Book Review: A Rust Belt City’s New Working Class

A worker entering the U.S. Steel Clairton Works in Clairton, Pennsylvania DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

Heavy industry once drove Pittsburgh’s economy. Now health care does—but without the same hard-won benefits.

The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America
by Gabriel Winant
Harvard University Press, 368 pp., $35.00

Reviewed by Scott W Stern

The New Republic

March 31, 2021 – To grow up in Pittsburgh in the 1990s and 2000s—as I did—was to experience something paradoxical: slow-motion whiplash. In my early childhood, everyone seemed to agree that the city was dying around us—another victim of deindustrialization and globalization and a general brain drain, the factories gone forever and talented young people fleeing for greener pastures. A city that had once provided the steel to win world wars and been home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other except New York and Chicago had, by the early 1990s, lost almost half its people (down from a peak in about 1950) and nearly all of the industry that had employed generations and made the resplendently bearded robber barons—like Carnegie, Frick, Heinz, Mellon, and Westinghouse, whose names adorn virtually all of the city’s institutions—so damn rich. Pittsburgh exemplified “Rust Belt decline.”

Yet by the time I was finishing high school, Pittsburgh was back. Everyone said so. Former mills and shuttered factories converted into upscale shopping centers; biotech companies, startups, and cool new restaurants dotted the cityscape; affluent hipsters were moving back from those greener pastures. Soon companies like Google, Facebook, and Uber would arrive, drawn by the city’s top-notch universities (and relatively cheap cost of living). Pittsburgh had “transformed itself into a vibrant cultural and artistic hub, all while remaining true to its Rust Belt roots,” pronounced The New York Times. And at the heart of this transformation was “the relentless growth of healthcare jobs,” added the Los Angeles Times, with the health care sector replacing “manufacturing as the region’s powerhouse.”

Yet, as many have pointed out, this narrative of decline and resurgence—all on a foundation of health care jobs, all in the brief span of my childhood—masked darker truths. The city itself hadn’t really been dominated by manufacturing since the late nineteenth century, the scholar Patrick Vitale noted in an excellent article titled “The Pittsburgh Fairy Tale.” Instead, its corporations had extracted wealth from the true midcentury mill towns, which existed in Pittsburgh’s outskirts—communities like Aliquippa, Braddock, Clairton, McKeesport, McKees Rocks. It is these communities that are still largely desolated by deindustrialization, with many abandoned storefronts, crumbling homes, and widespread poverty and addiction. The story of Pittsburgh’s renaissance has been constructed on the erasure of its exploited environs. Further, as the University of Pittsburgh law professor Jerry Dickinson recently wrote, Pittsburgh “remains one of the most racially segregated cities by neighborhood in America,” with profound disparities in income and medical outcomes (especially for Black women).

It is this complicated, contested transformation that forms the backdrop for Gabriel Winant’s trenchant new book, The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America. Winant—a prolific essayist and historian at the University of Chicago—has delved deep into the region’s archives and made excellent use of oral history collections and original interviews to describe the transformation of the working class in places like Pittsburgh and its outlying communities. At the start of the 1950s, few people in the region worked in health care, while nearly 20 percent of jobs were in the metals industry, especially steel; today, few people in or around Pittsburgh work in steel or other industrial jobs, but health care jobs account for nearly 20 percent of the area’s workforce.

“It was not a coincidence that care labor grew as industrial employment declined,” Winant writes. “The processes were interwoven.” The industrial jobs wrought havoc on workers’ bodies, prematurely stooping them or poisoning them over time; the decline of these jobs wrought further havoc on the workers’ mental health. As steel jobs fell, health care jobs rose, with more and more workers needed to care for the aging, suffering former industrial laborers, especially as neoliberalism dismantled community institutions and punctured the social safety net. Yet while the steel jobs had been unionized and often provided enough to support an entire family, the health care jobs are largely low-wage and excluded from numerous labor protections. It is also no coincidence that while the industrial jobs of yesteryear were the province of men (largely, though certainly not exclusively, white men), the care jobs of today belong disproportionately to women, especially to women of color. To many, these care workers are “invisible, or disposable,” Winant writes, but they are the vanguard of the new working class.

