Friday, November 16, 2007

Anyone Else Feeling A Little Woogie?

Last week, we underwent an election. Or as some are now reckoning it, an elaborate bloggers' prank.

Then we all stayed awake and nominally alert for one extra week, to absorb all of the critical, life-sustaining political analysis.

Now that both the id and the superego of Pittsburgh are in almost perfect accord*, you can set about the process of knifing your friends in the back and embracing your former enemies with relaxed self-assurance.

Just not yet. Right now, you feel like wet socks.

Not only is the Comet sick, but multiple highly-placed political insiders have revealed to the Comet on double-super-secret ninjitsu background that they also are feeling ill.

Symptoms of this pandemic include feeling as though one is congested but not really, not quite having a headache, and feeling like one is highly medicated without actually having ingested anything untoward.

Our elders may in fact have been wise to arrange things such that critical municipal elections are held exclusively in May. It's really too dark, damp and chilly out there for vibrant multi-party democracy.


In the spirit of laughter being the best medicine, we present you with some livebloggery of last night's Democratic presidential debate, from the highly recommended DCeiver.

We also post it in the spirit of someone having complained to us that our own liveblogging was not objective or informative enough, to which we say, HAH! and, pthbthbthbth!

Part I: Tonight's Debate, Badly Liveblogged!

Q: Obama, what's up with immigrants? Oh, look at me, Campbell Brown, setting you up to talk about drivers licenses! Oh, deary me!

A: I will throw lightning at employers! I am BLACK ZEUS! Get out of the shadows and prepare for my stiff penalties!


KUCINICH: Yeah, I am against the Patriot Act. Because I can read. And this guy is owed an apology. I do not have a bunch of different positions! Except with my hot wife. Seriously. We do this shin-sei shin-sei stuff on the kitchen counter that is just AMAZING.


CLINTON: Privacy is the new abortion, everyone! Spread the word! And vote for Biden, maybe.

OBAMA: I will not support anyone who doesn't believe in a woman's right to choose uhm...privacy. Is that the term we're using now?

* The Comet urges you to click each of these links, and then click through to each of the sponsors, or at the very least slip some loose change into an envelope and mail it to The City Paper, 650 Smithfield St, Suite 2200, Pgh PA 15222. If you happen to read the articles, we'd just like to comment that Potter and maybe McIntire might both be selling shares of Bill Peduto a little prematurely. They don't even own shares of Doug Shields, which is probably a mistake in itself, but we at the Comet are interpreting Peduto's comment, "If I run for mayor in 2009, I'll run without a net" as "I'm running in 2009, and you'd better stay out of my way, or I'll take the whole reform movement (such as it is) down with me." We have no illusions about Bill's ability to carry the south any better than Lincoln, but we do respect his demonstrated ability to suck votes in a 3-way race, and he's probably crazy enough to carry out his threat just from sheer intransigence. The whole "retirement bout" concept might actually be good enough to accomplish the de-wussification he so sorely requires after his episode of "political cowardice." Also, the charge could be easily leveled against Lamb (if he runs) that he hasn't held the job long enough to make an imprint in his office chair. Finally (for now), we recall someone having written something about Bill knowing more and bs'ing less than any other local pol, and that should count for something.


  1. I'm not sure where you get the idea that McIntire and I are "in almost perfect accord." For starters, my column takes issue with the "stupid yinzer" explanation for Ravenstahl's victory. McIntire's column offers that explanation up.

    Also, McIntire believes Peduto WOULD make a good mayoral candidate. This is suggested by the passage, "What's the hope for the future, as in the '09 election? ... I've narrowed it down to Pittsburgh City Councilor Bill 'Mr. Peduto-head' Peduto, and state Rep. Dan Frankel." Not sure how this amounts to John selling Peduto's stock short.

    In any case, John and I disagree about this. I have my doubts about whether the answer is another East End candidate. I may be right or wrong, or the whole debate may be meaningless. But there seems to be a bit of a problem with reading comprehension here.

