Monday, March 31, 2008

Reprieve on Campaign Contributions

You have an extra two days to contribute to Pennsylvania congressional campaigns. The extension is to match state deadlines, and has something to do with the date of the primary. The details are beyond me. What I know for certain is you have two extra days.

All Democratic candidates are likely to be available through ActBlue.

Princeton Scientists Get Okay on Voting Machines

Two Princeton scientists received legal approval to dismantle a Sequoia voting machine. From "More tests allowed for touch-screen voting machines," by Elise Young, 3/26:

Two Princeton University computer experts are free to test electronic voting machines that may have malfunctioned on Super Tuesday, a judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision, by Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg, came nearly two weeks after the machines' manufacturer, Sequoia Voting Systems, threatened legal action against the professors, citing a licensing infringement.

The Sequoia machines are also in use in parts of Pennsylvania.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mayor Nutter on "Face the Nation"

I was home this Sunday morning and Mayor Nutter was on "Face the Nation" so I watched. These are my rough notes. Keep in mind that it is not intended to be an actual transcript. As always, my apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Face the Nation, with Bill Schieffer 3/30.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico (Obama supporter), Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia (Clinton supporter)

BR: At the end of June 3rd, after primaries, we need to come together to support candidate. Do not agree with those who say HRC needs to drop out.

BS: How would you go about doing that (party unity)?

BR: You don’t want the big shots in the party to determine the nominee. It should be the voters. Maybe some of the major party leaders find ways that some of the superdelegates can have discussions. We don’t want the nominee weakened. John McCain out campaigning while we are fighting. The Democratic campaign has just gotten much too negative.

BS: You have endorsed Sen. Obama. Someone called you Judas Iscariot. Why are the Clinton people taking it so hard that you endorsed OBama?

BR: I barely know Jim Carville. Loyalty to the party more than personal loyalty. Owe the Clintons a lot. Very loyal to Pres. Clinton but doesn’t mean I will be in lockstep with everything they do for the rest of my life. I ran against Sen. Clinton for the presidency. Obama has something that brings people together. Felt that I should rise above personal loyalty to look at what is best for the country.

BS: Did you lead the Clintons to believe you would endorse HRC?

BR: I was undecided for about 3 months. I was on the verge a couple of times for going for Sen. Clinton. But I didn’t because I felt the campaign had gotten too rancorous. Clintons would get hundreds of their supports to contact me; Obama called me personally. Obama can bring people together. Attended rallies where people are full of hope and enthusiasm.

BS: Has Obama done enough to distance himself from comments of his pastor?

BR: One of the reasons I was attracted to Obama is that he faces things directly. Obama faced the race issue directly with the American people. His speech on race reinforced my decision that this was the right decision. Think of this man as a symbol of America, can rise above problems that come before his campaign, lead and be honest and candid.

BS: Introduces Michael Nutter. Do you believe Barack Obama has put enough distance between himself and his pastor?

MN: That is for the American people to decide. I listened to the speech Obama made here in Philadelphia. The comments Wright made were very damaging and most Americans reject that kind of hate filled language.

BS: If he had been your pastor would you have been satisfied?

MN: My pastor would not make statements like that and if he did I would talk with him but I could not stay in a church that made statements like that.

BS: Advice for Obama

MN: Should focus on issues relating to cities. A week or so ago we had to shut down part of I-95 because of a lack of investment in the infrastructure. I’m trying to get a community conversation going on. HRC has responded to that call but waiting for a response from Sen. Obama.

BS: [name] wrote an op-ed. Both good candidates. Should have a Clinton/Obama or Obama/ Clinton ticket.

MN: Would not presume to make a decision for Sen. Clinton. Picking a vp not like picking your best buddy in 3rd grade. Decision best made by candidate and candidate’s advisors. Still have a great election to take place herein PA and in many other states and territories. People excited and enthused about the race and want their votes to be counted and have an impact.

BS: What do you think of all of these superdelegates?

MN: Superdelegates didn’t just drop out of the sky. Their main responsibility is to exercise judgment and discretion.

BS: As an African American mayor in a primarily African American city, assume Obama will get many votes.

MN: Clinton gets many votes too.

BS: If Clinton wins by superdelegates will African Americans be upset?

MN: We cannot let this election come down to race. You have to play this out to the conclusion. Neither Clinton nor Obama can get the required number of delegates. Let’s let the voters decide.

Campaign Round Table

Joe Trippi and John Dickinson

JT: Richardson, putting country above personal loyalty. Also the whole thing about rancor coming out of Clinton campaign.

JD: Richardson first said HRC should drop out. Now backing off.

JT: Every time one side says other should drop out, it’s over, the other side benefits.

BS: HRC in till the bitter end.

JT: If she doesn’t win in Indiana and NC, if she doesn win on May 6 she may drop out.

JD: if superdelegates start lining up behind Obama then she will have to drop out.

BS: Maybe she’s not all that worried about cutting up Obama because 2012 down the road.

JT: The problem is they need to keep this up then others will start to wonder if you are not just tearing Obama down but keeping door open until 2012 party will shut her down.

JD: Florida and Michigan, Clinton says Obama not negotiating. Not a do over

BS: Rev. Wright

JD: Polls show it hasn’t really scratched Obama. A little time bomb in there. May show up later

JT: This one is not over. There are signs that this a bigger problem over the long haul.

BS: what does he do about it.

JT: have to win over white voters again. Important in PA and NC. Right now it looks like he’s put it behind him but needs to keep moving on economic issues.

JD: needs to keep working on patriotism. Has to talk about love of country.

BS: Finally today, I like the speech John McCain made on foreign policy last week. [long quote]

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

For the duration I am using discretion in listing articles on the presidential race that mention Pennsylvania but do not focus on Pennsylvania. If I think it is interesting I list it, otherwise no.

Filed from Philadelphia, “Clinton details mortgage plan,” by Amy Chozick and Nick Timiraos (3/25).

“Clinton uses history as Pennsylvania guide,” by Nick Timiraos (3/27)

There are a lot of Pennsylvania quotes in “At the barricades in the gender wars,” by Jonathan Kaufman and Carol Hymowitz,” (3/29) which is filed from Pittsburgh.

PA Businesses

“Alcoa invests near planned mines,” by Devon Maylie (3/24)

Dr. Susan C. Taylor, CEO of Rx for Brown Skin and co-founding director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals in Manhatten, who has or had a dermatology practice in Philadelphia is the focus of “Building a beauty regimen for dark skin,” by Elva Ramirez (3/27)

“Pep Boys rack up fourth-quarter loss,” by Mike Barris (3/27).

This week’s request Mark Zandi (of West-Chester based Moody’s quote is in “Clinton fears Japan-style malaise,” by Bob Davis and Amy Chozick (3/27)

Brief mentions: Comcast (3/24)

Other PA

Not something I thought would be a problem here. From “Call the pandas: bamboo engulfs defenseless yards,” by Matthew Rose (3/24):

Randy Bothwell, a police detective in Chester, Pa., considered and rejected a number of ways to rid his yard of bamboo: salt, an exorcism, shooting it with his service revolver. When he asked for advice at a local garden center, he says, they laughed hysterically

An executive currently working Harrisburg is the focus of an article on work related moves, “Help increases for partners of relocated workers,” by Erin White (3/25)

Penn State is among the colleges and universities that have, or have applied to, move to direct lending as opposed relying on private lenders for college loans. See “Colleges turn away from private lenders,” by Robert Tomsho (3/25)

Wharton Professor Jeremy Siegel is quoted in “Stocks tarnished by ‘lost decade’,” by E. S. Browning (3/26)

From “Violence roils black funeral parlors,” by Gary Fields (3/26), we find:
Last year, the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association – a black trade group – held a panel discussion at its 2007 Philadelphia convention about the rising incidence of violence on funeral premises. Among some strategies recommended: increasing security and not publicizing funerals.

Pennsylvania native and pioneering investigative reporter Ida Tarbell is the one of the subjects of a book reviewed in “A reporter at the Ramparts,” by Paul E. Steiger (3/28). The book is Taking on the Trust by Steve Weinberg.

Attorney General Francis Biddle of the Philadelphia Biddles is highlighted in “The World War II effect,” by Douglas A. Blackmon (3/29), which discusses the country’s efforts to stop defacto slavery in the US on the eve of WWII.

Other Interesting Tidbits

In the “things that make my head explode” category, we find this from “American Axle lifts pay of top executive by 9.6%,” by Jeff Bennett (3/25):
American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., locked in a nearly month-long strike with the United Auto Workers union over proposed pay cuts, gave its chief executive a 9.6% pay raise and stock and options valued at $4 million last year.

In the “things that distress me” category, file “Veterans struggle to find jobs,” by Yochi J. Dreasen (3/25). These paragraphs are near the end:
The Army has long pitched military service as a way for recruits to gain valuable work experience, but the report found that most of the returning veterans were unable to find civilian jobs that matched their previous military occupations.

The only exceptions were the veterans working for private-security firms such as Blackwater or in the maintenance and repair fields, and the report suggested that the government steer veterans to those types of jobs.

Friday, March 28, 2008

weekly legislative update

A few bills and resolutions introduced this week in the Pennsylvania legislature but nothing was voted on. Hopefully things will pick up next week.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Political Media Guidebook

From the inbox:

If you are running for office or are involved in a campaign that might hit the airwaves, don't even think about taking the next step before reading this special e-book supplement to Campaigns & Elections' Politics magazine. [E-book supplement]

At Campaigns & Elections' Politics magazine, we ensure every candidate and political professional has the tools they need to win.

That's why we contacted the campaign attorneys at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice to produce this comprehensive guide for political broadcasting.

Need to understand the Fairness Doctrine? How far can you go in your TV and radio spots? How much should you pay for your political media?

Veterans Cemetery Named

According to Nancy Petersen at the Inky ("New veterans cemetery in Bucks named," 3/27), the new veterans cemetery in Bucks County will be known as the Washington Crossing VA National Cemetery. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year with the first burials perhaps later in 2009.


End of Fundraising Quarter Approaches

March 31 marks the end of a federal political fundraising quarter. This means you will be getting even more letters and emails asking for donations from presidential and congressional candidates. Should you have more money than you know what to do with, I offer a few suggestions.

Bob Roggio -- running against incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach in the 6th congressional district.

Mike Waltner -- running in a crowded field for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd congressional district, now represented by incumbent Republican Phil English. Waltner has an interesting biography, not your standard candidate; his background is in faith-based social outreach (my terms not his).

Bill Cahir -- pronounced Care, Cahir also has primary opponents. He is running for the open 5th congressional seat. Cahir is an Iraq War veteran and a former jorunalist.

SEPTA Public Meetings

SEPTA has announced a series of public meetings to discuss some of their future plans. The meeting schedule is on the press release. This is their introductory note:

General Manager Joseph M. Casey announced the beginning of a new chapter for SEPTA customers with the Fiscal Year 2009 Operating Budget.When asked about the upcoming $1.080 Billion budget program, Casey said…“We recognize that public transit is a customer service business and we are now in a financial position to commit our resources to the issues that matter the most to our customers - service, cleanliness, convenience, courtesy, and communications.”

SEPTA has seen steady and significant ridership increases on all service modes.In the first seven months of the current fiscal year (FY’08), Transit ridership grew by 4% or 30,000 daily trips and 12% on Regional Rail, a 25 year high. Responding to this growth and with the aim to improve customer convenience, the proposed budget identifies 65 initiatives to enhance service by addressing overcrowding, expanding peak hour service, improving midday, evening, late night Transit service, and expanding late night, weekend service on Regional Rail.Many of these enhancements are designed to provide service to growing employment, retail, and residential markets, and to better serve riders employed at businesses with 24 hour operations.These improvements are the next phase of service enhancements already in place including the recent expansion of weekday AM peak and midday service on the Market Frankford El and the addition of express train service and 1200 additional seats on peak hour trains on the Warminster, Elwyn, West Trenton, and Lansdale/Doylestown Regional Rail Lines.

Increasing the number of trains and adding cars are always good things. Myself, I've seldom run across bad customer service. Most of the conductors and all of the ticket agents I've dealt with are pleasant people.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Veteran Cemetery Update (Good News!)

I have followed the continuing sage of the potential veterans cemetery in Bucks County. Tomorrow the land deal is expected to be finalized, with construction to start in 2009. Details in "Vet cemetery a done deal," by Theresa Katalinas, Intelligencer 3/26, excerpt:

As of Thursday, without a doubt, two-thirds of the 311-acre Dolington property, situated on Old Dolington and Washington Crossing roads, will be officially in the hands of the federal government, [Bill] Tuerk [VA undersecretary for memorial affairs] said.

“By God, that's where we're going to build this cemetery,” Tuerk said. “We are going to break ground this year. We're going to have an event. We're going to dedicate the place.”

Cemetery designs are being devised and public meetings could come within about six weeks, he said. VA officials will explain the cemetery's build-out phases, where the entrance will be situated and how historic structures will be built around or torn down, Tuerk said.

This is great news! Kudos also to Bucks County Veterans Affairs Director Dan Fraley and Congressman Patrick Murphy.

PA Job Losses in Manufacturing

From the inbox:

A new analysis by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) found that the U.S. trade deficit with China has taken a surprising toll on Pennsylvania workers. Annual job losses in Pennsylvania due to trade with China average three times higher than losses discussed by some of the presidential candidates and attributed to NAFTA.

“In just a few short years, tens of thousands of Pennsylvania jobs have been shipped to China ,” said AAM Director Scott Paul. “The presidential candidates are rightly concerned about the potentially damaging effects of unfair trade and they need to focus more attention on our record trade deficits with China , which have cost us more than 1.8 million jobs since 2001. Vigorous enforcement of our trade laws will ensure American workers and companies have the chance to compete in a fair global market. We call on the presidential candidates to make this commitment to the voters of Pennsylvania .”

AAM’s analysis of Economic Policy Institute data found that Pennsylvania lost 78,200 jobs from 2001-2006 (all sectors) as a result of the U.S. trade deficit with China [source: EPI, ‘Costly Trade with China ’]. That works out to an average of 15,640 lost jobs per year. Using an identical analysis, AAM found that Pennsylvania lost 44,173 jobs from 1993-2004 (all sectors) as a result of NAFTA, for an average of 4,016 jobs lost per year [source: EPI, ‘Revisiting NAFTA’].


Due to CHINA 78,200 2001-2006
Due to NAFTA 44,173 1993-2004


Those who enjoy taking surveys may want to check this out:

It asks a lot of questions so be prepared to spend a little time with it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Presidential Campaign Update

From the inbox:

Sen. Barack Obama

Members of the Obama Campaign’s Statewide Leadership Council are listed below:

Eileen Connelly – Executive Director, SEIU PA State Council; Change to Win State Coordinator
Kathi Cozzone – Chester County Commissioner
Congressman Chaka Fattah – U.S. Representative (PA-02)
Pat Gillespie – Building Trades Council
Mayor Rick Gray – Lancaster Mayor
Franco Harris – Former Pittsburgh Steelers Star
Julian Harris – Student Leader, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Lamb – Pittsburgh City Comptroller
Cliff Levine – Pittsburgh Attorney
Chris Lewis – Former Secretary of the Commonwealth
Valerie McDonald Roberts – Former Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds
Mayor Thomas McMahon – Mayor of Reading
Senator Bob Mellow – Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leader
Kate Michelman – Former President of NARAL
Congressman Patrick Murphy – U.S. Representative (PA-08)
John Meyerson –Director of Legislation & Political Action, United Food & Commercial Workers 1776; Change to Win State Coordinator
Corey D. O'Brien – Lackawanna County Commissioner
Representative Josh Shapiro – Deputy Speaker, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Jacquelyn Smalley – Business Leader
Representative Mike Sturla – Lancaster County State Representative
Fmr. U.S. Senator Harris Wofford
Tobias Barrington Wolff – Chair, Obama Campaign National LGBT Policy Committee; Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania

I had wondered what Valerie McDonald Roberts was up to these days. It is nice to get an update on her.

Sen. Hillary Clinton

The Liberty City Democratic Club, a key LGBT political group in Pennsylvania , overwhelmingly endorsed Hillary Clinton for President with two-thirds of the members voting for her.

This club’s endorsement further demonstrates Hillary Clinton’s strong support in the LGBT community. The Liberty City endorsement follows a string of endorsements from grassroots LGBT groups like the Steel City Democrats, the Houston Stonewall Democrats, Dallas Stonewall Democrats, and 27 of the 39 members of Board the National Stonewall Democrats.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Schwartz on Earmarks

From "Local Dems favor reforms for earmarks," by Jenna Portnoy, The Intelligencer 3/21:

[Rep. Allyson] Schwartz asks organizations seeking funding to fill out an appropriations request form. The form includes a note informing requestors that her office “reserves the right to make your appropriations request public.”

“The congresswoman has been very enthused by the steps Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and others have taken to make the earmark process as transparent as possible,” said Schwartz spokeswoman Rachel Magnuson. “It’s very important for us to have this be a very transparent process, and in late March, early April there will be very detailed information that we will put out.”

For the first time this year, Schwartz joins nearly 100 other House and Senate lawmakers who have pledged to release their earmark requests early or not request any earmarks at all. Schwartz’s Republican opponent Marina Kats said she would also release her requests.

Congressman Patrick Murphy says he will release earmark requests after he knows which ones will be funded.

Corporate Malfeasance / A Note for Parents on Swimming Pools

I took note of a story on CNN last week, "Girl whose disembowelment led to pool legislation dies," A six year old girl died in Omaha after a rare surgery that doctors hoped would repair damage she sustained after having her intestines sucked out by a swimming pool drain last June. As I read through the article I was shocked to see the name of the swimming pool equipment manufacturer, Sta-Rite Industries. Surely not.

In John Edwards book Four Trials, the last trial he writes about took place in 1996. He represented the family of a young girl who suffered similar injuries. Sta-Rite was the company involved there too. (See "Athwart Torts," by Ed Martin from the Jan. 2006 Business North Carolina which challenges the claim that tort reform is needed, referencing this case as an example.)

Twelve years later we are still reading about the same kind of accident involving the same equipment? Sta-Rite says it is a matter of installation and maintenance. The CNN story ends with this paragraph:

In December, President George W. Bush signed The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007, according to The legislation provides incentives for states to adopt comprehensive pool safety laws that will protect children from life-threatening injuries and deaths from potentially dangerous pool and spa drains.

Virginia Graeme Baker was the granddaughter of former Secretary of State Jim Baker. She drowned at the age of 7 after being trapped underwater by a suction drain.

One provision of the law is:
Prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of drain covers that do not meet anti-entrapment safety standards established by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The legislation includes a directive for the CPSC to establish a safety standard for anti-entrapment drain covers. This would ensure that all drain covers available in the marketplace would conform to certain safety criteria.

Edwards found cases of children being severely injured or killed due to drain suction going back to 1981. And it has taken this long to do something on a national level? Edwards won his suit and other cases have likely been settled. Apparently it has taken over 25 years of known injuries due to pool drains to persuade the federal government

Fellow parents, summer will be upon us soon and public pools will be opening. Since the government does not seem to be moving very quickly on this and the manufacturer doesn't seem to have changed much it will be our responsibility to locate the drains in pools, spas, etc. and check EVERY SINGLE TIME to make sure the drain covers are in place and secured. Check them halfway through your stay at the pool. Check them when you leave. Talk to the pool manager about maintenance.

It amazes me that these deaths and injuries continue to occur.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Money Returned to Dent's Campaign

From Politico's The Crypt blog ("Ward returned $3,500 'misappropriated' from Charlie Dent PAC," by John Bresnahan 3/20):

Former NRCC Treasurer Christopher J. Ward last month returned $3,500 taken from Rep. Charlie Dent's (R-Pa.) leadership PAC, bringing to more than $7,700 the total returned by Ward so far.

In a disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission today, Dent's PAC, Dedicated to Establishing Teamwork (DENT) PAC, reported receiving $3,500 from Ward on Feb. 6. The contribution was classified as "repay misappropriated funds."

More details available on the full post. Dent represents Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district.

Presidential Campaign Update

A few recent and one future appearances:

On March 20th, Congressman Patrick Murphy, State Representative Bryan Lentz, and Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (the co-chairwoman of Sen. Barack Obama's national campaign) hosted an event in Bristol. Major Gen. Walter Stewart Jr., the former deputy commander of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, endorsed Obama. (Source "Vietnam general endorses Obama," by Brian Scheid, Bucks County Courier Times, 3/21)

Sen. Hillary Clinton has also been bringing in friends. Yesterday, Saturday the 22nd, America Ferrera, star of ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Jehmu Green, the first African-American president of Rock the Vote, and Susan Wood, the former FDA Assistant Commissioner for Women's Health, attended events or rallies for Sen. Clinton throughout the area.

Tomorrow, Monday, March 24, Sen. Clinton herself will be in the area, at the Montgomery County College in Blue Bell. Doors open at 11:30 and is scheduled to run until 2:45. Congressman Allyson Schwartz will be appearing with the senator.

Presidential Call Total II

On March 12th I posted the original presidential call total. It's time for an update.

Clinton Call #3 I'm not sure if this was a robocall or not. A woman's voice asked me who I planned on voting for. I answered. Then the voice said the call was paid for by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign. The call originated in an 803 (South Carolina) area code.

Clinton Call #4 This call announced the rally/event on Monday (Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, doors open at 11:45).

Presidential Call Total: Clinton 4, Obama 1

Off Topic: A Few Words on Luke

The Book of Luke is my favorite gospel, not surprising given his attention to detail. The author of Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles, which also provides a lot of detail. Initially when planning an off topic post for this Easter weekend, I remembered that Luke had mentioned a Greek poet somewhere along the way and it was one of the few mentions of non-Biblical works that I had run across in the gospels. My plan was to track down the original poetry, read through it and post about it. Unfortunately, Luke does not mention the poet by name but in the notes for Acts 17:28 a citation is given for his quotation to the works of Epimenides (also mentioned in Titus 1:12). Epimenides is actually Cretan and his original writings are lost, only mentioned in secondary sources, like Acts and Titus. Not a lot has been written about Epimenides so there really wasn't enough there for a post.

Plan B was a post about one of the women mentioned in Luke. We find out a lot about the role of women in the early Christian ministry from Luke and he is good about naming names. He also notes (in Luke 8:3) that some women financially supported the work of Jesus and the disciples. Good to know. In the same verse he gives us the name of two women not mentioned elsewhere in scripture: Joanna and Susanna. They are listed as among those women who had been healed and now provided from "their substance." We know little else about Susanna but Joanna's name includes the description that she is the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward. Now that is an interesting tidbit. Imagine the conversations that went on in their household. Joanna is also listed among those who found the empty tomb on Easter morning. Again, there is very little other verifiable information on either Joanne or Chuza, though there are a number of theories. One of the more accepted is that Chuza was a Nabatean, a tribe of Arabic traders. The name Chuza appears in conjunction with the Nabateans in non-canonical writings and is not Jewish in origin. Interesting. There are some intriguing new thoughts on Joanna and whether or not she is the mysterious Junia in Romans 16:7 (now mentioned with someone named Andronicus), but that is still a matter of some discussion and by no means settled. So no post there either.

Thus we are left with the traditional Easter conundrum -- do you start with the ears or the feet or somewhere in between?

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

None of our folks mentioned by name. However, we did get some press relating to the primary.

Christopher McNally, Pennsylvania chair for the Catholic Democrats and an Obama supporter is mentioned in “Clinton courts Catholic voters,” by Amy Chozick (3/17)

Bill George, uncommitted superdelegate and head of the PA AFL-CIO is quoted in “Obama gets renewed scrutiny about his past,” by Christopher Cooper and Nick Timiraos (3/17)

“Florida, Michigan specter will linger,” by June Kronholz (3/21) mentions the Pennsylvania primary.

“Obama puts race closer to center of campaign,” by Jackie Calmes and Nick Timiraos (3/19) is filed from Philly.

PA Businesses

An interesting note in “Mortgage mess this home for nation’s small builders,” by Michael Corkery (3/21)

These builders’ struggles mean that when housing demand recovers, the industry could be more consolidated and dominated in many markets by large buildings such as D. R. Horton Inc., Lennar Corp., Pulte Homes Inc., Centex Corp., KB Home and Toll Brothers Inc. While many of these publicly traded builders are coming under pressure from their banks amid a deepening credit squeeze, most have cash reserves that may give them an edge over smaller builders in renegotiating credit agreements with their lenders.

A few Alcoa mentions, “Iron ore is delayed en route to China,” by Shai Oster (3/20), “Alcoa, Chevron fall; Fannie, Freddie rise,” by Rob Curran (3/20) and “Alcoa, Chinalco discuss boosting Rio Tinto stake,” by Helen Sun, Jeffrey Sparshott, and Andrea Hotter (3/19).

West Chester-based Moody’s is mentioned in “Housing bust fuels blama game: by Greg IP, James R. Hagerty and Jonathan Karp (3/19). No mention of Mark Zandi, who usually delivers quotes.

Not so good. In “Medicare, Medicaid managed care gets scrutiny for fraud,” by Theo Franics (3/19), there is mention of a settlement by United Health Group, Inc. of Philadelphia.

CMF Associates LLC, a small financial-consulting firm in Philadelphia is mentioned in “When job shifts loom, it can pay to look wide,” by Sarah E. Needleman (3/18)

Brief Notes:
Air Products & Chemicals of Allentown (3/21)
Tasty Baking Co. of Philadelphia (3/21)

Other PA

A bit of pr for the region in “A slice of history,” by Suzanne Barlyn (3/22), on Bucks County as a potential retirement home.

Wharton School Prof. Joseph Gyourko is quoted in “Home vacancy rates post sharp increases,” by Matt Phillips (3/21)

According to the chart accompanying “Sunbelt sees slowing in population growth,” by Conor Dougherty (3/20), southeastern PA and the Lehigh Valley have had modest population growth but the rest of the state has had modest population decreas. A few counties (looks like around Pittsburgh but I could be wrong on this, geography not my strength) have had a more dramatic population decrease. Food for thought when our congressional districts get reconfigured in a few years.

Though not mentioned in the story, Special Agent Bastian Freund of the Philadelphia Violent Crimes Task Force appears in a screen shot accompanying “Kids, thugs, dogs, cats drafted into TV battle,” by Dionne Searcey (3/20)

Other Interesting Tidbits

Given our ties to selected Spanish energy companies, “Spain power deal worth $100 billion edges closer,” by Matthew Karnitschnig, Dana Cimilluca and Rebecca Smith (3/21). Iberdrola is one of the companies discussed.

“The web’s new political dynamic,” by Mary Jacoby (3/21) outlines the rise of the Internet as a conduit for small political donations, and the differences in fundraising tactics by various presidential candidates.

Sue Shellenbarger peruses studies on marital satisfaction and longevity in “In search of wedded bliss: what research can tell us,” (3/20). The four factors within our control that she points out are 1) doing things in order (finish education, get married, have children), 2) avoid living together unless engaged, 3) try to find a job that isn’t stressful, and 4) work to fix problems early on instead of letting them fester.

Our print friends just can’t get a break, “Rising prices for newsprint hits publishers,” by Jim Jelter (3/19) discusses another money problem for them.

Hmmm, “Attention, bloggers,” by Shelly Banjo (3/17) is on the use of advertising on blogs generally and actually mentions Pittsburgh in one spot.

Friday, March 21, 2008

weekly legislative update

This is a list of bills that passed the Pennsylvania House or Senate this week, and mention of any noteworthy resolutions. Standard caveats apply (resolutions not generally included, list of sponsors deleted if it was too long - three lines in the originally formatting).

Our accountant friends at PICPA have provided their usual informative weekly update.

Other updates this week:

PA GOP Senate
PA Democratic Senate
PA GOP House
PA Democratic House



SB 1137 By Senators D. WHITE, RAFFERTY, PILEGGI, ORIE, SCARNATI, ROBBINS, ERICKSON, GORDNER, C. WILLIAMS, FONTANA, MADIGAN, ARMSTRONG, PIPPY, FERLO, WONDERLING, WAUGH, BAKER, REGOLA, BROWNE and BOSCOLA. Prior Printer's Nos. 1488, 1491, 1510, 1621, 1827.Printer's No. 1838. An Act amending the act of March 20, 2002 (P.L.154, No.13), known as the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (Mcare) Act, further providing for medical professional liability insurance, for the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund and for actuarial data; establishing the Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care (PA ABC) Program Fund and the Continuing Access with Relief for Employers (CARE) Fund; further defining "health care provider"; further providing for the Health Care Provider Retention Program; establishing the Supplemental Assistance and Funding Account; further providing for expiration of the Health Care Provider Retention Program; establishing the Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care (PA ABC) Program; providing for Continuing Access with Relief for Employers (CARE) Grants, for health care coverage for certain adults, individuals, employees and employers and for expiration of certain sections; and repealing provisions of the Tobacco Settlement Act.


SB 387 By Senators CORMAN, PIPPY, RAFFERTY, FONTANA, O'PAKE, GORDNER, BROWNE, TOMLINSON, REGOLA, ORIE, COSTA and BRUBAKER. Prior Printer's Nos. 435, 1619.Printer's No. 1808. An Act amending the act of June 29, 1953 (P.L.304, No.66), known as the Vital Statistics Law of 1953, providing for certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth.

SB 1153 By Senators GREENLEAF, WAUGH, RAFFERTY, M. WHITE, MUSTO, COSTA, O'PAKE and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's Nos. 1534, 1538.Printer's No. 1839. An Act amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for the Minor Judiciary Education Board and for the course of instruction and examination for certain minor judiciary.

SB 963 By Senators GREENLEAF and RAFFERTY. Printer's No. 1157. An Act amending Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for application of subpart relating to condominiums to condominiums created by prior statutory law.

SB 1153 By Senators GREENLEAF, WAUGH, RAFFERTY, M. WHITE, MUSTO, COSTA, O'PAKE and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's Nos. 1534, 1538.Printer's No. 1839. An Act amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for the Minor Judiciary Education Board and for the course of instruction and examination for certain minor judiciary.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Brief Book Look: All Roads Lead to Congress

Remember a post a week or so ago about DVRPC and expanded SEPTA and MTA routes? There was an acronym in that post, SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users). If you found this intriguing, today is your lucky day, because there’s an entire book about the introduction and passage of SAFETEA-LU and its predecessor SAFETEA.

All Roads Lead to Congress: The $300 Billion Fight over Highway Funding by Costas Panagopoulos and Joshua Schank (CQ Press, 2008).

This is the grown up version of the Schoolhouse Rock song “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” A great deal of attention is given to the role of staff in shepherding legislation through the process, over the bodies of congressional colleagues if necessary. The two authors interned in Sen. Clinton’s office as these bills moved through the House and Senate. To be honest, I didn’t make it through the whole thing. Some of the acronyms got in the way. My favorite was LUST (Leaking Underground Storage Tanks) fund (p. 19). We also learn that the LU part of SAFETEA-LU came in because Rep. Don Young of Alaska wanted to name the bill after his wife Lu so he made up the words to form that part of the acronym (p. 108). Really, that’s what the book says.

It was written recently enough that the preface mentions the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

Pennsylvania gets a few mentions. The most informative is:

For example, Pennsylvania was one of the biggest donee states coming out of TEA-21 in 1998. While some of this can be explained by the state’s high transit use in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, its positive cash flow can also be attributed to the fact that Rep. Bud Shuster, who represented the south central 9th district of Pennsylvania, was chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 1995 to 2001 (p. 35)

Senators Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum also get mentioned, Specter more favorably as I read things.

So if you want the straight skinny on how exactly that legislative sausage gets made, or if you have a vested interest in transportation issues, this is the book for you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Presidential Campaign Update

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-13), who has declared her support for Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, has penned a post for the campaign's blog. Read "Celebrating Women."

Meanwhile, just around the corner from the Congresswoman's Jenkintown office, Clinton's primary opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, was filming a campaign ad at the West Avenue Grille. ("Obama films campaign commercial in Jenkintown," by Paul Kurtz, KYW

Sequoia Says "Don't Tear Us Apart!"

Sequoia Voting Systems is threatening two Princeton scientists who plan to take apart Sequoia voting machines and examine their software. The company has hired counsel and says it is copyright infringement and breach of contract to see what happens behind the curtain (so to speak).

Read more in "Wired campus: E-voting vendor threatens Princeton computer scientists with legal action," by Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education 3/18/08

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Merit Selection for Judges

A topic that has surfaced on the blog from time to time is the movement to change judicial selection in Pennsylvania from election to selection. We currently vote on judges. Only five other states (Alabama, Louisiana, West Virginia, Texas and Illinois) still elect judges. Some people think we should have a selection process. The big question is always who does the selecting and how do they make the selections. A bill introduce in the legislature today suggests this:

Legislation being proposed to change the process would create a 14-member nonpartisan citizens-based Appellate Court Nomination Commission to screen judicial candidates and develop a list of potential nominees for the governor. Following nomination by the governor and confirmation by the state Senate, a judge would serve an initial term of four years and would then go before voters in a retention election. Voters would ultimately decide at that point, and again every 10 years, whether the judge should stay on the bench.

The senate bill is being sponsored by Sen. Jane Earll Sen. Anthony H. Williams; the house bill by Rep. David Steil and Rep. Josh Shapiro. Gov. Rendell is also in favor of merit selection.

One aspect of electing judges that those in favor of merit selection often bring up is the influence of money on campaigning. According to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts during the 2007 Pennsylvania Supreme Court race, candidates spent a record $7.85 million in their campaigns for two open seats.
Studies show lawyers contribute much of the campaign money to Pennsylvania judicial candidates.
There also is growing involvement by third party groups, even groups from outside Pennsylvania, in recent elections. Such groups are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence our judicial elections, Marks said.

Pennsylvania judges can and do preside over cases involving individuals, organizations and attorneys who make large donations to their campaigns. This fuels the perception that campaign contributions influence courtroom decisions and contributes to the growing lack of public confidence in our courts.

The commission making the recommendations to the governor would consist of:

Five public members of the ‘Appellate Court Nomination Commission’ will be selected by a process involving civic groups, unions, business organizations, non-lawyer, professional associations and public safety organizations. These members will be selected by public constituencies, not by any elected officials.

One public member also must be a dean of a Pennsylvania law school selected by all the deans of the state’s law schools.

Four of the members would be appointed by the governor, and four by the General Assembly (one each by the Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, Speaker of the House and House Minority Leader.)

Gubernatorial appointees must be from four different counties. Two will be lawyers and two will be non-lawyers. No more than two appointees can be of the same political party.

Legislative appointees must be lawyers.

Commission members will serve four years. They will receive no compensation except for expenses.

The Commission will present a list of recommended candidates to the Governor. To be on this list, one must be in good standing with the bar; have practiced law, been on the bench or worked in the legal field for at least 10 years; and have demonstrated integrity, judicial temperament, professional competence and commitment to the community. The list should include men and women candidates who reflect the racial, ethnic and geographic diversity of the Commonwealth.

The governor will nominate from the list, and the nominee will then go before the Senate for confirmation.

Judges would face a retention election after an initial four years in a nonpartisan ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. Each judge would then go before the public in regular retention votes every 10 years.

The Inky published a story on this last Friday (3/14): "New call for merit selection of judges" by Amy Worden.

Full disclosure: Most of the information for this post came from materials presented on the new blog,

Wardrobe notes: A tie spy implied that Josh Shapiro's orange reform tie made an appearance at today's press conference announcing the new legislation. If you check the photos carefully, it does seem to be the same tie he wore at the signing of the open records law.

Presidential Campaign Update

Yesterday I listened in on a press conference call with some of Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign staff. The primary topic was the Iraq War. It was a little intimidating as the first question was asked by someone whose name is on the evening news a lot. Other big name reporters followed. I stayed quiet. At one point a Washington Post reporter and a campaign staffer got into a did so / did not over whether a question had been answered. Asked if the senator would stay with her plan to withdraw troops if elected, regardless of the conditions on the ground and regardless of what military advisers told her, there was some hedging. Then the reporter got a one word answer: yes. Read more over at the Washington Post's Fact Checker

Clinton did pick up another Pennsylvania endorsement today, that of Congresson John Murtha.

In Obama news, take a listen to his speech today on race in American history and politics. A transcript is below the video box.

New Pa Dems Poll

The weekly Pennsylvania Democratic Party poll is up. The first question, as always, is who you favor for president, and the third is what region you live on (only three choices here). I found the first answer for the second question to be a poor fit grammatically. Wander over and see what you think. If you agree, there is a blog post on the site by the guy who is coming up with the questions; you can leave a comment.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Things to Do

The last weekend in March is packed with Philadelphia progressive politics and blogging.

Eschacon08, the annual event that grew up around Philly-based blog Eschaton (usually referred to by the author Atrios), is being held in the city on March 28-30, 2008. For info see

Were that not enough, the very same Saturday, March 29th, the Neighborhood Networks is sponsoring the Annual Conference on Getting Out the Progressive Vote. See for more information.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hillary Clinton Hits the Gas

Sen. Hillary Clinton has been spending a lot of time in Pennsylvania lately. This past week she picked up two new endorsements, from Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato.

She also stopped in at a Pittsburgh gas station to hold a press conference announcing her plans to move towards energy independence.

Math, A Movie and Voting

From the inbox:

With election fever in the air, the Election Reform Network is proud to be hosting the Philadelphia area theatrical premier screening of UNCOUNTED: The New Math of American Elections on April 16.

UNCOUNTED is an explosive new documentary that shows the vulnerability of American elections and the inspiring stories of true heroes working in the trenches of American democracy to protect the vote. It is a stunning wakeup call making it clear that this year our job as citizens goes beyond casting a ballot.

The screening is set for Wednesday, April 16 at 7 pm at the Hiway Theatre in Jenkintown. Join us and Emmy award-winning filmmaker David Earnhardt for a lively conversation afterward about what we can learn from the recent history of American elections and what steps we in the greater Philadelphia area can take now to protect the vote in 2008 and beyond. Save the date and RSVP today.

Pennsylvania is, we all know, a battleground state in the Presidential sweepstakes. But 53 of 67 counties vote on high-risk paperless electronic vote machines. Many consider PA to be the likely next Florida or Ohio. Not only are our machines vulnerable to manipulation and foul-ups, but they are unauditable and unrecountable. Yet some say that we should bury all legitimate concerns related to possible voter disenfranchisement because it discourages people. Better to pretend that there are no problems and hope for the best, they say.

The Election Reform Network urges people to vote and participate fully in the process - but not with their eyes closed! Democracy doesn't work well when citizenship becomes like sleep-walking. In fact, sometimes we have to reinvent democracy, and this seems to be one of those times. UNCOUNTED is a film that inspires people to vote – and then act to protect it.

Come and see UNCOUNTED: The New Math of American Elections and join the conversation afterward. You won’t be discouraged; you’ll be informed - and energized to protect your vote!

Save the date: Wednesday, April 16 at 7 pm at the Hiway Theatre, a beautifully restored community facility, at 212 Old York Road in Jenkintown. Tickets $8, available at the door. RSVP today.

Essential Reading: The Health Care Debate on One Page

The March issue of Money Magazine introduced a new column called "The Bottom Line" by Pat Regnier. If the first installment, "The health-care debate you ought to to hear" is any indication, this is a keeper.

It breaks the Republican and Democratic views on health down into easily understood concepts. Granted anything that tries to make a complex issue simple should be viewed with skepticism. However, anything that helps people understand a complex issue should be welcomed.

Here is one excerpt:

Am I going to have choices?

R: All the choice a free market can give you. We don't want lots of rules telling you or an insurer what a plan should cover or cost. Of course, if you have less income, you'll have fewer choices. And if you have health problems, you may find that your money isn't green enough to buy a policy without government help.

D: If we win, you'll choose among plans with lots of coverage maybe more than you actually want. We may even make you buy insurance. We can't afford to have young, healthy people opting out of the system or buying bare-bones plans. We need them subsidizing the sick for our ideas to work.

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

The Admiral does the honors this week. From “How far is too far for officers?” by Yochi J. Dreazen (3/13):

Sen. Clinton’s campaign, meanwhile, staged a conference call with five of her military supporters, including Rep. Joseph Sestak, a retired Navy admiral elected to Congress last year on an anti-Iraq war platform. Her campaign noted that Sen. Clinton had attracted the support of 30 retired officers, three times the number backing Sen. Obama.

Our fair commonwealth is the focus of “Obama looks to elevate contests after Pennsylvania,” by Nick Timiraos (3/15). On the other side of the primary ballot is “Clinton’s Pennsylvania plan,” by Amy Chozick (3/12)

We also get significant mention in “Party animals: inspired students are skipping spring break in Cancun to volunteer on presidential campaigns,” by Ellen Gamerman (3/14)

From “McCain amplifies antiearmark stance,” by Elizabeth Holmes (3/14):
Sen. McCain cleared his morning schedule for the vote, canceling a public event in Harrisburg, Pa., to return to Washington. When the vote was delayed, he headed to Philadelphia for a fund-raiser, missing other votes, including an amendment on immigration. He was expected to return in time for the earmark moratorium vote.

Sen. Clinton was in Old Forge, Pa. when quoted in “Obama swats away idea of vice presidential role,” by Amy Chozick and Nick Timiraos (3/11)

PA Businesses

Toll Brothers is discussed in “Two projects in default dog big home builders,” by Michael Corkery (3/15). Contrast this with “Holders back CEO bonus plan at Toll Brothers,” by John Spence (3/13)

Karen Schriver whose communication-design research company is based in Oakmont, is quoted in “Can you read as well as a fifth-grader? Check the formula?” by Carl Bialik (3/14)

Julie Cohen, a Philadelphia career coach is quoted in “Work & Family Mailbox,” by Sue Shellenbarger (3/13).

This week’s requisite Mark Zandi (of West Chester-based Moody’s quote is in “Commercial developers face muted downtown,” by Peter Grant (3/10).

Brief Notes:
Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Chadds Ford (3/14)
Aria Systems of Philadelphia (3/12)
Charming Shoppes (3/11)

Other PA

A note on a Philadelphia court case between GMAC and HTFC, “A cursed opinion,” in “Best of the Law Blog” by DanSlater (3/12)

Wow! From “Military networks increasingly are under attack,” by Yochi J. Dreazen (3/12):
The GAO report cited instances like an October 2006 strike against the water system in Harrisburg, Pa., in which hackers planted software capable of affecting the facility’s water-treatment operations.

A Pennsylvania family’s case is one of the examples presented in “Insurers pressed to pay more for prostheses,” by Vanessa Fuhrmans (3/11). This issue will become of even greater importance as more soldiers return home from war with missing limbs.

Wharton Prof Peter Cappelli is quoted in “Landing a job as a bank analyst,” by Maneet Ahuja (3/11)

Friday, March 14, 2008

weekly legislative update

This is a list of bills that passed the Pennsylvania House or Senate this week, and mention of any noteworthy resolutions. Standard caveats apply (resolutions not generally included, list of sponsors deleted if it was too long - three lines in the originally formatting).

Our accountant friends at PICPA have provided their usual informative weekly update.

Other updates this week:

PA GOP Senate
PA Democratic Senate
PA GOP House
PA Democratic House


Special Session

HB 1 Prior Printer's Nos. 47, 56, 70, 72.Printer's No. 73. An Act amending Title 64 (Public Authorities and Quasi-Public Corporations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in Commonwealth Financing Authority, further providing for indebtedness; establishing the Clean Energy Program; consolidating provisions of The Administrative Code of 1929 relating to the Energy Development Authority and emergency powers; further providing for board directors, meetings and quorum, for the powers of the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority and for authority indebtedness; and making a related repeal.

Regular Session


HB 1265 Prior Printer's No. 1580.Printer's No. 3059. An Act amending Title 64 (Public Authorities and Quasi-Public Corporations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for the definitions of "commercial lending activities" and "commercial lending institutions" and for the First Industries Program.

HB 1188 By Representatives GOODMAN, CASORIO, COHEN, HENNESSEY, PHILLIPS, PRESTON, RUBLEY, SOLOBAY, STURLA, YOUNGBLOOD, HARPER, BELFANTI, SIPTROTH and CALTAGIRONE. Prior Printer's No. 1472.Printer's No. 3011. An Act amending the act of July 2, 1993 (P.L.345, No.48) entitled "An act empowering the General Counsel or his designee to issue subpoenas for certain licensing board activities; providing for hearing examiners in the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs; providing additional powers to the Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs; and further providing for civil penalties and license suspension," further providing for civil penalties; and making related repeals.

HB 1199 Prior Printer's Nos. 1468, 3012.Printer's No. 3239. An Act amending the act of October 10, 1975 (P.L.383, No.110), known as the Physical Therapy Practice Act, further providing for definitions, for State Board of Physical Therapy and its powers and duties, for training and license required and exceptions, for application for license, for qualifications for license and examinations, for renewal of license and for reporting of multiple licensure; providing for continuing education; further providing for practice of physical therapy, for physical therapy assistant, education and examination, scope of duties and registration and for supportive personnel; repealing provisions relating to Athletic Trainer Advisory Committee and certification of athletic trainers and certification renewal, revocation and suspension; and further providing for refusal or suspension or revocation of license, for automatic suspension, for temporary suspension, for subpoenas, reports and surrender of license, for penalties and injunctive relief and for impaired professional.


SB 1199 Prior Printer's No. 1627.Printer's No. 1810. An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for educational leave of absence.

HB 363 Printer's No. 427. An Act designating the bridge carrying State Route 30 over Main Street in North Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, as the Veterans Bridge.

SB 483 By Senators BROWNE, FERLO, BOSCOLA, PILEGGI, ERICKSON, COSTA, BAKER and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's No. 525.Printer's No. 1611. An Act amending the act of January 30, 1974 (P.L.13, No.6), referred to as the Loan Interest and Protection Law, defining "department"; and further providing for the definition of "residential mortgage" and for the duties of the Department of Banking.

SB 484 By Senators BROWNE, FERLO, BOSCOLA, PILEGGI, ERICKSON, RHOADES, EARLL, COSTA, BAKER, ORIE and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's Nos. 526, 1612, 1737.Printer's No. 1750. An Act amending the act of May 15, 1933 (P.L.565, No.111), known as the Department of Banking Code, further providing for general scope of supervision and exercise of discretion; prohibiting disclosure of certain information; further providing for criminal history record information; and providing for conduct of administrative proceedings relating to institutions and credit unions.

SB 485 By Senators BROWNE, FERLO, BOSCOLA, ERICKSON, RHOADES, COSTA, BAKER, STACK and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's Nos. 527, 1651.Printer's No. 1751. An Act amending the act of July 10, 1990 (P.L.404, No.98), known as the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act, further providing for real estate appraiser certification required, for State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers, for application and qualifications, for disciplinary and corrective measures and for penalties.

SB 486 By Senators BROWNE, FERLO, BOSCOLA, TOMLINSON, ERICKSON, RAFFERTY, RHOADES, COSTA, BAKER, STACK and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's Nos. 528, 1585.Printer's No. 1752. An Act amending the act of December 3, 1959 (P.L.1688, No.621), known as the Housing Finance Agency Law, further providing for general authority, for notice and institution of foreclosure proceedings, for notice requirements, for assistance payments and for repayment; and providing for an ongoing foreclosure study.

SB 487 By Senators BROWNE, FERLO, BOSCOLA, PILEGGI, TOMLINSON, ERICKSON, FUMO, RHOADES, COSTA, BAKER, STACK, LOGAN, ROBBINS and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's Nos. 529, 1613.Printer's No. 1753. An Act amending the act of December 22, 1989 (P.L.687, No.90), known as the Mortgage Bankers and Brokers and Consumer Equity Protection Act, further providing for definitions, for license requirements and exemptions, for application for license, for annual license fee, for issuance of license, for license duration, for licensee requirements, for licensee limitations, for authority of department or commission, for fees, for suspension, revocation or refusal, for penalties, for referral fees and for Real Estate Recovery Fund.

SB 488 By Senators BROWNE, FERLO, BOSCOLA, PILEGGI, ERICKSON, FUMO, RHOADES, COSTA, BAKER, STACK and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's Nos. 530, 1614. Printer's No. 1754. An Act amending the act of December 12, 1980 (P.L.1179, No.219), known as the Secondary Mortgage Loan Act, further providing for definitions, for license requirements and exemptions, for application for license, for annual license fee, for issuance of license, for license duration, for transfer of license, for powers conferred on licensees, for licensee requirements, for licensee limitations, for prepayment, for open-end loans, for authority of Secretary of Banking, for surrender of license, for suspension, for scope of act, for foreclosure, for penalties, for preservation of existing powers and for exclusions from act.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Michelle Obama in Abington

Michelle Obama at the Abington High School
March 13, 2008

Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama appeared at a rally this afternoon at the Abington High School in Abington. Family and work schedule allowed me to take half a day vacation at late notice to try and attend. It was free and open to the public. The doors were scheduled to open at 2:30 p.m. and the event was slated to start at 3:00 p.m.

I got in line at 2:10. There were two lines, one for students of the school who wanted to attend; the other for the general public. The lady in front of me was pleasant and we chatted a bit while we stood. She made a very positive impression and I wish her well. The line continued to grow behind us. We were given a “ticket,” a form that asked for name, address, phone, email, and check boxes to indicate willingness to volunteer for the campaign. A photo of Sen. Obama and his family were printed on the ticket. This was problematic as the ink didn’t always show over the photos and you could not read the information on the form. A number of people came by to offer voter registration forms. One man came by selling (!) campaign buttons.

When we had been standing for quite some time one of the campaign volunteers came by and pulled out the two men behind me. He said he wanted to talk to them and then took them up to the entrance. He did this with two other pairs of people. The woman in front of me speculated that those people were going to be seated on the stage. (There were people on the stage and I thought those pulled out of line could have been among them but am not certain.) Note to campaigns: this really annoys the people left in line.

Among the overheard conversations while waiting: part of the security set up was having dogs sweep the room twice and there was talk of having two overflow rooms. I could see State Rep. Josh Shapiro, an early Obama supporter, near the entrance. The only other person of note I saw was Morning Call reporter and Capitol Ideas / Pennsylvania Avenue blogger John Micek hurrying by heading for the entrance.

The line began to move shortly before 3:00, though it paused a few times as empty seats were counted to see how many more people could be allowed in. I barely made the cutoff. The area I landed in was heavily populated by high school students.

Abington School District Superintendent Amy Sichel spoke for about ten minutes, touting the positive aspects of the school. Shortly afterward an Obama delegate spoke briefly.

At 3:45 Josh Shapiro positively bounded to the podium, wearing an uncharacteristic blue shirt and tie. He introduced State Senator LeAnna Washington and State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland. (I thought I noticed another state representative in the audience but am not certain and, if it was him, he was not formally pointed out.) Among his comments (not exact quotes) were that the country knows it can do better. Our politics can be more civil. We want bottom up, grassroots politics. It’s not enough to have experience. We need experience that leads to good judgment.

At 3:50 Mrs. Obama took the podium to a standing ovation. I am short and could not see what was happening until everyone sat back down. Mrs. Obama thanked Shapiro, Sichel, the president of the school board, and a special thanks to former Senator Harris Wofford who was in the audience. She said he had been a real inspiration to her.

She spoke about the day her husband announced his candidacy. It was an outdoor event, in February, with a temperature of below zero. Sixteen thousand people came out for it. One repeated theme is that Sen. Obama reached out to regular folks. She said initially people claimed he couldn’t raise the money for a campaign but then he did. Then it was said he couldn’t build a good campaign organization, but then he did. Then it was said he would never win Iowa. Then he did. This brought up another theme, that the bar moves. Not only for him, but for the regular folks as well. You do all the things that are necessary and then the goal is shifted out of reach.

Mrs. Obama is her husband’s equal in oratory, if such a thing is possible. I only paused to jot down a few notes, preferring to listen. But here are the things I wrote down:

Folks are hungry for change. They are tired of listening to pundits tell them what they want.

The bar is shifting and moving for regular folks. It is easy to feel isolated and alone with struggling.

The beauty of my childhood is that there is nothing special about it.

When people see me they don’t just see a future first lady, but a product of public education.

My father had MS and went to work every day to a job that gave him no joy but allowed him to support his family and send two children to Princeton.

Most Americans don’t want much. They just want the bar to stay still, to raise a family on their salary, not go bankrupt if they become sick, send their kids to a good public school, and retire with a little dignity.

No Child Left Behind is flawed. Success is measured by so much more than how you do on a test.

When Barack and I should have been saving for our children’s college we were paying off our student loans.

The only reason I can be here today is that my 70 year old mother is home with my kids, and they are probably jumping on the couch right now.

People ask why doesn’t Barack wait? What are we waiting for?

People ask what’s your plan? Everyone has a plan. We know what good schools look like. Everyone knows where the good schools are – they’re the schools people are trying to keep their kids into, shifting their address on school forms, saying the kids live with grandparents or other relatives who are in that district.

Barack says we have a deficit of empathy.

We are at war and the only people making sacrifices are the soldiers and their families. We are not asked to pay a higher tax or pick up a can or anything. The government says just keep shopping.

Character is written in the shadows; it is what you do when no one is looking.

You never cut your opponent into little pieces because some day you have to sit down at that big table with them and work something out.

Barack is brilliant. He was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. That is the best student at the best school in the world. People who are president of the Harvard Law Review graduate and clerk for Supreme Court Justices. Barack came back to Chicago and worked at a small civil rights form. He could have made millions but he believes that to those whom much has been given, much is expected.

When you get into elected office with the help of the regular folks you can try things out, because you are not beholden to special interests. He accomplished a lot in the Illinois state senate.

When power is confronted with real change, they will do anything to stop it.

Personal observations:

Lordy but the woman is a wonderful speaker. When she talked about grandparents she talked about the love they provide and then added “and give out extra candy; you do it, you know you do.” The crowd, students and parents and grandparents in the audience, loved it. She had us eating out of her hand. There were many times when she really reached out to the day to day existence of most Americans. While Barack Obama speaks to ideals and hope, Michelle Obama talks about kids jumping on couches and the fact that she would not do well if judged by test scores.

It was well worth the time. Hopefully she will be back in the area before the election; if you get the chance, she is not to be missed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Rise of the Consultancy

The annual Political Pages directory of political businesses and consultants has been published. Here are some notes about the industry from Things I Don't Like:

Consider this: total campaign spending around the country has grown about 375% since 2000. The market for State House and local campaigns alone is about $1 billion. Total spending just this year will be around $7 billion. The number of candidates hasn’t changed, just the number of people getting paid to elect them has exploded.

It’s worth keeping in mind that there is an enormous concentration of wealth among the most successful political professionals. In the last mid term campaign cycle, just 600 political consultants controlled $1.8 billion in campaign spending.

The blog entry provides a breakdown in the growth of various aspects of the political industry.

Presidential Call Total

This may or may not become a semi-regular feature, depending on how often the phone rings. So far I have received two calls from Camp Clinton, and one from Omniverse Obama.

Clinton Call #1, a robocall talking about HRC and the Pennsylvania primary, but according to Caller ID the call originated in South Carolina.

Clinton Call #2, a survey call from a national organization I belong to telling me why the organization supports Sen. Clinton and asking if I would as well. Caller ID didn't provide any information. The caller did not sound like a native speaker of English.

Obama Call #1, not really from Obama but from someone else in the area to pass along some Obama-related information. Let me know if that doesn't make sense.

Call Total: Clinton 2 / Obama 1

Off Topic: An Open Note to the AARP

Dear AARP,

Today I received the membership card you sent. When I turn 50, YEARS FROM NOW, I will give it due consideration.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Josh Shapiro and Barack Obama

Does the man ever sleep? State Rep and Deputy Speaker of the House Josh Shapiro was everywhere in the press this past week, talking presidential politics.

Article #1, "Some state Dems still mum on candidate," by Kori Walter, Phillyburbs, 3/09. Excerpt:

State Rep. Josh Shapiro will keep busy during the next six weeks making campaign speeches and urging voters to show up at the polls for the April 22 primary election.

But he will not be doing all that campaign work for himself. He's running unopposed in the primary.

Shapiro's effort will be aimed at trying to help U.S. Sen. Barack Obama win Pennsylvania, which pundits have declared the last major battleground in an epic battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Article #2, "Pennsylvania is a should-win state for Clinton," by Charles Mahtesian, The Politico 3/06. Excerpt:
“He’s gaining traction here,” said state Rep. Josh Shapiro, an Obama supporter from suburban Montgomery County. “The Democratic establishment is with Sen. Clinton but elections are won, particularly in southeast Pennsylvania, not by machine-style politics but by connecting directly with voters, which Sen. Obama does very well.”

Shapiro notes that the long period of time between the March 4 primaries and Pennsylvania’s April 22 contest — the longest extended stretch of time without any major primaries this year — affords Obama plenty of time to gain ground on Clinton.

New PADems Poll

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has a new poll up. Last week's stumper was your gender. This week they ask age range. The other two question are related to your choice for president and how strongly you feel about that candidate. Vote at

The President v. the Paratrooper

Chris Matthews coined the title to this post as a description of the Philadelphia Democratic ward leaders meeting to decide who, if anyone, to endorse as the presidential nominee. The president in question was Bill Clinton, making the case for his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton. The paratrooper was Congressman Patrick Murphy, who served in the 82nd Airborne, making the case for Senator Barack Obama. No endorsement was made.

Articles and quotes:

"Philadelphia Dems: No endorsement for Obama or Clinton," by Thomas Fitzgerald. Inquirer 3/07

"Inside Bill Clinton’s Smokeless Backroom Meeting With Philly Democrat Party Bosses," by Amy Z. Quinn The Phawker, 3/07.

"Battle for Pennsylvania begins," by Josh Drobnyk Morning Call 3/09

Monday, March 10, 2008

Another JARCy Acronym

You know there is government money involved when a press release starts out like this:

Enacted in August 2005, SAFETEA-LU – the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users – authorized $45.3 billion in transportation funding over a four year period (2005-2009). Under the new SAFETEA-LU regulations, the existing Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC), New Freedoms, and Transportation for Elderly Personas and Persons with Disabilities Grant programs are now components of a Coordinated Human Services Transportation Planning (CHSTP) process.

Since the press release came from those wonderful people at DVRPC (Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission), who are so focused and detailed they make me feel flighty and carefree, and eventually gets around to saying the Philly area will be the beneficiary of nearly $8 million for transportation, perhaps the JARCy jargon can be forgiven.

Here is the English language version:

To help ease access to jobs for low-income workers and reverse commuters, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has announced almost $8 million in funding for the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program. The announcement was made at a press conference on March 7, at the Market East SEPTA station. Representatives from DVRPC, SEPTA, PennDOT, the Federal Transit Administration, the region’s Transportation Management Associations, and elected officials attended the event.

SEPTA gets the bulk of the money, $5.2 million, and the Transportation Management Associations and local non-profit agencies will share the remaining $2.8 million. Reverse commuting means people going against the flow, such as going from the city to the suburbs in the morning and back into the city at night. Other programs will provide transportation to high employment areas, such as Quicksilver IV which has a route connecting the city of Chester to UPS at the airport. “$8 million for SEPTA, other reverse commuters,” by Paul Nussbaum in the 3/07 Inky provides a list of routes and expansions that will be funded.

Personally I was most pleased to see that the airport train will be adding more early morning runs. The current schedule and time required to get through airport security make it impractical to take the train for early morning flights. The airport train is a wonderful thing.

My thanks to the gentleman with the friendly smile and warm handshake who is responsible for me now having my very own glossy spiffy DVRPC folder.

Book Review: Taking the Hill

Book Review: Taking the Hill by Patrick J. Murphy and Adam Frankel. New York: Henry Holt, 2008.

Murphy has written a coming of age story (fancy name: bildungsroman). It is not intended to be a philosophical treatise; the author himself says his purpose is to encourage others to enter public service. (1). Except for the final section on his run for congress this could be the story of thousands of Americans, who followed family traditions of military service, who faced hardships and failure and yet preserved. It was published, to be sure, because this particular soldier ran for congress and won, but make no mistake, it is not only an American story, but many Americans’ story.

The book’s prologue opens (p. 1) with his first day in Iraq:

”Make no mistake, what you and your team will do – or not do – ti win the hearts and minds of these Iraqis will save our paratroopers’ lives,” he [Col. Arnold Bray] told me. “Get out there, be aggressive, go after it.”

The first section, “The Northeast Philadelphia Story,” tells of his upbringing in an Irish / Italian Catholic family and Sunday dinners at his grandmother’s house. His father and two uncles served in the military, one uncle in the 82nd Airborne and his stories in particular stayed with young Patrick. His father and an uncle were Philadelphia policemen. The uncle, Joe Rapone was an inspector under then Commissioner Frank Rizzo (see note 2 below). Murphy also recounts the story of family friend Patty Ward, for whom he was named, who died in Vietnam. Jack and Marge Murphy had a politically mixed marriage, with Jack a Democrat and Marge a Republican, although politics was not discussed much in the home. (He followed the family pattern as his wife is a Republican). He does mention that his grandmother kept a picture of John F. Kennedy on the wall.

Murphy’s school years are highlighted, with what might be called “jugheaded teenage boy-ness [my term],” Philly-style, neighborhood fist fights, one count of being mugged by someone with a gun, and two counts failing a school subject and having to go to summer school (see note 3). His after school and summer jobs, messenger at a law firm, security guard at Veterans Stadium, selling Mass cards, waiting tables, and helping his brother with a paper route, are standard blue collar fare. The exception would be the law firm, something his mother arranged with the purpose of showing him what a professional environment was like. When Murphy graduated from high school only two of his relatives had college degrees. He applied to King’s College because that’s where his older brother was a student and his law mentor was an alumni. His application was denied. On p. 24 he notes, “For maybe the first time in my life, I’d experience real failure.” Another wake up call was the death of an 18 year old friend.

He applied to and was accepted at Bucks County Community College, buckled down, made the honor roll the first semester and transferred to King’s College. There he double majored in psychology and human resources management, played hockey, was elected student body president, and joined ROTC. That’s a good turnaround in a short period of time. In December, 1995, the area was hit with the worst flooding in decades. Murphy organized his friends, teammates and fellow ROTC members to help out with sandbagging. The next February when President Clinton made a stop at King’s College and Murphy was asked to introduce him at a stop in Wilkes-Barre.

A conversation with one of the lawyers at the firm where he had worked as a messenger led him to law school and an educational delay for his military service. In law school, he interned in the Philadelphia DA’s office under Lynn Abraham and then worked as a legislative aide for State Rep. Tom Tangretti. As part of an organization of Catholic lawyers he helped set up a legal aid station at a soup kitchen and he also volunteered at the Civil Law Clinic. After graduating and passing the bar he went into active duty with the Judge Advocate General Corps and applied to airborne school. Upon completion of that he went to West Point. Initially a legal assistance attorney, he was then promoted to Chief of the Federal Tort Claims Division, defending the government in lawsuits filed in that jurisdiction. He later joined the faculty and taught Constitutional Law. He took a second job as the Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, prosecuting cases in federal court.

In the book he changed his views on “don’t ask, don’t tell” while at West Point. He also quotes from some of the columns he wrote for the school publication (see note 4). A turning point for Murphy, as it was for all of us, was the events of Sept. 11, 2001. His initial reaction was to volunteer to go to New York to help there but was told no more volunteers were needed. When that was declined he decided to research al Qaeda to be better able to teach his students about them. He also requested a duty reassignment to the front lines, but it was declined. At this point in time Murphy did not question the president’s actions.

The second section of the book “The Brass Ring” is much grittier. This is the war section. As an introduction he mentions leading a group of West Point students to an international law competition; while there he was questioned about detainees in Guantanamo Bay and began to question the government’s policy of not allowing prisoners to have hearings to determine whether they were lawful or unlawful combatants. He had wanted to go to Afghanistan and trained to get in better shape. He was sent to Bosnia instead. Part of his job brought him into contact with defense contractors and he was disturbed by the high prices they charged and the fact that they were outside the military chain of commands. He cites the incidence of a contractor accused of viewing child pornography who could not be prosecuted by only sent home. This was the inspiration of the Iraq Accountability Act that he introduced in Congress.

While in Bosnia he began a romance with another soldier that eventually became an engagement. Unfortunately, like many military marriages and relationships, it did not survive the lengthy absences due to their respective overseas stays and ended after his tour of duty in Iraq.

Back at West Point Murphy began to question the some of the government’s rationales for going into Iraq. He reassured himself by reading the remarks of Colin Powell. About the same time he was accepted into the 82nd Airborne Division and was transferred to Ft. Bragg to begin grueling physical training required. His hard work paid off and he was deployed to Iraq. As part of preparation he wrote to the officer he was replacing, who told him about going for over 60 days without bathing, getting 4 hours of sleep a night, and sleeping with his helmet on.

Murphy’s description of the accommodations spare no detail as seen in this passage from p. 93:
When the brigade first formed, they had to use filthy latrines, pouring diesel fuel into the basin and lighting it on fire to dispose of the waste, which smelled even worse than the trash that baked in the streets during the day. When we finally used one of the Iraqi Johnny on the Spot portable toilets, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. The toilets baked in the sun and felt like saunas; our brown T-shirts under battle-dress-uniform (BDU) stuck to our chests with heavy sweat. Even worse were the swarms of flies and flying insects in the basin, which we felt crawling on our skin as we sat there, trying to do our business. Even so, the toilets were an improvement over the latrines.

He is also very frank about the materials lost or misplaced due to lack of planning or too few troops to do the job. Body armor was incomplete or inferior, Humvees unarmored or missing doors. This jibes with what I have heard from relatives who served there.

On p. 106 Murphy writes:
You learn in war – it becomes chiseled into your bones – that in most cases, there’s no good reason why one person died and another survives. It tears you apart when you start asking those questions, trying to make sense of the randomness of the violence and the killings. It reinforces our faith, or crushes it, or ignites a faith that was never there – as you hunger for an assurance that there is some reason for the chaos around you. The uncertainty of war – he uncertainty of my own survival – was often on my mind.

Another of his duties was hearing cases of Iraqis who claimed there were harmed by the negligence of American soldiers. Murphy and his team would put thousands of dollars in a brown paper bag and drive into town to set up a makeshift court, keeping careful records of how much was dispersed and to whom. Paratroopers who sometimes due to incorrect information would invade the wrong home left notes directing the occupants to “see CPT Murphy at Scania [the name of the building where Murphy was based].”

The other side of this are the few instances where he had to prosecute fellow soldiers who behaved incorrectly. Murphy also met regularly with military and civilian leaders setting up the new Iraqi legal system.

He writes on page 129:
There’s a reason why we have laws of war. There’s a reason we spend so much time teaching those laws at West Point and throughout military training. It’s not just that treating other human beings decently, even in war, is worth doing in and of itself. It’s that there are strategic consequences when we don’t treat our enemies with mercy and compassion.

Murphy continued to practice his Catholic faith even in wartime. He notes that, with a few others from his brigade, he would attend Mass:
Hearing familiar hymns and taking the body of Christ in the Eucharist Communion always brought us comfort and solace in the midst of war (p. 144).

His frustration with governmental decisions impacting Iraq grew. People with political connections but few qualifications were put into important positions. Prisoners were allowed to escape. Criminals were not pursued even though there was sufficient evidence against them. The Iraqi Army had been disbanded and Murphy was among those who tried to help train its replacement. The time allotted for training was insufficient to really teach the principles and restraints needed.

The prolonged and repeated deployments have also taken their toll on the families of the troops. Murphy’s engagement was not the only one that dissolved under the strain of long separations. Marriages fray and shatter. Military suicides are on the rise.

The third section of the book is the section that got the book published – it focuses primarily on his congressional campaign. However, it starts out with problems that many veterans have returning from war. For his first six months stateside he was a trial counsel at Ft. Bragg but he decided to return to civilian life. From p. 184:
It had been more than ten years since I first wore the uniform and I was looking for something new. At first, I thought I might return to the law, but reentering the Philadelphia legal profession from North Carolina proved difficult. My blue-collar background and years in the army didn’t come with many connections. Firms in the Philadelphia area weren’t exactly beating down my door; they weren’t sure to what extent my nineteen- and twenty-hour days in Iraq would translate into billable hours.

He decided to volunteer on John Kerry’s presidential campaign, following the suggestion of a friend of his mother’s who was active in Pennsylvania politics. Eventually he and another veteran became veteran’s coordinators for Pennsylvania, speaking to groups and rallies, and working with visitors like General Wesley Clark and Senator Max Cleland.

After the 2004 election Murphy returned to Bucks County, became active in the local Catholic community and, eventually, found a job at a law firm in Philadelphia. People began encouraging him to run for office himself. He spoke to family and friend, his Lenten group, and those involved in politics. A common response from the politically connected was that he hadn’t paid his dues yet. His interest was congressional as opposed to state office, as decisions regarding the Iraq War are made at the federal level. He describes his decision to run on p. 194:
Finally, in the spring of 2005, with my personal savings at $322, without a single campaign dollar in the bank, without anybody knowing who the hell I was, and with a working-class Northeast Philly accent that made the blue bloods in Pennsylvania politics cringe (an accent I’ll probably have until the day I die), I decided to go for it. We had to put out country back on track, and impossible odds were not enough to deter me. As Captain Langley had said in Iraq, “Remember – impossible is our regular workday.”

And so, he declared his candidacy. He met with local powerbrokers, such as Congressman Bob Brady, statewide powerbrokers, such as Congressman John Murtha, and national powerbrokers, such as Congressman Rham Emanuel who, as he is wont to do, told the candidate to come back when he had raised a certain amount of money. He also discusses his primary opponents and credits those who helped him out in the very early days. Early in the congressional race he met a fellow attorney, a young woman at the same firm; the attraction flowered into love and marriage.

The netroots also came into play during the campaign. On page 204 he writes:
One of the turning points in the primary campaign came in August [2005], during a candidates’ forum with top Philadelphia Internet bloggers at Yard’s Brewery. The forum was moderated by Chris Bowers of, a huge supporter Ginny Schrader [another candidate in the race]. I hadn’t been invited, but as an avid reader of and other local political blogs, I decided to just show up. Unlike the other candidates, I didn’t have campaign materials or prepared remarks, but when I explained who I was, I was invited to give a brief speech.

Later on that page he says “The buzz from the netroots community gave our team hope during those early days, and helped us get taken seriously.” Murphy also addresses his first national television appearance on Hardball, something often brought up by his opponents. He describes is at a “low point” and says he was trying to answer the question (would he have voted to authorize the war in Iraq) without tarnishing the memory of those who had died in battle.

The primary campaign was fast-paced. Two other candidates dropped out, a third endorsed Murphy, leaving it a contest between him and Andy Warren. Murphy won the primary, and it was on to the general against freshman Republican Mike Fitzpatrick. It seemed a near impossible task. Fitzpatrick was popular and had a large campaign bank account. Even the unions, traditionally a Democratic stronghold, seemed to favor Fitzpatrick, as did the National VFW (though the local chapter, to which Murphy belonged, did support him). Murphy designed a series of plans spelling out what he would do if elected. The book notes a number of incidents when the campaigning became personal and nasty. One example is a group of people led by a member of Fitzpatrick’s family who singled out Murphy and his wife, then eight months pregnant, as they came out of church one Sunday morning. A Murphy volunteer called the police on the same family member when the relative made threatening remarks while holding a knife. Murphy’s military service and religious beliefs were questioned. Other incidents were more standard campaign fare, such as damaged lawn signs.

The polls, like the race, were close. Both political parties spent over a million dollars, the GOP $3.6 million, the Democrats $1.5 million. Fitzpatrick raised $3.1 million, Murphy $2.3 million. The elections results were also close. In the end Murphy won Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district by 1,518 votes. The slim margin of victory came not from Bucks County but from the slivers of Montgomery County and Philadelphia that are included in the district.

This last section of the book was a very pleasant read for me as I attended a number of the events he describes; a trip down memory lane if you will. I listened to some of the radio appearances and debates. Many of these were the subject of blog posts.

Murphy includes an epilogue about his first few months in office, discussing some of the legislation he has supported (war funding bills that include timelines for bringing the troops home) and opposed (war funding bills that don’t). He writes about his reasons for joining the Blue Dog Coalition. He also discusses some of the personal aspects, such as the difficulty of being away from home, his wife and daughter. He ends the book with this (p. 263):
Now is a defining moment in our nation’s history. America faces steep challenges at home and abroad. But I’m confident we’ll meet them. Because if there’s one thing I’ve relearned throughout my life, it’s that no hill is too hard to take, so long as we climb it together.

I enjoyed reading the book.


(1) Waring, Tom, “U S Rep Murphy delivers on a novel idea,” Northeast Times 2/21/08

(2) Murphy mentions that his mother worked for Republican State Senator Joe Conti (p. 190). He talks about his uncle Joe Rapone but doesn’t mention that after retiring from the Philadelphia police force Rapone worked as chief of staff for State Senator Vince Fumo. Rapone’s political work would have been while Murphy was in high school and college, ending about the time Murphy graduated. See Rapone’s Inquirer obituary by Gayle Ronan Sims on 2/29/08

(3) Murphy is honest about his less than exemplary high school years. As mentioned he attended summer school two summers because of cutting class and failing grades. For those who saw the first Indiana Jones movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” remember the scene where the bad guy looked into the ark? My children have a clear understanding that this is what would happen if they skip school and flunk. I felt a need to mention this in case one of them finds this review at some future point and says “you didn’t say anything about Patrick Murphy failing algebra.”

(4) Some people can’t see the forest for the trees; I look at the moss on the bark on one side of a very few trees. Before the 2006 elections I wrote a blog post on the “Murphy’s Law” column that the congressman wrote while a professor at West Point. In his book Murphy quotes from three of those columns. As it happens I still had my copies in my files. Before someone else does this I checked the quotes to make sure they are accurate. In the Sept. 27, 2002 column he uses the word “homerun.” In the quote from the book (p. 75) it is separated into two words, “home run.” In the Sept. 14, 2001 quote in the book (p. 63) he spells out “ninety to ninety-five” and starts a sentence but in the original column the sentence started out “Because 90 to 95.” Spelling conventions state that numbers must be spelled out if they begin a sentence. In the same quote the last sentence is “The Taliban has continually given a safe haven to Osama bin Laden.” In the original column the period is a column followed by this phrase, “even though he is the world’s most wanted terrorist. Should anyone indicate there are any other differences they are completely incorrect. The elipses are in the correct places and nothing is taken out of context. I give my official and formal stamp of approval.