More Slaughter, Gun Mayhem in Pittsburgh

Following the brutal murder of three police officers earlier this year Pittsburgh witnessed four more deaths yesterday when a man entered a health club with two guns and opened fire on an aerobic dance class.  He killed three women,shot himself and wounded nine more.  No place is safe when anyone can buy guns anywhere in Pennsylvania and shoot at anyone they please.

Attorney General Tom Corbett must address this issue if he claims to be a serious candidate for Governor.  There have been enough cops, kids and women executed in Pennsylvania and we’ve had enough.  It is time for common sense gun safety legislation.  How many more have to die?  Someone please give me an answer.

Sestak Meets the Press

Congressman Joe Sestak held a media conference call just now and will appear on “Hardball” with Chris Matthews and “The Colbert Report” tonight.  He is in the midst of a tour of Pennsylvania announcing his official candidacy for the U.S. Senate.  Addressing a question about missed votes while on the campaign trail Sestak cited the real missed votes, Arlen Specter’s misses.  He called voting for the Iraq War a “missed vote,” George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich “missed votes” and other examples of Sen. Specter’s GOP voting record as evidence that Arlen Specter has missed more votes than Sestak.

It is impossible to run for a major office and not miss votes.  This is a cheap attack by Specter who has been around long enough to understand Pennsylvania is a large state and one cannot run statewide and not miss votes.  Indeed he has left himself wide open for criticism should he miss any Senate votes in the next year.  

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things from people who are hearing and meeting Congressman Sestak for the first time.  All say they are impressed.  Had he not toured the Commonwealth Specter would be criticizing him for not introducing himself to the voters.  This is disingenuous of the Senator to attack on and illustrates a deep concern that his tenure as Senator is in jeopardy.

The major press people on this call shows everyone considers this a very serious campaign and it promises to have national coverage and focus.

Joe Sestak Makes it Official

After visiting all 67 counties in three weeks Congressman Joe Sestak made official this morning the news everyone has known:  he is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010.  Though some members of the press ridiculed him for his statewide tour, pointing out Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum visited all 67 counties I don’t recall them doing so at once as Sestak has.  Anyone who has worked on a statewide campaign understands how large a state this is and how difficult it is to do this in such a short period.

Video of the announcement will be available later today and I’ll post it here and on the Facebook page.  If you want to support, contribute towards or volunteer for Joe Sestak for Senate you can do so here.

Sestak called for a Senator “where principle triumphs over politics.”  He also cited the longtime lack of accountability in Washington which led to the current financial meltdown.  Democrats will now have a choice for Senator instead of having to accept Arlen Specter whose annointment by the Party powers that be is disheartening.

Update:  The video (as promised)

Disrespectful and Disgraceful: The Republican Policy Against First Responders

by Walter Brasch

It isn’t unusual that the Republican party is anti-union.

           It isn’t even unusual that the Republican National Committee sent to its base a loaded questionnaire with blatantly leading and highly biased questions.

           But it is unusual that the party that claims to ally itself with homeland security has not-so-subtly attacked the firefighters and police who responded to 9/11.

           The Republicans want their respondents to answer a resounding “NO” to the following question:

“Do you believe that the federal government should allow the unionization of the Department of Homeland Security employees who serve in positions critical to the safety and security of our nation”?

           What the Republicans neither say, nor apparently acknowledge, is that every one of the 60 police who died in 9/11, and every one of the 343 firefighters and paramedics who died in 9/11 were members of unions. Their union membership did not interfere with their responsibilities or their abilities. Nor did union membership interfere with the city’s 37,000 police or 15,000 firefighters and paramedics who either were on alert or responded during the two critical weeks after 9/11. In the U.S., police and staff personnel are represented by several labor organizations, with about 100,000 represented by the International Union of Police Associations and 325,000 represented by the Fraternal Order of Police; more than 295,000 are members of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The Security Police Fire Professionals of America represent more than 30,000 officers at several federal venues, including the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and NASA.

           Union membership for emergency management dispatchers and thousands of construction workers didn’t affect their response to 9/11. None but the ignorant claim that union membership affects the ability of IRS, ATF, and treasury agents to do their jobs. Nor does anyone but the most uninformed party hacks believe that unionized federal fire fighters, border, customs, and immigration agents don’t perform their duties because they pay union dues.

