Leturgey Musings and Goings On

These are some of my writings...from events going on in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance and elsewhere, to observations from the rest of my decidely unformulaic life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bet On It: Had Carlisle Been Mayor, She Would Have Still Won Election

When new Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor was sworn into office in January, 2006, city council was a flutter with controversy as to who would be the next council President. Former President Eugene Ricciardi had won election to a District Justice post, thus leaving that position open.
Had experience meant anything, councilman Bill Peduto would have been a “no-brainer” to succeed Ricciardi and lead council; however, qualifications have almost never meant anything on Grant Street. More than anything—perhaps on planet Earth—Pittsburgh politics is about who you know, who you’re related to, and above all else, you’re a union-shilling, economics-be-damned Democrat.
Peduto would not be President of Pittsburgh City Council because he dared oppose O’Connor for Pittsburgh’s top job (we’ll exclude Steelers Coach), despite the King maker’s “next-in-line” designation. O’Connor’s long-term right-hand man Doug Shields had orders from above that prohibited Peduto from being council chief. Shields reportedly wanted the job for himself back then, but at the time was unable to muster the votes, especially with a ticked Peduto holding a salvo or three. [Shields now serves as Council President.]
Councilman Jim Motznik was the self-appointed front-runner for the Presidency. Motznik assumed he had the post locked up, but years before the former Public Works muck-raker quite spryly bolted from a television reporter’s camera over some rather routine questions of the day, and promised to resign from Council to assist Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign (the clock still ticks on that vow). With assertions like those, Motznik’s growing political irrelevance made his ascension impossible (to Motznik’s credit, he did narrowly win re-election after those gaffes).
A quick scan of the remaining Council members from the time proved nearly all others to be “too new” or privy to political alienation for one reason or another.
At the same time there were quiet whispers that Twanda Carlisle wanted the largely ceremonial engagement. She would have been an aesthetically-pleasing choice: youthful for a Pittsburgh politician (despite the fact it’s difficult to find anything about her age: we’ll guess she’s 46), attractive in that “looking beyond you into the abyss” sort of way, and African American.
For at least one second, Carlisle was being considered for President of Pittsburgh City Council.
Instead, an even younger upstart—who was born up-to-his-neck in Pittsburgh political lineage—was ultimately considered a “safe choice,” albeit hand-picked from the flock by O’Connor. North Side resident Luke Ravenstahl was selected for Pittsburgh City Council President only because no one else had the necessary votes.
Then tragically, O’Connor was effectively out of the Mayor’s post before the first pitch of the MLB All-Star Game at PNC Park on July 11, 2006.
The waiting game was on. As days became weeks, it was clear that something was not right with the hospitalized Bob O’Connor. He passed away on September 1, 2006.
Ravenstahl was jettisoned to national prominence almost immediately and he quickly proved to be the epitome of the none-too-worldly-wise 26-year-old who was far more interested in trips to the Late Show with David Letterman (where Luke admitted on television that city police looked the other way when it came to ticketing Ben Roethlisberger after the infamous motorcycle accident) and crashing parties with the elite of the elite (he drove a Homeland Security SUV to visit Tiger Woods at the suburban Oakmont for the U.S. Open). Ravenstahl was also photographed with Sienna Miller, the 25-year-old actress with a face of a Pop Culture Godess and mind of mushy quid when she risked ire of Cleveland Browns-fan proportions by calling the city a bad name.
