Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obamas Author at National Constitution Center

Mark your calendars:

New York Times Washington correspondent Jodi Kantor will join the National Constitution Center on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss her forthcoming portrait of a modern day presidential marriage, The Obamas.  One of the most anticipated books of the New Year, The Obamas explores the lives of the president and first lady with riveting detail and insight, focusing on their partnership and the intricacies of public life.  This is the first event of Election 2012, the Center’s yearlong programming series on the key issues facing Americans during this important election year.  Admission is $7 for members, students and teachers and $10 for non-members.  Reservations are required and can be made online at

Friday, December 30, 2011

SEPTA Service on Holiday Weekend

from the inbox:

Those traveling to Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing and New York City’s Times Square to ring in 2012 can take advantage of extended SEPTA late night and early morning Regional Rail service to get home from the celebrations.

SEPTA has added additional late night trains to Trenton, Elwyn, Wilmington, Malvern, Chestnut Hill West, Warminster, West Trenton, Lansdale, Manayunk-Norristown, Fox Chase and Chestnut Hill East. These trains are scheduled to leave Center City after the midnight fireworks at Penn’s Landing. For example, the last train traveling to Chestnut Hill West on a Saturday night is normally scheduled to leave Market East at 10:05 p.m. The extended New Year’s Eve late night train will give riders ample time to enjoy the spectacular fireworks display and make their way to the train station as the last train will leave Market East at 1:40 a.m.

Riders traveling to New York City to see the ball drop in Times Square can also connect with SEPTA at the Trenton Transportation Center. For passengers taking early morning New Jersey Transit trains, SEPTA trains will depart from Trenton at 2:03 a.m., 3:30 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.

For SEPTA’s complete New Year’s Eve late night Regional Rail schedules, visit

In addition to extended late night service for New Year’s Eve, SEPTA announces the following service adjustments:
 New Year’s Day, Sunday, Jan. 1: All Regional Rail Lines will operate on a Sunday schedule. Extra cars will be added to trains for Mummers Parade attendees.
 Monday, Jan. 2: All Regional Rail Lines will operate on a Sunday schedule.
For full schedule, fare and other information, visit SEPTA’s Website,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Buddy Roemer on SOPA

From the inbox, a note from Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer:

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which Congress is likely to consider early next year, is just one more example of legislation that is so influenced by corporate money that it has no chance of adequately solving the underlying problems – this time, protecting intellectual property rights. To put it into perspective, the communications and electronics industries contributed nearly $90 million to campaigns in the 2010 election cycle and spent over $290 million in lobbying this year hoping to sway this and other legislation in their favor.
The current bill pits the music and recording industries against web and social media sites, when an adequate solution cannot result from a war of influence where the one industry’s interests are ultimately placed ahead of another’s. We have to encourage the development of intellectual property, but this bill reaches far beyond its stated intent and into the realm of censorship. This country has always been a beacon of freedom – freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of communication. How can we advocate for greater liberties in China and around the world while restricting our own?
The best solution to this problem is a private one in which the industries cooperate to make legal content easily accessible and enjoyable for consumers to purchase. Apple has been a pioneer in this field, and should be a model for others to follow. We must abandon SOPA and find a solution that makes sense.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Planned Parenthood Statement on New Clinic Law

from the inbox:

Despite the call for a veto from many health care providers and medical professional organizations and media outlets, like the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Governor Corbett signed Senate Bill 732.  Numerous health care providers, including dozens of hospitals, doctors, and victim’s advocate groups, opposed the bill. The new law was supported only by organizations opposed to legal abortion. No physicians, nurses, or others in the medical field were consulted in the drafting of the law.
Today Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Executive Director Sari Stevens released the following statement in response to the new law:
Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit health care provider with a longstanding record of providing exceptional patient care.  One in five American women has turned to Planned Parenthood at some time in their lives for professional, non-judgmental and confidential care. 
"It is extremely disappointing that Governor Corbett signed this politically-motivated bill into law.  Make no mistake, this new law has everything to do with politics. The individuals and organizations that pushed Senate Bill 732 want to end all access to legal abortion care, without exception.  But whether for an unintended pregnancy or a devastating diagnosis during pregnancy, there is a need for physicians and licensed medical professionals to provide safe and compassionate abortion care in Pennsylvania."
“In Pennsylvania alone, 120,000 patients each year count on Planned Parenthood to provide them with a wide range of preventive care, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, well woman exams and prevention and treatment of STDs, and abortion care.  We are in the process of evaluating the law and are determining next steps to continue our work to keep women healthy.