The city of Pittsburgh sits at the confluence of three rivers, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, at the heart of northern Appalachia. It is a critical port on the Mississippi River system, a vital meeting place for rail and for steam, once the artery connecting the big cities of the Atlantic coast with the resource-rich Midwest. By the late nineteenth century, the city’s status as a commercial hub and its proximity to the iron ore mined near Lake Superior and the coalfields of Appalachia gave rise to the biggest steel operations in the world, which generated extraordinary wealth and attracted waves of migrants.

Few jobs have been as fetishized, as mythologized, and as misunderstood as that of the steelworker. It’s certainly true that the steel mills of western Pennsylvania provided steady, relatively stable employment for generations throughout the twentieth century. By the 1940s, these jobs were heavily unionized. Years of strikes and solidarity led to average hourly wages of $3.36 by the early 1960s (equivalent to $28.53 in 2020 dollars). But these jobs were also brutal and dirty and dangerous. They slowly wrecked men’s bodies, and often injured them much more quickly. In one mill in McKeesport, Winant notes, 500 injuries were routinely reported per month in a facility with just over 4,000 employees. Coke ovens, blast furnaces, and open hearths exuded a punishing heat, with some workers inhaling so much burning dust that they vomited blood. “Working-class men did not only love and draw strength from this work,” Winant writes. “They also dreaded spending their lives doing it, imagining all that it would require of them and all that it would do to them.”

The hell of steelwork was distributed unevenly across racial and ethnic lines, with Black workers being subjected “to the damage and humiliation of the job in greater concentration, more minutes per hour, more hours per day,” Winant writes. They were disproportionately shunted into “unskilled” positions and excluded almost entirely from the skilled trades. They were often forced to live “at the bottom of the valleys, where air pollution collected around smokestacks.” …Read More

PA Republicans Are Waging a War on Voting.

A voter drops off their mail-in ballot prior to the primary election, in Willow Grove, Montgomery County, May 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The For the People Act Could Be the Solution. As the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature works to pass voter suppression laws, Democrats in Congress have one chance to stop the assault on voting rights.

By Keya Vakil
The Keystone

MARCH 23, 2021 – WASHINGTON — Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, sending $1,400 stimulus checks to most Pennsylvanians, extending federal unemployment benefits, providing most parents a guaranteed monthly income, giving schools money to reopen, and bolstering vaccine production and distribution.

The passage of the bill, which was backed by 59% of Pennsylvanians, according to a recent poll, was only possible because Pennsylvania residents voted in record numbers in November to send Biden to the White House.

Now, Republicans in the state Legislature are responding to Biden’s victory by introducing a flurry of bills that would make it more difficult to vote.

To stop the GOP’s war on voting rights, Democrats at the national level have one arrow left in their quiver: the For The People Act (HR 1).

Passed by the US House on March 3, HR 1 would allow automatic voter registration, set unified early and mail-in voting standards, enact campaign finance reform, and modernize elections while ensuring their security.

The bill is also all but certain to stall out in the Senate.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has made clear he opposes the comprehensive democracy reform bill. If Democrats choose to eliminate the filibuster—a Senate procedure that allows any one senator to obstruct a bill from being voted on and requires 60 senators to override—they could pass the For the People Act with their 50-vote majority and halt the voter suppression efforts in Pennsylvania.

Republican lawmakers in states across the country have introduced more than 250 bills to disenfranchise voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. Pennsylvania is among the states leading the way in these efforts, as legislators have proposed more than a dozen bills designed to restrict voting access.

The battles over the For the People Act and the filibuster will play out in the coming weeks and months. As Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania and other states have made clear, there is a lot at stake.

‘Divorced From Reality’

Even though former President Donald Trump lost Pennsylvania, 2020 was, by all accounts, a good year for the state GOP. They gained seats in the legislature, won two of three statewide races, and held onto all nine of their congressional seats.