The city’s fortunes could have been far more interesting had Twanda Carlisle been handed the role that—at the time—was a harmless license to appear on one of the public access channels and crow about being perhaps the city’s highest-ranking African American female city official EVER. Her predecessor, Valerie McDonald Roberts never made it to council President, largely because O’Connor held the post when she was in office. Roberts, who previously served on the Pittsburgh School Board, eventually moved to a lower-profile Allegheny County post. That was too bad because she would have been an ideal standard bearer had she received the chance.
Imagine Carlisle had the opportunity to serve as council President when O’Connor was prominently shown hanging Wi-Fi equipment downtown, in a ceremonious photo op that ultimately would become his final public appearance.
Instead of a frightened Luke Ravenstahl being sworn in as Mayor that late summer evening, it was “that close” to being the glassy eyed Carlisle (did she ever have any other expression?), hand on Bible, accepting the reigns of running the Commonwealth’s only interesting major market city.
Pretend for a mili-second that Twanda Carlisle was the Mayor.
Somewhere along Carlisle’s employ, she decided that the city’s bloated coffers were in fact a secret slush fund for anyone of her acquaintance.
Reports leaked with Carlisle purchasing books of questionable political merit, then escalated to an expensive fur coat and vacations abroad. Worst of all, Carlisle’s mother’s boyfriend received $29,000 to brazenly plagiarize a University of Pittsburgh study and shoehorn it around his own rinky-dink, narrow-minded, quasi-idiotic ideas. Assuredly, no one would read the examination of healthcare, religion and politics in Twanda’s 9th Council District, but the story of fraudulent intrigue had already spread. Local media eagerly awaited the tome’s release. It didn’t disappoint. The “study” turned out to be a hodge-podge of mystification that made the CBS News’ “Memo-Gate” that dethroned news hierarchy Dan Rather look Einsteinian in comparison.
That and other crackpot expenditures quickly drew the attention of the federal government, namely United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Mary Beth Buchanan.
What would have occurred had Carlisle been Mayor when the stories of misappropriation of funds been made public?
It depends on when the story broke.
If Carlisle had been Mayor, certainly up for election, it would have been interesting to see if Bill Peduto would have waged a challenge. The city’s only real “Reform Democrat” with fiscal-conservative leanings, Peduto remains Pittsburgh’s best choice to remain relevant; nevertheless, he’s not subservient to the Special Interest Groups (a.k.a. public sector unions) that control the city with the most selfish of Socialist contentions. Keep in mind, even an elementary understanding of real-world economics has almost never been a strong suit of Pittsburgh City Council in 70 years.
A thinking man’s candidate—even a Rust Belt Democrat—has no chance against a free-spending, Devil-Wears-Prada-on-public-dime empty power suit.
Fact is, those who dominate the voting block in the city probably wouldn’t sweat had there been pending federal action against the “supposed” Mayor Carlisle administration with Republican Mark DeSantis in the race.
All Carlisle’s handlers would need to do is parrot DeSantis’ Republican registration over and over again and punctuate the proof that Buchanan is also a member of the Grand Old Party.
Carlisle could have bested DeSantis by an even larger margin than Ravenstahl because of her gender, ethnicity, willingness to sign big checks to the unions and simplistic party affiliation.
The “Sheep” would continue to pull the party line, the donkeys would assuredly bray. Carlisle will need to pay back more than $40,000 in embezzled taxpayer cash.
That being noted, there’s little double that the city’s naïve voting electorate would still endorse a convicted felon to Mayor of Pittsburgh over a Republican, regardless of his or her qualifications. Lynn Swann, one of the most beloved Pittsburgh Steelers of all time wasn’t given a fair shot by Pittsburgh voters in his race for Governor because of his voter registration.
In 2007, it’s plainly that dire on Grant Street. With DeSantis dispatched and Peduto quiet on the sidelines, all of the great potential leaders on the current landscape have been vanquished.
At least Carlisle won’t be governing with an ankle bracelet anytime soon.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Steel City Derby Demons Destroy Cleveland's Burning River Gals