2 PA Voices on Conference Committee

There will be two Pennsylvania voices, both Democratic, on the bicameral bipartisan conference committee charged with developing a plan for a one year extension to the payroll tax holiday.  Sen. Bob Casey has been appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In the House, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-13) has been appointed by Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi.  Schwartz issued this statement:

“I have always worked across the aisle to find common ground on the most important issues facing our nation. We need to put aside our differences in order to protect our economic recovery. I am honored to have been appointed to this joint committee and will work to prevent a tax increase on middle class families and preserve the quality health care America’s seniors deserve.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Last Minute Gift Suggestions

This past summer we visited family and a relative introduced us to comedian Kathleen Madigan, or at least a dvd of her work.  She's hilarious!  Today someone alerted me that she is scheduled to perform at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, Montgomery County. 

If you are doing some last minute shopping consider giving a friend or loved one tickets to her January 28th show.  Details can be found at:

Looking for something to do on New Year's Eve eve?  Fan of the old tv show Mystery Science Theater 3000?  The original MST3K crew is doing a live show at the Keswick on Dec. 30th. 

The Redistricting Vote

The Pennsylvania State House has passed the proposed congressional redistricting maps.  Nearly half of the Democrats in the House voted for it.  PoliticsPA has a rundown of who crossed party lines to vote for or against the maps.  Keegan Gibson gives his opinion on why each rep who voted against their party's recommendations did so.  It's interesting stuff.

Remember, everyone who voted yes was agreeing that the proposed 7th district was a good idea. 

Let's not forget who came up with this bizarrely shaped district and who approved it.  

Preliminary Notes on Dec Philadelphia Magazine

I still haven't finished reading the Dec. issue of Philadelphia Magazine.   There's one main reason for that -- I can't read it on the train.  Why?  There's a nearly naked woman on the cover.  She's toned, tanned, airbrushed, and wearing a few strategically placed post-its.  Magazine covers that feature a partially dressed woman are clearly not aimed at my demographic (middle-aged straight woman) so I seldom buy those issues.  However, one of the kids was selling magazines for school so I'm back to subscribing to PhillyMag again.

The main reason I haven't finished reading this issue is that I can't take it on the train.  If I can't read it on the train it's unlikely to get read at all.  Flashing photos of nearly naked women on the train is a surefire way to get attention, though it is likely to be unwanted attention.  Some months ago I was reading a magazine on the train and the page opposite the one I was reading was a full-age lingerie ad, with photos of women in their underwear.  The man sitting next to me practically climbed into my lap to get a better look.  I kept trying to fold the magazine so that page didn't show but that just seemed to entice him further.  Please PhillyMag, if you don't want to lose a subscriber when it's time to renew, ditch the nudie shots.

So I can't really discuss the content of most of the issue.  One thing did catch my eye was "The Ultimate Philly Cocktail Party," on p. 74.  Ed Rendell makes the list of dream party guests, as you might expect.  Josh Shapiro (state rep for a few more days until he's sworn in as Montgomery County Commissioner) is also on the list, with this tag line:  "We think he might actually be fun to share a beer with."  I've never shared a beer with Shapiro, but I can tell you that you should never make eye contact with him when he's mc'ing a charity auction.  He's positively hypnotic; people end up buying all sorts of things. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two Medical News Notes for PA

Two items crossed my screen this week pertaining to health care in Pennsylvania.  Here's the details:

The PA Dems sent out a press release stating, in part:

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is pleased to highlight news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that the Affordable Care Act continues to significantly increase the number of young adults who have health insurance

Before the Affordable Care Act, more young Americans lacked health insurance than any other age group - accounting for more than one in five of the uninsured. Going without insurance put the health and finances of millions of young people at risk. 

Contrary to the myth that young people don't need health insurance, one in six young adults has a chronic disease like cancer, diabetes or asthma. Studies show that nearly half of uninsured young adults reported problems paying their medical bills and others forwent regular care, like checkups or recommended screenings, due to cost. 

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act to put affordable, quality health insurance back within reach of all Americans. Thanks to the new law, young adults can now stay on their parents' plan up to age 26. 

Originally, HHS projected that 1.24 million young adults would gain coverage in 2011 as a result of this part of the law. The actual numbers far exceed initial expectations. The CDC recently announced that 2.5 million young adults now have health coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. 

In Pennsylvania, that means an estimated 65,000 young Americans have access to health care because of the new law.

