Monday, May 30, 2005

weekly legislative update

This week there was a great deal of paper shuffling, things introduced, moved, tabled, etc. The house and senate are considering some bills that passed in the other chamber.

Two bright spots on the legislative tracking front: for federal legislation watch plogress (see link listing at the right). For state legislation, Philly's own state Rep. Mark Cohen started a blog in March that provides some details on legislation under consideration, also added to my link list. I think this is fantastic and hope more legislators will start similar blogs or other resources. Kudos to Rep. Cohen!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Little Picture

Philly Future and Young Philly Politics have recently noted that Philadelphia is receiving kudos for its work with the homeless. That is the big picture. Here is a small one.

I work in a city, not as large as Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, but a city nonetheless, and a gritty grimy one at that. I see homeless guys fairly often. A group of people in my office volunteers at a food program twice a month. It is housed as a local church and a number of volunteers rotate through weekly. We pack 128 grocery bags according to a packing list. One week each bag might get 2 cans of corn, 1 jar spaghetti sauce, a package of pasta, a bag of cookies, etc. A couple of guys from the street come in and tear down boxes, unload food from the truck, whatever needs done.

My homeless guy was one of them, a man I sometimes considered the “other man” in my life, not for any romantic attachment, but just for the amount of mental real estate he took up. The bagging crews look after all of the box guys to one extent or another, long underwear in the winter, a used sauce pan when one of them got his own efficiency apartment. This one, though, we all got a little more attached to. It’s hard to say exactly what it was about him. It was obvious that in better days he was a handsome man and even now took care to be clean and neat when he came to work at the church. His vocabulary and speech gave away an education that he would otherwise deny.

Being resourceful I was able to take the tidbits of personal information he let slip to find out that he had once lived a very middle class life. It shouldn’t have mattered that he hadn’t always lived at the bus station but it did. He was a living example of “there but for the grace of God go I.” A job, a family, a college degree, a life not unlike my own, none of these could keep whatever addiction he had at bay. As someone who can’t stay away from carbonated beverages, even on advice of a doctor, I have a hard time looking down too much on someone else’s weakness, especially when he kept it well hidden and didn’t ask for sympathy or place blame anywhere but on himself. There is a history of substance abuse in my family and I find it a useful lie to tell myself that if I have made it this far without succumbing I might escape altogether. Knowing that he was about my age before the wheels really fell off shredded my illusions.

The group from work got together and bought him gift certificates at local pizza joints and diners. I was the advance man, so to speak, checking out the places to make sure they only sold food, not cigarettes or alcohol. Buying things for a homeless guy is different from buying things for regular folks. Gray socks not white so they weren’t recognizable as new. Shoes had to look cheap and be the color of dirt or be pre-distressed to look used. Sixty year old men wandering the streets with shiny new shoes or bright new socks are just asking to be beat up and robbed.

Late this past summer he was diagnosed with a terminal illness and decided to go out on his own terms. You can’t fault him for that. Homeless people don’t have good access to health care and the old and infirm can’t defend themselves well against urban street violence. After the funeral, I contacted his family to tell them what I could of his last year, and that he had spoken warmly of them. In any relationship where one person has all the power, you can’t really ever know how the person in the lesser position views the one who holds all the cards. However, I would like to think that we were, in some way, friends.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Can't Bill Gates Afford His Own Boat Launch?

Ran across this recently.

What would you do if you found Bill Gates trespassing on your lawn?

Full story

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Zero Tolerance?

One of the Little Janes came home from school yesterday and said one of his classmates was going to get suspended for bringing a pocketknife to school. I don't quite know how to feel about this. Certainly, you should not bring pocketknives to school and a kid who is 4 feet tall probably does not possess clear reasoning ability on the appropriate time to use and / or display a knife. On the other hand I think the zero tolerance rules have gotten a little out of hand. In part I think this is because schools are so afraid of being sued that they have removed all ability for school administrators to make a judgement call. Hopefully a letter will come home today providing a few details (without naming the child, although we already know who it was). The long holiday weekend should give everyone time to cool off and calm down.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mr. Hoeffel Builds His Dream Blog

In 1948 Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Louise Beavers appeared in a movie called “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” about an urban couple who decide to move to the country and build their dream house. (It was remade as “The Money Pit,” not nearly as good as the original.) As you can imagine, there are many bumps in the road between the first shovel of dirt and the final move-in day. The subplot about the trusty friend who may or may not be putting the moves on Loy’s Mrs. Blandings is wonderfully, subtly done. Beavers, cast, as usual, as the family maid, plays in a pivotal role in Mr. Blandings success at work.

I thought of this movie when I read recently that Joe Hoeffel plans to launch a website and blog in the near future, to be located at (don’t visit yet – it isn’t there). I have some advice for Mr. Hoeffel, who represented Pennsylvania in Congress for several terms and a variety of other elected offices before that. Now, I could send these to him privately without my Above Average Jane Lone Ranger mask on, but, much as I think he’s a nice guy, I can’t help but think he will pay more attention to what I have to say in a more public forum.

Before I get to that, though, let me say that I like Joe Hoeffel. In past years I even contributed a little bit to some of his campaigns (for a cumulative total of about $75.00). One year, for my birthday, in lieu of a present, Mr. Jane agreed to pick up the entrance fee to a fundraiser, one of Mr. Hoeffel’s less expensive do’s, to be sure. I’ve spoken to Mr. Hoeffel a few times in person and he has been uniformly pleasant, even when I’ve just run into him on the street and struck up a conversation. Once I had one of the little Janes with me and Mr. Hoeffel conversed in the manner of someone who genuinely likes and is comfortable with children, not as a politician trying to butter up a voter. I have read some of his postings on My DD and found them interesting.

One thing I especially admire is his ability to speak his mind and turn someone’s comment back on them without seeming to offend. At one public meeting I attended, a number of people asked about outsourcing, with all the outrage of those who might have lost their job because of it. Mr. Hoeffel spoke about the problem, but also said that we could not make it illegal to shop at discount stores. I liked that. He pointed out that we were part of the problem ourselves. By demanding lower prices as shoppers and higher returns as investors, we have put companies in a bind. While there are corporate and governmental bad guys out there, we the people are not guiltless in this matter. But I digress. My point is that Mr. Hoeffel spoke to the questioner’s pain and emotion but did not make promises he could not keep. I have observed him doing this in other venues as well.

I hope this quality is present in his site and on his blog. Most politician's blogs are either rabidly partisan, appealing only to those who share the narrow frame of reference or so willing to agree with anyone that they are mind numbingly dull. For Mr. Hoeffel’s blog to maintain any sort of regular readership he will have to allow multiple people to participate or at least to engage other bloggers in conversations across blogs. To do that he is going to have to discuss specifics and not generalities, to stake out some territory on issues, and sometimes stir things up a bit. Just regurgitating the party line won’t bring in anyone.

His support of Mr. Casey’s senatorial campaign has caused some talk as they differ on a number of issues. Just saying that we need to elect a Democratic senator won’t cut it. We need to hear about his differences with Mr. Casey and some valid reasons why we should still support him. Hoeffel’s successor in Congress, Allyson Schwartz, has engendered some discontent with her support of recent bankruptcy legislation. How about that, Joe?

Hoeffel’s announcement said the site would be a place for progressives to gather. Can we start by discussing the definition of progressive and how some of the Democratic party’s stands might be conflict with that definition? Can we talk about those in office who aren’t being whatever progressive is, even if they might have a D by their names? Can we engage in civil discourse on a number of issues? Will there be a mechanism for politely worded disagreement? (Flamers and trolls don’t deserve much respect, IMHO). In other words, will it be a real conversation or just a lecture?

“Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” was a great movie because all of the characters, even the small ones, lent something to the picture. Cary Grant was the star, of course, but his interaction with the rest of the cast made the movie what it was. I hope that Mr. Hoeffel will also let those around the state be a part of his dream, and contribute to his story.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Cotton Candy

When I wrote earlier about buying local I mentioned school fairs. If you ever want to be the man or woman of the hour at one of these events, volunteer to work the cotton candy machine. It is nasty, nasty work. You end up covered with cotton candy lint and hands and wrists like a yeti. A lot of wrist twirling is involved so it is not for the uncoordinated of those with carpal tunnel syndrome. Wear goggles and a surgical mask if you can. Anyone who willingly works the cotton candy machine is sure to earn the adoration of all concerned. One of the many many things we did not learn in school.

Creating History

Ray, over at Young Philly Politics, worked on Seth Williams' DA campaign. Ray is currently trying to piece together a more definitive picture of how the Internet affected the campaign, what role it played. If you read anything online about Williams or donated or volunteered online or signed up for his emails, please get in touch with Ray and tell him about it. Check out Ray's posting here, to see exactly what he is saying.

It is important to do these things. Very important. Those who record the history of an event are the ones who define it. If we leave it to the official party documents or just to the printed record it will say very little. Eventually some big name research firm or policy analysis group will come in and do surveys, etc., but in what my liberal little heart views as a soulless fashion. If we want what we did to matter in the long run we need to speak up about what exactly we did and how we did and what effect that had. If Ray ( is willing to collect that data, more power to him. His participation in Young Philly Politics speaks well, in my view, of his willingness to share it once he has a better idea of the big picture.

Don't let someone else define your motiviations or your actions. Set the record straight from the start.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Meaning of Seth Williams and the Bloggers

Young Philly Politics has a nice reflective wrap up to the regional bloggers' Seth Williams initiative. Good reading. Check it out.

Buying Local

May is Buy Local month. A few commentators have said they think the idea of buying locally is outmoded in a global economy. My response to this is “Do you guys live in a cocoon?” Let me give you two contrasting visual images to underscore my point and then I’ll expound on it. One of the marital duties I took on / was assigned early in my marriage was fetching donuts for the household on Saturday mornings. Usually I go to a locally owned and operated bakery. They keep a jar on the counter for people to leave donations for an annual local celebration. When that bakery is closed for vacations I go to a national chain. They have a tip jar on the counter. That, in a nutshell, is why I try to buy local.

When spring is in the air many people start to think about vacations, swimming, flowers, and so on. For a PTA mom the return of the robins signals the beginning of Spring Fair season. A lot of elementary schools where I live have spring fairs and these events are major fundraisers for the PTA, and underwrite a lot of activities and supplies throughout the year. The one I volunteer with is a fairly involved activity and the coordinators are bargain hunters. These women can sniff out a donation a mile away. A lot of the food is donated, as are prizes. Businesses can sponsor a booth. Very few of our donations come from chains, those that do are locally owned franchise businesses. Everything else is local.

We have lost all of our local pharmacies. There is one locally owned hardware store left. The garage that takes care of our cars has a bulletin board overflowing with letters of thanks from sports teams they have sponsored, and events and groups to whom they have donated. I will confess to buying most of my groceries from a national chain but I also stop in a local mom & pop grocery once a week and pick up a few things. Often you can find the man whose name is on the sign outside stocking the shelves or checking in with customers. His store also donates a lot of food and services to local events and groups.

One of my friends is active in environmental organizations. The township Environmental Advisory Committee hosts tree plantings once a year. She often rounds up donuts for volunteers. A locally owned grocery store used to reliably donate a dozen or two donuts. It was bought by a national chain a few years ago. The next time a tree planting came up the free donuts were no longer available. Another local business has provided a coupon for a free item to all children participating in the library’s summer reading program. I read in the paper recently they the business was sold to a larger corporation. I am waiting to see what comes home with the summer reading program papers this year.

The remaining local businesses are hit harder by requests for donations. I know the bakery I go to is often asked to donate items. To counter this I will sometimes buy a coffee cake or cookies to take to bake sales, and tell the bakery staff where the items are going and that if anyone comes in asking for a donation they can say they have already sent something over. When I buy flowers from the local florist to take to campaign office openings or public events I ask them if they want to put in a pick with their name on it as free advertising. Ditto for the local mom & pop grocery.

Each year a local business sponsors luminarias for the area I live in. Volunteer block captains set out the luminarias, but the supplies are provided by the business. The supplies are useless without volunteers to set them out (tip for the day – never wear cotton gloves when lighting candles; you will end up setting your fingers on fire). The volunteers could not afford to buy supplies for their blocks, nor would they purchase the same supplies, providing the uniform look throughout the area.

To have a robust community bond you need community events and activities. To have that you will almost always have to have business involvement in some form. To have that you really need a healthy local business economy. To have a good school you need parental and community involvement. To have that you need group activities of some kind, clubs, sports teams, chess tournaments, something. To have that you often need sponsorship. To have that you need a healthy local business economy. Some chains do pitch in. Where I live, Home Depot has a good reputation for donating materials for scouting projects. Target does invest a percentage of its profits in the communities where it has stores. These businesses are unlikely, however, to sponsor a soccer team or a booth at the fair. Your best bet for that is a local business, or a parent with a professional office. When all the parents work for national chains and there are fewer local businesses, it is harder to have these events.

Local businesses, especially service businesses, tend to like to have their employees involved in civic organizations, not just monetarily but with time and energy as well. National chains are less likely to care. This is why I try to buy local, and why I think you should, too.

weekly legislative update

No bills were introduced, shuffled, or acted upon in their the house or the senate this week.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Purple Thumb

I want a purple thumb. Not a purple plum, a purple thumb. You remember the picture of the young Iraqi woman showing her stained thumb proudly, as evidence that she had voted? I want that. I want people who vote to have some tangible proof, a public sign. Years ago I lived in a state that handed out “I voted” buttons at the polls. Some people didn’t take them. Other sdiscarded them quickly. I wore mine all day. If I could I would have glued it to the end of my nose so people could have seen it better.

To be fair, let me tell you I get irrational around elections, not in a fervor over particular candidates, but afterwards, when I see voter turnout figures. Call it PES, post-election syndrome; it will pass in a few days. In my area only 11% of eligible voters voted, around 1 in 9. That’s just terrible. I think there ought to be a way for those who voted to recognize each other, to celebrate our tribal bond.

Devout Catholics have a smudged forehead on Ash Wednesday. Jewish men wear yarmulkes. Christians can wear crosses. Why not an ultraviolet stamp at the polls, like the ones used at concerts, or the ink-stained thumb? A sticker, a pin, anything. Early voters could nod in solidarity as the day passed. The ink stain would stay on for a few days until the skin sloughed off. You could look at your colleagues, friends, and neighbors, glance down subtly at their hands. One quick eye movement is all you’d need. Would you smile in support or give them a “I’m so disappointed in you” headshake? No words would be needed.

One of the people I had talked to about voting for Seth Williams asked me today who had won. I said the incumbent but that I was sure he would have a chance to vote for Seth Williams again in the future. Two other people have asked me why I supported Williams. It was too late for them to vote but maybe it will spark their interest for next time.

I’m always torn between wanting to get people out to vote and thinking that if you don’t know who the candidates or issues are maybe you should stay home. I’ve never liked the people who stand outside the polls and hand out literature, but then I usually have a list of selected candidates with me. Mr. Jane and I have similar political views so we will sometimes divvy up races. For example, maybe he will take school board and I’ll take judges. We each research the candidates and then give the other a list of recommendations. I suppose that’s no different from party endorsements but I trust Mr. Jane more than the party. I tell myself that I would be happy to see extremely high turnouts even if it meant candidates I supported lost (although that usually happens anyway), but I don’t know if that’s true or self-delusion.

In the meantime I’d like an inky thumb.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Final Results

NBC 10 declared Abraham the winner, 56-44, with 94% of precincts reporting. My local races' results have come in also. No surprises there. What is most notable is that in my immediate area only about 11% of eligible voters took the time to vote. I talked to people I know who live in Philly. the general reaction was "is there an election?" Most said they hadn't followed the races, didn't know the candidates and so didn't want to vote. While I understand GOTV efforts, I have to wonder if we actually achieve anything if we herd people who are so purposefully ignorant out to the polls. Color me cynical.

Preliminary Results

At 9:30 p.m. Attytood reported that Seth Williams was behind 58-42%. At 10:30 p.m. CN8 was reporting Williams behind 57-43%. Not enough precincts reporting to find out how my local races went.

voting rap

ACM, over at A Smoke Filled Room is a haikuist. I'm not quite that talented but I can sometimes come up with a street rhyme:

Gonna click my heels and shake my butt
Doing the "I just voted" strut
uh huh uh huh

Took the kids down to the polls
Future voters, on a roll
Uh huh uh huh

No purple thumb, but my heart sings
Gonna let those American freedoms ring
uh huh uh huh

At 7:20 a.m. I was the 6th voter at my precinct. Not exactly a big turnout. There were more people than that handing out literature at the door. The little Janes went with me and each pushed a button or two (with strict supervision, of course). The oldest little Jane was especially interested in the school board races; the youngest was also excited.

Don't let a kindergartener out do you!!!! VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE

Monday, May 16, 2005

Local Elections

If you live in an area where they are no big races on the ticket in this election you may be tempted to skip it. Please reconsider. Township commissioners and school board members can have as much, or more, influence on your daily life than your federal representatives. The condition of local roads, loitering ordinances, public swimming pool rules, and so on, are set by local government, not state or federal government. School boards affect not only curriculum and school rules but property taxes as well. Ever get a speeding ticket? Local judges are the people you might have to go see. This is actually the level of government where you can have the most influence because your local elected officials are more accountable more directly to you. It is also the level where your campaign donations, especially if they are small, can have the most dramatic impact.

Statewide there is the Growing Greener initiative. Give this some serious thought. I have some qualms about it, but, in this case, something is better than nothing, and several people and organizations I think well of have endorsed it.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Seth Williams Fundraiser

Given the short notice, the fundraiser for Seth Williams last had a great turnout, and raised over $1,000. For more information and pictures see The Tattered Coat and Young Philly Politics. It isn't too late to volunteer or donate, see Seth's web site,

And remember, even if you don't live in Philly, there are still a number of good reasons to come out and vote this Tuesday. The Growing Greener issue is on the ballot, and there are probably local offices, judges, commissioners, school board, and so on. The election is Tueday. If you need a reminder email, visit

You aren't obligated to vote for everything on the ballot. Vote for the things you are interested in. If you don't like a candidate or candidates, leave that one blank. But, by all means, go out and vote!!

Friday, May 13, 2005

weekly legislative update

These bills passed the PA house or senate this week. Each had numerous sponsors and the names have been deleted for space considerations. Please note SB 198. I will sleep much easier tonight knowing that renegade florists have been curbed; it was certainly an issue we heard a lot about in the last campaign.

SB 157 An Act amending the act of December 31, 1965 (P.L.1257, No.511), known as The Local Tax Enabling Act, further providing for delegation of taxing powers and restrictions thereon; and making editorial changes.

SB 464 An Act amending the act of December 5, 1936 (2nd Sp.Sess., 1937 P.L. 2897, No.1), known as the Unemployment Compensation Law, further providing for the definition of "employer" and for general powers and duties of department, providing for representation in proceedings; further providing for contributions by employers and employees, for successors-in-interest, for appeals, for interest on past due contributions and for limitations upon enforcement of payment of contributions, interest and penalties; providing for registration and other reports; further providing for the Special Administration Fund; providing for the Job Training Fund; further providing for the duties of the State Treasurer as custodian and for offenses relating to false statements and representations to prevent or reduce compensation and other offenses; and providing for monetary penalties.

SB 62 An Act amending Title 62 (Procurement) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for application of part; and providing for electronic bidding by local government units.

SB 462 An Act amending the act of April 12, 1951 (P.L.90, No.21), known as the Liquor Code, further providing for unlawful acts relative to liquor, malt and brewed beverages and licensees.

SB 198 An Act prohibiting a deceptive business practice in the floral industry; and providing for a private cause of action.

SB 82 An Act providing for the display of the American flag, Commonwealth flag or military flag by residents in a unit owners association, homeowners association or master association.

SB 62 An Act amending Title 62 (Procurement) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for application of part; and providing for electronic bidding by local government units.

HB 1488 An Act requiring information relating to parenting and prenatal depression, postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis and other emotional trauma counseling to be provided to a pregnant woman; and providing for the powers and duties of the Department of Health.

HB 734 An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, providing for a small business health savings account tax credit.

HB 515 An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, further providing, in sales and use tax, for the definition of "manufacture"; and further providing for the apportionment of business income for corporate net income tax purposes.

HB 236 An Act amending the act of June 25, 1982 (P.L.633, No.181), known as the Regulatory Review Act, further providing for legislative intent, for definitions and for proposed regulations and procedure for review.

HB 1076 An Act amending Title 34 (Game) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for license and fee exemptions and for license costs and fees.

HB 887 An Act amending Title 34 (Game) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for resident license and fee exemptions.

HB 859 An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, further providing for the alternate imposition of the use tax.

HB 856 An Act amending Title 34 (Game) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for unlawful acts concerning licenses.

HB 650 An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, further providing, in corporate net income tax, for the definition of "taxable income."

HB 353 An Act amending the act of June 2, 1915 (P.L.736, No.338), known as the Workers' Compensation Act, further defining "occupational disease."

HB 107 An Act authorizing the establishment and maintenance of health savings accounts; providing for special tax provisions relating to exclusions from personal income tax; and imposing restrictions on health savings accounts.

HB 89 An Act regulating child labor; conferring powers and duties on the Department of Labor and Industry and the Department of Education; imposing penalties; and making a repeal.

For a Good Time ....

....attend a fundraiser for Seth Williams tonight. Details available on Philly Future. It is from 5:30 to 7:00 tonight. Sorry for the late notice. Recommended donation is $25.00 but more or less will be accepted. I won't be there tonight but did send Seth $25.00; this can be easily done on his web site, Seth is scheduled to be there. Dan, ACM, and some of the other area bloggers will be there also, so this a chance to meet the faces behind the words. For the single ladies, if you complain about not being able to meet nice guys in the city, here is your chance, because I'm willing to bet there will be more men than women in attendance, and by just showing up they have demonstrated some serious positive qualities. The political backdrop will provide sufficient small talk ("How did you get interested in the campaign?" or "Wow, it's great to see so many people interested in the city.").

Why should you care about this race or any race? Well, let me explain why I didn't post this earlier. You may or may not have heard that there was a fire on a railroad bridge outside New York City yesterday evening. Bear with me, I will get around to Seth Williams here. As it happens I was in New York yesterday; once or twice a year my job takes me there for a day. I spent most of the day in a basement room standing; when I wasn't standing I was sitting on the floor. Lunch was an egg salad sandwich and some lemonade, eaten standing. Not exactly boardroom stuff. I left the house at 7:30 a.m. and got to Penn Station to go home a little after 7 p.m. At that time all the trains were listed as delayed. At about 7:40 the pa system announced that we should make alternate arrangements because no Amtrak or NJTransit trains were going south any time soon. A coworker and I headed down the street and around the corner for the PATH trains, rumored to go to Newark, along with a horde of other people. The trains were packed. Two people jammed in next to me were complaining about the PATH system and one said the riders ought to organize and write their congressmen. The other said that her elected officials were so corrupt she expected to open the paper every morning and see someone else accused of dipping into public funds, and that no one listened to the riders. I was looking around for a map to figure out how the PATH trains worked and saw a big poster on the wall announcing meetings for the PATH riders association, and asking people to join and attend. The irony of it struck me. It is easier to complain than to do something.

We have the government we deserve because we take so little interest it. We seldom check into candidate's claims. As I've written about before, it isn't always so easy to look up voting records and ethics filings and such, but that it is in large part because so few people are asking for it. If you live in Philly and don't trust the courts or think the da's office isn't doing its job, then make sure you are at the polls May 17th to make your voice heard. Don't just stand around and say "oh, all politicians are bad." Some are, some aren't, but if you don't go out and meet them you won't know which ones are which.

As an aside, I did get home last night, at around 11:30 p.m. At one point, trying to switch trains just to get to Newark there was one of those scary moments when the crush of people trying to get on the train moves you along whether you are trying to walk or not, and the people inside the train trying to get out is pushing you in the other direction. And yet, through all of that, with the trains like sardine cans, everyone behaved very well. No yelling, no swearing, no one knocked down (in itself a miracle) or shoved aside. I am sometimes very impressed with our society, which is often amazingly civil. At any rate, I got home late so everything is getting done late, including this posting.

Four days until the election. If you confuse the days of the week and aren't sure you will remember which day to vote, the folks at will send you a reminder.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

For those of you who needed more than one alarm clock, you can sign up at and receive an email reminder to go and vote.

Black and White and Read All Over?

Greetings to those who might be visiting after seeing this blog mentioned in the Inquirer. I nearly dropped my oat bran when I saw the blog name in the paper. Wowie Wowie Wow Wow Wow, as Junie B. Jones might say. I've been writing the blog for about 6 months, having gotten started when put out a call for bloggers. Some of the postings are about politics, some are about life in general. Thanks for your visit, you are welcome to stop by any time. The regional effort on behalf of Seth Williams has been a really positive outreach, with some real results, and I'm pleased to have been able to participate. Dan over at youngphillypolitics and the guys at Philly Future have been the brains behind it; I've just been along for the ride.

Six days until the election. Please remember to vote.

Ethics Rulings Online, Sort of

I whined too soon about the state's financial disclosure statements not being available. As it turns out, they are, just like voting records are, which means they are and they aren't. There is a web address,, but good luck figuring out how to search or browse it. I kept getting error messages but that may be because I wouldn't allow cookies from the site. As another snarky note, there is nothing about this on the state's home page. I know there is a lot of information to cover but if there is room to note that May is Beef Month in Pennsylvania, I think there might be room to make a note of this as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


In April I wrote a blog called “Loss.” Those reading it may have thought it referred primarily to the pope. In part it was. However, that same week my cat died. I’m now catless. It has been over 20 years since my home has been without a feline. In fact for all but a few years in high school and college, I’ve had a cat for all of my life. One of the first things Mr. Jane and I did after returning from our honeymoon was to go to the SPCA and pick out a cat. We added a second some years later.

Now, however, we come home to an empty house. I’ve discovered that not all those middle of the night noises that I always assumed were the cat moving around were actually the cat. I now blame them on whatever that wildlife is that gets under the house (raccoons? chipmonks?) or squirrels in the attic.

Years-long habits are hard to break and I still look for the cat bowl in the kitchen or mistake a bunched up jacket on the floor for the cat. It feels strange to see Mr. Jane stretched out of the sofa without the cat, definitely a man’s cat, curled up next to him or nestled in the crook of his arm. I used to wake up at night because the cat was being piggy with the covers but now I sleep less soundly.

It brings to mind a quote attributed to Mark Twain – “A home without a cat--and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat--may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?”

So it was excellent timing when someone at work told me her cat had had kittens and asked if we would want one or more. When they are old enough to leave their mother, two little kittens will join our household and we can again prove our title to a happy home. I look forward to be a catted person once more.

DA Debate / Inquirer Endorsement

Dan over at Young Philly Politics is doing a great job following the Philly DA race. Check out his eyewitness account of the debate. Also note that the Inquirer has endorsed Williams. As a voter I always pay close attention to newspaper endorsements and, if undecided about a particular race, will often vote with the paper's endorsements. Unfortunately, in recent years, the local papers I read have decided not to print endorsements. I can understand it. Local politics can be especially divisive and bitter and, in a time of declining circulation, newspapers can't afford to alienate any percentage of their readership. Nor do endorsements always equal wins, as the most recent Philadelphia mayor's race will show. In that race the Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine both endorsed Sam Katz and look what that got him. Still, it was a pleasant surprise. I was also pleased to read in Craig Dimtri's article on that the blog campaign had brought Williams 60 new volunteers. That's a pretty good number.

A week until the election. Remember to vote.

Don't Fall Down, Mommy

Sunday was Mother’s Day. The little Janes decorated me with jewelry, earrings and a necklace on the most delicate chain I have ever seen which immediately tangled. I spent most of Sunday morning with a magnifying glass and a straight pin trying to fix it. I wore the new finery to church, listened as the children announced to everyone during the children’s message what they had bought me, and modeled for anyone who stopped me afterwards to check out the new goods. I understood that my role was to be admired for their sakes and to tell them how thoughtful they had been.

Much of parenthood revolves around praising and smoothing a child’s path. At this point, for me, it involves things like scheduling playdates, baking cupcakes, offering encouragement and positive learning experiences, providing a safe and loving home and nutritious meals. It’s not terribly difficult, other than trying not to bark at them too much. As they get older it will become more challenging.

The oldest little Jane reminded me a few years ago of the most important rule of parenting. He and Mr. Jane were dropping me off at one of those extended team relay walk / runs. I had tried to explain what I would be doing and why I would be away overnight but wasn’t sure the kid understood. As I was getting out of the car, he leaned forward to say something to me. I thought it would be “I love you” or “good luck,” but instead it was “don’t fall down, Mommy.” I nodded and said I would try not to fall down.

That’s been my primary parenting goal, not to fall down. We all see the stories in the papers of abusive parents who wind up in jail. But there are a number of other, smaller, less newsworthy ways to fail. I remember one fall day seeing a mom walk across the playground to drop off a kid; she was dressed in a black bustier and skintight leopard print Capri pants. At eight thirty in the morning. In my neighborhood that really stands out, and not in a good way. Parents behaving badly at sports meets, doing their kid’s homework, leering at their teenage child’s friends, arrested, making a fool of themselves at school, saying something thoughtless, forgetting to pack the child’s valentines the day of the class Valentines Day party. Big and small, the ways we might embarrass our children or provide bad examples are myriad. I drink orange juice straight from the carton (I’m the only one who likes that brand and, hey, it saves a glass), but not when my children are in the room.

So, I do my best not to fall down. However, I will tell you that Monday, the day after Mother’s Day, I had half a pan of Rice Krispies treats for lunch and then took an hour long nap. Today I will climb back up on my pedestal and try not to fall down.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Public Records?

This week there was an article in the paper saying the financial reports of state legislators had been released. Released to whom and how is a big question. I didn’t get my copy, did you? I’ve searched around and didn’t see any web address listed for the information. The press, in the age of quickie headlines and little investigation, didn’t provide much more than a cursory report and snippets on local big names. Things like this bother me. Information that is supposedly public, really isn’t.

weekly legislative update

These bills passed the house or the senate. Sponsors are listed if there were few enough to fit on one line. Otherwise, in the interest of saving space, I deleted them.

HB 153 An Act relating to organ and bone marrow donation; providing for a special leave of absence for organ and bone marrow donors; and providing for a tax credit and for additional duties of the Department of Health and
the Department of Revenue.

HB 182 An Act amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), known as The Administrative Code of 1929, providing for investment powers for the State Workers' Insurance Board; and making editorial changes.

HB 253 An Act amending the act of December 12, 1973 (P.L.397, No.141), known as the Professional Educator Discipline Act, further providing for reporting to department; providing for the public notification of disciplinary actions imposed against professional educators and charter school staff members; and further providing for confidentiality.

HB 271 By Representative GABIG.
An Act authorizing the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to convey a portion of a Project 70 tract of land in the Township of North Newton, Cumberland County, under certain conditions, to the Township of North
Newton, a municipal corporation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and authorizing the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to convey a portion of a Project 70 tract of land in the Township of West Pennsboro, Cumberland
County, under certain conditions, to the Township of West Pennsboro, a municipal corporation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

HB 504 An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, providing for tax incentives for historic preservation.

HB 628 An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, further providing for annual budget; prescribing a penalty; and making an editorial change.

HB 1110 By Representative STAIRS.
An Act designating State Route 56 in Seward, Westmoreland County, as the Ricky Hafer Highway; and designating State Route 711 in Seward, Westmoreland County, as Aaron Rusin Boulevard.

HB 1180 An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, providing for contributions to the Military Family Relief Fund on individual income tax return forms through checkoff boxes
and for military tax credits for employers who pay or subsidize the wages of an employee called to active duty.

HB 200An Act providing for the strengthening and enrichment of children and families by promoting safe, healthy and nurturing home environments, for the educational and supportive services of home visiting programs in this Commonwealth, for the Ounce of Prevention Program and for integrated community-based delivery of services; specifying program requirements; designating an oversight board; providing for responsibilities of the board and the Department of Public Welfare; specifying criteria for community program grant funding; requiring training and an independent evaluation process; and providing for quality assurance.

HB 399 An Act amending Title 54 (Names) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for divorcing and divorced person and surviving spouse to resume prior name.

HB 1069 An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for leaves of absence for certain government employees; and making a repeal relating to military leaves of absence.

HB 1077 An Act amending Title 30 (Fish) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for license fee for deployed Pennsylvania National Guard members.

HB 1173 An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for loan interest forgiveness for certain active-duty military personnel.

HB 1179 An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, establishing the Military Family Relief Assistance Program and the Military Family Relief Assistance Fund; and making an

HB 1241 An Act amending Title 23 (Domestic Relations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing an exception to the oral examination for members of the active military, reserves or Pennsylvania National Guard who are currently deployed in an active military operation or national emergency.

HB 1259 An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for extension of limitations on student assistance grants.

HB 1261 An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for deferred motor vehicle
insurance coverage.

HB 1266 An Act amending the act of June 3, 1937 (P.L.1333, No.320), known as the Pennsylvania Election Code, further providing for manner of applying to vote and for absentee electors files and lists.

HB 1277 An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, establishing the Pennsylvania Military Child-Care Assistance Program and its operation.

HB 1178 An Act repealing the act of April 3, 1872 (1873 P.L.1061, No.1109), entitled "An act to incorporate the State police of Crawford and Erie counties."

HB 523 An Act providing for the annual observance of May 2 as Pennsylvania State Police Day; and directing the Governor to issue a proclamation on May 2, 2005, in observance of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the
Pennsylvania State Police and to issue an annual proclamation thereafter.

HB 267 An Act amending the act of June 24, 1931 (P.L.1206, No.331), known as The First Class Township Code, further providing for specific powers.

HB 266 An Act amending the act of February 1, 1966 (1965 P.L.1656, No.581), known as The Borough Code, further providing for specific powers of borough.

HB 136 An Act amending the act of May 1, 1933 (P.L.103, No.69), known as The Second Class Township Code, authorizing appropriations to watershed associations.

HB 127 An Act providing for certain rights of foster parents; and further providing for duties of county agencies and foster family care agencies.

HB 110 An Act amending the act of April 12, 1951 (P.L.90, No.21), known as the Liquor Code, further defining "eligible entity"; further providing for incorporated units of national veterans' organizations; authorizing an alcohol access control tax credit; and imposing powers and duties on the Secretary of Revenue.

SB 607 By Senator THOMPSON.
An Act providing for the capital budget for the fiscal year 2005-2006.

SB 327 An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, providing for reimbursement of certain school district mailing expenses; and making an appropriation.

SB 143 An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, establishing parent involvement programs andpolicies in school districts.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

One More for Seth

The Seth Williams Blog Brigade is asking for your help once again. We would like you to pledge to vote for Seth in the May 17th primary. The other bloggers can speak eloquently about the political reasons why you should vote for Williams. I wish I were that plugged in, but I’m not. This is what I can tell you,and bear with me because I will be making a point.

I wanted to go to the gym this afternoon but it just didn’t happen – an impromptu meeting took up that time. I planned to go to a political debate tonight but that went by the wayside when the fan belt (or whatever it is called) in the dryer broke and there was a basket of wet clothes to be hung around the house to dry (because no one had time or energy or enough quarters to go to the laundromat). There might still have been time to make the debate but I had promised to send a snack to scouts on Friday and pick up some supplies for a PTA event this Saturday and finish up some things for a school program tonight to keep it on target tomorrow. So, there was no time for a debate, regardless of how much I wanted to go. It would have thrown off the household schedule for days.

What does this have to do with Seth Williams? There are people all over Philadelphia who have much more hectic schedules and much less time and money, and when called as trial witnesses they take time off of work to go to court and do the right thing and fulfill their civic duty. They show up in court only to hear that the case needs to be rescheduled because someone isn’t ready or someone hasn’t shown up. They jump through hoops to get to court the second day the case is scheduled to hear the same thing. If you were one of them would you show up the third time? The fourth?

We keep hearing that half of all criminal cases in the city are dismissed because people don’t show up or the prosecutor isn’t prepared, having just been handed the case, one of many they are handling. The current DA can’t refute that because she doesn’t believe in keeping statistics. Now, really, how many of you reading this don’t keep some sort of record of how you are doing? One of the little Janes is supposed to read for 20 minutes every night as part of his homework. Much as Mr. Jane and I love and trust him, we also time him. When I turn in an annual report each year at work I don’t write “I did a good job and you should give me a big raise” with no correlating or supporting evidence. Especially when you are on the public payroll you have to keep good records. Call me na├»ve but I think that’s just a basic rule.

The current DA released the farewell letter Mr. Williams wrote when he left the DA’s office a few years ago for private practice; he had been there for ten years. In the letter he praises the current DA and she is making a big deal of that. Hey, folks, I’ve left jobs and written carefully crafted letters of resignation that, while not outright dishonest, certainly did not reflect my true feelings. Likewise I have sometimes thanked people for help that I could have done without, and been gracious to the parents of my children’s friends when they are not people I would have chosen to spend time with (and the feeling was probably mutual).

Releasing that letter was tacky. I know politics is a rough and tumble business, but this race has been pretty clean so far. Mr. Williams has not made any personal allegations about the current DA nor has there been any nasty gossip at all, let alone any associated with his campaign. He has not taken the low road and played the race card. He has behaved as honorably as one might expect someone of his caliber and previous shows of character.
I can’t vote for Mr. Williams. If you can, I like to encourage you to consider it. If you think you can make a pledge to vote for him, please do so on his web site,

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


The drumbeats you hear in the distance announce some big do'ins this Thursday. (Well, it may actually show up Wed. night since I have to be at work early on Thursday, but you get the idea.)

Advice for College Students

I was away from my office today, attending a meeting at a large college campus. There were more midriffs, bellies, hipbones, and underpants on display than I have seen in a long time. If I could ask one thing of America's youth it would be this: For crying out loud, HITCH UP YOUR PANTS!!!

For those who prefer more practical advice, Dan Savage's column last week was chock full of advice for 15 year old girls. It is sometimes raunchy, sometimes graphic, but still useful information. Unfortunately if it is delivered by anyone over 18 it will probably be ignored. See for yourself.