Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense Founder Profiled in More

The October issue of More Magazine includes a profile of Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.  The magazine tucked the article, "The Accidental Activist" by Nanette Varian,  away in the very back of the issue, starting on page 131.

One of the pullout quotes is "they kept referring to me as well educated, which I thought was code for uppity housewife."  This is in reference to her testimony before Indiana legislature.  Watts has a four year degree.  Given the number of lawyers in the state legislature I, too, find it odd they would use this terminology and agree that it is intended as a slur.

The Moms group was intended to serve in a similar role that Mothers Against Drunk Driving did, to bring an issue to the public's attention.  In this case it is gun violence prevention.  They have had some successes,

"Since the group's inception, the Moms have helped get background-check laws passed in five states and laws aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers passed in six more.  They've persuaded Facebook and Instagram to take steps to prevent illegal gun sales on their platforms and Statrbucks, Target, Chipotle and other chains to ask customers not to bring their guns into their establishments." 

To read the full article pick up the current issue at your local newsstand.

Annual SEPTA Stop Hunger at Your Station

from the inbox:

SEPTA will kick off its sixth annual Stop Hunger at Your Station food drive to benefit Philabundance on Friday, October 17, 2014, at 10 a.m. at Dilworth Park (15th Street side).  SEPTA’s food drive will run October 20-31, with the Authority collecting donations of much-needed canned goods at 43 rail stations and transportation centers.  In 2013, SEPTA customers and employees collected a record 25 tons of food for Philabundance.  Over the last five years, the drive has collected 90 tons of food for Philabundance.

Biden Alert: Philly Visit on Thursday

Expect travel issues tomorrow, Thursday the 16th.  Vice President Joe Biden will be in town for an event highlighting the important of America's infrastructure.  You know, those roads, bridges, and trains we all use every day to get from one place to another.  Visits from high ranking officials always seem to create traffic tie ups.  We're glad to see them, though.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

State Legislation II: Hate Crimes

This post contained information taken from elsewhere (text was in blockquotes to show it was not original to this blog).  I have been informed that it was incorrect and thus have removed it.  My apologies for the error.

State Legislation I: State Senate Meddling with Gun Safety / Domestic Violence Legislation

This is taken from two CeaseFire PA communications:

Last week a bill to punish towns and cities for passing gun safety legislation was stopped.  The bill would have allowed organizations , for example the NRA or the KKK to sue municipalities for passing laws to curb the illegal trafficking of firearms.  This week that wording in HB 2011 / HB 1243 was attached as an amendment to HB 1796 on its third consideration in the state senate, which is primarily aimed at protecting the victims of domestic violence.  If the amendment is approved this will put state senators in the position of either approving the "sue the city" wording or voting against an otherwise productive bill.

Contact your state senator and ask them to vote against the amendment, or if it passes, vote against the bill.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Obama's Millennial Agenda

from the inbox:

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Agenda for Creating Economic Opportunity for Millennials

A copy of the related report released by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors is available online HERE.

Last week, President Obama put forth his vision for continuing to build on the foundation we’ve laid for a strong, durable economy with secure middle class jobs. Thanks to the hard work and grit of the American people, we’re moving forward again and one generation in particular – Millennials – will shape our economy for decades to come.

Millennials came of age during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In the face of these challenges, President Obama acted quickly to rebuild opportunity for all hardworking Americans, including Millennials. Together, we kept more teachers on the job to improve the quality of education for kids at our local schools. We cut subsidies to big banks so that we could make college more affordable by increasing Pell Grants. And we expanded health care coverage so that no one, including young people just getting their start, would go broke if they get sick. 

There are still challenges to meet, but no generation has been better equipped to overcome them than Millennials. They’re skilled with technology and more educated than any previous generation. Today’s White House report details some of the key characteristics of the Millennial Generation as well as the impact that the Administration’s policies have had on them.

To build on this progress, there is also a path forward. Acting with Congress and on his own where he can, President Obama will continue to invest in our teachers and schools, cut student loan debt, build on our technology boom, expand health coverage and homeownership, and train every hardworking American with the skills they need to find a good job that pays good wages.
                                     
