Monday, May 31, 2010
For most Americans, Memorial Day is a day of leisure earned by the sacrifice of others.
More than one million persons have accepted active duty in the military service of today's United States of America. All have been volunteers, pushed by patriotism, practicality and perhaps other factors in varying measures.
Millions of others have completed their service. Some enlisted, some were conscripted. Some pursued danger, some had no choice other than to confront it. Some accomplished great missions, some were sent on fools' errands, some were issued immoral orders. Some were required to overcome not only the enemy but also the ignorance and bigotry of their peers or superiors. Nearly all have distinguished themselves, whatever their orders, by simply doing their duty.
Some returned as heroes, some (including heroes) returned to a society that treated them like dirt. Some returned in caskets, some never returned.
More than one million persons have died in the military service of the United States. At a technical level, Memorial Day honors the dead and Veterans Day honors the living. All, however, deserve a moment of reflection, a kind thought, a measure of gratitude today.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Despite the spectacular, counterproductive failure associated with the United States' decision to invade the wrong country, most Americans have been insulated from the costs. Iraq, not Pennsylvania, was thrown into murderous chaos. Afghan civilians, not Pittsburghers, have been killed and dismembered by poorly aimed weapons. Pakistani children, not ours, must wonder whether drone-delivered explosives will shatter their lives today.
By lowering taxes while air-dropping cash by the pallet into Iraq (literally; the pallets in the photograph, left, hold $100 bills, part of more than 350 tons of cash delivered in a single operation), the United States' political leaders also enabled American taxpayers to
The per-capita tab exceeds $3,000. Because that figure includes infants, it is more meaningful to examine a family-of-four figure -- $12,000 -- or to consider that a family with above-average income is liable for $20,000 or more. Plus interest, thanks to the Bush tax cuts.
More than 5,000 Americans have been killed, and many more injured, while fighting in this mess. (Many more Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis -- far too many of them noncombatants, including children -- have died or been maimed.) These losses have been felt primarily in disadvantaged neighborhoods, almost exclusively in military families.
These failures, these wrongs, these outrages have been conducted in the name of every citizen of the United States, on our dime. We may have been able to dodge the cost -- so far -- but we can not avoid responsibility. This blood is on our hands.
Infinonytune: One Trillion Dollars, Anti-Flag (from G20 soundtrack)
Friday, May 28, 2010
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Does this mean Doug Shields is being considered for a fancy federal appointment?
Or has President Obama joined the mob of Froot Loops ranting about that treehouse, putting the Shields homestead in the crosshairs for an F-22 Raptor strike?
Infinonytune: Hail To The Chief, Chicago saxophone dude
Souder, an aggressive evangelical Christian, came to Washington -- with Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, Mark Foley and Mark Sanford -- among the Republican Class of '94, which proposed to turn American toward a righteous path. Souder became known as author of the Souder Law, which prevented persons convicted of drug possession from obtaining student loans.
"If you are going to get subsidized loans," drug warrior Souder said, "you shouldn't be convicted of a drug crime."
A straightforward sentiment, one that cost hundreds of thousands of young Americans an opportunity to better themselves with a college education, and one with an important corollary:
If you are going to lecture Americans on morality, and deny education to those who don't fit your right-wing evangelical mold, your walk with the Lord should not travel through the private parts of the hypocritical harlot from your family values commercials.
Mr. Onorato has highlighted a worthy point. Public acts designed with campaign ends and political friends in mind are a substantial problem in Pennsylvania. For example:
The Victorian brick manse at 5325 Wilkins Avenue in Pittsburgh contains six bedrooms and seven bathrooms among its 6,500 feet of living space on three-quarters of a high-end landscaped acre in the city's East End. Its current owner paid $1.2 million dollars for the property, but pays taxes on an assessed value of $625,000. This inaccuracy -- declared unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, immoral by anyone with a conscience -- saves the owner nearly $3,000 each year in county property taxes, perhaps another $12,000 annually in school and municipal taxes.
The current occupant? A substantial supporter of a county executive who manipulated assessments for political reasons in a manner that provides a five-figure benefit to just one of his political supporters each year.
One should not jump to conclusions about favoritism, however.
Bishop Zubik, leading by example, recently chose humbler quarters, ending the tradition of a sumptuous bishop's residence (left) in the relevant neighborhood (underassessment: at least $500,000), but this neighborhood nonetheless appears to be a blessed one -- at least, for those able to afford to live there.
The residents of Braddock and Duquesne and Clairton who subsidize the underassessment of million-dollar properties, meanwhile, are left to pray for deliverance in the form of a county executive who doesn't politicize his office and misuse his power.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
It is tempting to crack that nothing could be worse than the decision-making system that has been guiding InsolvenCity affairs -- as Bill Peduto aptly observes, however, "People get the government they elect, and this is what they wanted" -- but this controversy might have stumbled on something to top Ravenstahl, Zober & Regan's Traveling Three-Clown Circus.
