Raise the Minimum Wage: Make Work Pay Once Again

— by Mark Price, Estelle Sommeiller

The top 1 percent of Pennsylvania earners took home more than half the total increase in income over the past 30 years, and saw more than 10 times as much growth in income as the bottom 99 percent, a new report from the Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN) found.

The report findings reinforce the need for a new policy direction in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. to restore broadly shared prosperity and widespread opportunity, including a much-needed increase in the minimum wage.

After the jump: Minimum wage’s real value.
The levels of inequality we are seeing in Pennsylvania and across the country provide more proof that the economy is not working for the vast majority of people and has not for decades. It is unconscionable that most American families have shared in so little of the country’s prosperity over the last several decades.

In Pennsylvania, the top 1 percent took home 51.5 percent of the total increase in Pennsylvania income between 1979 and 2011. The average income of the bottom 99 percent of Pennsylvania taxpayers grew by 12.1 percent, while the average income of the top 1 percent grew by 125.5 percent — more than 10 times as much.

This 1 percent economy is not just a national story but is evident in every state, and every region. Nevertheless, the fact that inequality in the U.S. declined for more than four decades between the 1940s and the 1970s shows that there is nothing inevitable about the extreme levels of inequality we are currently seeing.

Pennsylvania Senators Join Forces to Stop LGBT Discrimination


Brian Sims.

— by State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Phila.)

I have long believed that civil rights cannot be a one party issue.

Senator Casey (D-PA) has supported LGBT civil rights from nondiscrimination to marriage equality, and I was proud to see him continue to demonstrate that support last night.

I am especially proud of Senator Toomey (R-PA), who last night confirmed to Americans across the nation that civil rights is not an issue of right and left, but an issue of right and wrong. Senator Toomey’s vote in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) shows that a conservative ideology and support for LGBT equality are not mutually exclusive.

While I am heartened and invigorated by last night’s vote, we still have a long way to go in fulfilling our national creed, that we are all created equal and endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

More after the jump.
In 29 states including Pennsylvania, American citizens can still be fired from their jobs, kicked out of their homes, or denied services at businesses all because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. We must continue our efforts to pass nondiscrimination laws at the state level, such as HB300 here in Pennsylvania, to ensure that we eliminate the last vestiges of discrimination from our laws.  

But last night, we have made great progress. And I wholeheartedly thank Senators Casey and Toomey for voting on the right side of history.

Our Forgotten Warriors

On MSNBC, Iraq war veteran and former Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA 7) discussed Mitt Romney’s decision not to mention Afghanistan in his speech at the Republican National Convention and the passing reference he made to the war in his speech at the American Legion. President Obama ended the war in Iraq and will end the war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Romney called the end of the Iraq War “tragic” and has failed to lay out a plan to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.

Friday, Murphy rebuked Pat Toomey and 39 of Mitt Romney’s other allies in the Senate Republican caucus for killing the Veterans Jobs Corps Act that would create jobs for veterans and put in place programs to help our brave men and women reenter the work force when they come home:

These Senate Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. They are a disgrace. To put their political priorities ahead of veterans who risked their lives to protect our country is the lowest form of cowardice. I understand that their number one priority is not jobs or veterans or seniors. I know their number one priority is to deny the President a second term. But I never thought they would take it this far. We’re talking about helping to put tens of thousands of our nation’s heroes to work, and Republicans can’t set aside the political games for 5 minutes to support our troops when they come home from war? Helping our warriors settle back into civilian life is the least we can do. We’re talking about job training programs and priority hiring for first responder jobs, police officers, firefighters or rescue workers – but Republicans would rather kick up their heels and do nothing. It’s pathetic.

It’s particularly disappointing to hear Senator Toomey joined in the political gamesmanship immediately after holding public events with Pennsylvania veterans. Our veterans don’t need more lip service from opportunistic politicians, they need action.

Speaking of opportunistic politicians, where was the Republican Party’s alleged leader Mitt Romney during all this? Not a word.  After neglecting to mention veterans or our troops fighting in Afghanistan during his convention speech, it’s no surprise Romney took the easy way out and stood silent as his Republican colleagues killed an important jobs program for our nation’s heroes.  Apparently, veterans are an even lower priority for Romney than previously thought.

Video transcript follows the jump.

ANCHOR: Former Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy is a Democrat, also the first Iraq war veteran to serve in Congress. Patrick, good morning to you. Let’s note here first of all what Mitt Romney did say at the American Legion. This was a speech he gave on August 26th. Let’s put it up on the screen here. He said in part, “of course, we are still at war in Afghanistan. We still have uniformed men and women in conflict risking their lives just as you once did. How deeply we appreciate their service. We salute them, we honor them, we respect and love them.” Now, that’s a 16-second quote out of about a 16-minute speech, but again no specifics about policy there. Why do you think that there’s been such a fear or reluctance to get specific?

