Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Other Way To See It: We Done Wrong

Fellow Americans, this blood is on our hands.

It is not pleasant to see what we have done, but we should have thought of that before it was done in our name, with our funds, by our countrymen -- and before we elected the overmatched, frightened, small men who chose this course.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Justice For Jordan Miles Starts Today, And Those Three Police Officers Should Stick To Desk Duty

The conflict between Jordan Miles and the City of Pittsburgh has for eight months been as lopsided as Jordan Miles' face appeared after the severe beating inflicted on him by police officers. Until today.

The officers were apparently ready for trouble when they approached Jordan Miles. Jordan Miles, an innocent boy standing in his neighborhood, likely was unprepared for what occurred. The fight was three-on-one. The officers were armed; Jordan Miles was not. The officers were trained in violence; Jordan Miles, not.

Even after the beating, even after the photographs depicted what occurred, the officers still held every advantage. Inexplicably, Jordan Miles was charged with criminal conduct; equally inexplicably (unless one considers the history of prosecutors' treatment of police brutality in Pittsburgh), the officers have not been charged. While Jordan Miles recuperated from horrific injuries, the officers skated on off-the-street duty, even scoring overtime pay. The men who beat Jordan Miles have had benefit of doubt most citizens give to police officers (as citizens should). The lawyers making decisions about the case so far -- prosecutors deciding whether criminal charges should be filed (and against whom), city solicitors deciding whether to disclose information -- have all worked for the government. Some of them were the officers' pals. Most seemed far more interested in protecting the city and the officers than in arranging justice.

That balance of power changed today, however, when Jordan Miles filed a complaint against the officers and their employer in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

In this venue, Jordan Miles will have lawyers. Not hacks from the city law department, nor politically corroded prosecutors, but lawyers of his choosing, likely aided by others with relevant experience and skills (such as those affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union). The magistrate judge and Article III judge handling the case will be part of a federal bench that knows -- and therefore disrespects -- the city as a litigant. Rules of evidence and federal judges -- instead of the city law department -- will decide which evidence is to be made available, and when. A jury will issue a judgment (unless InsolvenCity settles). The Police Bureau's obnoxious record -- admitted, longstanding and widespread abuse of citizens, culminating in a consent decree involving the United States Department of Justice, overseen by the ACLU -- has apparently been forgotten by city officials, but that record of established brutality will bolster Jordan Miles' case in court.

January 12 of this year was a bad day for Jordan Miles. Today is the first of a number of bad days for the officers who picked the wrong poor black kid unarmed, innocent honor student to beat savagely, and for the city that trained and armed them.

(If it genuinely required three officers to subdue a single unarmed, innocent honor student -- and the fight was fierce enough to justify the beating those officers inflicted -- it would probably be best for everyone were those officers to remain on off-the-street duty for the rest of their careers. Because if any one of those lightweights officers were unlucky enough to be caught in a physical confrontation with a tough man (rather than an underage honor student), and if it were an even fight (rather than three-to-one), the other guy would probably leave the uniformed pansy officer dead or maimed by the side of the road. Pittsburgh has had enough police funerals for a while, so those three officers should probably stick to desk duty. Plus, no other city officer should be required to rely on someone like one of Jordan Miles' arresting officers for backup. It also might save InsolvenCity's beleaguered taxpayers millions of dollars in excessive-force payouts.)

LST-325 (And Stanley Barish) Bring Pittsburgh Region's Glory Days Back For A Brief Visit

A unique reminder of the Pittsburgh region's glorious past will visit later this week, when the last operating LST (Landing Ship, Tank) floats from the Ohio to a North Side dock, along the Allegheny.

The enormous Navy vessels -- longer than a football field -- were World War II workhorses, many built at Ambridge or Neville Island. They carried men such as Squirrel Hill resident Stanley Barish (left), who participated in the D-Day invasion aboard LST 325, the vessel that is to visit Pittsburgh.

Tours are to be conducted, beginning September 2 and ending September 6; the $10 charge for adults would be a bargain just for the chance to shake hands with Mr. Barish (right) aboard his vessel.

Infinonytune: Ballad Of Ira Hayes, Johnny Cash

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glenn Beck's Prescription For America's Future: Old-Fashioned Fervor For (Certain) Fairy Tales

The mystery receded (for some, at least) yesterday with the revelation that Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" event was a run-of-the-mill, rally-the-rubes revival meetin', prescribing right-wing religion as the cure for the fundamental problem in today's America: oppression of whites by blacks, liberals and homosexuals.

The Tribune-Review not only covered the tent show but also took a couple of busloads of readers contest winners on a bus ride to Washington for the event. Lindsay Berdell, speaking on behalf of the Trib: "This rally was intended to honor the troops, unite the American people under the principles of integrity and truth, and to make a pledge to restore honor within ourselves and our country. We as an organization wanted to give our readers an opportunity to participate." Berdell omitted mention that Trib owner Richard Scaife is a major funder of sponsors of yesterday's events at the nation's capitol, no doubt hoping praying assuming her audience (Trib readers) would not be up to the task of adding two plus two without assistance.

Sunday Reading: How-To Edition

The Kitchen: The no-need-to-knead, everyday recipe.

The Smokehouse: Annotated guide to the master's work.

The Windows: A new Windows treatment.

The Voice Box: Unringing the Bell.

The Bedroom: Quick! Take this test before he returns from Glenn Beck's event!

The Back Room: How to understand the scene behind Beck's curtain.