Making Higher Education More Affordable for MillennialsWhile college is more important than ever before, it is also more expensive. President Obama has taken steps to make college more affordable and increase financial aid – while Republicans have called for rolling back these expansions of student aid and opposed efforts to allow students to refinance student loans.
·         Increasing federal financial support for higher education. Higher education can be a pathway to the middle class for many people, but we have to ensure that students are able to afford this investment.

o   Creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college.

o   Increasing Pell Grant scholarships by $1,000 a year, while reaching millions more students each year.

o   Eliminating wasteful bank subsidies and passing along those savings to help more Americans afford college.

·         Making student loan payments more affordable. President Obama created a new repayment plan allowing students to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income. In June 2014, the President directed the Department of Education to make this plan available to every direct student loan borrower, benefiting nearly 5 million current and former students. The President has also supported Congressional efforts to allow student loan borrowers to refinance their loans, saving thousands in interest costs, which Republicans in Congress have blocked.

Supporting Innovation: Millennials are more connected to technology than previous generations, both in school and in work, and their innovations in this area have the potential to impact all workers through our economy for years to come. The President’s policies have supported innovation that helps students learn and entrepreneurs create new businesses.

·         Digital Literacy for the Tech Generation.  The President’s policies are creating new opportunity for a nation where life and livelihood will demand digital literacy.  The ConnectED Initiative is transforming education by connecting every school to high-speed broadband and wireless, with over $4 billion in public and private funding announced since 2013. 

·         Empowering Innovation:  The President has been actively working to make sure that patent trolls, who use vague and misleading threats of lawsuits to extort money from young companies, do not strangle American technological innovation.  He is driving an agenda that has reformed how and when the government issues patents to improve their quality, limited abuse of certain trade courts to hold up new innovations, and continues to call on Congress to pass comprehensive reform to curtail patent trolls.

·         Unlocking Consumer Choice: The President is also working to make sure that consumers have real flexibility when it comes to choosing technologies, and how they use them — like unlocking cell phones to use them with the mobile network that meets your needs.  The Administration called last year to restore and safeguard this common-sense freedom, and this August, signed that bill into law.

Creating Opportunity and Supporting Good-Paying Middle-Class Jobs: Upon taking office, President Obama immediately took action to put Americans back to work. But while the unemployment rate for workers ages 18 to 34 has come down 5.1 percentage points, there is still work to do. The unemployment rate remains elevated, and wage growth for young workers has not kept pace with the past. The President is committed to taking steps to support stronger growth today and a stronger economy going forward:

·         Supporting Equal Pay. The disparity in pay between women and men doesn’t just affect women’s financial well-being; it affects families and the nation’s overall economic health.  The first bill President Obama signed into law in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In 2014 he took executive actions to advance the cause of equal pay by requiring federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation, and to prohibit retaliation when an employee of a federal contractor reveals his or her pay.   These are all commonsense steps that move us down the road toward economic equality, even as Congress continues to debate the Paycheck Fairness Act, which the President strongly supports.  

·         Increasing the Minimum Wage:  President Obama has called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, which would provide 28 million workers with a raise, benefiting millions of lower- and middle-class families. But while Republicans in Congress have blocked this effort, progress is being made across the country: 13 states and D.C. have raised their minimum wage since the beginning of 2013 – benefitting over 7 million workers – and cities and businesses are also taking action on their own to raise wages. The President also signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for workers on federal contracts.

·         Expanding Tax Relief for Working Families: President Obama has expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, benefitting 16 million families a year – and has proposed permanently extending these expansions. The President has also proposed expanding the EITC for workers without dependent children, including the 3.3 million young workers ages 21-24 who are currently ineligible for the credit.

·         Supporting Immigrants and Creating an Immigration System that Works: Millennials are more likely to be foreign-born than the previous two generations.  The President has been fighting for a fair, effective and common sense immigration reform that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  As that effort continues, the Administration is implementing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which has benefitted some 600,000 young people who were brought to this country as children by their parents, and for whom the United States is home.  Though DACA is an exercise of enforcement authority that does not provide permanent status, it has enabled young people to work without fear of deportation, to get new jobs, open their first bank accounts, and obtain drivers licenses.   

·         Investing in Infrastructure, Research and Manufacturing to Support Middle-Class Jobs: The President has proposed targeted investments in areas such as infrastructure, research and manufacturing that will both help create jobs today and lay the groundwork for stronger long-run growth. By contrast, the House Republican-passed budget would require deep cuts to early education, research, job training, clean energy and other areas that support a stronger economy.