MURPHY:  Because then he has to take a stand, Craig, and he refuses to do that. I mean, it’s like what John Kerry said in his speech the other night: You know, Mitt Romney has to debate himself before he actually debates Barack Obama in a couple weeks. I mean, Craig, the quote that you played where Mitt Romney said, “I talked in my speech about the things that I thought were important.” We know that there’s 68,000 sons and daughter of American families that are fighting for us in Afghanistan. That’s not important to Mitt Romney? I mean, he wants to be Commander-in-Chief. And not just a Commander-in-Chief as President, but a wartime Commander-in-Chief – what Barack Obama has been and a true friend to our veterans. I mean the contrast couldn’t be more clear.

Stu Bykofsky Candidates’ Comedy Night, 2012

The 22nd  annual Stu Bykofsky Candidates’ Comedy Night, a benefit for Variety, the children’s charity, was held this evening at Finnegan’s Wake.   Since this is primarily a political blog I didn’t take notes on the speakers who aren’t running for office.  As always, this is not intended to be an exact transcript, just rough notes I took at the event.  It would be impossible to capture every joke, especially the longer, more involved story jokes, but I made an effort to provide some idea of each candidate’s routine.  

Photo: Steven M. Falk, Philly.com

Details after the jump.

Text implies a direct joke, notes in brackets are condensations or gists.  Actions or extraneous activities are in italics, as are candidates’ names.  Read your local newspapers for more exact accounts of the event.


Photo: Bonnie Squires

Tom Smith (R), candidate for Senate
Running against incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D).

[Tom Smith was brave enough to go first as a stand-up comedian.  He had a clever slide show which featured a head-shot of Smith added to all the slides of stock or iconic photos.]

I am new to politics and most people in Philadelphia aren’t familiar with me.  My father died when I was 20 and I had to look after the family so I couldn’t go to college but I sent my daughters.  [shows a slide of what he would have looked like if he had gone – his face superimposed on someone wearing a college tshirt holding a beer mug].  

My wife is with me, as you can see I let her get a new dress for the event [American Gothic painting with Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s photos in it].  

I worked in a coal mine [Smith’s face on the front of Thomas the Tank Engine, pulling a load of coal].  

I had big dreams [his face added to a picture of the Beverly Hillbillies].  My wife and I adopted four children so a family could stay together.  

People say I am a Tea Party candidate but there are a lot of things about me you don’t know [his face added to an Occupy Pittsburgh group photo].


Photo: Bonnie Squires

Rep. Bob Brady (D), PA 1st Congressional District

[Congressman Bob Brady told a couple of jokes which we can’t repeat here. He made Stu Bykofsky the butt (pardon the pun) of one a “pee and poop joke.”  Another jokee was about an attorney going to a brothel.]

Incumbents do comedy every day, make fools of ourselves every day.  This is for the kids.


Photo: Bonnie Squires

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)

[Senator Bob Casey appeared in shirt-sleeves!  He made fun of himself for being dull, quoting verbatim a front page New York Times article which talked about Casey’s galloping eyebrows as the way in which he registers excitement.]

Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D), PA 13th Congressional District, sent a surrogate, Neil Deegan.

Top reasons Allyson can’t be here tonight:

  • Still at PennDOT waiting for her voter id card
  • Getting new copy of the Congressional ladies’ room key made for Kathy Boockvar
  • Prepping Mayfair office to hand over to Bob Brady
  • Painting bike lane in front of Stu’s house
  • Getting mani pedi with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Nancy Pelosi
  • Measuring drapes for Corbett’s office
  • Looking at Pat Toomey’s office
  • Needed a haircut for the DNC.

Photo: Bonnie Squires

Kathleen Kane (D), candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney-General
Running against David Freed (R)

[jokes about her Irish heritage and her hometown of Scranton]
[joke about thinking Finnegan’s Wake was an actual funeral wake]
[joke about doctors]

In Scranton the obituaries are the Irish social pages.  People clip them out and put then on the refrigerator.   They often have headlines, like “101 Year Old Woman Dies Unexpectedly.”

I took my son to an Eagles game.  We saw empty seats up front and moved up to them.  They were next to an older man.  He told us he and his wife had season tickets for years but she died a few days ago.  I asked if a family member didn’t want to come with him.  “Oh, no,” he said, “they’re at the funeral.”


Photo: Bonnie Squires

George Badey, Democratic candidate for 7th Congressional District

[George Badey, who was raised in South Philadelphia and is an avowed Mummer, had a very funny routine.  Badey is the Democrat running against Republican incumbent  Congressman Pat Meehan.]

