Thursday, January 14, 2010

3 Star Navy Admiral Joe Sestak, Democrat, Picks Up Regional Endorsements for U.S. Senate

See also Part II, Part III and Part IV.

From the Post-Gazette:

Finishing up a two-day swing through the Pittsburgh area, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak picked up endorsements from five local Democrats yesterday in his race against Sen. Arlen Specter.

City Controller Michael Lamb, state Sen. Jim Ferlo, of Highland Park, City Council members Doug Shields and Bruce Kraus, and state delegate and 14th Ward leader Barbara Daly-Danko pledged their support for the second-term congressman from Delaware County on the steps of the City-County Building, Downtown. (P-G, Daniel Malloy)

Some notes taken from a get-together held in Mt. Washington on Sunday evening, filmed above, and from a short interview with the Comet:

- Sestak spent 31 years in the Navy and attained the rank of 3-star admiral. That is something I, as well as others I had spoken to, just did not know about him yet.

- "The best thing you can do to win the Global War on Terror in Afghanistan is increase the literacy rate among women." I asked him what he meant by this and he explained that "If you are keeping women down, half the population doesn't understand the problems around them." He said right now there are "One or two women in Parliament arguing for the right thing," and uses as a reference Northern Ireland, which "became the most prosperous nation in the E.U." as women became more influential. He also lauded the power of $1,000 microloans to get more of the population employed and on the right track. At the same time, he frequently asserted that "there needs to be an exit-strategy for Afghanistan", that it "can't be an open-ended commitment", that " we can't afford to nation-build anymore " because the window for nation-building closed long ago -- things have just deteriorated too badly.

- He is occasionally called upon by the Obama Administration to take to the airwaves to defend positions such as the closure of GITMO and the trying of its inhabitants in NYC, but he suggests that to have a U.S. Senator such as himself capable of doing the same thing would be even more effective.

- The compromise at the end of the Senate health care bill was "unacceptable". He believes the President is "on the right path" but needs just "a few more allies" instead of many who were "just waiting for the deal at the end." In addition to the health care "public option", he also ticks off "DOMA" and "card check" as issues he would fight for.

- When I asked how he would respond to a Republican challengers such as Pat Toomey or Peg Luksik, who would be likely to attack the high cost of some Democratic programs and the impact on the national deficit, he responded: "I would remind people that Pat Toomey voted for the economic policy that gave us this." Also: "He [Toomey] permitted doing away with PAYGO ["pay as you go"] -- in fact, he voted 'present'". And: "This opponent actually gave us this savage recession."

- I also asked his position on so-called "Cap and Trade" environmental legislation, and how he would respond to criticism by conservatives and others that this would negatively impact jobs during a recession. He gave a four-point answer:

* We need Cap and Trade for national security; to reduce our reliance on foreign oil

* It will produce jobs; such sources as the Environmental Protection Agency, MIT and the Congressional Budget Office claim it will produce 72,000 jobs and could net 1.7 million over its lifetime.

* The economics of responding to climate change is favorable: eventually, cows produce less milk, fruit grows smaller, et cetera.

* The cost is low. It would start out as "a postage stamp per household per day" starting in 2013, and by 2022, we would be reaping "$750 million in energy efficiencies".

- Sestak had just come from a "Marcellus Shale event" in Philadelphia. He wants to close what he calls "The Halliburton Loophole" in the law which states we are not permitted to know what chemicals are seeping out into our groundwater.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday: Everybody In The Pool!

Look who's coming over for governor. (KDKA, Jon Delano)

"A candidate needs three things -- name recognition, organization and money. Cyril Wecht starts already with a great deal of name recognition," said Allegheny County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn. "In a field with six people, that's could mean a lot." (Trib, Carl Prine)

Burn's GOP counterpart Jim Roddey seems to be coyly suggesting that Wecht could be in this to spoil things for Dan Onorato. That seems like a lot of trouble -- I'm a little closer to where Burn is on this. Not only does Wecht have name recognition and a lot of well-placed friends, but charisma and unconventionality go a long way in a crowded field, especially when there's a change movement afoot. I don't any reason why this couldn't happen.

I do wonder now whether the suddenly resurrected notion that it was D.A. Zappala who initiated and instigated the case against him was intended a pointed political warning shot.

After a federal grand jury indicted Wecht in January 2006 for alleged abuse of his political office, Roddey began to believe that the case was politically motivated. (ibid)

Okay, but let's all be clear. What was supposedly going on?

The federal government's case against Dr. Cyril H. Wecht began with the politically driven agenda of the Allegheny County district attorney and was built using illegally obtained evidence, defense attorneys said today. [snip]

During a court hearing this morning and in documents filed today, Wecht's lawyers attack search warrants used to gather evidence as well as the credibility of the lead FBI agent in the case and District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. [snip]

Defense lawyers claim Zappala's request for an investigation was designed to stop a public debate over the district attorney's "failure to prosecute select police officers in the face of Dr. Wecht's opinion that the citizen deaths at their hands were homicides." (Trib, April 7, 2006)

Wait, I thought it was supposed to be ... oh, never mind. It doesn't matter anymore. Water under the bridge!


Considering the way things have been trending for 50 years, color me just a bit leery of any tentative contract with a public sector union which union leaders feel comfortable in the first public go-round describing as "good". (P-G, Rich Lord)

Color me a bit impressed that Mayor Ravenstahl is daring to take a hard line with workers in other areas. (P-G, Lord and Ove)

Color me thrilled by Wayne Fontana. Call your state senator and get them on board, too. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Bruce Kraus is taking a second swipe at this Carson Street thing (Trib, Adam Brandolph). Color Illyrias as less than enthusiastic (PGH is a City).