I've been promising my pal "Mel Practice" that I would show up to see the Steel City Derby Demons in action all season. You see, "Mel" has been a tremendous supporter of the KSWA for as long as I've known her, and all she's ever asked from me was to watch her and the rest of her gang.

A couple of months ago the Demons concluded the last match of their inaugural, intramural season and she worked hard to get me some comp tickets. I ended up bagging, as I wasn't "in a good place" at the time. Luckily my ability to do more adventurous things has returned.

Saturday the All-Stars of the Steel City Derby Demons took on the Burning River Roller Girls, straight from Cleveland in the "Big Stink On The Rink" extravaganza.

Friday after work, I met Mel at her superbly eclectic place of employment on the South Side. She saved me a few bucks by selling a ticket early. She also informed me that one of the All Stars broke her ankle in practice and was in the hospital. It turns out the injured athlete was Busty Brawler, a dark-haired Demon I met when she visited the KSWA. We've since talked about the fact that "Busty," or Natalie as her birth certificate reads, is from Lancaster County, around the same place where my father and his family resides.

I've met a handful of the Demons and believe Busty and Mel would be among the only ones to remember me. As it turns out, neither was going to play Saturday, as Mel was a "stand-by" skater who probably wouldn't be allowed to play in the weekend game on such short notice.

Friday I spent some time with Mel, bought a trinket from the store in which she works, and talked a variety of issues in an hour. I'll gladly note that the happily and newly-married Mel is an incredible beauty inside and out. Her care for friends and impressive intellect make her a winner. I'm happy that she seems to have a tight-knit family. I also stopped to get Natalie a Get Well card, which I later found out she enjoyed.

Fast forward to Saturday night, where it first looked like Mel was going to get to participate. Bad news was, she didn't. However, she cheered on and retrieved towels for her teammates during breaks.

The glossy program featured the history of Roller Derby and included a picture of the mustached sport founder, eyes wide open, mouth agape in true 1970's hyped fashion. Individual pictures from both teams could also be found. This isn't your grandfather's Derby, with female behemoths and Farrah Fawcett look-alikes. Today's Roller Derby embraces athletic women of all shapes and sizes, many like Mel with tattoos galore. The good news is there isn't a dog in the entire Steel City Roller Derby Demon All-Star roster.

Regardless of what type of girl you like, there's someone for you to embrace as a fan. From the aptly named Betty Bonecrusher to the sprite-like Cheeseburger, the Demons come in all shapes and sizes. But they are all exciting athletes in their own right. They also come with colorful names like The Crippler (in the picture, she's as "girl next door as you can ever imagine), Snot Rocket (who could be your best friend's adorable sister), Ally McKill (the girl you should have asked to the Prom) and the still "un- P.C." Scary Schiavo (there's an enchanting, yet nefarious look in those eyes) that would make any professional wrestling promoter proud.

The home team announcer was the spitting image of 80's TV icon Harry Anderson, flush with fedora and snazzy suit. Who knows if he had suspenders and string bean arms like Anderson's "Harry the Hat" character from Cheers that served as a spring board to Night Court. He didn't dazzle throughout the night and the crowd didn't really seem to respond to his timing.

There was an announcer from Cleveland who did a better job capitalizing on the role of the "hip" modern derby announcer. The bad part was, no one really taught him how to use the microphone, so he gave it the "fist on the top" technique which only made him sound like a human beat box all night long. Late in the contest—fearing my hearing was going—I asked a couple of younger guys standing around me if they understood anything the "cool guy" was saying and they just shrugged in agreement.

A third announcer, a Pittsburgh skater named "Sharon Fluids" happened to wear Cleveland's colors. She started strong but by the end of the evening she was overshadowed by Mr. Over Modulation.

The event was well put together. The match resembled professional hockey with three periods. For 20 minutes, the teams went at it tooth and nail. The Steel City Derby Demons took an early lead and never looked back.

During the first break in the action, two youngsters performed break dancing routines for the remarkable crowd. Break Dancing! The "kids" today may call it Hip Hop, and it may be featured in a Nick Cannon, Nickelodeon-produced movie, but it is still break dancing.

The second intermission included a well-done performance by a Rock-A-Billy trio. Their short set was just about right time-wise.

The fan base was astoundingly familiar with a lot of the Derby Demons and the rules. When a "Jammer," most notably "Hurricane Heather" was able to break free and score points, men and women alike took note and cheered. In the last period, Heather dominated by racing around the pack over and over again. Toward the end of the run, she hooted it up with the fans between spurts of point accumulation.

The crowd, which was quiet for much of the night, sprang to its feet as Heather pulled the Derby Demons further away from their Cleveland counterparts. The match ended in a blowout, with the Pittsburgh gals collecting the victory.

