Sunday, September 20, 2015

PA in the WSJ notes

A few Pennsylvania related notes from this week's Wall Street Journal:

Monday, Sept. 14th

Quality Bicycle Products' warehouse in Lancaster is highlighted in "Companies are seeing the light on energy efficiency," by David Winning.  Their investment in LED lights paid over in a year and a half.

Tuesday, Sept. 15th

"The best ways to network at a party," by Sue Shellenbarger quotes three Pennsylvania experts.  Anne Baber, of Contacts Count, a networking consultant in Newtown talked at nonverbal cues.  Luiz Vieira is mentioned as "president of Philadelphia technology and consumer-product materials company and a member of an association of CEO's."  He works with Karen Kaufman, a Philadelphia impression management coach.  (Note:  Baber is the co-author of a book Making your contacts count.)

All Theresa Zelonis had to do to get mentioned in the WSJ was visit North Dakota.  See "If North Dakota is the last state you'd ever visit, you are welcome," by Natalie Andrews.  Ms. Zelonis is listed as being from Pennsylvania, no town given.

Wednesday, Sept. 16th

Someone's going to hell. "The Pope's visit is one hot ticket," by Lisa Beilfuss discusses several attempts at scalping tickets to papal events.  The one that caught my eye was the offer to trade papl access for four Eagles tickets.  Get those priorities in order!

Saturday / Sunday Sept. 19th-20th

In a review of two books on refrigeration, reviewer Bee Wilson notes that in Tom Jackson's book Chilled there is a description of ice taken from the Schuylkill River in Philly.  It was dark green.  This is provided as evidence that in the late 1800's the river water wasn't clean.

"Fans press Penn State to restore a coach's legacy," by Kris Maher.  The title is self-explanatory.  You know of whom they write.

Rev. Bill Gaius, of West Mifflin, who is living in a small structure designed to look like a space capsule, is the focus of "'Pastornaut' on a mission," by Kris Maher.  It is a fundraiser for his church's youth program.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Miller Lite Will Pay Your Train Fare

from the inbox:

SEPTA has partnered with Miller Lite to provide free rides on the Broad Street Line for Sunday’s Eagles Home Opener Game. 

From 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on game day – Sunday, September 20, 2014 - free rides will available on the Broad Street Line. This includes no charges for regular fares or transfers. The eight-hour free-ride window provides plenty of time for travel to and from Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles and Cowboys will face-off at 4:25 p.m.

Patriotic Millionaires Call for End of Carried Interest

from the inbox:

Today, the Patriotic Millionaires reiterated their call to end the carried interest tax loophole which allows hedge fund managers to pay capital gains rates on income that logically should be characterized as ordinary income. This comes just hours after President Obama called for the closure of the loophole in the upcoming budget showdown with congressional Republicans. Read about the President’s remarks HERE.

Who are the Patriotic Millionaries?

The Patriotic Millionaires are a group of more than 200 Americans with annual incomes over $1 million and/or assets of more than $5 million who believe that the country’s current level of economic inequality is both dangerous and immoral. They recognize that while there are many causes of inequality, the current level of economic disparity is largely the result of a multi-decade effort by wealthy elites to enact legislation designed to enhance their personal wealth and their political power. The Patriotic Millionaires are dedicated to reversing these policies and ensuring that the legislative capture that led to their adoption comes to an end. They have been covered by major news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, The Daily Show, PBS NewsHour and many others. You can find more coverage at and more on the group at

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Philly's Park Chops

NY landscape architecture firm Mathews Neilsen discuss several parks they have designed in the September issue of Fast Company,  including a park near the University of Pennsylvania's Hospital.  Read "Park Chops" by Julie Taraska.