           Of course, President George W. Bush had no aversion to standing among unionized construction workers, police, and firefighters at the site of the former Twin Towers when he wanted innumerable photo-ops. But, less than a year after 9/11, President Bush said he would veto the bill to create the Department of Homeland Security if it allowed the employees to continue their union memberships or if collective bargaining was permitted for any of the 170,000 employees. It wasn’t an idle threat. More than two-thirds of Congress agreed to sustain his veto.

           In January 2004, by executive order, President Bush stripped more than 500 Department of Justice paralegals, secretaries, and clerks of union membership, voided previously signed contracts, unilaterally decertified their unions, and forbid all DoJ workers from collective bargaining rights. Bush’s rationale was that because staff “have as a primary function intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative, or national security work,” their continued union membership was not “consistent with national security requirements and considerations.” No president before George W. Bush, and no attorney general before John Ashcroft-not during World War I, World War II, or the Korean and Vietnam wars-had even suggested that union membership was a deterrent to effective homeland security. Although Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales, also opposed unions, following an extensive internal review, he acknowledged that “the vast majority of [unionized] immigration judges discharge their duties in a manner of which we can all be proud.”

           In March 2007, Bush again threatened to veto a Congressional bill that would allow collective bargaining. The Senate had approved, 51-46, to table an amendment that would have banned collective bargaining for the nation’s 45,000 airport screeners. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said allowing collective bargaining rights would be a “gift to al-Qaeda.” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the amendment’s sponsor, claimed it was “outrageous that some politicians want to protect union bosses more than they want to protect Americans from terrorist attacks.” However, DeMint also was honest in one of his reasons to ban collective bargaining. He said allowing collective bargaining in the Department of Homeland Security could lead to labor unions contributing more than $17 million to Democratic campaigns. Once again, President Bush had enough votes to sustain a veto if necessary. Thirty-six Republican senators and 146 House Republicans wrote to the President, “We believe that providing a select group of federal airport security employees with mandated collective bargaining rights could needlessly put the security of our nation at risk.” They never acknowledged that there were no-strike and no work slowdown clauses already in contracts.

           Three months later, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Bush’s previous executive order that banned collective bargaining in the Department of Homeland Security was not only unconstitutional but parts of it were “simply bizarre [and] defies common sense.” This was no liberal court-nine of the 13 members were nominated by Republican presidents.

           It’s been almost eight years since 9/11, and the Republicans still claim that the nation’s security will somehow be threatened by unionized first responders.

           Like any political party, the Republicans can have whatever principles it wants. But to attack first responders because they may place union membership above their sworn duty to protect life and property, even at the risk of their own lives, is not only disrespectful, it is disgraceful.

[Walter M. Brasch is a university professor of journalism, social issues columnist, and the author of 17 books. His current book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available from amazon.com, bn.com, and other stores. The book was a winner in the politics/social issues category of USA Book News awards, and a finalist in the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group awards. His weekly column was this year’s winner in contests sponsored by the Pennsylvania Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists; his column received honorable mention in competition sponsored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Forthcoming in September is the third edition of Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture. You may contact him at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

 

Luzerne County Judge Criminals Screw Themselves (Again)

Former Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella have had their plea deals rejected by U.S. District Judge Edward M. Kosik due to their repeated public statements.  After filing guilty pleas they have been quoted in numerous media rejecting the charges they took money ($2.6 million to be exact) in return for denying youths their due process rights so they could send them to a prison facility run by private contractors.

The apparent lack of remorse, inability to accept responsibility for their crimes and an inability to shut the heck up after getting caught perverting the justice system for personal gain got under the skin of the federal Judge overseeing their cases.  Talk about bad judgment…

These two crooked Judges now face the decision to either refile their guilty pleas, plead not guilty and go to trial or throw themselves on the mercy of the court.  I don’t think I’d choose the latter option after watching a ticked off Judge decimate me like this.  Maybe they can get a jury trial and try to pay off the members of the jury.  That’s about how deep their hubris goes.  These two don’t quite understand how they violated the public trust.  When justice is denied to thousands of kids in return for pure greed it is time we look carefully at privatization and the evils inherent in making public policy “for profit.”