Most of the people sending messages to councilor Shields have no idea whether placement of a treehouse at a particular Frick Park location would be good, bad or inconsequential, and this is so no matter how many times they type "awesome" or "amazing" or "freakin' jagoff" or "effin' loser," even if they use all caps, underlines and emoticons.
Long-term public judgments should not be controlled by the number of people a blog or two can incite to emotional lather.
Councilor Shields: Please follow standard procedures, along a normal schedule. Consider differing views, regardless of whether they include "OMG!!!" and "amazing!!!!" and other indicia of 14-year-olds' excitement. Ascribe appropriate weight to expert (or, at least, informed) opinion. Use judgment, not an electron-weighing device. Do not ignore flaming pitchforks -- dodge, not catch, seems the better course -- but don't let them control you.
Infinonytune: Minority, Green Day (child-friendly version)
The plan's funding percentage, reported to be 32 percent at the close of 2009, has fallen below 30 percent. The deficit approximates $700,000,000.
It could get worse for InsolvenCity -- and will, if city council permits the city administration to conduct a parking garage sale.
• The mayor prefers nepotism and cronyism.
• When Bill Peduto terms the legal opinion of
• The current city administration neither understands nor respects the rules.
• The current city administration is disingenuous. (Unless Don Walko and his precedessor and his predecessor's predecessor served on the Alcosan board, the arguments advanced by the mayor's mouthpiece to explain this nomination disintegrate into the customary baseless mush.)
City council could serve its constituents, and begin to address some of these problems, by conditioning approval of this nomination upon receipt of an ethics waiver.
A more aggressive approach -- arranging judicial review of the issue of whether a mayor can lawfully appoint his brother to an authority board -- also would work. (A long-term solution -- arranging council's access to reliable, independent legal advice -- is imperative, but that fight is for another day.)
Also: The Slagger is right about the manipulation of board positions.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Proportionality predictions should incorporate the mayor's experience with rowdy North Siders' confrontations with police, which could have influenced today's decision-making.
'Ben, Like, Didn't Get Me Drunk, Did Not Follow Me Into The Bathroom, Totally Wouldn't Expose Himself (Unless I Asked) -- Just A Great Guy'
Infinonytune: Squeeze Box, The Who
PittGirl (far left, with McMutrie sisters of Haiti-to-Pittsburgh fame) and her fellow crusaders mean well, and the woman proposing the project seems reasonable, but the information and opinions of InsolvenCity councilor Doug Shields and Frick Park's neighbors should be considered before any conclusions concerning the propriety of a proposed memorial treehouse could be considered reliable.
No apparent comment -- let alone a media release or press conference (left, the district attorney outlines for reporters and cameras his plans for economic development in Braddock) -- from the district attorney yet.
Too busy investigating the G-20 police misconduct, Mr. Zappala? Preoccupied by the inquiry concerning how an innocent, unarmed honor student had hair ripped from his scalp while being beaten by police officers on an InsolvenCity sidewalk? Still looking into the Liberty and Lamar billboard irregularities?
Sixty or seventy years from now, one of today's first-grade students at Schaeffer will think of "Miss Germansky" (right) and smile.
(Ed Dunlap, subsidizer of fundraisers at LeMont for just about every substandard pol in town -- all is forgiven.
Well, maybe one exception.)
UPDATE: The Post-Gazette apparently pulled the photograph that accompanied this message. It depicted a first-grade teacher, Andrea Germansky, helping other volunteers wrestle a child's new mattress into place.
Infinonytune: From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), Dave Edmunds
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The article does not indicate whether the district attorney acquiesced in this injustice -- $150 and a few hours of community service for a home invasion -- or whether anyone in our system of justice (left, dispensing justice to the victim) offered any justification for this seemingly inexplicable result.
Someone should inquire on both fronts. The victim deserves better.
Infinonytune: Signs, Five Man Electrical Band
UPDATE: As a commenter noted, the observations of two public servants are instructive:
This "must've fallen through the cracks" (despite express notices from the pound's operator) -- InsolvenCity Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski
"Nobody likes to be towed, but when you go to try to find your car, and you can't, that really looks bad on the city. It's not rocket science. The signs are a little thing, but they're not little when you're looking for your car." -- InsolvenCity Councilor Doug Shields
Monday, May 24, 2010
Bob Dylan wrote important parts of the soundtrack as America changed greatly for the better. Bob doesn't appear to spend much time on YouTube, but here is one that got through, at least temporarily:
Behind Geddy Lee (bass, vocals) on Rush's stage is what appears to be -- and is -- a laundromat. Lee plays directly through the venue PA system (with a few pedals); to balance the stage presentation (and mock guitarist Alex Lifeson's massive amplifier installation), Lee often arranges coin-operated Maytag washers and dryers behind him. Lee says the appliances sometimes clean and dry the touring personnel's clothes during a performance; watch closely. After some shows, Lee pulls t-shirts out of the dryer and throws them to the audience.
Lee reportedly grilled chickens (giant rotisseries) onstage during at least one show.
This merits a replay of highlights of the "talent portion" of Sarah Palin's participation in our national political pageant:
Departing board member Dan Keller, who was less attractive than Adam Ravenstahl to the human ball-and-chain that is the City of Pittsburgh's portion of the 20th district electorate, learned of the switch in Mayor Ravenstahl's customary manner (telephone call from reporter).
