Friday, July 29, 2011

2nd Annual Shirley's Run

Mark your calendars:

2nd Annual Shirley’s 5K Run and 1 mile Dog Walk
Sunday Morning, August 21nd, Maple Glen , PA
Presented by the Maple Glen Community Association

It’s Fast! It’s Fun! But… It Will NOT Last!

Best goodie bag around.

Entertainment provided by Sound Sensation DJs.

For Runners: Only $20 until August 8th. ($10 for ages 19 and under)
For Dogs and their escorts: Only $10 until August 8th
For Both the Run and Dog Walk: Only $25 until August 8
(Pet sitters will be available to hold your dog while you participate in the run)
Anyone who participates in both events will receive a very special prize: An autographed copy of “My Million Dollar Mom” The book Ross wrote about his mother Shirley’s life

Shirley Schriftman loved animals. She also loved watching two of her sons Ross and Lee run races. As I small child, she used to watch the Boston Marathon while sitting on her Father’s shoulders at Coolidge Corner 2 miles from the finish line and a half mile from her home. Her stories inspired Ross to start running marathons. Shirley’s last BAA Marathon was in 2005 watching Ross compete. It was her last trip to her home town before she developed Alzheimer’s disease.

In her memory Shirley’s Run raises funds for the Shirley Schriftman Fund for Animals; a donor advised fund at the Montgomery County Foundation. The fund supports animal rescue and animal training organizations in the Montgomery County area.

The 5K Course is a fast one with a nice down hill toward the end. It is an out and back course through neighborhood roads in Maple Glen. (See the course map on the website)

Meet Happy Girl, Shirley’s Katrina Rescue Dog. Visit our sponsors and the local charities that will be at the event. There may also be an opportunity for you to adopt an animal.

Register today for Shirley’s Run by visiting Only the first 200 runners who register will receive the commemorative race shirt with the logo of Shirley with her animals that can be seen on the website. Only the first 100 dogs registered will receive the commemorative dog kerchief.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

SEPTA Ridership Up

from the inbox:

Riders took nearly 334 million trips on SEPTA’s buses, trains and trolleys over last year – surging to levels not seen since the late 1980s, the Authority reported today.

SEPTA’s Fiscal Year 2011 Ridership and Revenue Report was released today at the monthly SEPTA Board meeting. The fiscal calendar covers the 12-month period from July 1-June 30.

The report shows steady system-wide gains throughout the year. Ridership was up 4 percent, or 13 million trips. The 334 million trips represent SEPTA’s highest yearly total since 1989.

Public transit use is up nationwide, largely due to higher gas prices. SEPTA’s ridership gains, however, came in a year during which fare increases were implemented and local unemployment rates showed little improvement. Due to capital funding reductions, SEPTA was also forced to cut 25 percent of its capital budget, which put dozens of improvement projects on hold. These types of factors can easily stunt ridership growth, particularly if the gains are tied directly to gas price fluctuations.

SEPTA, however, continues to welcome a steady stream of new riders – a trend that started months before gas prices spiked. General Manger Joseph M. Casey credits aggres efforts in recent years to improve SEPTA’s aging infrastructure, as well as customer service-focused initiatives, for helping attract and retain new riders.

“Despite very challenging economic conditions, we’re seeing sustained ridership growth,” Casey said. “That’s extremely positive, and we look forward to the possibilities ahead as these conditions improve.”

Ridership increases were recorded across the region and on all of SEPTA’s modes of travel. Trips on City Transit Division buses, trolleys and subway/subway-elevated rail increased four percent. Regional Rail trips were up by nearly a half-million, and the year-end total of 35.4 million is just shy of the ridership record set it 2008. Suburban Transit Division bus, light- and high-speed rail modes also jumped 5 percent.

To view the 2011 Ridership and Revenue Report, visit

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Two Views of Medicare D

Two studies on Medicare Part D have crossed my inbox and twitter feed this week. I haven't read either of them in full, only skimmed or read the abstract. I will freely confess that all of this is over my head so you should definitely read for yourself. Compare and contrast as you please.

From Douglas Holtz-Eakin (former CBO director and current president of American Action Forum) and Michael Ramlet (Director of the Forum’s Operation Healthcare Choice), we have "Cost Shifting Debt Reduction to America’s Seniors: Medicare Part D Rebates Would Dramatically Increase Drug Premiums." The full pdf report is 7 pages long. Here is the summary:

The United States faces a daunting budgetary outlook. To avert an impending debt crisis, policymakers must tackle the unsustainble growth in entitlments in general, and Medicare spending in particular. Imposing mandatory prescription drug rebates in Medicare Part D has been proposed as a solution. In this report, beneficiary data is used to evaluate the impact of introducing Medicaid-style rebates into the Medicare Part D program. Despite any cosmetic appeal, such rebates would dramatically raise, not lower, the premiums paid by America’s seniors and seriously undermine proven success in harnessing competition in entitlement programs.

(You can read more about the American Action Forum on wikipedia).

This week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has an article on Medicare D. "Implementation of Medicare Part D and Nondrug Medical Spending for Elderly Adults With Limited Prior Drug Coverage" by J. Michael McWilliams, MD, PhD; Alan M. Zaslavsky, PhD; Haiden A. Huskamp, PhD is behind a paywall but you might be able to find a paper or online copy at your local public library (remember those?). An abstract is on JAMA's website so you can get the gist. Here's their conclusion:
Conclusion Implementation of Part D was associated with significant differential reductions in nondrug medical spending for Medicare beneficiaries with limited prior drug coverage.

In other words, JAMA is saying that the prescription benefits in Medicare D lowered the amount of money seniors spent on other types of health care.

An Outdoor Miscellany

A handful of environmental / cultural links have accumulated so instead of three short posts let's put them together into one longer one.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the designation of four new National Historic Landmarks in four states. One of these is in Pennsylvania:

The Schaeffer House in Schaefferstown, Heidelberg Township, Pennsylvania is nationally significant as a rare intact example of a colonial-era building type within the Pennsylvania German architectural tradition. It is quite possibly the only surviving Weinbauernhaus, a type that incorporates domestic functions and spaces used for the production of alcoholic spirits within a single building.

If you find yourself wanting to commune with nature, but aren't sure where the commune is, there is a handy dandy website to help you with that. Take a look at Explore PA Trails ( It currently indexes 367 trails, for a total of 7,586 miles.

Trails are not only good exercise they are good business, spurring the growth of recreation oriented businesses. Forest lands and trees keep carbon out of the atmosphere. From "Forests' clean-air role is bigger than anyone knew," by Sandy Bauers, Inquirer, July 22, 2011:
The group found that the forests sock away far more of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, than anyone thought.

They absorb about a third of all carbon dioxide emitted by fossil-fuel burning, or about 8.8 billion tons a year. The amount dwarfs that taken up by other land uses, such as grasslands or pastures or suburban shrubs.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Schwartz Summer Picnic

This past Sunday Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz held her 4th annual Friends and Family Barbeque. It was beastly hot and even a short shower just before the event started didn't cool things down. Nonetheless when I was there there about 60 people in attendance, mostly clustered in the few shady spots available. I didn't catch all the public remarks people made but Schwartz talked about the importance of being involved in the democratic process and not becoming complacent. Last year people kept telling her she didn't need to worry about the election but she had a closer race than thought. She also discussed briefly her work on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the importance of foreign aid and what a small percentage of the federal budget is spent on it. Schwartz also acknowledged a group representing her Sikh constituents, who were there in colorful turbans.

Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, candidates for Montgomery County commissioner were there and gave a brief update on their campaign. They have knocked on over 1,000 doors and opened two new offices on Saturday.

Other candidates were present and introduced, including
Kathryn Boockvar, candidate for Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge
David Wecht, candidate for Pennsylvania Superior Court

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, who may or may not run for Pennsylvania Auditor General next year.

Richard Haaz, candidate for Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas
Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, candidates for Montgomery County Commissioner
Linda Hee, candidate for Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds
Will Holt, candidate for Montgomery County Sheriff

Bill Rubin, candidate for Philadelphia City Council, 10th district
Stephanie Singer, Philadelphia City Commissioner

After the formal remarks were over the candidates walked around talking to people and answering questions. I noticed one man getting autographs from Schwartz for his children.

Judge Wecht and State Rep. DePasquale had driven a long way and, perhaps for that reason, were the least known. They are running for, or considering running for, statewide office. Kathryn Boockvar is also running for a statewide office but is from Bucks County, and so has had more opportunity to get to know Montco and Philly voters. The other candidates were running for an office included, at least in part, in Schwartz's congressional district.

This is a nice inexpensive event, even if the weather doesn't always cooperate.

