Friday, December 30, 2011

Adjusted Odds On Tuesday's Voting For InsolvenCity Council President, Finance Chair

A series of recent developments -- including a telling vote, a few hushed assignations, and at least one inchoate backstabbing along a fifth-floor hallway at the City-County Building -- incline adjustment of the no-longer-early betting lines for InsolvenCity's council presidency and finance chair, and we have reached the point at which favorites are published in bold type (with former odds in parentheses):
Council president
(1) Darlene Harris: 2-3 (4-1)
(2) Theresa Kail Smith: 40-1
(3) Bruce Kraus: 8-1 (3-1)
(4) Natalia Rudiak: 15-1 (7-2)
(5) Corey O'Connor: 5-1 (12-1)
(6) Daniel Lavelle: 40-1
(7) Patrick Dowd: 99-1 (40-1)
(8) Bill Peduto: 15-1 (25-1)
(9) Ricky Burgess: 40-1
Lukefecta (2, 6, 9 vote together): 1-8 (1-3)

Council finance chair
(1) Darlene Harris 40-1 (3-1)
(2) Theresa Kail Smith: 40-1
(3) Bruce Kraus: 15-1 (4-1)
(4) Natalia Rudiak: 15-1 (5-2)
(5) Corey O'Connor: 25-1
(6) Daniel Lavelle: 40-1
(7) Patrick Dowd: 2-1 (40-1)
(8) Bill Peduto: 10-1 (8-1)
(9) Ricky Burgess: 40-1
Daily Double (1, 3 in either order): 25-1 (7-2)

Infytune: Waiting On The World To Change, John Mayer
Infytune: This Time It's For Real, Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Little Steven Van Zandt (that makes four, for those who are counting)
Infytune: Five Jive, Elmo

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Half-Baked Holiday Fare, Part 2: Police-Paid Expert Claims Training Is Reliable Evidence In Jordan Miles Case (Except When It Isn't)

Local newspapers are putting big headlines on stories spurred by an "expert report" filed by InsolvenCity's lawyers in their continuing attempt to defend the seemingly indefensible police officers who beat an honors student senseless over an illusory plastic soda bottle. Why?

The report exonerates the people who engaged a hired-gun, police-favoring "expert" to write it. This is news?

The report concludes that Jordan Miles (left) "must" have known that the three nonuniformed men who chased and beat him for no apparent reason (in this case, no reason apparent before or after the brutal beating) were police officers. Why? Because the officers were trained to identify themselves, and performing as trained is a reflex, making the training adequate evidence of conduct consistent with that training.

The power of training led the expert to describe (and rely on) a remarkably specific narrative: "It is my opinion that in order for Jordan Miles not to have known that the males who attempted to stop him and whom he eventually struggled with were police officers . . . He would have to have not heard any of the constant repetition of 'Police. Stop. Police.'" Training is, in this expert's opinion, so strong it supports reliance on inferred and detailed dialogue in contested circumstances.

If this training-based inference helps InsolvenCity concerning the issue of shouted warnings, it surely creates a problem for the officers concerning their failure to produce as evidence the plastic soda bottle that ostensibly triggered the savage attack, right? Police officers are trained to preserve important evidence, so the absence of the bottle, in circumstances in which that evidence would be not only important but indeed crucial in a case involving a severe beating, suggests the bottle never existed, right? Especially in a circumstance in which the officer allege that they found the bottle but nevertheless "discarded" it (which would likely eviscerate at least a chapter in the training manual), right?

After considering these points, the expert concluded that the officers' inability to produce the bottle as evidence in these circumstances means . . . nothing.

The expert deems this disregard of training a "mistake" attributable to "human nature," but claims the officers are nonetheless to be excused, and the existence of the bottle to be presumed despite the "training equals conduct" theory, because the officers were acting in the wake of "what they believed to be a life or death struggle."

In other words, the city's expert proposes, the point that excuses the officers' disregard of training is the very point that made the evidence so crucial and therefore, by training, required to have been preserved.

We won't know whether the expert for Jordan Miles is any better for a couple of days. But neither side's lawyers seem particularly sharp in this case. One of Miles' lawyers called the report "kind of racist-based," which doesn't even sound like something a law-talking guy (right) would say (hit soundboard #39):
Lionel Hutz, Esq.: I move for a bad court thingy.
Judge Snyder: You mean a mistrial?
Hutz: Right!! That's why you're the judge and I'm the law-talking guy.
Judge: You mean the lawyer?
Hutz: Right.