This appointment accelerates the timetable for Adam Ravenstahl's indictment prospects by roughly 18 months.
The Post-Gazette's Early Returns blog editor gets points for selecting appropriate art (while the editorial board, no doubt, prepares a formal apology).
UPDATE: Exclusive audio of the mayor's response to being informed (not by the city solicitor, of course) that the appointment appears to be unethical and unlawful.
UPPERDATE: Speaking of 18 months . . .
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The Post-Gazette recently gave the less-fortunate public a glimpse -- glowing article, photographs and flattering video -- of the rarified life to be experienced at this extraordinary property.
Five bedrooms, 8,000 square feet. Meticulously landscaped grounds. Two stocked koi ponds. Floating fireplace. Non-fenestrated front facade (Gretchen McKay's words). A groundskeeper's cottage and in-laws' quarters. A tea house (whatever it is, it has two bedrooms and two bathrooms).
The Post-Gazette reports an asking price of $3.8 million for this property. (The video identifies the price as $4 million, but in this neighborhood, a couple of hundred thousand dollars is not so much a mistake as a rounding error.)
The Allegheny County assessment directory indicates, however, that this property's owner pays taxes on $1.41 million in property value -- a discount approximating 70 percent. Translation in dollars: An undercharge approximating $10,000 on county taxes each year -- and a corresponding discount on municipal and school taxes that likely approximates $40,000. Annually.
When Dan Onorato (or one of his shills) boasts about his stewardship of property taxes in Allegheny County, this is the unconstitutionally unfair, regressive system he implemented and defends -- overcharging a hundred residents of $40,000 properties for years so that one property owner can receive a windfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Even if the seller must take a million dollars less than the asking price for his magnificent Fox Chapel estate, the property tax discount -- for many years -- has been at least 50 percent. Still, hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax obligations transferred to less-affluent property owners.
One hopes the owner was courteous enough to thank Mr. Onorato, perhaps with a check for his campaign.
Friday, May 21, 2010
In other words, prosecutor Tom Corbett wants a man to spend more time in prison because that man
In otherer words, Tom Corbett has compounded his sketchy blending of politics and prosecutions with ethical blinders, legal error and general indecency.
This episode offers lessons to both Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates:
Tom Corbett: Shut up, now! Hire a lawyer familiar with legal ethics, ideally one with a reasonable understanding of the proper role of a prosecutor in the American system of justice. Your transparently selfish, unhinged pursuit of
Dan Onorato: Keep quiet! When your opponent insists on grandstanding in a way that depicts him as an ethically bankrupt, erratic, thin-skinned bully, let him have the headlines. Especially when opening your mouth would be counterproductive (because the less the voters know you and your record, the more they will like you). If your first few days as a Democratic nominee for governor are a guide, you may be able to overcome decades of political template and your own inadequacies simply by allowing your opponent to self-destruct. Just stay quiet.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The district's inhabitants may be about to redeem themselves, however. According to the Allegheny County Elections Division's unofficial summary report, 515 of them used the write-in function rather than vote for Adam the Even Younger or Alex Dubart in Tuesday's special election . . . which generates hope that at least one of those perspicacious voters vindicated the Infindorsement by writing in "Abolish This District."
Even better, however, is the Slagger's report that the Commonwealth may do the right thing -- and effect the Infindorsement -- by abolishing the 20th district.
Is this the sign? Could InsolvenCity be poised to turn the corner?
Corbett lacks personality but is perceived as likable. (Dan Onorato, conversely, possesses personality but lacks likability.) So what does Corbett do to mark his first day as the Republican nominee? He immediately attacks his likable image by pulling on a giant "dick" costume, of course.
Tom Corbett, the attorney general (right), is attempting to use the prosecutorial power -- in the form of a grand jury subpoena -- of the office of Tom Corbett, the attorney general (right), to press Twitter to disclose the identity of a couple of speakers whose Tweets are (with wicked accuracy and increasing popularity) critical of Tom Corbett, the attorney general (right) (and Tom Corbett, the political candidate, far right).
Is no one in that office familiar with the term "conflict of interest?" How about "abuse of power?" "Partisan witchhunt?" "Recusal?"
The ball is in Mr. Onorato's court. He will, no doubt, step on it and promptly join Mr. Corbett in the sprawled position. One of these guys has to win, so look for a state General Services crew to start dragging the finish line toward them in late October.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Sen. Specter was not hounded from office in disgrace. By today's legislative standards, a 30-year run without scandal is a marvel. He did not melt into senility and irrelevance. He exhibits remarkable vigor, whether playing squash or political hardball, and remains an effective, important legislator at 80.
Sen. Specter has not been a reliable, reflexive partisan for either party. He has been smart, even when pursuing odd (or odder) angles, and tough, mostly when it was appropriate. His votes customarily reflect judgment and principle.
