Thursday, November 20, 2008

Taking a Break

All machines with movable parts need maintenance now and then. It is the same with the human body, live long enough and something needs a little work. In my case one of my joints is out of whack and the doc has called for a round of physical therapy; if that doesn't work there's a Plan B that I am preferring not to think about. Right now the household schedule is crammed full; there's nothing left to shuffle. Since this isn't Nebraska I can't drop the kids off at a local hospital [joke!!] so something else has to give. The blog is a hobby, unrelated to my job and providing no real benefit to the household, though I enjoy it a lot and have had the opportunity to email with some really wonderful people. So I'm taking a break.

Many thanks to all those who have stopped in over the past four years. It is very gratifying to know there are so many people out there interested in state government and civic affairs.

From time to time I may post press releases or other quick notes but by and large the blog is now on hiatus.

Satullo Leaves Inky

Another Inky shocker -- Chris Satullo is leaving the paper to work at WHYY ("WHYY hired Satullo as news executive," by Jonathan Storm, Inquirer, 11/20):

WHYY yesterday hired former Inquirer editorial page editor Chris Satullo for a new position overseeing the public broadcaster's radio, TV and Internet news operations. He will begin work Dec. 15.

I have corresponded with Chris via email on the Big Canvas program and other matters. He has always responded promptly to questions and comments, in a friendly manner and with humor. You can't ask for more than that. I wish him well in his new job.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

State of the Blog -- Year 4

Each November I write a “state of the blog” post to reflect on the previous year’s blogging; this year it is a day or so early. Today, Nov. 19th the blog is four years old. That is a long time for a hobby.

The presidential election overshadowed things this year, since Pennsylvania played a more significant role than anyone really expected. None of the suburban congressional races were really competitive and the election results there brought few surprises. There were some interesting candidates and campaigns in the regional state senate and house races. Over the past few years there has been a marked trend away from communicating directly with candidates and campaigns and toward being contacted by pr firms, organizations, and parties. Another blogger has theorized that this represents a shift in the view of blogs as media outlets as opposed to some form of campaign volunteer. Someone smarter than me will have to figure it all out.

Over the year I kept up standard features such as the list of articles on Pennsylvania published in the Wall Street Journal, rough notes from live and televised events and interviews. I have stopped writing the synopses of House and Senate Journals, primarily because it is tedious and the House Journals run six months behind so it is hardly relevant by the time they appear. The quarterly FEC roundups of congressional campaign finance became a standard feature.

Once again, I paid to attend all fundraising events. From time to time people will write and offer me a free copy of a book or other product. All these offers have been declined. The Inquirer did invite me to blog about some of their Big Canvas events and there was a monetary payment for that. One firm approached me about placing ad on my blog; it made a positive statement so I ran it in exchange for a small online gift card. The ad only brought in a handful of clickthroughs. Unrelated to the ad agreement I posted a note about the event, with an acknowledgment of the ad, and there were more clickthroughs from the blog post. So, for blogs of this size, sponsored blog posts might be more effective than an ad. It was a one time experiment for me and no other paid ads and no sponsored blog posts have run.

In keeping with previous years, let me provide some information on usage. There are three ways to track blog usage. A number of users either come directly to the blog or find it via search engines, looking for information on candidates, bills, and related topics, as well as those who come across it while searching for something entirely different, and are probably disappointed when they get here. Then there are those who are referred here from other sites, aggregators like, or other blogs like Capitol Ideas. I appreciate those people including this blog on their blogroll or in their blog roundups.

These users are represented in the chart below from sitemeter. Along the year I had thought usage was down but looking at the numbers overall sitemeter visits were up. Last year only two months usage (visits and page views) were over 8,000; this year usage for four months topped that number. The most popular posts this year were the post written in April 2007 on the Foodstamp Challenge, referenced by Rebecca’s Pocket and other bloggers, and a post this year commenting on a list of household rules that appeared on It is interesting that neither post had anything to do with politics. The most popular political post was the interview with Betsy Meyers of Obama for America.

Again this year I received about $100 from Newstex which markets a number of blogs to commercial databases like Lexis / Nexis. The number of hits increased around the primaries but as the reports run 60 or more days behind I don’t have a good sense of how the fall election season affected usage.

Feedburner, another free tracking service, monitors rss subscriptions and also hits, views, and clickthroughs. The number of subscribers varies from day to day. It started in Nov. 2007 in the 130’s, only dipped below 100 once over the year, and bounced around, with a top number of around 180 and at the end of October 2008 was 157. The number of hits bounced around also but tended to be over 1000 daily after April. The top number was around 7,500 but I think that was one of the times someone came along and basically downloaded the entire blog for their own purposes. I can find no pattern to the views and clickthroughs numbers. It varies from 5 to over 600 per day.

The coverage of state and regional politics by the traditional media is shifting as well, and not in a good way. The Inquirer continues to lose good reporters with years and sometimes decades of experience. Few reporters means less coverage. That is a loss for us all. Hobbyist bloggers might complement traditional coverage, especially in the smaller races that might escape the larger media outlets, but cannot replace a robust press.

Next year there are some district attorney races and the 2010 senate and house races might start to rumble. For those who stopped in to read and comment this year, thank you for doing so. I have enjoyed the conversations, both public and private.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Whither the New Years Eve Phone Call?

Did anyone else get whiplash reading the Inquirer this morning? I was browsing the Local News Section, specifically "Pa Dems seeking top spot in House,"* by Amy Worden when I read this:

[State Rep Keith] McCall said he was lobbying Republicans for support as well, in an effort to prevent a repeat of January 2007, when Rep. Dennis O'Brien, a Philadelphia Republican, was elected in a surprise move orchestrated by Rep. Bill DeWeese (D., Greene), who was minority leader at the time.

Say what? Orchestrated by whom? Of all the versions of the fateful events of January 2007 and the famed New Year's Eve phone call (and I compared a number of printed versions of this story, including some in the Inky, in Sept 07), none attributed it solely or even primarily to the work of DeWeese.

Is Josh Shapiro being written out of the historical record? What about Rendell schmoozing O'Brien's young son with cookies, basketball, and dogs? This is a good story, people, and one we shouldn't lose. "orchestrated by Bill DeWeese"? I don't think so.

* The headline in the print edition and in the online edition differ. I read it at home so used the print version.

Movin' On Up

Josh Drobnyk (the only one of the three bloggers at Pennsylvania Avenue who seems to have any familiarity with a comb -- look at the photos) reports that two of our suburban Philadelphia congressional representatives are moving up, or hope to.

Patrick Murphy (D-08) has expressed interest in being a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Allyson Schwartz (D-13) is now a vice chair of the centrist New Democratic coalition, made up of 71 House members. According to Schwartz's press release:

NewDems are expected to play a pivotal role in healthcare reform in the coming Congress. As a co-chair of the NewDems Healthcare Task Force, Schwartz has already played a lead role for the NewDems on healthcare, and is expected to continue this role.

