

We are approaching the point at which Jason Altmire, too, will be required to duck out of the Fox studios long enough to take a concrete stand on health care reform.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Natalia Rudiak Following Lamb's Footsteps?

Wild guess: Natalia just made the list.

Second wild guess: The mayor will send someone with three legal opinions declaring the city's response to the snowstorm to be 'not only beyond reproach, but indeed the only way the city could have responded consistent with applicable law.'

Life Imitates Art (Uncomfortably, After 20 Years)

Which of these
pictured persons wrote
"Dude (Looks Like A Lady)?"

(Hint: It is not
Ruth Bader Ginsburg.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Grad School Admission Test (Yinzer Edition)

1. If InsolvenCity's finance director (assume the director is the final survivor of a three-clown circus) publicly accepts or releases a legal opinion, a strategic suggestion, a financial forecast or a policy argument supporting a plan to use a vital public asset to rehabilitate a hideously underfunded pension fund, that action signals that which of these conditions has been met?

(a) the plan includes gigantic upfront fees for politically connected financial, legal and business advisors;

(b) the plan includes prearranged jobs for several of the mayor's associates;

(c) the plan will inflict heartache on city residents, parkers and pension beneficiaries for decades; or

(d) all of the above.

Please discuss your response.

Buying Beer By The Six-Pack In Pittsburgh (With Or Without A "Loss Of Privacy" Chaser)

Here is an incomplete list of local stores at which one can purchase excellent beer by the six-pack (or single) without being forced to provide to the store (and anyone else the store chooses to sell or give the information to) electronic detail concerning your name, drivers license number, address, age, gender, product purchased (with a correlated, detailed history of other product purchases), time of purchase, location of purchase, and other information:

Bocktown Beer and Grill, the Pointe, Robinson

D's Six Pax & Dogs, S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square

D's Six Pax & Dogs, Northern Pike, Monroeville

Pittsburgh Bottleshop Cafe, Washington Pike, Bridgeville

Sharp Edge Beer Emporium, South St. Clair St., Friendship

3 Sons Dogs & Suds,
Perry Highway, Wexford

Barley's & Hop's, Library Road,
Bethel Park

Here is a complete list of local stores at which one can purchase excellent beer by the six-pack (or single) only by permitting the store to use your driver's license to record electronically (for its use or other companies' use, perhaps after your information has been sold without your knowledge or permission) your name, address, drivers license number, age, gender, product purchased (with a correlated, detailed history of other products purchased over a period of years), time of purchase, location of purchase, and other information:
Beer at Giant Eagle (various locations)

On a more pleasant note . . . what's your favorite beer?

A Plea For Tolerance (With One Major Condition)

The Infinonypinion on gay marriage changed 180 degrees the moment it was explained convincingly that same-sex marriage would not be mandatory. With that point clarified, what is the problem? If optional same-sex marriage would constitute any threat to tab A-slot B marriage (or, as some say, "opposite marriage"), it would be far behind David Vitter, John Ensign, Chip Pickering, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Mark Sanford and hundreds of other sanctimonious hypocrites on any list.

For that reason, when the Pennsylvania Senate conducts a vote (expected to occur tomorrow, Tuesday) on a proposal to embed bigotry in the Commonwealth's constitution, the only thing that would justify a "yes" vote would be a successful, last-minute push by radicals to switch same-sex marriage from "optional" to "mandatory."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Big Ben's Sauce And Jerky Income At Risk?

As if it were not already bad enough that Ben Roethlisberger's misadventure in Georgia has generated stories questioning his desirability as a restaurant customer (some might shorten it to bad tipper), spoiled his "Ben-a-Palooza" interstate birthday party (those custom-printed t-shirts are customarily nonrefundable) and reportedly forced him to grovel his way to a meeting with his "dismayed" employers, today's news brought this:

It could cost him some endorsement deals.

Advertisers apparently have reservations about associating their message with someone whose new pastime is dodging sexual assault allegations writing big checks to the kind of elite private investigator whose calling card is work for terrorists, NFL felons or murder suspects, corrupt politicians and gun-running rappers.