Connecting Students and Workers with the Skills They Need for College and Career: The Administration has worked to make sure that more Millennials get the training they need for today’s jobs, including by better linking secondary and post-secondary education with industry to determine skills needed and design curriculum.

·         Providing Every Child with a Complete and Competitive Education:  As they begin planning families of their own, the Administration is committed to building the high-quality education system Millennials and their children deserve by incentivizing investment and improvement. With Race to the Top, the Administration has brought significant change to our education system by encouraging states to raise standards and aligning policies that promote college and career readiness, improve teacher effectiveness, use data effectively in the classroom, and adopt new strategies to help struggling schools.

·         Redesigning High Schools: Earlier this year, the Administration awarded $100 million in grants this year to redesign high schools to more fully prepare youth with the knowledge, skills, and industry-relevant education needed to get on the pathway to a successful career.

·         Better Training Students through Community Colleges and Connecting Job-Seekers to Work: To support the 7.7 million community college students across the country who represent 45 percent of all undergraduates, the Administration has awarded nearly $2 billion of competitive grants since 2011 to community colleges to partner with employers to expand and improve their ability to help job seekers get the skills they need for in-demand jobs. The Administration is also taking steps to connect the long-term unemployed to jobs, including by working with employers to spread best practices for recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed.

·         Expanding Access to Apprenticeships: The Administration has also been encouraging the expansion of apprenticeships as pathways to help young adults get into middle-class jobs. The Department of Labor will also soon be releasing an application for $100 million to create apprenticeship opportunities in high-growth fields and that award college credit.

·         Working to “Upskill” Youth Early in Their Careers: To support youth who are starting out in their careers, the Administration has kicked off a new public-private effort – working with employers, educators, tech innovators, unions, training providers, cities, states, and non-profits – to help turn low-wage and entry-level jobs across the country into stepping stones to the middle class.

Increasing Access to Affordable Health Care: In addition to the direct economic consequences of the Great Recession, millions of Millennials were at risk of poor health outcomes exacerbated by unaffordable or unattainable insurance. The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage, helping millions of Americans obtain quality insurance.  Yet House Republicans have voted on dozens of occasions to gut the law.

·         Expanding Coverage to Age 26. Before the President signed the Affordable Care Act into law, most health plans kicked young people off when they turned 19 or graduated from college, leaving many college graduates and others with no insurance. Now, most health plans that cover children must make coverage available up to age 26, making it easier and more affordable for young adults to get coverage.

·         Providing Preventive Care for Free. The Affordable Care Act requires most insurers to cover preventive care services without copays and deductibles. This means that, for the first time, important preventive services – including birth control – are available at no cost to millions of consumers who have private health insurance.

·         Providing Affordable Health Care Coverage. Young Americans often have the least access to employer sponsored health care plans, which previously left many without any reasonably priced insurance opportunities. The Health Insurance Marketplace lets consumers choose a private health insurance plan that fits their health needs and consumers can also qualify for financial assistance. In fact, most people who shop in the Marketplace pay an average of $69 per month for their coverage.

Supporting Access to Credit for First-Time Homebuyers and Affordable Rental Housing and Putting in Place New Protections for Consumers:  As the economy has recovered, the housing market has improved and more families are purchasing homes. But with Millennials becoming homeowners at lower rates than prior generations, the Administration is committed to taking steps to ensure more Americans have access to credit to buy a first home and the ability to find affordable rental housing.

·         Making It Easier For Americans to Obtain Affordable Mortgage Financing Payments through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  Today, the credit score that the typical borrower needs to get a government-guaranteed loan is significantly higher than in the past – and higher than we would expect given economic fundamentals. This leaves many responsible borrowers unable to find lenders willing to give them a mortgage at an affordable rate. In response, the Administration has launched a “Quality Assurance” framework to provide mortgage lenders with greater confidence to lend, while reducing FHA premiums for homeowners who obtain housing counseling. The Administration is also exploring additional reforms to drive progress and strengthen our housing market today.
  
·         Supporting Affordable Rental Housing. In June, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced an initiative to help provide low-cost financing to state and local housing finance agencies that provide multifamily mortgage loans insured by FHA. This will reduce interest rates for affordable housing, savings that will be passed on to renters. The Administration continues to explore administrative and legislative reforms to promote access to affordable rental housing for middle class families and those aspiring to be.