“Healthcare, healthcare, healthcare – it is the common denominator of all the economic and social issues facing our nation. I am a firm believer that the NewDems will champion the necessary reform of our healthcare system in the coming Congress, and I look forward to leading that effort. Families, businesses and government can no longer sustain out-of-control costs. A first step will be to pass a comprehensive children’s health plan to ensure working families can afford healthcare for their children. We must then work with the new Administration to provide all Americans with market-based quality, affordable healthcare,” said Schwartz.

Members of the Coalition voted unanimously to approve the new slate. Elections took place at the Coalition’s organizational retreat on Tuesday in the Capitol, during which the NewDems also inducted 15 newly elected Members. The new Members bring the group’s total to 71 Members.

The New Democrat Coalition, always leaders on the economy and innovation, is committed to enacting policies that maintain U.S. competitiveness, meet the challenges posed by globalization in the 21st Century and strengthen our national security.

The Coalition currently operates three task forces dealing with Financial Services, Healthcare and Energy issues. The NewDems are dedicated to providing the leadership necessary to implement policies that will ensure that America rebuilds its prosperity and global leadership.

Product Design Flaw

Every now and then you see a product on the market and wonder how it managed to get out of the design stage. This is one of them:

Light up your front yard, porch, patio, driveway, business, organization or church this holiday season with a stunning Christmas cross.

This beautiful Christmas Cross is 5.5 feet tall, with 210 individual ultra bright lights.

Yes, that's right, you can have a faux burning cross on your lawn that is taller than I am. For those lacking imagination, there is a photo on the American Family Association's website.

As this was being discussed didn't someone somewhere suggest that it might call up some unpleasant memories for a few people?

[Found on twitter, h/t BE]

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tom Ferrick on Philadelphia's Libraries

Tom Ferrick, formerly of the Inky and now writing for WHYY has a great blog post on It's Our City. Read "Waging Class Warfare Over Public Libraries." Here's how it starts:

To begin with, libraries are not libraries. They are sanctuaries.

This is especially true in big cities, where life can be hard and the streets mean. They are places for latchkey children to go after school. They are destinations for the elderly to ease the loneliness that sometimes comes with old age. They are warm in the winter, cool in the summer, usually genial and safe havens.
So, anyone who sees libraries simply as a dispenser of books misses the point.

He looks at the economic status of the areas where libraries are slated for closure.

Arianna Huffington's First US Visit

From "The Oracle" by Lauren Collins, New Yorker 10/13/08 (p. 128), a profile of Arianna Huffington:

The first time Huffington came to America, she found herself in York, Pennsylvania. She was fifteen, and a summer exchange student.

who knew?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Few State House Thoughts

Even those who claim to have little interest in what happens politically at the state level need to pay some attention to it.

The Thicket, a blog from the National Council of State Legislators, has an interesting post pointing out that half of the U.S. Congress once served in state legislatures.

Knowing the future of our Congress is incubating in Harrisburg is not always a comforting thought. Reading that Bill DeWeese has decided not to seek re-election as House Majority Leader kicks the confidence factor up a few notches (see "DeWeese to surrender post as House leader," by Mario Cattabiani and Angela Couloumbis, Inky 11/15).

Now if only we could get the House Journal published with less of a time lag -- it currently takes 6 months (yes, half a year), for the House Journal to show up on the state legislative website. And there's no index so if you want to know what your legislator said on the House floor or what was said on a particular subject you have to read it page by page day by day. With a 6 month delay.

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

Philadelphia Major Michael Nutter does the honors this week. He went to Washington, as outlined in “Cash-strapped big cities seek TARP funds to stimulate local economies,” by Kris Maher and Paulo Prada 11/15

PA Businesses

Two mentions of Toll Brothers. The firm gets a passing mention in ”U.S. steps up help for homeowners,” by Damian Poletta, Jessica Holzer, and Ruth Simon, 11/12. It is the focus of “Toll Brothers sales sink to new low,” by Michael Corkery 11/12

Brookville Equipment Corp of Brookville, PA is mentioned in “Mass-transit projects fared surprisingly well as voters preferred new taxes to higher gas prices,” by Christopher Conkey and Paul Glader 11/12. The company expects sales to double this year.

S&T Bankcorp of Indiana, PA and Susquehanna Bancshares of Lititz are mentioned in “Banks wage rate war for deposits,” by David Enrich 11/14

Other PA

Dr. Charles Brooks of Allentown is mentioned in “Another ‘safe’ bet leaves many burned,” by Eleanor Laise 11/11

University of Pennsylvania research (no names or details attached) is mentioned in “Taking the gross out of grocery cart,” by Anne Marie Chaker 11/11

Two of the executives mentioned in “Inflated credentials surface in executive suite,” by Keith J. Winstein 11/13, have claimed degrees from Pennsylvania colleges that they did not actually earn.

Stephen Hoch of the Wharton School is quoted in “How it felt to be kicked by a running shoe,” by Neal Templin 11/13

Other Interesting Tidbits

Just of note: “Small firms get local loans,” by Anjali Cordeiro 11/11, on community banks.

Another interesting note: 8.2 cents of every retail dollar (other than cars) spent in the US last year was at a Wal-Mart of Sam’s Club last year; see “Wal-Mart flourishes as economy turns sour,” by Miguel Bustillo and Ann Zimmerman 11/14

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Community Bank Stock Update

Last spring I wrote a long post on community banks in Pennsylvania. Reading about the banking crisis made me wonder how our local banks are doing. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Banks has a list of member banks. I pulled the names of all the banks in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, and then checked to see how many were traded on a stock exchange. There were nine that fit the criteria. Then I looked at those ticker symbols in The Motley Fool. Two banks on my list were not in MF so that left 7. Below you will find those seven banks, their ticker, the 52 week high and low (the high and low prices for the past year), and the current price as of close of trading today.

Abington Bank ABBC / $8.44 - $12.40 / $10.35

Harleysville National Bank & Trust Co. HNBC / $10.24 - $20.60 / $14.18

Bryn Mawr Trust Co BMTC / $16.13 - $28.21 / $19.01

Alliance Bank ALLB / $6.53 - $9.75 / $8.01

Beneficial Savings Bank BNCL / $8.73 - $14.64 / $11.85

Prudential Savings Bank PBIP / $8.32 - $13.00 / $10.00

Republic First Bank FRBK / $4.20 - $10.73 / $9.00

None of these banks are trading at their lowest price for the year and some are trading near the 52 week high. While the rest of the financial world is going someplace warm in a handbasket, local community banks seem to be holding their own. [Full Disclosure: My household owns a small amount of stock in one of these banks, which is one reason why I'm interested in the topic.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Catherine Baker Knoll Dies

Capitol Ideas is reporting that Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll as died.

