Friday, November 30, 2012

Obama at K'Nex

Today Pres. Obama visited the Montgomery County company that makes K'Nex.  These are the coolest toys ever.  There are K'Nex dinosaurs, roller coasters, buildings, cars, and more.  Even the president was intrigued.  Here is an excerpt from one of Tom Fitzgerald's pool reports:

POTUS seemed intrigued by the complex, bright orange coaster  that had been assembled for his inspection beside the machine. "This is spectacular here," he said. "How does that (inaudible)?" A worker pointed out the gear mechanism. POTUS laughed and seemed to indicate he would be just fine with staying for awhile to play with the toy.

 K'Nex are imaginative toys; they can be taken apart and put back together in infinite combinations.  I think it's wonderful that these products are made in our area.  

The White House press release on the visit read as follows:

On Friday, November 30th, the President will travel to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to continue making the public case for action by visiting a business that depends on middle class consumers during the holiday season, and could be impacted if taxes go up on 98 percent of Americans at the end of the year. As we enter the holiday season, the White House continues to urge Congress to act to renew middle class tax cuts so families have a little more certainty at this critical time for our economy. 
President Obama will tour and deliver remarks at The Rodon Group manufacturing facility in Hatfield, PA.  The Rodon Group is the sole American manufacturer for K’NEX Brands, a construction toy company whose products include Tinkertoy, K’NEX Building Sets and Angry Bird Building Sets.  The Rodon Group and K’NEX Brands, both third-generation family businesses, employ over 150 people at their Hatfield facilities.   

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fiscal Cliff I: Obama

from the inbox:

President Obama is committed to growing our economy from the middle out by ensuring a strong, secure, and thriving middle-class.  Now we face a deadline that requires action on jobs, taxes and deficits by the end of the year. While the President is committed to working with Congress to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way, there is no reason to hold the middle-class families in Pennsylvania hostage while we debate tax cuts for the highest income earners.           
Pennsylvania Can’t Afford Tax Increases On Middle-Class Families…
·         A median-income Pennsylvania family of four (earning $80,400) could see its income taxes rise by $2,200.
·         98 percent of Pennsylvania families who make less than $250,000 a year and would not see an income tax increase under the President’s plan. 
…Because Middle-class Families Drive Pennsylvania’s Economy…
The bulk of economic activity comes from American families buying basic necessities like clothing and healthcare; durable goods like cars and furniture; and the food and gifts that millions will enjoy over the holiday season.
·         The retail industry employs 14.8 million Americans – including 637,400 in Pennsylvania – and has been a key part of the recovery. In the 40 months since the recession ended in June 2009, the retail industry alone has been responsible for more than 9 percent of overall employment growth and has added 438,000 jobs in the past 32 months.
·         Over the course of this year, American consumers are on pace to spend around $5 trillion on retail sales.  And with the start of the holiday shopping season, which accounts for close to one fifth of industry sales nationwide, retailers can’t afford the threat of tax increases on middle-class families.
…Which Is Why Raising Taxes On The Middle-class Will Hurt Pennsylvania’s Economy
Pennsylvania’s economy can’t afford that right now. New analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) finds that:
·         This sharp rise in middle-class taxes and the resulting decline in consumption could slow the growth of real GDP by 1.6 percentage points in Pennsylvania.
·         Faced with these tax hikes, the CEA estimates that consumers in Pennsylvania could spend nearly $8.6 billion less than they otherwise would have in 2013 just because of higher taxes.  Consumers nationwide would likely spend nearly $200 billion less than they otherwise would have in 2013.
For more information read the full White House Report by report released by the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers The Middle-Class Tax Cuts’ Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers.” 

Philly City Council Restores Funding

adapted from press release:

The Philadelphia City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to restore more than $7.1 million in funding toward domestic violence shelters, children with special needs, parks and recreation centers, and neighborhood improvement programs. The funding restorations for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget are made possible by a higher-than-anticipated year-end fund balance for Fiscal Year 2012.

Bill No. 120818 tabs $3 million for 100 additional shelter beds for victims of domestic abuse.  City Council also restored more than $2.6 million to the Department of Parks and Recreation, which will help support additional maintenance and facility workers as well as seasonal staff.  In total, Council approved appropriations totaling $37.1 million, including $30 million requested by the Nutter Administration.Council’s requested appropriations are as follows:  

BigBelly Trash Compactors  (Streets Dept.) $63,000
Big Brothers/Sisters (Finance Dept.) $500,000
Community Life Improvement Programs or CLIP (MDO) $600,000
Domestic Violence Shelter Beds        (OSH) $3,000,000
Mural Arts Program $200,000
Parks & Recreation         $2,675,000
Special Needs Children (DHS/SDP) $100,000

Total: $7,138,000

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three Named to US Disctrict Court for Eastern PA

from the inbox:

Today, President Obama nominated Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo and Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl for District Court judgeships.