Afterwards, Demons posed for pictures, signed autographs and met with friends and fans. The plan was for the Demons to have an after party of the South Side. By that time, my lower back was in agony from standing on the hard track. It was time to head on out and see how bad I looked in the pictures with the striking Mel Practice. As usual, I looked like a dunce.

When you get a chance, check out the Steel City Derby Demons. Learn more by going to http://www.steelcityderbydemons.com/. You won't be disappointed.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pittsburgh’s Peerless Prodigal Son Of Politics Has Resurfaced

What an absolute treat to unfold Saturday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and see the most unique “politician” ever in Pittsburgh, “sniffing” snacks of $2 bills he used to pay his entry fee into New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary.

Richard E. “Mad Dog” Caligiuri is the “Philosophical Outlaw,” the one-time, perennial Congressional candidate who oftentimes took on former Congressman Bill Coyne (the antithesis of thoughtful deliberation and verve). The quintessential Pittsburgh Libertarian, Caligiuri made his biggest splash in the mid 90’s when he posed nude, strategically positioned as “The Thinker,” on the back cover of one of Pittsburgh’s weekly liberal odes to all things unconventional.

“Mad Dog” had arrived. As the editor of an advertiser-supported every-other-weekly ode to all things Block Watch, Community News and feature-happy odes to all things small town, U.S.A., I was excited to meet him. We became fast friends, but alas, a family-member’s health was encompassing more and more of his time, so I knew that Caligiuri’s time in the “alternative candidate’s” spotlight was waning.

Of course, the throngs of public sympathizers and fans of unthinking, unblinking Coyne-dom voted Sleepy Socialist Willie into office one last time. Shortly thereafter, Fidel Castro’s poster boy for all things crazier-than-a-loon retired and gerrymandering allowed for the one-time middle-of-the-road-thinking Mike Doyle assumed the city of Pittsburgh. Thusly, Doyle accepted the lunatic-fringe of lefty liberalism, but before that had to face Caligiuri one last time.

Doyle and I had a good working relationship, as I did with virtually everyone in public office. One Bill Peduto guided former Congressman Dan Cohen’s political ship into an everyman’s quagmire of Congressional hopefulness. No one quite realized the inexplicable power of the Sleepy Socialist and Cohen’s political future was sunk. The shock of that outcome still resonates to this day.

Caligiuri ran against Coyne and I broke the story. Doyle informed the rest of Pittsburgh’s media that I had the scoop, that indeed he had an opponent that fall.

Doyle won then, and has raced to the left faster than his idol, John Murtha fell from grace in the opinions of 95% of career service men and women.

Caligiuri disappeared off the political map just about the time in which he should have shined.

In his prime, Caligiuri would have been the Internet’s political darling, a daring thinker who’s “out of the box” ideas have been copied but never duplicated.

Mark Rauterkus has picked up Caligiuri’s reigns perhaps better than anyone might have dreamt. However, Caligiuri always kept his eyes only on Congress. He became folklore to us political junkies, perhaps not as oddly as the late sandwich-board guy who despised Coyne and once ran for Mayor, but in a city with so few real “colorful” politicians who didn’t make a career out of cashing city council paychecks, Caligiuri was a hero.

Until now.

According to the Concord Monitor, Caligiuri drove to New England to enter the crowded Democratic field. He still maintains a true Libertarian philosophy, but that only makes him closer to being a John F. Kennedy Democrat than a Hillary Clinton Democrat.

New Hampshire voters were also reported to be waiting for TV funnyman Stephen Colbert to show up. Colbert had announced his candidacy for the South Carolina primary a few weeks ago, but those staunch intolerants decided to leave him off the ballot. It’s still uncertain whether Dennis Kucinich is on that ballot, but one joke shouldn’t necessarily disqualify another.
From time to time, I’ve thought of Caligiuri, but lost his phone number eons ago. Print says he continues to maintain his family’s fast food and ice cream restaurant in Wilkinsburg.
Back in the day, he routinely shuttled from that hamlet to a kraal in Westmoreland County, where he presumably drank wine and waited for the next Congressional go-round.

Had I had a vote in New Hampshire, I would consider crossing party lines to plunk the Mad Dog.

It’s great to see an old friend once again.

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