Sen. Specter's recent switch in party affiliation was not the self-serving action depicted in devastating campaign commercials, nor the craven course many politicians would have taken (the safer, easier route for a 79-year-old incumbent would have been to adapt to his party's mindless lurch to the right and to lockstep opposition). It was a measured, effective response to changed circumstances that enabled the Senate to enact important legislation while preserving Specter's dignity as a long-time moderate, at the cost of his political security.
It is difficult to explain nuanced, complex events -- or a 30-year record of accomplishment -- in 30-second campaign commercials, especially to an audience that elects the likes of Adam Ravenstahl and Daryl Metcalfe. Anyone who devotes 30 seconds to examination of Arlen Specter's service, however, should recognize that Sen. Specter retires with his head high, his record strong and his constituents in his debt.
The Commonwealth will not have a good governor before 2014 at the earliest, but if Sen, Specter is still game in four years, Pennsylvanians should hope he is asked to lead a bipartisan effort to scour the corruption and cronyism from Harrisburg. A fearless, tenacious, skilled prosecutor such as Arlen Specter would be just the man for that job.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Democratic turnout seems especially low in Republican-heavy voting districts, and Republican participation low in Democrat-dominated polling places, throughout the region.
A reminder: Please write in "Abolish This District" in the 20th District's special election for state representative. It would be great to see it, at least once, on the final return submitted by the judge of elections.
An Infinonycard: "Get Well" to Dan Onorato's son, Dan, recovering from an appendectomy.
Monday, May 17, 2010
• The Allegheny County Democratic Party -- whose endorsed candidates include legendary party-circuit marauder Arlen Specter -- intends to assemble at Finnegan's Wake (appropriately named monument to foolishly subsidized development), a half-block east of PNC Park. Say hello to Jim Burn, who says he's buying.Modest attempts to identify the locations of Republican events were unsuccessful. Perhaps half will ostentatiously go to church while the other half will sneak to a bathhouse. Then, after about 90 minutes, they'll switch.
• Joe Sestak's insurgents will watch returns (and hope the campaign suddenly becomes organized enough to come through with the promised beer) at campaign headquarters, 4326 Butler Street, Lawrenceville. Don't say hi to anyone (technically, they're not there, because of party discipline). Note to campaign decision-makers from Philadelphia: Get the beer at Lawrenceville's Church Brew Works.
• Dan Onorato's investors will distribute liquid dividends (and highway paving projects, bond deals and state consulting contracts) at the IBEW Hall, just south of the Hot Metal Bridge, Southside. Say hello to the List-Makers.
• Joe Hoeffel's followers will gather at the Walnut Grill, 5500 Walnut Street, Shadyside. Say hi to InsolvenCity councilor Bill Peduto (who may be a bit late, consequent to heading to Cappy's by mistake and habit).
• Jack Wagner's supporters will meet at Amici banquet hall on Route 51, south of the Liberty Tunnels (former site of Tambellini's, a restaurant that closed after the drink tax was enacted -- coincidence?). Say hi to everyone named Wagner; it will take a while.
United States Senate: Joe Sestak is preferable to another strong candidate, Arlen Specter, for the Democratic nomination. Neither Pat Toomey nor Peg Luksik offers a reason to pull a lever on the Republican side.
United States House of Representatives (12th): Mark Critz resembles the type of Democrat who has shackled southwestern Pennsylvania, but his Republican opponent in the special election -- Tim Burns, a family values phony -- makes him an easy choice until a better opponent (from either party) emerges. In the Republican primary, neither Burns nor Bill Russell is worth the electronic impulse it would take to register a vote.
United States House of Representatives (4th): Jason Altmire, despite his right-wing Tourette Syndrome affliction, is better than his Democratic competition (which doesn't exist). Keith Rothfus, a Pat Robertson-style religious righter whose sense of morality includes switching parties to sabotage the other side, has little to recommend him, but his lack of Mary Beth Buchanan's record makes him less objectionable.
Pennsylvania House of Representatives (20th): Neither Alex Dubart nor Adam Ravenstahl deserves a vote in the special election; the voter's best call would be to write in "Abolish This District." In the Democratic primary, voters should choose the best man among Dan Keller, Mark Purchell and Tim Tuinstra, so long as they ensure that at least one of them outpolls a well-funded, well-connected, poorly equipped Adam Ravenstahl.
Governor of Pennsylvania: Six candidates, not an ounce of enthusiasm. For Republicans, neither a politically compromised prosecutor nor a Bob Jones extremist deserves support. For Democrats, a frontrunner with ample cash but illusory principles seems destined to win in May (and lose in November) because none of his opponents conducted a competent campaign. For every Pennsylvania voter, the best course is to commit to finding a better choice for governor in 2014.
This revelation is not necessarily news, at least not to some readers.
Apparently the steam turbine that drives our Internet operations has broken a gasket or else the stokers could not feed the furnace with sufficient back copies to keep the fire up.
Is it too much to hope that the Post-Gazette's new Intertubes installation will include a fix for the newspaper's broken endorsement process?