“These men and women have had distinguished legal careers and I am honored to ask them to continue their work as judges on the federal bench,” said President Obama.  “They will serve the American people with integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice.”

Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro currently serves as a Judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, where she has presided over both civil and criminal matters.  Prior to joining the bench in 1991, Judge Quiñones worked as a Staff Attorney for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs from 1979 to 1991 and as an Attorney Advisor for the United States Department of Health and Human Services from 1977 to 1979.  She began her legal career as a Staff Attorney for Community Legal Services, Inc. in Philadelphia from 1975 to 1977.  Judge Quiñones received her J.D. in 1975 from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law and her B.B.A. cum laude in 1972 from the University of Puerto Rico.

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo has served as a United States Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 2006, where he has presided over a variety of criminal and civil matters.  Prior to taking the bench, Judge Restrepo was a named partner at the law firm of Krasner & Restrepo from 1993 to 2006.  Previously, he served as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from 1990 to 1993 and as an Assistant Defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia from 1987 to 1990.  Judge Restrepo began his legal career as a law clerk at the National Prison Project.  He received his J.D. in 1986 from Tulane Law School and his B.A. in 1981 from the University of Pennsylvania.

Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl has served as President Judge of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas since 2008, having joined the court as a judge in 1998.  Previously, Judge Schmehl was a partner at the law firm of Rhoda, Stoudt & Bradley from 1988 to 1997 and an associate at the same firm from 1986 to 1987.  For much of that time, Judge Schmehl also served as the Berks County Solicitor.  From 1981 to 1986, he was a sole practitioner in West Reading, Pennsylvania.  Judge Schmehl also served as an Assistant District Attorney in Berks County from 1981 until 1986 and as an Assistant Public Defender in the same jurisdiction from 1980 until 1981.  He received his J.D. in 1980 from the University of Toledo School of Law and his B.A. in 1977 from Dickinson College.

Monday, November 26, 2012

PA Progressive Summit 2013

Basic information on the PA Progressive Summit for 2012 has been released, March 1-2, along with an early bird registration fee.  See details at:

Last year the conference was in Philadelphia and I attended one of their marquee debates.  This is often a good place to meet other politically active people, as well as announced or prospective candidates.

Check it out.

Assorted Veterans Notes

A few assorted notes on veterans matters:

[adapted from press release] 

Veterans constitute nearly 13 percent of the population of Philadelphia, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Government and nonprofit organizations offer a spectrum of services to Philadelphia’s veterans, who mostly range from the aging Vietnam-era population to post-9/11 troops. In 1957 the Philadelphia City Council created the The Veterans Advisory Commission to  help Philadelphia’s veterans and their families navigate the maze of city, state and federal services and benefits available to them. 
Formerly located in the Council President’s office suite on the fourth floor of City Hall, the Veterans Advisory Commission is now located more conveniently in Room 127 in the Courtyard of City Hall. The new office space is not shared, affording veterans seeking counsel greater privacy. 

Patrick Murphy's MSNBC column last week on MSNBC was on his family's military service (Murphy, his brother, and father), veteran's health, and Thanksgiving.

My thanks to all of our veterans and their families.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Two WSJ Notes

Catching up with accumulated newspapers.  Here are two Pennsylvania related notes from last week's Wall Street Journal:

"By the numbers:  taking the measure of entrepreneurs," Nov. 12 -- Pennsylvania is ranked among the lowest states for entrepreneurship.  The infograph lists demographic characteristics of most entrepreneurs:  married, has a college degree, and from a middle-class background.  We have lots of people who fit that description; what's the problem?

"The device that saves lives, but can be hard to find," by Ron Winslow, Nov. 13, describes a crowdsourcing project to map out defibrillators in Philadelphia.    This is an interesting story.  Over 400 AEDs were located and mapped.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Parade Detours on SEPTA

from our SEPTA friends:

SEPTA has detours scheduled on several bus routes Wednesday night and Thursday due to road closures for the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Service will be effected on a number of buses that normally operate on and around the parade route on JFK Boulevard and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Detours are scheduled for routes 2, 7, 17, 27, 31, 32, 33, 38, 43, 44, 48, 124, 125 and Market-Frankford Line Night Owl buses.
Some of these routes are scheduled to go on detour at 8 p.m. Wednesday to accommodate set-up for the parade, including routes 31, 33, 38, 44, 62, 124 and 125. Market-Frankford Line Night Owl buses will also be detoured when they begin service at approximately 12:15 a.m. Thursday. The remaining routes are scheduled to go on detour at approximately 3 a.m.
Normal service is expected to begin resuming Thursday afternoon, following the conclusion of the parade.
SEPTA has a special section on its Website with Thanksgiving Day Parade detour details. For more information, visit

Monday, November 19, 2012

SEPTA Service on Black Friday

I post this press release from our friends at SEPTA as a public service.