Here is the relevant excerpt:

Humans are creatures of habit, so it's important to design spaces that complement people's daily rhythms. When the firm built a park adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania's hospital, it took into account how foot traffic would actually function. "We created three types of circulation: a fast lane along the street curb, a slow lane that skirts the interior of the park, and a meandering path that's a stopping lane," says Mathews. The different routes allow one person to dash to class, another to stroll while talking on her cell phone, and a third to stop and take in the space during a work break, all without getting in each other's way.
The firm is owned by Kim Mathews and Signe Nielsen

More Neepery on Sestak's Book

Let’s have a little more fun with Joe Sestak’s book, Walking in Your Shoes to Restore the American Dream.  Since I read it on my Kindle I wasn’t able to take the kind of detailed notes that a printed book and a bunch of post-its allows.  However, with the search function it is easy to see how many times the author(s) use(s) any given word.  So, let’s root around a bit and see what comes up. The search function looks for the group of letters so Iran includes Iranian.  Senate would include senatorial but not senator (so I truncated that concept to senat).  

Here are a few randomly chosen words that appeared at least a few times in the book.

Rugged:  appears 50 times,  most often in the phrase rugged individual or rugged individualism.  You would probably have to look quite a while to find another book that uses this word as often.

China:  54 times, Chinese 4 times for a total of 58

Sailor 23 times, Navy 35 times, naval 4 times, for a total of 64 times

Woman 2 times, 14 times, she 18 times – it was more than that but I counted only the word she not words with those letters in them, (her came up with 500 hits but a lot of those were parts of other words and it was too much to count out the uses of just the word her).  When I reviewed Pat Toomey's book I gave him a hard time because there were so few mentions of women.

Shoes 8 times

Economy 82 times, economic 112 times, business 251 times

School  44 times, education 63 times, student 104 times

America 308 times

Iran (includes Iranian) 6 times

Pennsylvania 51 times

Senat (senator, Senate, senatorial, etc) 30 times

Dream 37

Security 115 times

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Matysik to Head Philadelphia Parks Alliance

from the inbox:

Philadelphia-- On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance Board of Directors announced the appointment of George Matysik as its new Executive Director.  A lifelong Philadelphian, George Matysik has dedicated his career to developing and advocating for public policy solutions to the big issues that face our city and region. George most recently served as Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for Philabundance, where he led the development of Fare & Square, the nation’s first non-profit grocery store.
“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to continue serving my city in this new role as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance” said Matysik. “From my days growing up at Jardel Rec in the Northeast to my near daily visits today to the Wissahickon, Philadelphia’s parks and recreation system has been an integral part of my life. Today I have the wonderful and unique opportunity to help foster investment into the Parks and Recreation system in this new role.”
“The Philadelphia Parks Alliance is thrilled to welcome George Matysik as our new Executive Director” said Derek Freres, interim Executive Director. “George has been an advocacy and non-profit staple in Philadelphia for years, and we are elated to welcome someone with his level of experience and leadership to build on the Philadelphia Parks Alliance’s success.”
In addition to George’s role at Philabundance, he also recently served as President of country’s preeminent senior hunger relief organization—the National CSFP Association—which oversees advocacy and programming for the $202 million national Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and was founding Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania, the collaborative non-profit of the Commonwealth’s food banks.
Born in the Olney neighborhood and raised in the Lower Northeast, George is a lifelong Philadelphia Parks and Recreation user—from his youth spent at Burholme Park and Jardel Recreation Center, to his jogs and hikes today at Fern Hill and the Wissahickon.
George is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, having worked his way through the school as a janitor.  At Penn, George received his bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies, concentrating on economic development and urban planning—the foundation of his career in public policy and advocacy. 
George’s civic engagement extends beyond his career. He is Founder and former Co-Chair of the Friends of Mifflin School, an organization dedicated to providing resources to his neighborhood’s community public school.  He also serves on the board of his high school alma mater, Mercy Vocational, a career and technical training school, and the Pennsylvania Resources Council, the Commonwealth's oldest environmental advocacy organization. George lives in the East Falls neighborhood with his wife, Alix.

The mission of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance is to champion the public’s interest in outstanding parks, recreation, and open spaces - key to making Philadelphia a healthy, vibrant and sustainable city for all.
The Parks Alliance’s vision of a great city is one with great parks and interconnected green spaces.  The Parks Alliance leads the diverse and expanding citizens’ movement which shapes public policies required to build the nation’s premier parks and recreation system. 