[told “the neighborhood I grew up in was so tough” jokes – it is now in Brady’s district]

I went to high school in South Philly.  Pat Meehan went to the Chestnut Academy.

Chris Christie is in the hospital.  He has that flesh eating bacteria.  He only has 13 years to live.

Fidel Castro’s successor will be his idiot son, Fidel W. Castro.

Bill Clinton and the Pope died but there was a mix up and Clinton went up and the Pope went down.  When the mix up was fixed and the Pope was going up and Clinton down they passed and the Pope told Clinton he was looking forward to meeting the Blessed Virgin.  Clinton said “You just missed her.”


Photo: Bonnie Squires

David Freed (R), candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney-General
Running against Kathleen Kane (D).

Thanks to Kathleen Kane for picking up the tab.
I went to college with Cecily Tynan.
Fan of Philly sports teams [joke about the 1996 Phillies being bad team].

People say I am too close to Gov. Corbett – he wrote my jokes.  [fakes a phone call from Corbett].  

Hello, Governor?  
Yes, Risa Vetri Ferman’s here — she’s sitting right next to me.  
No, she still won’t run for Attorney General.

[joke about Ed Rendell telling people the statue of Billy Penn is of him]

[calls Daily News columnist John Baer a gossip columnist]

[Photo: Dave Freed seated with Montgomery County D.A. Risa Furman.]


Photo: Bonnie Squires

Kathy Boockvar (D), candidate for PA 8th Congressional District
Running against incumbent Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R).

I want to show that I can be funny on purpose and not just by accident.

I wanted to find a job more popular than being in Congress but the TSA didn’t have any opening and Elliott Spitzer already has a co-host.  

Things more popular than Congress right now:

  • Lawyers
  • Chick Fil A’s new branch at the Sea of
  • Gaililee
  • Paris Hilton
  • Porn
  • The IRS
  • Polygamy
  • The idea of being abducted by aliens
  • The oil industry
  • Bank of America
  • BP Oil during the Gulf oil spill

Photo: Bonnie Squires

John Featherman (R), candidate for PA 1st Congressional District
Running against incumbent Rep. Bob Brady (D).

[John Featherman was very funny with jokes about being Jewish and his “mixed marriage” to an Asian woman].  

Two Chinese people had a white baby but everyone knows two Wongs don’t make a white.

A union friend wanted to find a whorehouse where the prostitutes got to keep more of the money than the madam.  They finally found one and the union friend asked for a pretty young blonde but the proprietor said he had to take 62 year old Ethel, because of seniority rules.

Comedian Joe Conklin

Intermission with comedian Joe Conklin who told some good jokes and did impressions of political figures.  He also gave a shout out to the girls from Club Risque and said they were the only ones there with bigger [breasts] than Bob Brady.


Photo: Bonnie Squires

Rep. Pat Meehan (R), PA 7th Congressional District

[Congressman Pat Meehan, the Republican incumbent being challenged by Badey, also had a very funny routine.]

Stu thought the Variety Club was a dating service.

My opponent George Badey is a mummer.  He wants to go to Washington, wear satin pants, a feather boa and lipstick.  J. Edgar Hoover already did that.

Anthony Wiener got in trouble for sexting.  He was trying to decide whether or not to resign.  He was in, he was out, he was in, he was out, now he’s holding his own.  Bill Clinton oversaw Wiener’s wedding.  
When the scandal broke he called Clinton to apologize — for what, copyright infringement?

Three political figures were driving through Kansas and ended up in Oz.  [missed the name, possibly George W. Bush?] went looking for a heart, Joe Biden for a brain, and Bill Clinton said “Where’s Dorothy?”

There is an auction for a restaurant gift card which Emerald Capital bids more than the card is worth, then ups that bid when Stu includes a gift basket.


Photo: Bonnie Squires

Dr. Manan Trivedi (PA), candidate in PA 6th Congressional District
Running against incumbent Rep. Jim Gerlach (R).

When I ran in 2010 I spoke at this event and told a lot of jokes about being an Indian-American.  I won’t do that this year.  [fakes a telephone call and answers in stereotypic Indian accent] “Dell Technical Support.  This is … Mike …. In …. Kansas City.”  

My wife is from a very traditional family.  When they heard I wouldn’t be a full-time doctor while I am running for office they asked for three chickens back.

Jim Gerlach and Paul Ryan work out together — they practice their Atlas Shrugged poses.

[spelling bee joke]

Unlike Todd Akin, I know when my time is up.

Special guest, comedian Steve Young tells jokes

Congressman Jim Gerlach, Republican, 6th Congressional District, sent surrogate Kori Walter, district director.