For Jordan Miles' (and justice's) sake, we hope the judge and jury devote more attention to the facts and witnesses than to the experts and law-talking guys.

Infytune: Message In A Bottle, The Police

Half-Baked Holiday Fare, Part 1: Marty Griffin Putting The "Asses" Back In Assessments

Even before the wonderful store of Christmas cookies has been exhausted, 'tis the season for half-baked arguments in InsolvenCity.

KDKA Radio's Marty Griffin (left) is self-righteously railing about Allegheny County assessments this morning, spreading stories of scary tax increases that, he says, are soon to confront residents of downtown Pittsburgh and the Strip District. Griffin's claims -- that owners of Strip District homes will soon experience ten-fold increases in property taxes, for example -- turn out to be more slapstick that scary, however, if examined even briefly.

The reason tax bills in the Strip District are certain to increase in general is that luxury condominiums have supplanted abandoned warehouses. The (rare) owner of an unimproved Strip District home may encounter a slight tax increase because of the Strip's general rising tide (which makes that home more valuable), but Griffin is conflating granite-and-mahogany penthouses with siding-and-spackle tenements. A (subsidized) $1.2 million loft will -- and should -- generate a far greater tax obligation than did the broken-window rathole it replaced. The outrage is that the loft-dweller has been permitted to shirk civic obligations for years by Dan Onorato's Reverse Robin Hood Theory Of Low-Rent Politics Taxation.

Griffin's half-cocked rant also overlooks the crucial role of tax rates in calculation of tax obligations. Most assessments will increase, because values have increased, but an increased assessment does not necessarily signal an increased tax obligation. To the contrary, an increased assessment could generate a reduction in tax obligation, because Pennsylvania law will obligate taxing agencies to reduce tax rates in proportion to the increased assessments.

Reassessment does not involve the aggregate burden of real estate taxation nearly so much as the identification of which property owners are forced to shoulder that burden. Dan Onorato, Rich Fitzgerald, and Marty Griffin prefer that average (and below-average) property owners subsidize discounts for the affluent.

Griffin's statements could support an inference that he doesn't even know what he doesn't know, but we believe it more likely that Griffin is aware of the factors that render his simplistic analysis so misleading. Which, for him, is worse; profound ignorance would reflect far better on Griffin that any of the other conceivable explanations.

Infytune: Take The Power Back," Rage Against The Machine
Infytune: The Great Pretender," Freddie Mercury

Friday, December 23, 2011

Time For Some Christmas Music! (And More)

Time for some Christmas music!

Infytune: The Chanukah Song I, Adam Sandler
Infytune: The Chanukah Song III, Adam Sandler

Early Wagering Lines: InsolvenCity Council Presidency And Finance Committee Chair

The initial line on InsolvenCity's city council presidency:
(1) Darlene Harris: 4-1
(2)Theresa Kail Smith: 40-1
(3) Bruce Kraus: 3-1
(4) Natalia Rudiak: 7-2
(5) Corey O'Connor: 12-1
(6) Danielle Lavelle: 40-1
(7) Patrick Dowd: 40-1
(8) Bill Peduto: 25-1
(9) Ricky Burgess: 40-1
Lukefecta (2, 6, 9 vote together): 1-3
The initial line on InsolvenCity council's finance chair:
(1) Darlene Harris 3-1
(2) Theresa Kail Smith: 40-1
(3) Bruce Kraus: 4-1
(4) Natalia Rudiak: 5-2
(5) Corey O'Connor: 25-1
(6) Danielle Lavelle: 40-1
(7) Patrick Dowd: 40-1
(8) Bill Peduto: 8-1
(9) Ricky Burgess: 40-1
Daily Double (1, 3 in either order): 7-2
Infytune: All The King's Horses, The Monkees

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pitt Football Interviews Pulling Double Duty As Research On The Definition Of Insanity?

A bizarre report concerning the Pitt football coaching search from today's Post-Gazette:
A third candidate, Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who was made interim coach after the forced resignation of former coach Jim Tressel, interviewed for the job but Chryst made a good impression with a strong interview.

Who was impressed? The three administrators who signed Dave Wannstedt to an extension, then fired him less than a year later? The proven losers who arranged the Michael Haywood era? The Three Stooges who were impressed by Todd Graham's interview? The guys who chose Keith "This Infytune's For You" Patterson as interim coach?