Monday, September 07, 2015

Slumming for Subs

The Philadelphia schools outsourced the hiring of substitute teachers, to a firm called Source4Teachers.  According to an article in the Inquirer on Aug. 31 ("Philadelphia searching for thousands of substitutes," by Kristen A. Graham).  Source4Teachers if offering a rate of $75 to $90 per day for uncertified substitutes and $90 to $110 per day for certified substitutes.  When the school district hired substitutes it was $126.76 for uncertified, $160.10 for certified, and retired teachers could earn more than that.  So this is a pay cut, although the company does offer health care and retirement (no details on these were offered in the article).

In the school system were I live the school day is seven hours long.  Teacher, and subs, need to arrive at least a little early to get settled and probably don't head out the door as soon as the last class ends.  There is bound to be paperwork somewhere.  A $75.00 day would come out to $10.00 per hour or less, for someone with a college degree, and possibly a master's degree.  The top rate for certified subs doesn't quite equal $15.00 per hour.  A spokesman for the firm is quoted in the article as saying "A lot of these teachers are not in it for the money.  They find themselves missing teaching, and have caught up on all the books they want to read, and now they crave being back in the classroom."  The Source4Teachers CEO suggests that people who hope to get a permanent job with the schools will substitute as a way of getting their foot in the door.  Their ads will highlight the "social value of teaching."

Teaching does have great social value, and I don't know a single teacher who went into that line of work for the money, but shouldn't social value have some connection to economic value?  Why are people who are doing good expected to do it for little or nothing?  I'm really looking forward to seeing articles discussing the reasons why bankers and hedge fund managers should work for peanuts because of the social value of what they do.  Or superintendents ... why aren't superintendents and assistant superintendents expected to work for $15.00 per hour?  I'm sure there are some retired superintendents and administrators out there who have read all the books the want to read and would be thrilled to step back into the educational stew just for the social value of it.  Or corporate CEOs and company spokesmen, maybe they could work for $10.00 or $15.00 per hour, because there is social value to their jobs, too!

If the city and the state want good schools they have to pay for them.  (BTW, state legislature, where's that budget?)  Every student deserves trained qualified teachers, fluent speakers in languages classes, AP instructors with degrees and work backgrounds in those areas, art and music teachers who have some talent and familiarity with those areas.  Even subs should have some familiarity with the subject matter.  I don't think anyone wants to walk into a classroom without having any background in the subject matter they are expected to teach.

Good schools cost money.  There's no way to do it on the cheap.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Another Endorsement for Jared Solomon

Plumbers Union Local 690 endorses Jared Solomon for State Representative of Pennsylvania’s 202nd Legislative District. Jared is a Philadelphia native with a long history of public service. Jared was recently endorsed by the Philadelphia Firefighters’ and Paramedics’ Union, Local 22.

Bryn Mawr Hospital Partners With Lifecycle WomanCare

from the inbox:

Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of Main Line Health, and Lifecycle WomanCare, formerly known as The Birth Center, are proud to announce their new collaborative partnership to provide high quality and family-focused health care to pregnant and postpartum families throughout the Main Line community and beyond.

 This partnership will magnify the impact of two dynamic pillars of healthcare in the greater Philadelphia region. Bryn Mawr Hospital’s longstanding reputation for excellent obstetric care, close proximity to Lifecycle WomanCare, and both entities’ commitment to providing more options for patient-centered, natural birth experiences for their patients make this an ideal partnership. 

As part of this collaboration, Lifecycle WomanCare will transfer patients to Bryn Mawr Hospital should the mother and/or baby be in need of a wider scope of medical options during antepartum, intra-partum, or postpartum care. Bryn Mawr Hospital’s planned construction of family-centered, state-of-the-art maternity suites will provide even greater continuity of care for patients who transfer. Lifecycle WomanCare’s certified nurse midwives will have privileges at Bryn Mawr Hospital, and will continue to care for patients during labor and birth, while working collaboratively with Bryn Mawr Hospital staff and their on-call physician coverage team, to guarantee that both parents and baby receive superior, patient-centered, and timely obstetric care. 