Maine

The summer of contentment continues with this trip to Maine.  We drove up Saturday through New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  The 12 hour trip brought us to central Maine and the Belgrade Lakes region.  The rental house sits on Long Pond notable as the setting for the Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda film “On Golden Pond.”  Great Pond is to our immediate east and the two lakes meet at a small dam.  The closest town is Waterville about 30 minutes away.

I got out twice on my kayak so far and this afternoon we launched the watercraft.  The lake is home to quite a few loons and the scenery, temperature, wildlife, and water are quite different from the Chesapeake.  It’s definitely cooler and I wish I’d packed my wetsuit for the PWC.  For a hot weather fan like myself it’s a bit too cool.  The countryside is beautiful though and the area around the lake scenic.  I’ll take a bunch of pictures but the usb cable for my camera got lost somehow (too much traveling???) and the new one didn’t arrive before this trip (so much for express shipping).

The people here seem very laid back.  So much so they don’t seem to look where they’re driving.  I’ll do the radio show Thursday calling in and our guest is Superior Court Judge Jack Panella.  This is my final trip so getting back tot he old grindstone without having water or mountains in the backyard might be a difficult adjustment.  It has been a great summer.

No Closer to a Budget

As August and the dog days of summer (hopefully) come around our leaders in Harrisburg continue stalemated in the budget process.  The animosity being built through Senate Republicans’ obstinacy in funding education has now caused the Commonwealth to go more than a month without any operating authorization.  This is now getting ridiculous.  It is time for Republicans to realize why they have become a southern, racist Party of obstruction.  The GOP only controls the State Senate and it remains the final legislative body controlled by the GOP in the Northeast.  At this rate this, too, will fall.

Sestak to Hold Major Announcement Tuesday

Congressman Joe Sestak will be making a major announcement Tuesday morning.  Perhaps the media will finally be satisfied as he (I assume) makes it official that he is a candidate for the United States Senate.  I wish I had a buck for every person who has questioned when this formal launch of his campaign would occur.

It takes a major effort to launch a statewide campaign in a state as large as Pennsylvania.  Been there, done that, I know it’s an enormous task.  Hiring staff, getting everyone up to speed,materials researched and printed, offices up and running, website developed, and all the other sundry details of a major campaign take time and money.  The announcement is set for 8:30 AM so I’ll tune in via the web.

Sestak Hosts Working Families Summit

Congressman Joe Sestak hosted another of his valuable summits for constituents Saturday.  I was traveling to Maine so I missed this one but his earnest staff sent a wrap up.

Media, Pa – To provide constituents with the proper information and tools to compete in the workforce and care for themselves and their families, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) hosted his first Working Families Resources Summit today at Interboro High School. The Congressman, recognizing the increasing burden being placed on families across his District, organized the summit to network constituents with government agencies and private organizations. More than 300 residents from across the region attended the event where government agencies at all levels were integrated with non-profit organizations to offer access to assistance with housing, student loans, employment, health care, disability aid and other existing support. (A full listing of panelists and exhibitors is attached.)

“As the result of our Nation’s extraordinary economic recession, I have seen families throughout the Seventh Congressional District struggle across three generations to cope with historically high unemployment, record foreclosure rates, loss of pension plans, devalued homes, rising costs of education, expensive health care, and the ever-present threat of increased energy prices,” said the Congressman. “It is time that both citizens and government representatives take action to jump-start this economy, and, to that end, I am committed to networking the many organizations in our region that are chartered to help Americans weather difficult times.”

The Summit kicked off with the recognition of a young man’s exceptional service to the community. The Congressman commended 12-year-old Jordan Glider’s work with the Philadelphia Veteran’s Multi-Service and Education Center (PVMSEC) to provide necessary meals to Veterans in the Philadelphia area for the past three years by raising $2,500. A Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition presented to Jordan honored his efforts for having “brought our community closer to fulfilling its sacred duty of defending and caring for those who have so honorably stood in harms way for our Nation.”

After recognizing this individual’s outstanding work, a panel discussion led by eight industry experts began, including representatives from Legal Aid, the Social Security Administration, and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. In addition, Congressman Sestak welcomed specialists from various private service organizations, including William J. Clark of Philabundance Food Bank and Carol Goertzel of Pathways PA, a group aimed to help women, children and families fight homelessness and become financially independent.  These experts discussed a variety of issues ranging from receiving mortgage assistance to paying for higher education and affording health care, and then fielded questions from the audience.