Mitt Romney bet me $10,000 that I wouldn’t do this.

[He told several jokes that fell flat and asked if the audience was drinking enough.  As he left the stage Stu told him you never blame the audience if your jokes don’t get a laugh, always use self-deprecating humor.]

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, Republican, 8th Congressional District

[Fitzpatrick was taking two of his daughters to college this weekend and so wasn’t sure he would be able to attend; a surrogate, Andre [did not catch last name], was there just in case, but Fitzpatrick told his own jokes]

One night in Washington a robber held me up and said “give me all your money.”  I told him I was a Congressman and he said  “In that case give me all my money.”

Is Mitt Romney here tonight?  Coming in I thought I saw a car with a dog carrier on top.”

[discusses his Irish heritage, family from county next to Limerick.  Says Limerick known for a particular kind of poem.  Tells three.  One about Paul Ryan has a line “grandma just must go.”  One about Romney being robotic but “I saw him cry when he sold his 3rd yacht.”  The last one is about Obama and says he will be a judge on American Idol next year.]

Jim Foster, Independent candidate in 2nd Congressional District
Running against incumbent Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) and Robert Allen Mansfield, Jr. (R).

[Mostly talks about himself, jokes about Chaka Fattah, and says West Mt. Airy is Stepford on the Wissahickon]

Robert Mansfield, Republican candidate for 2nd Congressional District, sends surrogate Ned Green.
Running against incumbent Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) and Jim Foster.

[says he met Mansfield in the 1990’s on another political campaign, Mansfield was homeless then].  Says Mansfield isn’t there because he has a lot of injuries from being in Iraq and is seeing a brain specialist today.

Personal notes:
Smith, Casey, Schwartz/Deegan, Kane, Trivedi, and Boockvar did well.   I was surprised by the Republican candidates telling Romney/Paul jokes.  That seems unusual.

There were a lot of jokes/comments at Congressman Chaka Fattah’s expense.  That is because two years ago he was a presenter and gave an awful, mean-spirited rant.  He wasn’t there tonight.  This would have been an opportunity for him to do something self-deprecating and make a comeback but he didn’t.  (Hint:  There’s always the Star Trek, evil twin/goatee trick that Community has picked up on.)

It was nice to see two women on the stage.  Maybe one of these years Congresswoman Schwartz will join us in person?  Kathleen Kane’s routine had a homespun, Lake Woebegone feel to it.  Boockvar was a little edgier.

The girls from Club Risque paraded from one side of the room to the other about three times, which is the standard from the other years I’ve attended, but this year they were wearing clunky shoes and the sound was disruptive.  

Cross-posted from Above Average Jane. Photo Credit: Bonnie Squires.

Blunt Amendment on Purim Eve: Guests in a Christian Nation

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought light to many dark places in American society. It was most famous for opening businesses and institutions which operated in public to members of all races. Less well known were its provisions which prevented discrimination on the basis of sex, creed, national origin, and religion. In the matter of discrimination in the workplace, the act clearly places responsibility for establishing a work environment free of harassment on the operator of the business. Court decisions later established that employers needed to make themselves aware of harassment of minorities in the workplace, that their toleration of such harassment made them liable to penalties and prosecution under the law, that their encouragement of such harassment would lose them federal business.

More after the jump.
The far-reaching consequences of the Civil Rights Act can be seen most clearly in the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency. Unlike Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Obama’s appreciation for the role that the Civil Rights Act played in providing him with opportunities — for his education, for his advancement, for political career, for his being taken seriously as a human being — has always been open and straightforward. Obama’s recent interpretation of the Affordable Care Act — to guarantee that employees of religious institutions who were not themselves members of management’s religious faith were able to practice the tenets of the employees’ own faith, without the intimidation, coercion, and harassment of the employer’s religious restrictions on those employees — is something that Jews in particular should be grateful to their friend in the White House, who stuck up for our rights.

The Catholic Church has taken the mission of the Civil Rights Act, and stood it on its head. It is not the big bad government imposing free practice of religion on the helpless Catholic institutions — who employ followers of Judaism, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, Unitarianism, Muslims, Buddhists, Farsis, Hindus and others whose religious beliefs may differ from the Church — not just in matters of contraception, or about when life begins and ends, or about the relative importance of the lives of a woman and her fetus before childbirth. It is in fact the big bad government which has allowed such Catholic institutions to flourish and prosper, tax free, as they compete with for-profit hospitals, even as the Church provides right-to-life demonstrators at secular institutions to increase their costs of doing business. It is rather these powerful institutions who now influence the votes of our Senators Toomey and Casey — who both voted for the Blunt Amendment this past week. It is these powerful institutions, who demand exception from having to provide a harassment-free workplace for their employees, on the grounds that their employees’ free practice of religion offends management’s religious moral sensibility.

I have had to remind some friends, who were not alive at the time of the Civil Rights Movement, that some white churches in the South justified their practice of segregation on religious grounds. Such churches encouraged “Knights” to act in their defense. As government contemplated the Civil Rights Act, these churches too claimed that the government would intrude on their members’ freedom of religion. Many South African white members of the Dutch Reformed Church also justified their apartheid regime, by appealing to their interpretation of scripture, and to the teachings of their church. The coercive use of religious doctrine is not of course confined just to racial segregation and racist governments.

At this time of Purim, where we celebrate the resourcefulness of Mordechai and Esther in proclaiming their Judaism, and attempt to drown out with groggers the name of he who tried to exterminate our people for attempting to practice our basic Covenant, I would urge my compatriots to support their own civil rights, and to support the Obama position on the universal support for women’s health care services — to be exercised as the employee and not the employer sees fit, and to prevent religious harassment in the workplace from being justified, by a sense of freedom which treats the religious freedom of neighbors as if some of us were only “guests” in a Christian Nation.

GOP Candidates In Their Own Words

Race Republican Photo Quote Contenders
US Senate
Nevada
Sharron Angel,
State Legislator (Washoe County-26)
  • “People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.” [Link]
Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader
US Senate
South Carolina
Jim Demint, Incumbent Senator
  • “If a person is a practicing homosexual, they should not be teaching in our schools.” [Link]
  • “I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend, should be hired to teach my third grade children.”
    [Link]
Alvin Greene, political unknown
US Senate
Delaware
Christine O’Donnell, marketing consultant
  • “American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.” [Link]
  • “Lust in your heart is committing adultery so you can’t masturbate without lust.” [Link]
Chris Coons, New Castle County Executive
US Senate
Pennsylvania
Pat Toomey, Former Congressman (PA-15)
  • “Let’s not tax corporations…. I think the solution is to eliminate corporate taxes altogether.” [Link]
  • “There has been an increase in the surface temperature of the planet over the course of the last 100 years or so. I think it’s clear that that has happened. The extent to which that has been caused by human activity I think is not as clear. I think that is still very much disputed and has been debated.” [Link]
Joe Sestak, retired Admiral and Congressman (PA-7)
US Senate
Kentucky
Rand Paul, opthamologist and son of Congressman Ron Paul (TX-14)
  • “Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate…. A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination – even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin.” Link]
Jack Conway, Secretary of State
US Senate
Connecticut
Linda McMahon,
co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment
  • “So I still don’t think we know the long-term effects of steroids. They are continuing to study it more and more, but I don’t believe there are a lot of studies out there today that are conclusive.” [Link]
Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General
US Senate
Louisiana
David Vitter, incumbent Senator
  • “I personally don’t have standing to bring litigation in court. But I support conservative legal organizations and others who would bring that to court. I think that is the valid and most possibly effective grounds to do it.” [On birther investigations] [Link]
Charlie Melançon, Congressman LA-3
US Senate
Alaska
Joe Miller Scott McAdams, lawyer; and Lisa Murkowski, incumbent Senator
US Senate
Colorado
Ken Buck, Weld County District Attorney
  • “You are taking a very small group of cases and making a point about abortion. We have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of abortions in this country every year. And the example that you give is a very poignant one, but an extremely rare occurrence.” [Defending his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape and incest] [Link]
Michael Bennet, incumbent Senator, and Tom Tancredo, former Congressman (CO-6)
US Senate
Oklahoma
Tom Coburn
  • “Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that’s happened to us?” [Link]
Jim Rogers, teacher
US Senate
Alabama
Richard Shelby
  • “Well, his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate.” [Link]
William Barnes, lawyer
House of Representatives
Delaware (At-Large)
Glen Urquhart,
real estate financer
  • “Do you know, where does this phrase ‘separation of church and state’ come from? It was not in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists…. The exact phrase ‘separation of Church and State’ came out of Adolph Hitler’s mouth, that’s where it comes from. So the next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State ask them why they’re Nazis.” [Link]
John Carney, Lt. Governor

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Clinton Stumps For Sestak at JCC


— Bonnie Squires

President Bill Clinton stumped for his friend Joe Sestak, running for U.S. Senate, at the Golden Slipper Center for Seniors at the Kaiserman JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Wynnewood, his first stop of a very busy day.  Clinton praised Sestak for having an economic policy plan which fit with Clinton’s philosophy and success.

The appearance at the Jewish community center was a last-minute addition to Clinton’s whirlwind Philadelphia schedule as he came to town to honor former British Prime Minister Tony Blair with the Liberty Medal Monday evening.  But Clinton, who had campaigned for Sestak when the Congressman first ran for office five years ago , seemed genuinely delighted to speak to an adoring Jewish crowd on behalf of his former military advisor.

Clinton told the audience that each year the Pentagon picks the brightest member of the military to send to the White House as military advisor to the President, and they had selected Joe Sestak to send to him.  


Sestak’s words to the JCC audience reminded us of Senator Arlen Specter’s appearance there, years ago, when Lynn Yeakel was the Democratic contender for U.S. Senate.  Specter won that close race.  Perhaps Sestak had that in mind as he continued his wooing of the Jewish community.  And Clinton proved once again that he is a huge magnet, even with only a few hours’ notice.

Clinton gave a detailed analysis of the current economic situation in the country, pointing out the success of his philosophy when his administration turned around a huge deficit and left office with a huge surplus.  He credited Sestak with having a detailed plan and vision for creating jobs in three areas which are vital: small business, manufacturing, and the green economy.  

(photo credit: Bonnie Squires)

Hands Off Social Security

Advisory for: September 2, 2010

Contact: Beverly Hahn 610-275-7665  

Rep. Joe Sestak and Dr. Manan Trivedi Get “A” on Report Cards during Hands Off Social Security! Presentation

Promise to Oppose Benefit Cuts and Privatization Wins Grade from Local members of Democracy for America, MoveOn.org, Credo Action, Campaign for America’s Future, PennACTION, United Food and Commercial Workers – Local 1776, and SEIU; Pat Toomey and Rep. Gerlach Don’t Earn High Grades
On Thursday, September 2, 2010, local members of Democracy for America, MoveOn.org, and PennACTION are holding a Hands Off Social Security presentation in which they will deliver Social Security report cards to the U.S. Senatorial candidates in PA and the U.S. Congressional candidates in PA-6.  Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak earned an “A” for opposing benefit cuts and privatization while his opponent Pat Toomey received an “F” for wanting to privatize Social Security.  Dr. Manan Trivedi also earned an “A” for opposing benefit cuts and privatization while his opponent Rep. Jim Gerlach received an “Incomplete” for showing a lack of advocacy on this important issue.

Speakers at the press conference are:
Beverly Hahn, local member of Democracy for America
Linda Noble Topf, a counselor and author living with multiple sclerosis
Richard Pasquier, an assistant general counsel to a Fortune 500 company
John Meyerson, Political and Legislative Director, United Food and Commercial Workers #1776

Congress could vote on the future of Social Security this fall.  Voters across the country are asking candidates and members of Congress to support a promise to oppose plans which would undermine Social Security which says:

“Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to it. Social Security is a promise that must not be broken. If you pay in, then you earn the right to benefits for yourself, your spouse and your dependent children when you retire, experience a severe disability, or die. We need to strengthen Social Security, not cut it. That is why I oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including increasing the retirement age. I also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.”

New polling shows massive public support for elected leaders who want to defend Social Security and are opposed to measures which would diminish it.

“We’re here today to recognize Rep. Joe Sestak and Dr. Manan Trivedi for wanting to fight to preserve Social Security and let them know that they will receive an “A” from voters this fall. Unfortunately, we are giving Pat Toomey and Rep. Jim Gerlach poor grades for refusing to promise to protect Social Security,” said Beverly Hahn. “Almost 20% of Pennsylvanians rely on Social Security including the elderly, disabled, and children.  Weakening it is nothing short of morally bankrupt.  Social Security has a substantial surplus, and anyone who suggests otherwise is misinformed or distorting the facts.  Voters can choose this November to send to Washington those who are strongly committed to keeping Social Society safe or those who have either shown limp support or have pushed to dismantle it.”

Sestak Tells Jewish Leaders Of His Passion For Israel

The event in a private home was very heimesche with live Klezmer music by hostess Irene Glickman on the piano and Ken Ulansey and Stan Slotter on the clarinet playing as community leaders awaited Sestak’s discussion of foreign and domestic issues. (Photo: Bonnie Squires)

Joe Sestak (D PA-7) met with Jewish Community leaders recently in Center City Philadelphia, York and Lower Merion recently to discuss a range of issues, including his passionate and longstanding support for the State of Israel.

Sestak is the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania. Supporters of his opponent, Pat Toomey, along with Tea Party activists, neo-conservatives and other elements of the far right, have attempted to paint him as anti-Israel. This outreach effort by Sestak was designed to respond directly to those attempts.

