The dog wags back!

A sometimes funny, somtimes angry, but mostly progressive, blog on the politics and issues of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and America.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

19 days

The Pittsburgh Mayoral Primary is counting down and most would say that the election will be decided with that primary. Actually, it depends on who wins. For the first time the GOP has a formidable candidate in the person of Joe Weinroth. But we will have to wait to find out if a real race will develop after the primary. So for now, he is a quick voter's guide to the main candidates, using Pittsburgh as a Port Authority Bus Analogy (tm):

Bob O'Connor
Pittsburgh is fine, the bus ain't broken, yinz just need a new bus driver n'at. Bob of course is that new driver. So it is not that the old coalition, or the old strategies have failed - we just had the wrong old leaders. Bob is the right old leader. Yes boys and girls, this is your grandfather's Pittsburgh, but at least he is a likable grandpa.

Mike Lamb
The bus is broken and Mike is the master mechanic who can fix it with magic tape and paper clips. See if Mike just lets a little air out of the tires and dumps some ballast, this bus will run like a Corvette. Without a doubt, the best choice for Deputy Mayor.

Bill Peduto
The bus is broken and we need a new bus. Or we'll give up the bus and get on the train with the suburbs and Harrisburg. Even better, why not take a walk, or ride a bike? Maybe we'll trade the bus in for Segways for everyone. New ideas, a new coalition from the next Nobody's Boy, because nobody (especially city employees and union members) wants him as Mayor.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Right's Senator

Does Rick represent Pennsylvania, Virginia, or Florida?  Wrong on all three - he represents the Religious Right.  Rick raked in more than $100,000 from Florida donors during the first three months of 2005 when he maintained a righteous fight over Terri Schiavo. 


Between the Lines: Oh No! Mr. Bill!

In light of his recent passing, it may be too crass to compare the upstart Bill Peduto with Nobody’s Boy Pete Flaherty. For the time being a more appropriate analogy might be found in fiction: Don Quixote. The local punditry seems to believe that this race for Mayor is the biggest windmill Mr. Bill has tried to tilt. It is not.

The big windmill, the one at which he has tilted since he took office, is the city’s fiscal condition. Mr. Bill saw the city’s books after he took his chair and quickly proclaimed, “Oh no!” But Mr. Hand wouldn’t listen. Now Mr. Hand wants to punish Mr. Bill for taking tough votes and trying to address a crisis that (at first) no one cared about with measures to no one would care for. Mr. Bill is about to learn a basic and valuable political lesson: voting for unpopular measures makes you unpopular. Stay tuned as we find out if youthful enthusiasm for doing the right thing will defeat political opportunism.

Mr. Bill is so disliked by the local machine that he didn’t even get the endorsement for his own council seat. The Reformed Felons party gave it to some unknown named Harley Sands or something, whose long record of doing nothing in public service makes him the perfect choice for the new Know Nothings. Actually, not getting this endorsement is actually an endorsement, a badge of honor if you will. The Ds can carp about how the Rs ignored them in their hour of need until they finally sent the Five White Guys Named Moe to argue with city officials and to develop an austerity plan to punish city residents. Anyway – recent history aside, the Ds have been driving the local bus down the highway without any regard to the “Bridge Out Ahead” signs.

But they have a point. Does Mr. Bill have the political savvy to put together a winning coalition and to bridge the interests that dominate the city? So the question is, can Mr. Bill put together the wrong coalition to do the right thing?

Little Bo Peep

We had to call in the expert, but Little Bo Peep found her sheep. Mike Lamb is still alive.

Thanks Peep.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Between the Lines: Mary had a little Lamb

The best thing about Mike Lamb might be the endless opportunities for puns. He might not make a bad city manager, but as Bobby O might say - can he inspire. It is one thing to transform an office that few people know about and most think should be eliminated. The crying and gnashing of teeth fell on deaf ears. It will be another thing to work that magic on the whole city without the "leadership thing" and the "vision thing." A business plan is not a vision, and being a good manager is only factor in the grand equation of leadership.

