Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SOTU Thoughts

I did sit through the State of the Union address but my mind kept wandering. One thing that kept coming to mind is the title of David Sedaris's book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. Lots of pretty words, not always connected correctly, but not a lot of substance.

Gov. Kaine's response was well-done.

Normally I'm not a big fan of the orange/yellow color spectrum but Sen. Frist's mustard-y tie suited him and stood out in all the more traditional blue and red.

Book Review: Expressive Politics

While waiting for campaigns and the weather to heat up, I've been catching up on my reading. Today's choice is Expressive Politics: Issue Strategies of Congressional Challengers, by Robert G. Boatright (Ohio State University Press, 2004). I will confess up front that I skimmed this one. The parts I did read were interesting -- reviewing the campaigns and strategies of those who help the country exercise its democratic beliefs by challenging incumbent Congressional representatives, often when there is little chance of winning. Boatright looks at campaign and candidate strategies, the role of state and local parties, polling and ideology.

Pennsylvanians may be intrigued to hear that among those interviewed were candidates and campaign managers in the 2000 Congressional races. The PA races include those for PA-4, PA-6, PA8, PA-11, PA-15, PA-16, PA-17. Keep in mind that those interviewed were the challengers or their managers. The interviewers were done in early 2001. The Pennsylvania-specific information and quotes is primarily located in chapter 7 of Boatright's book. The quotes are identified by state but not by race, although those in the know (which would not include me) can probably tell who is speaking.

Missing Person Found

Thanks to Howard for the tip -- Latoya Byrd, the missing person highlighted on this and other blogs, has been found. I'll update the site later today.

Monday, January 30, 2006

News Round Up

A few items for your review:

The Pennacchio / Sandals debate this weekend is reviewed by Albert and at A Smoke-Filled Room.

In the PA-04 Democratic primary race to unseat Melissa Hart in November, both Jason Altmire and Georgia Berners are racking up impressive endorsements.

On another front, the possible Republican gubernatorial primary could wake the sleeping giant and get the Democratic field troops out in force in the suburban areas. This could spell trouble for two incumbent Republican congressmen. Note this paragraph from a recent Washington Post article:

Two of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents, Reps. Michael G. Fitzpatrick and Jim Gerlach, represent southeastern counties around Philadelphia, and could be swept out of office by a particularly ferocious Rendell tide, said Republicans and Democrats who are watching the two races. Another Republican who could feel the pressure is Rep. Melissa Hart, who represents a district northwest of Pittsburgh that includes heavily Democratic Beaver County, another Rendell stronghold.

This could be good news for Patrick Murphy and Lois Murphy, who are battling Fitzpatrick and Gerlach respectively (see sidebar for more information on each).

Looking for Leadership

There was an interesting article by Chris Satullo in Sunday's Inky, "In search of a region's 'connectors'." (p. C7)

Those who have read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point are familiar with the concept of a connector -- someone who knows people and can get things done by tapping those connections. Liz Dow, president of Leadership Philadelphia, the nation's oldest community leaderhip program, has begun the connector project. As Satullo describes it, "It's a bid to identify and hail more of the region's less-hearladed 'leaders next door,' to map the connections between them, and to foster dialogues among them."

Here is a longer description of what they are looking for:

In fact, Philly is richly blessed with people providing world-class innovation and leadership in fields civic, artistic, entrepreneurial and scholarly, people whose work inspires other to fly here to study and learn.

But what do many of these gret doers and dreamers have in common? They steer clear of the arena that absorbs most media attention: politics. They learn to "fly under the radar," to get what they need from the political class without getting sucked into its nasty, tribal, corrupt ways.

Harsh, but apt.

If you would like to help identify the region's leaders, go to www.leadershipphiladelphia.org -- there are a series of questions to answer about some of the people you would like to nominate.

This an interesting and worthwhile project. From a purely intellectual standpoint, mapping these regional connections would be fascinating, but from a social standpoint, if these connections can be found and selective ones activated for particular projects, there is no end to the good things that could spring forth from the region.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

PCN Profile: Pedro Cortes

I signed up to be a team member at the PCNTV blog some time ago but have never been able to catch all of a program. Usually I get an hour of a three hour hearing and that's not enough to blog about. Tonight, though I did see an entire program. This is cross posted to the PCNtv blog.

Tonight’s PCN Profile was of Pedro Cortes, Secretary of the Commonwealth (Secretary of State for Pennsylvania). Bill Bova conducted the interview. I imagine it was a re-broadcast.

Cortes grew up in Puerto Rico, with his mother and sister, and only came to mainland after high school. His early jobs included paperboy and grocery cashier / bagger. He wanted to go to school and have a professional job. An aversion to blood took medicine out of the running. A lack of math skills did the same for engineering. He has always loved to read so he decided on the law.

His high school had a program that helped students who aspired to go to college find a school that would be a good match for him. At that time his English was limited and the program suggested three schools. He was accepted by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Once he was at college he wanted to make sure he could get a job and support himself. The school counselor said the college had two programs that would provide such a guarantee, fashion marketing and hotel administration. Thus, he switched from pre-law to hotel administration, but took the pre-law curriculum also. The first setback in his legal career was coming down with chicken pox when he was scheduled to take the law school admissions test. (I had to delay the final exams in my last semester of college for the same reason – it’s a nasty thing to have as an adult.)

His future wife nursed him through his illness and he decided to find a job and stay in the area until she finished school. After that, they decided to settle in Pennsylvania since Cortes’s sister had married and moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Cortes and his wife moved to Mechanicsville where he worked as a theater manager. His wife worked for the state in the welfare office.

With his wife’s encouragement he went to law school at Dickinson College in Carlisle, specializing in labor and employment law, and graduating in 1999. He worked for the civil service and was later tapped to be on the Governor’s Advisory Commission for Latino Affairs by Gov. Ridge, even though Cortes has been a lifelong Democrat. Gov. Rendell nominated him for the Secretary position, which led to Cortes becoming the first Latino in cabinet member in the state’s history.

Interesting quotes or comments – if anyone says they did something on their own be very suspicious because everyone has mentors or a supportive spouse or other help along the way. His definition of stress is being unemployed and not able to care for his family.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

State Senator Robert Thompson Dies

Pennsylvania State Senator Robert J. Thompson, who represented the 19th District including parts of Chester and Montgomery counties, passed away today at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania as a result of complications from pulmonary fibrosis. Senator Thompson was 68 years old. (more details here, via politicspa)

Princeton Research and the Pew, Part 2

Last December I wrote about being called by Priceton Research and interviewed about my Internet use. They called back a few weeks ago for part 2 of the survey. This time they did ask if I read newspapers, how often, etc., as well as radio, use of the Internet for news. They also asked a lot of blogging questions. Did I have one, how often did I update it, did people besides my friends read it, did I use my own name or a pseud., etc. Some of the questions used loaded subjective terms (I think they asked if the blog was influential -- if it wasnt' that it was a similar term). I asked for a definition of what the meant by that. She said they wanted to know if I thought it was [whatever the word was]. There were a lot of questions. I'll be interested in seeing the overall survey results. Undefined subjective words in surveys always make me nervous.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Missing Person Bill Introduced

State Rep. Jim Casorio (D-Westmoreland) recently introduced legislation to help locate missing senior citizens and medically endangered adults. This is good news for those bloggers involved in the Missing Monday project. For more information on Casorio's bill see his press release here.

weekly legislative update

As I mentioned in a previous posting, the governor called a special legislative session to look into property tax reform. Information from that session is included here as well. Standard caveats apply (resolutions not generally included, list of sponsors deleted if it was too long – three lines in the originally formatting).

Our accountants friends at PICPA have updated their legislative page.

Other available weekly updates:

PA House Democrats
PA House GOP daily updates
PA Senate Democrats
PA Senate Republicans

Special Session

These bills were introduced, or referred to a committee, not voted on. The descriptions tended to be pretty much the same, with only a few variations.