Continue reading PA Republicans Are Waging a War on Voting.

Fetterman Officially Enters 2022 U.S. Senate Race, Vying for a Hotly Contested Seat. Why He’s Running

By Candy Woodall
Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau
via Beaver County Times

Feb 8, 2021 – Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Monday officially entered the 2022 U.S. Senate race, vying for a hotly contested seat that could determine the chamber’s balance of power in the midterms.

The formal bid comes after Fetterman raised more than a $1 million in less than a month after he said he was eyeing a run.

“Thank you to all 35,000 of the folks who chipped in a few dollars and encouraged me to run for Senate, today I am excited to announce that I am running, and I am glad to have the support of people in all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties,” Fetterman, 51, said in a statement Monday.

He is running for a seat that will be left vacant by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, RLehigh Valley, who is retiring upon a selfimposed term limit.

Analysts say it’s the top U.S. Senate race to watch in the 2022 midterms.

“The sole tossup Senate race to start the 2022 cycle is Pennsylvania,” said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the nonpartisan newsletter at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

The U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania is expected to be one of the most expensive in the country and could eclipse the $164 million spent in 2016 when Toomey was challenged by Democrat Katie McGinty.

McGinty defeated Fetterman in the 2016 Democratic primary.

A rising profile for Fetterman

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman went on a tour of all 67 Pennsylvania counties to get feedback from residents on recreational marijuana legalization. He is in favor of legalizing the drug.

At the time, he was mostly known in western Pennsylvania, where he was the mayor of Braddock, an old, bluecollar industrial town Fetterman was working to rehabilitate.

Since then, Fetterman has become better known to voters statewide after running a successful campaign to become Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor in 2018. He was also a frequent guest on national news programs during the pandemic and 2020 presidential election, and he has built a robust social media following.

Continue reading Fetterman Officially Enters 2022 U.S. Senate Race, Vying for a Hotly Contested Seat. Why He’s Running

Report: Pennsylvania Stands To Gain 243,000 Jobs A Year From Clean Energy Investment

Workers install solar panels on the roof of Global Links, a medical relief nonprofit, in Green Tree, Pa., on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. JARED MURPHY / 90.5 WESA

By AN-LI HERRING
WESA-FM

Jan 28, 2021 – Although President Joe Biden’s actions on climate change have stirred anxieties about job loss in energy-producing states like Pennsylvania, a new report predicts that plans like Biden’s could create roughly a quarter-million jobs annually in the Commonwealth. And within hours after the report’s release, local officials announced a small but symbolic down payment on green energy investment.

The 243,000 clean-energy jobs that could be created each year over the next decade in Pennsylvania “are jobs across the board,” said Robert Pollin, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and one of the study’s authors.

“We’re looking at jobs for carpenters, machinists, environmental scientists, secretaries, accountants, truck drivers, roofers, agricultural labor,” Pollin said, referring to positions that would be required to achieve higher energy efficiency standards, develop new products and infrastructure, and restore land that’s been used for mining and drilling.

UMass Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute released the report Thursday, a day after Biden signed a round of executive orders that aim to supercharge the country’s efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Co-authored by Pollin, the report quantifies the potential impact on Pennsylvania jobs of a clean energy strategy developed by ReImagine Appalachia, a coalition of progressive policy and environmental groups. The coalition seeks to facilitate a “just transition” to a clean energy economy in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, whose economies have traditionally depended on extraction-based fossil fuel industries. ReImagine Appalachia’s blueprint strives to ensure those states can generate well-paying jobs during a decades-long shift to carbon-free energy.

With adequate funding over the next 10 years, the plan would fuel the creation of an average of 162,000 jobs annually in clean energy and 81,000 positions a year in public infrastructure, manufacturing, land restoration, and agriculture, according to Thursday’s study.