Knoll died Wednesday at approximately 6 p.m. at National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C., where she was recovering from treatment for neuroendocrine cancer. She was surrounded by her family.

Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, Knoll will be replaced as Lieutenant Governor by the Senate President Pro Tempore, Joseph B. Scarnati III (R-Jefferson).

Big Canvas Finale!!

From the inbox:

Love the arts?
Care about culture?
Worried about the economy?
Then join civic and elected leaders, along with citizens from all over the region, to craft an action plan to improve arts and culture throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The event is free and open to everyone.

Free parking and refreshments.
Register at

December 6
1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Radisson Valley Forge
Hotel & Convention Center

Don’t have a car?
Don’t like to drive near the mall?
Sign up for the “Philly Van Go” trolley.
It will take you to the event and \ back, free of charge.
Multiple stops around Philadelphia.
For background on The Big Canvas project see the Web site.

See also Chris Satullo's column, "Help enliven the arts."

DEP Newsy Bits

In my neverending search for fun and entertainment I read the daily news reports from the state Dept. of Environmental Protection. Since the political world is a little sluggish this week, let me share some newsy bits from the DEP:

"Credit crunch puts ethanol plant on hold," by Joe Napsha, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 11/12. Excerpt:

Construction of an ethanol plant in East Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, is being delayed because the company can't secure financing for the project amid the national financial crisis, a local official said Tuesday.

"Building interest County may have found a home for its energy incubator," by Rachel Carta,, 11/08. Excerpt:
A factory where men and women once rolled cigars by hand, by the light of electric bulbs dangling from the ceiling, may help take Northumberland County to a future in the renewable energy industry.

The 60,000-square-foot former General Cigar Co. building, where 600 local people once worked, has been targeted by the county as the site for the Energy Technology Energy Commerce (E-TEC) Incubator.

Iberdrola press release, 11/05, Excerpt:
IBERDROLA RENEWABLES last week released the wind power industry's first company-wide Avian and Bat Protection Plan.

The IBERDROLA RENEWABLES plan is modeled in part after the 2005 Avian Protection Plan template developed by some 30 electric utility companies, numerous electric cooperatives and rural utilities, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to address impacts of transmission and distribution lines on birds. The IBERDROLA RENEWABLES plan applies those principles to its wind fleet and addresses bats as well as birds.

IBERDROLA RENEWABLES is the largest owner of wind energy projects in the world with 8,500 megawatts of wind power in operation globally. Its Eastern Development office is located in Radnor, Delaware County, and employs approximately 80 people.

IBERDROLA has ownership interests in wind farms generating 67 megawatts of energy in Pennsylvania, including the 35-megawatt Casselman project in Somerset County dedicated by Governor Edward G. Rendell in October. Iberdrola has another 102-megawatts of wind projects under construction in the commonwealth.

DEP press release, 11/06:
DEP's Southeast Regional Office has received a Sustainable Healthcare Partner Award from EPA Region 3 for its leadership in helping Philadelphia area hospitals adopt “green” operational practices.

Thanks to a $78,500 grant from EPA, since 2006 DEP and its partners – the Health Care Improvement Foundation and the Women's Health & Environmental Network (WHEN) – have guided 20 Delaware Valley hospitals toward measurable and sustained reductions in their environmental footprint. The Green Hospitals Pilot project grant has been supervised by Heather Cowley, OETD manager for DEP’s southeast region.

“The project has produced results. Reduction in red bag waste, improved recycling, better management of pharmaceutical waste, greater awareness of sustainability as a whole, and better partnerships between hospitals are just some of the benefits that were realized by participating hospitals,” she said.

Cowley believes the participants also appreciate the green hospital's bottom line. “Health care costs continue to rise and this is an area where you can reduce both risks and costs,” she noted.

Cowley, who accepted the EPA award for the department at an October 30 annual meeting of the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council's Annual Meeting, will remain involved with the pilot project until it ends in June 2009.

For Those With Election Withdrawal

The weeks right after an election are tough to the politically minded. Your candidate won or didn't. You are tired and your email inbox is empty. Fear not, dear friends, there are still a few undecided races to tide you over until the next round.

One of these is a Dec. 3rd run-off election in Georgia. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss is facing Democrat Jim Martin. This is of particular interest to friends and supporters of former Sen. Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Viet Nam. Chambliss, who defeated Cleland in 2002, ran ads questioning Cleland's patriotism; it especially rankled that Chambliss received deferments during the war and so did not serve himself.

Max Cleland visited Pennsylvania a number of times in 2006 to campaign for veterans running for office. I heard him speak a couple of times while he was here.

Should you have any spare leftover election money, you might consider sending it to Jim Martin.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Look Back at Interviews

In compiling the list of 2008 interviews I also did a quick analysis of the interview procedures over the past three years. It isn't good from a time management standpoint.

Fourteen interviews were published in 2006. There were four other sets of interview questions sent out that did not come back. I will take responsibility for two of those -- arrangements were made too close to the relevant election in one case and in the other I was too slow in getting questions out. The other two just didn't send the questions back with answers. So out of 16 question sets sent out, 14 came back. That's not really bad odds.

It was a little different in 2007. I sent out six question sets and five came back, a much lower percentage.

This year it got worse. I sent out eight question sets and five came back. Clearly the trend is against me.

Unless I am extremely familiar with the person being interviewed it takes eight to 10 hours to research the candidate / official / whomever to come up with relevant, intelligent questions. That's a lot of time, and it's wasted when those questions go unanswered.

The basic process is that, once there is an agreement on an interview, I compile and email questions. After six or eight weeks I send a reminder email, with two more reminders at three or four week intervals. After that I assume there was a breakdown in communications somewhere or they've changed their minds or the campaign just became too crazed time-wise and good intentions fell through. I haven't posted the names of people who stiffed me for interviews; it's not my way.

It might be easier to just sit down with people and ask them questions in person but that really isn't feasible for someone who writes under a pseudonym. And, personally, I like to see the longer answers that usually come through on email. Also, that provides a transparent view of the candidate's answers, without me as a filter (other than obvious spelling errors what you see is what I was sent). It also makes me uncomfortable to try and interpret someone else's thoughts. Journalists are trained in that; I am not.

The gist of this rant is that someone is going to have to be awfully convincing as far as their ability and interest in returning answers before any more questions go out. The interviews are fun and I enjoy doing them, but it just isn't an effective use of my time when so few people respond.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Allyson Schwartz Statement on Veterans Day

From the inbox:

U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz released the following statement in recognition of Veterans Day, November 11, 2008. On Veterans Day, Schwartz will attend several commemorative ceremonies in Philadelphia.