New SEPTA Schedules

Our friends at SEPTA have announced some changes to transit routes, as follows:

New schedules for City, Suburban, and Victory Transit divisions go into effect beginning Sunday, September 6, Monday, September 7, and Tuesday, September 8, 2015.

Major changes include a return to rail service for Routes 15, 101, and 102, new weekend service added to Routes 11, 13, 34, and 36 and weekday midday schedule changes on the Norristown High Speed Line.

All SEPTA riders are being encouraged to check online and at service locations for new timetables.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Book Review: Walking in Your Shoes by Joe Sestak

Book Review:  Walking in Your Shoes to Restore the American Dream by Joe Sestak with Jake Sternberger.  West  Conshohocken, PA:  Infinity Publishing, 2015

 I read this on a Kindle, so page numbers aren’t noted.  The book’s table of contents is extremely detailed.  Just including it doubles, or more than doubles, the length of this post.  Some of the chapters have introductory material before starting subheadings and others don’t.  Where there is text I have included a synopsis.  In some cases this is very difficult as the text would be extremely short. 

After the book synopsis I make some personal comments on the book.


Greatest deficit in US is trust deficit in government.  Wanted to walk in people’s shoes so walked 422 miles across Pennsylvania from NJ border to Ohio border.  Two core tenets of American character:  rugged individualism and the common enterprise [balance ability to “be all you can be but never measuring their achievement apart from our shared enterprise as a nation”]

Acknowledgments:  family, sailors served with, repeats To Kill a Mockingbird quote about walking in someone else’s shoes, from prologue, students at Carnegie Mellon, Dickinson College, Cheyney University, US Army War College, and PSU Dickinson School of Law and School of International Affairs; Anka Lee for help, Jake Sternberger, wife and daughter

Section I:  Restoring the Dream

Chapter 1:  Rugged Individualism, the Common Enterprise and Accountable Leadership

A Sailor in Politics – divisive rhetoric in politics, years in the navy saw leadership most effective when embracing dual tenets (rugged individualism in pursuit of shared mission).  Accountable leadership.  Lack of leadership in congress, complaining about oversight agencies but not acknowledging congress wrote legislation creating agencies.  Shocked in Congress when D’s didn’t want to fix financial crisis in recession because R’s caused it.  People want effective government

A Sailor with a Sextant – again mentions rugged individualism and common purpose.  More on rugged individuals and shared enterprise.  Early Americans established schools and valued education, established mandatory health care system for merchant sailors.  Economy based on healthy sailors.  America’s rugged individualism – pioneers, short history of US, American Exceptionalism

Sailor in the Ivory Tower – teachings courses on “Ethical Leadership” and “Restoring the American Dream.”  Book is culmination of what he learned in those classes.

Section II:  Restoring our Economy – Be All You Can Be

Chapter 2:  Thinking Big for Small Business

Most politicians not interested in small business because don’t make large enough campaign donations.  “About half of Pennsylvania’s private sector workforce is employed by or owns a small business.”  In recent years, especially since recession, fewer small businesses being started.

Freeing Up Funding

“The biggest barrier to an innovator with an idea is a lack of access to capital.”  Suggestion – give tax credit to angel investors.  Discusses role of banks (they lend they don’t invest), and SBA and other loans.  Also mentions minority loans as it can be harder for minorities to get funding.

Responsibly Reducing Regulation

Important to protect environment but regulations should take small businesses into account – story of man in PA who had a small business and had to fill out forms for lab pack but a larger business could fill out a form for each load.  Create a system of tiers in regulation.  Mentions some small agencies in government that help with this – bipartisan efforts

Exports Abroad Means Job at Home

Reduce trade deficit.  Supports Export-Import Bank.

Chapter 3:  The Rebirth of American Manufacturing

Some manufacturing coming back.  Due to rising cost of labor abroad and increasing transportation costs, and energy costs here going down and poor quality control issues with foreign made goods.  And need for a speedier supply chain.  And intellectual property rights issues.  And people like goods made in America.