The study estimates that an average annual investment of $31 billion would be needed from both the public and private sectors. During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to invest $2 trillion in such efforts, with the goal of eliminating carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035 and from the entire U.S. economy by 2050.

“The level of funding necessary [is] a lot. But it’s 3 percent of [the] GDP of the state … So it’s affordable,” Pollin said. And he noted that the employment gains his report predicts would amount to about 4 percent of the state’s workforce.

“So if you’re looking at an economy which has a 7 percent unemployment rate [similar to Pennsylvania], these programs lower the unemployment rate to 3 percent – that’s how dramatic it would be,” Pollin said.

Powering up

Allegheny County took a modest step toward that goal on Thursday, when County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that, starting as early as mid-2023, all county-owned facilities will draw energy from a low-impact hydropower plant located on the Ohio River.

Fitzgerald called the move a “long-term investment in how we light and power our facilities using our natural resources without using fossil fuels.” He said it comes during a “landmark week,” during which the county met federal air quality standards for the first time ever.

Continue reading Report: Pennsylvania Stands To Gain 243,000 Jobs A Year From Clean Energy Investment

The Capitol Riot Exposed U.S. Extremism On A Broad Scale. Pittsburgh Is No Stranger To White Supremacist Activity

Protesters against racism and police brutality march down P.J. McArdle Roadway from Mount Washington on June 7, 2020. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

By Matt Petras
Public Source

Jan 19, 2021 – When Jasiri X moved from the south side of Chicago to Monroeville as a teen in the 1980s, he discovered “inyourface racism” for the first time. On his first trip to Monroeville Mall, someone called him a racial slur.

“People refer to Pittsburgh as the Mississippi of the North,” said Jasiri X, founder of the prominent social justice activist group 1Hood in Pittsburgh. “I would tell people that would come here that Pittsburgh is an overtly racist place. It’s not subtly racist. It’s not like, ‘We’re gonna hide it.’ It’s pretty overtly racist.”

Following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, plans for farright demonstrations and the possibility of violence have been identified across the country. The antidisinformation group Alethea Group identified Pittsburgh as a possible site of farright activity, according to the Washington Post, though the FBI released a statement Jan. 12 explaining it has not identified any threats directed at Pittsburgh.

Still, given initial reports like this and the Pittsburgh area’s existing relationship with white supremacy, it seems intuitive to Jasiri X that more of this violence could be coming to Pittsburgh.

“If we’re a hotbed of white supremacist activity,” he said, “we should be expecting violence, shouldn’t we?”

FBI analysts declared Pittsburgh a “hub” for white supremacy in November 2020. Several white supremacist and other farright hate groups operate across Pennsylvania, including groups associated with the Ku Klux Klan. In October 2018, a gunman attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill in the deadliest antiSemitic attack in the history of the United States. The attack was also motivated by hatred toward immigrants.

A man in Toledo, Ohio, who planned another attack on a synagogue, said the Tree of Life shooting inspired him, and the man who shot and killed 49 Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand wrote a manifesto outlining a white supremacist ideology strikingly similar to that of the Tree of Life shooter.

“The Pittsburgh attack was itself worldwide, not just in Pittsburgh and not just nationally,” said Brad Orsini, senior national security advisor for the national group Secure Community Network and former FBI special agent.

Orsini said that since the white supremacist “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville in 2017, there has been a significant increase in hate crime across the country. Orsini, who managed security for the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh before taking his national position, has witnessed a slew of farright hate group activity in Western Pennsylvania.

“We’ve seen the Ku Klux Klan in Pittsburgh, we’ve seen Patriot Front, we’ve seen Identity Europa,” Orsini said. “We have seen visible signs of those groups throughout Western Pennsylvania and in Pittsburgh over the past four years, absolutely.”

Shawn Brokos, who replaced Orsini as Jewish community security director for the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh in early 2020 and is also a former FBI agent, noted that white supremacist incidents in the Pittsburgh area have increased in the past few years, though it’s unclear whether this reflects newfound hate or better vigilance in discovering it.