PA Airport Projects Stopped

Congress failed to pass legislation on Friday giving the FAA the authority necessary for work to continue on airport modernization projects around the country. One of those projects is in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, an over $18 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. Contractor: Donald J. Keating Co. Other projects on the work stop list are:

Limbach Company LLC Pittsburg, PA Plumbing, construction $175,000
CUSA Consulting Corp. Erie, PA Fire life safety, construction $112,000
Limbach Co. Inc. Oakdale, PA Boiler, construction $205,000
Nationwide Construction Group PA, NY Construction, physical security $718,000

A complete list is available at:

Prez O Tonight on Debt Ceiling Efforts

from the inbox:

9:01 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I want to talk about the debate we’ve been having in Washington over the national debt -- a debate that directly affects the lives of all Americans.

For the last decade, we’ve spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.

As a result, the deficit was on track to top $1 trillion the year I took office. To make matters worse, the recession meant that there was less money coming in, and it required us to spend even more -– on tax cuts for middle-class families to spur the economy; on unemployment insurance; on aid to states so we could prevent more teachers and firefighters and police officers from being laid off. These emergency steps also added to the deficit.

Now, every family knows that a little credit card debt is manageable. But if we stay on the current path, our growing debt could cost us jobs and do serious damage to the economy. More of our tax dollars will go toward paying off the interest on our loans. Businesses will be less likely to open up shop and hire workers in a country that can’t balance its books. Interest rates could climb for everyone who borrows money -– the homeowner with a mortgage, the student with a college loan, the corner store that wants to expand. And we won’t have enough money to make job-creating investments in things like education and infrastructure, or pay for vital programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Because neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem, both parties have a responsibility to solve it. And over the last several months, that’s what we’ve been trying to do. I won’t bore you with the details of every plan or proposal, but basically, the debate has centered around two different approaches.

The first approach says, let’s live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending. Let’s cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Let’s cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars. Let’s cut out waste and fraud in health care programs like Medicare -- and at the same time, let’s make modest adjustments so that Medicare is still there for future generations. Finally, let’s ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their breaks in the tax code and special deductions.

This balanced approach asks everyone to give a little without requiring anyone to sacrifice too much. It would reduce the deficit by around $4 trillion and put us on a path to pay down our debt. And the cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet right now.

This approach is also bipartisan. While many in my own party aren’t happy with the painful cuts it makes, enough will be willing to accept them if the burden is fairly shared. While Republicans might like to see deeper cuts and no revenue at all, there are many in the Senate who have said, “Yes, I’m willing to put politics aside and consider this approach because I care about solving the problem.” And to his credit, this is the kind of approach the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was working on with me over the last several weeks.

The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a different approach -- a cuts-only approach -– an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all. And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scale, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about –- cuts that place a greater burden on working families.

So the debate right now isn’t about whether we need to make tough choices. Democrats and Republicans agree on the amount of deficit reduction we need. The debate is about how it should be done. Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?

That’s not right. It’s not fair. We all want a government that lives within its means, but there are still things we need to pay for as a country -– things like new roads and bridges; weather satellites and food inspection; services to veterans and medical research.

And keep in mind that under a balanced approach, the 98 percent of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all. None. In fact, I want to extend the payroll tax cut for working families. What we’re talking about under a balanced approach is asking Americans whose incomes have gone up the most over the last decade -– millionaires and billionaires -– to share in the sacrifice everyone else has to make. And I think these patriotic Americans are willing to pitch in. In fact, over the last few decades, they’ve pitched in every time we passed a bipartisan deal to reduce the deficit. The first time a deal was passed, a predecessor of mine made the case for a balanced approach by saying this:

“Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment? And I think I know your answer.”

Those words were spoken by Ronald Reagan. But today, many Republicans in the House refuse to consider this kind of balanced approach -– an approach that was pursued not only by President Reagan, but by the first President Bush, by President Clinton, by myself, and by many Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate. So we’re left with a stalemate.

Now, what makes today’s stalemate so dangerous is that it has been tied to something known as the debt ceiling -– a term that most people outside of Washington have probably never heard of before.

Understand –- raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up. In the past, raising the debt ceiling was routine. Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every President has signed it. President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it seven times. And we have to do it by next Tuesday, August 2nd, or else we won’t be able to pay all of our bills.

Unfortunately, for the past several weeks, Republican House members have essentially said that the only way they’ll vote to prevent America’s first-ever default is if the rest of us agree to their deep, spending cuts-only approach.

If that happens, and we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills -– bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits, and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses.

For the first time in history, our country’s AAA credit rating would be downgraded, leaving investors around the world to wonder whether the United States is still a good bet. Interest rates would skyrocket on credit cards, on mortgages and on car loans, which amounts to a huge tax hike on the American people. We would risk sparking a deep economic crisis -– this one caused almost entirely by Washington.

So defaulting on our obligations is a reckless and irresponsible outcome to this debate. And Republican leaders say that they agree we must avoid default. But the new approach that Speaker Boehner unveiled today, which would temporarily extend the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts, would force us to once again face the threat of default just six months from now. In other words, it doesn’t solve the problem.

First of all, a six-month extension of the debt ceiling might not be enough to avoid a credit downgrade and the higher interest rates that all Americans would have to pay as a result. We know what we have to do to reduce our deficits; there’s no point in putting the economy at risk by kicking the can further down the road.

But there’s an even greater danger to this approach. Based on what we’ve seen these past few weeks, we know what to expect six months from now. The House of Representatives will once again refuse to prevent default unless the rest of us accept their cuts-only approach. Again, they will refuse to ask the wealthiest Americans to give up their tax cuts or deductions. Again, they will demand harsh cuts to programs like Medicare. And once again, the economy will be held captive unless they get their way.

This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth. It’s a dangerous game that we’ve never played before, and we can’t afford to play it now. Not when the jobs and livelihoods of so many families are at stake. We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare.

Congress now has one week left to act, and there are still paths forward. The Senate has introduced a plan to avoid default, which makes a down payment on deficit reduction and ensures that we don’t have to go through this again in six months.

I think that’s a much better approach, although serious deficit reduction would still require us to tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform. Either way, I’ve told leaders of both parties that they must come up with a fair compromise in the next few days that can pass both houses of Congress -– and a compromise that I can sign. I’m confident we can reach this compromise. Despite our disagreements, Republican leaders and I have found common ground before. And I believe that enough members of both parties will ultimately put politics aside and help us make progress.

Now, I realize that a lot of the new members of Congress and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But we were each elected by some of the same Americans for some of the same reasons. Yes, many want government to start living within its means. And many are fed up with a system in which the deck seems stacked against middle-class Americans in favor of the wealthiest few. But do you know what people are fed up with most of all?

They’re fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word. They work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table. And when these Americans come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington. They see leaders who can’t seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans. They’re offended by that. And they should be.

The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government. So I’m asking you all to make your voice heard. If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know. If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.

America, after all, has always been a grand experiment in compromise. As a democracy made up of every race and religion, where every belief and point of view is welcomed, we have put to the test time and again the proposition at the heart of our founding: that out of many, we are one. We’ve engaged in fierce and passionate debates about the issues of the day, but from slavery to war, from civil liberties to questions of economic justice, we have tried to live by the words that Jefferson once wrote: “Every man cannot have his way in all things -- without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.”

History is scattered with the stories of those who held fast to rigid ideologies and refused to listen to those who disagreed. But those are not the Americans we remember. We remember the Americans who put country above self, and set personal grievances aside for the greater good. We remember the Americans who held this country together during its most difficult hours; who put aside pride and party to form a more perfect union.

That’s who we remember. That’s who we need to be right now. The entire world is watching. So let’s seize this moment to show why the United States of America is still the greatest nation on Earth –- not just because we can still keep our word and meet our obligations, but because we can still come together as one nation.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Life Sciences Job and Investment Act

U.S. Representatives Devin Nunes (CA-21), Allyson Schwartz (PA-13), Pat Meehan (PA-07), William Pascrell (NJ-08), Jim Gerlach (PA-06), Jason Altmire (PA-04), Charlie Dent (PA-15), and Chaka Fattah (PA-02) today introduced the Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act. The bill, which was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (PA), promotes investments in the life sciences by providing targeted and temporary tax relief for businesses willing to grow their American workforce.

“Life sciences are a key component of our economy,” Nunes said. “They support improved life-spans and a superior quality of life. We need to ensure America continues to lead in these important fields. One way to accomplish this is to reduce taxes on foreign earnings if those earnings are re-invested here in the United States.”