“One of my earliest memories I have is of my father, who just returned from service in the Korean War, arriving at my elementary school to pick me up. I did not remember my father. His face was unfamiliar to me. My older brother had to tell me that it was alright, that this man here at school, was our father.

“I keep that memory with me when I think of the enormous sacrifices made every day by our veterans, soldiers, and military families. That memory is why I make the needs of veterans a central focus of my work in Congress. As a member of Congress, I believe it is my responsibility to honor the sacrifices of the men and women who have defended our country by ensuring that their voices are heard and that their needs are met. America’s veterans have provided invaluable services to our country and we have depended on them to defend our freedom, and protect our homeland.

“To the tens of thousands of my constituents in Philadelphia and Montgomery County that are veterans, I say thank you for your sacrifices and loyalty to America. You have my lasting appreciation and gratitude for your service on behalf of our country.”

2008 Interview Series

This was a sparse year for interviews, with a total of five.

Betsy Meyers (of Obama for America) (4/08)

Mary Caraccioli of CN8 (8/08)

Robert Traynham of CN8 (9/08). This interview was in 3 parts due to the focus of the questions. The link is to part 3; it has links to parts 1 and 2.

John Linder, Democratic candidate for the 9th state senate district

Lynn Doyle
of CN8

Best PA Places to Raise Kids

Business Week has come out with its "Best Places to Raise Your Kids 2008" list with one winner and two runners up for each state. Top spot in Pennsylvania goes to Pittsburgh (!!!!!). Second place to Scranton -- so I guess Joe Biden will have to stop talking about what a scruffy place it is. And third goes to Levittown -- the only spot in the region to get a mention. I don't know that I agree with the list, and can certainly think of a few places they missed, but at least one town in the southeast was listed.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

You Can't Increase Education and Remove Libraries

I like Michael Nutter and think he is doing a good job as mayor.

Mayor Nutter has some very admirable goals, as noted in "Nutter agenda blindsided by the economy," by Patrick Kerkstra and Marcia Gelbart (11/09):

But Nutter did not back off his most ambitious goals, such as halving the high school dropout rate within seven years, and doubling the city's four-year college-degree attainment rate within 10 years.

I agree with him wholeheartedly that decreasing the dropout rate and increasing the percentage of college graduates in the city would improve the area economy.

In response to the city's budget crunch the mayor has called for closing 11 branches of the Philadelphia Free Library. According to "Hoping for a happy nonending at branches," by Kathy Boccella, Inquirer (11/09):
The 11 are in mostly lower-income areas that have no other libraries nearby and where public schools do not have libraries of their own.

This is a problem. There are a number of examples of city's combining school and public libraries in tough budgets. There are some articles on this topic included in a bibliography on the Young Adult Library Services Association website. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction makes available Combined School and Public Libraries: Guidelines for Decision Making. School Library Media Research published an article on this, "School and Public Library Relationships: Essential Ingredients in Implementing Educational Reforms and Improving Student Learning," by Shirley Fitzgibbons.

However, closing public libraries in areas where there no school libraries simply leaves those areas completely disenfranchised. Even if there were laptops on every desk, which there most definitely are not at this point, that does not mean students would have access to books, databases, or printers to find the information they need to research science projects, find literary criticism, read historical documents, or look at maps. Let alone the myriad of other things they need. Where will they type papers and print them out. Where will they read magazines and newspapers? Not everything is online and without a doubt not everything is online for free. And who is going to show students how to use these resources. Teachers often know the literature of their own discipline well but are seldom versed in others or in the overall structure of information. That is one of the things librarians do.

If there are few places to cut the budget and libraries need to take a hit, then so be it, but the cuts should come from places that can afford them.

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

A big hotcha! welcome to newly Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper (who won’t actually be a congresswoman until January, but still ….) as noted in “Bruising contests across the nation,” by Easha Anand (11/06)

GOP state party chair Robert Gleason Jr is quoted (from PolitickerPA) in “Obama leads in home stretch,” by Laura Meckler and Jonathan Weisman (11/03)

Suburban Philadelphia voters get their props in “These voters matter the most,” by Gerald F. Seib (11/04)

Mayor Nutter is quoted in a short note “Philadelphia to target jobs, facilities in face of shortfall,” (11/07)

PA Businesses

William Marsh of Farmers National Bank of Emlenton in Emlenton, PA, whose bank is “healthy and viable,” is quoted in “Rescue cash lures thousands of banks,” by Elizabeth Williamson (11/03).

PPL of Allentown and Philadelphia’s PECO are mentioned, both in the context of customers not paying bills, in “More utility bills go unpaid,” by Rebecca Smith (11/03).

Bill Figenshu of Skytop, PA, a radio and media consultant is quoted in “Weak signals: can HD radio find listeners,” by Sarah McBride (11/04)

For the curious, no Circuit City stores in PA are slated to be closed, according to “Circuit city braces for dismal holiday,” by Miguel Bustillo (11/04)

Magazine publisher Rodale to cut 10% of work force,” (11/04). Rodale is based in Emmaus.

Bill Schultz, of McQueen, Ball and Associates in Bethlehem is quoted in “Picking winners can be difficult after everything seems to rally,” by David Gaffen (11/06)

In important media news, Politico plans to add staff. It has also made deals with print papers including the Inquirer to provide Washington coverage. Politicker, the parent of PolitickerPA has been approached about providing papers coverage of state house news. See “Election web sites plot to hold their viewers, by Russell Adams and Shira Ovide (11/06)

Brief notes: Hershey 11/03

Other PA

One-time Wharton prof Gary Gorton is mentioned prominently in “Behind AIG’s fall, risk models failed to pass real-world test,” by Carrick Mollenkamp, Serena Ng, Liam Pleven and Randall Smith (11/03)

Dina Appleby of Kennett Square is quoted in “Family secret: more parents are avoiding the nanny tax,” by Sue Shellenbarger (11/05). Appleby pays the tax.

Other Interesting Tidbits

Oh, the ego slam! From “Campaigns are where real ‘change’ will take place,” by Gerald F. Seib (11/03)

When the Journal, NBC News, and the MySpace social-networking site last month surveyed new and lapsed voters – an audience dominated by young, online-savvy citizens – just 4% said they were interesting in hearing blog writers’ opinions and insight on the election. They expressed far more interest in the views of television commentators, friends and newspaper columnists.

I’m not your friend, dear readers? Such news wounds me deeply.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wallace & Grommit -- The Real Version of the Wrong Trousers

For Wallace and Gromit fans -- remember "The Wrong Trousers"? Honda has developed something along those lines. Initially designed for auto assembly workers, it has another potential market in the elderly and infirm. Check out "Honda unveils wearable robotic walker,"

Upcoming DVRPC Workshops

From our friends at DVRPC:

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has scheduled a series of public workshops to help shape Connections, our long-range plan for 2035. Offering food, networking and an opportunity for your voice to be heard, the workshops will examine the issues that we face today as well as those that will be with us in the coming years.