“This really could be twofold,” Brokos said. “Is there actually an increase in this white supremacy ideology, or are we, as a Jewish community, being more proactive in reporting it? I think it’s really hard to measure.”

Related stories

Hate groups helped storm the Capitol. These groups have been active in Pennsylvania.

As the country braces for unrest, here’s what you should know about staying safe in Pittsburgh
The sort of white supremacist activity seen in recent years across the country and in Pittsburgh has a lot of crosspollination with the farright extremists who participated in the storming of the Capitol Building, according to Brokos. In the media footage of the incident, some can be seen brandishing antiSemitic messages.

“If you look at the antigovernment, antiauthority organizations, many of those have their extremistbased beliefs and within them contain a degree of antiSemitism,” Brokos said.

In recent years, hate groups have started to collaborate and gotten better at organizing than before, according to Kathleen M. Carley, director of the Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems at Carnegie Mellon University.

“You’re now getting links between, for example, between QAnon and Proud Boys. You’re getting links to many other vocal homegrown groups,” Carley said. “What you want to watch out for is those groups forming coalitions, forming groups, because that allows them to mobilize.”

QAnon, a movement surrounding discredited conspiracy theories with hateful elements, “is not an organized group with defined leadership,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Still, the FBI declared it a “domestic terrorism threat” and individuals affiliated with QAnon participated in the Jan 6. Capitol attack. The Proud Boys, founded in 2016, has emerged as one of the most prominent violent, white supremacist hate groups in the country in recent years.

Continue reading The Capitol Riot Exposed U.S. Extremism On A Broad Scale. Pittsburgh Is No Stranger To White Supremacist Activity

GOP: ‘don’t Blame Us; We’re Just Standing Here’

A supporter of President Donald Trump sits inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protests inside the U.S. Capito lon Wednesday. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.

Republicans jettisoned personal responsibility long before fiscal responsibility

By Tony Norman
Pittsburgh PostGazette Columnist

JAN 12, 2021 – Gruesome details of what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 when thousands of deranged followers of President Donald Trump attempted to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory continued to emerge over the weekend.

We now know about the feces that was smeared across the marbled walls and tracked across once pristine floors. We’ve heard the details about one Capitol Hill police officer beaten to death with a fire extinguisher and we’ve seen the footage of other cops being beaten with broken flag poles by a mob that assures us that “Blue Lives Matter” — except when they don’t.

We’ve heard recordings of the chants “hang Mike Pence” and “bring us Nancy [Pelosi]” by a crowd that erected a hanging post just outside the Capitol grounds. The footage of men running around with plastic zip ties, as if they had expected to take hostages, sends chills because they came within minutes of decapitating the legislative branch of the U.S. government.

It is now clear that with the exception of individual acts of valor — including the officer who lured the mob away from the Senate chamber, where members were evacuating — there was a complete breakdown of security. If the bulk of the insurrectionists had been highly trained Jihadists instead of hypedup QAnon crackpots, they would still be wiping the blood from the floor nearly a week later.

On Tuesday in an attempt to assign responsibility for the assault on the Capitol, the House of Representatives introduced a resolution to impeach Donald J. Trump for the second time.

This followed a weekend in which Mr. Trump found his access to social media permanently denied by two billionaires in California because of his penchant for telling lies that foment sedition and undermine American democracy.

Vice President Mike Pence also made it clear that he reserves the right to use the 25th Amendment should Mr. Trump step out of line during his remaining two weeks in office. The PGA and other bastions of corporate America are unilaterally canceling contracts with Mr. Trump’s companies and resorts rather than be smeared by association with the soontobeimpeached and probably indicted former president.

It is all an attempt to hold a man who denies responsibility for anything responsible for the single greatest — if incompetently staged — coup in American history.

The reactions to Mr. Trump’s turn in fortune have been interesting to watch. Those who typically bellow loudest about personal responsibility rarely show an inclination to take it.