“Targeted investments in life sciences are vital to our economy. In Philadelphia alone, life sciences is responsible for one out of every six jobs and generates 15 percent of all economic activity,” Schwartz said. “This legislation will enhance medical innovation, life sciences education and high quality job creation across the country through targeted tax incentives. It promotes the type of opportunity businesses need to create private sector economic growth. Providing business with these tax incentives will ensure America remains on the cutting edge of research and development.”

“This bipartisan legislation will encourage significant investment in the life sciences industry – an industry that is so important to our local economy and to creating high quality jobs in our region,” Meehan said. “Incentivizing life sciences research and development will not only bolster our regional economic growth, it will also keep the U.S. at the forefront of our competitive global economy.”

“Investing in life sciences is smart economic policy,” Altmire said. “By investing in research and development in the United States, we are creating good paying jobs and keeping America at the forefront of scientific research. Tax cuts in these targeted areas will allow scientists and researchers to make investments in the work and hire more employees, just what this economy needs to get moving again.”

“Research and development in life sciences is vital to our economic recovery," Pascrell said. “Encouraging life science research and development will allow our nation to harness the vast resources of our highly-educated workers and develop the next generation of medicine and pharmaceutical technology that will be exported to the world. This is a $29 billion industry in New Jersey. Creating national policy to foster this industry’s growth across the nation will help encourage the billions of dollars in new jobs and construction projects that we expect will be generated by the search for better pharmaceuticals.”

American preeminence in the life sciences industry is threatened by the erosion of investment capital, the departure of highly educated workers, and intense global competition. Many of our competitors, including China and India, are aggressively expanding academic training and research capacity. Meanwhile, that capacity is shrinking in the United States.

The Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act encourages investment in the United States by reducing the tax burden on the mostly small and medium sized companies responsible for life science research today. Investing in Life Sciences in the United States means:

* Hiring additional scientists, researchers, and comparable personnel engaged in life sciences research;
* Making new investments in research at American universities and post-graduate institutions, state-sponsored incubators, and comparable scientific organizations; and
* Investing in new laboratory and related life sciences research facilities.

To accomplish these goals, the Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act would allow companies engaged in life sciences research to either double their Research and Development tax credit on the first $150 million invested or repatriate foreign earnings at a reduced tax rate up to that same limit when used exclusively for job creation and research in the United States.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shapiro Richards Office Openings

Of the three counties I cover Montgomery County posts the most information about events on their website, which makes it easier to cover events there. This weekend I attended two office openings for the Josh Shapiro / Leslie Richards (Democratic) campaign for County Commissioner. Montgomery County is the third largest county in Pennsylvania, larger than Boston and Atlanta. It’s a race that many across the state are watching (see Politics PA’s analysis of the race with a link to their interview of Shapiro & Richards).

The campaign already had two offices, one in Abington, Shapiro’s home territory, and Ardmore (see news articles on these openings at This weekend offices in Elkins Park and Lansdale opened. A fifth, in Conshohocken, is due to open next week. More offices open throughout the county before the November election.

The Elkins Park office is near the intersection of Old York Road (Rt 611) and Church Rd (Rt 73) in the Yorktown Shopping Center. It’s at street level, by the exit onto the Old York Rd spur. When I was there Shapiro and Richards were talking to people in small groups. About 30 people, give or take, were there, clustered in conversation. A number of candidates were there. County-wide candidates, Linda Hee (recorder of deeds), Jason Salus (treasurer), Richard Haaz (judge for Court of Common Pleas), and Cheryl Austin (judge for Court of Common Pleas) were among them. Abington Township Commissioner Lori Schreiber (she of the spiky silver hair), and Sean Kilkenny, who is active in county politics, were also present. Olivia Brady of the Montgomery County Democratic Women’s Leadership Initiative was greeting people at the door. If there were other local political luminaries in the crowd I missed them. One wall in the campaign office was covered with brochures, info on local candidates. You don’t always see this and to me it’s a sign that the candidates for the higher (county) office are partnering with candidates for lower (township) office. That’s always a good sign because it implies the higher level candidates will look out for the little guy. I don’t know anything about Cheltenham Township Ward 7 candidate Heidi Morein but her logo is very catchy, appealing, and a design I haven’t seen before.

The Lansdale office is in Sumney Forge Square, at the intersection of Valley Forge Rd and Sumneytown Pike. It’s in the row of storefronts that parallels Valley Forge Rd, at the end furthest from the intersection. The walls in this office were decorated with colorful maps of the area but that might change as it looked like the office was still being finished. Richard Haaz and Jason Salus were at this opening also, as was Olivia Brady. Again people were talking among themselves and the candidates were working their way around the room. There were about 35 people there when I was there. The office has a lot of windows with great views of the surrounding area.

Most campaign offices have both experienced staff and fresh faced newcomers. These were no exception but the youngsters had a bit more polish than most. They were very professional. I’m told that the campaign has attracted a lot of interns; if the people I talked to are examples, the campaign is getting the cream of the crop. While there were candidates and political figures around there were a lot of regular folks, too. I enjoyed some small talk and came away with a few good book recommendations. At each office there was a least one toddler. A campaign that is accepting of small children is a good campaign. (Shapiro has four children, Richards three – that may be a factor.) The informal political events I like the most are those that resemble community gatherings. There was no resume waving or bluster. The candidates moved through the room easily, greeting people they knew, and meeting those they didn’t. The people were pleasant. There wasn’t any GOP bashing. The talk was positive and forward looking. It was a hot day and it’s a tribute to the candidates that that many people would come out in such uncomfortable weather.

Shapiro is currently a state representative for the 153rd district (most of Abington township, some of Upper Dublin). He has favored, and worked towards, strong ethics laws for elected officials, makes his expense accounts public on his state house site ( and is widely regarded as an elected official with a bright future. One of his signature pieces of legislation, which has yet to become law, bans texting or handheld cell phone use while driving. One that has passed makes it easier for college students to transfer credits from one public college in the state to another. He’s known for being accessible to the public, holding over 70 townhalls in his six years as a state rep. He also has a reputation for working with people across the aisle. I’ve attended some of the multi-candidate or multi-official events he’s been at and he is frequently acknowledged as the most knowledgeable person in the room, with even more senior politicos deferring to him for facts or opinions.

Richards is on Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors and during her three years in office the township has balanced the budget without raising taxes. Like her running mate she has supported efforts to make government more open and transparent. For those who don’t like attorneys, Richards is the only non-lawyer running for county commissioner. She is a senior project manager at a woman-owned civil engineering firm, and has managed projects dealing with infrastructure, such as bridges, and trail development. These skills have served her well helping Whitemarsh complete stormwater projects and on preservation and open space measures. Personal trivia: I think her celebrity lookalike is Project Runway judge (and former Elle magazine fashion editor) Nina Garcia.

The campaign is utilizing not only traditional outreach measures such as knocking on doors, but social media such as Facebook ( and twitter (@shapirorichards). They’ve also initiated an “11 for ‘11” program, asking supporters to reach out to 11 friends and family members and encourage them to be voters as well.

As mentioned, another office opens this week in Conshohocken, followed by one of the campaign's quizzo events (see their facebook page for details). I went to an earlier quizzo meet. They're fun, so if you live near Conshy check it out.

Thanks to the Montgomery County Democrats for having an updated events page and to the Shapiro / Richards campaign for putting me on their email list.

Pew Report on Philly Prisons

Last week the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative released a report entitled, "Philadelphia’s Less Crowded, Less Costly Jails: Taking Stock of a Year of Change and the Challenges That Remain," a follow-up to a report issued in May 2010 called "Philadelphia’s Crowded, Costly Jails: The Search for Safe Solutions." The new report is available online as a 29 page pdf including some charts and graphs.

The gist is that over the past year the population of Philadelphia jails as declined. The decrease is attributed to some of the policies or policy changes implemented by the new city District Attorney, R. Seth Williams. Some of the findings are:

In 2010, the pretrial population accounted for 49 percent of the decrease in bed-days consumed, mostly due to the following factors:

· A modest decline in the number of arrests, which parallels a corresponding drop in violent crime.

· Reductions in the overall severity of charges leveled against the accused. This has been due in part to a new approach to deciding what charges to pursue in individual cases, implemented by District Attorney R. Seth Williams, now in his second year in office. When initial charges are less severe, lower bail may be imposed or none at all, resulting in fewer individuals being held pretrial.

· Creation of new programs to divert some less serious cases from the court system, with individuals often being fined or made to perform community service. Among these initiatives are the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP) and the Small Amount of Marijuana Program (SAM).

· A decrease in the number of admissions to jail on bench warrants, which call for the detention of individuals who fail to show up for court dates. One factor in the decline was not the result of any new practice or procedure. A computer problem caused thousands of new warrants not to show up in police checks for several months, meaning that people during that period were not picked up on warrants who otherwise would have been.

Thirty-nine percent of the overall drop in the jail population came from a reduction in bed-days consumed by those who were alleged to have violated the terms of their probation or parole. This decrease among violators of probation and parole is due to shorter incarcera­tions caused by a streamlining of the court process.

The sentenced population accounted for the remaining 12 percent of the drop, with lengths of jail-stays down here as well. This appears to be the continuing effect of a change in state law that has forced certain sentenced inmates to serve time in state prisons instead of the city jails. Increased use of alternative sentencing programs like electronic monitoring and mental health court may also have contributed to this decline.

Clearing Off the Table

The family suggested, in the gentlest of terms, that I might do something about the stack of papers, magazines, clippings, and whatnot, that were stacked on the dining room table. It had spread from one stack in front of my "place" to take over two chairs and half the table. This will be a multi-step process but today I did sort through the stuff on the table. It was evenly split between blogging and work stuff. Much of it was still interesting but time had passed and the top was no longer quite so relevant. Here are a few of the items were not connected to legislation and therefore might have a longer shelf life:

Chinese anchor babies -- remember all the hubbub about the mythical hordes of women coming to the US to have children for nefarious purposes, but no one had proof of? Well, as it turns out there is an anchor baby issue but it is in Hong Kong not here. Women from mainland China have been going to Hong Kong to have children in such numbers that Hong Kong hospitals are putting a limit on the number of spots in their maternity wards for mainland moms. The attractions are an avoidance of the one-child policy and the fact that babies born there have local residency rights and can return later where there are "greater political and legal protections." (See "Hong Kong moves to curb births by mainland women," by Isabella Steger, Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2011)

Evidence based philanthropy -- Sandy Hingston writes in the June issue of Philadelphia Magazine about effective philanthropy ("How to give your fortune away"). I was fascinated by this paragraph:

The move toward metrics has brought some surprises. “Our team is both highly trained and used to being wrong,” Rosqueta says, grinning. Everybody’s heard of Scared Straight, which introduces at-risk young people to the consequences of bad behavior by taking them to visit prisons. Nobody’s heard of another charity, the Nurse-Family Partnership, which unites first-time low-income mothers with RNs who make home visits from pregnancy until a child’s second birthday. Yet evidence from 30 years of NFP’s work shows a 59 percent reduction in arrests by the time that child turns 15, among other benefits, for a return of nearly six bucks in social benefits for every dollar spent—increased tax revenues, lower welfare costs, reduced costs for health care and other social services. And the high-brand-awareness Scared Straight? A 2003 study found that participants were up to 28 percent more likely to offend in the future than they were before going through the program. It was doing more harm than good.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Boston Mag: PA Right on Parole

Boston Magazine article praises PA parole system. Jean Trounstine write "Patrick's Folly" Parole Reform in Masachusetts" in the August issue of Boston Magazine (article does not appear to be online):

“We can also pay attention to what’s happened in other states. Returning to the Pennsylvania example from earlier, two police officers in that state were killed in 2008 by three men on parole, all originally convicted for violent crimes. Pennsylvania is hardly known as soft on crime—its prison population at the time was the fastest-growing in the country. In the immediate aftermath of the killings, just as in our state, the governor temporarily froze some parole hearings. However, unlike what would later happen in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania set up an independent review, tasking John Goldkamp, the criminal justice department chair at Temple University, to investigate the matter.

Goldkamp’s reports, some done quickly but some taking more than a year, found 58 parole issues that needed improvement. His reports paved the way for the state to create stricter supervision and more support for parolees, develop a new parole classification system, and implement a tool to measure parolees’ dangerousness. What the state did not do was pass a bill that eliminated the possibility of parole, or increase violent-offender sentencing for second and third strikes.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing estimated that if a three strikes bill had been passed, the state would have had to build four new prisons, costing $800 million, to accommodate all the extra prisoners. And additional millions would have been required to house them behind bars.

Always interesting to know what other places think we're doing right.

Prez O on DADT

from yesterday's inbox:

Statement by the President on Certification of Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality. In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.

As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.

I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war. I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition. Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.

Debt Ceiling Update from the Press Secretary

from the inbox:

July 23, 2011

Statement from the Press Secretary

The President and Vice President met with Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Leader Reid and Leader McConnell in the Cabinet Room to discuss options for ensuring that the debt ceiling is raised and the United States does not default on its obligations for the first time in its history. The President restated his opposition to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, explaining that a short-term extension could cause our country’s credit rating to be downgraded, causing harm to our economy and causing every American to pay higher credit cards rates and more for home and car loans. As the current situation makes clear, it would be irresponsible to put our country and economy at risk again in just a few short months with another battle over raising the debt ceiling. Congress should refrain from playing reckless political games with our economy. Instead, it should be responsible and do its job, avoiding default and cutting the deficit. The meeting lasted approximately one hour. The leaders agreed to return to Capitol Hill to talk to their members and discuss a way forward, and conversations will continue throughout the day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Murphy on DADT Certification

from the inbox:

Iraq war veteran and former Congressman Patrick Murphy, who authored the bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, released the following statement on certification of the repeal:

“With today's certification of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, our civilian and military leaders have confirmed that the United States is ready to end this discriminatory policy once and for all. In 60 days, no patriot who is willing to fight and die for the country they love will be required to live a lie. This action will improve our military readiness and provide greater equality for all Americans. As the author of the bill repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I am incredibly proud that our nation is so close to this historic accomplishment. When I was in the Army, we didn’t care who you wrote home to, just that you were a good soldier. I look forward to the coming day when our law finally catches up.”

The White Cheddar Boys

My regular commute has shifted a little recently and one day this week I ran across a an interesting busker group in one of the SEPTA stations. The White Cheddar Boys is a trio (guitar, banjo, cello) whose music reminds me of the soundtrack to "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." I stopped to listen to them for a few minutes and was very impressed.

You can read a little more about the group on Philly Cityscape. If you want to listen, there are some short videos up on You Tube. You can keep track of them on Facebook.

If you like "Big Rock Candy Mountain" you'll love the White Cheddar Boys. I hope I run across them again.

SEPTA Sports Express Trains This Weekend

from the inbox:

SEPTA has extra service ready for fans heading to a series of events this weekend at South Philadelphia’s Sports Complex.

The Phillies kick off the fun Friday night with the opener of a three-game series against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. Baseball fans will have plenty of company throughout the weekend, as music and sports fans fill the neighboring Wells Fargo Center and Lincoln Financial Field.

SEPTA has all events and fans covered with extra service on the Broad Street Line, which serves the Sports Complex at AT&T Station. Fans can avoid traffic jams – and beat the heat aboard comfortable, air-conditioned trains – by taking advantage of the SEPTA services listed below.

Friday, July 22: Four Sports Express trains will run on the Broad Street Line for the Phillies-Padres game at 7:05 p.m. These trips are also a great option for Soul arena football fans heading to the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. start).

Saturday, July 23: Three major events at each venue. Extra service as follows:
• Phillies-Padres, 4:10 p.m., Citizens Bank Park: Sports Express trains will supplement regularly scheduled Broad Street Line service starting at 3 p.m.
• Rhianna Concert, Wells Fargo Center, 7:30 p.m.: Two additional pre-show trips.
• Union vs. Real Madrid, Lincoln Financial Field, 9 p.m.: Seven trains will be added to provide Sports Express service every 10 minutes starting at approximately 7:30. Extra service will also run on the Market-Frankford Line, which offers a free connection with the subway at City Hall.

Sunday, July 24: Phillies-Padres, Citizens Bank Park, 1:35 p.m. Broad Street Line

Sports Express service will run every 10 minutes starting at approximately 12:15 p.m.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Retired Penn Vet Prof Receives Lifetime Award

Dr. Donald F. Patterson has received the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Lifetime Excellence in Research Award, which recognizes a veterinary researcher on the basis of lifetime achievement in basic, applied, or clinical research.

Dr. Patterson retired from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. Some of his career highlights include training the first chimp to complete a suborbital space flight in 1961, and being the Founder and Director of the Center for Research in Comparative Medical Genetics, both the first such NIH-supported centers at a veterinary school.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mike Fitzpatrick Closes Leadership PAC

Roughly a year ago, on July 12, 2010, I wrote a blog entry on Mike Fitzpatrick’s leadership pac, the Keystone Leadership PAC. He had set it up in 2005 but it had been running a deficit since April, 2008, and carried a debt of $6,326.94 or more from March 2009 until May 2010, the latest report available at that time.

Perhaps it is time to check in and see how Congressman Fitzpatrick’s pac is doing. The pac had $28.27 cash on hand in May, 2010, with the aforementioned debt of $6,326.94, to two firms, Campaign Financial Services, a Bethesda, MD based firm for bookkeeping consulting, and Complete Campaigns, in San Diego, for software. Each month the debt was carried, and $5.00 was spent, until September, 2010, when only $8.27 remained. In September, donors contributed $3313.67, and the debt increased by $1,000. The donations came from two sources – from the Saul Ewing law firm, with a note that none of the partners reached the threshold that would require their individual names to be listed, and $2313.67 from the Philadelphia-based Leadership for Tomorrow PAC. The additional $1000 in debt was, again to Campaign Financial Services. The October 2010 report shows no receipts or disbursements. In November, however, the PAC received another $4000 in donations, another $3,000 from Saul Ewing, and $1,000 from Walter J. Kernaghan, and paid $2,576.94 to Campaign Financial Services toward the amount owed them. Kernaghan had already donated $4,800 to Fitzpatrick’s congressional campaign in February, 2010. After the November, 2010 election the pac filed a termination report, listing payments for the remaining debt. The termination report was accepted in February, 2011.

Congressman Fitzpatrick was affiliated with Saul Ewing from 1995 to 2004, while he was a Bucks County Commissioner which might explain their donations. Mr. Kernaghan is clearly a supporter. That leaves the Leadership for Tomorrow PAC. Let’s take a look at that, because it’s interesting. For instance, it’s a relatively new PAC, having been registered with the FEC in July, 2010. The original filing papers had to be amended because the original application misspelled the organization’s name (tommorrow not tomorrow). Only four reports have been filed, October quarterly, pre-general, post-general, and year end. So there have been no reports in 2011, as the pac files less often in off-years. It is listed as a multi-candidate pac. The treasurer is Aaron Cohen, president of Arena Strategies, a Pennsylvania consulting firm. The chairman and custodian of records for Leadership for Tomorrow is William Waldman. From July through the end of Sept., 2010, the fund raised $11,000 from two sources, $6,000 from our friends at Saul Ewing, and $5000 from William Waldman (same name and address as the pac chairman). Saul Ewing received a $1,000 refund as they can only legally donate $5,000. The only disbursement was the $2313.67 to Fitzpatrick’s Keystone Leadership PAC. In the post-general report the organization received two $1,000 donations, from the Bucks Co GOP and the Friends of Chuck McIlhenny. There were no disbursements. At present there is no way to tell what activity the pac has had in 2011.

Arena Strategies lists two other political funds or pacs as its clients. One is the Keystone Alliance PAC, registered at the federal level, and the other is the PA Future Fund, registered at the state level. Both are associated with PA GOP powerbroker Bob Asher.

Circling back where we began, Congressman Fitzpatrick has shut down his leadership pac, and his debts there have been paid. It will be interesting to check back with the Leadership for Tomorrow PAC and see if they are a force in the 2012 congressional races.

To double check my numbers and facts please review the reports at The information on Fitzpatrick's employment history is from "Cancer-free, Mike Fitzpatrick works on a political comeback," by Larry King,, October 19, 2010

Trivedi and Gerlach in Congressional Rematch

Dr. Manan Trivedi who ran against incumbent Jim Gerlach for the 6th congressional district in 2010 announced today that he will run again in 2012. I posted a number of blog entries on Trivedi during the 2010 campaign (see the full list here).

Some of the more significant are:

10/19/2010 debate
10/12/2010 debate
mentions of Trivedi in a book on the war
interview with Trivedi

Schwartz Holds Teletownhall

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz held a teletownhall this evening. Her opening comments were very brief and the bulk of the call was devoted to answering constituents' questions. All concerned the debt ceiling and budgetary matters.

My thanks to the person who send me info on the call.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wharton Prof Releases Oil & Gas Report

Last week Joseph R. Mason of LSU and Penn's Wharton School released a report called "Budget Impasse Hinges on Confusion among Deficit Reduction, Tax Increase, and Tax Reform: An Economic Analysis of Dual Capacity and Section 199 Proposals for the U.S. Oil and Gas Industry." It is available online as a 19 page pdf. The research was supported by the American Energy Alliance, which is supported by contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations (read into that what you will). Mason also includes the disclaimer that his results are his own and not those of AEA, LSU or Wharton.

Last week I sat in on a press call with Mason and Tom Pyle of the AEA. If you missed the call, Mason has a video up on You Tube that goes over in more detail many of the points he covered in the call. As I understand it, which is not much as I have never taken an econ course or read an econ-related book, Mason doesn't think raising taxes would help the economy because when you raise taxes you get a higher level of "tax avoidance." (I think this means cheating.) He thinks we should do more drilling on the outer continental shelf, as that would create jobs and bring in revenue. (I think there's a reason why we aren't doing that right now.)

Mason also thinks we should not mix energy policy and deficit reduction. He said if we want to change energy policy we should do that separately. The in-depth discussion on the specifics of tax and regulation are way over my head. Readers are encouraged to review it themselves.

Mason did say he thought deficit reduction should come from institutional reform, as suggested by scholar and Nobel Prize winning economist Douglass North. I found a power point presentation by North. The last slide addresses institutional reform and his points were to make the market fairly accessible to everyone, invest in education, and engage opponents through the political process.

During the call I asked why companies that can afford to pay such high executive compensation should get tax breaks. (Full disclosure: The investment club I belong to owns stock on Occidental Petroleum). Mason replied by saying that CEOs has short careers and are compensated highly for a short time. (Make of that what you will.)

Prez O Today on Budget

1:32 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. I wanted to give folks a quick update on the progress that we're making on the debt ceiling discussions.

I was in contact with all the leadership over the course of the weekend and continued to urge both Democrats and Republicans to come together around an approach that not only lifts the debt ceiling but also solves the underlying challenges that we face when it comes to debt and deficits.

Some progress was made in some of the discussions, some narrowing of the issues. Speaker Boehner and the Republican House caucus felt it necessary to put forward the plan that they're going to be voting on today. I think everyone's estimation is, is that that is not an approach that could pass both chambers, it's not an approach that I would sign and it's not balanced. But I understand the need for them to test that proposition.

The problem we have now is we're in the 11th hour and we don't have a lot more time left. The good news is that today a group of senators, the Gang of Six, Democrats and Republicans -- I guess now Gang of Seven, because one additional Republican senator added on -- put forward a proposal that is broadly consistent with the approach that I've urged. What it says is we've got to be serious about reducing discretionary spending both in domestic spending and defense; we've got to be serious about tackling health care spending and entitlements in a serious way; and we've got to have some additional revenue so that we have an approach in which there is shared sacrifice and everybody is giving up something.

And so, for us to see Democratic senators acknowledge that we've got to deal with our long-term debt problems that arise out of our various entitlement programs, and for Republican senators to acknowledge that revenues will have to be part of a balanced package that makes sure that nobody is disproportionately hurt from us making progress on the debt and deficits I think is a very significant step. And as I said, the framework that they put forward is broadly consistent with what we've been working on here in the White House and with the presentations that I've made to the leadership when they've come over here.

So here's where we stand. We have a Democratic President and administration that is prepared to sign a tough package that includes both spending cuts, modifications to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare that would strengthen those systems and allow them to move forward, and would include a revenue component. We now have a bipartisan group of senators who agree with that balanced approach. And we’ve got the American people who agree with that balanced approach.

My hope, and what I will be urging Speaker Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, as well as Leader Reid and Mitch McConnell, is that they, tomorrow, are prepared to start talking turkey and actually getting down to the hard business of crafting a plan that can move this forward in time for the August 2nd deadline that we’ve set forward.

Just a couple of other points I will make. Some of you may ask, what does it mean for the plan that Senator McConnell and Senator Reid had been working on? Our attitude is, is that that continues to be a necessary approach to put forward. In the event that we don’t get an agreement, at minimum, we’ve got to raise the debt ceiling. So that’s the bare minimum that has to be achieved, but we continue to believe that we can achieve more.

And so I want to congratulate the Gang of Six for coming up with a plan that I think is balanced. We just received it, so we haven’t reviewed all the details of it. It would not match perfectly with some of the approaches that we’ve taken, but I think that we’re in the same playing field. And my hope is, is that we can start gathering everybody over the next couple of days to choose a clear direction and to get this issue resolved.

So far, at least, the markets have shown confidence that leadership here in Washington are not going to send the economy over a cliff. But if we continue to go through a lot of political posturing, if both sides continue to be dug in, if we don’t have a basic spirit of cooperation that allows us to rise above immediate election-year politics and actually solve problems, then I think markets here, the American people, and the international community are going to start reacting adversely fairly quickly.

So I think it’s very important for in these next couple of days to understand we don’t have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures; we don’t have any more time to posture. It’s time to get down to the business of actually solving this problem. And I think we now are seeing the potential for a bipartisan consensus around what that would take.

It will be hard. It will be tough. There are still going to be a lot of difficult negotiations that have to take place in order for us to actually get something done. And as I said, we have to have that failsafe that Senator McConnell and Senator Reid are working on. But the hope is, is that everybody seizes this opportunity.

All right? Okay, guys, I’m going to let Jay answer questions today. I think I’ve been pretty good to you guys. (Laughter.) But after the votes today in the House, I’ll call up Speaker Boehner and the other leadership and we’ll arrange for times where we bring folks back here, and hopefully we’ll be able to report on some additional progress over the next few days.

All right? Thank you very much, guys.

Q When will you announce whether you will be supporting the Gang of Six plan? Would that be in the next day?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said, I think what you’re going to be seeing is an evaluation of that plan versus the things that we’ve been looking at. I think what you’re going to see is some significant overlap. But obviously just because we might agree in principle with a range of issues with six senators or seven senators, that doesn’t get us out of the House of Representatives; that doesn’t get us out of the Senate. There’s going to have to be a broader agreement on the part of all the leadership that we’re going to get this done in a serious way, and we’ve got a tight deadline to do it.

All right? Thanks, guys.

Schwartz on Cut, Cap, and Balance

from the inbox:

July 19, 2011


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, senior member of the House Budget Committee, delivered the following speech today on floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during debate on the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, H.R. 2560.

“I rise in opposition to the Republican Cut, Cap, and Balance Act. Republicans continue to play politics rather than do what is best for our country.

“They are once again holding American families and businesses hostage by threatening to allow the United States to default on its debt unless their extreme ideological demands are met.

“This plan is not the balanced approach that is best for our country. It ends the Medicare guarantee for seniors and slashes education and opportunity for the next generation of Americans.

“It inhibits our ability to foster an environment for private sector economic growth by cutting any chance of investment in scientific research and technology, roads, bridges and highways.

“The Republican plan is disastrous to our fragile economy and will devastate America’s future economic competitiveness.

“The Republican Majority has yet to produce legislation that puts the American economy back on track and Americans back to work.

“This legislation guarantees that we won’t meet our obligations as a nation to our seniors or to our children and it will dramatically reduce our ability to compete in a global economy.

“Make no mistake, the Republican plan is and has always been to Cut Social Security and Medicare, Cap economic opportunity, and Balance the budget on the backs of middle class families.

“Cut, cap and balance is bad for American families, bad for our businesses, and bad for the nation's economic future.”

Click here to see the video of her statement:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Out Out Damned Spot!

Nothing to do with Pennsylvania or politics, but does fit with what seems to be a weekend of product blogging, I mention this:

Fabri-Mark is not kidding when it says it's fabric markers are permanent odorless inks. Permanent being the operative word.

Bissell is not kidding when it says OxyPro carpet spot and stain removed will get rid of stains, say blue Fabri-Mark spots on pale carpet.

Not saying it will work for you, but it seems to be working for me.

And what were you doing at 6:30 on a Saturday morning?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shoutout to Bolton's in the Gallery

While downtown for Comic Con I stopped in the Gallery for lunch and found a great new store: Boltons. It has nice women's clothing for a good price. For those too old for Abercrombie & Finch but not ready for velour track suits, this is a great place to shop. I came home with a couple of tailored skirts for work an a sweater that would go well in the office or casual. It is hard to find clothes that have some style and fit well for the over 21 set. I'll definitely be back there again.

Shoutout to Eastern Mountain Sports

A big shoutout to Eastern Mountain Sports for two reasons:

1) Earlier this year I was setting up an outing for a kids organization. We wanted a general orientation to outdoor activities. Two stores turned me down but Eastern Mountain Sports said yes and the guy there gave a great introduction to the products they sell and the sort of things he used when camping, etc. It was a great presentation, the kids enjoyed it, and I really appreciated it.

2) A week or so ago I was trying to find a particular kind of product, without knowing what it might be called or how it might be packaged. I went to the Eastern Mountain Sports website and a chat box came up where a customer service rep asked if she could help me find something. I typed in a description of what I needed and after a minute or two she came back with something that would fit exactly. It was less expensive that I was expecting. I called around and found a store in the area that carried the item. It left me with a really positive feeling towards the company.

Obama Day of Action in Philly

from the inbox:

Organizing for America-PA (OFA-PA) volunteers will hold the biggest organizing opportunity of the summer tomorrow. All across the country, volunteers will be knocking on doors, tabling at public events, and registering new voters.

In Philadelphia, Organizing for America volunteers will take part in a Day of Action by registering voters this Saturday, July 16 at the Global Fusion Festival in Philadelphia at 1:00 pm.

Obama for America is focusing on growing its grassroots organization to build the strongest campaign possible to re-elect President Obama in 2012. OFA already has 1,500 volunteer Summer Organizers, both young and old, working on behalf of the President’s campaign and Democrats up and down the ballot in states across the country.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Schwartz on IPAB

from the inbox:


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) gave the following testimony at an Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing, IPAB: The Controversial Consequences for Medicare and Seniors. Schwartz has been outspoken on the need to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board that was created in the health care reform law, saying ‘it is the wrong approach to achieving the right goal.’

The Congresswoman believes that ‘we cannot conceal fundamental flaws in our health care system by simply cutting reimbursements to hospitals and physicians or, even worse, ending Medicare as we know it, as Republicans have proposed…IPAB has the potential to stifle implementation of promising innovations that would address those cost drivers just as they are beginning to take shape.’

“Chairman Pitts, Ranking Member Pallone, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

“I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act because it will extend access to affordable, meaningful health coverage to all Americans, strengthen Medicare and contain costs for American families, businesses and government.

“The potential for savings is significant.

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary estimates that – over the course of 10 years – the Affordable Care Act will save Medicare more than $400 billion by:

· attacking fraud and abuse,

· reducing overpayments to insurance companies,

· reducing medical errors and unnecessary duplication of services,

· increasing access to cost-effective primary care services,

· improving care coordination across health care settings, and

· transitioning to payment systems that reward value.

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the law will reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 20 years. And that's just the beginning.

“Health care reform has the potential to fundamentally transform the health care delivery and payment systems by creating a variety of models for improved delivery of care by incentivizing high quality, greater efficiency, and better outcomes.

“Successful implementation will ensure that seniors get the right care at the right time at a lower cost to taxpayers.

“My decision to support repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) reflects my confidence in the many cost-containment measures in the law. Despite Republican claims, IPAB is not a ‘death panel’ or a ‘rationing board.’ These are merely scare tactics. IPAB is simply the wrong approach to achieving the right goal.

“We all agree that the rate of growth in Medicare spending must be contained and that current Medicare payment systems are flawed and need to be reformed. But, we cannot conceal fundamental flaws in our health care system by simply cutting reimbursements to hospitals and physicians or, even worse, ending Medicare as we know it, as Republicans have proposed.

“The Republican plan to convert Medicare into a voucher program means that seniors will no longer have access to a guaranteed set of health benefits and, according to CBO, the resulting premiums and co-insurance would increase out-of-pockets costs more than $6,000 per senior per year and increase as health care costs rise.

“This is neither better quality care nor genuine cost savings – it is merely shifting the burden of increased costs to seniors.

“Congress must accept its responsibility for legislating sound health policy for Medicare beneficiaries, including reforms to payment systems.

“Turning over this responsibility, whether to insurance companies as proposed in the Republican plan, or to an unaccountable board, undermines our ability to represent the needs of seniors and the disabled and ensure their access to care.

“Repealing IPAB – while preserving essential health reforms in the Affordable Care Act – enables providers to focus on innovations that will achieve cost savings by incentivizing efficient, high-quality health care.

“If we do not, IPAB is structured in such a way that the Board may be forced to impose cuts on a narrow sector of the health care system, ignoring the need for broader changes.

“Arbitrary caps on spending, absent fundamental reforms to underlying cost drivers, simply shift the cost burden.

“Thus, IPAB has the potential to stifle implementation of promising innovations that would address those cost drivers just as they are beginning to take shape.

“The Obama administration is already implementing health care reforms to reduce the rate of growth in health care spending by holding providers accountable for reducing costs through:

· more coordinated care,

· the adoption of health information technology,

· improved quality, and

· better outcomes.

“Accountable Care Organizations, which create incentives for health care providers to work together to lower costs while meeting quality standards and putting patients first, could save up to $750 billion over the next 10 years.

“The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, established under health care reform, is advancing initiatives such as the Patient-Centered Medical Home, Healthcare Innovation Zones and other innovative delivery models with the potential to achieve significant additional savings.

“The Center’s recently launched Partnership for Patients initiative will save costs by bringing together hospitals, physicians and patients to dramatically reduce hospital-acquired conditions and hospitals readmissions.

“This program alone is expected to generate savings of up to $35 billion.

“These are reforms that we should build upon to achieve greater cost efficiencies without risking access or quality.

“It is our job to identify the most effective cost saving innovations and ensure that they are implemented broadly and successfully across the nation.

“There are tough choices ahead as we work to contain the rate of growth in health care costs.

“We should eliminate IPAB, reject Republicans’ efforts to dismantle Medicare and focus on reshaping payment and delivery systems to reward coordination, efficiency and value to achieve cost savings.

“In so doing, we can meet our obligations to both seniors and taxpayers.”

Schwartz Comments on Seniors

from the inbox, some remarks by Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz:

Dear Friend,

As Congress continues to debate key issues, I wanted to update you on some initiatives I have been working on for seniors.

Home Health Care

I recently introduced the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, which will allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives to order home health services for Medicare beneficiaries.

Those seniors and disabled citizens who see these medical professionals as their primary care providers often need an extra office visit with an unknown physician in order to get the care they need. This bipartisan legislation will relieve that burden for you or your loved one.

We have a responsibility to provide America’s seniors with high quality health care, and a key part of that is ensuring they have timely access to home health care services. Seniors will no longer have to jump through hoops to get the health care they need.

Prevention and Wellness Services for Medicare Beneficiaries

As some of you may know, health care reform strengthened benefits for seniors.

During this time of economic uncertainty, many seniors are still struggling to make ends meet. That is why I fought for free prevention and wellness services including:

• blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests;
• cancer screenings, like mammograms and colonoscopies
• flu and pneumonia shots

Seniors no longer have to worry about getting the preventive care they need even if they are unable to pay for the doctor visit. I also worked hard to ensure we closed the donut hole, which ensures you and your loved ones can afford lifesaving medications.

I am committed to ensuring our seniors have access to the health care they need and urge you to take advantage of these prevention and wellness services.

Preserving Medicare for You and Your Family

While the budget debate continues, it’s important that we find responsible and sensible solutions to reduce our deficit and grow our economy.

But forcing our seniors to shoulder America’s economic burden through drastic cuts to Medicare benefits is the absolute wrong approach.

The Republican budget does not reduce health care costs; it just shifts the burden to our seniors and will actually increase their out-of-pocket costs.

Millions of seniors in my district and across the country depend on Medicare every day for their lifesaving medications, doctor appointments, and hospital visits.

I stand firm in my commitment to preserve this guaranteed health benefit for all seniors.

Constituent Services for Seniors

In addition to the constituent services my office provides to all residents of Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district, we also provide assistance to seniors including:

• Applying for Social Security and Medicare
• Disability applications
• Medicare benefits and billing
• Veterans services and benefits
• IRS Issues

As we continue to implement the new health care reform law, my office can provide important information about new benefits for you and your loved ones including:

• Wellness and prevention services
• Prescription and generic drug benefits
• Prevention and protection against Medicare fraud

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chester Part of Strong Cities Strong Communities

from the inbox:

Today, the Obama Administration launched Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2), a new and customized pilot initiative to strengthen local capacity and spark economic growth in local communities while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently. To accomplish this, federal agencies will provide experienced staff to work directly with six cities: Chester, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; and New Orleans, LA. These teams will work with local governments, the private sector, and other institutions to leverage federal dollars and support the work being done at the local level to encourage economic growth and community development.

Additionally, communities nationwide will be eligible to compete for comprehensive economic planning assistance through a grant competition designed to spark local innovation. By integrating government investments and partnering with local communities, SC2 channels the resources of the federal government to help empower cities as they develop and implement their vision for economic growth.

“Over the past two and a half years, the Obama Administration received feedback from leaders all across the country who described the kind of partnership that would be most useful to them for economic growth,” said Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes. “The result is Strong Cities, Strong Communities, an innovative new pilot that will help strengthen local communities while also delivering federal resources and assistance more effectively.”

Added Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, “This is exactly the kind of federal initiative that President Obama pledged to create – one that respects the wisdom of local leadership and helps mayors and other local officials utilize federal resources more effectively. President Obama has consistently demonstrated his commitment to a robust partnership with America’s cities and counties– Strong Cities, Strong Communities is yet another example of this important partnership.”

DCNR: There's an App for That

Our friends at the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources have released a smartphone app that will help you locate Pennsylvania Parks and Forests. Here are a few details:

The free features are: search by activity of interest on-the-go; search by park, forest or region; stay current on park and forest events; receive news, alerts, and location-based weather updates; access park information such as hours of operation; view maps of facilities, trails and campgrounds; learn about state park or forest history; get directions; get contact information; access online reservations; network through Facebook and Twitter; and share photos on Flickr.
Paid features include: ability to work with content, maps and features offline; GPS mapping options include road, satellite, hybrid and terrain; pre-programmed state park GIS and points of interest will help guide you; a friend-finder feature lets you keep track of companions while on a trail; a built-in compass can help point to your direction; record, save and recall tracks or waypoints; and let your family and friends know your whereabouts with the alert communication feature.

More information at PA Environment Daily.

There Oughta Be a Law Contests in PA

For many years individual state legislators and state senators in Pennsylvania have participated in what appears to be a national program called "There Oughta Be a Law," wherein constituents suggest laws to their elected representatives.

You can find national examples by googling "there oughta be a law." To find specific Pennsylvania examples add the name of the commonwealth to your search. The earliest reliable mention of it I can find is a April 7, 1998 Morning Call ("Students cited in law contest") article which mentions State Rep. Julie Harhart's annual "There oughta be a law" contest. I know other state reps held similar competitions, mostly aimed at school children.

State Senator Anthony Williams is encouraging citizens in his district and beyond to come up with good laws with his own "There Oughta Be a Law" contest.

Remember, folks, you don't have to wait for a contest, you can get in touch with your elected officials any time and let them know what you think.

Independence Hall Tea Party Wants to End Public Schools

from "Advocates of privatized education want to end public schools," by Bob Braun, Newark Star Ledger 7/11/2011:

"We think public schools should go away,’’ says Teri Adams, the head of the Independence Hall Tea Party and a leading advocate — both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — of passage of school voucher bills. The tea party operates in those two states and Delaware.

They should "go away," she says, because "they are hurting our children.’’

"Our ultimate goal is to shut down public schools and have private schools only, eventually returning responsibility for payment to parents and private charities. It’s going to happen piecemeal and not overnight. It took us years to get into this mess and it’s going to take years to get out of it."

That's an extreme statement to make. Something to keep in mind if you like the idea of public schools.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Geese, Ganders, Teachers, and CEOs

Last June I wrote about the Pennsylvania Education Secretary's comments about teacher evaluations, specifically that too many of them were getting good evaluations. In that post I compared the percentage of teachers getting excellent evaluations (he said nearly 100%) with the percentage of political incumbents who are re-elected (between 95% and 98%, depending on the level of government).

Friday's Wall Street Journal ("A 'yes' in say on pay," by Jessica Holzer) note that corporate shareholders now have a "say on pay." They can accept or reject executive pay plans. Holzer notes that of the 2532 companies reporting, shareholders at only 39 companies rejected the suggested compensation plan. That means 98.5% thought the suggested pay plans were good ideas. Anybody out there think that only 1.5% of corporate executives aren't being paid properly?

If teachers are going to be evaluated on student test scores and if current evaluations are considered too high, let's apply that across the board -- should companies whose shareholders think executive compensation is too high be given tax cuts or government monies? How far do we go with this?

Philly Vendy Awards Announced

from the inbox:

The Philly Vendy Awards has a king! It’s Gigi and Big R Caribbean/American Soul Food, who won the highly coveted Vendy Cup saturday at the 1st annual Philadelphia Vendy Awards, sponsored by The Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center.

Over 500 savvy street foodies came to Piazza at Schmidts for this year’s intense grill-to-grill cook-off to determine Philadelphia’s top street chef. Categories this year included the Vendy Cup, Best Dessert, and the Peoples Taste Award. Proceeds will benefit The Food Trust, a nonprofit that strives to make healthy food available to all. Last year, three Philadelphia vendors came to New York to participate in the 2010 Vendys where it was announced that the event would debut in Philly in 2011.

