Saturday, January 24, 2015

John Oliver at the Tower Theater

John Oliver gave a great performance at the Tower Theater this evening.  He had a lot of local humor, Eagles jokes, riffing on the Mummers.  On being told that traffic problems meant the audience was being seated late he asked what was causing the problems.   Theater staff said “it’s Upper Darby.”   This led to some Upper Darby jokes. 

Oliver’s show was, in essence, a love letter to America.  He talked about his travels around the US and the idiosyncracies of the country.  He sang new lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, with the audience joining in when prompted. 

As with all good comedians he told self-deprecating stories about himself, including his childhood dream of being an athlete, jokes about celebrity, and a story about his new puppy.


It was a great show.  Oliver was in top form.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

PA State Senators Propose "Let Women Rot and Die" Bill

A bill was proposed in the Pennsylvania Senate today, bill #292.  It was introduced by twelve Republican men, and is formally known as the Conscientious Objection Act.  What, you say, is this a throwback to conscientious objectors in the Vietnam War, people who did community service instead of military service?  No, absolutely not.

The bill's purpose is listed as "It is the public policy of the Commonwealth to respect and protect the fundamental right of conscience of individuals who and institutions which provide health care services."  Personally I was unaware that institutions had a conscience.  People have a conscience, but an institution?  That's tricky.

This is problematic for a number of reasons, what is a health care provider doesn't believe in blood transfusions or psychiatric medication?  No problem, because that isn't what this bill is about.  It has a very narrow definition of what health care services are.  This is what the bill is about -- health care services is defined as:

Any phase of patient medical care, treatment or procedure relating to abortion, artificial birth control, artificial insemination, assisted reproduction, emergency contraception, human cloning, human embryonic stem-cell research, fetal experimentation and sterilization and including, but not limited to, patient referral, counseling, therapy, testing, diagnosis, prognosis, research, instruction, prescribing, dispensing or administering a device, drug, or medication, surgery, or any other care or treatment rendered by health care providers or health care institutions.
So this is a bill about sex, or at least about sex that can lead to pregnancy.  It also means a clerk at any store that sells condoms can refuse to sell them.  Health care provider is defined as:

An individual who may be asked or assigned to participate in any way in a health care service, including, but not limited to, a physician, physician assistant, nurse, nurses' aide, medical assistant, hospital employee, clinic employee, nursing home employee, pharmacist, pharmacy employee, researcher, medical or nursing school faculty, student or employee, counselor, social worker or any professional or paraprofessional, or any other person who furnishes or assists in the furnishing of health care services.
That's a very broad definition.  Nor is there anything in the law saying these conscientious beliefs have to be uniformly applied.  If the pharmacy clerk doesn't think unmarried people should have sex can he or she refuse to sell condoms to people who don't have a marriage license?  Erectile dysfunction medication?  That's not on the list, unless it falls under assisted reproduction, so if you don't think unmarried people should have sex can you refuse to sell them condoms but have to sell then ED meds?  If the pharmacy clerk thinks that the birth rate among some people is too high and others too low could they refuse to sell birth control to one group but happily do so to another?

Also note that the bill makes it clear that this does not affect the health care provider's disagreement with "informed consent" laws (think the "you have to watch the ultrasound" rules):  "Nothing in this act shall be construed to exempt a health care provider or health care institution from complying with informed consent requirements mandated by statute regarding the provision of a health care service."

The bill specifically states that a health care provider or institution with objections to abortion, artificial birth control, etc. are free from liability and cannot be fired, disciplined or transferred based on those beliefs.

Participation in abortion, birth control, etc. is defined to include referral or transfer.  So if a couple show up in an emergency room and the woman is pregnant with a complication that will cause her immediate death the staff can sit on their hands, twiddle their thumbs, whistle a happy tune, whatever they please, with no obligation to transfer them to an institution or doctor that will treat them or even tell them where they can get treatment.  They can watch her die with no repercussions whatsoever.