Sunday Reading: Charles Zappala (And Friends, And Relatives, And Political Associates) Edition

Two fascinating points about local affairs emerged recently: Some people have difficulty operating an Intertubes-compatible messaging apparatus, and Charles Zappala** likes lists (more than he likes city controller Michael Lamb, inconvenient questions about public finances or meddling objections to no-bid public contracts).

The natural consequence of these revelations is a Charles Zappala edition of Sunday Reading (without datelines, because each of these memorable reports originated at the intersection of public money, political influence, taxpayer regret and private gain):

• You probably forgot this one.

• Allegheny County pension beneficiaries probably haven't forgotten this one.

• Butler taxpayers wish they could forget this 'fleecing' (Ed Rendell's word, not mine).

• 'Forget about the fees,' Pittsburgh city council was told (although, in fairness, who could put a price tag on 'expertise') (Rich Fitzgerald's word, not mine).

• It might be tough to forget being incarcerated unjustly as a child.

• Forget about topping judges being bribed to put children behind bars for profit . . . unless, perhaps, the profiteering jailers are overcharging the government for it.

• 'Forget about how our local partners got their shares, or whether they actually paid for their investment,' Forest City said.

Overall, quite an illuminating list, some might argue -- but you be the judge.

** Charles R. Zappala,

• brother to former State Supreme Court Chief Justice (and more recent undisclosed gambling flack) Stephen A. Zappala,

• uncle to district attorney (and victims' advocate, not to mention community development specialist) Stephen A. Zappala Jr.,

• uncle to unqualified (or "not recommended," in guild terms) judicial candidate (and undisclosed gambling mouthpiece) Michelle Zappala Peck,

• uncle to Gregory Zappala, financial advisor to seemingly every politician and public agency in southwestern Pennsylvania (and beyond), rainmaker for community-minded investment firms, and developer of government-funded projects, including prisons for (not-so-guilty) juveniles.

business partner (and casino investment "team[mate]") of Bill Lieberman,

associate of the "long-armed" and ubiquitous John Verbanac,

exchanger of pleasantries with such politicos as Luke Ravenstahl and an exceptionally patient, if not downright merciful, county executive Dan Onorato, and

• author of words of wisdom:

"I look at the community and I say, 'When are we going to stop this?'"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Witnesses" Can't Say Too Little About Big Ben

It appears a couple of groupies have come forward to talk about what went down in the Capital City Bar's VIP section.

These "witnesses" seem to feel so strongly about speaking out that they are not only breaking Rule No. 1 of the traditional Groupie Code ("keep your mouth shut", er, "what happens in the VIP room stays in the VIP room"), but also ignoring the request by Roethlisberger's lawyer that "people . . . be patient" while awaiting the "truth" to "come out." (To be fair, the groupies did not breach Garland's admonition until Garland's plea was first ignored by Garland.) Nor, apparently, did these witnesses speak with law enforcement officials before going to the press.

It does not yet appear to have been established, however, precisely how clear a view of the interior of a ladies' restroom these particular witnesses could have had.

Joe Starkey's Column Shows Steelers' Evolution

Joe Starkey's column on the Steelers' evolving standards indicates he values his integrity at least as much as he values access to and relationships with the team's owners and employees.

In the "good old days," the Steelers might have been able to arrange to have one sportswriter run interference for the team in this situation, to the point of urging another reporter to spike such an article.

It appears things have changed (and changed, and changed).

Darlene Harris Channels Red Grange

Darlene Harris, who became Pittsburgh's city council president with strong broken-field running, is showing all the right moves as Pittsburgh's elected officials approach decisions concerning the proposal to hand complete control of downtown parking to politically connected profiteers.

She not only stiff-armed advice ('the last thing you want in a situation like this is information or verification') from the mayor's questionable and seemingly self-interested choice to quarterback the process, but also asked pertinent questions about whose huddle the mayor and his curious new posse belong in.

Rev. Ricky Burgess' lonely objection -- that refusal to swallow the Morgan Stanley/Ravenstahl/[insert name of local fixer] line without reservation could have a "chilling effect" on bids -- necessarily assumes that bidders would be as credulous as is Rev. Burgess, and therefore can be readily dismissed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ravenstahl On Jordan Miles: So Far, So Good

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl deserves praise for his early handling of the Jordan Miles case. He ignored the police union's nonsensical opposition to removal of the relevant officers from contact-with-the-public duty. The mayor has expressed appropriate skepticism concerning the force used by three large officers with respect to the groundless arrest of an unarmed, teenaged, violin-playing honor student beaten to a pulp outside a friend's home.