Monday no action
Tuesday no action
Wednesday 2 bills, HB01 and SB30, defeated on final passage, reconsidered
Thursday no action
Friday no action

Regular Session


Here are some of the resolutions that caught my eye.

SR 246 – designating Feb. 6th as Ronald Reagan Day

SR 547 – designating February as Children’s Dental Health Month

SR 554 – designating January 29th to February 4th as Catholic School Week


The following bills passed the PA House or Senate this week.


HB 565 Prior Printer's Nos. 638, 3150. Printer's No. 3400. An Act mending the act of May 21, 1992 (P.L.241, No.36), referred to as the Credit Card Information Act, prohibiting certain credit card information on receipts

HB 601 Prior Printer's Nos. 674, 3053. Printer's No. 3403. An Act amending Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for period of disqualification, revocation or suspension of operating privilege and for chemical testing to determine amount of alcohol or controlled substance.

HB 760 Prior Printer's No. 922. Printer's No. 3000. An Act mending Title 23 (Domestic Relations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing, in child protective services, for definitions, for release of information in confidential reports, for investigating performance of county agency, for annual reports to the Governor and General Assembly, for services for prevention, investigation and treatment of child abuse and for reports to Department of Public Welfare and coroner.

HB 1725 By Representatives GINGRICH, ROSS, HERMAN, LESCOVITZ, TANGRETTI and CORNELL. Printer's No. 2192. An Act amending the act of May 25, 1945 (P.L.1050, No.394), known as the Local Tax Collection Law, further providing for basic and continuing education programs for tax collectors; providing for records in possession of tax collector; further providing for expenses paid by taxing districts and for discounts, penalties and notice; providing for compensation for interim tax bills; and further providing for penalty.

HB 1813 Prior Printer's No. 2386. Printer's No. 3214. An Act providing for the allocation of funds to county mental health and mental retardation programs, for cost-of-living adjustments and for the promulgation of rules and regulations.

HB 2027 By Representatives SONNEY, B. SMITH, ARMSTRONG, BENNINGHOFF, CALTAGIRONE, DeWEESE, GERGELY, GILLESPIE, GOOD, HARRIS, R. MILLER, QUIGLEY, RAPP, DENLINGER and SIPTROTH. Printer's No. 2804. An Act amending Title 34 (Game) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for unlawful devices and methods.

HB 2215 By Representative HICKERNELL. Printer's No. 3089. An Act authorizing and directing the Department of General Services, with the approval of the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs and the Governor, to grant and convey, at a price determined through competitive bidding, certain lands situate in Columbia Borough, Lancaster County.


HB 87 Printer's No. 81. An Act amending the act of January 19, 1968 (1967 P.L.992, No.442), entitled, as amended, "An act authorizing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the local government units thereof to preserve, acquire or hold land for open space uses," defining "municipal corporation"; further providing for property acquired in fee simple and for local taxing option; and making an editorial change.

SB 660 By Senators GREENLEAF, O'PAKE, RAFFERTY, LEMMOND, FERLO and PILEGGI. Prior Printer's No. 754. Printer's No. 1423. An Act amending Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, adding the Uniform Trust Act; abolishing the rule against perpetuities; making conforming amendments; and making a related repeal.

SB 928 By Senators THOMPSON, ROBBINS, STOUT, OZNIAK, LEMMOND, D. WHITE, PILEGGI, ERICKSON, PIPPY, ORIE, MUSTO, COSTA, O'PAKE, WENGER, EARLL, C. WILLIAMS, TOMLINSON, WONDERLING, BOSCOLA, RAFFERTY, WAUGH and REGOLA. Printer's No. 1223. An Act amending Title 35 (Health and Safety) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, authorizing certain donations by political subdivisions.

SB 986 By Senators LEMMOND, THOMPSON, PUNT, AFFERTY, ERICKSON, MUSTO, ARMSTRONG, COSTA, VANCE, WAUGH, WENGER, PILEGGI, O'PAKE, FONTANA, CORMAN, M. WHITE, ORIE, EARLL and C. WILLIAMS. Printer's No. 1317. An Act amending the act of May 1, 1933 (P.L.103, No.69), known as The Second Class Township Code, further providing for personal property.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Jerry Birmelin Won’t Seek Re-election

You may wonder why I’m taking note of this state representative’s decision not to run again (via politcspa). Last October I wrote on a bill introduced by Birmelin and Josh Shapiro (D-153), to form the Katie Elise Lambert Commission to study the causes of accidental injuries to children and recommend changes in state law. The bill has passed the state house and is now in the senate. Birmelin and Shapiro hoped the senate would have voted on it last fall but that hasn’t happened yet. I hope Birmelin’s announcement won’t be taken as a sign that the bill can be dropped. Shapiro certainly has the political skills to carry the bill on his own but the bipartisan support is always a big plus.

Community Trust

This week one of the cars was on the fritz. Turn the key once and the instrument panel lit up. Turn it twice to the ignition position and the panel goes dark and there is a sad “click” sound. The headlights still work so it isn’t the battery. We left a note okaying a tow and a key in the night drop of the local garage. They call. The car needs a part. The mechanic can jury rig something until the part comes in, to let us drive it around. They’ll let us know when the part is in and we can bring it back. The next morning I walk down to the garage to get the car. Even though we’re usually only in for regular maintenance, oil changes, inspections, etc., the guy recognizes me and brings the car up. I drive off. If the guy says he’s put a temporary solution in place and that it’s safe, I believe him. What he put in my car is what he would put in the car he drives and that his kids ride in. He doesn’t ask for a dime. He knows that when they call with the part we’ll bring the car back and we’ll pay whatever the charges are. He isn’t padding the bill. Our check won’t bounce. It is a level of trust built up over years of good service on their part and prompt payment on ours. This, to me, is part of the social fabric of a community, part of social capital.

PA Well Represented in State and Local Koufax Nominations

The Koufax Awards, the Oscars of the lefty blog world, has a new category this year -- State and Local Blogs. The list of nominations is now up. I did a quick count and came up with about 8 PA blogs. There are probably more that I didn't recognize. Here are the ones I did pick up on:

Above Average Jane
Angry Drunk Bureaucrat
Rittenhouse Review
A Smoke-Filled Room

As a state we can be very proud to have this many blogs represented.

And now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to go shout from the rooftops and do about 50 million cartwheels, because my blog is on the list. Many thanks to Albert for nominating me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Santorum Wants to Put a Sticker on Your Rear

Sen. Rick Santorum gave a speech to Centre County Republicans recently. He spoke about the sacrifices our soldiers are making in Iraq and Afghanistan. He tells the audience he isn't asking them to put on a uniform, but to put a bumper sticker on their car (presumably a Santorum campaign sticker). Putting these two actions side by side just doesn't seem right to me.

See for yourself, Santorum Exposed has posted the video from PCN. (via gort42). They also have a transcript of that paragraph:

Santorum: "And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?"

Money Money Money Money

Three tidbits on campaign finance.

Bryan Lentz, Democratic candidate for PA-07, has raised $120,000 and has $99,000 on hand. Over half (55%) of his donations were in amounts of $100.00 or less (via politicspa)

Among Iraqi vets running for office, Patrick Murphy, Democratic candidate for PA-08, has raised the most money. (press release on politicspa).

Jim Gerlach, Republic incumbent in PA-06, is in trouble again for not getting the numbers quite right on the amendments to his campaign finance reports (press release from Lois Murphy campaign on politicspa).

(Both Gerlach and Mike Fitzpatrick, Republican incumbent in PA-08, have been the beneficiaries of the GOP Retain our Majority program -- ROMP, as mentioned in this article from The Hill)

Too Many Murphys

There is one sitting Pennsylvania congressman named Murphy (Tim, GOP, PA-17). There are three Pennsylvania congressional candidates named Murphy: Patrick Murphy (D, PA-08), Lois Murphy (D, PA-06) and John Murphy (G, PA-16). To make matters worse, all three of these districts touch or are near each other. Adding more confusion, a Democratic candidate for PA-16 is named Lois Herr. I hope the state's political reporters are keeping careful notes because it will be very easy to slip up. Both Patrick Murphy and Lois Murphy are raising good money and running hard races. It is likely that the state will end up with at least two, possibly three Congressional representatives named Murphy next January. I wonder what the record is for a state with the most federal elected officials with the same surname? Surely someone in a research center somewhere keeps track of that sort of thing.