Mike has also made a effort to prove that he is a lamb in name only. He started the attacks with his trolley ad targeting Bobby O. And he seems to be following it up with push poll to determine the effectiveness of the ad. Where he got the money for that, I don't know because all of the rumors are that his campaign is funded by Enron stock. Recently, when I checked for his website, it was down.

....wherever May went, the Lamb was sure to go. It looks like Mary has left the building.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Between the Lines: Bobby O

This may become a mini-series on thoughts about the candidates. 
O'Connor's campaign has a major strategic flaw.  He is running the same campaign that he ran in 2001 and he is pretending he is running against the same man.  To some degree all of the candidates are running against Papa Murph, but Bobby O's efforts to ignore the other candidates are almost laughable.  With the handout 7 day pill dispensers and old style politicking, Bob's message is that he will bring different leadership.  It reminds me of when they brought Majors back to Pitt:  Back the Future.  At best, his campaign harkens to days gone by.
At worst, the campaign is sending a message of either laziness, incompetence, or worse.  What does it say about a campaign that places signs in yards that didn't want them, or gets them out ahead of the legal deadline?  "He'll cheat to win!"
The campaign's explanation, that they used their 2001 voter list only reinforces my first point - this is a man with a plan stuck in the past.  Even more, the explanation does not provide comfort for those who are concerned about how he would govern the city.  He claims that he would appoint the best and most professional managers for each post but he failed to do so on his own campaign?  Bob you make me cringe.
When cornered, he is also likely to throw out some grandiose promises.  I will reopen all of the pools and it won't cost us a dime.  We'll get someone else to pay for it.  Bob must have been drinking Les Ludwig's "alternative funding" kool-aid.™

Fw: Greetings from Pennsylvania: DeLay as Chairman Mao?

"When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed," DeLay tells the NRA.
... or perhaps..Tomcat subscribes to the philosophy of Chairman Mao... "Power comes from the barrel of a gun."
Daniel Boone doesn't look too thrilled.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bouya Boudelang

High Entertainment Value From A Friend:
"Who the Hell is Bob Boudelang?"
Answer, "I don't know, but God, he's fun." (Bob's my new hero. DL) for the site itself

Does anyone know if he is related to Les Ludwig? An older brother perhaps separated at birth?

The decline of western civilization

Can you imagine working for a company that has a little more than 500 employees and has the following statistics:

29 have been accused of spousal abuse

7 have been arrested for fraud
19 have been accused of writing bad checks
117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
3 have done time for assault
71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
8 have been arrested for shoplifting
21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year

Can you guess which organization this is? The NBA? Enron? La Cosa Nostra? Give up yet?

It's the 535 members of the United States Congress. The same group of goofballs that crank out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line.

But don't despair - the problem isn't them, it is the malcontents who complain about them. See, I could be a GOP operative if I wanted to.

Oh Big Brother


Today's topic ...let's keep government out of our daily lives... well... maybe how about BIG government for the little person, and LITTLE (or no) government for the big people?

An Important Loss...Bobby Short Dies at 80

In an audio slide show, The Times's Stephen Holden discusses the life of Bobby Short, the singer and pianist. Also, listen to clips of Mr. Short's music.

1. We'd hate to have our pregnant moms, autistic and depressed children and other sufferers hold back big business now, wouldn't we? (DL)

New EPA Mercury Rule Omits Conflicting Data; Study Called Stricter Limits Cost-Effective (The Washington Post)

When the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a rule last week to limit mercury emissions from U.S. power plants, officials emphasized that the controls could not be more aggressive because the cost to industry already far exceeded the public health payoff. What they did not reveal is that a Harvard University study paid for by the EPA, co-authored by an EPA scientist and peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists had reached the opposite conclusion. That analysis estimated health benefits 100 times as great as the EPA did, but top agency officials ordered the finding stripped from public documents. Acknowledging the Harvard study would have forced the agency to consider more stringent controls, Health advocates say mercury is so harmful to fetuses and pregnant women that steps are needed to sharply control emissions; industry groups and the Bush administration have warned that overly aggressive measures would impose heavy costs. Hammitt's analysis also factored in recent evidence that mercury causes heart attacks among adults.