The twelve Republican male state senators who introduced this bill are:

John Eichelberger
Elder A. Vogel
Scott Hutchinson
Patrick Browne
Randy Vulakovich
Richard Alloway
Ryan Aument
John Rafferty
Patrick Stefano
Mike Folmer
Joseph Scarnati
Donald White


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SOTU Text

The text of the President's State of the Union address, as prepared for delivery, is available online at:  https://medium.com/@WhiteHouse/president-obamas-state-of-the-union-address-remarks-as-prepared-for-delivery-55f9825449b2


US Department of Arts & Culture Hosts People's State of the Union Events

The US Department of Arts & Culture, an artists' collective and not a government agency, is sponsoring a number of public and private events over the next few days.  Called the "People's State of the Union," the group describes it this way:

At story circles convened in over 150 communities between January 23-30, participants will gather to share stories reflecting on the state of the union as experienced in their own lives and communities. As a way to augment the President’s annual speech, these stories will be collected and shared through an online portalsupplemented by commentary from the USDAC National Cabinet. Inspired by these stories, a group of award-winning poets will create and deliver a Poetic Address to the Nation, broadcast live from New York City’s Bowery Poetry Club on February 1, 2015. Contributing poets include: Margaret Randall, Patricia Smith, Bob Holman, Luis Rodriguez, E. Ethelbert Miller, Claudia Rankine, Joy Harjo, Eileen Myles, and many others.
On the USDAC page for this program there is one event listed for the Philadelphia area, in the city.  

New SEPTA Emergency Snow Measures

from our friends at SEPTA; check their website for a list of Early Exit trains.

 Following last year’s harsh, cold weather conditions, SEPTA has released a new Winter Storm Service Plan to better accommodate customers trying to depart Center City during midday hours, improve service coverage and maintain service in the event of a winter storm. 
SEPTA Customer Connection Team members will distribute 2015 Regional Rail Winter Service Plan pamphlets to riders at Jefferson, Suburban, 30th Street, and University City Stations on Wednesday January 21, 2015 from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. 
Under the new Winter service plan, SEPTA has identified two possible weather related situations, Severe Storm and Early Exit, that will alter normal weekday Regional Rail schedules. 
SEVERE STORM: A Severe Storm schedule will go into effect when the weather forecast calls for high snow accumulations, high winds and icy conditions.  
During a Severe Storm Schedule the following service modifications will go into effect:
• Regional Rail trains will operate on a Saturday schedule.
• Wilmington/Newark Line service will be enhanced with service to Newark and Churchmans Crossing Stations (see link below for details).
http://www.septa.org/schedules/rail/special/pdf/WIL_1.html

• Cynwyd Line service will not operate.
SEPTA will notify customers by 4:00 p.m. the day before the storm if a Saturday schedule will be in effect. Once a Saturday schedule is announced, it will not be reversed.
EARLY EXIT: The Early Exit service option will go into effect when the City of Philadelphia calls for an early closure of the Central Business District. In this scenario, SEPTA will shift resources and reschedule nine trains that normally operate during the peak evening rush. These nine trains which normally operate between the hours of 4:50 p.m. – 6:03 p.m. will instead operate between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 12:40 p.m. Customers should note that when this special operating schedule goes into effect and the nine designated trains do not operate at their regularly scheduled PM Peak times, passengers who normally ride those trains during the evening peak period will have to take other available trains to complete their trips home. SEPTA will notify customers by 10:00 a.m. on the day of the storm if the Early Exit Schedule will be in effect. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

An Update to "A Tale of Two Marriages"

In August of 2013 I wrote a post called "A Tale of Two Marriages," in response to a column in the Phladelphia Gay News.  Abington Township Commissioner (Montco) Lori Schreiber had written about the fact that she and her partner could not legally marry.  I wrote about what the legality of marriage means, referencing points in my own marriage, privileges available to me and my male spouse but not to Schreiber and female partner.

Times change.  The Sunday Inquirer regularly spotlights a recent marriage.  This Sunday the marriage in the "Love" column is on Schreiber's October marriage.  Now she and her beloved will have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities that my beloved and I do.

Congrats to the happy couple, and to all those who can now marry.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Santarsiero Files for Congressional Run

from the inbox, a note about the 2016 congressional election in the 8th district (Bucks County)

PA State Representative, Steve Santarsiero (D-31), filed his statement of candidacy this week in preparation for a run for Congress in 2016 in the 8thCongressional district seat being vacated by Congressman Mike Fitpzatrick.  Santarsiero is a dedicated public servant committed to the community who has demonstrated his ability to win seats previously held by Republicans.   A more formal announcement will come later in the year. 