For example, what is wrong with this story:
Head-on crash in Mount Pleasant kills two 21-year-oldsShould not the preceding sentence be "treated and arrested?" Preparatory to tried and (if convicted) incarcerated for a decade or more?
A young man and young woman were killed early Sunday in a head-on crash in Washington County.
Michael C. Pleskovich, 21, of McDonald and Jenna L. Gilmore, 21, of Burgettstown were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on Route 50 . . .
State police said Pleskovich was driving west on Route 50 when he collided with a vehicle operated by Charles W. Cooper, 19, of McDonald, who was traveling east. Police said the crash occurred when Cooper attempted to pass another vehicle.
["Mr. Cooper entered the westbound lane of travel and into the path of" Mr. Pleskovich's vehicle, according to a state police report.]
Cooper was taken to Canonsburg General Hospital, where he was treated and released.
In McConnells Mill State Park, Lawrence County, a man fell to his death while attempting to rescue Megan McCune, a teenaged twit who had ignored warning signs, left a marked trail, crossed a guardrail and went under a bridge over hazardous terrain to pursue a better view of a waterfall. While Miss McCune was whimpering with a broken leg after falling 30 feet to a perilous location, a volunteer -- who had been summoned by the injured idiot's companion and was trying to reach Miss McCune -- fell 35 feet.
The volunteer left the scene in a body bag. Miss McCune was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment of a broken leg and other injures. When it is time for her to be discharged, she should be arrested, too.
The chuckleheads will recover, likely to screw up another day. Their victims will not have that opportunity.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION outside personal files of the District Attorney upon penalty of INDICTMENT.
Stephen the Elder: Everybody here?
Stephen the Younger: Uh, yeah, Pop. Except Luke.
Stephen the Elder: You check with our guy on his police detail?
Stephen the Younger: Yeah, and it turns out . . .
Yarone the Ambitious: Last night was Donkey Punch Night at Bossa Nova, sir, which is just a block from the old Edison . . .
Stephen the Elder: Jesus Christ, Yarone . . . remind me again exactly why we keep you around?
Yarone the Ambitious: Well, sir, I make sure . . .
Stephen the Elder: Rhetorical question, you putz.
Yarone: Oh, right. Sorry, sir.
Stephen the Elder: All right, let's get started. Putz number two gets here when he gets here. (Turns to Stephen the Younger) Junior?
Stephen the Younger: Well, everyone, we called this meeting to talk about this List thing.
Gregory the Incarcerator: Yeah, well, it's about time. I want it stopped and I want it stopped now.
Stephen the Elder: Quiet, son. Let your brother speak.
Charles the Croupier: Greg has a point. I'm tired of this.
Gregory: You're tired of it? You are tired, Mr. "Reply All?" If you could handle a simple goddamn e-mail without screwing it up, this List crap wouldn't have been on the front page of the paper in the first place, and I wouldn't be reading about every goddamn deal I ever did for this family every stinking morning on the Internets . . .
Luke the Boy Mayor: Hey, everybody!
David the Exchequer: Whoa! Who's the broad?
Gregory (looking down; hasn't seen Luke yet): That's my sister, Michele, and if you ever call her a broad again . . .
Stephen the Younger: Not her. (Pointing to tipsy blonde on Luke's arm) Her!
Luke: Oh, right. My bad. Hey, everybody, I'd like you to meet . . . uh . . . this is . . . uh . . .
Candy the Latest: It's Candy, everyone. You know, like in something sweet.
Stephen the Younger: Little early for candy, ain't it, Luke?
Candy: Oh, it's not early, silly. I mean, we just left the club, which means technically, for us, it's still last night. So it's late, not early.
Stephen the Elder: Good morning, young lady. Candace, am I correct? Yes, well, Candace, we are assembled here to discuss some business with our associate, Mr. Ravenstahl.
Candy (tickling Luke): He's my associate, too.
Stephen the Elder: Yes, of course. Well, Candace, you see, young lady, our business is somewhat . . . private. I'm sure you understand.
Candy (staring blankly): I do?
Luke (quietly): Cathy, I think he might be asking you to wait outside . . .
Stephen the Elder: No, actually, I am requesting that she allow one of my associates here to drive her home. (Nods to associate, who takes Candy's arm)
Luke (whispering): Look, Cathy, please don't do anything with this guy, OK? He's just a bodyguard. I am the mayor, remember? I'll be over just as soon as I can. Wait for me, OK?
Stephen the Elder: Tony, please take the young lady wherever she wishes to go.
Tony the Big Ben Bodyguard: Sure thing, boss. (Whispering on way out) Hiya, Candy. You know, you look very familiar to me. Ever been to the Cabana? The Fox and Hound, maybe?
David the Exchequer (quietly): You sure meeting in your office here was a good idea, Stevie? I told you Gateway Center was . . .
Stephen the Younger: It's fine, David. No problem.
Greg: You kidding me? Somebody gonna show up at this place on a Sunday morning? Stevie here is the only one who ain't in the union.
Stephen the Elder: Now, does anyone mind if we return to the business at hand?
John the Intermediary: Thank you for meeting with us, Judge.
Stephen the Elder (staring at Stephen the Younger): [clears throat pointedly]
Stephen the Younger: That's 'Justice,' John, not 'Judge.' 'Justice.' My father was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Gregory (with an edge): Yeah, you gotta show more respect.
Stephen the Younger: My father worked very hard to achieve his position. Do not make that mistake again, John. Please.
Stephen the Elder (waving hand): Well, I am not one to stand on formality or vanity in these things, but my sons, they are protective of me. Thank you, boys.
John: No offense intended, your honor, sir. Well, Mr. Justice, sir, I think something needs to be done. This 'List' and 'List-Makers' thing is getting to where it could interfere with business.
David: I must agree, Justice. Our friends in the political world are starting to become . . . uncomfortable.
Stephen the Elder: Their comfort is not my concern. (Looking at Luke and Yarone) Our friends in politics work for us, and they must remember that, and if they do not remember, they need to be reminded. But my reputation . . . my family's reputation . . . all of our reputations . . . this most assuredly is my concern. Junior, who the hell are these Infinitonomous people?
Stephen the Younger: Well, I been working on that, Pop, but it's not so easy to find out. There's only so much . . . I mean, there are pretty tight rules on accessing . . .
Stephen the Elder: I did not ask about rules. I asked my son, who has the powers of a district attorney, a simple question about names.
Luke: Hey, guys, I have a, like, this SUV with all sorts of serious electronic stuff in it, most of it stamped, like, "Homeland Security." Spy stuff. Maybe I could . . .
Yarone (whispering to Luke): Not now, Luke. I don't think you should . . .
Luke: Or, I could, like, put a surveillance camera, like, you know, right on this joker's house, and that way we could . . .
Greg: Hey, Yarone, if you can't keep your little chihuahua here quiet while my father is speaking . . .
Luke: I just thought . . .
Stephen the Younger: That's a problem, Luke. You, trying to think.
Stephen the Elder: And do you know, Luke, where to find the homes of these Infinitonomouses, so that you could know where to place your camera?
Luke: Well, no, but that's what the camera would be for, to show us which house it is. See?
David (quietly, to Greg): Told you guys we shoulda gone with Shields.
Greg (quietly, to David): For the hundredth time, we get it already. You told us. You were right. Kid's a putz. Move on.
Stephen the Elder: Luke, young man, we have been over this before. You do what he (pointing to John) tells you to do. You go where and when he (pointing to Yarone) tells you to do it. No thinking. At all. None. When you think, we are all at risk.
John: He understands. No need for the personal . . .
Yarone: Yeah, no need for you guys to always be so condescending, acting like you're so smart and we're so dumb. 'Cause from I've seen, you guys aren't so all that and a bag of . . .
Michele (sharply): What?
Greg (agitated): What did you just say to my father?
Michele (under breath): Freakin' putzes.
Greg (menacingly, to Yarone): What did you call us?
Yarone (sheepishly): I just meant, nobody's perfect, you guys don't have to be so . . .
Greg (on edge of chair, poised toward Yarone): Don't go there. Don't even say another goddamn single goddamn word, you cliptipped little . . .
Yarone: Oh yeah? I've had about enough of this. I got something for you, (reaching inside jacket) something that might change your mind, right here . . .
Greg (wrestling Yarone to ground with Charles and Stephen the Younger, as a bodyguard pulls a gun and places it against Yarone's temple): Got him! I got him!
Yarone (muffled): Whoa! Ease up. (struggling weakly) Hey, I just want to show you . . .
Charles: Keep your hands still, you little jerk, or we'll break 'em off and shove them . . .
Yarone: Wait! It's OK. It's cool. It's just a list. I just want to show you . . .
Stephen the Younger: A what? You reached for a freakin' list? What are you, crazy, making a move like that in here?
Yarone: I just wanted to show you all the things we've done for you, how we have done our part. So you would see you should start treating him like the mayor, not like some little kid. And I'm the chief of staff. I deserve some respect, too. We're both tired of the way you always . . .
Luke (warily): Look, I don't know what he is talking about. I am in no way tired of anything.
John: OK, everybody, we're all on edge a little here with this List crap. Let's just calm down.
Greg: Shut up, doughboy, and stay out of this. This is about respect, all right, but you got it all wrong.
John: I'm just saying . . .
Greg: Say nothing. Got it? Was a time when all three of yinz would have taken an ice pick to the base of the skull for such disrespect of a man such as my father.
John (looking plaintively at Charles): Charlie?
Charles (staring straight ahead): I am in no position to help you, John. You are my partner, but this is my family.
Stephen the Younger: Sorry about this, Pop. (Looking at bodyguard still holding gun.) And put that thing away, Annie Oakley. (Smiling) Geez, you're gonna make me have to check for permit and registration on that thing. (Gesturing around his office) I am the D.A., after all.
Michele: Good one, Stevie. Or should I say, "Mister D.A."
Stephen the Elder: All right, that's enough.
William the Insurer: If I may, Justice, I believe David is right about this. We have a problem. We need your guidance, a solution. This is starting to make people uncomfortable, bringing attention to our affairs, and with this parking deal coming up, I am concerned. Rendell even brought this up when he called me on the Turnpike thing.
Stephen the Elder: I understand, Bill. I understand your position.
Charles: It's like they have our black book.
Michele (staring at Luke and Yarone): Or maybe somebody's been talking too much, out of school.
Stephen the Younger: Let's not lose our heads here. We've come through worse, much worse. Hey, Greg, remember that city pension thing? We thought that was gonna be the end of the world. Uncle Charlie, what about that Ohio work comp thing? All that money, Lay went to jail, we didn't take a scratch. Or that lawsuit from those pazzos on the Butler school board? Those fancypants from Simpson Thatcher cost JP Morgan almost a mil, we didn't pay a cent. Or even this thing from Scranton, with the judges, the thing with the kids.
Stephen the Elder: You know I never cared for the kids-in-jail thing. It's like the narcotics in the 60s. Nobody cared about gambling or girls, but when people started with those drugs . . .
Greg: Yeah, I shoulda listened, Pop, but I never thought . . .
Stephen the Elder: Again with the thinking. The more you people think, the more things for me to take care of.
Greg: Sorry, Pop.
Stephen the Elder: It's OK, son. You've always been a good earner. I know you mean well. Now, look, everyone, here we are at each other's throats over what, some kid in his pajamas in a basement somewhere, putting names on a list that nobody pays attention to anyway? What is this? Are we this weak? I understand it makes some people uncomfortable, some of our friends, and so I will pay attention to this, and I will handle it. But I will decide and I will do what is necessary. No one else. Is that understood?
All: Yes, sir.
Stephen the Elder: Fine. Now, what's the status of the water thing, that thing with the pipes. Have we been paid?
Yarone: If I may, sir, um, not all of it, sir, not yet. It's complicated. They had to let people opt out, and a bunch of them did, and now there are lawsuits, an investigation, and the legal fees are . . .
Stephen the Elder: None of this is my concern. Those are your problems. Payment is due as originally agreed. Understood?
Yarone: Yes, sir. We'll, uh, (looking at Luke) we can take some money that was budgeted for the library and . . .
Stephen the Elder: I do not need the details. I just need payment. In full. By Friday. Now, about this Tuesday. (Looking at John) Our friend is gonna be OK?
John: Well, Mr. Justice, sir, I've examined all the polling tracking, with a particular focus on the most important trends, and considering that we've sabotaged the Wagners so effectively, and positioned this Williams character in Philly to siphon off . . .
Greg: Aw, Jeez, shut your fat yap. Look, Pop, he's running against a mick, a schvartze and a four-eyed commie. Plus, he probably figures if he don't win, he'll get whacked for blowin' all that dough, so I'd say he's properly motivated. It's in the bag. Forget about it.
Stephen the Elder: See? These are the important things. With Dan in the governor's office, Bill here on the Turnpike, Junior as the D.A., Dave and Bill here still working on that pension thing with the city, our casino connections . . . and Michele, sweetheart, my dear Michele soon will be a judge, God willing . . . with all of these blessings, everything is going to be fine. I just need everyone to keep your wits about you. No more slip-ups in the newspaper. (Looking at Stephen the Younger) No more overreactions.
Stephen the Younger: Pop, if you're talking about the Ories . . .
Stephen the Elder: Of course I am talking about the Ories, Junior. Searching her office, yes, that was a good idea, with the way she was mouthing off. But criminal charges? No. That they must respond to, son. You should have known this. Do you not understand? You went after three of their women, son, three of them. One on the Supreme Court, where even I must be careful. This they can not let pass. They will look for a way to hurt us, any way they can find. It is going to take all of my powers to keep us all safe. Please, son, you must recognize that this was a bad thing. You know, I will not always be here to . . .
Stephen the Younger: But, Pop, they messed with my fam . . .
Stephen the Elder: Yes, son, I read about that part in the newspaper also. (To everyone) My son, he's in the papers so much, maybe I should have made him a journalist instead of making him the district attorney? (Back to Stephen the Younger) You think that was easy, Stephen, getting those judges to vote for someone with no experience? Do have have any idea what that took?
Stephen the Younger: Please, father. Why must you hurt me like this?
Stephen the Elder: No. No more discussion, Stephen. You were wrong. You brought too much attention, you have provoked our enemies. If the Wagners and the Ories, God forbid, if they ever get together, there could be trouble. Please, learn from this mistake.
Stephen the Younger: Yes, father.
Stephen the Elder: And you, Gregory, no more deals for a while. Not until I am sure this Orie thing is taken care of.
Greg: But, Pop, the parking garage thing is just about to . . .
Stephen the Elder: No. Not now.
Luke: You mean I should hold up on the parking deal? Because I thought . . .
Stephen the Elder: Again with the thinking, this kid. (Rubs Luke's head) When it is time for you to do something about parking garages, or on anything else, John will let you know. Until then, you wait. You are not to contact me, or anyone in my family. And you are not to do anything, not until you are told. Is that clear?
Luke: Yes, sir.