Infinonytune: Sharp Dressed Man, ZZ Top

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sarah Palin Visits To Impart Family (But Not Her Family, Let Us Hope) Values To Pennsylvania

Early Returns reminds us that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin visits Pennsylvania tonight to address people who not only believe fairy tales are true but also believe their cramped, bigoted interpretation of their favorite tale should be imposed on everyone else by law.

The Pennsylvania Family Institute's website entitles the speech "A Salute To The American Family" but provides no details, prompting wonder about which family-friendly lessons Mrs. Palin has traveled 4,000 miles to impart:

Another Bad Day At Office For Judge Jill Rangos Becomes Bad Day For Kathleen McCullough, Too

Kathleen McCullough drew the wrong judge for sentencing today.

First, the judge was a mediocre Republican (on a lopsidedly Democratic bench), imposing sentence on a relative of a Republican elected official whom the local Republican establishment is trying to destroy.

Second, the crimes for which Ms. McCullough was convicted were economic, and Judge Jill Rangos (right) reserves leniency for cases that result in the violent death of children (as part of her lifelong "dedication to alleviating difficult circumstances for children," according to the biography published by her family's foundation). Had this case involved a nine-year-old in a pool of blood, Ms. McCullough could have expected, from precedent, to hear a pronouncement of "time served" as she walked to the street.

Infinonytune: Rough Justice, The Rolling Stones

Times' "Idea Of The Day" Spotlights Pittsburgh

In case the Allegheny Conference, Post-Gazette editorial board and other Pittsburgh pom-pommers do not mention InsolvenCity's most recent turn in the national spotlight, here is a link to the New York Times' Idea Of The Day, which today sports a local angle: The Pittsburgh Pirate Economy.

(The Times is charitable enough not to detail how this region spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to purchase lower attendance, a reduced payroll, and the worst performance in America's history of major professional sports.)

Infinonytune: I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide, ZZ Top

Democrats Should Not Throw Senatorial Baby Out With The Dingy Gubernatorial Bathwater

It is understandable that Pennsylvania Democrats would lack enthusiasm with respect to the race for governor; relatively few Democrats could be expected to be excited by a nominee whose record consists of regressive taxes, unlawfully regressive assessments and solid support of the Republican Party's platform.

The reported lack of Democratic interest in the Senate campaign, however, is puzzling. The distinction between Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey is vivid and important; Sestak's record and platform should inspire Democrats as much as Toomey's record and platform should repulse them.

Sestak is at times a shambling and surprisingly disorganized campaigner, but his resume, voting record and insights should be enough to overcome a lack of polish and rally more Democratic energy as Election Day nears.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

P-G Finally Prints A Worthwhile Editorial Letter

Not every word on the Post-Gazette editorial page is dopey.

For example, that page today includes a wonderful letter from Paul Manion of Ross. Mr. Manion might have included Rick Santorum and the Rooneys among his list of chuckleheads responsible for that misbegotten hole under the Allegheny River, but that is a small point. It also would have been nice to mention some of the naysayers, such as Jack Wagner, who correctly pegged the project as conceived by imbeciles, endorsed by morons and implemented by idiots.

Mr. Manion, your perspicacity disqualifies you from participation in regional civic leadership, but your letter rebuts the tempting conclusion that the P-G editorial page is never worth reading.

Proof The Corporate Welfare Application Is Less Demanding Than Individual Welfare Application

Fayette County is providing multi-millon dollar corporate welfare to a huge company whose ostentatiously wealthy founder is a former Fayette commissioner (and has been a major funder of at least one current commissioner).

The details?

One consultant opined that the credit arrangement involved "no financial obligation" for the taxpayers; another the same consultant indicated that "the state would dip into a discretionary pool of CDBG funding, if necessary, to pay off the loan;" and the welfare recipient amplified the point about an absence of financial risk to taxpayers by declaring that, without the government assistance, the company "anticipates that it will cease operations and be forced to liquidate."

If a young, single mother submitted that application, any doubt she'd be arrested for fraud?

That GOP Closet Requires A Revolving Door

If it took Ken Mehlman 43 years to figure out that he is gay, that could explain how he was slow enough to fail to recognize by 2004 (when he was George W. Bush's campaign manager) that the presidency of Bush the Lesser was a comprehensive, spectacular failure.

On the other hand, being up to speed on his sexual orientation was irrelevant to recognition of the immorality of complicity in Karl Rove's strategic use of anti-gay referenda and homophobic churches to push slack-jawed Republicans to the polls.

Scorecard on Ken Mehlman: Newly gay, still dumb (he thinks he can make the Republican Party more tolerant of gays) and immoral. Add the ample blood on his hands from Iraq, and it might be time to seek some counseling.

Cowher: Ben's A "Good Person"; Infinonymous: What Time Should He Pick Up Your Daughter?

Bill Cowher -- much like the Dicks people at Dick's Sporting Goods -- considers Ben Roethlisberger "a good person" who has become 'reflective'. Cowher made these comments during an interview that led the AP to use the headline "Cowher: Steelers' Roethlisberger Finally Showing Maturity."

Cowher seemed to have a better handle on this situation a few months ago, when he said:
  • "I think we like anybody that can help us win football games."

  • "I think again, as you know, the bottom line is trying to win football games."
On the other hand, Cowher also implied that recreational drug use is an offense worse than sexual assault. The overarching point about Roethlisberger's situation, from his perspective: "The one thing you want to make sure the players do is they don’t do anything to dampen your ability to win football games. What Ben has done is put himself in a situation where he’s going to miss six games. Hopefully, he’ll do the right thing and minimize that to four."

