Quiz: How many public crooks are there?

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Time for a news quiz:

1. What is the significance of the number "82" that Pittsburghers have been talking about this week?

a) That is the number of people from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration, his bodyguard contingent and his little black book who have testified before the federal grand jury.

b) That is the number of votes President Barack Obama had in the 435-member House of Representatives for bombing Syria.

c) The Pirates 82nd win, on Monday night in Texas, guaranteed their first winning season since the year Miley Cyrus arrived in the delivery room, twerking.

2. Why would Ronald "Porky" Melocchi, the alleged video poker kingpin of the Mon Valley charged with various gambling-related crimes, ever give his company the provocative name "Back Alley Vending"?

a) "Nyah-nyah, Nyah-nyah-nyah, Coppers!" was already taken.

b) "I Can't Wait To Be Wiretapped" was already taken.

c) "Rivers Casino," the state-endorsed gambling monopoly that is protected by laws forbidding machine wagering elsewhere, was already taken.

3. Why do defense attorneys representing clients called before the federal grand jury probing the city always emphasize that their clients are "fact-based witnesses"?

a) This distinguishes them from the fiction-based witnesses yet to come.

b) The only people who still read newspapers and watch the 6 o'clock news are old enough to have watched "Dragnet," and thus sounding vaguely like Joe Friday shows media savvy.

c) "Fact-based witness" is just another charming redundancy that lawyers use, like "legal rights" or "billable hours in a day."

4. State Rep. Marc Gergely was caught on a wiretap telling the accused gambling ringleader, "I just want to take care of ya." Is Mr. Gergely in trouble?

a) Nah. Everyone knows Pennsylvania state legislators suck up to whoever's on the phone.

b) Nah. Once Mr. Gergely found out Mr. Melocchi was being investigated, he donated an equivalent amount of the guy's campaign contributions to a for-profit company that treats gambling addiction and covers politicians' posteriors.

c) Possibly, but Pennsylvania voters generally need to hear a catch phrase like "midnight pay grab" before they vote anyone from office. So far, authorities are calling this investigation "Operation Pork Chop," which is only making Mon Valley residents hungry.

5. The Veterans Affairs undersecretary for health testified at a congressional hearing that he'd still give the regional director a $63,000 bonus even after a federal investigation blamed the Pittsburgh VA for mistakes that led to the deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. Why would he say that?

a) He didn't know the mic was on.

b) In both the private and corporate sector of America, it has become a core belief that executive bonuses should be given irrespective of success or failure.

c) You think that's bad? You should have heard his claim to reporters after the hearing that the Legionnaires' outbreak was at least partly the result of a broader "epidemic" in Allegheny County. That came as news to both the county Health Department and the VA's own inspector general.

6) City Councilman Bill Peduto, who won the Democratic nomination for mayor in May, seems to be acting as if he's already mayor by meeting with state officials in Harrisburg and such. Why should no one be surprised?

a) The Republican losing streak in Pittsburgh is four times as long as the Pirates' was.

b) More people can find a free parking space near Heinz Field on a Steelers Sunday than can name the Republican nominee for mayor (Josh Wander).

c) Mr. Ravenstahl is only slightly less reclusive than Greta Garbo and J.D. Salinger, and that's largely because they're dead. It's not as if two Pittsburgh guys are acting all mayoral.

7) There's a plan to build apartments at the site of the old Saks Fifth Avenue department store on Smithfield Street. Would that become the most prestigious Downtown address?

a) Yes. In a region where people still give directions by saying "Make a right where the Isaly's used to be," Pittsburghers will pop their buttons when they exclaim, "I live dahn at Saks."

b) No. The people who live in the old State Office Building still get to look down on all those poor saps who wander up thinking they can get driver's license photos taken. That's a hoot every time.

c) Only until they put condos above Primanti Brothers.


Brian O'Neill: boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947.


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