Growing Jobs through Green Energy

American innovations being manufactured abroad to get ahead of us.  We should fix that as it would create jobs here, it will cost less to manufacture with renewables so we will be at a financial disadvantage if we don’t, less carbon emissions.   One example, which some won’t like – fracking.  But shouldn’t let companies be on corporate welfare forever, and must take care of environment

Strengthening Intellectual Property Rights

Critically important to manufacturers and small business owners.  Big backlog in patent office.  Currently satellite patent offices opening.  Need to hire more patent examiners – pay for by offering to expedite patent application for a fee.  Must hold foreign companies responsible for intellectual property theft

Chapter  4:  Investing in Our Infrastructure

Infrastructure once a great American achievement, now crumbling and congested.  Need to increase rail infrastructure.  Crucial if we want to maintain dominant global economic position.  “more than connecting communities for commerce; this is about rebuilding the middle class

Government Needs a Better Way to Fund Infrastructure

Currently use gas tax, which hasn’t changed since 1993, plus fuel efficient vehicle use less gas.  Need more than gimmicks and short term solutions

Road to Resolution

Efforts to raise gas tax fail because of “no tax pledge.”  Individual states can experiment with mileage based user fee and eventually use it on a federal level to replace gas tax.  Need to create a national infrastructure bank

Public – Private Partnerships (PPPs) Can Work Better Than Government Alone

Government working in conjunction with private business great as long as accountability measures in place.  Gives examples of successful PPPs.

Job Growth Depends on Our Wired Infrastructure Too

High speed internet crucial.  Another example of something we invented that international competitors are able to provide at lower costs.  Hindered “by national duopoloy”  Mentions proposed Time Warner / Comcast merger.  “The bottom line is that Washington’s public servants are rewarding internet providers’ inadequate performance with tax breaks, sweetheart deals, and lax regulation that does not benefit the consumer.”  Rural areas hit hardest.  Mentions programs trying to help rural areas with this.

Chapter 5:  Raising Wages, Not Just the Minimum Wage

Median wage stagnant for decades.  Need to look at more than minimum wage.  About more than just soaking the rich.  Less than 3% of Americans paid minimum wage so raising just that won’t help most people.  Many big employers paying more than minimum wage.  Often it is small businesses paying minimum wage and we want to help small businesses.  Wage gap widening in recent years.  Productivity has grown but wages haven’t.

Raising the Minimum Wage as a First Step

Supports raising minimum wage to $10.12.  “Conclusive studies show that if a minimum wage does not exceed 50 percent of the average hourly wage, people will not lose their jobs.”  Should not be government’s job to subsidize low wages with welfare, food stamps, so they can pay higher executive salaries and dividends.

Reducing the Part-Time / Full-Time Worker Gap

Many new jobs created are only part-time.  Need to get rid of employer mandate in Affordable Care Act.  The version he support based employer mandate on percentage of payroll spend on health care not how many full-time workers employed.  Thinks that eventually employer based health care will be replaced by lower cost private plans on the market.

A Corporate Tax Code That Keeps Companies Here

Provides detailed descriptions of popular corporate tax evasion strategies, for example “Dutch sandwich.”  Elected officials unhappy but they wrote the tax codes that provide incentives for companies to do this.  Our corporate tax rate too high.  Tax code full of deductions, credits, and loopholes.  If companies can afford specialized accountants can avoid paying taxes.   Percentage of US tax income from corporate tax gone down.  Lower tax rates and close loopholes.  Offer companies incentive to bring money home.

Section III:  Restoring Our Workforce – All Hands on Deck

[no introductory text]

Chapter 6:  A Workforce that Keeps Pace with the New Economy

We need a trained workforce.    Describes Navy’s “training rungs.”

Human Capital is Just as Important as Financial Capital

21st century workers need life-long learning.  Widening skills gap as baby boomers retire.  American spending on labor training decreasing, including private sector.  Need to make sure training programs are effective.

Rethinking Retraining

Increase accountability.  Mentions ITWorks program in Philadelphia, trains young adults in IT, working with local companies who help curriculum and provide equipment.  Mentions interesting program where Cascade Engineering partners with Burger King.  BK hires low-skills applicants and employs for 6-12 months and provides skills development training.  Then if they do well they can apply for better paying jobs at Cascade.  Mentions other programs.  Also programs like human capital performance bonds.  Local governments provide training and retraining programs

Chapter 7:  A Health Security Strategy

Story of his daughter getting  good health care due to Navy coverage, and hearing family with similar issue finding out they had limited treatment options because they didn’t have good health insurance.  In the military everyone has health care because we need healthy soldiers who are not distracted by family health issues.