Continuing with theme of local impact of national policy, a document was released on Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations.  I will not even pretend to understand the intricacies (or even the big picture) of this topic.  Here is a brief excerpt from the fact sheet:
The Pioneer ACO Model is a CMS Innovation Center initiative designed to support organizations with experience operating as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) or in similar arrangements in providing more coordinated care to beneficiaries at a lower cost to Medicare.  The Pioneer ACO Model will test the impact of different payment arrangements in helping these organizations achieve the goals of providing better care to patients, and reducing Medicare costs.

That's a lot of jargon and acronyms.  One thing I could see from the fact sheet is that one of these organizations, Renaissance Medical Management Company, is or will be operating in Southeastern Pennsylvania.   You can read the fact sheet online.  There is another fact sheet just on Pioneer ACOs.  People wanting to learn more should read over both. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Presidential Fakeout Robocalls

When I got home today there was a voicemail message waiting.   It was a robocall asking me to sign an online petition in favor of Hillary Clinton running for president  in 2012.   Politco has a short article about these calls, apparently going out in other states as well ("Robocalling Hillary 2012," by Emily Schulteheis, 12/19); it also provides a transcript of the robocall.  What struck me about it was the absence of an accountability statement ( ... this call paid for by ....).  I thought all of those calls had to have that.

The call refers to a website which is also lacking any information on who put it together or who paid for it.  I checked a standard domain registry and found the domain is registered to Domains by Proxy. 

My theory is that the site is set up by someone other than a Hillary Clinton supporter.  The site asks people to leave name, address, etc., so it may be a standard list building site.  Even so, there should be some sort of ownership statement on it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trivedi and Veterans

A note in the inbox from Dr. Manan Trivedi, candidate for the 6th congressional district:

If you have been paying attention to Pennsylvania's congressional redistricting debacle, then I feel as though I should offer an apology. Yes, I know I'm not a part of this dysfunctional government, but with Republicans ramming through their gerrymandered map without any public hearings, they’re turning Pennsylvania into an embarrassment—and for that I think we're all a little sorry. It's shameful, but I ask that you hold steady.

There is still good news these days. The Iraq War has officially ended and we have brave men and women in the armed forces returning home for the holidays to be with their families. Politicians in Washington and Harrisburg may act like spoiled children sometimes, but it is up to us to make sure our veterans never lose faith in why they serve. If you see somone in fatigues over the holidays, take a moment to thank them for their service, and let them know that we stand with them as a country.

This redistricting mess will never make me waiver in my commitment to the 6th district and I hope you will stand by me in staying just as strong to serve our community. If the politicians can’t do their jobs with fairness, then it's up to us.

Thanks for all you do every day to build a better Pennsylvania and a better nation.


Also remember that although our troops are coming home from Iraq, we still have folks in Afghanistan, Kuwait and any number of other places.  Keep sending those care packages, letters, etc.  

State House Election Updates

State Rep. Mike O'Brien (D-175) has re-launched his website:

Jordan Harris has announced his candidacy for the 186th state house district.  His website is:  The campaign has a cool logo.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2Q 2011 FEC Reports

I’m still playing catch up with the quarterly FEC Reports.  This post covers the 2nd quarter 2011, April – June.

You can browse these reports yourself at  As always I apologize in advance for any errors or misinterpretations.  I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, just an interested observer and these thoughts should be taken as such. 

Watch the itemized (over $250 donations), unitemized (smaller donations), and PAC ratios.  Generally, you will find unitemized to be about 10% the amount of itemized and PAC’s either a half or quarter the amount of the itemized donations., at least for incumbents.  In open races or in challenger’s reports, there are usually fewer PAC donations.  They like to stick with people they are fairly certain are going to win. 

Just about everyone posted reports in alphabetical order, which makes them easier to deal with.  My thanks to those preparing the reports for that.

6th Congressional District 

Manan Trivedi, Democrat  

Total of Contributions from Individuals 0.00  / 1,109.87
Offsets to Operating Expenditures (Refunds, etc.): 0.00  / 1,635.05
Total Receipts: 0.00 / 2,744.92
Operating Expenditures: 113.05 / 60,318.48
Other Disbursements: 250.00 / 750.00
Total Disbursements: 363.05 / 61,068.48
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period 22,167.20
Total Receipts  0.00
Total Disbursements   363.05
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period  21,804.15

Dr. Trivedi paid for a cell phone and gave $250 to Andy Toy’s city council campaign.

Jim Gerlach, incumbent Republican

Itemized  136,200.00
Unitemized 5,602.00
Total of Contributions from Individuals 141,802.00 / 227,698.00 
PACs  190,593.17 / 336,801.84
Total Contributions: 332,395.17 / 564,499.84
Offsets to Operating Expenditures (Refunds, etc.):  7,839.28 / 8,482.55
Other Receipts:  502.581 / 168.57
Total Receipts:  340,737.03 / 574,150.96
Operating Expenditures: 103,278.20 / 295,712.58
Other Disbursements: 3,510.00 / 4,3160.00
Total Disbursements: 106,788.20 / 338,872.58
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period 237,775.33
Total Receipts  340,737.03
Total Disbursements  106,788.20
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period  471,724.16

In this quarter four more people maxed out their donations for the entire election cycle; another 10 donated $2500, the maximum for the primary election.  Of the over 150 donations, about 35 came from out of state.  One of his donors is former congressman Phil English.  Occupational clusters include doctors, lawyers, ceos.  Among them was a metals broker.  In PAC donations there were clusters in health, construction, banks, and insurance.  At least three Republican PACS, Freedom Project, Tuesday Morning PAC, and the GOP Mainstreet PAC, donated.  In disbursements there are some hefty consultant payments.  One DC fundraising firm was paid $32K, another fundraising firm in PA was paid $22K, an individual fundraiser was paid $5K.  The campaign paid $1687 for golf shirts.  There are no payments for rent so the congressman might not have a campaign office open yet.  Congressman Gerlach is either very generous or very confident, he sent $500.00 to a congressional candidate in New Jersey named Lobiondo.  Most candidates keep their political donations not only in state but in district, such as Gerlach’s $2500 donation to the Republican Committee of Chester County.

7th Congressional District
Pat Meehan, Republican

Itemized  151,650.00
Unitemized 4,942.77
Total of Contributions from Individuals 156,592.77 / 394,772.77
Other Political Committees 0.00 / 1,600.00
PACs  253,750.00 / 382,500.00
Total Contributions 410,342.77 / 778,872.77
Transfers from Other Authorized Committees: 20,849.80 / 25,069.40
Other Receipts:  5.29 / 471.29
Total Receipts: 431,197.86 / 804,413.46
Operating Expenditures: 117,083.83 / 493,090.25
Contribution Refunds:  3,000.00 / 11,000.00
Total Disbursements: 120,083.83 / 504,090.25
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period 316,486.97
Total Receipts  431,197.86
Total Disbursements 120,083.83
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period 627,601.00

Four more donors have maxed out $5,000 and cannot donate more during this election season.  Local moneyman and power broker Vahan is one of them; another shares his address.  An additional 16 people have donated $2500, the maximum for the primary election.  Five people have donated a total greater than $2500 and less than $5000.  Around 16 donors were from out of state.  In PACs there are clusters for health care, banks, and construction.  There are also a lot of political PACs, the Liberty Project, Longhorn PAC, Republican Mainstream Partnership PAC, Freedom Project ($10K), Tuesday Group, Great 8 Committee, Majority Victory Fund, PA+5 Committee, Patriot Day 2011, and a PAC associated with Darryl Issa.  In disbursements, the campaign paid nearly $20K for advertising consulting, nearly $7 in legal services, rent, $7K to Impact Strategies, $2K to Majority Victory Fund, $14K for accounting, $2K to the Montgomery County GOP for printing, $15K to a fundraising firm.  There are payments to three different phone companies.  There are multiple identical payments Virgin Mobile on the same day which would indicate either the software burped or there will be an amendment forthcoming.  One of the payments to Verizon Wireless is for $1746 which seems overly large.   There is also a late fee for a credit card payment. 

8th Congressional District

Mike Fitzpatrick, Republican

Itemized  176,234.61
Unitemized 8,498.00
Total of Contributions from Individuals 184,732.61 / 342,471.61
Political Party Committees:  0.00 / 1,000.00
PACs   225,054.42 / 374,431.30
Total Contributions:  409,787.03 / 717,902.91
Transfers from Authorized Committees:  16,404.51 / 16,404.51
Offsets to Operating Expenditures (Refunds, etc.): 0.00 / 256.30
Other Receipts: 18.90 / 60.11
Total Receipts: 426,210.44 / 734,623.83
Operating Expenditures: 132,941.58 / 385,573.87
Contribution Refunds: 0.00 / 2,960.00
Other Disbursements: 0.00 / 100.00
Total Disbursements: 132,941.58 / 388,633.87
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period  91,204.80
Total Receipts  426,210.44
Total Disbursements  132,941.58
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period  438,893.87

Six new donors have maxed out for the election cycle by contributing a total of $5K.  There were five donations totaling over $2500, and 12 at $2500.  Of the total 228 donations, 34 were from out of state.  Occupational clusters among his contributors are engineering, lawyers, corporate executives.  Unusual occupations include a rabbi, a Harley Davidson dealer, and two men named Trump with a Trump Group, but they aren’t related to the Donald.  There are several political committees donating, including leadership pacs associated with Spencer Bachus, Darryl Issa, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Jeff Sessions, and, get this, Sarah Palin.  A number of other conservative PACs donated.  Bank of America’s PAC donated, as did California Dairies, Exxon Mobil and Quicken Loans.  In disbursements there are charges for rent and cell phones.  One fundraiser was paid over $20K, another $12K , there is a third fundraiser but it is difficult to figure out how much they are paid as there are memo notes, and I don’t know enough to interpret them.  Progressive Broadcasting was paid $3K; their president donated $2500.  The campaign paid $15K for campaign consulting, $10 for polling, $8K to another consulting firm, about $15K for compliance, and another $9K for consulting.  The campaign still lists close to $20K in debt. 

13th Congressional District

Allyson Schwartz, Incumbent District (first elected 2004)

Itemized  217,125.00
Unitemized 20,252.99
Total of Contributions from Individuals   237,377.99 / 554,882.62
Political Party Committees 185.12 / 196.97
PACs   171,061.35 / 256,961.35
Total Contributions:  408,624.46 / 812,040.94
Offsets to Operating Expenditures (Refunds, etc.):  0.00 / 194.26
Other Receipts: 2,198.13 / 5,836.52
Total Receipts:  410,822.59 / 818,071.72
Operating Expenditures:  81,439.43 / 295,004.68
Contribution Refunds: 1,000.00 / 3,100.00
Other Disbursements: 1,000.00 / 3,100.00
Total Disbursements: 87,264.43 / 606,224.68
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period 1,426,706.82 
Total Receipts  410,822.59
Total Disbursements  87,264.43
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period  1,750,264.98

There are four new donors who have contributed the total $5000, four more between $2500 and $5000, and 14 who are at $2500.  Over a fourth of the donors are from out of state.  Some notable local politicos donated, include Ruth Damsker and Lynn Yeakel.  Occupational clusters include health care, attorneys, the arts, and higher education.  In PACS, both Endo and Unisys corporate pacs have donated $10,000 each.  There were a number of PACs relating to medicine / pharmacy / and health care.  In disbursement the congresswoman’s campaign paid for health insurance for her workers, as always.  The campaign paid a fundraiser $10K, there was a $7,500 charge for catering at the Radisson Plaza Warwick.  The campaign paid rent for a campaign office.

Two Redistricting Notes

Two more notes on congressional redistricting notes:

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice weighs in the topic, "The breathtakingly brazen PA congressional redistricting plan."

PoliticsPA is reporting that State Senate Democrats have released their own congressional redistricting maps:  As PPA notes, this map also has some oddly shaped districts.

TIGER Transit Funding for SEPA

In November, President Obama directed DOT to take common sense steps to expedite transportation projects by accelerating the process for review and approval and by leveraging private sector funding to promote growth and job creation. As part of that initiative, DOT accelerated the TIGER III application review process and has announced the awards before the end of 2011 – months ahead of the planned spring 2012 announcement. 

TIGER grants are awarded to transportation projects that have a significant national or regional impact. Projects are chosen for their ability to contribute to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improve the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, increase energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and enhance the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections. The Department also gives priority to projects that are expected to create and preserve jobs quickly and stimulate increases in economic activity. 

Two grants were awarded to projects in the SEPA area:

Ten million to Philadelphia for:

This traffic signal prioritization project will upgrade more than 100 existing traffic controllers along three transit corridors (Castor/Oxford Avenues, Bustleton Avenue, and Woodland Avenue), covering approximately 15.72 miles in Philadelphia. The project will connect the controllers to the city’s existing traffic management system via fiber optic cable and link to transit vehicles serving these corridors, maximizing traffic flow and running speeds.  The project also includes upgrades to Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliant ramps, installs traffic monitoring cameras and fiber-optic cable, replaces electro-mechanical traffic controllers, installs signal priority receivers and optical emitters, and installs pedestrian countdown signals at intersections along the corridors.

This project received $18.5 million:

This project will repair DelAir Bridge, linking the rail networks of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This major connection will be repaired to accommodate the transport of industry-standard 286,000 lb. rail cars and enhance freight movement throughout the northeast region. This project is part of a larger effort to repair the rail network from the DelAir Bridge to the Port of Salem, including the ports of Paulsboro and Camden, which must be significantly upgraded to accommodate the anticipated increased demand in rail and port traffic.

A full list of projects nationwide is available at:

Schwartz on End of Iraq War

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) released the following statement today after the U.S. military closed its headquarters in Iraq, marking the official end of the Iraq War. In 2008, Schwartz went to Iraq to personally meet the active duty soldiers and thank them for their service.
“After nearly nine years, the United States is concluding our role in the long and difficult conflict in Iraq. Our men and women in uniform have done a tremendous job protecting our national security, and I thank them for their service and commitment to our country.
“We have seen great tragedy—with nearly 4,500 American deaths and tens of thousands more wounded—and the sacrifice of our troops and their families will not be forgotten as we begin a new chapter in U.S.-Iraqi relations.
“The progress we have made in Iraq is significant. The United States has worked to bring democracy to a vital part of the world. We have successfully removed Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and numerous other terrorist leaders from power. We will continue to work with and support the Iraqi people to maintain stability to the region.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PA Dems on Voter ID

arrived yesterday from our friends at the PA Democratic Party:

Yesterday, the Senate State Governmental Committee passed a bill by a 6-5 vote that requires voters to show photo identification every time they vote, sending it to the Appropriations Committee. This Voter ID bill is costly - estimates of the unamended bill have indicated it could cost the state $11 million dollars. With the economy and state budget suffering, this bill does not address jobs while only hurting our state's budget. The bill also threatens to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters due to these burdensome requirements. Meanwhile, even supporters of the bill struggle to find examples of voter fraud in Pennsylvania to justify this bill.

"The voter ID bill is a costly, disenfranchising solution to a problem that does not exist," said Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson Lindsay Fritchman. "The policy would result in the disenfranchisement of many Pennsylvanians - notably, this burden will hit hardest the elderly, youth, and minorities, groups that historically tend to vote Democratic. It looks like once again, Republicans are focusing their efforts in the legislature on helping Republicans win elections rather than bringing jobs back to Pennsylvania, all at the cost of $11 million to the taxpayer." 

The real reason for pushing the voter-ID plan in Pa. (Daylin Leach, Philadelphia Inquirer Op-Ed) In other words, to solve a problem that does not exist in our state, we are going to disenfranchise about 700,000 Pennsylvania voters. These voters - poor people, African Americans, and students - tend to disproportionately vote Democratic. Thus, voter-ID legislation appears to be yet another cynical effort to rig future elections by people who have no respect for the democratic process and whose only concern is winning. It is ironic that this effort is occurring in the state where representative democracy was born.

Voter ID Bill Presses On (WPXI) A bill that would require Pennsylvania voters to show identification before casting a ballot is running into some resistance from state Democrats. "It's clear to us that the passage of this bill will significantly affect the turnout of African Americans, senior citizens, young adults and the disabled, " said Tim Stevens Chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project.

 Amended state voter ID bill moves forward (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Opponents argue that requiring a photo identification card would disenfranchise those without such cards, pointing to statistics showing senior citizens, minorities and low-income residents disproportionately lack ID cards... Four Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, voted against the proposal, with several saying they are disinclined to change voting rules without first finding evidence of issues with the current system. "I wasn't going to vote to put a roadblock before voters without any credible evidence of a problem," Mr. Corman said. "If someone can show me some evidence, I'm happy to consider it." Mr. McIlhinney said he has yet to see specific evidence of voter fraud incidents at the polls, but called the potential photo requirement a "security check."

Voter Mandates Costly to Taxpayer (Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center) A survey of state implementation reports and estimates from legislative fiscal notes provides an indication of the likely cost to Pennsylvania of a state voter ID program. In order to meet the requirements set forth in the legislation and avoid potential litigation, PBPC estimates first-year costs for a voter identification program of approximately $11 million.

PA Dems Website on Proposed Districts

The Pennsylvania Democrats have set up a website on the proposed new congressional districts.  The page I found the most entertaining is the contest to describe the congressional districts (the Rorschach page).  A few of my favorite entries so far:

District 17: Seahorse riding a platypus
District 7: A rabbit pulling the tail of a giraffe

Take a look and add your suggestions.

Secretary of State Clinton on PBS Newshour

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on PBS Newshour this evening.  The video and transcript are available online:  I read through the transcript and she touches on a lot of interesting topics -- several issues with China, that the US does not fear a peaceful rise from China, but does want to them follow intellectual copyright, and some issues China may face in the near future, such as rising unemployment as companies look for cheaper labor elsewhere, and the necessity for China to be thoughtful in their industrial development in Africa.  She also talks about Iraq.  It is interesting to know that Turkey has invested more in Iraq than Iran has.  It's well worth a glance.

Proposed Congressional Districts

PoliticsPA has the newly released draft congressional districts for Pennsylvania.  They have very kindly provided a full screen view of the SEPA districts.  For an eye opener take a look at the 7th district, the dark green pixilated snake that coils around the area west of Philadelphia.  Or the 16th district (pink) which seems to have at least two areas that aren't contiguous.  The weirdest example of this is the small speck of pink completely surrounded by dark green, a small section of the 16th which is contained in the 7th.  the 6th district is also oddly shaped.  The 8th district still has a section of Montgomery County but a different part than it has now, but has lost it's part of Philadelphia.  Montgomery County is still represented by five different congressional representatives, which seems a bit excessive.  Berks County has four, Chester has three.  Delaware County has two.  Bucks is all contained within the 8th, as well as the aforementioned section of Montco.  I defy anyone to say that the 7th and 16th districts were drawn with the best interests of the residents of those districts.  These are politically drawn, to create districts more favorable to candidates of one party or another, with a bias towards a GOP majority.

That being said let's not forget that the Ds had a chance to do something about the way redistricting is done a few years ago and didn't.  Wondering who came up with this map?  Here's the list of redistricting commission members.  It's the state house and senate majority and minority leaders plus a commission chair.  The commission has a website: Correction:  The redistricting commission only draws state house and state senate lines.  The congressional redistricting is done by state legislative committees.  For more information see  My apologies for the error and my thanks to the gentleman who pointed it out to me.

What a mess.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some Notes from the AAPS

I've gotten on the email list for a number of conservative organizations; apparently I'm on a PA press list somewhere.  So I get some messages that are contrary to my stated political biases.  The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is a group to the right of the AMA.  Their executive director has been sending me blast emails for the past few months.  One arrived yesterday and I've found it online so you can get the full flavor.  She's writing to point out how liberal New Gingrich is.  Here are a few quotes:

Republicans have other laws to answer for: the Clinton fall-back plan of health insurance coverage for children (SCHIP or KidCare), the Clinton-Gingrich automatic fee cuts to physicians if Medicare spending exceeds a certain target (the “Sustained Growth Rate” or SGR problem that Congress overrules year after year); and a huge new entitlement, Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage), which added trillions to Medicare’s unfunded liabilities. Gingrich, though not in Congress in 2003, lobbied heavily for Part D, calling it “the most important bill to vote on in your career.”

This is my favorite:

Like Romney, Gingrich has favored an individual mandate to purchase insurance. This is the big-government, progressive answer to the problem that some do not or cannot meet their individual responsibility to pay for the medical services they use.

After all, the poor should know better than to get cancer if their employer doesn't offer medical insurance or if their state doesn't have a low-income program for medical insurance.  And what kind of person is irresponsible enough to have a child with a medical issue?  Poor planning on someone's part [sarcasm].

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Suggestion: Angie's List

For my household one of the most difficult aspects of home repair is finding dependable, reliable firms or individuals to do the work.  There are a lot of fly by night people and also well-intentioned by incompetent or overwhelmed people.  Neither grouping is very helpful when you need a plumber or roofer or electrician.

A family member suggested we check out Angie's List (, which lets you look up a company or name or to peruse contractors by category, and see how people rate their work.  It is a subscription service but very reasonably priced.  You can read what types of jobs workmen have done and what they charged and what customers thought of their work.  It was great to read that firms we have used in the past and liked were highly ranked by others as well. 

If you are trying to find a holiday gift for someone who has everything (including perhaps an older home), a gift subscription to Angie's List might be very well received.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

PA Senate State Govt Committee Passes Empty Bill

Yesterday I wrote on the Pennsylvania State and House State Government Committees meeting next week to discuss congressional redistricting but the new maps have not been released.

The PA State Senate State Government Committee went further than that.  Yesterday they voted to approve SB 1249, which describes the congressional districts in this way:

For the purpose of electing representatives of the people of Pennsylvania to serve in the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States, this Commonwealth shall be divided into 18 districts which shall have one Congressman each, as follows:
(1) The First District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(2) The Second District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(3) The Third District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(4) The Fourth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(5) The Fifth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(6) The Sixth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(7) The Seventh District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(8) The Eighth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(9) The Ninth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(10) The Tenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(11) The Eleventh District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(12) The Twelfth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(13) The Thirteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(14) The Fourteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(15) The Fifteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(16) The Sixteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(17) The Seventeenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(18) The Eighteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.

According to the State Senate website, all of the senators on the State Government committee voted in favor of the bill.  If you senator is on this list, you might want to ask them about it:











SCARNATI , ex-officio      

PA Notes in the 11/28 New Yorker

There were a few interesting notes relating to Pennsylvania in the Nov. 28th issue of the New Yorker.