It's only a matter of time before the Braddockians find a way to fix UPMC's wagon. They'll never stop. I have faith. (Trib, Walter F. Roche, Jr.)

So Natalia Rudiak will get to enter the hermetically-sealed, barometric-pressure controlled soundproof chamber to evaluate the Parking Authority garage and meter lease proposal. And just generally rifle through Parking Authority file cabinets. This ought to be illuminating one way or the other. (Slag Heap)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Advice for Bill Peduto - Final Edition, Unresolved

"He should have gotten his five," one political insider opined just prior to the Council presidency vote -- not an insider that should be considered to have been 100% totally disinterested, mind you, but one offering spot-on analysis nonetheless.

"He should have pulled his votes together. But he couldn't. And that says something."

Yes. Undoubtedly. Indubitably. But without explanation, that's really just a shot. What is it exactly?

"Bill believes that the whole city of Pittsburgh is pretty much like his district. It isn't," Payne said. "It's mostly working-class people, who are doing their work and raising their kids. The majority of people don't have it as good as the people in his district." (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

That's -- that's just not it. If someone would start identifying positions Peduto has taken that benefit the upper crust to the detriment of working-class, child-rearing and God-fearing yinzers, we could all entertain such an argument. Consider this an open thread, please. But I think that's a hollow argument which exploits ignorance and maybe a little prejudice. An effective one at times, to be sure, so maybe it bears thinking about anyway, but it's not "the core".

"Legitimate objections are one thing, but if Bill is saying 'night' simply because Luke is saying 'day,' people are going to stop listening," said Jim Burn, chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, who stressed he has always gotten along with Peduto. (ibid)

That's only a wee bit warmer. I don't recall Peduto having opposed a worthwhile mayoral initiative for its own sake -- indeed it's usually Peduto launching one crusade after another and the mayor opposing those. When Ravenstahl has put something laudable together, usually around bike paths or green lighting or the such, Peduto has been on board. Again, this is an open thread, please use it.

But what Burn said does suggest the difficult position Peduto has staked out. He's not just a rival of Ravenstahl. He is, by his own words frequently enough, a foe of "the machine". He's an opponent of "the way business is done in this city." He has that picture of the tanks in the street in Tianenmen Square up prominently in his office. He has compared administration maneuvering to North Korea on more than one occasion.

He's a True Believer -- which is great if you're also one, but it's not great at all for the game of politics.

That seemed timed to react to the Trib article. It's exactly why the "progressive" base, such as it is, will not abandon him -- probably not ever, no matter how sound the practical argument. He carries that dog-whistle. He's the "It" girl. Anyone else who wants to take their shot will have to do so either with his blessing, or over his cold dead body.

Which means that either A) somebody needs to emerge who carries a louder, better dog-whistle, or B) he needs to fall into less of the pitfalls of a True Believer. If Option A happens, we'll know it, so let's talk about Option B:

1. Bill -- they say that behind closed doors, or even only around corners, you are full of yourself. And I can believe it! What's with this, "Give Up The Crown To Save The Kingdom" claptrap? Did that need to be said? Here you go: "I would have liked to have been picked, but Council President Harris is going to do a great job and I'm proud to have voted for her." How hard was that? There have been many examples of this -- and you're beyond the point of anyone needing to be reminded of your leadership. It's like, why would anyone want to go out of their way to pump your balloon? Because they agree with you on principle? Most people don't have principles, Bill, at least not so much that it's worth making look good someone with whom they're not terrific friends. Which leads me to...

2. Bill -- Skilled politicians don their brightest shit-eating grin and embrace people they can't stand, or at least are sorely upset with. That way, the schnooks feel like they can still do business with you, that you can always be of use to them. So what's with the cold, silent treatment for young Councilman Lavelle? Yeah, I know ... I know ... I know. Still, think like Caesar would have thought, or like Mayor O'Connor. The more you hate a guy, the bigger and more effusive the greeting, back-slapping and bear-hugging. People appreciate when you leave it on the field, it's a magnetic quality. In fact, next time you see Councilman Dowd, I want you to greet him like he's your son and he just got back from fighting heroically in World War III.

(PSSST -- that goes for the rest of you too! In fact, that's what I really wanted to write this post about. When you tell a politician, "You've betrayed me, I hate you now, you've lost my vote," then they only think to themselves,"Well, that's one less person / constituency to worry about -- ever. I'm surely better off!" Whereas, when you tell a politician, "You've really saddened me, I hope this doesn't compromise your support for [issue]," then they think to themselves, "Well now maybe I've got to balance this out, get these kinds of people jazzed up about me again." You can always save your heavy snark ammo for election-time, when it's more fun.)

3. Bill ---
and I hope this doesn't undercut what I wrote way up above -- I think you're still suffering from Pittsburgh First / Isle of Capri-itis. Remember that? Maybe there is a kernel of truth to what Tonya Payne said, even if that can't be how she meant it (since she was also a big Isle of Capri booster). Irregardless (love that word!), maybe you should actively build more bridges among unarguably hard-luck neighborhoods. And not just where Pittsburgh United is involved, I mean! It could round out your profile. It could give you some ideas for initiatives that can not so readily be refused by some of your colleagues.

4. Bill --
if you really want to screw them -- I mean really, really frag them good -- consider lending your support to another Democrat for mayor. Maybe a deal can be worked out. Maybe there's a path for you to get into Congress somehow, or at least into the state legislature. That strikes me as a markedly not-horrible universe.

I'm just saying. There's no real reason to think about this for an eternity. Or to be precise, for three eternities. Though I'm sure we will. Or you all will.