    Also, you write "we recall someone having written something about Bill knowing more and bs'ing less than any other local pol, and that should count for something." As the person who wrote that line, more or less, it DOES count for something. It counts for a lot. But it doesn't make him a great mayoral candidate. (In fact, some of the things I like BEST about Bill are tied to the things I suspect would hurt him in a citywide campaign.) I'm not sure why you see a contradiction there, since Bill himself has acknowledged that his political skills are far inferior to his policy strengths.

    You did at least get the paper's address correct, though, and of course I would be happy to accept any donations your readers care to send along.

    -- potter

  2. Reading about FRANKLE as a mayor candidate just made me BARF.

    I wasn't feeling ill, until I read that. Add me to the woogie list, I guess.


    Frankle is a TALL Tom Murphy. That's the best I can say about him.

  3. He forgot to tell you to make the checks out to "Frances Monahan."


  4. I guess by "almost perfect accord," I meant you both agree that 1) Luke won 2) that is not a good thing 3) it was to be expected mostly because Mark was a Republican, and 4) it is time to start casting about for Democratic challengers.

    Somehow I also equated, "But let's not make excuses for ourselves, either. Because as long as we do, the whining about "dumb yinzers" will be just one more thing that never changes around here" with, "You'll excuse me while I go stare at the waitress' ass."

    I wasn't sure whether or not John was being subtly lukewarm about Bill, hence the "maybe." Something about insisting on calling him "Mr. Peduto-head" and saying little else about him seemed to suggest this.

    At any rate. When liberal affluent blue-staters pick who they like, you get Al Gore. When liberal affluent blue-staters pick someone they imagine will excite red-staters whom they do not remotely understand, you get John Kerry. In retrospect, it would have been nice to have seen a rematch in 2004 with a vengeful Al Gore, whom voters had already gotten to know and may have identified with, and might have won (that is, won again. Much like it would have been interesting to see the results of a 2-way race for mayor in 2005.) I guess I'm saying let's not be too quick to outwit ourselves just yet.

  5. I guess by "almost perfect accord," I meant you both agree that 1) Luke won 2) that is not a good thing 3) it was to be expected mostly because Mark was a Republican, and 4) it is time to start casting about for Democratic challengers.

    By these criteria, I am in "almost perfect accord" with the vast majority of bloggers too on at least three of four points. What a relief -- for a moment, I almost thought I was in an argument here.

    When liberal affluent blue-staters pick who they like, you get Al Gore. When liberal affluent blue-staters pick someone they imagine will excite red-staters whom they do not remotely understand, you get John Kerry.

    And with that, you get to the heart of the issue. Either of these scenarios assume that it is up for the affluent blue-staters to make the choice. The red-staters, I guess, are like some distant tribe of barbarians ... if you can't ignore them, you must propitiate them somehow -- perhaps with some beads, or a distinguished war record. Failing that, you can try to fool them by dressing up as one of their own. But consult them? In advance? Take some direction from them about what's important? Neither scenario seems to admit the possibility. I realize you're not necessarily endorsing either scenario ... but maybe too many of us see things this way, and maybe that's the problem.

    I could go into a Richmond K. Turner-style denunciation of your use of labels like red-state/blue-state. If the Burgh Report can't safely be referred to as "pro-DeSantis," I don't know how tens of thousands of people can be characterized even more reductively. And the fact is, much of the South Hills -- which shows up red on your map -- went for Lamb in 2005. This despite the fact that Lamb ran a reform-minded campaign much like Peduto's. (Incidentally, while I can certainly understand your fondness for Shields, Lamb also proved to be the stronger candidate in the citywide race for controller this May.)

    Did those South Hills neighborhoods, in two years, suddenly give up the cause of reform and embrace business as usual? Of course not. Lamb is known, and connected, there in a way DeSantis is not. Voters apparently took his reformist agenda as part of the package. Maybe some had reservations about it -- just as some DeSantis supporters probably had reservations about him. But hey, that's how coalitions get built.

    My theory here -- and it's just that -- is that Lamb might have some advantages to building a coalition. (You're right, of course, that he hasn't even taken office yet. But I can't imagine that will matter to, say, voters in Ward 7, 14, or the blogosphere. After all, they just backed a candidate who'd never run for dogcatcher before.)

    Let's assume, just for a moment, that red-state/blue state labels have some truth. Let's further assume that blue-state Pittsburghers are somewhat less parochial than, say, lifelong residents of the South Hills. That's certainly how many blue-staters present themselves, anyway. Given that, surely the East End doesn't NEED an East End candidate to carry the banner of reform? Surely reformers are broad-minded enough to embrace leadership wherever it comes from? I mean, if they can get behind a leader from the GOP, surely the South Hills isn't too much of a stretch?

    I'm not trying to carry water for Lamb, although I guess it sounds that way. If you want to object to his reformist credentials, that's a whole other argument. I'm saying that Lamb, just by virtue of who he is, has connections and credibility that other reformers haven't garnered in much of the city. For reformers, and their backers, the key is to do a better job of building that credibility where they don't already have it. And maybe that means taking a bit of direction from the people whose support you need. Maybe reformers, in urging people to get outside their comfort zone, could try doing the same thing themselves.

    I think DeSantis really did try to do this in some ways. But I think he started way too late ... especially given the amount of ground he had to cover. Maybe Peduto will do better in 2009; I hope he tries, because I think it would be best for EVERYONE, no matter who wins the election. But it seems to me that too many people think it's Pittsburgh's job to come to THEM, rather than the other way around. You're free to disagree -- I'm just saying that's my take.

    And with that, I'm out of here.

    -- potter

  6. Shields? It seems like he has tried to split the difference between supporting Peduto's progressive policies and the hidebound ways of Ravenstahl and Motznick. It's been a bit disappointing, at least from my perspective, and I don't see him having very much city-wide appeal.

  7. Quickly:

    "And with that, I'm out of here."
    "I'm bowing out after this, because life is too short."
    "I'm done. Good luck with your future efforts."

    Surely you recognize how this is all bad form?



    You make many good points, particularly about Lamb's potential strength. I don't want you to put TOO many words in my mouth however. I said the charge "could be leveled" against Lamb that he hasn't given his Controller duties due diligence, not that he's unqualified for Mayor. And in fairness to ourselves, although Mark never did run for dogcatcher, he has managed multiple businesses and worked for years in public service, whereas his opponent, um, has not.

    Your point about including the heathen masses in on candidate recruitment is also very well-taken -- although there are reforms that one is either in favor of, or one is not. My suspicion is that the big ones are the tough ones are the important ones, and personally I trust someone who has been fighting for reform and disengaged with the usual suspects, over someone who has been known to drop a little mollifying rhetoric on occasion. I'd hate to see the pigs stand up or the humans grow snouts, whichever happened at the end of Animal Farm.

    I remember coming close to writing in that footnote, "a lot will depend on how the next Council takes shape," but perhaps even more will depend on the nature of the activity in the Controller's office. At least if you're me.

  8. You make many good points, particularly about Lamb's potential strength.

    Well, maybe not SO good: As the Burgh Report points out, Peduto bested Lamb in most wards. I might quibble with the analysis a bit (the Burgher puts an asterisk by a ward Lamb won by a handful of votes, but if memory serves Peduto's margins were equally slight in one or two wards elsewhere). But obviously Peduto, not Lamb, finished second in that race. And O'Connor would have cut into Peduto's base more than Lamb's.

    My gut sense, as I've said, is that if we believe the cosmopolitan East Enders have renounced parochialism, a candidate like Lamb would have an easier time garnering their votes than an East Ender would in those oh-so-parochial red states. (Clearly, if this election proved nothing else, it showed that the East End can be counted on for an "anyone but Luke" vote, provided a halfway credible reform alternative.) But I could easily be wrong; we know how slippery those labels are. And like I've been saying all along, whether the candidate is Lamb or not doesn't matter so much to me. What matters to me is the broader movement behind them, and that folks not fall back on the easy "blame the stupid yinzer" excuse for election setbacks. The votes are potentially out there for Peduto or Lamb or others as well. I'd just hate to see some of the rhetoric of recent days crystallize itself.

    And yes, I guess I was lying when I said I was out of here.

    -- potter

  9. Catching up:

    Jonathan - I did not mean to suggest Shields is likely win, but he's likely play. And those of us in the chattering class have no good reason not to give him all due consideration.

    Anonymous Potter - It occurred to me in the car that you may have overstated Lamb's strong showing in the south as evidence that polarization is overstated. With no incumbent in 2005, and with Bob having opposed Tom repeatedly, the whole change vs. continuity machine vs. insurgency thing was more than a little blurry. 2005 might be best read as having been about personality and geography than about issues.

    Come to think of it, I hope that's not what ALL elections are about. That's a depressing thought.

    At any rate, the rhetoric needs to crystalize before it can shatter, whether through dialectic or brute force.

  10. "I hope that's not what ALL elections are about. That's a depressing thought."

    >>>> Is it? In any case, I think all elections are at least PARTLY about those things ... but we can try to make them work for us. In a way, my assessment of Lamb's geographic strength isn't much different from Democrats seeking out Southerners to run for President.

  11. I would be very quick to object to Lamb's reformist credentials.

    Lamb's credentials are a lot like Luke's in that they both came from very political families. Lamb's dad was a PA Senator.

    Lamb is a row-office bureaucrat.

    Lamb's most inspiring voice of protest goes to the dog-license crisis. Next up -- we hear he went to Penn State. That's his cutting edge credentials.

    He is a flip-flopper on mergers of the city and county.

    Lamb won't run in 2009. He'll have a lot of coffee with D-committee folks and grow his funds from the foundation types in the county.

    BTW1, Josh Pollock should move home.

    BTW2, What if Gene Ricciardi took a leave from the bench?

  12. Fact-check: While he does have a base of sorts in the South Hills, didn't Lamb's most important support last time come from the former Murphy supporters (Marchbein & Co.)? Frankel had been rumored to be the one ready to carry the Murphy banner forward, but apparently he saw the writing on the wall with the anti-Murphy backlash and the O'Connor juggernaut. Presumably people would be contemplating a Frankel candidacy for next time, though, if it weren't for the facts that (1) he's now pretty influential in the House, being politically close to the governor and chairing the campaign committee of what is now the majority caucus; and (2) he would have to have a publicly compelling rationale to run against a sitting Democratic mayor for the privilege of running a near-bankrupt city.

    So maybe that's why Lamb is an option again -- or was his alliance with the Murphy loyalists more an alliance of convenience than an alliance based on common thinking about policy?

    And more generally, can people elaborate on what they mean when they say that Lamb is a "reform" candidate? What is "reform"? What is entailed in it, who pays and who benefits?

  13. Let me say Bram that I agree that people should vote/support the person they think would be the best mayor, and not get into guessing games about electability.

    I don't think Peduto could have beaten O'Connor in 2005, but I think he ran a half-hearted campaign that essentially concentrated on friendly territory. Part of the problem was that he was trying to defend a council seat at the same time. If he had a stronger showing against O'Connor, he might have been better poised this year to have challenged Ravenstahl.

  14. Does anyone else here have ADD problems and find that these comments are insanely long? It would be faster if you just typed up an executive summary, at this point.

  15. "Reading about FRANKLE as a mayor candidate just made me BARF."

    Me too Mark. Murphy lite.

  16. Rauterkus - What makes Lamb a reformer? That is a subject of some debate. I remember from his 2005 run his big selling point was that he consolidated himself out of a job. Thing is, he is STILL somehow our Prothonatary -- he's cruising into the controller's office like Jack Sparrow in Black Pearl. Maybe I have the story messed up.

    Lamb does speak very, very well on reform, at least as far as intergovernmental collaboration and data-driven decision making goes. And he attends all the right meetings. But he just DOES have this Michael Clayton vibe, does he not?

    Felix - Same as above, and I'm terribly excited about your blog. Do you know the meat packer?

    Ska - These are the executive summaries. If you'd like to see the full e-mail exchanges, obtain clearance from both parties.

  17. Hey Bram -- to answer your question, no, I don't know the guy from the SWP personally. I find the Trotskyites annoying. But discussions of the sectarian left are for other times and places. The process is more akin to sci-fi geeks discussing Star Trek than anyone discussing serious politics. Not that sci-fi geekdom doesn't have its place.