As the latest round of “whatabout” politics proved, all the nattering about Jesus, justice and jurisprudence is just virtue signaling by the right wing — a way to distinguish itself from the socalled “woke mob” of the left.

But when it comes to mobs, “woke” or otherwise, the supporters of Donald Trump are now second to none in America’s fractured discourse. They have a body count of four supporters and one dead cop (and another by suicide) to prove it.

While sincere conservatives have gone into the witness protection program, most Republican elected officials haven’t been serious about personal responsibility in years.

The runup to the Iraq War, the criminal incompetence of the government’s response to Katrina and four years of the Trump administration’s moral callousness has all but scrubbed the terms “repentance” and “responsibility” from the GOP playbook.

Pennsylvania is home to a particularly odious brand of hypocritical rightwing populism and politician. Their ridiculous posturing has been especially evident during Mr. Trump’s attempt to disenfranchise our state’s voters and decertify Mr. Biden as the rightful winner of our 20 electoral votes.

Continue reading GOP: ‘don’t Blame Us; We’re Just Standing Here’

‘I’m Not Surprised’: Black Protesters, Clergy Decry Double Standard In Capitol Riot

Click HERE for all 56 photos

‘White privilege’ seen in riot’s aftermath

By Tiffany Cusaac-Smith, Adria R. Walker, Peter D. Kramer, Geoffrey Wilson and Jeff Neiburg
Beaver County Times via USA TODAY NETWORK

Jan 9, 2020 – Reenah Golden remembers people taking shelter in a church after hours of marching and protesting the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man suffocated while being restrained by Rochester police officers last year.

That night, officers followed protesters to the church, barraging the holy site with pepper balls.

Months later, Golden said the chemical dispersants and other tactics come to mind when she saw law enforcement’s response to President Donald Trump supporters marauding the U.S. Capitol, one of American democracy’s most hollowed spaces.

Egged on by Trump, the mob broke through police lines at the Capitol. Rioters were then seen waving flags in the building, sitting in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and storming the floor of the Senate.

Black activists say their largely peaceful marches following the death of Prude and George Floyd this summer were quickly met with police in riot gear and chemical dispersants, while law enforcement was lethargic in halting largely white marauders from storming the Capitol.

They say that racism is at the root of the disparate reaction from police officials.

The night the Prude protesters sought refuge in the Rochester church last September, Golden remained outside the church. She recalls police firing tear gas at her car while she sought to drive away with protesters for whom she was seeking medical attention.

“At the Capitol, I see just the opposite,” Golden said. “I see care, attention, thoughtfulness in the approach. Regard for human life to an extent — I saw a lot of that watching the footage and that definitely was deeply painful to watch.”

She added: “We didn’t get that same regard, that same care even though we were fighting for injustice.”

‘White privilege’ seen in riot’s aftermath

Mahkieb Booker, a Black Lives Matter organizer, chants as Wilmington police block protesters from moving up Market Street from Fourth Street after they gathered in early September at police headquarters to call for the firing of an officer they say is abusive to the public.

Seeing law enforcement’s slow response, Black protesters and leaders saw race as the determining factor in the difference between the police response on America’s streets this summer and what they saw on Wednesday.

Mahkieb Booker, 50, has long been active on the social justice scene in Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware. He can be found at almost every protest for Black rights, whether there are six people there or 600.

Continue reading ‘I’m Not Surprised’: Black Protesters, Clergy Decry Double Standard In Capitol Riot

Harrisburg: GOP Senators Refuse to Seat Democrat and Remove Lt. Gov. Fetterman from Presiding

PA GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (center) confers with Senate Secretary Megan Martin (right), as Sen. Jake Corman (front, center), takes over the session to conduct a vote to remove Fetterman from residing over the session in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Bobby Maggio, Fetterman’s chief of staff, stands to the left.

The Fascist Danger in Our Statehouse

By Angela Couloumbis and Cynthia Fernandez
Spotlight PA

Jan. 5, 2021 – HARRISBURG — The new session of the Pennsylvania Senate got off to a chaotic start Tuesday, with Republicans refusing to seat a Democratic senator whose election victory has been certified by state officials.