2. But then... Bush might call that "some of that there... uh.. trick-er-A-shun..." (DL)
It's 'Private' vs. 'Personal' in Social Security Debate By ROBIN TONER, NY Times

One of the most ferocious struggles is over language, whether President Bush wants to create "personal" or "private" accounts. In the Social Security debate, one of the most ferocious struggles is over language, whether President Bush is proposing to create "personal" or "private" accounts in the program, whether he is really proposing the "privatization" of Social Security. Mr. Bush complained last week that " 'privatization' is a trick word," intended to "scare people." "It's 'privatization,' " Mr. Reid said, adding that "personal accounts" was "the Republican term." Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution, a critic of Mr. Bush's approach to private accounts, said: "I do find this a bit Orwellian. It's taking a term and saying you're not allowed to use this, even though it was widely used for years."

3. From that Frank Luntz guy again on "priva-" er, I mean "PERSONAL accounts". He's the guy who renamed the Iraq war, "The War on Terror" and coined "climate change" for the actual process of global warming. If it ain't there, it ain't a problem... right? Well.. right?... (DL)

...Oh.. and I hope you read his 160 page game plan for the Republican party. His specialty is marketing and how to change people's minds with proper terminology. Sounds Orwellian... or is that Goebbel-esque?

From the NY TImes....Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant who has performed extensive work with focus groups on language, said: " 'Private' is exclusive. 'Private' is limiting. 'Private' is something that's not available to all. " 'Personal' is encompassing. It's individual. It's ownership. In the end, you need the combination of 'personal' and 'security.' " (Republican spin doctor Frank Luntz examines the lessons learned from last year's GOP victory in a playbook and a related article Luntz Watch: Keep Lying, It Works

4. Go, Bishops! And they didn't even ask for a Blue Light special law from Congress... you know.. the ones that re-write the Constitution to save one person only. But I'll bet they GET one.......that's um....the OPPOSITE?!? (DL)

Bishops Fight Death Penalty in New Drive By NEELA BANERJEE, NY Times

The country's Roman Catholic bishops on Monday announced a more prominent effort to bar the death penalty. "We cannot teach killing is wrong by killing," Cardinal McCarrick said at a news conference here. "We cannot defend life by taking life."

5 Maybe we can use this tour to ask them in person about the sanctity of life, whether it's one law for Terry Schiavo, or the death penalty.. but that might be "off message" (DL)

Bush and Cheney Go West to Promote Proposal for Social Security Overhaul By ANNE E. KORNBLUT, NY Times

President Bush resumed his traveling sales pitch for personal Social Security accounts with a boost from Vice President Dick Cheney.

6. Hmmmm... let's see.... sessions of Congress to create actual laws for single individuals...getting into our Social Security...limiting remedies for poor people in financial trouble... asking for records on individual abortions from hospitals ... sounds kinda like BIG government getting involved in individual lives, doesn't it? Unless of course you want them to do things like ask the credit card companies to cap interest rates to sub-usurious, limit the expulsion of poisonous mercury into the atmosphere (leading to autism and youth depression)...limit remedies for wealthy people in financial trouble. Sounds like BIG government for little people.. and little.. or should I say NO government for big people. (DL)

A Blow to the Rule of Law, NY Times

When the commotion over Terri Schiavo is over, Congress and the president will have done real damage to the founders' careful plan for American democracy. Ms. Schiavo's case presents heart-wrenching human issues, and difficult legal ones. The Bush administration and the current Congressional leadership like to wax eloquent about states' rights. But they dropped those principles in their rush to stampede over the Florida courts and Legislature. In the Schiavo case, and in the battle to stop the Democratic filibusters of judicial nominations, President Bush and his Congressional allies have begun to enunciate a new principle: the rules of government are worth respecting only if they produce the result we want. It may be a formula for short-term political success, but it is no way to preserve and protect a great republic.

Congress's Midnight Frenzy, NY Times

Congressional Republicans have used one family's pain to score points with evangelical and fundamentalist conservatives. Most Americans appreciate the complicated and sensitive concerns at stake here far better than the politicians.

A Damaging Intervention, Wash. Post,

Most Americans appreciate the complicated and sensitive concerns at stake here far better than the politicians. The U.S. legal system is not supposed to be one of legislative "do-overs" in which Congress, if it doesn't like the outcome in a high-profile case, changes the rules on behalf of politically favored parties. It is supposed to be a system where litigants know the rules in advance and understand the jurisdictional boundaries of the courts that decide their cases. Lawmakers may believe that they acted this weekend to save a life, but they also took a step that diminishes the rule of law.

'A Great Political Issue' , By Richard CohenWash. Post,

Sen. Bill Frist watched a videotape last week of Terri Schiavo made by her parents in 2001. He did this in his capacity as Senate majority leader and as a renowned physician. In both roles he performed miserably. As a senator, he showed himself to be an unscrupulous opportunist. As a physician, he was guilty of practicing medicine without a brain.

Remember Valerie Plame


Just a question. With two reporters from non-conservative news organizations now threatened with imprisonment for not revealing their sources on the Valerie Plame affair, has anyone in the investigation or in the media asked Robert Novak two very simple questions?

1 - Has he been asked to reveal his source, since he was the one who actually outed Ms. Plame?
2 - If so, did he disclose his source to the judge handling the cases of the other two journalists? And if not, why has the judge not asked him the same question?

These questions do not require Mr. Novak to reveal his source. They merely require answers as to the genuineness of the investigation being done. I am curious, as a U.S. citizen, as to why two journalists who REFUSED to illegally reveal Ms. Plame's occupation as a spy, even though contacted by Mr. Novak's source, are in danger of being imprisoned.

Or is it merely a hope to silence non-conservative journalists who refuse to play ball with the current administration? And I am further curious as to whether Mr. Novak has been asked to reveal his source to end the "investigation" of what appears to be a federal offense in revealing Ms. Plame as a spy.

I am REALLY curious why no one has asked Mr. Novak, the U.S. investigator, or the judge these questions? Has anyone asked them of the counsel investigating the Plame affair?

Journalists?... Reporters?....TV people? anyone?... anyone?... just wondering...

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Last Mayor

You might think the title is over-dramatic, but then you probably don't live in Pittsburgh.

Today the dog had a chance to hear five of the candidates vying to by Mayor of the dying Pittsburgh. The sad thing is none of the candidate would dispute the characterization of Pittsburgh as “dying”. In fact, it was the common theme among the gang of five, each of whom, of course, casts himself (where are the Sophies?) as the surgeon with the vision and the skills to save the patient.

Here folks is the Blue Dog voter’s guide to the Pittsburgh Mayoral Candidates 2005.

Bob O’Connor,
The anointed front-runner might want to think of a different slogan: Been 'ere, Dun'at just doesn't have broad appeal when you look at his record. Brother Bob's record is an impressive compilation of years of service on Council with literally thousands if not hundreds of thousands of hands shaken. This has gotten Brother Bob every major Democratic endorsement. But that is precisely the problem with Pittsburgh -- you get the Democratic endorsement when it is your time not because you are qualified. Brother Bob apparently has also the regionalism religion, but the conversion may not be real. He preaches regionalism but in the next breadth talks about as Mayor he will lead the region. The irony escapes him. What he means by leadership is not exactly clear, except he says that he will be the CEO Mayor. We already have a CEO President and look where that has got us. Sorry, Bob I don't want fries with my handshake.

Michael Lamb,

There may be more than one trick in this pony, but it doesn’t show. Mike Lamb deserves huge kudos for what he has done with the office of Prothonotary. For those of you who don’t know – and there is no reason you should – we elect the Prothonotary to keep civil court records and even the current Prothonotary thinks the office should be eliminated. His efforts to modernize this office are one of the few shining examples of where this county is a leader. The million-dollar question is whether that model is sufficient to save the city (It ain't). Mike is trying to whip that horse all the way into the Mayor’s office, but to think that trimming some money from the budget or that we have time to wait for efficiency improvements to pay off is more than a little naïve. Mike entered this race like a lion, but he’s going out like a bad pun.

Bill Peduto,
Mr. Bill would like everyone to think that during the worst years for the City that he has been the lone voice of reason on City Council. Well, he is. Mr. Bill talked about the City’s fiscal crisis long before it was in fashion. Mr. Bill has cache among the young, hip progressives in the East End and that alone is reason enough why he can’t win. But when all the candidates talk about the kind of vibrant city they would like to create – it is exactly the city (and the demographic) that Mr. Bill represents, but which lacks the numbers to get him elected. If ideas won elections, this race would be over. If I could jump, I would play in the NBA. On my scorecard, Lamb skewered (or tried to) Brother Bob every time he opened his mouth, Ludwig also took his shots but balanced it with attacks against the rest of the machine pols, Mr. Bill attacked no one, and Brother Bob took only one swipe at another candidate, and it was a subtle one, but he derided Mr. Bill's regional approach to the City's problems. So who do you think Brother Bob is most concerned about. Mr. Bill has the ideas and he is able to articulate what separates him from the pack, in fact far enough that rank and file Dems, Unionists and Yinzers will pass on Peduto. Too bad.

Joe Weinroth, no website available
Let’s get beyond the fact that a GOP candidate is simply not electable. If he didn’t tell you, you might not know he’s a Republican. If there isn’t a good Democrat in the fall, then he might just be the first Republican Mayor of Pittsburgh in living memory (there were actually several Republican Mayors in the 1850s!). Getting back to reality, Mr. Weinroth clearly understands the importance of the City’s fiscal situation, but you can’t equate balancing the budget with saving the city – it is a more complex equation. His reminders that Republicans control the legislature remind me of Brother Bob’s “ I have friends in high places” refrain that rings hollow when you look at just who our state legislators are and how the state as a whole has performed. Good Luck, Mr. Weinroth, you will no doubt get more votes than any Republican has in 100 years, and hopefully your strong showing will be a wake-up call for a local Democratic Party run by an ex-felon. Yeah, and I'm dating Halle Berry.

Les Ludwig,
What can you say about Les Ludwig? The self-proclaimed Reform Democrat might better spend his time reforming his campaign literature. Maybe he intended to mis-spell the name of the front-runner (O'Conner) as a not so subtle dig, but it comes across as the kind of sloppy incompetence that got us into this fix in the first place. In fact, when your campaign literature is replete with bad spelling and incomprehensible grammar, well, it’s not exactly an endorsement of the competence for a Man Who Would Be Mayor. But Les has high entertainment value. If you only hear one candidate before the primary, be sure to give him a listen. Les makes Brother Bob sound like William Jefferson Clinton. He is our own little “W” with his malapropisms but without the stench of evil. Eloquent may not be the word to describe him, but surprising, or even hilarious works - you just don’t know what this guy is going to say next. Without a doubt, he is the Mr. Excitement of the race. Under Mayor Les, Pittsburgh will be a city of free garbage trucks (not sure if the trucks are free or they give out free garbage), alternative funding (they’re not taxes, they’re well, alternatives to taxes), not mass transit (because we already pay state and federal taxes - that is the kind of sense he makes [not]). Mark Rauterkus refers to Les’s Ideas on Fire (he’s talking about the Fire department, but I can’t let the poetry pass). Anyway, most of Les’s idea should be thrown in the fire. With this guy, you get less with Les, so I guess less Les is definitely more.