·         Protecting the Financial Well-Being of Consumers through Wall Street Reform. Through Wall Street Reform, the Administration has created the strongest consumer protections in history while reducing American taxpayer exposure to future crises. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has finalized rules and simplified disclosures to protect consumers from irresponsible mortgage lending, secured billions of dollars in relief for millions of consumers who were wronged, and launched a consumer response center to give people in need a place to turn. Efforts to undermine the CFPB by imposing structural or funding limitations – as supported by Republicans in Congress – would weaken important consumer protections and leave the economy more vulnerable to another devastating financial crisis.

PCN, PIAA Renew Contract

from the inbox:

The Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) will continue to provide exclusive coverage of all Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) championship events for an additional four years due to a recent contract extension.

“We look forward to continuing our work with PIAA to showcase the best in high school athletics in Pennsylvania. PIAA does an outstanding job of putting these events together every year, and PCN is pleased to be a part of it,” said PCN President Brian Lockman.
PIAA Executive Director, Dr. Robert A. Lombardi, stated “On behalf of the Board of Directors, our 1,440 member schools and the 14,000 registered sports officials, we are thrilled to continue our relationship with PCN and provide our championship events to all Pennsylvania residents.”
Exclusive fall championship coverage begins November 14, 2014, as PCN Sports presents “Super Sports Weekend,” featuring over 12 hours of live field hockey, soccer, and volleyball. All events will stream live online through the premium subscription service “PCN Select,” available at a special rate of $15.99 for the 3-day championship period. All events will also air on the network.
PCN has provided cable subscribers with exclusive access to all of the state’s championship games since 1998 and introduced live online streaming via ‘PCN Select’ in 2012. PCN has also showcased collegiate championships of the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference sports championships since 2012.
To subscribe to PCN Select and view a full sports championship schedule, visit www.pcntv.com.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The "Nationalization" of Philadelphia Schools

When I am out at political events one frequent topic of conversation is how to repair the Philadelphia school system.  Personally I am wary of charter schools but I know people whose children attend charter schools in the city and love them.  I have concerns about magnet schools but also know people whose children attended such a school and love them.

The School Reform Commission's decision to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.  This is a nuclear option.  A few things that have not been mentioned in the papers:

Public employee unions, including teachers' unions, often trade in salary increases for decreased health care costs.  Saying the teachers with basic coverage have not contributed to their health care does not take into account what is likely years of lowered pay raises.

There is an informal agreement between schools and teachers.  Because of the nature of the school year, teachers being and end jobs at set times.  Even if a teacher leaves the profession they usually do so after the school year ends.  This is part of the professionalism of teaching, knowing how difficult to find a qualified substitute and how disruptive it is to students for a teacher to leave abruptly, and how chaotic it can be to class grading and teacher recommendations.  Teachers stay until the end of the year.

Except, of course, when the school system decides to violate that mutual respect and professionalism.  The Philadelphia school system has just done that.  I would not blame any teacher who walked, just left at the end of the day and didn't come back.  Respect has to be mutual and for Philadelphia teachers, right now, the district is showing them none.

When I look at the teachers m children have had in our suburban district, I see some amazing teachers.  Many came to teaching as a second career and have years of real world experience in relevant areas.  Science teachers who worked in research labs; some have doctorates.  Social studies teachers who worked in corrections.  Veterans who were military police and now work in middle school, a population that needs boundaries and discipline.  I am always amazed at the number of teachers who were students in the same school system.  They have chosen to come back on the other side of the classroom.  There is a good mix of teachers who have been there for over a decade and relatively new teachers.  They seem to work well together and sometimes team up for joint projects.  They are responsive to student questions and comments.  I cannot say I've had warm personal feelings for each and every teacher my children have had, but I have never felt that had a bad teacher.

Why can't Philadelphia students have that?  I know that if the teachers in my school district woke up one morning and found that the school board suddenly and without notice canceled their work contract many of them would leave, and I would not blame them.  I also feel confident that the parents in the district would demand the school board reverse that decision.

The School Reform Commission says the saving will be used to hire other teachers or staff.  But since the SRC has clearly shown that any contract they make can be revoked, I don't think they will attract the best and brightest job applicants.  I also don't think they can expect people to abide unwritten rule that school employees, as a rule, don't leave during the school year.