An Unhealthy Debate

Affordable Care Act flawed.  Too many special interests, not enough bipartisanship.  Disinformation campaigns (death panels).  Media neglected its role as provider of information.

Restoring Trust and Keeping Promises

However, Affordable Care Act has helped lower prices and provide access to care.  Good points – can’t deny based on pre-existing conditions, keep kids on parents coverage until 26, free preventive exams .  Gives statistics on how it has helped.  Affordable Care Act strengthened Medicare

Expect What You Inspect

Lack of accountable leadership in implementing Affordable Care Act.  Led to lack of trust.  Provides details on how he thinks things went wrong.  One example:  the website.  Still, it’s better than what we had.

Brokering a Better Bargain

Allow bulk purchasing of medications or importing them from Canada where they cost less.  Companies say they have to charge more to pay for R&D but they spend large amounts on marketing, for example Super Bowl ads.  Should allow Medicare to bargain with drug companies as VA does.  We can provide tax incentives for R&D.

Industry Incentives – What Works, What to Watch, and When to Make Changes

Affordable Care Act changes incentives, from fee-for-service to quality of care not quantity.  Accountable Care Organizations for Medicare patients are one example.  Provides a detailed description of ACOs.  Need to stop allowing pharmaceutical firms from paying generic firms to delay introducing generics.

All Healthy Hands on Deck

Health care reforms help business by making system more efficient, gives Americans peace of mind to know they won’t be bankrupted by health issues.

Chapter 8:  Untapped Assets in the American Workforce

Looking specifically at immigrants and inmates.

Smarter Immigration for More Innovation

America has always benefited from immigrants, 40% of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.  Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform – border security, turning away skills workers and inventors, parting family members.  Need to deal with illegal immigrants who are here.  Not practical to deport all of them but should have fines, pay back taxes, criminal background checks, etc.  Secure southern border, matter of national security.  Terrorists involved in South American drug trade.  Not just build a wall, but also use things like drones.  Make sure American attracts and keeps innovators.  Expedite citizenship for foreign students who have earned advanced degrees in STEM fields.  

Reducing Recidivism to Increase Productivity

Always spend Veteran’s Day and / or Armed Forces day at a Pennsylvania prison.   Many of the veterans in prison are there because of untreated PTSD and related issues like drug or alcohol addiction.   We don’t prepare them for live after prison.  US has highest incarceration rate in the world.  In past years kids in trouble were given a choice between the military and prison.  Military gave them training, structure, physical and mental health care, and also help with successful re-entry to civilian life.  A 2001 review of 1,000 re-entry programs over 25 years found that only 19 were evaluated.  We need to evaluate programs to see what works best and then replicate it.  The few good evaluations find that these things help:  getting a GED and for inmates who take psychiatric medication, giving them an extra month’s medication to give them time to set up care.  We are a land of second chances.

Section IV:  Restoring Our Promises – I’ve Got Your Six

“I’ve got your six” is a military term meaning “I’ve got your back.”

Chapter 9:  Serving Those Who Served

[personal note – this chapter is a tear jerker] Writes about people who serve in the military, their sacrifice, ingenuity and bravery.  Cites a historian who said that on D-Day the German military tried to kill all of the officers immediately, thinking that the American enlisted men would not fight in their absence.  They were wrong.

Bridging the Gap from Boots to Business

“To begin, it is nothing short of a moral outrage that so many of our lawmakers were willing to spend trillions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but unwilling to spend a few billion on jobs programs for returning veterans.”  Veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed and also more likely to start a small business, so helping small businesses and the self-employed will help veterans.  Provides examples of programs.

A Helping Hand for Our Homeless Heroes

 When in Congress helped pass programs for homeless veterans.  Also impressed by efforts made by individual cities.  Cites examples, such as Phoenix’s “housing first” efforts to get housing for veterans before working on addictions, etc.