Sestak was invited to appear in Lower Merion by the Orthodox Union, an organization best known for its kashrut supervision and youth movement, but which also provides forums where candidates speak on issues of importance to the Orthodox Jewish Community. The forum was held in the home of Joel and Irene Glickman.

Morrie Litwack, Deputy Director of Orthodox Union; Rep. Joe Sestak (D PA-7); and Howie Beigelman, Deputy Director of Orthodox Union. (Photo: Bonnie Squires)

Sestak was introduced by State Senator Daylin Leach, who had just returned from his own trip to Israel. He told the crowd that after donning tefilin at the Western Wall, Israel was the most important issue to him, and he would never support a candidate without being confident of that candidate’s strong support for Israel. He praised Sestak’s support for Israel through his votes and advocacy in Congress, and through his actions in defense of Israel on six different occasions during his 31-year Naval career.

Sestak spoke passionately of his experience. He spent Hannukah with Israel’s Chief of Naval Operations when Israel was being denied American-made littoral combat ships. Sestak successively lobbied Washington to give Israel this important defense system. Sestak oversaw the first joint military maneuvers between Israel and an Arab nation (Turkey).

The first vacation he was given from the Navy was a two-week leave which he spent in Israel. He still cherishes the “Never Again Masada” t-shirt he acquired at that occasion.

In 2003, Sestak commanded a carrier battle group in the Mediterranean Sea. When war with Iraq broke out, Sestak stationed one of his Aegis cruisers off the coast of Israel and integrated its radar system into Israel’s air defense system before moving the rest of his fleet to the Gulf.

Sestak also took credit for switching plans for a U.S. and European missle defense system based in Poland and the Ukraine to one based on Aegis cruisers. The Aegis system is cheaper, will be online by 2011, and would be able to protect Isreal whereas the land-based system would not be able to protect Israel and would not be functional at all until 2017.

Tom Wiener, Joe Sestak, Felice Wiener, and host Irene Glickman at the meeting with Senate candidate Sestak convened by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. (Photo: Bonnie Squires)

Sestak then took questions from the all of the participants. One participant questioned Sestak’s voting record. Sestak replied that he has a 100% pro-Israel voting record, whereas his opponent Pat Toomey voted against funding for Israel on seven different occasions and refused to sign a Congressional letter calling for the PLO to be defunded if they did not implement the Oslo Accords.

Sestak was incensed by political attacks claiming that he was “raising funds for terrorism” when he spoke at CAIR in 2007. Sestak was the head of the Navy’s anti-Terrorism unit after 9/11, and some of his friends were killed when the Pentagon was attacked. Indeed, the message he delivered to CAIR was that “it is our just duty to condemn not just terrorism but also the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice asked when he thought Iran would get a nuclear weapon and what the United States and Israel should do about it. Sestak said that he has been well briefed on this subject through his career in the military, and his position on the Armed Services Committee, and he believed that Iran was still a couple of years away from a nuclear weapon.

Sestak was adamant that a nuclear armed Iran was unacceptable. Not only would it pose an existential threat to Israel, but it would be in a position to blackmail all of the countries in the region. Saudia Arabia would want a weapon of its own leading to a regional nuclear arms race.

Sestak said “the military option should remain on the table, but on the far side of the table.” He was skeptical of our ability to eliminate weapon systems buried deep underground. Perhaps we would only be able to close the doors to the bunker for a while merely delaying the deployment of Iran’s nuclear missles. He criticized former President George W. Bush who left all the diplomatic work in the hands of the European Union, saying that our enemies do not take overtures seriously if the United States is not fully on-board.

Sestak sees himself as a leader in the spirit of Sam Nunn (D-GA). “It is pretty easy to send kids into harm’s way when you have no experience with war. My experience comes from 31 years in the military.” Rising to the rank of 3-star Admiral, Sestak is the highest ranking military officer in Congress.

Through his career he visited over eighty countries and found America was “respected for our power, and admired for our principles”. He is a firm believer in Engagement, saying that “we accomplish nothing by not talking to our enemies”. As proof that he does not only speak with people he agrees with, he mentioned that he would soon be appearing for the eighth time on Fox News with Sean Hannity.  

An Open Letter to the Jewish Community


— David Broida

In the race for the U.S. Senate, there is only one true friend of Israel – Joe Sestak.

Here is what Joe Sestak had to say when addressing a Pennsylvania Islamic organization:

“It is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also to condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah…Otherwise, our language against terrorism remains that of silence…If there are ties to those of terror, or statements that impugn others by hate, there is an obligation to actively denounce them, against whomever they occur, including (against) Israel.”

    “My last visit (to Israel) was to tie one of my U.S. Navy air defense Aegis cruisers into the missile defense network of Israel, leaving the ship stationed off its coast for the nation’s protection.”