In "Pre-Occupied:  the origins and future of Occupy Wall Street," by Mattathias Schwartz, we learn that one or the founders of Occupy Wall Street, Micah White, went to Swarthmore.  Their webmaster, Justine Tunney lives (lived?) in Philadelphia.

In "No Death, No Taxes:  the libertaran futurism of a Silicon Valley billionaire," by George Packer, focuses on Peter Thiel, a founder of PayPal and a mentor of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder.  One company that Thiel had given funding to was started by two Carnegie Mellon graduates.  They initially planned to start their company in Pittsburgh but Thiel persuaded them to stay on the West Coast. 

Redisctricting Committee Schedule

We've seen the proposed districts for the state house and senate, including that weird shaped district around Harrisburg.  So far we haven't seen so much as a line segment of the proposed congressional districts.  The bill to accept the new boundaries (HB 5) reads at present like this:

For the purpose of electing representatives of the people of Pennsylvania to serve in the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States, this Commonwealth shall be divided into 18 districts which shall have one Congressman each, as follows:
(1)  The First District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(2)  The Second District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(3)  The Third District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(4)  The Fourth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(5)  The Fifth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(6)  The Sixth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(7)  The Seventh District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(8)  The Eighth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(9)  The Ninth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(10)  The Tenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(11)  The Eleventh District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(12)  The Twelfth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(13)  The Thirteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(14)  The Fourteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(15)  The Fifteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(16)  The Sixteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(17)  The Seventeenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.
(18)  The Eighteenth District is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.

Not much information there.  The Senate and House State Government Committees are scheduled to have a joint informational committee meeting on Dec. 12, to discuss redistricting.  There's another informational meeting scheduled for Dec. 13th.  The House State Government Committee is scheduled to have a voting meeting on Dec. 15th and one of the issues slated for that meeting is redistricting.  Since this is Dec. 7th, a Thursday, and the 12th is a Monday there is very little time for a redistricting map to be released, let alone allow for public comment.
No one even seems to pretend that these district boundaries are drawn with no regard for party or the protection of incumbents.  It's just impossible to take this seriously as anything other than a political exercise in the worst possible meaning of that phrase. 

I do remember that there was an opportunity to make some changes in this process a few years ago and people trying to seize that opportunity were thwarted.  And now those chickens have come home to roost.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Montco Grand Jury Notes

The Montgomery County Grand Jury Report regarding the activities of the county commissioners and other county staff is available online.  It is a 70 page pdf.  For those interesting in local government it is fascinating reading.  Take a look at:

Incoming commissioners Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards issued the following statement:

The following is a joint statement from Montgomery County Commissioners-elect Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards on today’s release of the Grand Jury report on practices of the Montgomery County Commissioners' office and its staff:

“Earlier today, the Grand Jury in Montgomery County issued a report as a result of its lengthy investigation into certain actions and practices of the current Montgomery County Commissioners and their staff. 
“We have the highest regard for the Grand Jury process and appreciate the significant time that the members dedicated to this investigation and its report.  This report deserves careful and prudent review, and we will be sure to give due consideration to its findings and recommendations.
“It is clear that Montgomery County’s government must become more transparent and more responsible.  We talked extensively about this during the recent campaign, and proposed a series of financial, structural and procedural reforms.  We promised to change the culture in county government and we will begin to implement those changes on January 3 when we are sworn-in.
“Montgomery County deserves to have the best county government in Pennsylvania, and we will work every day to make it so."

Monday, December 05, 2011

CMU Pres Meets with Obama

from the inbox:

Earlier today, President Obama held a roundtable discussion on making college more affordable for our nation’s students. The President hosted White House senior officials, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a dozen college presidents and higher education thought leaders from across the country to discuss rising college costs and strategies to reduce these costs while improving quality.  During the meeting, the President conveyed the urgent need to pursue bold and innovative solutions to help more Americans attain a higher education at an affordable price.  In response, attendees shared how they have worked to promote innovation, reduce costs and increase productivity during a time of reduced funding for higher education at the state level.

Among the 12 college presidents listed is:  Dr. Jared Cohon, President, Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, December 02, 2011

Womens Way Event on Saturday

This Saturday, Dec. 3rd, Women's Way will hold the 9th annual Women & Influence Conference.  The theme is Taking Charge:  Women and Work.  There will be a series of workshops and speakers.  The keynote speaker will be Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz.  The event, sponsored by Citizens Bank Foundation, will offer information on various legal, policy, and social issues.  Some sessions will  focus on business networking, starting a business, rejoining the workforce, and making ends meet.  Over 300 women are expected to attend.