No one I've run into at political events has a solution for the Philadelphia schools' issues.  I certainly don't.  But I do know that this latest development isn't going to help anything.  The school always seems to have the money to fulfill the contracts it makes with people like Arlene Ackerman.  It just never has the money for the people who actually work with the kids on a daily basis.

That's my two cents.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Notes from Sept 22 Gubernatorial Debate

September 22nd, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry sponsored a debate between Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, in Hershey.  Dennis Owens moderated.

I taped the debate and the recording cut off during the last question so I missed the closing remarks.  

These are my notes from the debate.  It is not intended as a transcript.  Interested voters are encouraged to review campaign websites for each candidate.  I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Format:  1 min open and 2 min close, 2 min answer and 1 min rebuttal

Since both candidates have the same first name they are identified by last initial:  C for Tom Corbett and W for Tom Wolf.

Opening Remarks

C: Good evening everyone.  Thanks to chamber.  Appreciate the opportunity to talk with Tom about the future of PA.  Thanks voters for opportunity to serve as Governor and Attorney General.  I believe in Pennsylvania.  Think about two troopers shot and all law enforcement searching for shooter.  Thanks to all.

W:  Thanks moderator and chamber for sponsoring.  I am an unconventional candidate.  Don’t look like usual candidate.  I’m running for a citizen democracy.  We can do a better job running the economy.

Questions

Q1:  Education.  Dems and Wolf insist Corbett slashed education.  He says he is spending more on education

W:  We have seen real cuts in education.  Look at what we see all around us.  20K educators lost their job, class sizes increase, property taxes going up.  Parents having to pay money, fees, for their children  to participate in sports and other activities.  Not doing our job to delivery good education.  Can’t throw money and expect a good outcome but have to invest.  Important public good for all of us.  Practical economic problem.

C:  I would agree.  We need to do better.  We need to present a better Pennsylvania to my successor than I was given.  Teachers’ unions putting out lie that I cut education.  How do you do it?  How do you reform it?  We have already begun that reform, better teaching evaluation, better education report on administrators.  We can tell how schools performing.  Better metrics.

Q2:  if more state money going to education why have more districts cut spending

C:  Federal stimulus should not have been put in their budgets.  Cost of pensions driven up property taxes.  Cost of health care.  Going to get much worse.  Go up even higher with Obamacare.  20,000 educators a false number.  Not all were teachers.  Ask how we will invest not how much can we spend.

W: Again the proof is in the pudding.  We have to do a good job providing a good education.  Have to make sure schools work properly.  We have to make sure this works.  I care as much about the education Philadelphia school children get as the education my daughters got at our public school.  We need accountability and a system that delivers on a good education.

Q3:  30 – 40% of budget, $27B spent on education in PA.  How much is enough?  What accountability can you offer?

W:  Great question.  We cannot throw money at any problem and get a good outcome.  Have to have accountability.  Right now we are not producing people we can employ.  Some places doing a wonderful job, some places not.  Need to prepare for jobs for 21st century.  How much?  I don’t know.  Need a public education system that can deliver.  Can’t hide behind false statistics.  Embrace idea that it is something we need.  Educated workforce, educated citizenry.  $27B number need to figure out how to reduce property tax burden.  Can’t give a number.   At my company I ask employees.  I would ask educators.

C:  We are not that far apart.  We agree that we need to make it better.  We’ve already started process to make it better.  Ask what is fair, started Fair Funding Commission.  Is what is fair in Philadelphia what is fair in another part of the state.  We could spend a lot of money.  Part of the idea of the metrics is to ask if it is being well spent.  Using school profiles to determine where it is being used wisely.

Q4:  Taxes.  You took a no tax pledge but won’t take it this time. 

C:  Everybody knows my record.  Did not raise taxes.  We know where Mr. Wolf is going to go.  Everybody above $60K will be taxed more.  Sales tax increase – everyone pays that.  Energy tax, electricity tax, everyone pays that.  Said I would run on fiscal discipline, [missed part of his remarks].  I have kept that promise.  We made tough decisions.  We were almost $29B in spending in my first year, including stimulus.  Reduced number of people working for state government so it is the lowest in 50 years.  Governor is steward of your money, from people making millions to people working for 5, 10, 15K years. 