After watching the Twin Towers collapse in 2001 from his office window, Santarsiero left his job at a prominent law firm to become a high school teacher in the Bensalem Township School District.  He inspired his students to get involved in their community and led by example through organizing residents to stop the Matrix development, a proposed big-box shopping center in his home town of Lower Makefield.  That experience led him to run for Township Supervisor in 2003.  He won with 55% of the vote, beating a long-time incumbent and becoming the first Democrat to serve on the Lower Makefield Board in 18 years and only the second in recent memory.  He later helped secure the first ever Democratic majority on the Board and became its chairman. 

In 2008, Steve Santarsiero won an open seat in the Pennsylvania state house that had been held by a Republican since it was created in 1992.  As a state legislator, Steve earned a reputation as a reformer when he repeatedly turned down legislative perks, including per diems, state cars and free health care; pushed for campaign finance reform; wrote what became the House’s new ethics rules on political activity; and became a leader on a variety of critical issues from gun safety to protecting our water and the environment to giving PA residents priority for state contracts. 

I’m excited to start preparing a campaign to represent the people of Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Congress,” Santarsiero said.  “It’s time we make Washington accountable to our citizens.  I will make it a priority to focus on keeping the middle class families of the 8th District secure while helping to grow our economy, create jobs and bring real reform to Washington.”

State Representative Santarsiero and his wife, Ronni, have lived in Bucks County for 19 years.  They have three children, Nancy (17), Billy (15), and Johnny (11). 

Former Congresswoman, Allyson Schwartz, who like Santarsiero served in the state legislature before running for Congress said, “Steve Santarsiero’s entry into the race is great news for the 8th District and for our Democratic Party.  His broad support among Republicans, Democrats, and independent voters will make him a formidable candidate." 

John Cordisco, Chairman of the Bucks County Democratic Committee, and another former state legislator, echoed Rep. Schwartz's optimism.
 

"Steve can win this seat.  He just won re-election to the state house by a landslide in a swing district in what turned out to be a very bad year for Democrats,” Cordisco explained.  “He has a clear track record of winning in a tough district, and that's what we will need to prevail in the 2016 congressional race.”
 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

George Matysik, Turkey Bowler

People in public office or in public service organizations do all kinds of things for the greater public good.  Ed Rendell, as mayor of Philadelphia, used to open city swimming pools by suiting up and jumping in.   Mayor Nutter rappels down city skyscrapers.  Many a school principal has sat in the dunking booth at the school fair.

Following this tradition George Matysik, candidate for an at large city council seat, recently left his job at Philabundance.  In that role he did whatever it took to bring in money and supplies.  In 2011 that included turkey bowling,  He was competing for 100 cases of frozen turkeys in the 3rd annual  ShopRite Partners in Caring Turking Bowling Invitational.  Harlem Globetrotters were involved.

Matysik's priority was feeding hungry people, and if he had to throw frozen turkeys at stacks of paper towels to do it, well, then that's what he did.  Photo available online.  

Acosta Sworn In

State Rep. (D-197) was sworn in today, starting her first term representing Feltonville, Fairhill, Hunting Park, Lower Kensington, Allegheny West, and North Central Philadelphia.  The former social worker and child advocate made history as the first woman of Hispanic descent to be elected to the state legislature. She is also the first woman to represent the 197th District.  

Acosta said in the upcoming session, she plans to focus on finding ways to boost economic development in the region and secure sufficient public education funding.  Her district office is located at 511 W. Courtland St., Suite 197 in Philadelpha, and can assist constituents in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.  


Monday, January 05, 2015

Dean on Extraction Tax

A number of people have written op-eds for and against an extraction tax.  The latest is State Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-153), whose article, "State has an obligation to tax gas extraction," was in the Inquirer on January 1.  The full text is available online at:  http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/inquirer/20150101_State_has_an_obligation_to_tax_gas_extraction.html

Watching "The Interview"

Over the holidays I watched the controversial movie, "The Interview."  Here are some thoughts:

It's funny.

It's often crass and juvenile.

The story could easily have been about a fictitious country.  Using a real head of state did not alter the plot.  Whether this was done to court controversy or was simply due to naivete is a matter of opinion.  If another country had made such a movie about a living leader of our country we would be pretty upset about it.

Much to my surprise I enjoyed it, or at least large parts of it.

If you have access to the film and a couple of hours to spare it might be worth your while to watch, if only to see what the fuss is about.  

When Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses came out I bought a copy to support Rushdie, but never read the book.  It was for similar reasons that I watched this movie.