Amid high emotions and partisan fingerpointing, Republicans also took the rare step of removing the Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, from presiding over the session. They apparently did so because they did not believe Fetterman was following the rules and recognizing their legislative motions.

Democrats, in turn, responded by refusing to back Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre) from assuming the chamber’s top leadership position — an unusual maneuver on what is most often a largely ceremonial and bipartisan vote.

The bitterness and rancor on display was a departure from the normally staid and sedate workings of the chamber. And it potentially sets the stage for a tumultuous twoyear session, which will include debate over key legislative priorities such as redistricting.

“With this reckless, outofcontrol, cowboylike behavior, with this Trumpian behavior that we saw today from Republicans … this does not bode well. It does not bode well for the people of Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Vince Hughes of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

For now, at least, Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster, of Allegheny County, will not be allowed to take the oath of office, as Republicans believe litigation over the outcome in his race must first play out in federal court. GOP leaders have said the state constitution gives senators the authority to refuse to seat a member if they believe the person does not meet the qualifications to hold office.

Brewster narrowly won reelection over Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli, who is asking a federal judge to throw out the election results. At the center of that legal dispute is several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on an outer envelope, as required by state law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed those ballots to be counted, which gave Brewster the edge in the race.

Continue reading Harrisburg: GOP Senators Refuse to Seat Democrat and Remove Lt. Gov. Fetterman from Presiding

PITTSBURGH’S Climate Challenge Awaits Biden as Trump Pushes Through Environmental Policy in Final Days

Beaver County’s ‘Little Blue’ waste problem back in the news.

By Daniel Moore
PostGazette Washington Bureau

DEC 31, 2020 WASHINGTON — As President-elect Joe Biden eyes a major federal plan to tackle climate change when he enters the White House next month, his policy team could hit roadblocks as they contend with the breadth of environmental measures rolled back by the Trump administration — and differences within his own party on how to address them.

President Donald Trump has consistently worked through his term to weaken rules put into place by his predecessor — and Mr. Biden’s former boss — former President Barack Obama. Mr. Trump’s penchant for regulatory rollbacks won him support from the energy industry in the Pittsburgh region, headlining natural gas drilling industry conferences and dispatching his environmental chief to Pittsburgh to finalize the repeal of an Obama-era rule limiting the industry’s methane emissions.

Now, Mr. Biden’s climate team, introduced at an event in Delaware this month, will be “ready on day one,” he said, to assess how to wholly address a complex global problem falling under the jurisdiction of a slew of federal agencies.

Mr. Biden, facing a divided Congress with an entrenched political opposition, could face hurdles in translating his much-debated climate change platform into action. As he did during the campaign, Mr. Biden framed environmental protection as an economic driver that will lift up regions like Pittsburgh — and a key part of any plan that helps the nation heal from the COVID19 pandemic.

Trump administration relaxes deadlines on power companies for coal ash cleanup


“Folks, we’re in a crisis,” Mr. Biden said during the Dec. 19 event. “Just like we need to be a unified nation to respond to COVID19, we need a unified national response to climate change.”

As the incoming administration works to build a climate strategy, it will balance demands for stricter rules from the progressive wing of the party with his pledges to invest in jobs in regions dependent on fossil fuels. Fracking was one of the most politically explosive issues on the campaign trail, with Mr. Biden pledging to reach a carbonfree power sector by 2035 and netzero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

On the surface, some climate moves could be simple.

Mr. Biden has said he will put the United States back into the Paris climate accord, which Mr. Trump exited in 2017 by declaring he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Mr. Biden also could use executive powers to quickly reinstate an array of Obamaera regulations relaxed by Mr. Trump that affect the energy industry, auto manufacturers, construction companies and farmers. He could order federal agencies to consider climate change in their practices and procurement strategies.

Whether Mr. Biden can hit his most ambitious targets, however, will hinge on finding consensus on a comprehensive plan that can pass muster on Capitol Hill.