Q5:  Was taking tax pledge a mistake?

C:  No.  It helped keep me focused, helped others stay focused.   Transportation bill not a tax but removal of false cap.  Seeing revenue come up but gas is cheaper than it was months ago.  When children get on buses, people get on transit it is a public [missed this]  to make roads safer.

W:  For whatever reason things aren’t working.  When I took my company back I had to make ends meet, make my company successful.  Have to do that with state.  Used to be at top of charts now near bottom in terms of economic growth.  Not doing as well as we should.  Fan of the private sector, come out of the private sector.  I built a business.  We need a government partner to make sure private entities and market work better.

Q6:  What is your tax plan? 

W:  Reporter asked me the mathematics of how my plan would work.  We need a flat tax, used 5% example, not my plan.  Talking about a tax that is fair.  Understand what state needs to do is set the table for private sector growth.  Fairer tax system. Some people paying too much now.  Have highest corporate income tax.  That’s too high.  Some people will have to pay more.  Fair tax that doesn’t destroy economy.  Fairness is in the eye of the beholder.  I think I should pay more. 

C:  As Secretary of Revenue budget must have as much money coming in as going out.  Has to be a balanced budget.  Looking at his plans, increasing 50% of state’s share of education.  We believe hi s plan would increase by 6B (M?).  Give us your plans.  Have a conversation about incorporating in Delaware not here. 

Q7:  What is your plan?  Do we need a tax increase?

C:  With me people know they will have someone who will fight to keep our spending as low as they can.  With Wolf there will be some increase.  This isn’t the first time we’ve had to borrow money against future earnings.  Want to grow the economy.  Have to deal with pensions.  Will be 3.3B for pensions in 2017/2018 year.  My predecessor did not completely fund the pension.  We have to come up with 610B this year as we did last year.

W:  We have to make ends meet.  Two parts:  keep expense in line and make numbers grow.   Not routine to borrow 2.5 months in to new fiscal year.  If as a business owner I had a cash balance that looked like the state’s right now no bank would have given me a line of credit.  We have a pension problem.  Need to adequately fund pension system.  Governors past and present have not paid in to it.  Balance goes up every year we do not pay our debt. 

C:  I’m surprised.  We are actually talking about the same thing.  Cost of business continues to grow.  Revenues growing.  No one grows by taxing.  Where does he want to spend the money, how much does he want to spend.  We could attract more businesses if we lowered corporate tax.  Have to control spending first.

Q8:  Marcellus shale.  Refusal to have extraction tax, why?

C: We tax it differently.  Higher corporate tax, higher personal income tax.  Small businesses that supply the industry.  Employees that earn good salaries.  We did add a fee, an impact fee.  Rendell said if tax shale we’ll get 100M a year.  Impact fee first year brought in 200M dollars.  Shared with communities and a little bit to the state.  No other state has an impact fee on natural gas.  Trying to grow new industry here in PA.  High taxes don’t attract new business. 

W:  I too believe gas industry could be game changer for PA economy.  I understand how taxes impact business.  5% severance tax could make a difference in state economy. 

Q9:  minimum wage

C:  I support the federal level.  I don’t want to see people have to work for minimum wage.  That’s why I’m trying to change the education system.  Encourage people to go into trades, high percentage of current workers are over 50.  Created job website, showing 200,000 open jobs.  People may not be trained, that ‘s our job to train them.  Get people out of minimum wage job, get them training for a good family supporting wage job.

W:  How are thing’s working out for us.  Unemployment going up.  Minimum wage should be increased, to 10.10 / hour.  In my own business when I went back I raised our wage.

Q10:  Look at your campaign donation, biggest donor other than yourself is unions.

W:  My second largest donor is a private business donor.  In primary did not get endorsement of traditional Democrats.  Share profits with employees.  Not indebted to anyone.  Not pandering.

Q11:  Polls show Wolf with a big lead.

C:  Everybody makes mistakes.  Probably haven’t communicated enough but I’ve made tough decisions.


[And that’s where the recording ended]

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Harry Shearer Brings Nixon to Philly

from the inbox:

To celebrate his new series 'Nixon's The One' - which launches October 21 on YouTube - Harry Shearer ('The Simpsons,' 'Spinal Tap,' 'Le Show') will be giving special live Nixon-themed performances in three US cities this fall: New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia (dates below). The events will incorporate video clips from the series; Shearer's behind-the-scenes stories; insights from the thousands of hours of Nixon tapes he and his co-writer, Nixon historian Stanley Kutler, listened to; and an audience Q&A with Shearer.

"I'm looking forward to getting my not-so-secret obsession with the great comic character of the 20th century into the full light of darkened nightclubs," Shearer says. "And, though I’ll take questions, I’ll glare at people who ask me to ‘Do Mr. Burns'. The glare, of course, is me complying."
For the series, Shearer and Kutler combed through thousands of hours of Nixon's legendary secret White House tapes, and re-enacted word for word the best moments as if filmed by a hidden camera. The New Yorker wrote, "It’s hard to think of a more apt way to revisit the tenure of a President whose rise and fall was bound, at every juncture, to recordings of one kind or another."

The Philadelphia event is Oct. 27th at World Cafe Live

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Weekend Culture II: Fences at People's Light

The second cultural event of the weekend was August Wilson's play Fences at the People's Light & Theatre.  I've been to PLT performances before.  They are uniformly good.  This was the first time I'd seen one of Wilson's plays; I've been hearing about them for years.  The play is good.  The cast is terrific.  Michael Genet is the male lead.  He's appeared on Broadway and in film and television roles.  He's a fabulous actor.  One theme in the play is father / son tension. Genet's character is the husband and father of an African American family in the 1950's.  My favorite castmember, though, was Melanye Finister as Rose.  Maybe I just found her character more likable.

In the last scene, which takes place in 1965 a young Marine is wavering on whether he will re-enlist or not.  All I could think was that if he stayed in he was probably on the fast track for Viet Nam.

On the way to the theatre we saw a bad accident on the highway.  One of the cars was upside down and it looked like firefighters were using the jaws of life to get someone out of another vehicle.  Traffic was backed up quite a ways and must have been that way for some time.  People had gotten out of their cars and were talking to each other or sitting on top of their cars.  I looked for news reports about it but didn't see any.

During the play a woman in the audience fainted / passed out / had a seizure.  A theatre employee couldn't wake her but she was still breathing.  Emergency personnel came and took her out on a gurney.  I didn't see that in the news either.

All that aside, any performance at People's Light is going to be worth the money.  They have some interesting plays coming up this season.  Tickets would make a great holiday gift.


Weekend Culture I: Scalzi

This past weekend I went out to two local cultural events.  This is a brief report on the first.

Last Friday I went to the Rittenhouse Square Barnes & Noble to hear author John Scalzi talk.  His new book Lock In was released in August and he was on a book tour.  I've been a Scalzi fan for years, since a friend loaned me a copy of Old Man's War. (If you haven't read that book I highly recommend it).  Then he put a modern spin on a science fiction classic that I read in college, Little Fuzzy by H. Bean Piper.  Scalzi rewrote it as Little Fuzzy.  

This was my first real author talk.  I've heard people (mostly politicians) who have written books talk, but a book tour talk is a little different.  Scalzi read from a new book that he's working on.  The excerpt showed his flair for humor.  He asked that the audience not tape his reading and that all we say about the new book excerpt is that the scene he read is of a group of people sitting around a table and it was awesome.  Those are his words but I'd agree with them.

Scalzi's blog has some authorized videos from the book tour.

In the Q&A section someone asked him about the recent furor in the videogame community over threats to two women writers.  Scalzi gave a very thorough answer.  He has long been an advocate for women writers and for women in the sci fi community generally.  A few years ago he said he would not attend or speak at any conference that did not have a clearly stated harassment policy, complete with a reporting procedure.  Conferences that had been dragging their feet on this for some time suddenly came up with such policies.

I bought a copy of Link In the week it came out but haven't had a chance to read it yet.  Generally speaking, anything he writes is good.

SEPTA Strategic Plan

Our friends at SEPTA have created a page on their website solely to present their strategic business plan.  You can read more at:  http://www.septa.org/strategic-plan/

I looked at parts of it but not all, and found it as informative as most strategic plans.  That being said, let me say again, as I have many times before, that I am a loyal and happy SEPTA rider.  The trains are mostly on time.  The conductors are friendly and professional.  The other riders are nice people.