Those moral insights make it apt to wonder how Cowher would answer this question:
Would you you think, Coach, about your daughter spending some quality time alone with Big Ben?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

With Big Mama Out Of The Way, Parking Patrols Can Devote Attention To Upper-Crust Scofflaws

The demise of another downtown restaurant is bad news, and the story is likely more complicated than appears at the surface, but there is a silver lining to the closure of Big Mama's House of Southern Cuisine: The police and Pittsburgh Parking Authority agents who have been busy monitoring Big Mama's parking compliance are now free to travel a couple of blocks southwest, to Sixth Street, where the Duquesne Club has been blatantly using a long stretch of public street as a paid parking lot for years.

What's sauce for the chicken and greens is equally sauce for the spots and macaroons (or the "caviar from the Persian Sea"), is it not?

Infinonytune: Beverly Hills, Weezer

InsolvenCity: Unique Failure On Pension Funding

The underlying research requires review for several reasons, but this report suggests that unique irresponsibility, instead of larger forces, precipitated the City of Pittsburgh's chronic failure to comply with pension obligations.

Other Allegheny County municipalities, and every legislator in the Commonwealth, should consider this point carefully.

Marcellus Shale Drilling: 'It's For The Children'

The Nullifier notes a calculatedly homey advertisement bit of "earned media" from Marcellus mouthpiece (and "guest columnist") Kathryn Klaber, whose Scranton Times pitch deftly slides from the helpfully stipulated "safe and steady development of natural gas from Pennsylvania's portion of the Marcellus" to her concern about Pennsylvanians as a "mother of two children."

Commercial interests have learned a thing or two about public relations since an earlier group of manufacturers "saved a few bucks" by skimping on the Thalidomide Coalition.

It Isn't A Billion-Dollar Pension Deficit, But InsolvenCity's G20 Liability Tab Is Coming

This report from Minneapolis is not conclusive evidence of how much InsolvenCity will owe for G20-related brutality and violation of civil rights, but it seems at least mildly probative.

In a just world, the ACLU would sting the city hard enough to require a property tax increase.

To place bets on when the ACLU sues InsolvenCity, check the Propositions Board (far right column).

To wager on when District Attorney Zappala announces the result of his investigation of police misconduct associated with the G20 event, one must find someone who believes Stephen the Younger will begin to do his job.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

As Usual, The Bigots Blew It: Hitler Was A Jew

Hitler was probably related to the Jews he exterminated and Africans he hated.

Half of the gay-bashers in the Republican Party are eventually discovered to be trolling at public rest rooms, consorting (as in, having their baggage handled) with RentBoy.commers, or "over-repenting" for meth-fueled binges with same-sex prostitutes.

The rest of the family values team spends its time scoring hillbilly heroin in darkened parking lots, modeling diapers for whores, island-hopping with a big bag of contraband boner pills, and demonstrating its commitment to holy matrimony by getting married over and over again (when not banging an employee who happens to be a friend's wife).

Some people -- even gays, agnostics, atheists and others seen as unfit by today's social conservatives -- might find a lesson in all of this.

InsolvenCity Goes Nationwide: "Sorry To Say It, America, But These Days We Are All The Pirates"

That excellent line comes from The Atlantic: "How Baseball's Worst Team Explains The U.S. Economy."

Paul Krugman: Elaboration.

Latest Scoop On Pirates' Profits, from The P-G The Trib KDKA WTAE WPXI WQED Deadspin

Deadspin has posted some financial information concerning the publicly subsidized, privately pillaged Pittsburgh Baseball Club.

Discerning Pittsburghers (a group that apparently excludes the public officials who arrange subsidies and monitor lease compliance in InsolvenCity and Allegheny County, and the prominent publications that chronicle local events daily) already knew that the substantial public investment of cash and land in the Pirates had led to decreased attendance, decreased payroll and the worst sustained performance by a team in the history of America's major professional sports -- or, in Post-Gazette editorial terms, 'sweet, sweet success' -- but might find some of the specific figures as fascinating as the Nuttings' accountants do.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Joe Manchin (D-Mylan) Leads In West Virginia

The Early Returners note that Gov. Joe Manchin leads a Republican by more than 20 points as West Virginia approaches a special election to replace Sen. Robert Byrd.

It therefore seems worthwhile, looking ahead, to consider the obvious question: Does Senatorial privilege encompass awarding an M.B.A. from the relevant state university (retroactively, of course)?

UPDATE: A prompt Returner kindly points to this illumination of the Manchin-Mylan relationship.

Prompted By Associated Press Inquiry, Pirates "Open Books" Dispense Worms To Baby Birds

The Associated Press recently asked the Pirates' management for comment concerning a report deriving from a "leak" of the Club's financial documents. Attempting to control fallout, the Pirates yesterday preemptively provided their unsubstantiated side of the story (or, in P-G headline terms, 'opened their books') to selected local reporters, who then dutifully regurgitated the Club's version.

  • On-field ineptitude is, as planned, quite profitable (even by accounting standards that likely rival Hollywood's for creativity) consequent to subsidies from taxpayers and from Clubs that profit while trying to win.

  • When the Pirates' owners claimed, repeatedly and without qualification, that they had not grabbed money from the Club taxpayers, they lied.