“I have always believed that transparency and communication are the foundation of being a successful representative,” said Congressman Sestak. “Along with the casework of my District Office and my legislative efforts, I wanted to organize a forum where I could discuss issues directly with my constituents,” said the Congressman. “I am appreciative of the information and counsel provided by the panelists and the exhibitors at the service fair. Our country finds itself in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and only through the integration of individuals, representatives and private and government organizations will we be able to transition into a successful, sustainable 21st century economy.”

After speaking with the panelists, attendees were invited to a service fair where more than 50 agencies gathered to share resources. Constituents were able to connect with organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration and Job Corps. Housing issues were a prevalent topic of the day, and specialists from the Fair Housing Rights Center, Home Helpers, and Pathways PA answered questions. In the academic arena, representatives from the Delaware Valley Literacy Council, the Graduate! Philadelphia Center, and the Chester Education Foundation discussed higher education and job training opportunities. To address healthcare concerns, experts such as Diane Perry of the Temple University Institute on Disabilities, representatives from Ches-Penn Health Services and Brent Ennis, Southeastern PA Regional Director of the Pennsylvania Department of health participated.

Born and raised in Delaware County, former 3-star Admiral Joe Sestak served in the Navy for 31 years and now serves as the Representative from the 7th District of Pennsylvania. He led a series of operational commands at sea, including Commander of an aircraft carrier battle group of 30 U.S. and allied ships with over 15,000 sailors and 100 aircraft that conducted operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. After 9/11, Joe was the first Director of “Deep Blue,” the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit that established strategic and operations policies for the “Global War on Terrorism.” He served as President Clinton’s Director for Defense Policy at the National Security Council in the White House, and holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University.  According to the office of the House Historian, Joe is the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

To give an idea of the thoroughness of the preparation he and his staff go through there’s list of panelists and participants after the jump.

Panelists:

Congressman Joe Sestak

Ms. Cheryl Browning , Regional Director, PA Higher Education Assistance Agency

Mr. William J. Clark , Executive Director, Philabundance

Mr. Brent Ennis, Southeastern PA Regional Director, PA Department of Health

Mr. Jim Daugherty, Pennsylvania Territory Manager, Internal Revenue Service

Ms. Carol Goertzel , Executive Director and CEO, Pathways PA

Ms. Patricia Hasson , Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Delaware Valley

Ms. Barbara Stephens, Public Affairs Officer, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency

Ms. Laurie Watkins, Regional Commissioner, Social Security Administration

Service Fair Exhibitors:

Anthem Institute

CareerLink

Carelink Community Support Services

Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE)

Ches-Penn Health Services

Chester Education Foundation

Community Impact Legal Services

Community Transit of Delaware County, Inc.

Congressman Sestak’s District Office

Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Delaware Valley (CCCVSDV)

Crozer-Keystone Health System

Delaware County Community Engagement

Delaware County Library System

Delaware County Literacy Council

Department of Education

Department of Public Welfare, Delaware County Assistance Office

Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County, Inc.

Education Law Center

Elwyn Working Adult Day Services

Fair Acres Geriatric Center

Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia (FHCSP)

Fair Housing Rights Center

Family Community Services of Delaware County

Find a Nerd

Freedom Valley Disability Center

Graduate! Philadelphia Center

Great Guy Group

HIAS and Council

Holcomb Behavior Health System

Home Helpers

JEVS Supports For Independence

Job Corps

Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry

Mentor Advantage

Mid-County Senior Services

Not to Be Forgotten

PA AG- Health Care Section

PA Veterans of Foreign Wars

PathWaysPA

Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency

Philadelphia Energy Company (PECO)

Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth

Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, Inc.

Planned Parenthood

Pulse of PA

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic

Salvation Army of Chester

Social Security Administration

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)

Temple University, Institute on Disabilities

The ARC of Delaware County

Today’s Child Learning Centers, Inc.

U.S. Small Business Administration

University of Pennsylvania TRIO Veterans Upward Bound

Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

Women’s Resource Center of the Delaware Valley

Women’s Way

Workforce Entry Center