However, my personal plea is this:  People, for heaven's sake, stay home!  Who gets up in the middle of the night to go shopping?  Think of the poor souls who have to leave their homes and families to open the doors and staff the registers.  The only reason I am up and around between midnight and 5 a.m. is to catch a plane or get an early start on some other form of travel.  Shopping?  I don't think so; my house has books, chocolate, and blankets, three good reasons to be a homebody.

But if you do feel a need to be first in line at a sale on Black Friday, consider taking SEPTA.

Here is their special Black Friday schedule:

SEPTA has service available on a number of bus routes for holiday shoppers headed to local malls for special early openings Thanksgiving night and Black Friday.

Regularly scheduled trips will provide customers service to stores in time for door-busters and other store-opening deals Thursday night and Friday morning. Some extra service will also be added.

SEPTA has launched a special section on its Website with bus schedule details at The following is an overview of the services available to area malls:

 King of Prussia Mall - Opens at midnight. Regularly scheduled service on bus routes 99, 123, 124 and 125 will get customers to the mall for the early opening. In addition, there will be three extra trips on the Route 125.

 Montgomery Mall – Opens at midnight. Regularly scheduled service on bus routes 94, 96 and 132 is available prior to the opening.

 Plymouth Meeting Mall – Stores open between midnight and 5 a.m. Regularly scheduled service is available on Routes L, 27 and 98.
 Springfield Mall – Opens at midnight. Regularly scheduled Route 101 Trolley service is available prior to the opening, as are trips on bus routes 109 and 110.

 Oxford Valley Mall – Opens at midnight. Regularly scheduled trips on bus routes 14 and 129 are available before stores open.

 Willow Grove Park – Opens at midnight. Regularly scheduled service on bus routes 22 and 55 is available prior to the opening.

 Philadelphia Premium Outlets – Stores open between 9 p.m. and midnight. Four trips on the Route 93 will be extended to go to the outlets. These trips depart at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. from Norristown, and 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. from Pottstown.

 Franklin Mills Mall – Opens at midnight. Regularly scheduled service for the opening is available on bus routes 20, 50, 67, 84, 129 and 130.

For more details about services to local shopping destinations on Thanksgiving night, Black Friday and throughout the holiday season, visit

Jack Reed's Pennsylvania Connections

Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed has been mentioned as a possible candidate to head the CIA ("Petraeus resignation could trigger Reed to CIA according to report," GoLocalProv, 11/10,)" .  While Reed has publicly said he intends to remain in the Senate ("Sen. Jack Reed not interested in CIA director job," by Josh Gerstein, Politico, 11/13), local RI news outlets continue to view him as a potential CIA director ("In EG, Sen. Reed hedges on CIA Job," by Elizabeth McNamara, Coventry Patch, 11/18).

Reed is a West Point graduate, served in the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper before going to law school and then into politics.  Should that sound a little familiar, the 82nd has a strong presence in Pennsylvania, and in Pennsylvania politics.  Former state representative Bryan Lentz (D-151) served in the 82nd, as did former congressman Patrick Murphy (D-08).

In fact, when Murphy first ran for congress in 2006, Reed supported his candidacy.  He even attended at least one of Murphy's early public campaign events.  It's a small world.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: The Gospel According to the Fix

Cillizza, Chris, The Gospel According to the Fix:  An Insider's Guide to a Less Than Holy World of Politics (NY:  Broadway Books, 2012)

Cillizza writes the Washington Post's The Fix political blog.  I'm a daily reader of The Fix and enjoy Cillizza's writing and humor.  So I was looking forward to this book.  It is not simply a republishing of blog posts.  Many (most?) are based on his blog and I remember reading the earlier versions of some of them.  He has expanded, updated, and in some cases significantly rewritten the posts into longer chapters. 

He writes in a nonpartisan, level-headed fashion, which makes a nice break from much of the hyperpartisan materials in the political world.  Many of the topics he examines are of general political interest, for example his hierarchy of political endorsements and the "Art of the October Surprise" chapters. 

Cillizza also showcases some individuals, such as Jen Crider, Nancy Pelosi's aide-de-camp, and Ron Paul.  He highlights some early favorites for the 2016 presidential campaign and writes about campaign fiance reform and SuperPACs. 