“The Vendy Awards get bigger and bigger every year, and this year was another huge success,” said Sean Basinski, Director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. “Philadelphia has fantastic street food, and I can’t think of a better way than a day like today to honor these vendors who keep hundreds of Philly residents well fed and satisfied.”

VENDY CUP WINNER: Gigi and Big R Caribbean/American Soul Food


PEOPLE’S CHOICE: Cucina Zapata

White House on Budget Negotiations

from the inbox:

Statement from White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on Budget Negotiations

“The President believes that solving our fiscal problems is an economic imperative. But in order to do that, we cannot ask the middle-class and seniors to bear all the burden of higher costs and budget cuts. We need a balanced approach that asks the very wealthiest and special interests to pay their fair share as well, and we believe the American people agree.

“Both parties have made real progress thus far, and to back off now will not only fail to solve our fiscal challenge, it will confirm the cynicism people have about politics in Washington. The President believes that now is the moment to rise above that cynicism and show the American people that we can still do big things. And so tomorrow, he will make the case to congressional leaders that we must reject the politics of least resistance and take on this critical challenge.”

Friday, July 08, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name?

The Kitchen Table Patriots, a local tea party group, played a role in the 2010 elections in the greater Philadelphia area. Something in a recent New York Times article caught my eye. In “Tea party finds power leads to policy splits,” by Katie Zernike (6/28/2011) . It mentions Ana Puig and her fellow KTP activist Anastasia Przybylski a number of times. The two women held an event in 2009 to protest the federal stimulus bill which brought their group to the attention of FreedomWorks, a national organization led by a one-time House Republican leader Dick Armey. After the 2010 election the article states that FreedomWorks hired the two to lobby for a school choice bill in Pennsylvania. Przybylski said working with FreedomWorks allowed KTP to “professionalize ourselves.” The article is an interesting analysis of some of the national lobbying associated with the bill.

Even as someone who tends to follow local politics I was surprised to read that Puig and Przybylski were hired by the national organization. Having seen their names in the papers I wondered how widely known their employment by FreedomWorks was. So I did some checking.

Tom Barnes of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mentions the support the national organization supplied local supporters:

The idea is getting a serious political push this year, with Mr. Piccola and other Republicans, joined by Democrat Mr. Williams plus conservatives such as Ana Puig of The Kitchen Table Patriots and a national group called FreedomWorks, headed by former congressman Dick Armey. ("HUNDREDS VOICE SUPPORT OF 'SCHOOL CHOICE' IN CAPITAL - VOUCHERS WOULD ALLOW STUDENTS TO CHOOSE THEIR SCHOOLS," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)-January 26, 2011 Author: Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

in another article:

Mr. Armey is chairman of a Washington, D.C.-based group called FreedomWorks, which is helping a suburban Philadelphia group called The Kitchen Table Patriots press the state Legislature to enact taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers. Low-income students could use them to escape their "failing" local public school, supporters say.

A leader of The Kitchen Table Patriots is Ana Puig of Doylestown, Bucks County, who also attended the recent state Capitol rally. She is also active in the tea party political movement. She said FreedomWorks has provided her volunteers with advice on contacting legislators and alternatives to public schools where many students don't meet state standards in reading and math. ("ADVOCATES LINE UP MONEY, ADS, SUPPORT FOR SCHOOL-CHOICE BILL," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)-February 6, 2011 Author: Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

However, the paper didn’t say anything about Ms. Puig personally being on FreedomWorks’ payroll.

A reporter at the main Bucks County paper stated it more specifically:
“That puts him in direct opposition to other tea party organizations, such as the Doylestown-based Kitchen Table Patriots, whose co-chairwomen Anastasia Przybylski and Ana Puig have also been working as field coordinators for FreedomWorks, a national conservative group pushing for school choice.

Puig also was a member of the education committee on Corbett's transition team.”
(“Tea party at odds on school choice legislation,” Intelligencer, The (Doylestown, PA)-March 16, 2011 Author: Gary Weckselblatt)

That same month, the same paper ran an op-ed by Przybylski that described her only as: “Anastasia Przybylski is co-chairwoman of the Kitchen Table Patriots and the mother of three children. She lives in Doylestown.” No mention of FreedomWorks. The same op-ed, or a slight variation of it also ran in at least two other papers, the Bucks County Courier Times and the Morning Call. Both used the same author description.

Puig wrote an op-ed for a Harrisburg paper that references education but only mentioned her KTP association, not FreedomWorks:

Editorial “"As I See It" (regular feature?)
Grassroots movement must sustain itself
Patriot-News, The (Harrisburg, PA)-April 15, 2011
Author: Ana Puig
It will take decades of hard work to undo the damage that has been done to our country by the infiltration of Marxist ideology into our education system; the rewriting of our history and the implementation of class warfare ideology; the wide use of voter fraud and intimidation; brainwashing and diversion through mass communication and, finally, the making of hollow promises to the lower economic classes that can never be implemented due to the real and hidden agenda of politicians.

Ana Puig is co-chair of the Southeastern PA Kitchen Table Patriots.

A number of other papers in the state reported on either or both women’s advocacy of the school voucher bill, all referenced the association with KTP but not FreedomWorks. Here is a list:

“Anastasia Przybylski, a member of the Kitchen Table Patriots, a Bucks County tea party group that favors the Senate bill.” (“Schroder introduces school choice legislation - Next two days will determine outcome of voucher battle in state,” by Eric Boehm, PA Independent, Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)-June 21, 2011
“Anastasia Przybylski, a member of the Kitchen Table Patriots, a Bucks County Tea Party group that has been pressing hard for school-choice legislation.”
(“House leader expected to endorse school choice bill,” Mercury, The (Pottstown, PA)-June 19, 2011 Author: Eric Boehm, PA Independent


Ana Puig, co-chair of the grassroots Tea Party organization Kitchen Table Patriots, said there was no reason to delay passage of a voucher bill and said waiting would only give unions "ample time to go after our legislators." ("Time may run out on push for voucher plan," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review June 25, 2011 Author: Sari Heidenreich)
“Ana Puig, KTP's co-chairwoman, is a member of Corbett's transition committee on education. And Anastasiz Przybylski, KTP's co-founder, has spent several months researching the topic.”
("PSBA opposes latest voucher plan," Bucks County Courier Times January 21, 2011 Author: Gary Weckselblatt)

"We have the Tea Party involved, but there's a lot of push-back from some Tea Party people," said Ana Puig, co-chair of The Kitchen Table Patriots in Bucks County. "They see it as a hand-out (to low-income families). I don't see it that way." ("State senators push state bill on school choice," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)-January 26, 2011 Author: Brad Bumsted

Ana Puig, of Doylestown, a cochair of the Kitchen Table Patriots, a tea party group, was on hand for the rally and pledged support for the bill.

"We believe in competition in the marketplace," said Puig, who was a member of Corbett's education transition team. ("Hundreds rally for school choice - Senate Bill 1 would provide vouchers to get children out of failing schools," Philadelphia Inquirer, January 26, 2011 Author: Amy Worden)
One group, the Kitchen Table Patriots in Doylestown, has about 20 members running in school board elections Tuesday, cofounder Ana Puig said. She said the entire system deserved new scrutiny. "I feel like schools are being run like a government agency, and they need to be run more like the private sector," said Puig,….. "Continuing to raise taxes is not going to be the solution."

("Schools brace for austere new era - Widespread cuts, layoffs are expected, along with tax hikes in many districts," Philadelphia Inquirer, May 15, 2011 Author: Dan Hardy and John P. Martin)

Ana Puig gained prominence in the past two years through a Bucks County Tea Party group she helps lead. Corbett appointed Puig, a Brazilian-born naturalized citizen, as a member of his education committee

Puig, a mother of four, was chosen for the committee because of her advocacy for home schooling, Harley said.

A co-chairwoman of the group Kitchen Table Patriots, she has spoken at several national and local Tea Party events. ("Transition team member irks Dems," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)-December 2, 2010 Author: Mike Wereschagin)

Does it matter if the papers mention if activists were volunteer or paid or paid by a local organization or a national organization? The KTP website doesn't say anything about national support, and there is a donation button. Of course, a lot of local groups get some support from larger groups. It is also hard to tell when or definitively if the women were hired by FreedomWorks.

For me, though, the fact that some papers said the women were employed by FreedomWorks and others published their opinions or wrote about them just as grassroots activists presents two different views of their work. I would want to know if it was a paid job or volunteer work. I also wonder why some papers reported it one way and others another. Other people may feel it is not an important distinction.