  • The Pirates also continue to deny they dumped their biggest salaries -- the difference between a profit and loss a season ago, by their reckoning -- for financial reasons. So long as the Pirates have fans older than 12, there might be adults who believe their claims.

  • The Pirates, under the Nuttings' control, remain every bit as likely to win a pennant as the Nuttings' newspaper empire is to win a Pulitzer Prize.

  • David Berri, president of the North American Association of Sports Economists, recognizes from afar what no local journalist has been willing (or perhaps permitted) to report: "The numbers indicate why people are suspecting they're taking money from baseball and keeping it - they don't spend it on the players. Teams have a choice. They can seek to maximize winning, what the Yankees do, or you can be the Pirates and make as much money as you can in your market. The Pirates aren't trying to win."

  • And Pittsburgh's newspapers continue to pursue the Pirates' financial story with the same zeal they devote to identifying 1) who was responsible for that ridiculous hole under the Allegheny, 2) whose idea the drink tax was, and 3) who is lobbying whom with respect to the Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale. Maybe the AP can look into those issues for us, too?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Even Deputy Barney Fife Could Call This One

A guy steals a purse in Carrick, then smacks the victim with his getaway vehicle?

Two wild guesses: City police are currently showing the victim photographs of all city firefighters, and someone, somewhere, is already assigning the case to a magistrate in Carrick Lawrenceville or the North Side.

It Just Ain't A Tea Party Without That Twang

Just when it was finally becoming reasonable to wonder whether the relationship between modern country music and slack-jawed obtuseness might be loosening:

Sunday Reading: Seeing Spectres Edition

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Lesser Wordsmith Than A P-G Editorializer Might Have Just Declared "Mission Accomplished"

The P-G surveys InsolvenCity's circus venues and declares it would spend every taxpayer creditor dollar all over again.

Can't wait for the editorial celebrating every dime dumped in that hole under the Allegheny.

UPDATE: Infinonymous distinguishes the Post-Gazette's newsgatherers from the authors of Post-Gazette editorials, and does not hold the reporters responsible for the rubbish published on the editorial page.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cong. Mike Doyle's Insights: Now In High Def!

Cong. Mike Doyle had the best line of the candidates' comedy-for-charity event at the Pittsburgh Improv last night; the Post-Gazette recounts it:
Mr. Doyle also earned guffaws for mentioning that C-SPAN is now broadcasting Congress in high def -- "and you have to be high or deaf to want to watch it."

Another Lesson: Forget Rule #1, Get Indicted

Roger Clemens was described by witnesses -- and apparently identified by DNA testing -- as having possessed and injected unlawful substances. He also was reported to have engaged in a 10-year affair with a singer who was 15 years old at the relationship's inception (he was 28; she says she "cannot refute" the report).

He also twice assaulted a man with deadly weapons -- one a projectile launched at nearly 100 miles an hour from close range, the other a sharp instrument -- and with tens of thousands of witnesses.

So what did he get indicted for yesterday?

Lying to the feds.

Infinonytune: Talk Talk, Talk Talk

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pittsburgh Has Seen Marcellus' Kind Before

An interesting catch by the Slagger presents the curious case of the disappearing (almost) Marcellus Shale conference.

Kathryn Klaber, formerly a cog in the Pittsburgh region's archaic, obsolete and self-serving 20th Century power structure, has switched employers -- she now is associated with the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a $3-million-a-year shill shop -- but Ms. Klaber's job description hasn't changed much. She is still promoting an ossified layer of sludge that promises to "rescue" the region but isn't much interested in discussing the costs of its brand of salvation.

Let's Try To Remember This The Next Time Ideologues Want To Attack The Wrong Country

The final United States combat brigade crossed the Iraqi border and entered Kuwait yesterday, seven and one-half years after the American military entered Iraq in order to . . . well, no one has quite figured that out.

More than 4,000 American soldiers died in the "combat" phase of the misadventure; there is no telling how many Iraqis died. Countless people were maimed, innumerable lives shattered, American morality and prestige diminished, hundreds of billions of dollars squandered, the American military abused.

A misguided invasion, followed by a botched occupation. A shame, in so many ways.

No Place For Libertarians, Greens On PA Ballot

There is nothing good about the departure from the ballot of every minor-party candidate who filed petitions for the Commonwealth's fall election. The harsh system governing signatures (use of a middle initial or nickname can invalidate a signature, as can failure to use the same middle initial or nickname) is a deplorable barrier to participation. The tactical use of challenges by Democrats, Republicans and big-party campaigns is distasteful, even for the rare challenger (such as Joe Sestak) who does not lie about it. The lack of choice for voters is another loss, especially in an election in which just one of the four major statewide candidates deserves to be elected. The duopoly protects the major parties, while failing Pennsylvanians.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Report From The Land Charity UPMC Forgot

Anyone hoping to bring Braddock back from economic catastrophe, or a 90 percent population decline, or UPMC's definition of "charitable," or all of the above would want Mayor John Fetterman on the front line:

Who Says Red Tape Is Strangling InsolvenCity? Surely Not Those With The Right Foggy Goggles

This sounds like a plan that might have been hatched at a snowbunny condo in the Laurel Highlands.

Infinonytune: Ain't No Sunshine, Bill Withers

The Long, Boring Crawl To Harrisburg Continues

What happens when neither party nominates a strong candidate, people are so mad about the condition of the country they can't remember who wrecked it, and a century-old pattern makes it a Republican's turn to be governor of Pennsylvania?

This, apparently.

UPDATE: A trip to Casablanca leads to some interesting questions concerning the campaign(er).

Unsolicited Advice Series: InsolvenCity Officials (And Anyone Else Looking At An FBI Interview)

A powerful lesson for InsolvenCity's political players emerged from the recently completed trial mistrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who despite an avalanche of his own rambling, dopey, self-incriminating words evidence was convicted on just a single count: Lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The lesson? Do not say anything to law enforcement personnel. (Especially if one of them identifies himself as "Mr. Smith.")

This lesson must be learned before a couple of guys in white shirts and blue blazers flash FBI badges and begin to "chat." When that moment arrives, the swirling thoughts -- 'What did Ford know about that, and what would he have told them?' 'Who else was in that room -- think! think! -- and could anyone have been wearing a wire?' 'If I give them Mr. V, would that be enough or would they make me give up Mr. Z, too?' -- are enough to immediately induce panic that overwhelms everything except a simple, firmly implanted emergency plan.

Fortunately, in this context, the plan is simple: Just shut up!

The impulses inclining cooperation will be strong. 'Maybe if I explain what happened, they'll understand.' 'It won't hard to connect the dots of what happened here, and this is really bad, so I'd better start cooperating.' 'The other guys are probably already turning on me, so I need to start looking out for myself.' Those impulses are understandable. Public corruption is ugly. Modern evidence collection technology is effective. Many people turn against others to save themselves. But those impulses are wrong.

Making a case in the newspapers is easy; people dislike politicians, and public corruption is an easy sell. Securing a conviction is far more difficult. Recollections vary. Little is documented. Words can be interpreted in differing ways. Legal standards can be hazy. Many jurors are confounded by large volumes of information, complex issues and legal questions. Without plain evidence of a direct exchange of official action for value, the defense generally has the upper hand, especially if the "value" is anything other than a personal payoff.

Circumstantial evidence suggests the background interviews concerning the Insolvencity invetigation have been completed, setting the stage for direct law enforcement contact with targets. Anyone finding himself across a table from FBI agents should recall the experience of Rod Blagojevich, a loudmouthed, stupid, indiscrete chiseler who, despite hours of incriminating recordings, has so far gotten away with everything -- everything, that is, that happened before the moment he started talking with government agents.

Three words: Just shut up!

If that's too complicated, just remember this image:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

America The Culpable: Blood On Our Hands

Long after declaration of "mission accomplished," long after the Presidential Medal of Freedom presentations -- but, remarkably, before the apprehension or death of Osama bin Laden -- another day in Iraq places fresh blood on every American's hands (right):

It is difficult to believe that American voters would be callous and dense enough to forget these points as soon as November 2010. Difficult, but apparently justifiable.

Infinonytune: Us And Them, Pink Floyd

Chief Harper (Belatedly) Gets One Right

It is as welcome as it is surprising to observe one of the city officials whose ineptitude led to G20-related oppression in Oakland operate so deftly with respect to outrageous gunfire in Homewood.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Afghanistan: Mission Not Quite Accomplished; Uzbekistan: Maybe Torture Isn't Cool After All

After nearly a decade of death, devastation, dollars and drift, this is the current status report on the American expedition to Afghanistan. Against this background, Gen. Petraeus' 'just give us another six months' proposal resembles a junkie's pathetic pleading, and every American should hope Pres. Obama disregards it.

Meanwhile, the Uzbeks might be rethinking the position they took on torture when cooperating with the Bush administration.

James Kilpatrick's Great Contribution To Society

James J. Kilpatrick, who died yesterday, was a cranky piner for 'good ol' days' that never existed (except for rich white guys with no sense of morality), and before that a strident segregationist, but without his backward-clawing crabbiness we would never have known this joy:

A Great Way To Handle Life's Ups And Downs

A worthy goal for any person:

Riding Kennywood's Jack Rabbit 90 times in one day -- at age 78.

Infinonytune: Love Rollercoaster, Ohio Players

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Reading: Back To School Edition

Prison Cells: Lessons being learned too slowly (and at great cost).

For-Profit Classrooms: Private sector fails (but profits at all costs).

Back Rooms: Privateers take pols to school.

Ninth Circuit: Judge takes colleagues to school.

North Catholic: Alumnus continues to reflect on school.

Infinonytune: School Days, Chuck Berry

Mayor's Parley With Privateers Produces Proposed Indulgence For Certain Parkers

One of the proposals emerging from closed-door negotiations in which the Ravenstahl adminstration and its preferred privateers are drafting the InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale contract would exempt certain churchgoers Sunday parkers from the pain to be experienced by motorists.

A Post-Gazette editorial's approval of this payoff inappropriate preference for certain religious activity illustrates the editorial board's persistent inability to distinguish a feature from a bug.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Justice Disregarded Is . . . Well, That's The Plan

With David Hickton behind the local United States Attorney's desk (from which chair he will soon demonstrate whether he pursued that position to prosecute blatant public corruption or to overlook it), attention turns to the question of when citizens might expect the longstanding vacancy in the Allegheny County District Attorney's office to be filled.

Conservatism: It's Not For Sane People Anymore

The collective judgment of right-wing bloggers assembled by Right-Wing News is that Barack Obama is not the worst person in two centuries of American history.

They rank him second-worst.

Worse than John Wilkes Booth. Worse than Timothy McVeigh. Worse than James Earl Ray. Worse than any convicted traitor.

This must be the flip side of the thought process that yields Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and Rush Limbaugh.

Infinonytune: American Idiot, Green Day

Might "Charity" End At Home For Tax-Exempts?

Highmark's tone-deaf decision to increase profits 'net charitable revenues' by replacing taxpaying local employees with an "India Delivery Center" might be the tipping point with respect to debate legislation concerning Pennsylvania'a sketchy tax exemptions for powerful, profitable companies such as Highmark and UPMC.

Could this towering exhibition of naked greed, on the wobbly foundation of Melissa Hart's 1997 stacking of the "purely public charities" deck, generate a populist fury strong enough to threaten the molecular bonds of Harrisburg's lobbyist-legislator connection?

This could be a handy campaign issue for a Democratic candidate for governor; it is unfortunate that Pennsylvania won't have a Democrat running for governor until 2014 (at the earliest), but civic-minded state legislators could fill that leadership vacuum among the Commonwealth's Democrats as early as this fall.

UPDATE: Although changing the tax treatment of "charities" with million-dollar executives and billion-dollar reserves would require revision to state statutes, the issue reportedly will be important in at least one candidate's campaign for Allegheny County executive.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lawyers? Lawyers?? Damn Their Oily Hides!!!

Not sure how the Cometeer found it, but this is an interesting letter.

The more that people like Andrea C. Ferster and her client(s) stand up to local elected officials, their cut-rate legal opinions and their favored developers, the more chance this region (and InsolvenCity in particular) will have to recover.

The headline's inspiration, Montgomery Burns:
Mr. Burns: [watching employees on security camera] That’s right, keep eating . . . Little do you know you’re drawing ever closer to the poison donut! [cackles evilly] There is a poison one, isn’t there Smithers?
Smithers: Err . . . no, sir. I discussed this with our lawyers and . . . uh . . . they consider it murder.
Burns: Damn their oily hides!

Another Mayoral Pronouncement, Another Great Moment For North Catholic's English Department

Add "continue" to the list of words InsolvenCity Mayor Ravenstahl is unable to use properly:

"Together, with the hard work of the URA and Senator Fontana, we are building strong partnerships to ensure that Beechview continues to grow."

Something can not continue to grow before it begins to grow. When, in the Boy Mayor's mind, did Beechview -- not only part of a steeply declining city, but the part the Urban Redevelopment Authority targeted for Bernardo Katzification -- begin to grow?

The Nullifier can not provide an answer, but he contributes a pertinent point.

Infinonytune: Take The Money And Run, Steve Miller Band

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mission Accomplished In Queens

Continuing today's inebriated theme: If a neighbor's account is accurate, authorities responded to one man's solution to a bad day at the airborne office -- cursing a boorish passenger over the PA system, then submitting a resignation in the form of a zip down the emergency chute (but not before grabbing a brew from the galley) -- by sending hundreds of local, state and federal officers, a SWAT team and a helicopter to apprehend the fugitive flight attendant . . . at his mother's house in Queens.

Could two or three of those law enforcement personnel have been excused to, say, chase Osama bin Laden without jeopardizing the mission? From another perspective: If it genuinely required hundreds of men to track down and take in Steven Slater, shouldn't we send him to the Pakistani-Afghan border region with a pistol, a bag of jerky and a photo of bin Laden?

Let's hope whichever brand of beer he grabbed is already scripting the commercial.

Senator To Police: Please Don't Enforce Stupid Laws Those Idiots In The Legislature Enact

A Pennsylvania legislator is asking police to refrain from enforcing the state's liquor laws (specifically, it appears, open container laws), which enforcement appears to conflict with her constituents' enjoyment of a music festival.

She also is asking the Liquor Control Board to examine the issue, which jeopardizes her constituents' profits.

Instead of asking police to engage in selective enforcement, and expecting the Liquor Control Board to bend the rules for a favored few (as it has for supermarkets and gas stations), Sen. Lisa Boscola should spend her time changing stupid laws.

Jetsons-Style "Modern Times" Are Enough To Drive Anyone To Drink In Pennsylvania -- And Good Luck Trying To Find Something To Drink

Booze can make people say absurd things -- particularly when the people are sober, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is involved.

For example, the PLCB's decision to install ridiculous, automated wine-dispensing devices (which resemble the room-sized ENIAC of computer lore) in local supermarkets prompted this observation from someone described as a "wine enthusiast": "I'm all for it. We should be up with the modern world."

In fairness, that comment came from someone who lives in East Pittsburgh -- a town that is essentially a 1940s-era museum, home of the original and abandoned Westinghouse plant -- and therefore may believe "modern world" means integrated lunch counters, automatic transmissions and stores open on Sundays.

Similarly silly was this comment from the PLCB's Joe Conti: "We definitely have to 'accept' the machines at some point, and we're nearing that point. That will drive everything."

Why must we accept these pathetic machines? Why couldn't Pennsylvania use another new-fangled device -- early adopters call it the "fast forward" button -- and simply drag itself straight from the 1930s into, say, the 1970s, modernizing its liquor laws so citizens are not required to impersonate George Jetson if they wish to buy a bottle of wine?

The only thing you're driving, Mr. Conti, is people to drink -- liquor purchased out-of-state, of course.

Onorato Pushes Yet Another GOP Platform Point

Dan Onorato provided another reason for everyone other than conservatives to disregard his candidacy for governor today, proposing state grants and vouchers to reimburse parents who choose private schools. This line of reasoning, if consistently applied, should generate additional announcements from Onorato's campaign:

  • a call to subsidize bottled water for those who disdain municipal tap water

  • support for grants to those who prefer to avoid public roads and therefore purchase helicopters

  • advocacy of a program that would reimburse citizens who would rather use a private club's treadmill than jog on public sidewalks

Candidate Onorato offered no details or financial projections, which suggests today's event might have derived more from political calculation and staging than principled policy concerns. After all, this is the compaign that, when preparing to file challenges to nomination petitions in Philadelphia, described -- in writing -- the citizens it had arranged to act as petitioners "2 woman, 3 men, 1 african american man."

So when the Onorato campaign arranges a public event prominently featuring Sen. Anthony Williams in Philadelphia, a natural first thought is "prop."

Infinonytune: My Old School, Steely Dan

Nellie King, Voice Of Pirates Glory, Has Died

During a long period when it was great to be a Pirates fan -- win or lose -- broadcaster Nellie King was one of the people who made it great. One could walk along a western Pennsylvania street and follow the Pirates game, without missing a pitch, from the voices of Bob Prince and Nellie King, relayed by a series of radios on front porches. King's kindness, insight and steady bearing were the perfect complement to Prince's unrestrained, prickly brilliance.

As a player (four Pirates seasons), King never scored a run, never hit safely, never committed an error. But he nonetheless was a great contributor to the game.

After the Pirates become a subsidy-sucking, disgusting laughingstock (and had no use for a man of King's caliber), Nellie King retained his dignity, serving as a coach, publicist and basketball voice for Duquesne University and also serving as a lovable reminder of the Pirates' glory.

A fine man, Nellie King died yesterday, aged 82. If the Pirates, or Pittsburgh, are to regain their footing, they will need to replace the likes of Nellie King.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Keystone Rhythm Loses A Beat: Glenn Pavone

Glenn Pavone, a good guy and one of the finest musicians to perform at The Decade (which deserves a decent website), has died.

Let's hope playing his guitar, for the Keystone Rhythm Band and the Cyclones, was as much fun as listening to it was.

If anyone could point to a good video featuring Glenn, please do. Until then . . .

Infinonytune: Eldorado Cafe, Billy Price
Infinonytune: Boilermaker, Glenn Pavone and the Cyclones

Monday, August 9, 2010

"The Unlit, Unpaved Road To Nowhere"

Along a line explored by a colleague in Sunday reading (and approved by Vannevar), Paul Krugman considers America's relatively new "unlit, unpaved road to nowhere."

Infinonytune: Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen
Infinonytune: Thunder Road, Robert Mitchum and Don Raye

Send Charitable Thought In A Worthy Direction

A compassionate thought directed toward Darlene Harris today would be a thought well spent.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Reading: Intersection Edition

Where history meets hubris: When did education lose its luster?

Where God meets lunacy: Who said it: Osama or Newt?

Where GPS and RFID meet 4A: Searching for today's meaning of "search."

Where schemers meet pols: Another financial "solution" fizzled.

Where food meets thought: Contemplating the wrong thing.

Where faith meets fact: Preserving (Almost) Heaven

UPDATE: After reader Ed caught an embarrassing episode of operator error, the link to the Fourth Amendment article has been corrected. Bob Herbert's opinion concerning education was good, but not good enough to merit a duplicate link.

Infinonytune: Fingerprint File, The Rolling Stones

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dick LeBeau, Hall of Famer

Professional football's Hall of Fame will become a better place today when Dick LeBeau, a Hall of Famer in several respects, accepts admission.

LeBeau will enter the Hall as a Lion; he and Lem Barney likely constituted the greatest pair of cornerbacks in football history. The Steelers -- whose reputation has faltered (yet still is overstated) -- can claim some needed, reflected luster. With Dick LeBeau, there's plenty to go around.

UPDATE: An e-mailer who claims to have served sandwiches to both men suggests that if Ben Roethlisberger wishes to learn how to treat people, all he needs to do is spend some time with Dick LeBeau: "Mr. LeBeau treats every person with respect, I think he even tips at Subway in Pine Tree Shops but money is not what I am talking about. Mr. LeBeau is an amazing gentleman, he does not feel he needs to show off. We all know he is a Steeler of course. It is so amazing to see Mr. LeBeau was a great NFL player before he was a Steeler."

Another suggestion (paraphrased): 'And if Ben wants to say he hasn't stiffed servers or walked on checks, he should call the cops because some 6-5 dude who claims to be him and looks just like him and even used Ben's credit card sometimes has been going to [restaurant] where I work and [bar] where my friends work in Cranberry for a while, little or no tips and sometimes even leaving without paying. Rude comments also.'

Friday, August 6, 2010

Follow The (Squandered) Money: Investment Advisors To Local Greasers To Elected Officials

The Cometeer is conducting a discussion (featuring Michael Lamb and Dok Harris) of InsolvenCity pension fund investment performance.

Investment performance -- what is done with capital after deposit -- is an important point, perhaps more important than the amount deposited. By steering the accounts to a bitter mix of well-connected dullards and high-powered fleecers, the city's elected officials and pension board members crippled the fund, rivaling the Port Authority board in long-term ineptitude.

Since the city dumped Hirtle Callaghan for Mercer as investment advisor a couple of years ago, performance appears to have improved. The Post-Gazette might have published an analysis of some of the relevant figures, but has anyone ever chronicled the behind-closed-doors warfare associated with the Hirtle-to-Mercer switch, or identified the recipients and amounts of finder's fees the underperformers paid to local door-openers?