The chapters are interesting and short enough to be read in snippets on the train or doctor's waiting room.  His writing is informative but conversational.  He, like me, shares a fondness for parenthetical phrases and can get a little carried way with them.  The chapter on Ron Paul starts with a lengthy description of the tv show "Friday Night Lights," which has a lot of parenthetical phrases.   It all hangs together though.

This would be a great gift for a friend or relative who is interested in politics but whose politics differ from your own.  It is also a good introduction to politics for someone whose interested in the subject has just been sparked. 

[Full disclosure:  over the years I've exchanged a few emails with Cillizza; he's very professional but friendly and I've appreciated his willingness to communicate with a lowly local blogger.]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Romney: Contraceptives a Woman's Concern

In Gov. Romney's comments on Pres. Obama's "gifts" to voters, he makes a statement about women and contraceptives:

Young women had an additional incentive to vote for Obama because of free contraception coverage under the president's health care plan, he said. ("Romney:  Obama won with "gifts" to certain voters," by Douglass K. Daniel,, 11/14/2012)

Does this imply that he doesn't think contraception is of any interest to young men?  The idea that contraception is solely the responsibility of women is outdated.    So is the idea that contraception is a "gift."  The UN just declared access to contraceptives a universal human right (See "Romney Calls Contraception a "Gift" Just As the U.N. Declares It a Right," by Amanda Marcotte, Slate, 11/15/2012)

Murphy and Rendell on PoliticsNation

Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and former mayor of Philadelphia, and Patrick Murphy, former congressman for Pennsylvania's 8th district (Bucks County) were on PoliticsNation (MSNBC) yesterday.  A transcript is available online.  (It must have been PA Day on the show, Congressman Chaka Fattah appeared on a later segment.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: Take the Lead

Book Review:   Take the Lead, by Betsy Myers.   NY:  Atria Paperback, 2011.

This is outside my usual scope of Pennsylvania politics, but Myers did a lot of outreach in the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, and was gracious enough to do an interview with me here on the blog.  I remain impressed enough with that to read her book.

The full title of the book is Take the Lead:  Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You.  It is composed of seven chapters, each devoted to a particular character trait:  authenticity, connection, respect, clarity, collaboration, learning, and courage.  There is also an introduction, a conclusion, a foreword by David Gergen, and an afterword by Warren Bennis.   Gergen and Bennis primarily vouch for Myers’s abilities.    I liked the “c” chapters best, particularly clarity.

Myers does write about her work on the Obama campaign, as well as stories from other aspects of her life.  There is something here for everyone.  Her discussions of the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach were especially interesting.  My favorite anecdote was the choice between having an office in the West Wing, with all the cachet that would contain, and larger offices in another location.  The Office went with more spacious but distant offices because this would allow them to have larger groups of women to come to their office for meetings and networking.

Many of the suggestions included in her book will seem like common sense, but as is so often said, it’s too bad common sense isn’t.   While Myers worldview is a sunny one, her book is not saccharine.  I enjoyed reading it, though parts of it made me feel my age.  Many of her strategies are more likely to appeal to younger people just starting out than mid or late career professionals.  The collaboration chapter would be of lively interest to people going into a first job, or a new job or field.  She doesn't shy away from tough topics, such as encouraging employees whose gifts may lie elsewhere to pursue their dreams in another setting.

She does not limit her view of leadership to those in the corner office.  Her viewpoint is, in a nutshell, “Good leadership Is not about having the most knowledge or power but about how you make others feel” (from the back cover).    From that perspective it is very refreshing.   She also writes, in the authenticity chapter, about the importance of being true to yourself. 

This book would make a wonderful gift for a new college graduate or a more established person going into a new field or simply wanting to invigorate a longstanding career.    However, anyone researching the importance of women in the electorate would find this a useful resources as well.    I recommend it.

Chatham's Ready to Run Sessions

The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University is holding "Ready to Run" training sessions again this year in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  The Pittsburgh session is on January 12, 2013; Philadelphia's is February 2.  The program is described as:

Ready to Run™ Pennsylvania provides bi-partisan political training to encourage women to run for government leadership positions. The day-long program targets women considering or recently deciding to run for political office, providing training and mentoring by campaign professionals, political women, and officeholders.

Ready to Run™ Pennsylvania is part of the Ready to Run™ National Training Network of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University (NJ).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Post-Election Robocall

This evening I received a robocall survey.  The caller id number was a 202 area code (DC) but at the end of the call a 305 area code was given (Miami).  The call had several questions, with instructions on what number to push to answer depending on the choices available.  This is not an exact list or an full transcription, only what I could jot down while on the phone.