Stephen the Elder: (Grabs Luke's cheek, less pleasantly) And if you ever bring another . . . (turning to Michele) pardon me, sweetheart . . . if you ever bring another drunken piece of ass floozie to a meeting, a meeting with us, a business meeting, here, where she can see all of us, all of us together . . .
Yarone: I can assure you it will never happen again, sir. He'll be more careful. You have my word.
Greg: He'll have a lot more than that, Smithers, if it happens again.
Stephen the Elder: I believe that concludes our business this morning. When it is time to reconvene, I will let you know. And let's have no more talk of this List. We have more important things to attend to. Now go out, everyone, go out and prosper.
End of Transcript, May 16, 2010, 8:44 a.m.
NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION outside personal files of the District Attorney upon penalty of INDICTMENT.
Each of Ravenstahl's three challengers seems civic-minded. Dan Keller was picked to be an Alcosan director and has the Post-Gazette's endorsement, but that doesn't necessarily mean he would be a lousy legislator; he also has a record of community service and a business background. Tim Tuinstra, with a resume combining community service and work as a state auditor, focuses on education and has Agent Ska's support. Mark Purcell labels himself "The People's Friend," blending a record of community service with five years as chief of staff to Rep. Bill Kortz.
Adam Ravenstahl has a huge pile of cynical cash (anyone else want to wire Art Rooney II, Todd Reidbord, Jim Scalo and Dave Malone to a car battery and a lie detector and start asking what about Adam Ravenstahl most impresses them?) and the finest Democratic endorsement money could buy.
Sometimes, a fractured field enables a worthy candidate to win. Other times, it ensures the election of an undeserving pol. In District 20's primary, it is up to the Democratic voters to select the best candidate and provide enough votes to deny Adam Ravenstahl's misanthropic bankers their reward.
In the special election, the Infindorsement published a couple of months ago stands.
Infindorsement (primary): Anyone not named Ravenstahl.
Infindorsement (special election): Write in "Abolish This District."
What is this List?
The List consists of names of enemies, rivals, obstacles, whistle-blowers and irritants compiled by The List-Makers.Who are the List-Makers?
The List-Makers are a group of politicians, cream-skimmers, intermediaries and fixers who have been suckling at public teats -- enriching themselves in myriad ways at the region's expense -- for decades. The List-Makers will be identified after The List has been disclosed in its entirety.Why publish The List now?
Charles the E-Mailer, a hub connecting List-Maker spokes, triggered the List-Makers' List by publicly (and inadvertently) disclosing The List's existence with a botched e-mail transmission.How do we know The List is real?
Read Charles the E-Mailer's confirming message.Is Dan Onorato a List-Maker, even though the hasn't been mentioned yet in the descriptions of The Listed's offenses?
Good question. Tough call. Onorato and his taxpayer-draining posse exhibit List-Maker behaviors, and consort with List-Makers, to a point that would warrant inclusion. There is, however, palpable tension between the Onorato camp and the List-Makers in competition for public monies, and Onorato's public embrace of Luke the Boy Mayor is increasingly offset by private expressions of disdain for Luke the Stumbler and Yarone the Maladroit. From a List-Makers perspective, Onorato seems less a made man and more merely Dan the Investment. (Plus, if Onorato had List-Maker status, Chuck McCullough, Kevin Joyce and every county resident named Wagner would have been Listed by now.)Why is [insert name] not on The List?
The List continues to unfurl (although not this week, consequent to the primary election). Nominations, questions, complaints, grammatical nits, praise or threats may be directed to infinonymousATgmail.com.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
State Attorney General's spokesman Nils Frederiksen:
"We're obviously closely reviewing the facts of the case, and the manner in which this has been handled by the water and sewer authority" . . . "We have some serious concerns about how the program is administered"Another Complaint filed in civil court:
The program is "deceptive and confusing;" was not awarded to the lowest responsible bidder; and was the product of a blatant conflict of interest involving water authority Executive Director Michael Kennedy.Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl:
Anyone else wondering how many times Mrs. Ravenstahl had to knock on a neighbor's door to sort things out after Li'l Lukey traded his new bike for half a stick of gum?
Friday, May 14, 2010
It nevertheless deserves mention that Sen. Orie has mailed three, four or even five glossy, full-bleed color flyers to Democrats in her senatorial district, asking for and instructing on write-in votes for the Democratic nomination.
Democrats in that district can not recall similar entreaties from campaigns past (and Sen. Orie's flashing of right-wing gang signals with the repeated use of the semi-literate and fully loaded term "Democrat Ballot" indicates she has little experience or interest in communicating with Democratic voters).
What, then, has occurred recently that would cause Sen. Orie to believe that Democrats are more inclined to vote for her this time around than they were in the past?
In a better world, the number of school district taxpayers, pension plan participants, citizens whose abuse at government hands has been ignored by a prosecutor, municipal taxpayers, wrongly incarcerated children and others afflicted by Zappala-tainted dealings might generate enough backlash to explain Sen. Orie's strategy.
In this world, however, without an explanation, these flyers seem more desperate or daft than worthwhile.