5:30 – 6:15 p.m. Networking and Refreshments
6:15 p.m. Welcome and Remarks by Your County Officials
6:30 p.m. Orientation by DVRPC Staff
7 – 8:15 p.m. Brainstorming Session
Please RSVP to:

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13: Delaware County Workshop
County Council Meeting Room (Room 100), Government Center
Building, 201 West Front Street, Media

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17: Bucks County Workshop
The James A. Michener Museum, 138 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, PA

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18: Chester County Workshop
Chester County Historical Society, 225 N. High Street, West Chester,

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20: Montgomery County Workshop
Crowne Plaza Valley Forge, 260 Mall Boulevard, King of Prussia, PA
Bring the family. Special activities will be available for all ages.

Meeting on Library Closings

According to WHYY's "It's Our City" blog:

Friends of the Free Library will hold a special Community Meeting on the 11 proposed library closures this Saturday, November 8, 10 am - Noon, at the Children’s Story Hour Room inside the Central Branch, 1901 Vine St. (20th and the Ben Franklin Parkway)

Rahm Emanuel's PA Connection

According to Wikipedia President-Elect Barack Obama's newly appointed chief of state is married to a Wharton grad. Amy Rule, wife of Congressman Rahm Emanuel, attended the University of Pennsylvania's business school.

PA in the WSJ 10/28-11/01

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

Congressman John Murtha is mentioned and quoted in “Boots on the ground or weapons in the sky?” by August Cole and Yochi J. Dreazen 10/31

Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler would not allow “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” posters on bus shelters; see “’Porno’ movie title stirs reaction,” by Lauren A. E. Schuker 10/30.

Kanjo shows up in two articles, both on 10/27: “Congress weighs forming special panel for overhaul of financial regulations,” by Brody Mullins and Elizabeth Williamson, and “Rescue plan chafes small banks,” by Elizabeth Williamson. Both mentions of Congressman Paul Kanjorski are due to his spot on the House Financial Services Committee and the subcommittee on capital markets.

“Gap narrows in Florida and Ohio, not Pennsylvania,” by Sara Murray 10/31

Pennsylvania is one of the states mentioned in “Rising tide of suits filed in search of political edge,” by June Kronholz 10/31

PA Businesses

Better Choice loan program in Pennsylvania mentioned in “Payday lenders back measures to unwind state restrictions,” by Easha Anand 10/28. The program provides funds to credit unions to offer loans with better terms than payday lenders.

In “More car dealers shut down,” by Kat Linebaugh 10/28, the closing of Wilkes-Barre Dodge is mentioned. Pennsylvania is third in the country of states with the most auto dealers, following California and Texas.

Other PA

“The Good news: the Phillies win; the bad news: the Phillies win,” by David Geffen 11/01 notes that when Philly sports teams win the economy tanks.

There is a PA mentions in “Economy forces college hopefuls to lower sights,” by Shelly Banjo 10/20. Kate Malboeuf, a senior at Nazareth Academy High School in Philadelphia is featured and quoted.

In “Playing the market, these kids are losing a lot of play money,” by Jennifer Levitz 10/29, Patricia Schoeniger, of EconomicsPennsylvania, is quoted.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is mentioned in “Hospitals seek to limit use of transfusions,” by Laura Landro 10/29

“Wild thing a baseball goat finds forgiveness in Philadelphia,” by Matthew Futterman 10/28, on Mitch Williams.

Wharton grad Kenneth Zeff is mentioned in “Opening new doors with a fellowship,” by Toddi Gutner 10/28

Other Interesting Tidbits

From “Banks owe billions to executives,” by Ellen E. Schultz 10/31:

Financial giants getting injections of federal cash owed their executives more than $40 billion for past years’ pay and pensions as of the end of 2007, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows.

Personally I don’t think this obligates us to pay them. I can think of companies who went belly up and decreased or ended their workers’s pensions. Goose. Gander.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Inky News: Eichel Leaving

According to WHYY blog, It's Our City, Larry Eichel is leaving the Inquirer to head up a Philadelphia Research Initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

This is great news for the Pew, not so good for the paper or its readers. Will the last reporter to leave the Inquirer please turn out the lights?

Inky News: e-Inquirer

While many of us check during the day, it isn't really like reading the newspaper. The printed Inquirer is delivered to our doorstep every morning but it can get awkward with two people wanting to read it before work.

So this week I signed up for a 2 week free trial of the e-Inquirer. It shows up in my email every morning before 4 a.m. It looks just like the print version. I can start with the front page and go through page by page or skip around the sections. If I maneuver the monitor around a bit I can read the print (with some squinting) for the gist and click on the story to have it pop up in a separate window for a fuller reading. There is also a search function but it doesn't always work the way one might imagine.

It works in Firefox, Internet Explorer and on a Mac, possibly other platforms as well but those are the only ones my household tested.

The e-Inquirer costs about $10 a month, which is considerably less than a print subscription. I worry about that. They should charge more; they need more reporters and a whole lot more copy editors.

But overall, I like the e-Inquirer and plan to subscribe when my 2 weeks are up. Reading the paper on the train is a skill I've never been able to master. You have to fold it up too small. But if I can check it on a pc then if I have to get up before the print paper arrives I can read it online instead of buying a copy at the station.

It's worth a look.

It's definitely worth a look.

Leader DeWeese? No, No, No, No, No

According to PolitickerPA ("DeWeese indicates he's still eyeing leadership," by Alex Roarty 11/05), current Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, who on Tuesday managed to retain his state house seat, is interested in maintaining his leadership position.

This is a bad, bad idea. Really bad. Seriously. Bad. Mr. DeWeese may be a wonderful state representative for his district but it would be difficult to believe there is a serious reform mindset in the Democratic caucus if he is the elected leader of that group. As has been said, you cannot put new wine in old wineskins.

While I am opinionating, let me say that I think Dennis O'Brien has been a fine Speaker of the House, and should be kept on.

Women as Voters and Campaign Donors

In 2004, white women voters were evenly split between George W. Bush and John Kerry, but learned toward Obama in this race (10/31 Center for American Women and Politics press release):

National presidential polls find white women either evenly divided between the presidential candidates or favoring Senator Obama, according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP). This marks a shift from the 2004 presidential election, when the exit polls from Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International found that 55 percent of white women voted for President Bush and 44 percent for Senator Kerry. “This shift in support among white women from 2004 to 2008 is one reason Obama is faring better than Senator Kerry did in the last election,” observes CAWP director Debbie Walsh.

A gender gap is evident among white voters, as it is among voters overall. In recent national polls, gender gaps among white women range from 3 to 12 percentage points, depending on the particular poll, with white women more likely than white men to support Senator Obama.