The Small Picture

We often look at issues through the big picture, with statistics, facts, etc. These days you might see a few well-selected individual stories thrown in for good measure. They usually sound packaged. One good thing about blogs is you sometimes get to read some of those stories in a more genuine setting.

Apt. 2024 has another excellent post today, this one on a family secret. It is worth reading.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Debates and Such

The storm is playing havoc with my dsl so this will be a quick post.

Check out Albert's posting on Lynn Swan's web site.

Also take a look at his review of the recent Democratic senatorial debate (Pennacchio and Sandals, sans Casey). Be sure to check the comments on this post as well.

John Micek has something to say about it today, too.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Santorum and K Street

In yesterday's post I linked to an Inquirer article on Rick Santorum and his current attempts to portray himself as a reformer. In that article Grover Norquist, who claims ownership of the K Street Project claimed that Santorum "never had any formal or informal relationship with the K Street Project." Santorum is (was?) the senate's liaison with lobbyists. He meets with a group of GOP lobbyists every other week. According to the Inky "They discuss lobbying firm's openings but it has not been about putting pressure on people to hire individuals."

In 2002, the Washington Post ( 02 August 2002) ran an article called "GOP Plan To Limit Lobbyists Targeted; Senate Ethics Panel Says Political Party Shouldn't Be Factor" by Jim VandeHei

The research project, headed by GOP activist Grover Norquist, was discussed in June in a private meeting in the Capitol hosted by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Several Republican lawmakers already have copies of the dossier, dubbed the "K Street Project," according to GOP aides.

Phone messages left at Santorum's Senate office, which was closed for the night, were not returned.

"Any effort to deny access to . . . those who do not share a Member's party affiliation, have not made political contributions, or have made political contributions to those not in a Member's party would appear to violate" Senate rules, the ethics committee says in a letter it plans to send to all 100 senators today, according to the source.

A spokeswoman for the committee's chairman, Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), declined to comment on the matter.

The letter will be co-signed by the committee's top Republican, Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.).

Norquist's response?

"They're just being stupid political people, taking serious ethics and trying to make a political point."

Later in the same article:

Santorum, the Senate GOP's liaison to lobbyists, has advocated an aggressive strategy to persuade companies and associations to hire more conservatives, according to GOP officials. He meets twice a month with top GOP lobbyists to discuss such issues.

After one such meeting, Santorum and others sent word to Boeing Corp., a huge government contractor, that they were displeased with its hiring of a Democrat as a top lobbyist.

I found a lot of similar articles when I started looking around but thought I would bore or infuriate you with just the one.

If you want a longer description of K Street, read this article "Welcome to the machine: How the GOP disciplined K Street and made Bush supreme," by
Confessore, Nicholas in the July / August 2003 issue of the Washington Monthly

PSotD Nominated for a Koufax

In Lefty Blog Land the Oscar is the Koufax Award. This year our firends at PSotD have been nominated for Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. Check it out.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sliding Over the Line

Four newspaper articles in two papers came together into a political theme – are ethical slips a part of political compromise? Do some people start out venal or do they slip over a line somewhere along the way? Let’s look at each article/case in turn:

The Philadelphia school district “hired a workers’ compensation consultant with no government experience but with two important patrons: Democratic city Councilman Rick Mariano and Republican State House Speaker John Perzel. After Mariano personally introduced Danlin Management to [Paul] Vallas, the newly formed company won a no-bid contract in 2003 ….”

“When Danlin ran into problems in 2004, Perzel’s office stepped in, pressing Vallas to keep paying the company even after senior district staffers had concluded it wasn’t delivering what it had promised, records show.”

And, yes, as you might have guessed, Danlin officials donated money to Perzel’s political campaign.

State Senator Vince Fumo is in trouble again. In his case, the nonprofit he formed to “promote public health, housing, safety and education in the City and County of Philadelphia” paid $17,000 to a political adviser of Fumo’s. The advisor then paid the exact same amount to help pay for a lawsuit against a political enemy of Fumo’s. By law, nonprofit organizations cannot spend money on politics. The lawsuit was against someone who does not live in the city or county of Philadelphia so I’m not sure how the mission of the nonprofit applies. Fumo later helped find a job for the man who brought the lawsuit.

Senator Santorum, in the meantime, is trying to remind everyone the he helped expose the House banking scandal in 1991. Now, 15 years later he is the third ranking senator in Republican leadership and has received more campaign contributions from lobbyists in this election cycle than any other senator or representative in the country.

Freshman Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick has been linked to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients. Fitzpatrick has already donated $21,500 to charity to compensate for campaign contributions from tainted PACS. He has pledged to return another $5,500. Fitzpatrick has taken money from “leadership PACS,” set up by high ranking officials to reward those already in office and to help selected candidates get elected. In other words, this money isn’t coming from Fitzpatrick’s district or even necessarily industries associated with his district. Since his 2004 race began he has received $283,500 from leadership PACS. Given that you can expect to spend two million or more dollars to run for a house seat, this is only a small percentage of what he needs, but it isn’t an amount to sneeze at and can make a difference between buying tv ads and not buying tv ads. Some of the connections are tenuous (in some cases a PAC gave Fitzpatrick more than the PAC received from Abramoff or related groups), other are glaringly obvious.

All of these examples point to one of the biggest problems in politics – the constant need to raise money for campaigns. In all the but Fumo case, what happened isn’t illegal, but voters may look askance. We all want our elected officials to be accountable to us, the constituents, not to party leadership or some lobbyist who buys influence. It is a pipedream but we cling to it nonetheless.

Fitzpatrick and Santorum’s opponents are making sure these questionable donations are kept in the public eye. As Patrick Murphy, a Democratic candidate for Fitzpatrick’s seat says “It might not break the letter of the law, but what (Fitzpatrick’s) doing is breaking the spirit of the law.” And therein lies the rub. We just can’t legislate morality. We can only hope to elect people who won’t be corrupted by the political system once they are elected. Once those people are elected we need to make sure they know we are keeping an eye on things. I don’t mean this in suspicious or negative way (though that works too) but by being active in our communities and going out to community meetings and writing letters so our officials can see that voters are watching and taking an interest. Any neglected property is prone to vandalism and crime. Applying the “broken windows” theory to politics – if you aren’t putting your officials on notice at the sign of small infractions you are likely to see larger ones.


“Santorum touts his roots in reform,” by Carrie Budoff Sunday January 22, 2006 http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/13684107.htm

“FBI probe: schools vs political connection,” by Ken Dilanian Sunday January 22, 2006, p. A1 http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/13684072.htm

“Nonprofit paid for suit against Fumo opponent,” By Mario F. Cattabiani, John Shiffman and Craig R. McCoy Sunday, January 22, 2006, p. A1 http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/13680293.htm

“Campaign money linked to Abramoff,” by Brian Scheid The Intelligencer Sunday January 22, 2006 p. 1 http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/113-01222006-601336.html

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Area Strawbridges Closing

In today's Inky, Business section, p. E5 ("7 anchor stores in malls will close" by Bob Fernandez). Federated Department Stores will be closing 7 Strawbridges stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware by mid-March. The stores are in the following malls: Cherry Hill, Christiana, Deptford, Montgomery Mall (North Wales), Oxford Valley, Springfield (Delaware Co), Willow Grove Park.

This is never good news for the areas affected. Anchor stores aren't easy to find and an empty hole that size in a retail area looks bad. What does this have to do with politics? A politician or candidate who can claim, with some believability, to have brokered a deal with a new anchor has a nice bullet point to put on mailers and to make in debates. Challengers can make a big deal out of an incumbent's inability to have filled the space. This is solely my opinion, though.

News Roundup

A number of newsworthy items have through my email in the past few days:

Iraq War vet Justin Valera Behrens will run for Congress in the 15th District, challenging Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. For details see the press release at politicspa.

One of the diarists at the Daily Kos is having a slogan contest. The winner gets a bumper sticker that I guarantee will be unique in your neighborhood.

Atrios was on "Radio Times" on Friday. A Smoke-Filled Room has a link to the Audio Stream archives. I took a listen this evening and it was interesting.

weekly legislative update

No bills or resolutions were introduced or voted on in the Pennsylvania legislature this week, although several where shuffled around to committees. In the special session, the House referred HB79 to the Finance committee. The Senate referred SB34 to the Legislation committee.

Our friends at PICPA have faithfully updated their weekly legislative report.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

PA-07 Democratic Websites

I finally got around to looking at the race for the 7th Congressional district, currently represented by Republican Curt Weldon. To date there are two Democrats in the running. I took a quick look at their websites. Dr. Paul Scoles (www.scolesforcongress.com) has an impressive list of endorsements, and a nice bio, but the site is a little dull. Bryan Lentz (www.lentzforcongress.com/) has a jazzier site with a great feature on the issues page where his position is juxtaposed with Weldon's actions on the issues. Lentz is another of the fighting Dems.

Both have full issues pages. Neither has any current events listed. You can, however, contribute or volunteer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fitzpatrick Noted in Talking Points Memo

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-08) was named bamboozler of the day on the Talking Points Memo site. Read the full item here.

GOP Endorsement in 152nd

A reader let me know that an endorsement was being made Tuesday night on the GOP candidate for the 152nd house district. Sue Cornell currently holds the seat, winning a special election after the death of her father, Roy Cornell. Tom Murt is also interested in the GOP slot. I wrote on this house seat earlier here.

The district entails Hatboro, Bryn Athyn, Upper Moreland, Lower Moreland, parts of Horsham, parts of Upper Dublin (all in Montgomery County) and a tiny bit of Philadelphia. You can find a description of the district (and maybe a map) on the Committee of Seventy web site (follow this link, select quicklinks and then maps). [unrelated note -- why is it so hard to find good maps of state and federal districts?]

Voter registration in the district is 53% Republican, 35% Democratic, the rest independents or registered in a minor party. (source: Northeast Times). In the most recent election, the special election Sue Cornell won, she received 57% of the vote. Democrat Ross Schriftman received 42%. Although no formal announcement has been made, his web site is still active (and the source for the election statistics). Going by the registration and voter numbers, more of the independents, etc., voted Democratic.

According to the Intelligencer, before the endorsement some local GOP members were commenting that they felt the endorsement was coming too soon in the electoral process. In an article in today's Intelligencer Tom Murt said he would continue in the race despite the endorsement of Cornell.

If you review the links in my earlier post, you will see that Murt certainly has the qualifications to run, and is that rarity, a GOP Iraqi veteran. Considering that Cornell voted for the legislative pay raise and has been in office such a short time, she may be especially vulnerable to voter backlash. The GOP may have been better served to wait and see what happened or have open meetings with both candidates.

It will be interesting to watch this race. While it isn't an open seat, it is the next closest thing. Murt is a strong candidate, Cornell has name recognition. A strong Democrat might be able to win the general if the GOP fields a weak or damaged candidate. A GOP primary could invigorate the voters or make a hash of things. Cornell will have the party machine behind her. Murt has held township office and so has some familiarity with the process and will have veteran / grassroots / relative outsider status going for him.

I will be keeping an eye on this one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Shop Local: Valentines Edition

Every year I stare at the selection of Valentines available for class parties. They are always character-related, based in tv shows, movies, etc. I always find that a little depressing. Today, in the local mom and pop grocery I found a rack of Valentines that weren't character related. There were horses (yippee!), monkeys (yay!) and cheerleaders (eh). According to the side of the box they are distributed by Paper Magic Group, Inc. of (drum roll) Scranton, PA. I checked the website and found they distribute a wide range of products, including a lot of character based Valentines, too. There are two sites for Paper Magic. The Scranton site handles Christmas and Valentines. The company is owned by CSS Industries, which is located in, get this, Philadelphia!!!

If you are buying Valentines cards this year (or other holiday cards and materials at other times of the year), check the side of the box. If it says Paper Magic, at least part of the purchase price stays in state.

Tomorrow we will return to our regularly scheduled political coverage, probably something on the senate race, but maybe something else entirely.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Faith in Politics: Other Views

As much as possible this post will serve to collect other Faith in Politics postings. They are all very well written and my posting looks very poor by comparison.


Apt. 2024

Just Between Strangers


The Smedley Log

Forever a Square Peg

Gort 42

Another Monkey

Serendipitously enough, Faith Today, a Canadian publication, posted an article today with a survey of Canadian politicians and officials asking them about the intersection between faith and public policy. It is also worth a look (here).

From Michigan: badchristian.com

Faith in Politics: My View

For some time I have been frustrated by the Democratic party’s inability to connect with people of faith, regardless of what that faith may be. It had been on my mind to post about this and had emailed with other bloggers about it. A short time ago I sent out a call for bloggers, especially political bloggers, to post about if and how their faith and their politics converge. LVDem had suggested Martin Luther King’s birthday as a good time to write on this subject. So, here is my post. To stay on topic I have limited my remarks to politics and faith and not my religious beliefs generally.

I have noticed that if you walk into a Democratic political meeting and say you had a rough day and plan to go home and have a beer many people will nod. If you walk in and say you had a rough day and your horoscope predicted it that morning people will accept it without comment. If you say you had an argument with a co-worker and you will really need to meditate that night to restore your equilibrium no one will bat an eye. But if you walk in and say you are having a rough time with a co-worker and you’ve really been in prayer about it people will back off as if you said you had a communicable disease. Since I don’t go to Republican political events I can’t say you would have the same reactions there, but the Republicans seem to have a better time talking about faith in general. While life is often filled with anxiety and worry, especially for those with children and other family obligations, or health problems, religion provides a way to set those worries aside, even if only for a little while. Drowning these feelings in alcohol or other substances or seeking comfort from spiritualism in some form is acceptable but faith seems to make the Democratic leadership uncomfortable. For many of the faithful religion provides a bedrock upon which to build a life. While I may not want to see the Ten Commandments in a courtroom I place a great value on them, as do many others, and feel that in the Democratic rush to keep them out of the public square, they were trampled on just a bit.

It is fairly accepted and backed up by a good body of evidence that people who attend church or other religious services vote more often and with greater regularity than the populace at large. Why is that? My theory is that being active in a religious community ties you to your neighbors and gives a sense of belonging and with it, communal responsibility. Most religions teach compassion and a sense of obligation to others. It provides a tie between us and the rest of the world.

While it is a given that church people vote, the Democratic Party has made very little effort to capitalize on that connection, except perhaps for certain minority ethnic groups, whose churches are often the only place to contact large groups of voters at a time and where ministers tend to have a large sway over the congregation. Otherwise, there seems to be little attempt to contact the faithful either individually or in groups.

Nor does the party present their message in ways that attract instead of repel the faithful. I believe in a separation of church and state, and view it as my responsibility that my children are raised in an atmosphere of faith and taught the tenets of their religion. I don’t want religion taught in public schools because it may not be my religion. The Democratic Party tends to discuss the separation of church and state not as a way of respecting all faiths and denominations within faiths, but as a way of keeping religion at bay as if it were an evil to be avoided. My faith makes me a stronger person, a better person, and it is sometimes hard for me to work in harmony with a political party that views it as a sign of a weak-mind. (Those who have trouble reconciling faith with an inquisitive intellect might enjoy Patrick Henry’s The Ironic Christian’s Companion; it can be difficult to find but is well worth the effort).

While politics tends to be one big game of “King of the Hill,” religion (at least mine) teaches that we should care for and uplift each other. This makes me less accepting of partisan bullying and of politicians and party figures whose sole purpose seems to be belittling the opposing party. For some people, especially women who are most comfortable with the more traditional aspects of life, or do not aspire to be hard-edged lawyers or CEO’s but still want to have their voices heard, the Democratic Party has little to offer. While the GOP has Laura Bush who said in her national convention speech that she wanted to talk with us as if she ran into us in the grocery store (something I can relate to), women speakers at the Democratic convention offered very little discussion of domesticity and other aspects of life I could relate to. (John Kerry’s daughters spoke of their upbringing but that was a memoir of childhood and not a discussion of their adult life.) I, too, am opinionated, but am not vocal about it and do not have a large enough bank balance to attract many listeners. I have far more in common with Tipper Gore than Hillary Clinton and I remember how Gore was vilified over her views on music labeling. My husband and I have both passed up opportunities to further our careers in order to spend more time with our children and be more active in our community, and the Democratic Party offers little respect for this. I do not aspire to be a political leader or someone who can by sheer force of personality alter public opinion, but I do want some respect for the work I do. (To get a more in-depth understanding of this outlook, read Carol Kent’s Becoming a Woman of Influence: Making a Lasting Impression on Others). My religion teaches me that the body of believers is made of many parts; some might seem more important than others but all are worthy and necessary. The GOP has learned to pay lip service to this but I doubt there is any real effort behind it. The Democratic Party has not learned to do even that.

My faith teaches me to reach out to those less fortunate and to provide them with the basics of survival and help them find their way. It teaches me to support others in their endeavors. If I cannot in good conscience do that, to at least wish they find enlightenment and happiness. Where I have choice in the matter I try to surround myself with people who will bring out the better qualities in me. The social policies of the Democratic Party are far more in line with my views than the GOP, but the Democrats do not seem to acknowledge that many people base their social views on religious beliefs or that many of us contribute to charitable causes or volunteer in community building through religious bodies. The GOP, again, at least with lip service, acknowledges the contribution of faith-based efforts, the Democrats seem to pretend they don’t exist.

I believe in individual and family choice. I do not want the government telling me how I can raise my children or how I must die or what I can and cannot do with my body. These are decisions to be made in consultation with loved ones and after praying about each matter in turn. I do not want the government teaching a state religion in the public schools or allowing one religion or denomination to alter the curriculum in those schools. My husband and I want to make the decisions on what aspects of popular culture come into our house. I believe I am responsible for my own decisions and that the economic and emotional well-being of my family is, at least in part, within my control. My faith teaches me that there is hope to be found even when things seem bleak. When the candidates I favor do not win I take the winner’s term of office as one of the dark valleys that everyone must endure, and take comfort in knowing that anyone, even someone with whom I disagree dramatically, may bring about good, although that may not be their intent.

In church, as well as in politics, common values can overcome individual differences. Although I am of the Christian faith, outside of home and church the person I talk about religion with most often and most in-depth is an Orthodox Jew. While I am a registered Democrat and often fiercely so, many of those who have been most receptive to my thoughts and ideas are Republicans, often fiercely so.

The tenets of my faith make it impossible for me to be anything other than a Democrat but I wish the party would be more receptive to and respectful of the beliefs of at least some of the party’s foot soldiers.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Media Matters

Two items in this post:

The movie "Hoodwinked" is pretty good. The plot has enough depth to make it bearable, and even interesting in places, for adults, and fast paced enough for kids. At a little less than 90 minutes long, it's a good way to pass a cold or rainy afternoon. If you are into such things, there are some plot points that can lead to some pretty good conversations on getting the facts before jumping to conclusions, stereotypes, and realizing that sometimes the people you know might have hobbies you never considered but you shouldn't be too upset if, say, some day you find out your mom writes a blog under an assumed name (you might have different versions of this last one).

Heard on the radio today: "ABC Family brings you a 'Wife Swapping' marathon." I do understand there is a tv show called "Wife Swap" or "Wife Swapping" or something and have a vague understanding of the plot, I just can't see it being the highlight of the family hour. It's another reason network tv has lost my household until after 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hoeffel Leads Poll for Lt. Gov.

According to polling data Joe Hoeffel is the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. The breakdown is as follows:

Hoeffel / 19%
Hafer / 18%
Baker Knoll / 17%
McDonald Roberts / 4%
wolf / 4%
Undecided / 38%

Hoeffel's support is strongest in the Philadelphia area, as might be expected. There he has 39% of the vote. The next closest contenders are Baker Knoll and Hafer, who each get 9%.

Statewide, Hoeffel's name identification is only 38%, compared with 67% for Baker Knoll and 70% for Hafer. The memo notes that Hoeffel is largely unknown in the central and western parts of the state, but also that "he is well positioned to grow among progressive voters in these areas."

In my opinion the high percentage of undecided voters means there is real opportunity for a candidate willing to get out there and work. Personally, I can't see Baker Knoll, the current lt. gov., doing that. Hoeffel will have made the needed connections during his senatorial campaign two years ago. He should be able to easily reactivate a network of supporters. It is amazing that Baker Knoll polled so low, coming in third. While a Rendell/Hoeffel team might seem too Philly-centric for some parts of the state, it could negate any regional voter pull Jim Matthews might have if he is the GOP lt. gov. candidate.

Hoeffel will have some work cut out for him if he wants to improve his name recognition statewide but he has never been a slacker in the campaign department.

The memo says the poll was of 600 likely Pennsylvania Democratic voters on January 5, 8, and 9. I wasn't one of those polled. The margin of error is plus or minus 4%, and with the top three names so close together any error could play havoc with the listing, but it would still be a tight race.

The memo itself is available here (via politicspa)

(For more Hoeffel postings see the Hoeffel link on the right-hand sidebar.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Lobbying Numbers Released

The amounts lobbyists spent trying to persuade members of the Pennsylvania Senate have been released (the url is a the bottom of the press release). Information is provided in quarters, and is broken down by types of spending (personal office expenses, section 3 expenses, direct communication, and indirect communication) and by policy area (agriculture, arts, energy, gambling, etc.). Business (construction / manufacturing), health care, insurance, and sometimes education are the big spenders. However, it doesn't tell you who was doing the lobbying and who was lobbied.

While the information provided is interesting, it leaves a lot to be desired. I don't begrudge my senator a free lunch now and then, or maybe a new set of floor mats for the state-supplied car, I would like to know if any free trips to Scottish golf courses are involved and who is paying for it.

weekly legislative update

Neither the Pennsylvania House nor the Senate introduced any new bills, shuffled any off to committee, or voted on anything.

Our friends at PICPA have a new weekly legislative update. None of the House caucuses have updated their information (other than a note that a couple of bills were signed, and those will already have been voted on). If you haven't been keeping up with the House podcasts, i on Pennsylvania, I would recommend them.

Let's hope next week is livelier.

Casey's Web Site Updated With Issues!

For those who grew tired of checking and haven't visited in a while, Bob Casey's campaign web site has been updated and now includes some issue statements, some even offering specifics.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Third Party Candidates in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is not a friendly state for third party candidates. Consider this statement from a Patriot News article:

Libertarians, Socialists and Constitution Party members who want to run for governor this year would have to collect about 67,000 signatures to have their names appear next to the Republican and Democratic candidates.

Democratic and Republican candidates need only collect 2,000 signatures.

(read the entire article here; via politicspa)

This is based on a mathematical formula. According to the Centre Daily:

To qualify for the ballot, independent candidates and minor-party nominees for statewide office must gather at least as many voters' signatures as 2 percent of the ballots cast for the largest vote-getter in the last statewide election race.

Because there was no statewide race last year, this year's threshold is based on the 2004 election, in which state Treasurer Bob Casey won nearly 3.4 million votes -- more than any candidate in the state's history.

Read the entire article here.

Third Party Watch also has some information here.

Of course, there were some other shenanigans going on when Ralph Nader ran for office in 2004 (details here).

It's not that I necessarily want the political landscape to be littered with Libertarians, Greens, and people like Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura, but a little variety would be nice. This is especially true in local elections where party affiliation may not be all that important and the two larger parties can't always field a candidate against an incumbent. Or, more importantly where one party has a lock on local politics and the voters have little choice but to go along with the powers that be. There's no harm in a few more Davids going up against a few more Goliaths in township and borough elections. Since these are often the pipelines for statewide office, it is even more difficult for third parties to break into the electoral system. It is hard enough to persuade qualified civic-minded people to wade into the political cesspool we have created. Let's not discourage any more would-be candidates than we have to.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Blog Round-Up

There are some interesting posts out this week.

A Smoke-Filled Room suggests we take a look at this post from the Daily News. It's just awful when you end up voting for a candidate you don't like that well but is better than the competition.

Joe Hoeffel has some interesting thoughts on initiative and referendum.

Bill Bostic is suggesting we contact our state representative and senator and ask them what they are doing on a given day. You might also quiz them on PennDOT traffic light timing regulations and riparian buffers.

Meetings Meetings Meetings

Lately I've been spending a lot of time in meetings, for school, for community groups, some political events. Usually I attend two non-work meetings a month. This month it's going to be about three times that. So far in 2006 I've learned about PennDOT regulations on traffic light timing, riparian buffers (I can now use the words gabion basket in a sentence), the cultural importance of gravestones, and a few other things that have mercifully left my memory. I've talked with some lovely people and been smacked down in public (happens at least twice a year, and never gets easier). I've been gently reminded of things I agreed to do and haven't done yet, been assigned new tasks, and found out someone has started a project that I think is ill-advised and tried to convey my reservations as clearly but softly as possible.

For legislators that work hard at their job this is piffle; they do this in a day. For those that don't, it's a world they never see. For voters, separating the wheat from the chaff is difficult. If you are out and about and involved in your community you can see if those in office, at least lower level office, are responsive and in evidence. If you aren't, I don't know how you decide who to vote for. I'm just hoping February is a little quieter.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Book Review: Get Out the Vote

I recently read through Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout by Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2004). While there are a number of campaign guides out there, this one looks at empirical evidence on the effectiveness of five "get out the vote" tactics: door-to-door canvassing, leaflets, direct mail, phone banks, and electronic mail. The authors give a price per vote for each tactic and a ranked list of variations on the theme to show what specific actions bring in votes and what ones don't.

Since the book was published in 2004 it doesn't discuss the 2004 elections or the Howard Dean use of the Internet, but it is an interesting read nonetheless.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Political Medicine

Medicine has become increasingly politicized in recent years. We see this primarily in the medical malpractice issue, the regulations for medical professionals to contact authorities if abuse or addictions are suspected, and gender-related access to health care, privacy, and medications.

During the campaign season of the last two congressional election years I sat in doctor’s waiting rooms or offices and was taken aback to see political materials, in support of specific candidates, on the walls. In one case the doctor had a campaign brochure tucked under the glass on top of his desk, and facing the patient’s chair. I supported some of these same candidates myself but I found it somewhat alarming. I wondered if the care I received would differ if I said I supported another candidate. In health care matters, and in other professional encounters that could dramatically affect my personal life, I’d prefer that things remain on a nonpartisan basis. It bothers me.

Doctors are required to report suspected child abuse. This is good. Doctors report patients who indicate they have a drinking problem and their driver’s licenses can be revoked on a doctor’s report. I see this as a good thing, too. However, even though neither of these factors apply to me, there are things I don’t say, or downplay, when talking with my doctor, especially when discussing my family medical history, and this could, theoretically, affect their diagnoses in some cases. But I don’t want some information going to my health insurance company. I just don’t trust them and there are significant chinks in the doctor / patient confidentiality pact these days.

I stopped patronizing a local pharmacy years ago when they refused to fill a prescription for prenatal vitamins and told me to buy an over the counter version instead. I went to another pharmacy and the prescription was filled with no problems. I always think of this when there is a discussion of whether or not pharmacists can refuse to fill a prescription based on their religious beliefs. Things like that already happen, and it’s not good.

Alan Sandals has released an ad that illustrates some of these issues. You can see it here. Don’t think this is an exaggeration. In one of my pregnancies there was some indication of a potential problem. Mr. J and I decided against advanced and somewhat risky tests to make a final determination. The docs drilled me about this on every subsequent prenatal visit for the rest of the pregnancy. However, they forgot to tell me I had an iron deficiency until it was too late to take the supplements to correct it. I guess people don’t sue for that. There were definitely more people in that room than just the doctor and me; I think several lawyers and some insurance company executives were in the room, too. In a more literal sense, one of my children was born after an emergency c-section. There were very few surgeries of this nature done at night at this hospital so the doctor allowed 10 or more other people into the room to observe since they seldom got to see the procedure done. No one asked my permission or Mr. J.’s. I’m splayed out like a holiday turkey and a whole slew of strangers are there for continuing education or entertainment. They were not medically necessary. Let’s see something like that happen during a vasectomy or prostate surgery.

Justice Sunday Update

Albert at Dragonballyee has some photos of the demonstrations last night outside (or near) the site of Justice Sunday.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Justice Sunday

Tomorrow is Justice Sunday, as dragonballyee and a smoke-filled room wrote earlier.

It is intesting to note that in today's Inquirer, ("Plans for Christian Rally Are Attacked," by Julie Stoiber, p. B1) Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which is organizing the rally, says

the gathering was timed to coincide with the hearings on Alito because his confirmation is seen as "part of the solution to the problem, which is the growing hostility of courts to public displays of religion."

However, one of my readers send me a link to an article in the Hotline (The National Journal's Daily Briefing on Politics), "Family Res. Council Pres. Perkins Concerned About Alito And Pres. Power," dated Jan. 5th, quotes his interview with Rachel Maddow on Air America, on Alito and Alito's views of presidential power:

PERKINS: Let's make clear our position -- we have not endorsed Samuel Alito. I will say this, we look favorably upon his nomination and this is why, while there are issues that we could perceive as troubling and I would say that would be one that would raise some concerns among the staff at Family Research Council, but we see a pattern in his time on the bench which is quite extensive that he is one that holds a philosophy of judicial restraint.

I'm not sure that all quite adds up.

According to the paper Sen. Santorum, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson are scheduled to appear. Three peas in a pod.

weekly legislative update

There was very little activity in the legislature this week. During the regular session bills were shuffled to committee but nothing was voted on. During the special session the House referred HB 77 and HB 78 to the finance committee, the Senate referred SB 35 to the legislative committee.

Our friends at PICPA have updated their weekly report.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Another Democrat in the 8th

A press release on PoliticsPA announced that Fred Viskovich has announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 8th Congressional district (Bucks County, a little of Philly, and a tiny sliver of Montco). He joins Patrick Murphy and Andy Warren.

The bio on his press release is nice but lacking perhaps in detail. For those who want more info here is an article wrote. Here is another. This is a former website of his, no longer on the web but available in cached form.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Faith in Politics: Call for Participation

It has been said many times by many people that the Democratic Party does not have the same kind of connection to its religious party faithful as the GOP does. It may be that party leaders do not understand the beliefs of constituents and voters. It may be that there is no agreement among Democrats as there is among the evangelical wing of the Republican party. It may be that there is a greater diversity of belief among Republicans than is represented in the media.

In an effort to explore the connection between religious faith and politics, if there is one, I am asking bloggers, especially political bloggers, but others are welcome as well, to post an entry on or around Martin Luther King’s birthday (Monday, January 16, 2006) discussing how their beliefs, if they have any, impact their political inclinations, voting behavior, and what candidates they support. What suggestions would you have for the party of your choice, to reach out to and connect with the party faithful. Perhaps we will see consistent threads among the postings that will give some idea what issues resonate. Perhaps not, but we won’t know unless we try. Please consider posting something along these lines. If you aren’t sure what such a posting would look like I am providing links to two posts from late 2005. One is philosophical while the other is more personal. They are not given as templates for people to follow but merely to start the conversation.

Flavia Colgan

Apt. 2024

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

George Bush, Feral Pigs, and Starbucks

Two interesting and unrelated articles in recent New Yorker issues.

The December 12 issue has an article by Ian Frazier, "Hogs Wild," (pp. 71-83) on feral pigs in the United States. When the author looked at a survey map of wild-hog populations nation-wide he noticed that it correlated to red/blue voting maps for the last presidential election.

Afterward, I could not get this strange correspondence out of my mind. I compiled '04 red state-blue state data and matched it with SCWDS hog-population information on the map that year. I found my first impression to be essentially correct. The presence of feral hogs in a state is a strong indicator of its support for Bush in '04. (p. 75)

I don't know what this means but it seemed interesting.

In the January 9 issue there is a brief note in "Talk of the Town" called "The Latte Class." (p. 26-27) Author Ben McGrath profiles the research of Temple University professor Bryant Simon on the cultural and sociological aspects of Starbucks. He has some intriguing observations on how Philadelphia Starbucks customers act differently from those in, say, Singapore and Brooklyn Heights. He is turning his research into a book. It is one I will definitely want to read.

No Resolutions Here

Unlike a lot of blogs I didn't have any end of year roundup. I did all my navel gazing in November on my blogiversary.

However, there are few things I'd like to share, lessons I end up learning over and over again but maybe if I put them in print it will be easier to retain the knowledge:

Mt. Dew and cranberry juice don't mix -- every other year or so I get this crazy idea that by mixing my Mt. Dew with something it will help me cut back (think of it as a non-alcoholic wine spritzer), and what I always come up with is cranberry juice, known for its medicinal qualities. In theory it should work. In practice, it does not. Trust me on this. It does not work for one second. The taste is indescribably bad. Do not try this at home (or anywhere else). Willpower is the only force you have against the Dew. I have cut back to two 20 oz bottles a week but that's as far as I can go.

Colored mascara -- again, every few years someone goes nuts. In this case the cosmetic industry. This is one of those years when you can buy rainbow shades of mascara. In a consumer frenzy I bought cobalt blue and some shade of green. Again, this does not work. Save your money.

As for the blog, I do have some plans for upcoming features and posts but prefer to spring them on you when you least expect it, because that's just the kind of wild and crazy charmer I am.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Looking for a Sponsor

The PhillyFuture site is looking for a sponsor. Full sponsorship would take around $1200 to $1500 a year. Well worth the effort and would earn someone the gratitude of the regional blogosphere.

Around the Blogosphere

If you've caught up on your regular blog reading after the holidays and these two aren't on your usual list, take a look:

Joe Hoeffel and Friends has had some especially interesting conversation and postings lately.

The Fly Under the Dome has some theories on Montco politics and how it might affect the senatorial race.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Missing Monday

I am sorry to report that a woman previously profiled in a Missing Monday post, Wilma Robertson, has been found deceased.

We tend to think that missing people and potential abductions are a relatively new phenomenon. I can tell you they are not. For example, this young woman disappeared in 1975. For 30 years her family has not known what happened to her.

Since this is the start of a new year, I want to ask anyone reading this who has, for whatever reason, walked away from family and friends who may not know where you are or what happened to you, to please give them some peace of mind and let them know how you are. If you think there are some hard feelings, you can drop an anonymous postcard so there is no direct contact. Have a friend mail it form another city so your exact location remains vague. But, please, get in touch.

Someone I care for fell out of communication at one point. She was living a marginal existence at the time and the worst was feared. Business travel took me to the city she had been living in and I spent a few memorable afternoons trolling strip clubs looking for her. I saw more than one family group in the same area posting "missing" posters for their loved one. (There are many interesting details here but it is a story for another time.) I did not find my lost lamb but must have gotten close as she re-established contact. It is not all we would want but someone hears from her fairly regularly.

Call. Leave a message. Send a card. Contact a third party and ask them to pass a message along. Please do something. Maybe things have changed. Maybe they haven't. All you can do is reach out, one more time.

Patrick Murphy Meets Fundraising Goal

Congrats to the Patrick Murphy campaign for meeting their fundraising goal for this quarter.

Reading Rick: Conclusion

This post will focus on the conclusion (pp. 421-428) of Rick Santorum’s book It Takes a Family.

In the first part of the conclusion he reinforces his view that the poor have suffered more under liberal policies than the wealthy, who have the money and connections to get a second or third chance if there are consequences to what he calls “No-Fault Freedom,” while the poor have no such resources. I agree with him that the monied and connected can afford to clean up after their mistakes while those without cannot easily do so. I disagree with his views on liberals and public policy, but that has been obvious in previous posts.

In the next section he spells out what the terms “civic participation” and “community leadership” mean to liberals and conservatives. In his view, to liberals “those words mean left-wing activists working to bring more ‘government services’ (and government bureaucrats) to impoverished areas or filing lawsuits to make ‘them’ pay – whoever ‘them’ is.” (p. 425). For conservatives it means “fathers volunteering time to build ballparks, grandmothers sitting on front porches or stoops to keep an eye on neighborhood children….” (p. 425) and the list goes on. Now, where in the world does he get this stuff? I consider myself a liberal and I build things in my community, I sit on my porch and watch kids, I belong to local organizations, help with community activities, attend church and participate in activities there, and so on. Most of the people I see at these activities do not consider themselves conservatives, those some may vote Republican.

On page 427 he says “For liberals, public spirit and family spirit are thought somehow to conflict.” Does he really believe this?

On the last page (428) he says “Like every father, I want to pass on to my own children something more than I received.” As I mentioned earlier, many parents I know just hope to do as well as their own parents.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I did not think his list of sources was put together correctly (dates missing on many journal articles), nor was it sufficient to back up the claims, statistics or facts he presents in his book.

For closing remarks, let me say that I found his book thoughtful in a very few places and very shallow everywhere else. He focuses completely on households with young children, perhaps because this is where he is in life. His only mention of the older generation was the benefits of grandparents as babysitters. He never touches on the concerns of the sandwich generation, people with young children and elderly parents and trying to juggle both at the same time. He seems to have no use whatsoever for people who could not, or chose not, to have children. This is leaving out a lot of people. While he promotes the importance of social ties his focus on the nuclear family leaves little time for talking about community ties, other than very briefly in two places. His in-depth discussions of community groups are all faith-based and focused on social engineering – helping people get down payments for houses, marriage and fatherhood initiatives, and so on. He completely disregards parent groups, other than saying that parents should decide school curricula, something that would require a great deal of organization and structure unless you are going to have hundreds of different classes for every parental preference.

There is something else about the book that struck me. He mentions in the bibliographic essay that Jeffrey Rosenberg did many of the interviews used in the book. In the preface he mentions that Jeff Rosenberg did the first draft of many of the chapters. While many public figures use ghost writers it is customary to either ignore their existence or add them to the author credits, for instance, Rick Santorum and Jeff Rosenberg or Rick Santorum with Jeff Rosenberg or something like that. Santorum seems to have taken a middle road. There is a Jeffrey Rosenberg (or more than one person with that name) who has written on fatherhood and childrearing and Pennsylvania matters (search Amazon.com for a list). I also noted that the copyright is held by ISI Books, the publisher, instead of the author. If you check the back of the title page of most books you will see that most often the author holds copyright. There may be some special reason Santorum does not hold copyright. There may be rules about it for senators or tax reasons or something. But I noted it.

One of my readers, Ben, sent me the link to another review and an interview with the senator. Those links are given below and I have added the link to another review. One thing that bothers me about Santorum, and is mentioned in the New York Times Magazine article, is that his parents help out his family financially. For someone who has written a book on the need for strong nuclear families and mentions more than once that he wants to give his children more than he received, I find it odd that he is still receiving financial assistance from his parents. I wrote about this in one of my first posts on this blog. If his parents were contributing to his children’s college funds or putting money into a trust for the kids that would be one thing, but he is a U.S. Senator, and apparently he can’t make ends meet without a check now and then from his folks. I’m sorry but at his age the money should be going the other way, but that is a hot button issue for me and has nothing to do with his book.