Revamping the VA

VA has improved but still problems.  Frustrated by officials who complain about state of VA but voted against budget increases for them.  Veterans get better care at VA than at community hospitals.  Veterans in rural areas particularly have trouble getting care because so far from facilities.  Could use internet but rural areas often have poor internet service.  Public-private partnerships could help veterans health care.

Chapter 10:  Standing With Our Seniors

When in Congress made it a priority to meet with senior citizens almost every weekend.  “Our nation needs their wisdom and experience.”  Senior population is growing.

Preventing Elder Abuse

Gives examples of elder abuse.  Congress unwilling to invest money in elder abuse prevention.

Dignity and Self-Determination in Long-Term Care

Home health aides cost about $20 / hour, nursing home care about $212 / day.  For someone needing less than ten hours of care a day it would be less expensive to let them stay in their own home.  Of that $20 an hour usually half or less goes to aide.  Low paying, low skill jobs   Allow immigrants in who will take these jobs.  Provide tax credits and deductions for family members who provide care.  Gives examples.   Do more to cure Alzheimer’s disease

Ferreting Out Fraud in Medicare

Starting to use technology to find fraud.  Some efforts to do this halted by sequestration.  Changing from fee-for-service to “quality of care” will help stop fraud

Reversing the Regressive Nature of the Social Security Tax

Only $117,000 of a person’s income is taxed for Social Security.  As wage gap has widened the wealthy are earning more but not paying more for Social Security.  This should be changed.  Must take care of our own.  “Fairness and kindness, after all, know no bounds or generations.” 

Section V:  Restoring Our Future – Full Steam Ahead

No introduction

Chapter 11:  Investing in Education Pays the Best Interest for our National Interest

views education as our “homeland defense.”  Today education system is failing

Improving Performance and Maintaining Competitiveness, Through Accountability

Lack of meaningful policy on education because of lack of assessable data, no comparable data across states about student performance.  Common Core sets national standards but needs improvement to have better test questions.  Concerns about rural areas with poor Internet service.

Student Loans for Higher Education Should Not Be a Debt Sentence

Higher education not affordable, average debt for bachelor’s degree is $29,400.  Higher debt levels means delayed home buying, less likely to start a business

The College Accountability Side of the Equation

Concerned about high tuition levels of Penn State and U Pitt, public institutions (see footnote 305), comment on location 2176.  Also mentions Temple.  Higher ed notoriously bad at managing costs.  Faculty teaching load declines.  Shared governance “where power and authority is vested in people (faculty without business credentials) who are not accountable to economics in times when finances are tight and changes must be made”

A Loan Interest Rate That Works

Need predictable interest rates.  Government shouldn’t make money from student loans.  Tie student loan interest rates to cpi

A Need for National Service

Require national service, shared common experience, not primarily through military but things like Americorps.  Will give country a sense of fellowship.  There is a cost but a greater return.  Polls show most voters oppose this but still supports it.

Chapter 12:  Continued Global Leadership for Security and Prosperity

Can’t tackle problems at home in a vacuum, must also look at what is happening in the world. Not just military but also economic security.  Let’s avoid isolationism

Our World Today and Meaning of America’s Engagement

All countries should be able to pursue prosperity in a stable and free world, promote freedom and democracy around the world.  No longer a black / white Cold War era, now few clear divisions.  Non-state actors, terrorism, must coordinate and cooperate with allies.  Mentions ISIS.  Military not final solution. Bring stakeholders together.  Mentions middle east issues, Israel / Palestinians .  spread of infectious diseases show interconnectedness of the world

A Smart National Security Strategy for Today

Sestak lays out his priorities for national security; there are nine of them.  Standards like fighting al Qaeda are among them but so is a public health issue (“arresting the spread of deadly diseases”).  He also lists five challenges, which are among the other headings below.

Enhance Diplomatic Engagement

One of his five challenges, perhaps the most important one.  Need to work collectively and collaboratively.  Goes into detail on Putin and how he thinks the US should respond.

Advance Economic Partnerships

This is a prerequisite for security.  Provides detail on Africa and America’s relationship with countries on that continent.  One item he mentions is that African countries will be heavily impacted by climate change.  Also discusses America’s relationships with countries in Latin America. 