There is no notable gender difference among black voters; polls have consistently shown that about nine of every ten black voters – women and men – support Obama. The Center’s latest review of polls is part of Women’s Vote Watch, a weekly look at the women’s vote in the 2008 presidential election. Polling data can be found at

Breaking it down further, single women (though it was not separated out for race) were even more likely to support Obama (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for Womens Voices Womens Votes, reported 10/31)

A recent survey of 1,030 likely women voters underscores these points. Unmarried women are nearly as energized as married women and support Barack Obama by a 62 - 33 percent margin. In contrast, the presidential race is only tied (45 - 48 percent McCain) among married women.

Unmarried women also seem to be playing a disproportionate role in the wave of early voting we are experiencing. Fully one in four (23 percent) plan to vote early, compared to 16 percent among married women.

And this research proved correct come election day:

November 5, 2008. Washington, DC. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research congratulates its client, Women’s Voices. Women Vote, on focusing attention on a critical—and until last night—unheralded group of voters. Last night unmarried women supported Barack Obama by a stunning 70 to 29 percent margin according to calculations based on the Edison/Mitofsky National Election Pool published by CNN. This margin exceeds the support Obama generated among both younger voters and Hispanic voters. Unmarried women similarly supported Democratic House candidates by a 64 to 29 percent margin, matching their progressive support in the 2006 elections.

In fact looking back at martial status, unmarried women consistently generated large progressive margins, but never as large as we saw last night. In fact, there emerged a 44-point difference in the behavior of married women and unmarried women. If not for the overwhelming support of unmarried women, John McCain would have won the women’s vote and with it, the White House.

Women are also contributing more to political campaigns. In Sept. I sat in on a webinar sponsored by the Womens' Campaign Forum. Their study "Vote With Your Purse 2.0: Women’s Online Giving, Offline Power,” is available as a pdf file. It is interesting reading and a must read for anyone who wants to top into this funding stream. What I took most note of is that women research candidates before donating and often use online resources to do so.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Water Referendum Passes

Good morning, boys and girls! Sleep well?

Among all the celebration over President-Elect Obama (and how nice does that sound?), some other things might be overlooked.

The Water and Sewer Bond Referendum passed, 62 / 38. There were only a few counties that voted against it and even there it was close.

If you want to view election results for all races across the state, check out the election returns page on the PA Department of State site:

That was my source for election returns all last night. It was updated frequently and I appreciate all the good work.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Last Election Update Today

A few more notes before signing off to listen to Obama's speech:

Looks like Democrat Steve Santarsiero has won the 31st state house district (94.49% of statewide votes counted).

The 142nd seems to have switched from Democratic (Rep. Chris King) to Republican (Frank Farry), though it is close and more returns may switch it back.

In the 149th Democrat Tim Briggs is the clear winner.

In the 151st, freshman Democrat is ahead of Republican challenger Todd Stephens by around 425 votes, with over 32,000 votes recorded.

There is a similar situation in the 157th district, an open seat, with Democrat Paul Drucker ahead of Republican Guy Ciarrocchi, by 350 some votes, with over 30,000 votes recorded.

Congressional Race Updates

Joe Sestak (PA-07), Patrick Murphy (PA-08), Chris Carney (PA-10) and Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) will retain their seats. It looks like Schwartz will gain a homestate buddy in the line for the congressional ladies room. In the 3rd congressional district, with 83% of the statewide vote in, Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper has a 52/48% lead over incumbent Republican Phil English. In the 12th, endangered Democrat incumbent John Murtha is holding on to his seat. Republican Charlie Dent is likely to keep his seat in the 15th district. The 11st district (incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski and Republican challenger Lou Barletta) is too close to call.

In the State House, Tim Briggs, Democratic candidate for the open seat in the 149th district, is ahead 57/42%, with over 13,000 votes reported. Bryan Lentz looks to retain the 161st district. Other races are too close to call.

Final Philadelphia Totals in Some Races

A few State House races results:

With 100% of the precincts reporting: Democrat Brendan Boyle has won the 170th district, defeating Republican Matt Taubenberger.

In the 172nd district, with all precincts reporting, incumbent Republican John Perzel kept his spot with 66% of the vote, against Democratic challenger (and a fave of mine), Rich Costello. Thank you, Rich for running.

Judge: Emergency Paper Ballots Counted Friday

Scout Kraus at the Morning Call's Pennsylvania Avenue blog is reporting that a Philadelphia judge has decided emergency paper ballots do not have to be counted until this Friday

Afternoon Sitemeter Notes

These are some search terms notes from about 3:30 to 800 from the sitemeter stats for this blog.

A lot of people looking for Steve Santarsiero (he should have been on the earlier list also). He is the Democrat running for the open 31st state house district.

Still a notable number of people looking for Marina Kats, the Republican challenging 13th district Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz.

Patrick Murphy and Tom Manion also popular although now more as separate searches instead of together. Murphy is the incumbent, Manion the Republican challenger in the 8th congressional district.

Todd Stephens, the Republican challenger to State Rep. Rick Taylor are back on the charts.

John Linder, the Democratic challenger, and Dominic Pileggi the Republican incumbent in the 9th state senate district.

Afternoon Common Cause Election Update

From the inbox and the Common Cause website:

By Lauren Coletta
Posted on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 06:15:56 PM EST

It is difficult to make general statements about whether or not Pennsylvania experienced serious systemic problems today-serious meaning that the problems were so many that they impacted the outcome, disenfranchised voters, or caused people to lose faith in the process. Days and weeks will be needed to do that sort of analysis and at this moment there are still a few hours to go at the polls. What is clear is that many of the problems in Pennsylvania, long lines, too few machines, too few well trained poll workers were predictable and could have been avoided. How long should voters be expected to stand in line? Certainly an hour is reasonable but some voters waited as long as three hours in State College, Philadelphia and in Allegheny County. At what point does a voter give up, forfeiting their right to vote for personal considerations--essentially being disenfranchised because of the government's inability to collect votes in a reasonably swift and accurate way?

Clearly, the system needs more resources, voters need more time to vote via early voting and an Election Day holiday, poll workers need training, and machines need to be accessible and trustworthy. We can do these things! When we address these issues in the future, and we must, most of us will just be curious about the results come Election Day, we won't have to wonder if the election was clean or if people were wrongly shut out of the process.

Summary of top problems Election Day Afternoon

* One significant statewide issue is a breakdown between state voter registration lists and the lists that have been printed out for the polling places. This issue is widespread and as caused an unknown number of voters to vote provisionally.

* We still have a three hour long line in State College at the Quaker Meeting House. Students names are not appearing on the rolls even though they were registered causing a number of provisional ballots. An unusually high voter turnout is contributing to the problem as well. Student groups were passing out food and games to their fellow students to pass the time.

* Scranton: Generally quiet but they have had a number of optical scan machines break down. Voters have to leave ballots without scanning them until the machines are repaired.

* Allentown: A republican poll worker is challenging voters--it is really slowing the lines down. This is in the 4th Ward, 12th Precinct. Common Cause is sending an attorney, unknown if Election Protection has already sent one.

* Armed police (Constables) continue to be an issue in various places. In Redding we have reports of a security guard wearing a FBI cap which has intimidated voters.

* Ben Salem: A gas leak forced two polling places to close. Judges told the people to come back later. The polling places have reopened. We don't know the exact times or how many voters were turned away.

* Hazelton: Complaints from the Hazelton City Hall polling place about the lack of privacy of the voting booths and the intrusive behavior of an election judge. A report was made to Luzerne Count Head of Elections Tom Piazza and the situation was resolved.

CN8 Election Coverage

From the inbox:

CN8, The Comcast Network announced that Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell will appear live for an hour on the Nov. 5 edition of “It’s Your Call With Lynn Doyle” to analyze Election Day results and take viewer calls.

Rendell’s appearance will cap a busy slate of election coverage on CN8 that offers viewers numerous programs, as well as the on-air, online and ON DEMAND viewing methods that have been a part of the network’s comprehensive America ’s Next President campaign.

On Election Day itself, Political Director Lynn Doyle and Reporter Kevin Walsh will oversee programming with numerous guests beginning at 8 p.m.

Live in Philadelphia will be CN8 political analysts Steve Ayscue and Brad Brewster; Democratic strategist Tony Bawidamann; Republican activist Dr. Janice Hollis and CN8 D.C. Bureau Chief Robert Traynham.

Satellite guests include media analysts Steve Adubato from New York ; CN8 Host Mary Caraccioli and Republican strategist Jack Burkman from Washington , D.C. ; and Democratic political analyst Paul Afonso from Boston .

Meantime, CN8’s Greg Coy will be in the field in the Philadelphia area with Obama supporters, while Janet Zappala will be with McCain supporters. CN8 Special Correspondent Emily Ryan will be in McLean , Va. , to report on the state’s pivotal role in the election as well as the race for an open U.S. Senate seat between Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Jim Gilmore.

Sitemeter Notes for the Day

I haven't been as obsessive as usual in keeping track of sitemeter stats lately and so have only reviewed part of the day's usage, but there are some interesting blips.

Over the past few days the 151st state house race between freshman Democrat Rick Taylor and Republican challenger Todd Stephens was a popular search item. Not so much today.

From 11:30 - 2:30 there were a lot of searches for Congressman Patrick Murphy and the Republican challenger Tom Manion for the 8th congressional district. What is odd is that people search for both names, not just one.

There have been a number of searches for Marina Kats (running against Democratic Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz in the 13th district).

Rich Costello, the Democrat trying to unseat John Perzel has been popular. I wish him luck.

Guy Ciarrocchi and Paul Drucker, competing for Carole Rubley's State House seat in Chester and Montco have also been popular, with more people looking for info on Ciarrocchi than Drucker.

The oddest in the group is a 2-day rush of searches for Tom Ellis's views on abortion. He's running for state treasurer, people, it really doesn't matter. Ellis is the Republican. I've seen less interest in Democrat Rob McCord, but perhaps the people intending to vote for him are looking for more job-related credentials.

I've also had some hits on the water / sewer referendum.

This rush of blog usage always happens on election day and it always makes me happy. It means that people are researching the candidates before they vote.

More updates throughout the day.

Common Cause Election Day Update

From the inbox, and posted also on the Common Cause website:

Pennsylvania Morning Rush Wrap-Up

This morning I was asked to monitor my old home state of Pennsylvania for the Common Cause Protect the Vote project. Our operations in PA are aided by more than 80 poll monitors across the state and by the operations of our colleagues in the Election Projecting coalition. Here is what we learned:

Perhaps the biggest news maybe that Philadelphia Election Authorities may not count emergency ballots cast by voters because of broken machines until Friday. John Bonifaz of Voter Action is challenging the decision but if the vote is close tonight it might be that we won’t have the results in Pennsylvania until Friday. Under the law, these ballots are to be treated the same as regular ballots.

Overall Pennsylvania is receiving the second most calls on the 1-888 Our-Vote hotline, just behind New York. The majority of problems are occurring in Philadelphia, Allegheny and Delaware counties. Like elsewhere in the country the primary problems people are experiencing deal with long lines caused by high voter turnout, voting machine breakdowns, and too few poll workers. Another issue particular to the poll workers in Pennsylvania deals with the amount and type of training they receive to prepare for Election Day. The law requires that counties “instruct election officers in their duties,” but does not specifically require that each election officer be trained before s/he serves.

Below are some other issues that have arisen during the course of the morning vote that we will be monitoring throughout the day.

* Voter suppression efforts have been reported in Pittsburgh, Allentown, Redding and parts of Philadelphia prior to Election Day. New reports have come in from Pottsville, Pennsylvania of deceptive practices warning voters if they vote they will have to pay their parking tickets.
* Common Cause enlisted the help of actor Danny Glover to record a phone message to watch out for deceptive practices designed to suppress vote. The automated calls were directed to over 300,000 households in Pennsylvania and Virginia where misleading fliers had been discovered.

* The presence of Armed police (Constables) is causing concern among some voters in Reading and Wilkes-Barre. Also, in Wayne County Common Cause poll workers were being told by the Constables there they did have permission to monitor the polls; this was corrected with the Wayne County Election Authorities.
* Bucks County voters experiencing registration problems are meeting resistance when they ask for provisional ballots.
* State College: A polling place in Osceola Mills is blaring partisan radio station.
* Students at the University of Pittsburgh and State College are being asked to fill out provisional ballots for a variety of reasons; this includes situations where the students are on the voter registration rolls. The situation has led to long lines and confusion.
* In Allentown there is concern over Hispanic precincts with unusually low turnout this morning. The worry is that this is a result of deceptive practices urging Hispanics to vote only during finite hours.

Morning Election Update

Mr. J went out to vote early, and was voter #35 in line at 6:56. When he left he said there were about 80 people line. A neighbor who voted around 8:00 said it took him about an hour to go through the process. After the traditional election day breakfast at IHOP, I went down around 10:00 and was voter #288. I counted 14 kids of varying ages (stroller through older elementary). It is always nice to see people bring their children out to vote with them, though in some cases (stroller especially) it is probably more necessity than educational. All of the Little Janes had the opportunity to push one or more buttons on the voting machines (closely supervised, of course).

The water / sewer upgrade issue was off in a corner and I had to look around for it.

As usual, voting is my area is a pseudo-block party where you catch up with people you haven't seen in a while and chat while in line or going into or out of the polls. I talked with someone I know through a community group. I also had a chance to schmooze someone who volunteers with an organization I need an intro to, so that was good. And I was schmoozed in return by someone looking for volunteers for another project.