If Steve Pederson does not depart before another football coach is introduced (or before Khem Birch returns to campus, whichever occurs first), Pitt's trustees should stop indulging Mark Nordenberg's desire to limp to the capstone of the current capital campaign.

Instead, however, those trustees will enable Steve Pederson, Jerry Cochran, and Mark Nordenberg to treat Pitt fans to a double feature: "Back To The Future" -- Parts I and II. (Perhaps the Pitt band could develop a special musical presentation for intermission.)

Infytune: By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Glen Campbell
Infytune: Galveston, Glen Campbell
Infytune: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry/Southern Nights, Glen Campbell

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Picture Is Worth A Number Of Questions

This photograph, circulated by Todd and Penni Graham as they flew to Arizona to swindle Arizona State University's top administrators, prompts several interesting questions:
1) Todd Graham was contractually obligated to the University of Pittsburgh when he obtained the maroon-and-gold necktie and when he distributed this photograph. Is this guy being advised by the lawyer who sent Jerry Sandusky into the Bob Costas interview?
2) Todd and Penni Graham circulated this photograph before some Pitt players had been informed that their faith-commitment-and-integrity coach had abandoned them like a snake impersonating a weasel. Would Pitt players be charged or congratulated for spitting on Graham if their former coach makes good on his pledge to return to Pittsburgh for a final meeting with those players?
3) Which one of these two sanctimonious God Squadders was hitting the Bud at 8 a.m.?
Infytune: Back Stabbers, The O'Jays
Infytune: East Jesus Nowhere, Green Day

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pitt Learns The Hard Way That Todd Graham's 'High Octane' Was Fueled Mainly By Methane

Todd Graham left Pitt the carpetbagger's way: After a short spell of bragging, empty promises and failure -- and with bags of flim-flam cash. Graham demonstrated his character by informing players with a notification big on personal touches -- God and family -- that was delivered by text message and indirectly, through the e-mail account of a mid-level functionary employed by Pitt's foundering football program.

Graham's slinking departure was not -- or at least should not have been -- unexpected among the men (Steve Pederson, Mark Nordenberg, Jerry Cochran) ultimately responsible for mismanaging Pitt's football program and leaving the Big East in much the manner Graham ditched them. Todd Graham's disenchantment had been reflected by short-termer behavior and increasing insubordination for some time.

One example: Graham (or, more accurate, Graham's wife, Penni) wanted to indulge one of Graham's children by enabling the child to dance in a Panther costume along the Heinz Field sideline during home games. The idea met resistance among several elements of Pitt's athletics department, for several reasons. Penni Graham persisted, until the mini-mascot issue reached the athletics director, Steve Pederson, who ruled the child off the field.

During Pitt's final home game, however, Graham's child -- wearing a tiny panther costume apparently purchased independently by the Grahams, and a Pitt jersey labeled "GRAHAM" -- nevertheless appeared along the Pitt sideline, dancing near the student section. One person familiar with the associated events pointed at the dancing child and said, "See that kid in the costume? That kid on the field today means Graham knows either he is gone or Pederson is gone. Not sure which, but it's one or the other."

Pitt fans should hope that this observer was wrong, and that Pitt will soon be rid of Pederson, too.

UPDATE: It is becoming common currency among substantial Pitt boosters that Graham was pursuing several prospective employers for weeks if not months. Many influential Pitt supporters -- and a number of trustees -- are focusing on dumping Pederson, and some are expressing an inclination to reconsider Nordenberg's fitness if the chancellor attempts to protect the athletics director.

Infytune: Stray Cat Strut, The Stray Cats
Infytune: Midnight Special, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Infytune: Flim Flam Man, Laura Nyro

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Occupiers Of Pittsburgh, Unite (Effectively)!

For months, Occupy Pittsburgh has been surprisingly successful, refreshingly resourceful, pleasantly persistent, and intensely worthwhile.

Every American who recognizes the injustice (and chronic, unsustainable trajectory) of accelerating income inequality, every citizen who chafes against undeserved privilege embedded in our system, everyone who believes our society would benefit from diminution of greed and corruption should be grateful to the Occupiers, many of whom have sacrificed comfort for the worthy purpose of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Pittsburgh's Occupiers -- based at a Sixth-at-Grant camp, conducting periodic field trips (left) carrying a message to scattered neighborhoods -- have been especially admirable. They have avoided most of the problems -- some self-inflicted, some provoked, others ascribable entirety to thuggish politicians and police -- experienced elsewhere.