Maintain a Flexible and Credible Military

We shouldn’t measure our military by its size.  Technology makes size less important.  Instead we should measure by knowledge, the speed and agility with which we can respond.

Be Able to Explain the Cost and Benefit of When and Why We Need to Use Force

Three kinds of interests:  vital, important, and humanitarian.  Before engaging we need a mission, risk and cost assessment, timeline and milestones, and contingency plans. 

Prioritize our Resources and Efforts

We need to make smart choices and prioritize.

Challenge and Opportunity of Our Time:  The Asia Pacific

Lists reasons why we should prioritize this area.

A Stable Asia Pacific that Benefits America

Many leaders in this area want us to be involved because we have a good track record for maintaining peace.

A China that Must Play by the Rules

Other countries want us to help make sure China acts responsibly, provides examples of areas that need attention (example – labor laws, intellectual property, mining rare earths)

Fight for American in a Competitive World

Mentions Export Import Bank

Preparing for the Consequences of Climate Change

This is a national security issue, sea level affects military preparedness

History’s Calling

History is what we make it, what we work for and maintain

Notes – 348 notes

About the Author

(teaches at Carnegie Mellon University, Cheyney University, Dickinson College, Penn State Law, and Army War College.)

Personal Remarks

I've been around publishing in various roles for over 20 years.  It's not my primary job but I have some experience with writing and editing.  One thing about this book that is very clear is that it was quickly put together.  

Books are usually balanced, chapters are of a similar length and construction.  This one was all over the place.  Some chapters had introductory text, others didn't.  The lengths varied.  It was not constructed well.

There are copy editing mistakes.  The book didn't appear to go through a more traditional publishing route and I doubt professional proofreaders were involved.  For one thing some words were overused.  Reading on a Kindle I could search for words and see how often they appeared.  The word rugged was used 50 times in this book.  He writes a lot about rugged individuals.  That is not a phrase that trips off the tongue in speaking and it feels awkward when reading it.  Fifty times is a lot.  All the naval metaphors and jargon get a little old too.  It could just be me.  I'm from an Army family and Navy talk is a foreign language.   

There are mistakes that a proofreader would have caught.  In chapter 8, in the section on immigration, STEM is defined as science, technology, education, and mathematics.  That E should be engineering not education.  There are some oddly constructed sentences.

There's nothing wrong with a hastily constructed book.  It does speak to a process with a limited circle of involvement.  If a few more people had read over early drafts some of this might have been caught and remedied.

The subject matter sort of feels like the stereotypical kitchen sink -- they're trying to include everything at once.  China!  Immigration!  Education!  Small business!  Defense!  It was all a bit much.

In addition to the proofreading errors there were a few other things that bothered me.  These are small things but I think someone should have caught them.  In chapter 11, the section on college accountability he writes about the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State being public institutions and cites a newspaper article that refers to them this way, too.  The thing is, they aren't part of the Pennsylvania higher education system.  They are state-related schools.  They get some money from the state but they aren't part of the state's formal college system.  The tuition prices for the state schools, say West Chester or Kutztown, are less than at Pitt or Penn State.  This might just be quibbling but Sestak's congressional district contained one, possibly two, Penn State campuses, and I think Cheney (a state school) as well.  If West Chester wasn't in his district it was close.  I've tried looking at the map for Pennsylvania's congressional district 7 for the years Sestak represented it and then looking at where those schools were located but it isn't always easy to tell if something was in the district.  Even though college funding is mostly on a state level he should have known the distinction.  My household has been tracking college tuition at various schools in the state for the past few years and it's not difficult to find those distinctions.  In that same section he takes a potshot at college faculty, saying they shouldn't be making financial decisions for the school because they don't have business credentials.  Here's the thing -- he doesn't have a business background, he's taught at colleges, and he wants to make decisions on education funding.  

This is the stuff that jumped out at me when I read the book.


If you want to know where Sestak stands on the issues this book will tell you, in detail.  It is a little dry, though, with few of the stories that are usually used to illustrate points in books like this.