Extra credit: Trace cash from the failed investment advisors to local agents to elected officials. Don't expect help from Dok Harris (no clue) or Michael Lamb (amnesia and laryngitis). An intriguing wild card might be Patrick Dowd, who could be far enough off the reservation to spill the magic beans if he can get his hands on them.

Infinonytune: Money For Nothing, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Eric Clapton

The Clustermuck: Hopeful Moves Forward, But We Should Not Avert Our Eyes From The Past

Pres. Obama has announced an important milestone in resolving the greatest moral, strategic and fiscal mistake -- responding to the September 11 attack by attacking the wrong country, botching the occupation, compromising our laws and principles, and permitting Afghanistan to drift into a hopeless clustermuck -- of the United States' most recent half-century.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, has reminded us that revelations of the details of our failures will continue long after the last soldier has been recalled, the last dollar wasted, the last overmatched ideologue excused from accountability.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So Far, We Seem To Be Surviving Gay Marriage

A federal judge today invalidated a California voter-approved prohibition of gay marriage. As of roughly 11 p.m., with skies over Pittsburgh dark for several hours, no blazing bolts of damnation from the sky have been observed or reported.

UPDATE: An entire day has passed since the court issued its order, yet no apocalyptic signal has been reported.

UPPERDATE: Another important development is an unconfirmed but welcome rumor that, even under the new gay marriage rules, same-sex marriage will be optional (rather than mandatory).

InsolvenCity's 'Community Conversation' On Signs Features Rocky Mountain Messengers

After a couple of trips to court and some tense moments in council chambers, InsolvenCity's 'community conversation on electronic signs and billboards' is scheduled to resume this evening at a public meeting conducted by the Department of City Planning.

A featured guest: Christopher J. Duerksen of Clarion Associates, a Denver lawyer with a handy resume but no obvious reason for participating in Pittsburgh's 'community conversation.'

Also featured: Nancy Clanton, a lighting expert based in Boulder, Colorado.

Can anyone illuminate the funding source for the expedition of two Colorado luminaries to Pittsburgh (likely a $10,000 trip, counting hourly rates, travel and lodging)? Identifying the funding source should shed light on the issue of the purpose of these experts' participation in Pittsburgh's billboard debates.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

FBI Protecting Us By Infiltrating WikiLeaks, Nabbing Wikipedia For Impersonating Agent

Remember when U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan was telling everyone the Bush administration needed Constitution-trampling powers because everyone at her office was devoting every waking moment to attempting to protect us from annihilation by terrorists camped just outside Wilmerding . . . although it turned out what she was actually doing consisted of prosecuting felonious faxers, fake penis-producers and authors of bad fiction (when not spending a half-million taxpayer dollars on trips to fancy social events and far-right policy conferences)?

Turns out she might have been merely following federal policy, because the government that attacked the wrong country and couldn't find Osama bin Laden with a nine-year pole has decided to protect the American way of life by infiltrating WikiLeaks and prosecuting Wikipedia's website for impersonating an FBI agent.

(This evokes the scene from Midnight Run -- a great movie -- in which an FBI agent (Yaphet Kotto) warns a skip-tracer (Robert DeNiro) that the FBI regards impersonation of an agent as a serious offense, and DeNiro's character responds: 'Ten years for impersonating a Fed? No kidding? So how come no one's after you?')

Anybody else feel safer already?

Infinonytune: Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress), The Hollies

List Of Forty "Democrats For Toomey" Even Less Impressive Than Republican Candidate Toomey

Pat Toomey -- who is as moderate as one of his nightclubs was a "restaurant" -- has issued a list of 40 "Democrats For Toomey."

Who are these prized, picked-off, pronouncement-worthy Democrats? Elected officials? Party representatives? Long-time liberal activists? Big-time Democratic donors?

The local names are uniformly unimpressive; not one is known, let alone prominent, in the Democratic Party.

The online claim to fame of West Homestead's Michael Zagnacky, for example, is a $25 dollar contribution to Jeff Piccola -- state senator and Republican Whip Jeffrey Piccola, among the hardest-right legislators in Harrisburg -- in 2005. If Mr. Zagnacky is a Democrat, he appears not be a fanatic about it.

Pittsburgh's Thomas Ferris is difficult to find online. As are Constance Timko of Munhall, Valencia' Thomas Rice and Whitehall's William Epler. One place at which they are not found: A list of Democratic Committee members.

Greensburg's Nicholas Kosor's online identity consists primarily of a $75 contribution to the Country First Political Action Committee, whose proprietor is Republican presidential candidate John McCain. This suggests it was not necessarily Toomey's insight and brilliance that wrested Mr. Kosor from his Democratic Party roots.

Louis Burdell of North Braddock? A pair of $25 donations to America's Foundation. That's the PAC of Rick Santorum (R-JesusLand). It appears the Dems lost Lou even before Pat Toomey stopped peddling quarter beers and became a Senate candidate.

James Gallaso of Aliquippa? His online badge is a signature on the "We Stand With Arizona Against Illegal Immigration" petition at the GOPetition website. Sounds like another tough grab for Toomey.

From millions of registered Pennsylvania Democrats, Pat Toomey is boasting about snagging 40 who appear to be too dumb to recognize they're registered as members of the wrong political party.

If any of the 40 "Democrats For Toomey" wishes to correct the record concerning Democratic Party bona fides, the Infinopportunity will be provided.