Others deserve ample credit for working with the Occupiers to arrange a good situation. Most prominent are BNY Mellon, which has graciously cooperated with protesters squatting on property (right) that it at least largely private, and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, which has exhibited a civic-minded restraint it has often lacked in spotlighted situations.

Most of these noble circumstances could change today, however. That would be unfortunate, and avoidable.

BNY Mellon has informed Occupiers that it has withdrawn its permission for an encampment, effective at noon today. It has declared that it would seek an injunction tomorrow if the park is not cleared today. BNY Mellon likely is entitled to enforce its wishes in this regard, and the Pittsburgh police would possess a duty to protect BNY Mellon's rights.

Some Occupiers have promised to resist an effort to clear the park. We hope those voices have been the loudest but not the most numerous among the Occupiers; that the Occupiers who have expressed defiance will reconsider; and that the Occupiers' collective body will choose sound strategy over counterproductive tactics, for the sake of preserving and expanding the good their altruistic actions have accomplished.

The history of populist movements is not encouraging in this regard. The wealthy and privileged customarily win these battles, even as the majestic arc of our nation's progress has traced toward justice over the long term. One important reason for the elites' enviable record is that they select strategy over tactics, and an important reason for that choice is that they have better advisers.

The wealthy have strong lawyers, astute financial consultants, effective lobbyists, smooth mouthpieces. Those counselors have excellent support systems, and their clients are well-organized.

The common man is not so fortunate. Unions have leaders and advisers who permit pension plans to submerge members' interests under decades of underfunding and mismanagement without so much as a modicum of inquiry, a moment of recognition, or a murmur of objection. Average Americans must rely on small legal offices to counter the privileged interests' huge, powerful law firms. The wealthy are served by financial magicians who enable billion-dollars companies to evade taxation, while the blue collar worker puzzles his own way through the 1040 to a higher tax rate than a hedge fund titan pays.

Occupiers choosing counterproductive tactics without regard to finances and other resources, legal issues, and other factors would be destined to follow a predictable path to futility. They would squander public support, splinter their organization, disserve their message, and lose.

Their ideals and accomplishments deserve -- and can be served -- better. They could devise and implement a long-term strategy that inclines success. For example, they could thank BNY Mellon for its hospitality, then negotiate with public officials for another location. (Several public parcels in or near downtown seem suitable.) They could try to persuade another private owner to provide another location, perhaps involving indoor accommodations. They could attempt to arrange an invitation to return to BNY Mellon's property after winter breaks.

To engage in legal jousting with BNY Mellon and/or a physical confrontation with law enforcement personnel would be to succumb to short-term and longshot tactics when long-term and effective strategy is indicated. There is still time for Pittsburgh's Occupiers to avoid the temptation to rely on emotion, to take the low road, to play into the hands of their opponents.

We hope our Occupiers find leaders, advisers, and strategies able to guide them to continuing success.

Infytune: Before The Deluge, Joan Baez and Jackson Browne
Infytune: Strange Fruit, Billie Holliday
Infytune: Only A Pawn In Their Game, Bob Dylan
Infytune: This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land
Infytune: Occupy (We The 99), Jasiri X

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Obama vs. Conservatives = Walk vs. Talk

President Obama's response to conservatives who snipe that he is 'leading from behind' and 'appeasing America's enemies' is a concise masterwork: "Ask Osama bin Laden":

We can hear Dick Cheney's teeth grinding from here.

Infytune: I'm A King Bee, Muddy Waters
Infytune: Got My Mojo Working, Muddy Waters
Infytune: Mannish Boy, Muddy Waters

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Death Of Blues Guitarist Hubert Sumlin, And Other Losses Sustained By Our Music

Two musical tragedies have been reported this week.

More important is the death of Hubert Sumlin (far left), groundbreaking guitarist for Howlin' Wolf (pictured with Sumlin) and Willie Dixon and idol of many strong musicians, at age 80.

Less important are the Beastie Boys, Guns 'N Roses, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- each of which has been granted what has become a deeply discounted admission to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Who's next? Kenny G?

Infytune: Smokestack Lightin', Howlin' Wolf
Infytune: Smokestack Lightnin', Hubert Sumlin (instructional)
Infytune: Killing Floor, Hubert Sumlin with Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan