Thursday, April 30, 2009

HB 704 and Special Education

A new bill introduced in the Pennsylvania House, HB 704, seeks to change the spending formula for special education, to mirror last year's similar measure for basic education. The Reform Special Education Funding website,, has both the executive summary and the full report "Costing Out: the Resources Needed to Meet Pennsylvania’s Education Goals for Students with Disabilities," that points out funding needs. The site also links to newspaper articles on the bill.

There is a common assumption that kids in special education have been dumped there for poor behavior and stay in SPED forever. In fact, some kids in are in both special education and gifted education programs; others are in SPED for a few years and then go back into the mainstream classroom. There are also any number of ways that SPED kids are discriminated against on a daily basis, from simply missing out on classroom activities to more serious matters. Some kids are in special education for physical reasons, others for social / behavioral, and still others for academic reasons. It is difficult for one single teacher to meet the needs of all these categories. A smaller teacher or aide / student ratio is needed; individualized programs are best when available / possible. For many kids some intensive intervention at a young age can alleviate later problems. It's a "money now or money later" proposition. Definitely worth full funding.

A Variation on a Theme

This morning blogger extraordinaire Capital Ideas noted a new robocall from the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee. It "introduces" Arlen Specter to Democratic voters.

Tonight when I got home the voicemail light was blinking. It was a robocall from the NRSC, with the same narrator as the earlier message. This voicemail urged me to contact Congressman Joe Sestak (D-07) and ask him to run for Senate.

Note for the NRSC, it is the DemocratIC Party not the Democrat Party. This is not hard. Please get the name of the party correct, especially when you are calling people registered in that party.

It is interesting that the Republican (Republic?) Party is moving so quickly to knock Specter. Given the polling numbers that led him to switch his R to a D, you'd think they'd be a little less concerned. interesting also that they are encouraging people to support Sestak, who has not thrown his hat into the ring, and not Joe Torsella who has. Like Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," I smell mendacity.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Salazar in Philly Today

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was slated to be in Philadelphia today to talk with Interior employees, make a speech at the Constitution Center, and tour landmarks.

Clearing the Way for Specter?

Gov. Rendell has never been shy about clearing the path for favored candidates. He asked Bryan Lentz to step aside for Joe Sestak in 2006. He asked Joe Hoeffel to end his lt. gov. campaign a day or two after it started. Now that Arlen Specter is running as a Democrat, will Rendell "persuade" other Democrats to step aside? See Shiar Toeplitz in Roll Call, "Specter's election prospects improve," 4/29

In a lengthy statement from his office, Sestak said he questioned Specter’s motivation for switching parties. He did not directly address running for the seat when pressed by reporters.

“In short, I believe that the principles of what he is running for and his commitment to accountable leadership are questions that still need to be addressed,” Sestak said.

The only announced Democrat in the race, former National Constitution Center President Joe Torsella, said he would continue his campaign for now. Pennsylvania Democratic sources said that Torsella had the implicit support of Rendell until yesterday, even nabbing the governor’s media consultant, Neil Oxman, to work for campaign.

According to a source close to Torsella, Rendell did not alert him beforehand about Specter’s switch, and party leaders had not called on Torsella to step out of the race.

Gaggling Specter

White House Press Secretary held a "gaggle" on the plane ride to Missouri today. This is, as far as I can tell, just an informal conversation.

Here is the section of the gaggle transcript which concerns Sen. Specter:

Q Robert, it's fairly unusual for a sitting President to basically endorse a candidate in a party primary. Can we expect President Obama to be doing more of the same in the next election cycle?

MR. GIBBS: I don't think it's at all irregular for a President to endorse an incumbent member of his own party even if it's a new member. I think you can go back and find a lot of examples of that.

The President is, as I said and he said yesterday, happy to have Senator Specter as a member of the Democratic Party, thrilled to have him, support him fully. He's made a decision of how to best represent the people he represents in Pennsylvania and we're happy that he did so.

Q Robert, to follow up on Ed's question, it was -- I think, seven minutes lapsed before the President was on the phone with Senator Specter saying he would support him in the primary --

MR. GIBBS: Seven minutes after he called him, yes.

Q Well, could you on that point say when did he have an inkling before that -- he thought it through? How did he arrive at the decision to offer that support, and did he consider supporting maybe a candidate who had been backed by the unions?

MR. GIBBS: No, he supported a -- he supported the, albeit new, member -- incumbent member of his party. There wasn’t any meeting about it. The President offered his support to Senator Specter and it's a commitment he'll keep.

Q Did he decide in that seven-minute span? I think he said no.

MR. GIBBS: My sense is it probably took him less than about seven seconds, so he might have had some extra time to think about other stuff.

Schwartz on Budget Conference Report Passage

From the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13), Vice Chair of the House Budget Committee, released the following statement concerning the House passage of the budget conference report. The budget passed 233-193, and will be taken up in the Senate later today.

“In passing the budget conference agreement today, we established an economic map forward for our country. The budget reached in agreement between President Obama and both chambers of Congress institutes a return to honest accounting practices and renewed fiscal responsibility. The budget sets an ambitious marker in deficit reduction, while also ensuring that we make the type of smart investments necessary for economic growth and stability.

“In particular, this budget reflects that we must – this year – ensure that Congress act to expand access to health care and contain costs. Soaring health care costs are weakening our economic competitiveness, straining our federal budget, and causing families across the country to make difficult choices about their health and well-being.

“This budget sets the stage for the important work that Congress will do over the next few months to develop a uniquely American solution to health care. This solution will be focused on innovation and technology, incentives for an effective delivery system, a renewed commitment to prevention, and significant changes in the private marketplace, that also should include a public option.

“The budget is a reflection of our American values and our priorities. It is a testament to what we believe in, and it is a path forward for our country.”

Win a Telescope and Derrick Pitts

From the inbox:

Celebrate 400 Years of the Telescope with WHYY and help bring the galaxy to students in your area!

Enter to win a Celestron CPC® 800 GPS XLT telescope for your local school! The winning school will be determined by random drawing from all eligible entries received.

Drawing will be held on or about Friday, May 1, 2009.

The winning school will be trained to use the telescope by Dr. Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and co-host of WHYY-FM's SkyTalk.

Derrick Pitts, as was mentioned earlier this week, is our resident celebrity atronomer.

Book Review: Never Give in

I had been working on this for awhile and hoped to have it completed next week. Given the events of today, Sen. Specter's announcement that he will switch parties, it seemed prudent to stay up way too late finishing it, but the review is not as detailed as it would have been if I had taken more time with it.

Book Review: Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate, by Arlen Specter and Frank Scaturro. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2008

Specter’s previous autobiography, Passion for Truth is more general in nature; this book focuses on his health and experience as a cancer patient.

The dedication puts in a plug for the National Institutes of Health.

Specter acknowledges the standards, spouse, kids, and doctors. He also includes, among others, Judge Marjorie Rendell, President Bush, and Fran Drescher (who played The Nanny on tv). As for methodology, Specter reminisced with Scaturro who worked with the recorded converations.

In the preface he briefly recounts his medical history, a mistaken diagnosis of ALS in 1979, brain tumors, and heart surgery. He also talks about his work.

Chapter 1 introduces one of the themes of the book, the influence of stress on health. Much of the chapter is devoted to his 2004 primary battle with Pat Toomey. He was the only sitting senator to have a primary that year (9). Specter served in the Air Force from 1951-1953 (7). One note on Toomey’s support (13):

The Club for Growth was so closely coordinated with Toomey’s personal campaign organization that I called it the “club for Toomey,” a virtual wholly owned subsidiary of his campaign.

His description of his opponent (15):
Personally, Toomey was a bright, articulate, well-groomed, youthful candidate (age forty-two on primary day) who was earnest in his delivery if a tad humorless.

A few pages (17-18) discuss his childhood in Kansas, and his friendship with Bob Dole. As is customary in autobiographies, he praises his wife (20):
My wife, Joan, typically accompanied me on weekend campaign travels. A beautiful, stately woman of tremendous poise, she is a distinguished personage in her own right – a former four-term city councilwoman presently involved in development (fund-raising) for the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. She dresses as if she just stepped out of Vogue, and the crowds love to see her. When she is around, I have someone to speak with between campaign stops, and she always has constructive comments about my speeches.

On the same and the following page he describes his sons and grandchildren. The difficulties of combining political and family life are mentioned (21) when he and Joan have to take their sons to the polls with them after getting a call that both should come to vote together and it is too late to get a sitter. We find out his childhood nickname is Boozy Boy (22) and that his sisters have been very influential in his life. He also notes that his chief of staff was one of the first women to hold that job (24). One interesting note is his chief of staff knowing how to hold Amtrak trains for five minutes if Specter was running late (23). She had learned when working for Jacob Javits of New York. Joe Biden who had been in the senate for eight years when Specter was first elected, wanted to know how the newer colleague had more influence with the trains than he did.

Chapter two focuses on his work on the Judiciary Committee and controversies over his assumed chairmanship. The first part covers his general election, including a note that the primary cost him $15 million, and rumors that Chris Matthews might run against him. Joe Hoeffel, the Democratic candidate, warrants only two pages (34-35). Specter sums up his views on Iraq (35):
With the benefit if improved (if not quite twenty-twenty) hindsight, my view was that had we known there were no WMDs in Iraq, we should not have gone in to remove Saddam’s regime from power. Having done so, however, we could not leave that country in chaos.
He also writes about his views on Roe v Wade and press coverage of his Roe stance (38-41). He notes that Fox news reporter Brian Williams and Rush Limbaugh support him (41), as do David Vitter and Larry Craig (46), among others. One item of trivia, Specter’s burial plot is in Bensalem.

Chapter 3 continues the saga of the Judiciary chairmanship and his diagnosis with Hodgkins. Judiciary business, including hearings on Alberto Gonzales (62-74) and asbestos (73-74) take up most of the chapter. The second part concerns Hodgkins disease. Initially doctors missed it but a specialist he consults gives the correct diagnosis. He mentions using acupuncture in the past (74-75). Because of health problems he misses the State of the Union speech for the first time, making a note that the media “rarely missed something if it made you look bad” (77). One understatement (80):
While there are lots of deterrents to a career in elective politics, an underestimated benefit is the access to better health care.

He also mentions that his wife is very health-oriented and a gourmet cook who once ran a cooking school (84).

Chapter 4 is an expanded medical history: the ALS misdiagnosis (87-8), brain tumor (88-93), and heart surgery (95-97). He takes aim at the doctors who missed the signs of Hodgkins (43-44). One bit of honesty (94-95):
I frankly acknowledge that it may be easy for a U.S. senator to tell people without a prestigious position or wealth to seek the best professional help possible. Even in this day and age, socioeconomic status too often remains a barrier to doing so, but there are many generous doctors and hospitals giving excellent medical treatment without limiting services to patients with big bucks or fancy titles.

Specter takes a swipe at reporter Marc Howard whom he claims tried to sneak into his hospital room (100). On the positive side he gives a lengthy description of his squash routine and the health benefits of it (102-106).

Chapter 5 provides this intriguing note on the first page (108-109):
Granted, my next potential election was five years and nine months away, and a reelection campaign at age eighty was speculative in any event, but that is where my mind drifted.
Another surprising note (109):
NIH physicians area available for consultation by all Americans at all times with a simple phone call.
He mentions his work on the bankruptcy bill (114) but much of the chapter his taken up with personal matters, praise for his son Shanin (111), his family’s faith (119), a lengthy description of his chemo routine (123-129), his father’s life story (129-131), and his wife’s attitude towards his illness (133). On political matters he discusses his good relationship with Ed Rendell (116-117) and his sometimes less positive relationship with the press (118).

Chapter 6 goes back to senate work, starting with other senators' personal and health challenges (134-137). Several pages are devoted to partisanship and the use of the filibuster in judicial appointments (139-145, 160-171). Another section of the chapter (146-159) is on his cancer treatment. In the “too much information” category Specter mentions someone's suggestion he shave his head for a sex symbol look (146) and a note that the cancer treatment decreased his libido (150). He again mentions his wife’s use of alternative medicine (153). He and Joe Biden are on opposite sides of the asbestos issue (165-167, 169-170). He also discusses reporter Judith Miller’s jail term and his support for investigative reporting (171-172).

Chapter 7 is on his work with an Appropriations subcommittee, specifically with the NIH. There is a note on his work for funding for avian flu research (174). Actress Fran Drescher shows up giving testimony on her cancer battle (177-178). Stem cell research is also discussed (181-189), with mention of then Sen. Rick Santorum.

Chapter 8 focuses at first on the Judiciary Committee and Supreme Court resignations and potential replacement candidates, particularly John Roberts (190-204). Specter’s chemo ends (205) and he is able to undertake some travel, including a trip to Guantanamo (208). The focus returns to Judiciary and the confirmation hearings for John Roberts (210-220). Specter mentions Biden, noting that Biden spoke for 20 of his allotted 30 minutes (217).

Chapter 9 stays with Supreme Court vacancies, specifically the Alito confirmation hearings (222-238). The rest of chapter is on his improving spirits after finishing chemo.

“Concluding Thoughts” discusses the wider effect of his illness and the people who have told him how encouraged they were by his success at fighting Hodgkins, and some general advice he has for those facing health challenges.

He ends the book with a few pages on the National Institutes of Health.

There are notes and an index.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Questions in WH Press Briefing Today

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs held a press briefing today. A transcript was sent around on email. Here are the questions and answers relating to Sen. Arlen Specter:

Q I just have one other quick thing. Can you talk about what involvement, if any, the President had in Senator Specter's decision to switch parties?

MR. GIBBS: As I think many of you know, the President, based on a timeline that we provided, the President was receiving his economic daily briefing, and at 10:25 a.m. was handed a note. The note, as I think we -- read that Senator -- I'm paraphrasing, I don't have the exact language -- Senator Specter is going to announce he's changing parties. I think at 10:32 a.m. the President reached Senator Specter, told the Senator that after hearing the news that he was going to switch parties that he had the President's full support, and that he was thrilled to have him as a member of the Democratic Party.

Q But what about in the lead-up to that, though?

MR. GIBBS: That's the first the President had heard that he was switching parties. I don't know what, if any, other discussions have had -- obviously, there are people here at the White House that have had long relationships with Senator Specter.

But I think Senator Specter made a decision today about how he can best represent the people of Pennsylvania in the United States Senate. He was a valuable ally in passing the recovery and reinvestment plan that's now the law of the land, and we're appreciative of his support.


Q Okay. And then the other question about Arlen Specter. Some Democrats -- well, less than two weeks ago, Specter, when he was arguing that he was going to stay a Republican, was talking about how he was the only thing standing between an onslaught of "big Obama spending programs" passing into law, because he was the 41st senator, he'd block it. Now he is a Democrat. Is the President at all concerned that maybe there should be competition for that seat? And there's been talk that Governor Rendell is going to work to keep other Democrats out of the primary so that Specter runs unopposed. I'm not sure of the President's opinion about whether he should run unopposed or not, but is there concern that a "better" Democrat would be better for that seat?

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me just repeat what the President told Senator Specter this morning: that he has the President's full support; that he's thrilled that he's switched parties and is a Democrat; and we look forward to working as we have on the recovery and reinvestment plan with Senator Specter.

I think Senator Specter has said in his statement today that he's not automatically going to be a vote for any party. We've talked about it a lot in this room, that the President will reach out to members of either party or any party to gain their support, understanding that he's not likely to get a hundred percent support from anyone at any time. But I think the decision he made to represent his constituents in Pennsylvania is one obviously that we support, and we support Senator Specter.

Q When you said earlier that the President -- this morning was the first time he heard that Arlen Specter was switching, that leaves open the possibility the President was informed in recent days that he was contemplating switching --

MR. GIBBS: I don't know any information other than what I've given out on that.

Q Were any White House aides involved in any conversations with Specter or his intermediaries?

MR. GIBBS: I don't have information on that.


Q Okay, back to Specter. How -- substantively, how significant is this switch to the White House? Some have suggested that maybe this obviates the need for reconciliation rules for health care. He's always been a moderate senator, one you would court anyway. I wonder how significant you view this.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, there are obviously better political observers that you all will be able to get today. We are I think pleased that Senator Specter believes that going forward the Democratic Party can -- best encapsulates his views, is the best party to align himself with to represent the people of Pennsylvania. I think he mentioned in his statement the number of people that had switched their party registration in the most previous election. The President did well in Pennsylvania.

But again, I think we're heartened more by the fact that Senator Specter believes that the Democratic Party is the best place to represent the people he represents.

Q Do you think it's a real change of heart, or is this more of a crass political calculation?

MR. GIBBS: I think, if you read his statement, he believes that the Democratic Party is the best party to serve the interest of the people that he represents and has represented for quite some time in the United States Senate.


Q You said you were pleased about Specter. Aren't you euphoric, ebullient? (Laughter.) I mean, if Al Franken gets in you've got a filibuster-proof Senate.

MR. GIBBS: I'll go with ebullient. (Laughter.)

Q What did you say?

MR. GIBBS: I'll go with ebullient. Yes, I'll take it. (Laughter.) I think the President is quite pleased. That's the understatement of the day.

Q Curb your enthusiasm.

MR. GIBBS: But, again, I think the -- to build off what I was telling Savannah, I think the President is pleased that the agenda that he's laid out and the places that he wants to take the country going forward -- to move our economy forward, to lay that foundation for economic growth, to make the investments that we haven't for quite some time -- that others agree with that as an agenda. And I think we're certainly pleased. I guess that also, Mark, answers the question about our outreach to the Republican Party in the first hundred days.

Q To your knowledge were any promises made to Senator Specter?

MR. GIBBS: At the White House? None to my knowledge, no.


Q -- back to Specter. There's a number of reports -- I don't know if they're accurate or not -- that Rahm Emanuel had advanced notice or had some knowledge of Specter's decision to change. Can you --

MR. GIBBS: I don't know. I don't --

Q -- knock that down or confirm --

MR. GIBBS: Rahm was in the economic briefing with the President when the phone call came. That's all I know about Rahm in terms of that.

Yes, sir.

Q Any role for the Vice President in the Specter switch?

MR. GIBBS: I honestly don't know. I know that they are -- I know they're very close. I know they've had a relationship for many years in the Senate, worked together on the Judiciary Committee and worked closely in outreach as far as the recovery and reinvestment plan goes. I don't know the substance of particular conversations, though.

Q This may be obvious, but I just want to nail it down. The description of Mr. Caldera's role suggests that no one, either Mr. Messina, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, the President, and I'm presuming you, had any knowledge of this. Is that correct?

MR. GIBBS: That is accurate.

Q Okay, so it was really done entirely within that office and none of the broader senior White House staff was aware?

MR. GIBBS: That's true.

Q So you know that Rahm was not aware?


Q You just sort of glossed over that the first time.

MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, I don't think I did, but I --

Q That was about Specter.

MR. GIBBS: That was about Specter. I agree with all the people that you listed, including myself.


Q I know it's early, but on Specter, can you give us some assessment of whether you see any significant pieces of legislation or initiatives that you guys are trying to achieve in the coming months that significantly or -- you know, where the math changes -- card check legislation --

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think he addressed card checks specifically in his statement. But I mean, obviously, I think Senator Specter has had -- and he mentioned this in his statement as well -- he's had quite an impact on funding for the National Institutes of Health in his overall concern for health care.

Obviously he's played a very key role in ensuring that the President's economic priorities that we think best serve this country are moved forward as well. I think we are lucky to have his input and his leadership in our party.

Q But does that -- does the math change because, you know, in theory he would vote whichever he was -- does the math change because he would no longer have -- you know, sort of moderate those positions?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I don't want to speak for Senator Specter. I think he's probably better suited to do that for himself, and I think he said as much today. There's probably people on Capitol Hill that can better address the day-to-day political calculus. And I think he said that he will continue to vote in the best interest of the people he represents, and we take him at his word and we're happy to have him as part of the team.


Q Robert, can I follow up for just a second -- apologies to everybody else. Specter had said that Obama will campaign for him in the Pennsylvania primaries. Is that what "full support" means?


Q And will he raise money for him elsewhere? Or what kind of -- can you elaborate on full support?

MR. GIBBS: If the President is asked to raise money for Senator Specter, we're happy to do it. If the President is asked to campaign for Senator Specter, we'll be happy to do it. As the President told Senator Specter on the phone, he has our full support, and we're thrilled to have him.


Q Robert, two things. First, on Specter, does "full support" mean in any potential Democratic primary?

MR. GIBBS: Full support. Full support means full support. It's sort of awkward to campaign for him and then --


Q Asked earlier about the behind the scenes on the Specter decision you said you didn't know -- didn't have any information about whether either the President or Rahm Emmanuel or Vice President Biden or anyone at the White House was involved and to what degree. Is that something that you would be able to find out and get back to us on? Or do you not know because that's not something that the White House is going to be --

MR. GIBBS: I have -- I know the Vice President is traveling today; I have not had a chance to talk to him. And I didn't ask the President.

Q Should we wait for an update or --

MR. GIBBS: I can certainly check with a few people. Again, I think the decision that Senator Specter made today is not based on a conversation that he might have had here or with any other member of the United States Senate, but a conversation and a discussion that -- or a decision that he had to make with where he believes he can best represent the people of Pennsylvania that he represents.

Q May I ask you a quick follow-up? Given the potential doors or windows that this opens for the Democratic Party or for the President's agenda, are you now working or is the Democratic Party now working what remaining moderate Republicans are -- Senators Snowe and Collins? And what do you think that Specter's departure says about the GOP's strength anymore as an opposition party?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I've said this before, I think others have said this before, that the Republican Party has to put together and put forward ideas and constructive solutions to the problems facing the people in America. The President has asked that -- has asked for their help and support, but believes at the same time they have to be willing to help on the other side. And I think you heard me and others say that you can't just be the party of no or the party of no new ideas.

The problems that face Americans are not party problems, they're American problems. And the President believes the best way to address them is working together.


Q Back on Specter. Does it raise any type of concern at all that he made the decision because of political survival, he wanted to survive politically?

MR. GIBBS: I have not paid attention to a lot of campaign races this year, and I would pose that question to Senator Specter.


Q Robert, back to Specter just for a second. Is it possible that if the White House wasn't overly involved in this prior to today, that at least the President, the Vice President, Rahm, others urged Senator Specter to switch parties?

MR. GIBBS: Without knowing specifically, I would hate to speculate. I think it's safe to say that anybody here would be happy to have anybody join the Democratic Party, and anybody join our effort to do many of the things that I just discussed with April in order to move our agenda forward, to make the lives of the American people better.

Q And one quick follow. On his support during the primary in the campaign for Senator Specter, is there anything unusual about that? Would he do the same for any Democratic incumbent prior to the primary field being fleshed out?

MR. GIBBS: The President is -- the President tends to support incumbent Democratic senators in their re-election.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Delco Court of Common Pleas Candidates

Delaware County, like Bucks and Montco, will feature candidates for the county Court of Common Pleas on the ballot. The Daily Times ("Pair vying for Common Pleas Court judgeship," by Alex Rose 4/20) notes:

Outgoing Delaware County Council Chairman Linda Cartisano, of Chester, will face longtime trial lawyer Nancy Rhoads Koons, of Wayne, in a primary battle May 19 for an open seat on the county Court of Common Pleas.

Though Koons is a Democrat and Cartisano a Republican, both have cross-filed, meaning either could knock the other off the November general election ballot with enough votes in the primary.

You can read more about Koons at:

Koons and Cartisano, and other judicial candidates for a variety of courts in the state and region, have questionnaires posted at:

New Bill on Green Job Training

I’ve written about green jobs several times before, but there are a few new developments. Congressman Patrick Murphy has introduced a bill, HR 1492, “To establish a pilot program to provide assistance for partnerships supporting applied sciences in renewable energy.” Part of the text of the bill is as follows:

(a) Establishment- The Secretary of Energy shall establish a research pilot program for award grants to partnerships to improve education and training in support of applied sciences in the field of renewable energy as part of a comprehensive program to enhance the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics instruction at the secondary school and undergraduate levels. Grants under this section may be used for--
(1) professional development and training for teachers;
(2) purchase, rental, or leasing of equipment, instrumentation, and other educational and training materials;
(3) improvement of facilities for providing education and training experiences in applied sciences in the field of renewable energy;
(4) development of instructional programs designed to integrate education and training in applied sciences in renewable energy with the practical application of that education and training;
(5) recruitment and retention of new faculty;
(6) encouraging collaboration between faculty and industry partners;
(7) supporting outreach efforts to recruit students; and
(8) assessment of the activities funded under this Act.
(b) Partnerships- Grants awarded under subsection (a) shall be to the institution described in paragraph (1), as part of a partnership that--
(1) includes a 2-year degree granting institution of higher education offering an associates degree in applied science in a renewable energy field;
(2) includes a 4-year degree granting institution of higher education;
(3) includes a business or eligible nonprofit organization and labor organization; and
(4) may include a State educational agency, other public agency, National Laboratory, or community-based organization.

One aspect of this would encourage (perhaps through tax breaks) companies to donate equipment and materials to colleges and other training programs so that students would have real world experience when they graduated. Since Bucks County Community College has a Sustainable Building Supervisor certificate program, this is something that could have a direct positive impact on Murphy’s district. However, business leaders are also calling for more green jobs training, as noted in a previous post on a new report from the Economy League.

One example of practical applications can be seen in an area business, Russell Roofing, which operates throughout the tri-state Philadelphia area.. I will confess a personal bias as the firm put a new roof on my house some time in the past few years and we enjoyed working with them. They showed up when they said they would, did what they said they would, then left, and our roof doesn’t leak anymore.. Can’t beat that. Russell sent out a flyer recently announcing new “green” services, such as solar photovoltaic, solar hot water, live garden roofing installation, and so on.