Is the economy better or worse?
Did you vote?
Did you vote for Bob Casey or Tom Smith for Senate?
Did you vote for Obama or Romney?
In 2008 did you vote for Obama or John McCain?
political affiliation
racial background (white, black, other)
Are you member of a union?
Have you served as a shop steward or held elected union office?
Were you contacted by a union volunteer about the election at your workplace?
Were you contacted by a union volunteer via a knock on your door?
Were you contacted by a union volunteer via a phone call?
Did you receive union information via the mail?
Did you have a lot of direct contact from the Obama campaign (eg phone calls)?
Did you have a lot of direct contact from the Romney campaign?

The firm doing the survey is Sun Surveys, which operates out of Miami.  The firm itself does not list a political affiliation but the company president used to to work at a Democratic polling firm.

SEPTA Energy Action Plan

SEPTA has created and released an energy action plan.  The 44 page pdf is available online (  There are 18 action points in the plan, which is based on three overarching themes:  energy efficiency, demand reduction, alternate energy.  Demand reduction does not refer to cutting riders but to reducing energy use by the system.   All action items must be budget neutral, leverage existing assets, and provide multiple benefits. 

A Visit to Pittsburgh

I recently visited Pittsburgh for the first time.  It was a quick business trip so I didn't see much of the city but it was enough to know I'd like to go back.  Downtown Pittsburgh seems to be in a bowl-like valley surrounded by hills with names like Squirrel Hill.  Driving in at night the lights on the hills looked like Christmas lights draped on tree boughs.  It was beautiful.  Going from one place to another downtown I would look up the street and see what seemed to be vertical tree-lined walls with buildings sitting right on the top edge.  A couple looked like they were hanging off the edge.  It was a striking image.  There is a cable car going up at least one of the hills.  I would have called it a funicular but I heard locals call it an incline.  The car is bright red, a notable contrast to the trees. 

There are several tunnels to drive through as you get close to the city but none are overly long and with some you can see the other side as you go in.  I did not know this in advance and would have liked to, so you are now forewarned.

There is a downtown open area called Market Square and there were a few people with political signs when I was there.  I ate a few meals at area restaurants; all were good.  One downtown building had a greenwall with the company logo made out of different shades of greenery.  I also saw some green roofs.  Pittsburgh was intriguing and it looks like a good place to take the family for a short vacation.  I'd like to see the Aviary and maybe take a ride on the river.   It's about a six hour drive between Philly and Pittsburgh; a straight shot on the Turnpike, with several highway rest stops in between.

Murphy on MSNBC

Patrick Murphy, former Congressman for Pennsylvania's 8th district (Bucks County), has a weekly column on the MSNBC website.  Last Monday he wrote about the presidential election.  Today, according to his tweets (), his column will be on veterans.  Worth the read:

Friday, November 09, 2012

Every Day Thoughts

There may, perhaps, be people who are wondering what all the commotion was regarding women voters and "the rape thing."   Emory University Senior Caleb Peng made a video for Project Unspoken interviewing people of varying ages, genders, and races, asking them what they did every day to avoid rape, sexual violence, or sexual assault.  Here is an example of the contrast:

A man misses the bus one evening after dark and decides to walk the two miles home. On his way, he thinks about what he can do to enhance attitudes in the work place, what he is going to make for lunch the next day and which pajamas he’s going to wear to bed.

A woman misses the bus one evening after dark and decides to walk the two miles home. On her way, she thinks about how to fade into the background so no one notices her. She visualizes where the pepper spray is in her purse and maps out the fastest way to access it. She walks with her phone in her hand, ready to dial 911 in an instant. (From "Project Unspoken breaks the silence," by Arianna Skibell, Emory Wheel, 9/07/2012)

The entire video (less than 10 minutes) is on YouTube

Male candidates make offhand comments about rape; it's not something they consider on a regular basis.  Women who alter their behavior every single day to avoid rape or assault are likely to take those comments much more seriously.

Bathtub Beer and the Constitution

Whether you are crying in your beer or downing a few in celebration, the following event at the National Constitution Center might be of interest:

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution produced many of the same ills plaguing drug prohibition today – huge economic costs of enforcement, the criminalization of otherwise law-abiding citizens, loose border control, and the growth of criminal trafficking groups and wide-spread corruption.  Are there lessons from Prohibition and its repeal that can help us understand what's at stake in today’s “war on drugs”?  How does the Prohibition era inform contemporary debates about the federal government’s role in our daily lives?  Daniel Okrent, bestselling author and curator of the Center’s world-premiere exhibition American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, will join Christopher Bracey, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at George Washington University Law School, to discuss the parallels between Prohibition and the nation’s evolving drug policies, including the bootleggers of the 1920s and the drug syndicates of today.  The program will take place on Thursday, November 15, 2012, at 6:00 p.m.
Admission to the program is $10 for non-members, $7 for members, students and teachers, and FREE for 1787 members.  Advance reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 215.409.6700 or online at
In addition, guests are invited to join Philly Beer Week’s Bathtub Beer Fest being held at the Center the same evening.  Participants will enjoy samples from over 20 participating breweries, access to the American Spirits exhibition, and a special meet-and-greet with Daniel Okrent for $45.  More information about Bathtub Beer Fest is available at
In 17 states and the District of Columbia, medical marijuana is legal – and several states, including Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, will be voting in the coming days on ballot measures to legalize it for non-medical uses.  Could legalizing and taxing marijuana provide income needed for health care, schools, and basic government services, the same way the 21st Amendment did by repealing Prohibition? 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Mouse, the Master, and the Money

Some of you may have read or noted that George Lucas sold LucasFilm (including Industrial Light and Magic) to Disney.  LucasFilm is / was a private company so George is pocketing a little over $4 Billion (billion with a B).  He has announced that he intends to donate the money to a foundation on educational issues.  In other words, he's giving the money to kids in some form or another.  (Read more at The Hollywood Reporter's "Disney Deal:  Lucas will use $4 billion to fund education," by Alex Ben Block, 10/31/2012).

I thought of this frequently in the last few days of the campaign, watching the endless series of campaign ads, listening to the robocalls, and reading all the incoming emails.  Over the years I've gotten to know several people who make their living in politics and certainly wish them all well.  But I can't help but think all the money, especially all that unregulated PAC money, could have been used for better purposes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Some Election Day Reading

Most election days I'm a little manic -- foot jiggling, finger tapping, teeth grinding manic, bouncing off the walls.  It's hard to focus on anything.

If you're the same way, here's a few items to read while waiting for the polls to close.  Calmer people might enjoy them too.

"How Romney would treat women," by Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, 11/03/12

"The elephant in the living room," by Kristin Rowe Finkbeiner, Huffington Post, 10/29/12

"Mitt Romney:  Wrong for Women, Wrong for Pennsylvania," [video] YouTube, 11/03/2012

The Price of Being a Woman, Maternity Care Coalition, 2012

"Voting is already a mess in Philadelphia," Victor Fiorillo, Philly Post, 11/05/2012

Monday, November 05, 2012

SEPTA Loans Buses to NJ Transit

a note from SEPTA:

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) officials have agreed to loan NJ TRANSIT the use of 30 SEPTA buses. NJ TRANSIT was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy when its light rail lines, commuter rail system and Amtrak’s Hudson River Tunnels, which are needed for NJ TRANSIT’s rail service into New York, were significantly damaged by the storm. This resulted in service suspensions across the State’s public transportation network. The SEPTA “loaner” buses will augment the remaining fleet of NJ TRANSIT’s operable vehicles and will support shuttle service for riders traveling from New Jersey into New York City.

When NJ TRANSIT asked for SEPTA’s assistance, SEPTA Board Chairman Pat Deon and General Manger Joe Casey did not hesitate to authorize the vehicle exchange. Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff telephoned GM Casey to express his appreciation of SEPTA’s support of its sister agency.

“We do not anticipate that this slight reduction of our bus fleet will cause bus passengers to experience any inconvenience or overcrowding,” said SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey. “I’m confident that our riders will agree that helping our neighbors in New Jersey, who have limited public transportation options, is the right thing to do.”

Each of SEPTA’s eight bus districts was asked to relinquish buses for this special mission. All of the selected vehicles have recently received a required 3,000 mile maintenance inspection.

Dan HIrschhorn on Romney in PA

Dan Hirschhorn, who ran a political website in Pennsylvania during the 2010 election, writes for The Daily and published an article this evening on Mitt Romney's rally in Pennsylvania.  ("Sizing up Mitt's PA play" ).  Here's the opening paragraphs:

Mitt Romney's Pennsylvania play is real. Whether it will pay off is another story — and on this question, the Republican and Democratic professionals most deeply involved in the 2012 campaign in the state remain skeptical.

"It's a real long-shot," a Republican ad-maker for one of the GOP groups on the air here told The Daily. "I think we'll fall short at the end. But clearly we caught the Obama people napping on this."

Boockvar / Fitzpatrick Debate on WNPV's Comment Please

On Oct. 18th Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-08) and the Democratic challenger Kathryn Boockvar appeared on WNPV's Comment Please by Univest with host Darryl Berger

The radio debate is available online so you can listen for yourself.  I listened and took notes.  This is not intended as a complete transcript and, as always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

DB:  8th congressional district still all of Bucks County but no longer NE Philly, part of Montgomery County in the district has shifted more to the west.  Parts of North Penn area, Indian Valley. 

