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Captain's log: Health care

| Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009

Phasers on stunned.

It's a scene that normally would take a combination of several Extra Strength Tylenol and an abundance of grain alcohol to envision. But this indeed is reality — William Shatner will debate Rush Limbaugh on the proposed health care overhaul.

The smackdown occurs at 10 p.m. today on the former Capt. James T. Kirk's Biography Channel talk show "Shatner's Raw Nerve." A preview of the contentious give-and-take can be seen on the Web at .

If you're like us, you probably weren't aware that Shatner had a talk show. Wondering what to expect• Take a gander at this capsule review from Entertainment Weekly:

"Shatner's version of a talk show is a lot like his version of 'Rocket Man' — slightly lounge-y, bizarrely syncopated and totally, goofily enjoyable. It's also surprisingly insightful, occasionally heated (especially with Limbaugh) and willing to strangely go where no half-hour interview has gone before."

MAYOR'S SUPPORTERS SPLINTERING? Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl handily won re-election last month, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be looking over his shoulder.

Bill Peduto , one of Ravenstahl's biggest critics on Pittsburgh City Council, held his second annual holiday fundraiser Thursday at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The event boasted some well-known names, including people previously thought to be solidly in Ravenstahl's camp.

For example, Judy O'Connor , the widow of Bob O'Connor , Ravenstahl's predecessor as mayor, was one of nearly 100 people on the party's host committee.

Less surprising members of the host committee included former city Public Works Director Guy Costa and former city Stadium Authority Chairwoman Debbie Lestitian . Neither is believed to have the mayor on his or her Christmas card list.

Among the nearly 50 co-chairs for the event were former independent mayoral candidate Kevin Acklin , Oxford Development CEO David Matter and Reed Smith attorney Dan Booker .

ATTRACTING ATTENTION. Speaking of Ravenstahl, his proposed 1-percent college tuition tax is getting noticed beyond city borders.

The Scranton Times-Tribune ran a lengthy editorial opposing the levy. "State government should outlaw the tuition tax before this bad idea becomes contagious," the newspaper opined.

Care to wager the editorial page editor has a kid or two in college?

The U.S. News & World Report Web site had an account of Monday's student protest before Pittsburgh City Council. Reader reaction to the item was not overly sympathetic to the fraternity boys and sorority girls.

"What better way to educate college students about the realities of government spending and the resulting burden of taxation?" one reader commented. "Call it Reality Economics 101."

BABY, WHAT BACKING. Can there be any doubt that Dan Onorato is a shoo-in to win the governor's race now that the Allegheny County executive has been endorsed by (drum roll please) Mike Gerber ?

Perhaps a better question to ask: "Who is Mike Gerber?"

Yes, that's a better question indeed.

Given the number of releases the Onorato campaign issued regarding the endorsement, you would have thought both Barack Obama and Moses had just come down from the mountain to back Onorato's gubernatorial bid.

But no, Gerber, a Democrat, is a three-term state representative from Montgomery County who will try to boost the D-Man's street cred in Eastern Pennsylvania, where he is relatively unknown.

AN ODD INVITE. To say Jake Haulk found the invitation a surprise was an understatement.

Haulk is president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, the Mt. Lebanon think tank whose defense of taxpayer interests over the years has often put it at odds with labor unions.

So Haulk wasn't exactly expecting the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 to invite him to a reception that the union will hold next weekend in New York City as part of the annual Pennsylvania Society proceedings.

The late-night soiree at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel will be hosted by John Dougherty , Local 98 business manager and Philadelphia power broker.

SECOND ROUND. Among the election results released last week in Westmoreland County was that of New Alexandria resident Jack Freeman 's write-in campaign for inspector of elections.

Last spring, Freeman, 77, who drives around town on an electric scooter because he is disabled, alleged that Dr . William Stitt , a borough dentist, punched him during a dispute near the municipal building. Unity Township Magisterial District Judge Michael Mahady dismissed the harassment complaint for lack of evidence.

Freeman said he noticed that Stitt was on the ballot for the post, so Freeman decided to mount a write-in campaign. According to the board of elections, Freeman got 106 votes and Stitt got 58.

Stitt will be the minority inspector.

CELEBRATION TIME. Westmoreland County Republicans continue to celebrate their election gains.

On the heels of the District 5 dinner last week, the county committee has scheduled a "Victory Celebration" event for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

Those to be honored include judge-elect Michele Bononi and clerk of courts-elect Bryan Kline , the first Republican to win a Westmoreland County row office in more than 50 years. Tickets are $50 per person or $75 per couple.

The host committee includes state Sens. Kim Ward of Westmoreland County and Don White of Indiana County, state Reps. Tim Krieger and Mike Reese and county Commissioner Charles Anderson .

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. It only took 72 years and a leak that a state grand jury is investigating patronage hirings and contract awards.

Last week, the five-member Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said it would bring some transparency to its operations.

The commission announced it is modifying its hiring process for professional service providers, such as bond and legal counsel, to maximize competition. Under the resolution, the commission will solicit proposals or qualifications from firms or individuals interested in applying for inclusion in pools to provide professional services.

"Pennsylvanians today expect more openness from their government than ever, and with this resolution, we're a step closer to fulfilling that expectation," claimed Chairman Allen D. Biehler , also state Transportation secretary.

Stay tuned.

— compiled by Tribune-Review staff

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