The president-elect’s plan for a “clean energy revolution” and environmental justice pledges a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next decade, leveraging other funding sources to reach more than $5 trillion. Cities like Pittsburgh are hoping that includes money for Ohio River Valley communities to launch a largescale transition to clean energy, as Mayor Bill Peduto called for this month.


Biden’s oil comments fuel long-burning debate over Pa. energy jobs
“The list of things that need to be corrected are daunting,” said Lisa Evans, an attorney specializing in hazardous waste law for Earthjustice, an environmental group.

Ms. Evans, who has advocated for stronger protections around coal ash disposal, criticized the Trump administration when it moved back deadlines for companies to stop dumping the waste in unlined ponds and landfills. She said she wants Mr. Biden to not only reverse those changes but put in place a stronger federal standard than the one Mr. Obama enacted in 2015.

In Pennsylvania, there are 103 coal ash storage and disposal sites, including 20 unlined coal ash ponds and 13 unlined landfills, according to the Center for Coalfield Justice. Coal ash, which contains heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury, creates vast sources of potential contamination, as well as huge costs for utility companies that must either retrofit the sites or find alternative storage facilities.

Continue reading PITTSBURGH’S Climate Challenge Awaits Biden as Trump Pushes Through Environmental Policy in Final Days

The Great American Coup Attempt of 2020

Every traitor who participates in Mr. Trump’s failed coup attempt should be remembered.

By Tony Norman
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Columnist

DEC 15, 2020 – Like the fashionable fascists they always strive to be, the contingent of Proud Boys who showed up in D.C. on Saturday to “Stop the Steal” stood out in the madding crowd of revanchist losers pledging their support to Donald Trump, who buzzed them from Marine One overhead.

Rocking black and gold down to the face masks only a few of them wore during the pandemic’s deadliest week, and shouting “All Lives Matter” and “We are Proud Boys,” they looked like a lost tribe of Steelers’ fans, high on hate, trying to score meth outside the Smithsonian.

The Jericho March, as Trump-believers called it, was emceed by conservative talk-radio host Eric Metaxas. The two-fisted evangelical who announced earlier in the week that he would be “happy to die in this fight” for Trump, God, Jesus and liberty — pretty much in that order — did what Jesus surely would’ve under the same circumstances: He asked if anyone had a bazooka he could borrow to blow a news chopper out of the sky.

Over the course of the day, Mr. Metaxas welcomed a who’s who of indicted, convicted, pardoned and guilty-as-hell scoundrels to the stage to ramble on about their love for “Dear Leader.”

The disgraced but recently pardoned Michael Flynn was followed by the always disgraceful Alex Jones, who called Joe Biden a “globalist” and vowed that he “will be removed [from office] one way or another.”

Recently pardoned fixer, dirty trickster and Nixon fetishist Roger Stone was there, as was “eccentric” former congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, who blathered on about a miracle that would soon confirm a second term for Mr. Trump. The list of guest speakers may have been the largest gathering of cultists, ravers and true believers since Jonestown.

Pennsylvania was represented on stage by “Mr. Piety” himself, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R- Franklin County, who bemoaned the U.S. Supreme Court’s terse dismissal of the Texas lawsuit that would’ve disenfranchised millions of voters in four battleground states, including Pennsylvania, as a “gut shot.” But he vowed to fight on because, well, he’s an irrational fanatic.

We should never forget that 18 attorneys general and more than 120 Republican House members affixed their signatures to an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to grant Texas’ request to invalidate the outcome of the election in four states that went to Joe Biden.

The following members in the House representing Pennsylvania went along with this mad scheme to disenfranchise their own constituents: Rep. John Joyce of the 13th Congressional District, Rep. Fred Keller of the 12th, Rep. Mike Kelly of the 16th, Rep. Dan Meuser of the 9th, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler of the 14th and Rep. Glenn Thompson of the 15th.

Continue reading The Great American Coup Attempt of 2020
%d bloggers like this: