Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ghost Voting

It's tough to keep up with all the issues. It's easy to let one slide as the next one comes along. But, if you recall, we were all in a tizzy last January when the new PA House rules were adopted and they included wording that allowed legislators to be "in the Harrisburg area" and still vote (or give their proxy). I was trying to monitor the daily legislative emails I receive for it to check the actual wording. I didn't see it and have always felt that I wasn't being observant enough. It has bothered me. Those who keep up with the weekly legislative updates may remember a note some time back to the effect that bills may not be reported when they are passed but announced later.

So I am both relieved and upset that HR001 showed up in tonight's email, although it was adopted in late January. Maybe it was in an earlier email, too, maybe it didn't. Hard to say at this point. In any event, here is the relevant paragraph, rule 63:

A member who is either performing a legislative assignment in
2 the Harrisburg area in furtherance of duties of his office or on
3 behalf of the body of the House and to which the member was
4 appointed by the House or the appropriate officer of the House
5 may, upon request to and approval by the member's floor leader,
6 be granted Harrisburg Legislative Leave and be voted by or at
7 the direction of the member's floor leader. A specific reason
8 must be given by the member to the respective floor leader and
9 that floor leader must announce the granting of the Harrisburg
10 Legislative Leave. Harrisburg Legislative Leave shall last no
11 longer than the single legislative session day for which it was
12 requested and shall immediately expire with the return of the
13 member to the Hall of the House. No member will be granted
14 Harrisburg Legislative Leave for a session day, or a portion of
15 a session day, who does not personally vote on the day's initial
16 Master Roll Call. A member is not permitted to request
17 Harrisburg Legislative Leave if the member is the prime sponsor
18 of a bill scheduled to run during the time for which Leave is
19 requested or if the member has filed and intends to offer an
20 amendment during that time.

Interestingly, the rule right after that sets out the criteria for chronic absenteeism and the punishment, provided a set number of legislators will make the appropriate motions. I wonder how often, or if, that rule has ever been put into effect.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Meth.....

Remember the story this summer about the escaped convict who took a woman hostage and after they read her copy of "A Purpose-Filled Life" together and she made him pancakes, he turned himself in?

Check out a short, unobtrusive article on page A12 of today's Inky. Turns out she also gave him some methamphetamine. Yep, you read that right. Apparantly she just happened to have some in the house.

I wonder how many households in America have a copy of Rick Warren's book and some meth. Is it just in the spice cabinet? This was one of those news stories that just made me feel old and out of touch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Train of Thought

In keeping with today's apparant railway-related theme, let me comment on the Dept. of Justice's decision not to fund the technology needed to allow Philly first responders' communication equipment to work underground.

Think Progress put it this way:

Philadelphia is trying to improve its first responder capabilities, but the government isn’t helping out. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has decided that Pocatello, Idaho (population 51,466), needs emergency communications equipment more than Philadelphia (population 1,517,550) does.

COPS denied Philadelphia $6 million to upgrade its first responder equipment so that police officers, firefighters, and paramedics could use their radio equipment underground and in tunnels, which the current equipment will not do.

Albert followed up with his own commentary.

I am in some of those tunnels on a fairly regular basis and would really like to see first responders have the upgrade. They can currently borrow SEPTA equipment that does work underground but if they are down there in an emergency situation, trying to keep track of one, not to mention two, walkie talkies is going to be tough. The other option is to set up a "shouting line" to carry information along. If we all remember playing the gossip game as a kid, we can imagine who effective that would be, especially in case of a fire or crash or something else noisy.

However, I question the use of the word "deny." In most government funded programs a certain amount of money is set aside; no one is guaranteed funding (unless your senator or congressperson is on the right committee and can call in some favors). So it wasn't denied; it wasn't funded. I wish it had been.

However, there has been some insinuation that the smaller cities that were funded, in states like Iowa, Idaho, and New Mexico, for example, don't need such equipment. To that I respond with two words: Oklahoma City.

I think the best thing to do is gather more information, make a more convincing case, and try to get the equipment in the next funding round, or from another agency.

Strainge Things

Yesterday I found myself on a platform on the Blue Line (Market / Frankford). It happens a few times every year, unusual but not unheard of. What was out of the ordinary was the young Asian woman who walked up to me and handed me the earpiece of her cell phone and urgently gestured for me to put it in my ear. Surprise overwhelmed germophobia so I stuck the piece in my ear and said "Hello?" A woman on the other end said the woman whose phone I was on needed to go to a particular station. "She is at that station," I said. The woman who owned the phone nodded and took it back from me. She put it in her ear and went off talking in a language I didn't recognize (I can spot Japanese and Thai; above and beyond that I'm clueless).

Today, on another train, going in a completely different direction, I sat in the same car as a trio, an older woman and two men, who appear to be just passing out of the category of "young men" into just "men," if that makes sense (late 20's, early 30's). (There is an entire passage in one of Thomas Hardy's novels on this division, but I forget which book it is in and have digressed enough already.) They were talking religion, Catholicism to be exact, and the woman would lose herself in thought and begin praying or praising aloud. She said it would be wonderful if all the world leaders would raise a yellow rose to the sun and then broke into a song about the Yellow Rose of Peace. It was not objectionably loud, though I could hear it half a car away, and was a lovely song. All the same, you don't often get seranaded on SEPTA.

Years ago, when I was cobbling together a living from two or three part-time jobs, I went to Washington D.C. a couple of days a week for a few months. Usually I took the unreserved Amtrak train. Once or twice the timing of things made the expense of the Metroliner worth the time saved. On one of those trips the train conductor read us poetry, "The Road Less Traveled," by Robert Frost. I wondered if we just had an exceptional conductor that day or if that is the sort of thing that always happened on the Metroliner, a "how the other half lives" feature. I'm still not sure.

Monday, September 26, 2005

New PA-08 Poll

Read it here.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

weekly legislative update

Now that the state Senate is back in session (the House picks up this week), the weekly legislative updates are back. To remind you of the ground rules -- these are bills that passed (not were introduced or routed to committee, but passed), in either house this week. The list of sponsors are deleted if it runs over three lines. Only bills are included, not non-controverial resolutions (their offical name), unless they seem particular interesting then I might break a rule and add them in. A brief abstract is included, copied directly from the information the state sends out. You yourself can receive daily email updates by going to the state's web site, going to the legislature section, and signing up.

Our friends at PICPA (the state CPA association) have started up their weekly updates again as well. Please note that the state ethics committee has cleared Rep. Jacqueline Crahalla of charges that she illegally used legislative staff in her 2004 campaign.

Bills that passed the Senate this week:

HB 619 Prior Printer's Nos. 692, 2134. Printer's No. 2656.
An Act amending the act of June 30, 1981 (P.L.128, No.43), known as the Agricultural Area Security Law, further providing for definitions, for agricultural security areas and for purchase of agricultural conservation easements.

HB 875 Prior Printer's Nos. 998, 1173, 2657. Printer's No. 2658.
An Act amending the act of June 24, 1976 (P.L.424, No.101), referred to as the Emergency and Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefits Act, further providing for death benefit eligibility and for definitions.

SB 450 Prior Printer's No. 473. Printer's No. 1109.
An Act prohibiting price gouging; and imposing penalties.

Philly Mag Disses Bloggers

The October issue of the Philadelphia Magazine is out. I pick it up now and then and this happened to be one of those times. Contrarian Noel Weyrich has a word or two (actually quite a few) to say about the blogosphere's efforts to help solve the LaToyia Figueroa missing person case. He refers to the local bloggers as the Dick Brain Trust (in honor of Richard Cranium). See pages 64-67. It is too new to be online yet so I can't link.

By raising the issue of race, members of the Dick Brain Trust managed to provide their own entertainment for a little while. They briefly got as much media attention as the missing-person case the were trumpeting. In the meantime, poor obscure LaToyia's name finally crossed the lips of Nancy Grace and other cable news demi-gods. Not that it accomplished anything. It didn't help solve LaToyia's murder. But it felt good to the bloggers because the blogosphere is a great big cyberspace circle-jerk.

The big question is why CNN, MSNBC and Fox would roll over for this race-baiting bull. Besides the fact that the race debate provided juicier cable coverage than LaToyia's case by itself, I think that all the Dick Brains out there have cable news running scared. The executives and on-air talent know they are obscenely overpaid for beaming unbelievably dumb stuff into everyone's living room. Now an unpaid band of computer jockeys are making their reputations by pointing it out, however clumsily.

Well, I believe people should say what they think, and certainly Mr. Weyrich has done just that. I happen to disagree with him on a number of points and his language is questionable. A circle-jerk? Are all bloggers male? It is definitely a male-based term. I can think of others words that have a similar meaning that don't carry quite as much baggage. I also question his view that the press attention garnered by bloggers had no effect on the search for LaToyia. He is right that a number of women disappear every year. I think we helped find one of them and the Missing Monday movement may help find more. His view of cable news I can't argue with. And there is no doubt that bloggers, myself included, can be clumsy. It's hard not to be when you are working around job and family concerns.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Young Chicks

I like the New Yorker. You may have noticed that, given the number of times I have quoted it in this blog. Today, though, I am not happy with it.

The mailman delivered the Sept. 26th issues, with a "Fashion Rocks" supplement (fashion + music = style). It highlights a number of musicians, mostly solo performers, but two groups were included. I have listed them here by gender, with their ages. If I had to look up the age elsewhere it is in brackets.

Alicia Keys / 24
Gwen Stefani / [36]
Joss Stone / 18
Destiny's Child / (group, ages 24, 24, 25)
Shakira / 28

David Bowie / [58]
Billy Idol / 50
Tim McGraw / [38]
Duran Duran / (group, one age listed at 43, others described as in 40's)
Nelly / 31
Rob Thomas / 33

Does anybody notice any differences here? Of the five women (or group of women), only one is over 30, and she is 36. Only one of the remaining four is over 25. Of the six men (or group of men), all are over 30, three are in their 30's, the group is in the 40's, and two are 50 or over.

Just looking at the photos, only three of those featured are people of color. Other performers are given paragraph descriptions. I focused solely on the articles of a page or more.

Things like this just really annoy me.

[Note: one inappropriate spammed comment removed.]

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Where's My Paper?

The Daily News and the Inky are collectively cutting their reporting staff by 100. Philly Future has a large group entry on this. Tattered Coat also has a good entry. There have been others as well.

I have watched over the past few years as the Inquirer has cut back on reporting in my area. We used to have one reporter for a couple of townships, then it was the general suburban area. Now on Sundays we get a flimsy insert that is primarily written by readers, happy, fluffy news and essays by high school students. All this is well and good but I have no other venue for solid news. There is a suburban weekly but it is not known for breaking big stories.

Bloggers are great and wonderful, but most of us are volunteers and don't have the skills, connections, or time to do the investigative reporting that we all love to quote from.

I stopped watching televised news about six years ago; on the rare occasions that I see it now I'm just put off by the sensationalism and sloppy work. Commentary shows have, by and large, turned into ill-mannered scream fests. I get my news in print.

The daily newspaper has been a part of my life since I knew how to read (okay, maybe not then, but soon after). When I have time I read the city paper, a national paper (WSJ or NYT), and USA Today when traveling. I subscribe, and can tell you the paper hits the driveway usually between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. On those days, few and far between, that it doesn't come I'm lost. I get the shakes. One morning after a snow storm I went around the street offering homebaked cookies in return for anyone's paper. Mine was buried somewhere in the front yard and didn't surface for over a week.

I can't tell you how many times people have told me they think everything should be free and on the Internet. When things are free and on the Internet they have the substance and consistency of this blog. Good reporters who spend hours tracking down stories and filing freedom of information act forms can't do it on evenings and weekends. They need to get paid to do it. And that means people have to actually buy the papers. Much as I like the local paper's blogs, I like their news reporting better.

We need papers strong enough to buck local politicians, with reporters who know how to do what good reporters do, writers who can write. A city without a robust paper or two cannot claim to be a great city.

If you are reading this and do not subscribe to a paper, please go out and buy one, maybe two.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Congressional District Maps

I'm trying to get a handle on some of these Congressional races and part of that is finding a good map of the district to see where the boundaries are. That is trickier than you might think.

However, I found a great source!!!

Take a look here:

If this is our tax dollars at work, they are being well spend (at least in this case).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight?

One of the jobs of a parent is to allow children to explore
a variety of interests in a venue that allows them to enjoy
the experience in as safe a manner as possible.

So, once one of the little Janes discovered the Outdoor Living
Network (I think that’s it anyway) and bull riding in particular,
we began to look for ways to investigate it a little further.
For some reason watching grown men being stomped by huge animals
is appealing to my suburban offspring. Mr. Jane asked around
and heard about Cowtown. Before we could make definite plans
to visit, I noticed an ad for the Liberty Pro Rodeo, being
sponsored by the LuLu Shriners, last weekend. On Sunday
afternoon we packed up the family, only got lost once, and found
our way to Plymouth Meeting.

I’ve never been to a rodeo before and found it an interesting
cultural experience. The rodeo riders spend all those hours
practicing and their formal performance lasts from a few seconds to
maybe a minute or two. Most participated in only one event. There
were six events with a “speciality act” in between. A rope
and knife act (British, oddly enough) appeared twice. He was
possibly the skinniest man I have ever seen in my life and his
sardonic humor made a nice foil to the overly enthusiastic
announcer. The main rodeo clown had a dummy with a Saddam Hussein
head on it that he desperately tried to get the bulls to stomp or
charge but with no success. He eventually just threw the dummy on
a bull’s horns. I could have done without the mother-in-law and
fat / ugly girlfriend jokes. The announcer didn’t have a lot of
room to talk, given the amount of overhang on his saddle. Souvenirs
for sale included cap pistols, cowboy hats, dream catchers, and the
like. The one item I saw that peaked my interest was the selection
of “Git-R-Done” hats. (I consider myself a Git-R-Done gal.)

What I noted about this event that I don’t usually see at events I attend was the very patriotic theme. It opened with the national anthem. Flags were a frequent presence. It was definitely a pro-American, but not pro-Bush atmosphere. There were several mentions of the troops overseas but not the administration that sent them. Several times the announcer recalled the Shriners connection, “cowboys ride so kids can walk.” It was upbeat but not quite too “rah rah.” Leftist gatherings don’t have these patriotic draperies quite as often. I don’t recall hearing the national anthem or the pledge when I heard Howard Dean speak. Maybe we need to get the red, white and blue bunting out more often.

Note: This entry posted twice so I deleted the duplicate.

DFA Straw Poll Top Ten

Earlier this month I wrote about a straw poll DFA was having for congressional candidates. The preliminary votes have been tallied and they are down to a top ten. Two Pennsylvanians, Lois Murphy (PA06) and Patrick Murphy (PA08) are in the list. You can vote for up to three candidates. Take a moment and click the mouse for the home team.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Keeping Up With Politics

In anticipation of the congressional races next year (and to avoid writing or saying anything really stupid before then), I copied the Philly area pages out of CQ's Politics in America 2006. If you aren't familiar with this source stop by your local library and take a look. I plan to quote from it or refer to it often.

Those of you who prefer online resources might want to check out D.C.'s Political Report. I have added a link to their PA page on my resources list.

Also, I've added a new blog, Philadelphia Will Do to my blog list. (via A Smoke-Filled Room).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

weekly legislative update

Even though the legislature isn't really back at work yet, they are still shuffling paper, routing bills to committee and such.

The Value of a Congregation

From the Sept. 12th New Yorker. Malcolm Gladwell, "Letter from Saddleback: The Cellular Church," pp. 60-67, we find this passage, on page. 62:

Ram Cnaan, a professor of social work at the University of Pennsylvania, recently estimated the replacement value of charitable work done by the average American church-- that is, the amount of money it would take to equal the time, money, and resources donated to the community by a typical congregation -- and found that it came to about a hundred and forty thousand dollars a year. In the city of Philadelphia, for example, that works out to an annual total of two hundred and fifty million dollars' worth of community "good;" on a national scale the contribution of religious groups to the public welfare is, as Cnaan puts it, "staggering." In the past twenty years, as the enthusiasm for publicly supported welfare has wanted, churches have quietly and steadily stepped in to fill the gaps.

That's a lot of nickels in the collection plate.

Driving Late at Night say

Everyone has those touchstones, be it a song or image or something else, that grab your guts and turn a black and white scene into color or make the world at that moment safer.

One of mine is those rare instances when I am driving down the road late at night, usually alone, in the country so there are lots of stars, and Woody Guthrie comes onto the radio singing "The City of New Orleans." It doesn't happen often, maybe a handful of times, but it always grabs me when it does. Lately the song has been on my mind. Wonder why.

Update: Someone emailed to say they think it was Arlo and not Woody Guthrie. I did some checking, a quick check, not an exhaustive one, and cannot find any mention of Woody recording the song, so I will stand corrected that it was Arlo. Still a good song.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The President's Address

I watched President Bush’s address from Jackson Square in New Orleans. My emotional response was “boy howdy, that man is running scared.” I can’t imagine him coming out and giving this speech unless he had taken a look at his approval ratings and been alarmed at what he saw.

Normally the president uses a lot of hand gestures and facial expressions to augment his words. Nothing wrong with that. I do it a lot myself when speaking in public. I do think the president tends to go overboard with it. However, this evening he was remarkably restrained, at least at the beginning of his talk. You barely saw his hands and his expression was grave. I think someone must have sat on him forcefully. His use of gestures increased the longer he spoke and his facial expressions became more varied. It’s hard to change your delivery style, especially as you move further into a speech, so I think we saw his more natural style coming out more towards the end. It isn’t a very presidential image, though; something I thought came across very clearly in the debates.

I can’t speak with any authority on historical precedent or current policy so I will limit my remarks to his use of language. I’m not a trained linguist but I do earn a part of my living with words and am viewed, in my own small sphere, as having a good feel for them. It was clear that he had employed a skilled speechwriter. The allusions and phrasing was beautifully done. There were a few “huh?” moments, but not many.

“a cruel and wasteful storm” -- an interesting use of anthropomorphism. Storms cannot be either cruel or wasteful, but the second adjective is the most unusual by far. Certainly one might think of nature as cruel, especially in this case, but wasteful? You might say a storm laid waste, but wasteful is an unusual word here and it jumped out at me as not quite fitting in.

“vulnerable people left at the mercy of criminals who had no mercy” – very nicely done, good alliteration, it trips off the tongue. Also nice was his story of the homeowner who took in the looters. It some ways it sounds Biblical, but it also reminds me of a chapter of Les Miserables I had to read in college French class, wherein Jean Valjean steals something from a bishop who befriended him. When the police catch him and take him to the bishop’s house to check his story that the stolen items were gifts, the bishop gives him the valuable candlesticks too.

“the American people expect the work done to be done honestly and wisely” – well, that is a hopeful statement. I imagine the American people expect dishonest politicians and cagey businesspeople to get as much government money in their own pockets as possible while spending as little as possible on actual rebuilding. What we would like, and always would like, is for someone to knock a few heads together if anyone is caught at it. For more detail, see the Philadelphia corruption trials and use of airport contracts as personal favors.

“deep persistent poverty” – a good description

“take the side of the entrepreneurs” – a nice homage to the bookstrap American businessperson that we all like to hear about. Note who has gotten the contracts so far – Halliburton, et al. I also wondered if this phrase would, in the long memory of a region that views the Civil War as recent history, bring to mind the image of the carpetbagger. May not have been the best choice of words.

“everyone should find their role and do their part” – another homage to the can do American spirit. The armies of compassion have indeed been mobilized and it is a wonderful thing to see. The armies of scam artists are also on the move. It is always thus.

“I as president as responsible for the problem and the solution.” It was wonderful to hear. This sentence more than any other in his speech led me to believe that he was running scared. From all the news coverage I have seen to date (and I only saw a little), the federal authorities were pushing blame down the ladder as fast as possible.

“the despair of any touches us all” – a lovely thought and one that we all want to be true. I’m spoiled, though, having heard Barack Obama’s speech and the Democratic convention. I think he said the best version of those words I have ever heard.

These are my thoughts. I will leave it to the pundits and spin artists to decipher the speeches meaning and presidential historians to judge its long term value.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

DFA Straw Poll

In the email inbox, a note from DFA:

This week, Democracy for America is hosting an online vote to determine which congressional candidate will receive our first DFA-List endorsement of 2006. The vote is open to all challengers and open seat candidates. The candidate with the most votes at the end of balloting will receive a DFA-List endorsement and a national e-mail from DFA's Chair Jim Dean.

The voting will take place in two stages. First, we will hold an online vote ending on Saturday, 9/17 at 5:00 pm Eastern Time to narrow the field of candidates down to the top ten. For the second round, we will hold an Instant Run-off Vote among the top ten candidates to determine our first endorsement of 2006.

To place a vote go to:

Six Pennsylvania condidates are on the ballot:

Chris Carney PA-10
Lois Herr PA-16
Lois Murphy PA-06
Patrick Murphy PA-08
Steen Porter PA-03
Paul Scoles PA-07

My Newest Obsession

Those inclined to mental or math puzzles will love Sudoku. I just learned about it this morning and can see it is one of those meaningless, useless things that tickles my brain and that I can actually do.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hoeffel on "It's Your Call"

Joe Hoeffel was a guest this evening on "It's Your Call with Lynne Doyle." It was the first time I had ever watched the show. It is likely to be the last. There were four guests, in addition to Doyle. The guests were:

In the studio:
Edward Turzanski
CN8 National Security Analyst
Political Science Professor, La Salle University
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute

Bill Pascrell, III
CN8 Political Analyst
Contributor, CN8's "Who's Battling Bill?"

Joe Hoeffel
Former U.S. Congressman

Out Of Detroit, MI:
Debbie Schlussel
Conservative Columnist

Debbie Schlussel behaved in an extremely rude and obnoxious manner. It always pains me when the one non-white male guest is easily identifiable as someone who will, without a doubt, look bad. She made the show difficult to watch and no doubt difficult for the other guests to participate, not to mention her rudeness to callers. I deleted her website URL from the guest list because I don't want to provide her with any more press than necessary.

In any event, hometown boy Hoeffel presented himself well. One of his talking points (mentioned a number of times) was that FEMA worked under Clinton but it was "broken" under Bush. He mentioned a 25 year right wing effort to tear down government, and that FEMA was underfunded. He mentioned that the neglect of people in New Orleans was not racism but classism, a neglect of those without a lot of resources or status. Another point mentioned was that there did not appear to have been a plan, at a number of levels, for dealing with such a situation.

I was taking notes on his remarks and not paying close attention to anyone else's and I missed the first 10 minutes of the program.

One other gender-related note, there was an announcement at the end of the show crediting the business who had provided Lynne Doyle's jewelry. Has anyone ever heard of this being done for a male "journalist?"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More PA-08 Democratic Do'ings

Robin Wiessmann has decided not to run in the Democratic primary. (via

Paul Lang, one of the three Democrats who has announced a candidacy, wants to point out that he was a member of Vice Admiral Thad Allen's staff while working for the Congressional Hearings Team in Washington, D.C. Allen is now heading the recovery efforts and government response for Hurricane Katrina.

Friday, September 09, 2005

weekly legislative update

No bills were passed this week (or, to be more accurate, no bills were reported as having passed this week), although some were shuffled around to committees.

Bye Bye, Bob and Larry

It happens to all parents; kids go through stages, and passages of life. In our house we recently boxed up all the Veggie Tales videos and gave them away, along with the stuffed animals of the characters, including Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber (the civilian identity of caped crime fighter Larry Boy). I’ve spent years in the company of Bob and Larry, and their friends, Junior Asparagus, Madame Blueberry (my personal favorite), and the French peas. The writers were clever enough to include cultural allusions the parents might get. The French peas’ parody of the Monty Python French castle guards was great, and I melted at the sight of the U.S.S. Apple Pies, complete with Scottish engineer.

But all things come to an end, and so our house is now Veggie Tale free. School is starting and everyone (especially Mom) is a year older. The supplies are bought, the backpacks packed, the clothes laid out and the lunches planned. On the first day of school the playground was full of assorted parents bravely smiling but inwardly wailing “My baby!” in an almost palpable way, as if our offspring were being shackled and led off to the mines instead of walking in a orderly line into an air conditioned suburban school. The little Janes are always excited and eager. I vomit and break out in a rash. The clump of hair that fell out and left a small bald spot (not noticeable but still somewhat worrisome) is new this year. Who knows, maybe it’s ringworm.

In part all this anxiety is because the school is like a fortress and the doors clang shut with my children inside. If you think politics is machiavellian, you’ve never dealt with a school system. I’ve had more individual face time with my state rep than with the principal of my kid’s school. Think maneuvering through party politics is tricky? Try the PTA (I know most of them aren’t called that anymore, but it’s what I grew up with.) I have an easier time getting a call back from my federal Congressional representative’s office than the head of the school board. It’s harder to get into the school district’s administrative offices than my safe deposit box. I’ve stood closer to Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Arlen Specter than I have any three members of the school board. You get the idea.

Update: the kids, as you might have expected, are fine. The rash hasn’t gone away yet, but I’m hopeful. My hair is starting to grow back. The letters announcing who made the cut to be room parent have gone out but nothing has shown up in my mailbox yet, so I fear that I fell short here, as in so many other areas. [sigh]

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Castor Out of the Running

This is hardly news but I hadn't seen real concrete statements on both races. Bruce Castor, Jr, the Montco DA, has decided not to run for either governor or Congressman for the 13th district next year, according to an article in the Sept. 7th Times Chronicle (not online)by Margaret Gibbons, who writes for a number of smaller local papers. An interesting excerpt:

Montgomery County GOP officials recently received poll results that indicated that there is little likelihood that any Republican, including Castor, will be able to unseat Democratic incumbent Gov. Ed Rendell, according to two GOP Sources

Also, in a face-off with Democratic incumbent Allyson Y. Schartz for a congressional seat that serves voting districts in both Montgomery County and Philadelphia, an early poll shows Schwartz would get about 48 percent of the vote to Castor's approximate 20 percent, a source said.

Castor's state senator, Rob Wonderling, has only been in office a few years, and has a lot of support, but state rep. John Fichter is around 70 and has been in office for 12 years, maybe he'd be ready to step aside. With the big pay raise, maybe state office would be more appealing. Of course, there's always county commissioner....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

PA-08 Update

Earlier this month I provided an update to some earlier posts. In that post I remarked that I had contacted the Patrick Murphy campaign to let them know I had mentioned the candidate, and that I hadn’t received a response. In truth, since I’m not a constitutent or a donor, it wouldn’t be that odd for my email to get lost in the shuffle. However, Murphy’s new campaign manager, Josh Nanberg, sent me an email over the weekend, and a response to my response on Monday (a holiday!). Murphy himself also sent an email. That is above and beyond the call of duty.

The Murphy campaign also sent me something in the mail late last month. In the letter it points out Murphy’s military experience, as well as his legal experience. These points have been mentioned in the media a number of times. What I hadn’t known was his involvement in the Bucks county Veterans Committee, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and his local parish planning committee. Regular readers will know I always like to see local hands on attention to community matters. It is one of the best ways of finding out what is on the voters minds on a regular basis, as opposed to one shot townhall meetings (though those are very important also), and seeing how the community works together (or doesn’t).

Murphy is looking good in my book.

The Paul Lang campaign let a comment on a recent post to say that a copy of his appearance on Air America Radio is available at:

[Note: one spammed comment deleted]

Eating Our Young

I've written several posts about the recent legislative pay raise and the unvouchered expense fund used to collect the increase before it actually takes place. To make matters worse, Bill DeWeese, House Minority Leader, replaced Democratic sub-committee chairs who voted against the increase with other Democrats who had voted for it.

In today's Inquirer, Larry Kane (whom I'm not normally a big fan of) writes an editorial on this. One paragraph in particular jumped out at me:

Two young Democratic represntatives from Montgomery County, Josh Shapiro and Michael Gerber, voted against the pay raise and refused to take them early. DeWeese can't take away their committee chairman posts, because they don't have any. But these are two freshmen who won upset victories against Republican opponents. They are already going to have a hard time retaining their seats. If they lost constituent service funds, they will be weakened politically by their own party leader. Figure that!

He goes on to point out that it is hard enough to find people willing to run for office, without having to worry about being stabbed in the back by their own party. I've looked at Shapiro's work for an earlier posting on some legislation he (and others) introduced on creating a statewide articulation agreement among state funded colleges and universities, allowing students to transfer from one school to another more easily. He has also made child safety, especially reducing the number of children who die in household accidents, a priority. He's a young man with a long political future in front of him. He took a stand for his beliefs. We need to encourage more like him to run, not toss him to the curb.

I've also written about Greg Vitali, who has not only lost the chairmanship of an energy sub-committee (he's been involved in energy-related issues for years), but also seen some cuts in constituent services money. Vitali is a good guy.

Come on, people, can't we do better than this? There's another year before election season on the state house heats up. We have to keep talking about this, keep it fresh in the minds of all voters. It's important.

[Note: one spammed comment deleted]

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day Labors

Last year on Labor Day I took a big garbage bag out to the kids' elementary school and picked up the playground. Thinking it would be a good tradition I did the same thing today. Some other people or facilities employees must have been keeping up with it over the summer because there wasn't that much trash around, mostly some soda cups and cans and straws. I took the little Janes and they played on the swings, etc. while I worked. The easiest most efficient way to pickup a large area is to mentally mark out a grid and walk it, up and down, eyes on the ground scanning just up ahead of my feet. I must look like a lunatic. This year, like last year, there was another parent with kids out playing, one last time before the school year starts up next week. It's a nice opportunity to talk with a parent that I wouldn't otherwise meet.

It is these little things that help me keep my equilibrium. When something like Katrina happens it is easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed. By doing my small part to keep my corner of the universe tidy, and making small contributions to the world at large, I can add another timely piece to the puzzle, a hurricane relief donation at Rite Aid, care packages, a small donation to Red Cross, and go on my merry way. The Red Cross is made up of an army of individual volunteers, just like you and me. So are all other large and small scale organizations and groups everywhere. Pick up a broom and find yourself a few small spots. It can help you keep your sanity when unbelievable craziness erupts around you.

[Note: one spammed comment removed]

Missing Monday

The Disenchanted Forest has a group of "Missing Monday" photos and information. Please take a look.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hurricane Relief, Kid Style

Sure enough, many denominations have set up a variety of options for Hurrican Relief. Mr. Jane and I are making a cash donation, but also plan to involve the little Janes. If you prefer the hands-on method, or have a group of friends that get together or can get a bunch of friends together, you can pack "flood kits," or, more importantly and more needed right now, "health kits." You just need to put a bar of soap, a washcloth, some nail clippers, toothbrush and toothpaste, and a few other things. Put them in a big plastic bag and you're set to go. We are going to have the kids each pack a couple of health kits.

For complete instructions and the address, as well as other options, take a look here.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina's Ken Kesey (Without the Drugs or Merry Pranksters)

I originally saw this story on CNN but can't find that link now, so here's the story from the Houston Chronicle. A young man (CNN said 18, Houston says 20) either found an abandoned bus (CNN) or was told to take it by police (Houston), drove out of New Orleans, picking up around 100 people along the way and drove them to Houston's Astrodome where they were refused admission for about 20 minutes until authorities decided to let them in. This is a great story to read! A magic ride indeed.

The Last Supper Lunchbox

This is apropos of nothing, but I've been looking everywhere for something the kids could use in their lunch to keep something hot/warm until lunchtime, you know soup or leftovers or spaghettios or whatever. Sporting goods stores -- no. Camping stores -- no. Searching online I found bingo! They have two versions, stereotypically gender designation (the green slime design under "boy," the pink butterfly design under "girl"). While at the site I also browsed their lunchbox selection. They have something for everyone, including, I kid you not, a Last Supper Lunchbox, just perfect for someone who wants to take a footlong hoagie for the midday meal.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Things Fussbudgets Think About

I don’t know if the “Think Globally, Act Locally” bumperstickers are still around but these are things that have been flitting around in my brain lately:

Hurricane Relief

While we are all focused intently on the situation at present, we need to be thinking and planning ahead. The refugees currently in the New Orleans stadium need to be moved, some of which will be taken to the Texas football stadium, others to other locations. They will probably be there for months. Other than food and needed medical supplies there will be many other needs. School supplies and school clothes will be needed in a week or so. Clean clothes and basic toiletries for everyone (soap, deodorant, toilet paper, tampons (in some cases), toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, combs, brushes) will be needed for everyone. Not just for a few days but for the long-term future. Right now the Red Cross probably prefers that people donate funds so things can be purchased in bulk, so please donate. Some people will be able to stay with relatives in other parts of the country. Someone I know has a relative in hurricane territory and has offered to house their children for the school year so the parents can focus on rebuilding their lives without that extra worry. For others, though, there is nowhere else to go, and no one else to turn to.

I had already started stockpiling washcloths and bars of soap for Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoebox campaign. I imagine there will be something similar here for those still in shelters. If you are a knitter, pick up a few extra skeins and some knitting needles (maybe the round plastic ones instead of the metal, in case there are security guidelines). Someone who knits for relaxation may be going stir crazy and those supplies are not likely to be included in the standard relief package. If you are in a toy store or a general retail store, pick up a board game, a pack of cards, a jigsaw puzzle. If you received something like this yourself but never used it, make a note of where you’ve put it so it can be passed on. Don’t throw out your old coats or sweaters; put them in a bag in the closet, provided they are still in good shape. Ditto with books, especially the ones in good shape. I imagine a makeshift library or informal book sharing system will be one of the first informal social networks set up (right up there with clothing sharing networks). By all means, donate as much as you can to the Red Cross now, but keep the holidays in mind. By then people will really be getting cabin fever. If it turns out such an effort isn’t required you can donate things to nursing homes, VA hospitals, homeless shelters, Toys for Tots, and so on.

Why think ahead and plan for this now? Because compassion fatigue will set in and by the holidays, and certainly after, we may have all emotionally moved on. It is human nature to do so. Because of their organizational structure and mission statements, national religious and civic groups will probably be tapped or volunteer to take on specific tasks. If it hasn’t already happened, there is a conference call going on somewhere to decide which denomination is collecting soap and which one is collecting toothpaste, or if everyone should pack complete “hygiene kits” (we do this for international missions and so have practice) and whether the Lions should continue to send used eyeglasses overseas or give the hurricane survivors first shot. These are the boring aspects of life that keep things actually going. This is part of the safety net.

Local Action

Mr. Jane gassed up the cars on Monday in anticipation of higher gas prices. Last night we sat down and figured out how we could manage on a daily basis without using our cars at all if there is a fuel shortage. We aren’t the only ones. Chris at Rowhouse Logic is doing something similar. Ma always told me to try to find living quarters within walking distance of public transportation, a grocery store and a laundramat. We are less than a mile from some form of each, in some cases much less, and less than a mile from the kids’ school.

We tend to buy nonperishables in bulk so we have a lot of bottled water (for school lunches), toilet paper, paper towels, cereal, canned soup, pasta, and such stored away. We have a freezer full of frozen veggies and ground beef. At any given time we could survive on what is in the house for a couple of weeks. It wouldn’t be fun but we could do it. One of my hobbies is quilting so we have enough quilts and laprobes around the house that if we got them all out this winter we could set the heat even lower than usual at nights. (I’m in survival mode not only because of the hurricane but because the water is off again today so I filled up some jugs last night for cooking and the cat dish.) One of the blessings of living in a house is that is usually means more storage space.

Our street doesn’t have a town watch or an official block captain. I’m the “luminaria queen,” though, and sometimes serve loosely in that capacity. (A local business provides luminaria supplies on Christmas Eve; volunteers set them up. If you do this sometimes your neighbors think of you as the block captain.). As such, I’m wondering if we could help the area save gas if everyone brought their garbage cans and recycle bins to one central location so the trucks don’t have to go all the way down the street (there’s no outlet on the other end). We have some elderly people, but their neighbors could do “can” duty for them. I wonder if there are other economy measures that streets and neighborhoods can take.

If you have children in school, keep in mind that Oct. 5th is Walk Your Child to School Day. Can parents get together and work out ways that kids could walk safely to school? In my school district children are forbidden to ride their bikes to school, due to theft and safety concerns. It might be time to revisit that, with fuel prices skyrocketing. School buses are not exactly energy efficient.

These are the things I think about, late at night, when I’ve finished worrying about the kids, the mortgage, world hunger, and whether I should just buy larger pants or aggressively try to lose weight.

Examples of Leach's Blogs

You may not be able to visit Rep. Leach's blog right now, and the Internet Archive doesn't have a listing for his site, but Google, my dear friend Google, comes up with a number of items if you search for leachvent; simply click on the cached copy link. Because I believe in going to the source whenever possible, I looked at four of these postings, and offer them to you here so you can come to your own conclusions.

stem cells

vacation tips

Seattle conference

bachelor parties

Daylin Leach

I am SOOOO glad Daylin Leach isn't my state rep.

I tried to visit his blog to confirm the postings quoted in the story and see the overall tone of his blog but was rerouted to Yahoo. I tried in two different browers with the same result.

Just as a tip to any other male legislators who want to try their hand at blogging, women voters may not find it funny that you ask women if you can see their "ta tas" and I, for one, don't want to hear about your "jimmy" either.