Back home, I baked brownies for an election day bake sale at another polling place. After they cooled a little I ran them over and quizzed the bake sale ladies about turnout. They said it was mobbed when the polls opened but was quiet over the lunch hour.

Later this afternoon I'll snoop around some other polling places.

AAJ Election Updates on Twitter

Instead of posting a lot of little blog posts throughout the day I'm going to use twitter for quick updates and post fewer, but longer, blog entries consolidating them.

You don't a twitter account to read "tweats" but you will need to refresh your screen if you leave it on twitter. There are a lot of good election watchers twittering today and it might be worth setting up an account to follow them.

Barack Obama Writes of His Grandmother

A planned in-depth review of Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father isn’t likely to happen, at least not before the election. It’s a good book, a young man’s journey to find himself, primarily through his exploration of family relationships.

However, in honor of his grandmother, who died last Sunday, let me instead bring out some of quotes from the book that highlight her life.

On his grandparents’ courtship (p. 15):

I sometimes imagine them in every American town in those years before the war, him in baggy pants and a starched undershirt, brim hat cocked back on his head, offering a cigarette to this smart-talking girl with too much red lipstick and hair dyed blonde and legs nice enough to model hosier for a local department store.

On his grandparents meeting his father (p. 17):
Gramps is probably too busy telling one of his jokes or arguing with Toot [his grandmother] over hot to cook the steaks to notice my mother reach out and squeeze the sooth, sinewy hand beside hers. Toot notices, but she’s polite enough to bite her lip and offer dessert; her instincts warn her against making a scene.

On his grandmother’s job as a bank vice president (56):
Without a college education, she had started out as a secretary to help defray the costs of my unexpected birth. But she had a quick mind and sound judgment, and the capacity for sustained work. Slowly she had risen, playing by the rules, until she reached the threshold where competence didn’t suffice. There she would stay for twenty years, watching her male counterparts kept moving up the corporate ladder, playing a bit loose with information passed on between the ninth hole and the ride to the clubhouse, becoming wealthy men.

She sounds like a fascinating woman.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Vote "Yes" on Clean Water Referendum

I've been meaning to write about this but did not get all the needed information marshalled in time. Fortunately, the Inquirer had a front page story on it Saturday.

From "Beneath the surface, sewer systems fading fast," by Sandy Bauer 11/01/08:

Throughout the region and the nation, the water and sewer infrastructure is aging. The question is how to fund repairs and upgrades to meet new, stringent standards.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvanians will vote in a referendum on $400 million in grants and loans.

The price tag statewide has been estimated at $36.5 billion over the next 20 years, according to a state report released yesterday. With operation, maintenance and debt service added, the cost balloons to $113.6 billion.

"This is about making sure our streams and rivers are not polluted with raw sewage, about making sure the tap water we rely on is safe," said John Hanger, acting secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"Unfortunately, right now we have too much raw sewage going into rivers," he said. "In some cases, and I'm only slightly exaggerating, the pipes leak more water than they carry."

Hanger said the $400 million would also provide 12,000 construction, engineering and other jobs.

The governor sent out a robocall today in support of the referendum. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has information for those who wish to learn more.

Many of these systems must be updated but less and less is covered by the federal government which means without more state funding the local governments would have to pay. For smaller areas this would be a devastating costs.

Given that we all live downstream I think this is a good reason for the costs to be taken on by the state.

PA in the WSJ 10/20-10/26

Almost caught up! Only a week behind now.

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

Kanjo does the honors. Rep. Paul Kanjorski is the subject of “Congressman, in tight election, puts his votes for rescue front and center,”by Sara Murray 10/20

Gov. Rendell is mentioned as ordering a statewide 4.25% cut in most departmental budgets in “States’ tax receipts fell sharply in latest quarter,” by Jesse Drucker 10/25. A photo of him accompanies the article.

McCain campaign hopes to exploit Obama’s weakness in Keystone Primary,” by Elizabeth Holmes 10/22

PA Businesses

Note from “Pollution credits let dumps double dip,” by Jeffrey Ball 10/20: “Over the past two years, landfills from Pennsylvania to North Dakota have started selling extra credits on the Chicago [Climate] exchange to profit from methane there were capturing anyway.” The first of these landfills was in Lancaster County, the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. It sells the methane to a local power company who in part uses it to generate steam for Turkey Hill Dairy. From landfills to ice cream – what’s next!

Philadelphia private-equity firm Lubert-Adler partners is one of the partners featured in “Miami mogul plays buyer, seller,” by Jonathan Karp 10/22

“Comcast to crank up Internet speeds,” by Vishesh Kumar 10/23

“PNC buys National City in bank shakeout,” by Dan Fitzpatrick, David Enrich, and Damian Paletta 10/25

Other PA

Chadd’s Ford real estate agent John Bell is quoted in “Delinquencies mount for American Express,” by Robin Sidel 10/20

Wharton prof Olivia Mitchell is quoted in “Boomer bust: how will the economy rebound without post-war babies financing their Harleys?” by Joe White 10/21

Uniontown investment club, The Satin Bags, is featured in “Investment club weighs future amid turmoil,” by Clare Ansberry 10/21. Pittsburgh bank National City Corp is also mentioned.

Pittsburgh is the setting of “Retirees fret over investments,” by Clare Ansberry 10/21

A rare editorial included in this list: “Can Phillies fans embrace optimism,” by Allen Barra 10/21

That lifespan calculator developed in part by a Wharton prof, that I wrote about a few months ago is in the news again: “My so-called life span: expectancy calcuators falter,” by Carl Bialik 10/24

Pittsburgh gets a Nordstrom, in “For Nordstrom launch, business as usual – sort of,” by Kris Maher 10/25

Another PA-based editorial: “Pennsylvania is driving its doctors away,” by Frederic Jarrett 10/25

Evelyne Schuster of the Office of Medical Ethics at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center is quoted in “The Toughest Test” by Gautam Naik 10/25. The ARPKD / CHF Alliance of Kirkwood, PA is also mentioned.

Other Interesting Tidbits

“Executive pay curbs go global,” by Joann S. Lublin and Mike Esterl 10/21. Good.

“Money squeeze play bedevils Rays,” by Matthew Futterman 10/22. Tampa Bay Rays

This is interesting: “Bioplastics begin to get real,” by Anjali Cordeiro 10/22. One company uses corn sugar to make plastics. Can we entice one of those companies to come here to PA?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

McGinty on Poossible Obama Cabinet List

The Politico has put together a list of potential picks for an Obama cabinet and other administrative posts. The only identifiable Pennsylvania name was Kathleen McGinty, former secretary of Environmental Protection, listed as potential head of the EPA.

For the full list see: "Dems sketch Obama staff, Cabinet," by Mike Allen