Roethlisberger's Thin Blue Line Lawyers Up

When witnesses described Ben Roethlisberger's "bodyguards," they might have been referring to a local municipal police officer and a Pennsylvania state trooper, both of whom accompanied the quarterback in Georgia and at least one of whom has lawyered up.

This has the beginnings of a wild ride, even if these two officers were not part of the detail regularly used by certain athletes for VIP room privacy enforcement on the South Side.

To dispel apparent confusion, The Brick, one of the establishments involved in the recent Milledgeville college bar crawl (senior division) reportedly has hung this sign on the door of its ladies' restroom:

Council To Mayor (And Parasites): We Will Do Our Own Research On Parking Deal, Thank You

Pittsburgh city council members (with one exception, apparently) set aside intramural frictions and did the right thing today concerning the threatened long-term parking concession debacle.

When two guys from Morgan Stanley travel by air to warn against snooping around their deal, you know you're on the right track.

Unless the lone "no" vote was cast by someone favoring even more skeptical treatment of the mayor's proposal, that vote will decide the "Motznik's Successor As Mayor's BFF On Council" winner (Propositions Board, far right column).

UPDATE: That was quick. A council member reports that the nay was Rev. Ricky Burgess, and that his motivation was far from skepticism concerning the proposed sell-off. The Propositions Board will be updated to reflect that the favorite has coasted home, making Rev. Burgess, officially, Luke Ravenstahl's new BFF on council and the rightful occupant of the Motznik Advanced Chair In Mayoral Fealty; all relevant lines are CLOSED.

Help Wanted: (Very) Part-Time Meeting Facilitator, Pays Exceedingly Well, With Benefits

How much per hour does this contract work out to?

If you see someone reaching for a calculator, it isn't Luke Ravenstahl or Dan Onorato. (They're too busy trying to figure out who spilled the beans to the Post-Gazette.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

InsolvenCity's Future, Explained?

Short and not-so-sweet.

Roethlisberger: No Answers, But Many Questions

Nearly everyone -- with the exception of one 20-year-old sorority member and one 28-year-old quarterback who apparently share the pastime of hanging out with undergraduates at campus bars -- is far from answers with respect to anything that occurred in a restroom at the Capital City nightclub.

Several questions, however, already seem pertinent:

• Why do Roethlisberger's representatives continue to make silly statements? First, his agent indicated that a preliminary investigation had caused the allegation to be dropped (just before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation officially labeled Roethlisberger a suspect and "invited" him to return to Georgia for interrogation). Next, his lawyer announced that "no sexual assault occurrred," a statement roughly as reliable as a Pat Robertson natural disaster forecast, made roughly at the time a subpoena for Roethlisberger's DNA was issued. Roethlisberger fans should hope that his categorical declaration at a 2009 press conference -- "I would never, ever force myself on a woman" -- was not another installment in a series of self-serving, unreliable statements.

• Why is it so difficult to pay a tab and leave a proper tip? This
report from Georgia
(Dan Majors, Post-Gazette):
there are members of the service industry who share stories of his walking out on checks
suggests that Georgia's hospitality community is learning what waitresses in Cranberry have been discussing since the Steelers quarterback moved his local residence from Washington's Landing to points north.

• Why would anyone rely on the sketchy situation in Nevada to defend Roethlisberger with respect to current events? That reliance seems misplaced for several reasons. This accuser went straight to the police and the hospital, not to a plaintiffs' lawyer and the courthouse. This accuser's acquaintances depict an unlikely golddigger; the Reno claimant was almost immediately derided by acquaintances. The Reno claim originated in a hotel room registered to Roethlisberger; the Georgia claim reportedly originated in a restroom originally occupied by a female.

It is far too early to declare Roethlisberger guilty; he has been accused, but not charged. It also is far too early to declare him innocent, however, and Roethlisberger's mouthpiece should know better.