Businesses like this would benefit from having access to the latest solar panels for their training programs, or from having training programs at local 2 or 4 year schools with access to the latest equipment.

At present H R 1492 is sitting in the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Jane to NYC: Our Astronomer Can Beat Up Your Astronomer

2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, so let's take a moment to consider the region's place in the professional astronomical universe. You might also want to take in the Galileo exhibit at the Franklin, as well as their forthcoming Star Trek exhibit. The Fels Planetarium there is the nation's second oldest. On March 30th, Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer at the Franklin, was on the Colbert Report to talk about the Galileo exhibit. During that segment Colbert made a joke about a cage match between Pitts and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. Tyson may have taken on Pluto and won but I think our guy can take him.

This is Derrick Pitts:

This is Neil DeGrasse Tyson:

Note the pink shirt, and the fact that in 2000 People Magazine named Tyson the "sexiest astrophysicist alive."

I say our guy wins in thumb wrestling, arm wrestling, chess, or any of the other standard duels that Colbert arranges.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Younge Women

Judge John Younge, candidate for Pennsylvania Superior Court, has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania NOW,

citing a judicial philosophy and record that will benefit all residents of the Commonwealth – women in particular.

These endorsements don't always get a lot of press, but Women's Voices. Women's Vote points out one reason why this one in particular might be of importance:
Now, recently released statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau further explain why unmarried women are the decisive demographic in this country and the cutting-edge of the Rising American Electorate. Unmarried women are the largest fastest growing demographic group. At a time when voter participation slightly declined among all adult Americans, unmarried women registered and voted in significantly greater numbers than ever before. In fact, unmarried women's growing participation was essential to the increase in voting by young people, non-whites, African-Americans and Hispanics. They are the consistent outperformers of the 2008 turnout.

I've met Judge Younge a few times and been very impressed with him and with his staff. He is rated "recommended" by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. His interview with them is on the pabar website (17 page pdf).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stimulus Funding in PA

From the inbox:


Working Families:

* Making Work Pay: The President’s tax-cut – which covers more Americans than any in history – is putting more than $2.5 billion back in the pockets of more than 4.8 million hard-working Pennsylvania families.

* $60,146,767 to support child care for working families.


* $102,508,400 in block grants to foster energy efficiency in building, transportation, and a wide range of other improvements.

* $252,793,062 to support the weatherization of homes, including adding more insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment.

* $99,684,000 to the State Energy Program, available for rebates to consumers for energy saving improvements; development of renewable energy projects; promotion of Energy Star products; efficiency upgrades for state and local government buildings; and other innovative state efforts to help save families money on their energy bills.


· 2,943,894,440 dollars potentially available to Pennsylvania to lay the foundation for a generation of education reform and help save thousands of teaching jobs at risk due to state and local budget cuts.

Health Care:

* $6,716,568 to fund 6 new Community Health Centers, which will serve an estimated 39,930patients and create a projected 295 jobs.

* $9,448,774 to expand services at 36 existing Community Health Centers, which will expand service to an additional 59,603 patients and create or save a projected 180 jobs.

* $4,485,834 to provide meals to low-income seniors.

* $680,278,921 made available in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to protect health care for the families hit hard by the economic crisis and some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

* $8,159,088 in vaccines and grants to ensure more underserved Americans receive the vaccines they need.


* $1,026,429,012 in highway funds to help build and repair roads and bridges.

* $343,703,209 to repair and build public transportation infrastructure.

Law Enforcement:

* More than $72.3 million for state and local law enforcement assistance available through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The JAG Program supports a variety of efforts such as hiring and support for law enforcement officers; multijurisdictional drug and gang task forces; crime prevention and domestic violence programs; and courts, corrections, treatment, and justice information sharing initiatives.

Obama Wants to End Private Educational Loan Program

From the inbox:

Today, President Barack Obama met with a family struggling to afford the cost of college and underscored his commitment to cutting wasteful spending on federal student loans by ending taxpayer subsidies to banks. President Obama discussed the strain that rising tuition costs are placing on middle class families and his proposal to end the private Federal Family Education Loans program that lines the pockets of the banks who serve as middlemen while costing the American people $5 billion a year. The President would use the savings from cutting out the middleman to help provide Pennsylvania students with more than $4 billion more in Pell Grants over the next decade.

“The banks and lenders who have reaped a windfall from these subsidies have mobilized an army of lobbyists to try and keep things the way they are,” President Obama said. “They are gearing up for a battle. And so am I. They will fight for their special interests. I will fight for America’s students, and their families.”

Below is information on President Obama’s proposal.

Reforming Student Loans to Make College Affordable

“We will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

-- President Barack Obama, February 24, 2009

America’s future economic strength depends on the quality of our education. Countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. America once had one of the most educated workforces in the world, but it has now slipped to the middle of the pack. Only 38 percent of young workers have a college degree, a lower percentage than nine other countries and no higher than a generation ago. At the same time, we do not provide enough financial aid, partly because the student loan program spends $5 billion more than necessary subsidizing banks and other lenders to make student loans.

Today, President Obama met with a family struggling to afford the cost of college and released a new analysis of the impact of his plans to increase student aid. He will take on the special interests to eliminate wasteful and unreliable guaranteed student loans and invest more in helping students succeed in college and complete their degree. And he will make a historic investment in college affordability: together, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the President’s Budget provide about $200 billion in Pell Grant scholarships and tax credits over the next decade.

· Reforming Student Loans: The guaranteed student loan program pays banks and other lenders a guaranteed rate of return and reimburses them for defaults, giving them large profits set by the political process rather than won in a competitive marketplace. The Obama-Biden Administration will expand the alternative Direct Loan program, which is administered by private sector companies selected through a competitive process and paid based upon performance. Direct loans have essentially the same terms for students and are more reliable and efficient. They will save $48 billion over the next decade according to the Office of Management and Budget, which will be reinvested in Pell Grant scholarships for students.

· Restoring Pell Grants to a Strong Foundation for Student Aid: The value of Pell Grants have fallen from 77 percent of the cost of attending a public university to 33 percent over the past three decades. The ARRA invested $17 billion, making it possible to increase Pell by $619 for 7 million students. But these funding increases are only temporary, and without additional resources the value of the maximum Pell Grant will fall by $1,400 in 2011. President Obama is committed to a strong, reliable Pell Grant program. He will make Pell an entitlement, provide $116 billion over the next decade to prevent any drop in the size of Pell Grants, ensure that they continues to grow faster than inflation, and eliminate the frequent budget shortfalls that have plagued the program.

· Cut Taxes on College Tuition: The ARRA created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will give millions of families up to $2,500 each to help pay for college. The credit was also expanded to help families too poor to owe income taxes. But the credit expires at the end of 2010. The President’s Budget would make it permanent.

· Make a New Commitment to College Access and Completion: Only 65 percent of students starting at four-year colleges – and 38 percent of students starting at two-year colleges – earn a degree within six years. The President’s Budget includes a five-year, $2.5 billion fund to improve college access and help America’s colleges and universities graduate more students. The fund will identify, test, and promote what works in boosting college enrollment and persistence.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Quick Look at Dan Bricmont

Daniel K. Bricmont is a Democratic candidate for one of two openings on the Commonwealth Court. He was rated “recommended” by the state bar association. His legal specialty, but not his sole area of practice, is workman’s compensation. He is among the authors of Handling the workers’ comp case, published by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute in 2007. Bricmont also served as Mayor of Avalon for several years.

For further reading, check out:

Interview with Liberty City

Pennsylvania Bar Association questionnaire

Interview on 2 political junkies

Smerconish on Suburban Manifesto

Politics Magazine has an interview with Michael Smerconish, on his view of what the GOP needs to do in the Philadelphia suburbs, and his thoughts on Arlen Specter.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Quick Note on Judicial Elections

The blog has been light on in-depth posts recently for a few reasons, including travel and research on future posts, including the quarterly FEC reports, which always takes forever and a day to compile. Some of the research has been on judicial candidates. The question of whether or not judges should be elected at all comes up in a lot of the reading I've been doing. Since most voters don't pay much attention to judicial races many of the campaign donors are lawyers. The same lawyers that will be presenting cases before whoever wins the judicial race. Is that a good idea?

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts sponsors a website,, to present the benefits of appointing as opposed to electing judges.

This is a topic that deserves a lot more discussion. After ploughing through a lot of reading on judicial candidates this evening, I'm currently leaning towards appointment with a vote on retention; of course, this includes the assumption of a robust and independent press that will keep an eye on judicial conduct.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Regional Business Summit

Our friends at the Economy League have been busy. In addition to the Budget Challenge they have been getting local business leaders together to talk about the regional economy. A transcript is available in a 15 page pdf file. I skimmed through parts, but not all of it, and found the section on green jobs intriguing.

Here are a few quotes from that part:

“We have an extremely inefficient labor market exchange,” said DVIRC’s Girifalco. “Education systems are not producing people with the education and skill set for the jobs that we really need.” The Philadelphia School District has 167,000 students and a 50% drop out rate. Some progress has been made, and there is promise ahead with Dr. Ackerman at the helm. But getting it done – how fast is fast enough?”

The unemployment discussion led to the topic of “green jobs,” which many labor leaders say translates as “blue collar jobs.” But those attending the roundtable said it was not an easy transition. “In general there’s been a lack of approach as far as ‘green’ jobs and sustainability,” said Wigglesworth. “For some trades, when you’ve got ‘green buildings’ to work on, there is 50% more plumbing and electrical time and expense, and 40% more wiring.”

Girifalco added, “I think the region has the potential to be a center for power and energy given the mix of industries involved – power generation and distribution, transportation (ships, helicopters, rail cars), chemical production and processing, fuel cell research and production, the Navy’s NAVSEA complex at the Navy Yard, the regional SMART Energy Industry Partnership, nanotechnology‐based efficiencies and
breakthroughs, and a strong university‐based research component.”

“Green is here to stay.” D’Alba concurred. “In this market, we have a distinct advantage because of the great bones of our transportation network, a ‘walkable’ downtown, and our beloved Fairmount Park. It does not take long for people to realize we have good green assets that are attractive to companies, employees, and families.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nerd Merit Badges

Were you ever a scout and miss those merit badges or were never a scout and feel you are lacking in some way? You can now relive or experience for the first time, the thrill of earning merit badges. Check out Nerd Merit Badges. There are only four at the moment but hopefully more are on the way. (h/t acm)

Capitol Ideas Live Chat

A few weeks ago I sat in on the first Capitol Ideas live chat. The next one is tomorrow (Tuesday 4/21) at 1 p.m. The first chat was very interesting. Some good ideas and theories got tossed around. I can't sit in tomorrow but hope to review the online transcript later in the day. If you can, by all means, stop in and talk with John and his posse.

Phildelaphia Budget Challenge

Just in case you've forgotten, you, too, can step into the mayor's shoes and try to solve Philadelphia's budget woes. Try out the Economy League's Philadelphia Budget Challenge.

Primary for Kanjo?

Blogger extraordinaire Gort is breaking the news that Congressman Paul Kanjorski may have a primary opponent in Cory O'Brien. See details at Gort42.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Quick Look at Jack Panella

Jack Panella, currently a Judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, is running for state's Supreme Court. He is rated "highly recommended" by the Pennsylvania Bar Association and he is the only judge in the commonwealth's history to serve as both Chair of the Judicial Conduct Board and President Judge of the Court of Judicial Discipline.

In person Panella can be soft-spoken and personable. These gentler qualities belie his impressive resume. He is the statewide Administrative Judge for Wiretap & Electronic Surveillance in Pennsylvania and also served as the Administrative Judge for Asbestos. Those are disparate specialties. He is a primary author of the book The Sexual Violence Benchbook that explains the commonwealth's sexual abuse laws.

His website has a number of good links on it, though I didn't see any judicial questionnaires listed, and those are often very illuminating.

He's worth a look, though.

Philadelphia Fast

The May 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine includes this year's list of Fast Cities. Philadelphia made the grade. The highlighted program is the city's Mortgage Foreclosure Protection Program.

Big Bloggy Welcome

Another blog to add to your reading list is It is covering the 2010 races, senate, gubernatorial, and congressional. Voices from both sides of the aisle are included. Dan Hirshhorn, who had been a reporter at PolitckerPA, seems to be the site coordinator.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Inky Pays Santorum What???

From Clout:

Former U. S. Sen. Rick Santorum is collecting $1,750 a shot for the columns that appear every other week in the Inquirer, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The checks are sent to a post office box in Great Falls, Va. - close to a Starbucks, we figure.

Figuring two columns a month that's $3,500, or $42,000 a year. According to the census bureau, the average household income in Pennsylvania in 2007 was $48,562.

I'm an avid Inquirer reader but I do so for news, not opinion. That's what blogs are for. I've never read Santorum's column, not a one, not ever. The idea that what Santorum is paid for 24 columns per year is probably more than what a fledgling reporter makes is mind boggling. Drop the column and rehire a laid off copy editor or reporter. Remember the fuss the Inky made about the reversal in government policy based on their news stories? (see "EPA will cancel Performance Track," by John Shiffman 3/14) What did the people who wrote those stories make?

Santorum wrote a book. If people want to know what he thinks, they can read that. No wonder the paper is bankrupt.

Another Reason Why I Love SEPTA

Most days I take public transit to work. It's a chance to read, rest, gather my thoughts or unwind after the day. On lucky days I run into train buddies and we chat. Every now and then, though, there's a reason to drive. Today was a driving day. Took 50 minutes, door to door, to get to work, not bad for early rush hour. So, driving home in the middle of the afternoon should have been a breeze, yes? No. Two solid hours. There was no construction, no visible accidents, just sit, zip a mile or two, sit, and so on. There was a slow down on every road I took. Looking ahead to the standard carefully choreographed weekend, kid thing, kid thing, hopefully a political event, kid thing, kid thing, work thing, kid thing, I can sense the dominoes shifting and fear a scheduling catastrophe.

To all those who complain about the little things on SEPTA, the color or condition of the seat cushions, the occasional dripping roof leak, the not so occasional standing room only cars, I say ppffttttt. Give me a train over the highway any day.

SEPTA Sing Alongs

Anthony Riley, local subway singer, graced one of the way stations on my commute home this week. The days I saw him he had a portable speaker and sang along to an instrumental cd. Even better, he encouraged the audience to sing with him. Nothing like standing with a group of strangers, all (except Riley) bumbling our way through the chorus of "My Girl."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Toomey on Social Security

Steely-eyed reporter John Drobnyk, the Morning Call's reporter in Washington, D.C., has posted his interview with Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey (Pat Toomey Q&A, 4/15) over at Pennyslvania Avenue. One answer in particular struck me:

Do you still think it is a good idea to privatize social security?

Absolutely, it has always been a good idea. I disagree with the characterization of privatizing because that implies to many people somehow selling off the service or something. What is a very good idea is to allow young workers to take a portion of the money they would otherwise be sending to Washington and allowing them to invest that in a diversified portfolio.

The idea was always that that portfolio of investments that that person would actually own … would be required to be diversified across asset classes and across individual investments. And importantly it was always conceived that this was a portfolio that would modify over time and as a person approached their retirement age the portfolio would gradually shift its composition to one that would consist primarily, by the time a person got close to retirement, of very safe, very low-volatility investments such as treasury bonds, bank CDs and actual cash deposits and savings. …. If you had such a portfolio even in the last few years such a portfolio would have performed extremely well because treasury prices have gone up as interest rates have declined. …

I’m 47. When I entered the work force, the Dow Jones industrial average was about 800. Today we are all very, very disappointed with where it is … but it is well over 7,000. If a worker who started working 20 years ago had a chance to be investing gradually over these last years, that worker would have accumulated very substantial savings despite this downturn.

What bothers me is this phrase: "The idea was always that that portfolio of investments that that person would actually own … would be required to be diversified across asset classes and across individual investments." Required by whom? Who would go around checking people's retirement funds to see if they were sufficiently diversified?

In my retirement portfolio I have a Roth IRA through Vanguard that is geared for people who plan to retire around a certain year. It automatically shifts the investments as the targeted date gets closer. But I chose that (well, actually Mr. J did most of the research). There are a number of such funds available through a number of investment services. But the government doesn't come in and tell me what funds to use, nor do I want them to. Looking at the medicare part D pharmaceutical plan system, I would rather not see it, or any similar system, enacted for retirement funds. Social Security may be a little dull but people need a verifiable guaranteed form of retirement. Young workers, and those not so young, can certainly start tucking away a little each paycheck into other forms of retirement, but, speaking personally, I don't want my Social Security messed with.

Keep in mind, though, that this is not a subject I know a lot about.

Safe Milk Petition

The Food and Water Watch people are continuing their campaign for schools to offer milk free of artificial growth hormones. Their latest effort is an online petition, to be presented to Sen. Casey.

Funding for PA High Speed Rail

More from the inbox:

President Barack Obama, along with Vice President Biden and Secretary LaHood, announced a new U.S. push today to transform travel in America, creating high-speed rail lines from city to city, reducing dependence on cars and planes and spurring economic development.

The President released a strategic plan outlining his vision for high speed rail in America. The plan identifies $8 billion provided in the ARRA and $1 billion a year for five years requested in the federal budget as a down payment to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future. The strategic plan will be followed by detailed guidance for state and local applicants. By late summer, the Federal Railroad Administration will begin awarding the first round of grants.

Additional funding for long-term planning and development is expected from legislation authorizing federal surface transportation programs.

The report formalizes the identification of ten high-speed rail corridors as potential recipients of federal funding. Those lines are: California, Pacific Northwest, South Central, Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub Network, Florida, Southeast, Keystone, Empire and Northern New England. Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to compete for funds to improve the nation’s only existing high-speed rail service.

The Pennsylvania route among the ten mentioned is the Keystone Corridor (Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh). Here is the note on the Northeast Corridor:

Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor (Washington, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Newark, New York City, New Haven, Providence, Boston) to compete for funds for improvements to the nation’s only existing high-speed rail service, and for establishment and upgrades to passenger rail services in other parts of the country.

Full press release and more details, plus a nifty graphic, on the White House blog.

Funding for PA Watersheds

From the inbox:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the USDA will be sending $84.8 million to state and local governments to improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

"President Obama is committed to improving water quality, creating more dependable water supplies and decreasing soil erosion and this funding will make a big difference in the lives of the people who live in these rural communities," Vilsack said.

Other major benefits include improved community safety and health, flood mitigation, sediment control, and enhanced fish and wildlife habitat.

"For example," Vilsack said "the Neshaminy Creek Watershed (Pennsylvania) project funding will be used to acquire, elevate and flood-protect approximately 80 homes and businesses in the 100-year flood plain, while the Beaver Creek (Colorado) Watershed project will develop 45 land-treatment contracts with family-owned farms, resulting in significant water quality improvement, water conservation, and enhancement of scarce wildlife habitat."

ARRA funds will be used to develop conservation measures such as planting vegetative cover and creating shallow water ponds to improve wildlife habitat, improving irrigation efficiency and conserving water, installing filter strips and soil erosion control practices, flood proofing homes and enhancing stream corridor and floodplain function, and constructing small flood control dams.

USDA is directing technical and financial assistance available through this funding toward projects that are ready to begin and that will relieve stress on local economies through the creation of over 1,400 jobs.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked closely with sponsors to identify projects that are ready for immediate implementation.

Pennsylvania projects and amounts on the list:

Tulpehocken Creek 1,375,000
Red-White Clay Creeks, 430,000
Brandywine Creek, 20,000
Neshaminy Creek, 10,075,000

More details at:

Clean Energy Movie Night

From the inbox:

Celebrate Earth Day at Pennsylvania Sierra Club's Clean Energy Movie Night!

Did you know coal-fired power plants account for over 40% of our nation's carbon dioxide emissions? This makes them the leading cause of global warming. Right now, six new coal burning facilities are proposed to be built in Pennsylvania .

This Earth Day we're hosting a Clean Energy Movie Night to watch a great movie and talk about how we can work together to stop new coal from coming to PA.

Here are the details:

WHAT: Film showing of Fighting Goliath: The Texas Coal Wars. The state of Texas has been fighting dirty coal for many years. Join us for a look into the Texas coal wars through a film narrated by Robert Redford called Fighting Goliath. After the movie we'll talk about how we can work together to create a clean energy future for Pennsylvania .

WHO: Dr. Paul Rosier, Villanova University-Associate Professor of History
Randy Francisco, Sierra Club-Beyond Coal Campaign

WHEN: Wednesday, April 22, 2009. 6:00 - 7:30 pm

WHERE: Villanova University , Connelly Center Cinema
800 E. Lancaster Ave , Villanova , PA

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blue Goes Green

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is changing its website for the next week. The traditional blue template has gone green in honor of Earth Day. There are some new features and a photo contest. Worth a look. Check out

Commonwealth Court Information

Judicial elections are, unfortunately, often overlooked. There are two spots open on the Commonwealth Court. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a nice overview article on the candidates for the job. Read "2 empty Commonwealth Court seats draw bunch of candidates," by Tom Barnes 4/13.

GOP candidates

Kevin Brobson
Al Frioni
Patricia McCollough

Democratic candidates

Dan Bricmont
Barbara Ernsberger
Linda Judson
Jimmy Lynn
Stephen Pollock
Michael Sherman

Web Poll on PA Senate Race

Those who like contests and sweepstakes might enjoy visiting The site asks visitors to vote on their preferred potential Democratic candidate for Senate in 2010.

Revolutionary War Trail

Many people are familiar with the Appalachian Trail, the hiking pathway that goes from Maine to Georgia.

On March 30, Pres. Obama formally recognized the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, which starts in Rhode Island and ends in Virginia. The trail is included in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. The full trail is over 600 miles long, with 52 miles in Pennsylvania along the Delaware River.

According to the website:

In PA, the W3R bill cosponsors include: both Senators Casey and Specter and Congressmen Patrick Murphy, Chaka Fattah, Allison [sic] Schwartz, Robert Brady and Joseph Sestak – the entire Philadelphia area delegation - all of whom praised Congressional approval of the Omnibus Public Lands bills S 22 and HR 146, which passed by a vote of 285 -140. Congressman Murphy said, “This is a great day for all of us in Pennsylvania who enjoy the rich heritage of our Commonwealth and the great history of our nation. The designation of the National Historic Trail and rededication of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor will boost our economy through increased tourism across Pennsylvania and benefit all future generations by giving them a chance to take advantage of these historic and natural resources.”

The website includes a map and information on the Pennsylvania W3R organization, as well as a history of the effort to have the trail recognized.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Schwartz on NBC

Last week I noted that Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz was scheduled to be on the NBC Nightly News, appearing on a segment about the Wounded Warrior Program. Politico has a note on it as well as a link to video. Check out "Feel good of the day: Speaker Pelosi's office helps wounded warriors," 4/09.

Lehigh Valley Earmark Database

The good people at the Allentown Morning Call have done a lot of tedious work scanning and inputting earmark requests into a searchable database. Earmarks requested by Reps. Dent, Gerlach, Holden, Kanjorksi, Patrick Murphy, and Allyson Schwartz are included. Rumor has it another organization is working on a larger geographic area. We shall see.

The Morning Call's database is found at: Ace reporter Josh Drobnyk wrote about the project earlier this week ("Online earmarks bring some budget transparency," 4/10)

Thanks to an old email buddy for bringing this to my attention.

Allentown Townhall Meeting

Also tomorrow, there will be a townhall meeting in Allentown on health care. Details from the inbox:

On Wednesday, April 15, leaders from SEIU and the Health Care for America Now coalition will host a Town Hall meeting on the rising costs of healthcare for families in the Lehigh Valley. The event will take place at the IBEW Local 375 building from 6pm to 7:30pm. Public participation is greatly encouraged.

SEIU and HCAN are holding the town hall because crushing health care costs are jeopardizing American families, crippling businesses, and draining state budgets. 14,000 Americans lose their health care coverage everyday, and health care bills are responsible for half of all bankruptcies and home foreclosures.

WHAT: True Cost of Healthcare Town Hall meeting

WHO: Marc Stier, Pennsylvania State Director for HCAN

Gregg Potter, President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

Members of the Lehigh Valley community

WHEN: 6:00PM-7:30PM, Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WHERE: IBEW Local 375, 1201 W. Liberty Street, Allentown, PA 18102

PHL Funding Announcement

Tomorrow U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, will make an announcement at Philadelphia International Airport concerning economic recovery funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. He will be joined in making the announcement by Governor Ed Rendell.

If you aren't doing anything else tomorrow morning you might swing by the airport and see what's up.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Assorted Newsy Bits

A few things came across the screen over the past week. Here is a sampling:

Congressman Patrick Murphy and State Rep. Steve Santarsiero are hosting a Green Energy Workshop this coming Saturday in Yardley, at the Lower Makefield Township Building, April 18, 2-4 p.m.

The 2009 Politics Online Conference is being held in Washington, D.C. on April 20-21.

To vote in this year's May 19 primary election you must be registered to vote by April 20th. Yes, it's time to nag your friends about their voter registration status.

Brief Vacation

For some reason the public kudos the blog has received tend to coincide with family vacations. Blog usage goes up and I'm unable to post anything new and in-depth to dazzle the new readers. True to form, the blog makes a list of state-based blogs just a day or so before my family goes out of town to visit friends and relatives over the kids' spring break.

Contrary to reports of declining travel, our flight was full each way. On the trip home the stewardess asked all veterans and active duty service members to raise their hands and everyone applauded them. It was a nice gesture. The rental car company offered us a Prius for an extra $5.00 per day. It was an unexpected opportunity to try out a hybrid and what we paid in the extra fee was offset by gas savings. I still think the rear window needs to be larger to allow for a better view of what's going on behind the car. The silent ride took some getting used to but is actually kind of cool.

We hadn't seen that branch of the family in a couple of years so it was wonderful to catch up and see how all the kids had grown. Of course, we traded info on the books we've been reading and movies we've seen. Throw in a few rounds of Whoonu and a whole lot of food and that pretty much covers it. We got home around 5 p.m. and have been trying to get caught up on the mail and the papers, get groceries for the week, find that field trip permission form, do laundry, and so on, to get everyone up to speed for the regular routine tomorrow.

Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend, whichever holiday, if any, you celebrate.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Driving a Prius

Recently I had the opportunity to drive a Prius. I've never driven a hybrid before so it was interesting. It doesn't feel any different on the road, though sometimes on the highway the engine seems to surge. The rear view window is smaller than I would like. The most striking difference to the driver is the lack of engine noise. You start it up by putting a small squarish black plastic case into the ignition, push in on the brake and push the "power" button. There is no key as we are accustomed to them. The only indication the car is on is the console display. The motor doesn't really make a sound. And, of course, the gas mileage is great.

DVRPC Bike / Pedestrian Survey

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) wants your input on biking or walking in the area for a bike / pedestrian plan for the city of Philadelphia. Take the DVRPC survey online.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pennsylvanians Appointed to Federal Positions

Two items of interest from the inbox, Pennsylvanians named to federal appointments:

Thomas McLellan is one of the nation’s leading experts on addiction and substance abuse. He currently serves as a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and as Chief Executive Officer of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia , a not-for-profit institute dedicated to reducing America ’s dependence on alcohol and drugs. Dr. McLellan was the principal developer of two of the most widely used methods for assessing addiction severity and treatment success. His Addiction Severity Index, which gauges the characteristics and the severity of substance abuse in patients, and his Treatment Services Review, which measures the effectiveness of treatment services, have been adopted around the world and have revolutionized the delivery of treatment to substance abuse patients. His work, which includes 25 years at Veterans Administration Hospitals, has been focused on promoting a better understanding of the factors that lead to treatment success, increasing understanding that addiction is a disease, reducing the stigma associated with addiction, and providing the means for earlier intervention and prevention. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, and has published more than 400 articles on addiction research. He has been an advisor to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the World Health Organization, the Partnership for a Drug Free America, and the American Psychiatric Association among others. He received a Life Achievement Award from the American Society of Addiction Medicine in 2003, and in 2004 was named Innovator of the Year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. McLellan holds a B.A. from Colgate University , an M.S. and Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr, and received postgraduate training in psychology at Oxford University in England.


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the appointment of Cheryl Cook as Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development.

USDA Rural Development is the lead federal entity for the nation's rural development needs. In 2008, the agency invested more than $20 billion in rural America through its programs.

In this position, Cook will manage policies and programs in Rural Development's three main areas: Business and Cooperatives, Housing and Community Facilities, and Utilities.

"Cheryl Cook brings with her a distinguished record of service as well as a keen understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities facing rural Americans today," Vilsack said. "I am confident that she will help USDA achieve President Obama's goals for rebuilding and revitalizing the nation's rural communities. Cheryl Cook is a highly experienced leader committed to expanding broadband networks, increasing investment in rural infrastructure and developing renewable energy."

Before joining USDA, Cook served as Deputy Secretary for Marketing and Economic Development at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. In that role, she often worked with several other USDA agencies, including the Food and Nutrition Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Agricultural Marketing Service. Cook had previously worked for the Keystone Development Center, a non-profit organization in Pennsylvania that helps new and emerging cooperatives. She was also a member of the National Farmers Union's public policy staff.

Cook received her bachelor's degree from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., and a law degree from The Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pa.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Stephen G. Pollock for Commonwealth Court

Stephen Pollock, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, is making good use of social media. He has set up a campaign website,, and is on twitter ( Recent tweets link to his Q&A with the Pennsylvania League of Young Voters (Q&A with other statewide judicial candidates there also).

Biden: Health Care Money for PA

From the inbox:

Vice President Joe Biden announced today that the Obama Administration will make $68,305,855 available to Pennsylvania for crucial health and human services programs that help provide care for children and prevent disease. Pennsylvania will receive $60,416,767 in Recovery Act funding to support child care for working families. The Obama Administration also plans to make $7,192,425 in vaccines and grants available to Pennsylvania to ensure more underserved Americans receive the vaccines they need. A separate vaccine program supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Philadelphia will also receive an additional $966,663.

Nationwide, $2 billion in Recovery Act funds for the Child Care and Development Fund will allow states across the country to support child care services for more families whose children require care while they are working, seeking employment or receiving job training or education. The funds will be used by states to provide vouchers to families for child care or to provide access to care through contracts with child care centers or invest in quality improvements. Recovery Act dollars will support a wide range of child care providers, including child care centers and home-based programs.

“Parents are worried about finding a job or keeping the job they have and they shouldn’t have to worry about affording quality child care,” said Vice President Biden. “Safe, affordable, high-quality child care gives working parents the peace of mind they need to be stable, dependable employees.”

In addition to funding for child care programs, an additional $300 million in Recovery Act funding and grants will help ensure more underserved Americans receive the vaccines they need. The Vice President’s announcement came as Americans mark National Public Health Week.

Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the majority of these new resources will be used to purchase vaccines, which will be distributed through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Section 317 immunization program to all 50 states, several large cities, and U.S. territories. Funding will also be used to support national public information campaigns regarding vaccines and support grants to states that demonstrate innovative new ways to ensure more Americans receive the vaccines they need.

“Vaccines help keep children healthy, prevent costly stays in hospitals, and fight diseases that can lead to serious illness or death” added Biden. “The Recovery Act will help vaccinate more Americans, cut health care costs, improve public health and save lives.”

To see a list of state by state funding for child care programs, visit: To see a list of state by state funding for vaccine programs, visit:

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Know a Rising Star?

This Friday is the last day to nominated someone for Politics Magazine's list of Rising Stars. Winners will be announced at the Art of Political Campaigning conference in June.

Douglas Pike in the 6th

There's a new name in the list of Democrats challenging 6th district Congressman Jim Gerlach. In 2004 and 2006 Lois Murphy challenged Gerlach. In 2008 Bob Roggio took on that role.

Douglas Pike, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board, has announced his 2010 candidacy. You can read more in Politico ("An oppo researcher's dream," by Charles Mahtesian) and Pennsylvania Avenue ("Former Inky journalist to run for Congress," by Josh Drobnyk).

Two factors that could dramatically affect the race are Gerlach's interest in running for governor in 2010 and the possibility that the district could be redrawn after the 2010 census.

Allyson Schwartz Updates

A few news items on Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-13).

First off, she was slated to be featured in the "Making a Difference" segment" on the NBC Nightly News. I had a kid thing and couldn't watch to see if was aired. The subject was the Wounded Warrior program. Dan Lasko, works in Schwartz's office, is a program participant.

Schwartz was also mentioned in the 2nd edition of Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling by Barbara Palmer and Dennis Simon, (Routledge, 2008) Allyson Schwartz is mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in 2010 against Arlen Specter (p. 116). She is one of ten women mentioned as having a "definite opportunity" in that election cycle.

Jane on WaPo Blog List

Chris Cillizza, who writes The Fix column and blog for the Washington Post, has released his updated list of state blogs. Here is his list for Pennsylvania:

Harrisburg Politics (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Above Average Jane
2 Political Junkies
Gort 42

Cillizza not only included this blog on the list but has been willing to email a few times with the lowly blogger as well.

A few names I think are missing: Capitol Ideas, and Young Philly Politics.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

More on Murphy and Hockey

For those who can't get enough of Patrick Murphy and hockey, this note from Saturday's Inqlings column in the Inquirer might be interesting:

How's this for motivation? Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.) will address kids at the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation's training camp Wednesday at the Wachovia Spectrum. Murphy played center for the hockey team at King's College in Wilkes-Barre.

Harris Sokoloff on Philadelphia's Budget

In case you missed it, Harris Sokoloff, co-host of the citizen's budget meetings, posted his thoughts on Mayor Nutter's budget at WHYY's "It's Our City" blog. Worth checking out.

Shapiro Meets with PennDems (Again?)

At the end of March, State Rep. Josh Shapiro was scheduled to meet with the PennDems, the University of Pennsylvania student Democratic organization. I don't know if that meeting was postponed or if he just likes the company, but Shapiro is scheduled to have a Q&A with them again this evening.J

Monday, April 06, 2009

Bucks and Montco Candidate Schools

Those running for office or thinking about doing so in in the future might be interested in the "candidate schools" being offered by Bucks County and Montgomery County Democratic organizations. Info from their websites:


Candidate Campaign School
When: April 18, 12:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Where: James Michener Library, 150 South Pine Street, Doylestown

"The Basics of Local Campaigning"

A Boot Camp for Candidates
Saturday, April 18th
12:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
James Michener Library in Doylestown
Pearl S. Buck Room
150 South Pine Street

Registration required

This is a very successful program run by the Democratic Women's Forum of Bucks County - it has proven invaluable to our candidates in the past and all candidates are encouraged to attend to learn techniques and tools that will help you campaign and win.

Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Democratic Committee is conducting a (free) Democratic Candidate Training Seminar on Thursday evening, April 30th at the AFSCME HQ at 3031 Walton Road in Plymouth Meeting.

From 6 to 9 p.m. that evening you will learn how to put together a campaign plan, how to put together a media schedule, how to raise money and how to campaign. Maybe most importantly, you'll learn what not to do.

Political professionals and elected Democratic officials will tell you how to get elected, and put you on a path to victory in November.

Don't miss the most important three hours you will spend this year.

Photovoltaic Conference as Free Night for the Public

From the inbox:

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) will host the PV America conference and trade show, its first-ever conference focused solely on the fastest growing segment of the solar industry from June 8 – 10, 2009 in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panel technology converts sunlight directly into electricity and is commonly seen on rooftops. Despite the economic downturn, PV grew an impressive 81 percent in 2008 compared to 2007. The Mid-Atlantic market is poised for considerable growth in 2009. Learn more about the conference at

Solar PV manufacturers, developers, and installers will want to attend to market directly to businesses and consumers and for more than 50 valuable educational sessions on policies, workforce development and business growth strategies. Small business owners and entrepreneurs will gain from great networking opportunities and information on becoming part of the emerging PV industry. PV America will also feature keynote speeches from visionary leaders, such as solar advocate and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey.

The public is welcome to come and see PV technology and its applications for homes and businesses at Public Night on Tuesday, June 9 from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., where 200 companies will be represented in the expo hall. Admission for Public Night is free.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Murphy and Casey Win By A Nose

This past Wednesday was the 22nd Home Court Charity Basketball Game between Georgetown Law School professors and a team from Capitol Hill, including Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. and Congressman Patrick Murphy. Following up on a tweet from Det Ansinn I can confirm that Murphy broke his nose during the game but continued playing.

Politico has an article on the game, complete with pictures and an 8 minute video (see "VIDEO: Congress hoops it up," by Patrick Gavin 4/02. the video is worth watching. About halfway through a woman who is seemingly sober and of sound mind calls Casey "a hot stud."

The game raised, according to Ansinn, $350,000. Proceeds go to the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Those who have read Murphy's autobiography Taking the Hill (and, really, who hasn't?) will remember that he worked at a legal clinic in college (p. 38).

If you watch the video you might guess that basketball is not Murphy's sport of choice. That's true, in his book he writes about playing hockey. He still does. Last month, according to Famous DC, he played on a team in a charity match. See "Lawmakers vs lobbyists hockey game," 3/09; proceeds going to the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club. No mention of any injuries in that game.

More on Milk Safety

Mark your calendars for next Tuesday, from the inbox:

Pennsylvanians are calling on Senator Bob Casey to be a champion for rBGH-free milk in public schools. rBGH is a potential dangerous artificial hormone injected into cows to make them produce more milk, however, it has also been linked to increased rates of cancer in humans. The United States is the only industrialized nation still using rBGH despite major safety concerns. As major retailers move away from rBGH, this risky milk is being dumped into our public school system. On Tuesday, April 7th, activists will deliver over 1,000 petitions and a coalition letter with over 50 signatures from area business and organizations, urging Senator Casey to support

Postcards will be delivered to Casey's Philadelphia office at 3:30 p.m. For more general info on the topic see

Thursday, April 02, 2009

More on Stone and Specter

In his column, the Stone Zone, GOP political pundit Roger Stone writes in one of his April 1 entries "Specter: Bionic Senator" that he expects Sen. Arlen Specter to be reelected (h/t Fix). He ends the entry with this paragraph:

Specter's strength in a General Election is formidable. Specter's appeal to Jews, African Americans, suburban Independents, and other Democratic - leaning constituencies cannot be underestimated. Specter can be expected to out-think, out-work, and out-fundraise any challenger. Pennsylvania voters, still high on Obama, will respect Specter's willingness to work with the President on some issues.

Mr. Stone has an inside view of Sen. Specter's fundraising. He and his wife hosted a fundraiser for Specter in February. See "Shenanigans: Specter's fundraiser: Roger Stone, anyone?" by Anne Schroeder Mullins 02/19

I noted this in a blog post on 2/23.

Health Care Event on Bridge

Over at Young Philly Politics, Marc Stier is inviting everyone out to the Ben Franklin Bridge this Saturday:

This is the year to finally pass health care reform. But it won't happen unless we build a movement big enough to roll the insurance companies

You can start on nn Saturday, April 4 at 1:00 PM as Health Care For America in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will come together for a rally and a march across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

The rally will begin at Benjamin Franklin square a grassy triangle on 5th Street, just south of Vine Street, facing the bridge.

A contingent from Bucks County are meeting at Langhorne SEPTA Station, Bellevue & Comly Avenues, Langhorne, 19047 10:15 am. After introductory remarks people will carpool or take the train into the city for the rally and march.


Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania is participating in a nationwide campaign with MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation, aimed at those under 25, to increase testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). See Get Yourself Tested,

Here's the local angle:

In Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Center for Disease Control has flagged Philadelphia as a “high incidence county” with a prevalence of HIV and STD infections. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) reported 17,209 cases of chlamydia in 2007 with infection rates highest among 15-19 year olds. In 2007, the PDPH reported 5,246 cases of gonorrhea in Philadelphia , with the highest infection rates among 15-24 year olds. Additionally, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in 2007, 74 percent of the chlamydia and 59 percent of the gonorrhea cases reported throughout the state (not including Philadelphia ) were among individuals aged 15-24 years old. GYT is aimed at reducing those numbers by encouraging teens and young adults to get tested and treated.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Shapiro Meets With PennDems

State Rep. Josh Shapiro meet with the PennDems of the University of Pennsylvania last night. The PennDems have become a regular stopping place for rising politicos. The group put significant effort into the election of Rep. Patrick Murphy and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Keith Collins of Delco

Keith Collins has announced his candidacy for Delaware County Council. His campaign website is

Tax Credit Benefits to Pennsylvanians

From the inbox:

The United States faces the most severe economic and financial crisis in generations. Tragically, much of the damage has fallen principally on Main Street. To help middle-class families get back on their feet and restore some fairness to the tax code, President Obama in February signed one of his signature issues into law – the Making Work Pay tax credit. As a result, families across the country are seeing more money in their paychecks. This is one of the fastest and broadest tax cuts in American history.

Today, the Obama Administration is releasing a state-by-state analysis to show the impact the Making Work Pay tax credit is having across the country.

In Pennsylvania that means 4.8 million working families will collectively get $2.5 billion hand to help them weather the current economic storm. This reflects the Administration’s strong and sustained commitment to the middle class.

Nationally, the credit provides over 110 million working families—about 95%—the tax relief they need right now and will give nearly 60 billion dollars to America’s working families. The Republican alternative budget, announced today, would roll back these tax credits in 2010, thereby increasing taxes for the same 95 percent of working families.

IRS guidance asks that, by April 1, employers must have instituted the lower withholdings for their employees.

Restoring Fairness to the Tax Code and Providing Tax Relief to Working Americans. The Making Work Pay Tax Credit aims to help middle class families who are being squeezed by rising costs and stagnating wages.

* For 2009 and 2010, the “Making Work Pay” tax credit provides a refundable tax credit of 6.2 percent of earned income up to $400 for working individuals and $800 for married taxpayers.
* Families should see at least a $65 dollar per month increase in their take home pay.

* The credit will phase out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $150,000 for married couples filing jointly and $75,000 for other workers, and thus is fully phased out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income in excess of $190,000 for married workers and $95,000 for other workers.

Getting Needed Cash to Working Families. In an effort to get much needed cash to hard working Americans as quickly as possible, in late February the President announced the IRS would issue a new set of withholding tables ( structured to get the tax credit to Americas’ workers in cash over the course of the year. By reducing required withholding amounts, workers’ take home pay is increased immediately.

The typical American family will have about $800 extra cash over the next year delivered to them in their paychecks to spend and to help the economy get back on track.