For more information:

Washington Monthly review

National Catholic Reporter review

New York Times Magazine article

Reading Rick: Part 6 (Educational Excellence)

This posting covers pages 351-420 of Rick Santorum’s book, It Takes a Famil.y

Part Six: Educational Excellence

Chapter XXXV: Knowledge, Truth, and Education
Chapter XXXVI: Who Rules the Schools?
Chapter XXXVII: Not Raising Children, but Raising Adults
Chapter XXXVIII: Bringing the Lessons Home
Chapter XXXIX: Moral Truth and the End of Man
Chapter XL: Higher Education and Liberal Education

Knowledge, Truth, and Education

At the start of the chapter he treats us to another brief history and quotes from Founding Fathers. He then proceeds on to discussing intellectual capital. This sentence from p. 353 really jumped out at me: “We are drawn to things that seem good to us, and we avoid or shun things that seem bad.” This is the jumping off point for his theory that it is imperative to learn “knowledge of truth” so we can make good and moral decisions. The idea that humans will seek out that which is good just seems so contrary to what we see in the world around us and I doubt all of those bad decisions can be laid at the feet of the school system or poor parenting. Who today doesn't have some understanding of a nurtritious diet and how many of us act upon that knowledge? He goes on to say that intellectual growth and moral growth go hand in hand. Again, we, or at least I, see so many things that contradict this statement.

“A society rich in intellectual capital is one in which the love of learning is widespread and carefully cultivated, where standards are high, where new discoveries are made, and where a rich heritage of old truths is kept alive through critical study.” (p. 355) I would agree with this wholeheartedly.

In his view there are three major building blocks of intellectual capital. The first being the family; the second is moral truth; the third is overcoming current philosophical mistakes.

He thinks schools should serve the parents not the students and that attempts to introduce preschool education is a form of social engineering at war with the family. I reread his part about schools serving parents instead of children three or four times but still can’t grasp the distinction.

As for moral truth he thinks this should regard honesty and loyalty not the more contentious areas which he regards as “human life and sexuality.” (p. 358)

The idea of philosophical “mistakes” regards the “distinction between facts and values” (p. 358). There are many cans of worms here.

In a given year I miss no more than one substantive PTA (or whatever it is called these days) meeting a year (the annual social meeting doesn’t count) and at none of these meetings have the concepts of honesty and loyalty ever been a concern. The nutritional content of lunches, the length of lunch lines, the number of pencils that should be given out to students taking standardized tests, the speed of cars dropping off kids, whether or not the playground fields are open during recess, and the playground aides, ay yi yi, the playground aides – these things come up regularly. Honesty and loyalty – nary a peep.

Who Rules the Schools?

The evils of the liberal model of social engineering in education are traced back to Plato. In his view, school choice is a good thing and parents should be able to send their kids to private or parochial schools without paying taxes to support public schools also. He talks of the school choice available to those with the resources to simply move to a better school district. He asks why college-age students can get Pell grants to go to religious colleges but elementary and high school students can’t get federal scholarships to go to private and parochial schools? He has statistics on the lack of improvement in test scores over the past 30 years.

Not Raising Children, but Raising Adults

In his utopian vision of the parent-centered school and a society in which parents can choose what schools their children go to, parents will need to be a lot more involved in the schools. He sums it up this way, (p. 372), “Of course if you pick a good school – a good educational support system – then you can rely on its educators to deal with many of the details. But if you really want to be a good parent, an informed parent, and a loving parent, then you can no longer just mentally check out when it comes to the details for the educational process for your children.” Clearly this is a guy who really hasn’t dealt with the inner workings of an actual school. His children are home schooled by his wife so they can plan the curriculum as they please. But you try just getting three room moms to agree on what and how to plan one class party, let alone a class curriculum, and you get a dose of cold reality. One parent wants to bring Twister. Another thinks that will involve too much physical contact. One wants all the kids involved with the same activity at the same time, another wants them to be working in small groups, rotating through a series of activities. Depending on the luck of the draw and who you are working with it can be really enjoyable or a real pain. Working with the parents of all the kids on what should happen in the classroom is a recipe for disaster.

He talks about the importance of school readiness and parental involvement with young children. Not flash cards but a love of learning. I agree with him here. However we part ways when he says (p. 374) “most of all what your children need is a sense of their place in the world and a healthy respect for authority.” People should be treated with respect, certainly, but I’ve spent a lot of time talking with my kids about who should and should not be allowed to touch them and where, and that not all adults are necessarily to be trusted. Teaching kids a blanket respect for all forms of authority is not doing them any favors.

He also discusses the disservice parents do their children by giving them too much stuff as opposed to time and appropriate discipline. I agree with him here, too, and with his point that this criticism can be applied more often to middle and upper income parents. He loses me entirely though on p. 375 when he says “I think the discussion in this book to this point paints a compelling picture of a strategy to ease the economic burdens on low-income an single-parent families.” I missed this theme completely.

The rest of the chapter concerns the way parents are not teaching their children discipline and manners. He has a point.

Bringing the Lessons Home

This chapter discusses home schooling. He is an enthusiastic proponent, and all of his children are home schooled. He received a lot of criticism for saying that keeping children segregated by ages in public schools with one teacher for a group of 25 or more is an artificial environment and one they will not be in again. I agree with him on this. Granted people will probably work on small groups reporting to a single manager, but only in school are we usually grouped by age and it is important to learn to work with people of varying ages and backgrounds. He words it very poorly, though, when he says (p. 386) “It’s amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools.” A little more thought probably should have gone into that remark.

He also points out the virtues of cyberschools and says some of his children had been educated this way “until the increasingly uncivil world of partisan politics extended its venom into our home and into our children’s education.” (p. 387) Someone with as much political savvy as he is supposed to have should have seen this coming a mile away.

Moral Truth and the End of Man

If I read this chapter correctly he is decrying the lack of moral values in education. He thinks we can all agree on some values that should be taught (respect for others, the value of friendship, etc). It just isn’t that simple, as years of being a parent of students in public schools has taught me. While you might get a majority agreement with these concepts, agreement on the specifics of teaching them is very difficult. The last part of the chapter is a roundabout discussion of Darwinism and intelligent design (although this term is not generally used in the chapter). To be honest, I skimmed that part.

Higher Education and Liberal Education

He is concerned about the lack of core curricula and Western tradition in today’s higher education. He also says (p. 404) “Whole new academic ‘disciplines’ have emerged that are explicitly oriented now toward dispassionate scholarship and the increase of knowledge but rather towards the radical transformation of society and the advancement of No-Fault Freedom – ‘disciplines’ such as women’s studies, gender studies, and gay and lesbian studies.”

Here’s a gem from the same page: “Grade inflation in the humanities and social sciences has galloped ahead to the point that virtually everyone who graduates from Harvard, for example, does so with honors.” Is that everyone who gets a degree in the humanities and social sciences or is the grade inflation in those areas leading to an honor degree in the sciences also? I am unclear on this. He later says we are strong in science but the humanities and social sciences are in a “wholesale collapse of our intellectual capital.” I’m not sure how this ties in with his concern over Darwinism. I doubt the biology classes at Harvard teach intelligent design.

He condemns moral relativism (the viewpoint that there are no real truths, only what each individual sees as truth), political correctness, and the perceived hostility towards conservatism in higher education. Given that our federal elected officials, most of whom were educated before the “tenured radicals” took over our colleges and universities, can’t agree on what the “truth” is regarding many of the issues of our day, I’m not sure how firm his footing is.

Truth in advertising – I consider myself a moral relativist. For every truth I can think of I can think of an exception to it. I am against violence but might violate that if I had the ability to stop someone from doing something I thought was wrong. A number of people may agree with me on that but our definitions of “wrong” are likely to vary greatly. (You also may not want to stand between me and the refreshment table at a crowded party, but this is hardly the same thing.)