Opening Comments

MF:  Thanks.  My name is Mike Fitzpatrick.  I was sent to Congress in 2011 to put congressional house in order and to criticize my party when wrong and Democrat party when wrong.  I am one of the most independent congressional representatives.

KB:  Thanks.  Thanks to the Inquirer for endorsing me.  I’ve never been a politician but always in public service, representing disabled veterans, women, senior citizens.  Running whole life, feel congress has lost public service, now it is all about them.  I want to bring it back to being about people.  Move things forward for all of us, boosting economy.


DB:  Nature of this campaign, a lot of money on negative ads, how you’ve been characterized by other campaign

MF:  It is an issue.  A lot of money spent by outside organizations.  Think I and KB would agree that things should stay in Bucks Co.  I have a voting record.  I’m described one way when my voting record is another.  Cites document from bipartisan group (Bipartisan Policy Center) on vanishing moderates.  Always independent.  My constituents know me and my record.  National Dems trying to change people’s minds.  Don’t think it will work.

KB:  Congressman does have a voting record.  MF has voted with Tea Party on important issues, in favor of Tea Party record, in favor of abolishing Planned Parenthood.  I’m proud of my career and record, representing disabled veterans, senior citizens.  This is what I’ve always done.  They call me names because they don’t want to talk about their voting record.

DB:  So much money coming into this campaign, some from constituents but a lot from outside, from PACS.  Does it seem disproportionate to you?  Millions raised for race for what end?

KB:  I was in favor of campaign finance reform, never so much in favor of it as I am now.  Amount of money being spent is a national travesty.  The good we could do with that money.  Don’t always know who has donated because of organizations that don’t have to report it.  I will work hard to enact campaign finance reform.

MF:  With all due respect, we’re all going to say we’re for campaign finance reform.  Would like to see rule that only people who live in district can donate to race.  Tried to reach out to opponent two years ago to limit donations, they laughed, this year reached out no response.  Only outside group is Take Down Fitzpatrick.  It started early.  Trying to define me in a way that my constituents said that’s not fair.  For the course of the year the only outside force involved in Take Down Fitzpatrick.  Easy to say you’re for campaign finance reform but harder to do.

KB:  I have nothing to do with Take Down Fitzpatrick.  In last quarter Fitzpatrick raised over $200K from PACS.  We’ve had over 12K individual contributors to this race.  Fitzpatrick started out race a year before us with $1Million.  I will start from day 1 as a member of congress to fight for voices of people to be louder than voices of corporations.

DB:  IN DC you vote on bills from party leaders.  If you approach someone who says they are voting for other presidential candidate how to you appeal to them

KB:  I am knocking on Republican, Democratic, and Independent doors.  Bucks Countians are independent thinkers.  Everyone so frustrated with so little getting done.  Looking for people to work across the aisle.  I don’t agree with everything Barack Obama does or Mitt Romney does.  My mediation background has me looking for common ground and solutions.  Just at an event when a woman came over and said voting for Mitt Romney but also voting for Kathy Boockvar.

MF:  If you take a look at the voting history of Bucks, I always run looking for support of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.  I live 3 blocks from where I grew up.  One of most diverse communities in county.  I live amongst and talk to Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, take all that down to nation’s capital.  One of the most competitive districts in state and country.  Requires a Representative who lives here and understands it.

DB:  Jobs and the economy

MF:  First, jobs and the economy are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd issue.  I was sent to DC to stand up for the district, to take on the Democrat administration when they were wrong.  The jobs and economic record of this administration a failure.  Debt gone up 60% in 4 years.  Real unemployment rate in double digits.  Gasoline went from $1.83 when Obama took office to $4.00 today.  Dragging down economic ability to expand.  Talk to businessmen all the time, talk to them about the challenges they face, getting people to work.  I put together a plan called Made in the USA.  Businesses looking for lower taxes, smart regulations, health care costs out of control.  Current admin failed on.  More taxes, greater expenses for small biz,  stand up and say he’s wrong.

KB:  The Boockvar agenda is action not words.  MF in office for 21 months, no action.  We’ve been in a critical situation for years now, why haven’t we moved forward.  Would lower base corporate tax rate, a disincentive for business.  Limit loopholes, biz able to get out of paying taxes.  Give credits to biz for bringing jobs back.  Build in America so we can buy in America.  Research and technology.  This is the first thing I would do.