Infindorsement: State Legislative District 20 (Special Election For Unexpired Walko Term)

The Post-Gazette reports that Republicans have located a candidate who not only will oppose Adam Ravenstahl but indeed equal him as a candidate to complete the unexpired term of Don Walko (who left a position for which he was qualified, state representative, to take a position for which he was not qualified, county judge).

It should have been difficult to match endorsed and unqualified Democrat Adam Ravenstahl, but the Allegheny County Republican Committee proved itself a match for that task by selecting Alex Dubart (left), a Reserve Township resident who bills herself as a Citizen Patriot Republican. Dubart's website has empty pages for "About Me" and "Resume," but provides all the information a voter would need by featuring a broad selection of signs from a "Freedom March 9/12" protest, including

• "If Al Qaeda Wants To Demolish The America We Know And Love, They Better Hurry Because Obama's Beating Them To It"

• "Obamageddon"

• Side-by-side drawings of Pres. Obama and Hitler

• "Pres. Obama This Is Not Moscow"

In other words, the parties have presented to voters a choice between two candidates who could share a round logo: Ravenstahl for zero accomplishments, zero credentials, and zero reasons for his candidacy, and Dubart for a Froot Loop.

After consideration of the choice between the Kid Brother Candidate and every flavor in a bowl of Froot Loops, the Infindorsement goes to a write-in vote: "Abolish This District."

Monday, March 8, 2010

InsolvenCity In Decline: Kid Brother Candidate ACDC-Endorsed Kid Brother Candidate Edition

For the members of the City of Pittsburgh subset of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, being handed a bottle of water by Yarone Zober outside Heinz Field apparently creates enough political indebtedness to cause them to endorse a box of rocks credential-free, functionally mute 25-year-old for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Check that: A bottle of water plus a specially assessed $3,000 check to the committee.

In fairness, not all of the Democratic Committee members from InsolvenCity are half-wits. Most are quarter-wits, or eighth-wits. Those from the North Side -- known as the region's leading source of low-quality politicans and high-quality crystal meth -- are too-small-to-quantify-wits.

Among the endearing attributes of people who lack self-awareness is a propensity to say things such as this:

Mr. Ravenstahl kept an unusually low profile for a political candidate in the weeks before Sunday's vote. Though he appeared at a variety of Democratic Party events, he failed to respond to calls from reporters. Mr. Ravenstahl, 25, said Sunday that he had been reticent because he did not regard himself as a full-fledged candidate until he received the backing of the Democratic committee members.

In other words, he didn't want city committee members' minds to be cluttered by issues and positions and qualifications as they were voting.

Credit the Kid Brother Candidate for this: He knows his peeps.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Miracles On Tioga Street: Disappearing Evidence And Credibility, Reappearing Criminal Charges?

The Pittsburgh police case against honor student Jordan Miles -- for beating three officers' tree branch with his mouth, assaulting city pavement with his face, and abrading officers' hands with his hair as they pulled it from his scalp -- has been dismissed by a magisterial district judge.

Judge Oscar Pettite apparently declined to rely on key elements of police evidence, at least in part because they didn't exist. The Mountain Dew bottle police identified in affidavits and testimony as the object they mistook for a gun in Miles' pocket, for example, either has disappeared or never existed. A statement in a police affidavit, in which a homeowner (described by the district attorney's officer as the ostensible victim of a prowling charge) described Miles as a stranger, was contradicted in court -- by the testimony of that homeowner, who told the court that Miles is a friend of her children.

City police union official Charles Hanlon expressed outrage concerning the obvious injustice: "We firmly believe there was enough evidence to hold those charges . . . We plan to lobby the district attorney pretty hard to refline those charges."

Hanlon exhibited discretion by refraining from pointing with specificity to the evidence that makes it obvious that a crime occurred along Tioga Street in Homewood in the dark hours of January 11: That sidewalk didn't bleed on itself. That tree branch didn't imbed itself in Miles' gum. That dreadlock didn't pull itself out of Miles' head. Hanlon is likely to get his wish -- additional charges in this case -- but statements from an FBI official suggest those new charges might not come from the source he envisions, nor travel in the direction he prefers. Hanlon probably knows this, which would explain why the men who beat Miles have lawyered up.