— U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, in remarks to the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-PA), Philadelphia, PA, April 27, 2010

Joe Sestak is courageous and proud of his support of Israel’s security.   Yet, some falsely claim that U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak is not a friend of Israel.  Ironically, these same people support his opponent, who voted repeatedly against giving essential aid to Israel.  These same people rush to use Israel as a political wedge issue when, in fact, U.S. support for Israel always has been bipartisan.

Joe’s opponent, Pat Toomey, as a U.S. Congressman, voted seven times against a total of nearly $15 billion in military and other aid to Israel.* Joe Sestak has voted yes on every vote authorizing aid to Israel.

We’re outraged by Toomey’s attacks on Sestak’s support for Israel.  While serving in the US Navy as an Admiral, Joe Sestak commanded a fleet of US ships in the Mediterranean, designed to protect Israel and reinforce her defenses.  The only thing Toomey has ever commanded is the “Club for Growth”, the right-wing group whose sole aim is to lower taxes on the wealthy and shrink government, which threatens our ability to have a strong national defense and come to the aid of our allies and friends.

Don’t be fooled.   In this race for the U.S. Senate, there is one true friend of Israel.  We’re proud to say that we’re voting for U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak for United States Senator.

For more information, go to www.joesestak.com/Israel.htm or call 610-891-8956.

References and list of co-signers follow the jump.

 
Photo: Congressman Joe Sestak and Israel Chief of Naval Operations Eli Marom.

Footnote: Pat Toomey  voted:

  • against a foreign aid bill that included $1.82 billion for the implementation of the Wye River peace accords, passed by the U.S. House on 11/5/99, House Vote #572;
  • against  $2.82 billion in aid to Israel in a foreign aid appropriations bill on 10/25/00, House Vote 546;
  • against a bill providing $2.76 billion for Israel on 7/24/01, House Vote 266 and on 12/19/01, House Vote 505;
  • against a foreign operations bill that included $2.2 billion for Israeli military assistance on 7/24/03, House Vote 429;
  • against a consolidated appropriations bill that included more than $2.7 billion for Israel on 2/13/03, House Vote 32; and
  • against $2.53 billion for Israel, including $50 million to help resettle Jewish refugees from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union, on 7/15/04, House Vote 390.

Cosigners:
Jill and Howard Zipin
Susan Rubin
David Wolfson
Seymour Lackier
Alan Lindy
Rabbi Peter Hyman
Eva Ray
Nina and Michael Rosenthal
Joel Sweet
Meg & Michael Sheketoff
Jill & Edward Caine
Felice & Tom Wiener
Sue & Hal Rosenthal
Ruth Damsker
Pat & David Broida
Barbara & Burt Siegel
Robert A. Rovner
Steven L. Rovner
Hanna Monblatt
Dr. Marty & Linda  Millison
Jill Ross Stein
Edna & Ken Adelberg
Dr. Leonard L. Ross
Lynn G. Zeitlin
Ken Weinstein
Irl Barg & Janaet Walkow
Jane & Ernest Delheim
Margot & Ellis Horwitz
Ronnie & Ted Mann
Jerome Kaplan
Irwin W. Aronson
Nina & Michael Rosenthal
Susan B. Bolno
Stephanie & Michael Naidoff
Jay Minkoff
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer & Seth F. Kreimer
Natalie & Steven Sondheimer
David Dormont & Johanna Berger
Linda & Elkan Katz
Julie & Brian A. Gordon
Rabbi David & Betsy Teutsch
Sheila & Dan Segal
Mark Taylor & Irene Wasserman
Marciene & Herman Mattleman
David & Jo Baskin
State Rep. Mark Cohen
State Rep. Paul Drucker
David Hyman
Amy & Kenny Holdsman
Joel D. Beaver
Carol Shore
Helen & Dan Loeb
David Landau
Miriam & Arthur Spector
Leslie & Ira Richards
Marcia Hole & Arnold Levinson
Linda & Jake Kriger
Ellen & Ed Goss
Benjamin Zuckerman
Lori Schreiber
Susan Rubin
Esther Lipson Sobel & Bernard S. Sobel
Cece & Fred Citron
Linda Weiner Seligson
Jules J. Mermelstein
Ruth Estrich & Sam Zolton
Lynn Isar & Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Bonnie S. Squires
Harvey Glickman
Jeffrey Rudnick
Stephanie & William Epstein
Gilda Kramer & Sam Adenbaum
Dr. Walter & Ethel Hoffman
Cheryl Gelber
Jeanne & Bill Leopold
Allison Wiener
Marjorie M. Berlinghof
Bernice Catherine Schwartz
Jay Segal