MF:  My opponent wants to lower corporate rate but she’s promised to remove Bush tax cuts, increase taxes on dividends and capital gains.  There’ve been many bills introduced.  Harry Reid refuses to bring them up for a vote.  Bills pass in in the House, not in Senate.  Reins Act, reduce regulatory problems, if affects business has to go back for review.  Exploration for off shore energy.

KB:  I’m on not the record for anything on capital gains tax.  Only talked about Bush tax cuts, end on richest 1 or 2%.  Largest part of deficit is Bush tax cuts, moreso than wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only time we lowered taxes and went to war.  I don’t sign pledges.  Legislators should have an open mind on options.  Wealthiest 1 or 2% tax cuts have to end.  Will have $1T off deficit. 

MF:  Stop threatening to raise taxes on American people and small businesses.  In a difficult economy, don’t increase taxes.  Barack Obama said that 18 months ago.  KB just said she is going to raise taxes on people in Bucks County.  I’m not raising the taxes on anyone.  We need to recover first.  Her plan would raise taxes on 1 million small businesses.

KB:  The congressman can’t raise taxes because he signed Grover Norquist’s tax pledge.  I go in with open mind.  98% of small businesses will not be impacted by ending Bush tax cuts for top 1 or 2%.  Pres. Clinton said we should end tax cuts for top earners.

MF:  between 2/3 and 75% of new jobs created by small businesses.  KB’s plan would raise taxes on 1 million small businesses.  We need them to buy new equipment (hopefully made in US), hire people.  Small businesses tell me they want fewer regulations, cut tax rate.  My opponent says she will raise taxes, increase regulations, health care.  I say government that spends less, taxes less, let individuals make their own business decisions.

DB:  Repeal affordable health care act (Obamacare)

KB:  I would not repeal it.  Everything MF saying is mostly inaccurate.  MF voted twice for Ryan budget which puts burden on middle class not wealthiest.  My visions is to support seniors and most vulnerable.  Pres. Clinton had high job growth with higher taxes on wealthy, higher than under Bush when taxes lower.  Health care is no the bill or law I would have drawn. My single biggest concern is that it not be a burden on individuals or small businesses.  I owned a small business.  At the same time we should acknowledge that we don’t want neighbors and friends getting health care at ER.  Bill should be tweaked.  Need cost containment.  We spend over 17% of GDP on health care, administrative spending is unbelievable.  If we were to spend less than 12% of GDP on health care, save $870B every year.

MF:  I always call is Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be respectful.  Some reforms need to be supported, coverage for pre-existing conditions, negotiate with employers to keep kids on health coverage while looking for jobs.  But most of what is in that bill is harmful to economy.  Business says it’s a burden. Repeal and replace with a new bill that includes those consumer protections.  Passed without a single Republican vote. Obama said you can have your say then we’ll have our way.  Elections have consequences.  They said if you have health insurance you can keep it.  Not a tax.  Costs won’t go up.  Supreme Court says it is a tax.  Premiums have gone up.  Most families have seen premiums go up.  You keep the consumer protections which are good but repeal the balance.  Go with free market reforms.  Permit individuals to purchase insurance across the state lines. 

KB:  You can’t keep those protections if bill repealed.  He voted with his party over 30 times to repeal part or all the bill.  Al the citizens of Bucks and Montgomery Counties agrees we need to be able to cover kids until 26, cover pre-existing conditions, no copays for preventive care, but can’t have that unless healthy have coverage as well as sick.  This is not the bill I would have drawn.  A lot needs to be fixed.  Individual mandate developed by conservative organization.

MF:  Includes $715B out of Medicare.

KB:  Same thing in Ryan budget that MF supported.

MF:  When we need to strengthen and secure Medicare.  Bill has IPAB, decide what is provided and what is not.  Senior citizens will come to DC and ask for something to be covered but decisions made by unelected board.

KB:  The $716B changes how providers are paid.  MF voted twice for Ryan budget, took same $716B not to coverage but to fund tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.  The panel, I’ve never said I’m in favor of it.  Changes need to be made on that as well.  Not a bunch of bureaucrats, but group of interested parties

MF:  These decisions need to be made by physicians and patients.  If she believes you can take 716B out of Medicare and not affect med care.  Cuts physicians.  We don’t have enough doctors now.

Closing statements:

KB:  Thank you again.  There are two starkly different visions.  I believe what will make America stronger is the principal of “we’re all in this together.”  Working together across the aisle.  Moving forward for all of us.  Not just for the wealthy but working for all of us.  Endorsed by National Committee to preserve Social Security and Medicare.

MF:  What really matters to most of us, turning economy around.  Unemployment excessively high.  Stand up against administration.  KB has promoted policies of Pelosi and Democrat Party.  Deficit over $50K per person in 8th congressional district.  High gas prices.  Need change in the country.