A few questions:

(1) Did the district attorney interview the "victim" of the alleged prowling, Monica Gooding, before her courtroom testimony eviscerated the police affidavit on which the prosecution relied?

(2) Has the district attorney investigated the circumstances concerning the so-far illusory bottle of Mountain Dew?

(3) Did the district attorney consult a use-of-force expert concerning the nature of Jordan Miles' injuries?

(4) Would city taxpayers get a bargain if the city preemptively offered Miles a free college education (including grad school, Jordan); a modest home in the city; donations in his name to the NAACP and the ACLU; and a front-row seat at the disciplinary hearings for the officers who beat the hell out of him? (Doug Shields also seems to think this might be a pertinent question.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Adam Ravenstahl's Campaign A Family Affair, But Not Necessarily In The Way You Thought

Until now, Adam Ravenstahl's run for state representative rested solely on his status as the even-younger brother of Luke Ravenstahl.

A campaign mailer reproduced by the Post-Gazette mentions that the 25-year-old candidate's "family has a long history of public service," and identifies a three-legged platform of issues: jobs, health care and public safety.

Because part of the relevant legislative district is part of InsolvenCity, candidate Ravenstahl could have stuck with public safety, public safety and public safety.

Adam Ravenstahl also complains about politicians who put "self-interest ahead of the public interest."

Some might have been too quick to dismiss Adam Ravenstahl as just another unaccomplished, juvenile product of nepotism. His first piece of campaign literature indicates he will conduct a principled reform campaign committed to ridding local politics of the likes of Luke Ravenstahl.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Can Reed Succeed From The 40-Hour Line?

Magisterial District Judge Richard King appears to have effected thoughtful justice with respect to the latest criminal court proceeding involving Steelers placekicker Jeff Reed, but it is noteworthy that the 40 hours of community service to be performed by the 30-year-old Reed after a skirmish with police outside a bar is a stiffer penalty than that imposed on most of the college kids rounded up by the rampaging Ravenstahl forces after the G20ers left Oakland.

Reed's eye-rolling and gum-chewing exhibition (small sample here) --conducted in the courthouse while his mouthpiece attempted to depict Reed as an adult in an exchange with reporters -- generates minor doubt that Reed will fit the judicially suggested community service into his schedule before his next court date arrives.

Regardless of the disposition of current charges, Reed retains the favored line in the "next Steelers arrest" section of the Propositions Board (far right column).

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Boy Mayor, The Bush Foot Soldier And A Street Sign: Less Intrigue Than Meets The Eye?

Why would the Boy Mayor name a prominent Pittsburgh street after a key cog in the Bush Jr. administration's torture-and-surveillance operation? Probably not for the reason most would expect.

A reflexive thought might be that because Luke doesn't possess a single Democratic instinct, he desired to honor an unreformed, uninformed, decency-deprived Bush foot soldier. That's possible -- Luke, like some other local "Democrats," might pass the Republican litmus test -- but admiration for Gen. Hayden seems unlikely to be the reason for the unsightly spectacle (right) of Gen. Michael V. Hayden Blvd. adjacent to InsolvenCity's holiest of holies, Heinz Field. The commemoration was accomplished without much local notice; more than a year passed before a local professor noticed and objected. (Council conducted a public hearing this morning.)

Another angle, a good bet as the one Luke's handlers will advance, is that Hayden is being honored for his service to the nation, regardless of whether he pushed the Constitution through a woodchipper. Unless, however, there's a Paul O'Neill Parkway commemorating a Pittsburgh resident who managed to complete his Cabinet service without torturing anyone or spying on Americans, that reasoning doesn't hold waterboarding. (And, unlike Gen. Hayden, Mr. O'Neill appears not to be cashing in on his government service by selling his government-provided security insights to business and government purchasers, foreign and domestic.)

So why did Luke do it? The best available explanation: This was just a favor among North Catholic High School's numerous, extremely loyal alumni. As is so often the case with Luke, the most likely explanation is nothing fancy -- just simple, low-grade, street-level backscratching.

In other words, nothing as complicated as Constitutional law:

Based on that performance, Pittsburgh residents should probably be grateful Luke merely put Gen. Hayden's name on a street sign, and not on the door to the city solicitor's office.