Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stars on Twitter

The Franklin Institute's chief astronomer, Derrick Pitts, is now on twitter: @coolastronomer. Pitts is indeed the coolest.

Perhaps the second coolest astronomer / astrophyicist out there, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is also on twitter @neiltyson. He's at the Hayden Planetarium in New York.

A couple of years ago I voiced my opinion that Philly's best known astrophysicist could out thumb wrestle NYC's best known astrophysicist. I stand by that post.

Red Bull Ball Park Cranks

Baseball -- that's the one with the round white ball with laces on it, yes? That's about the extent of what I know about it but many (most?) people have more interest in baseball than I do.

Those people probably know who Jimmy Rollins is. Red Bull Ball Park Cranks, sponsored by Red Bull, apparently a beverage the young fry like these days, is bringing Rollins to Philadelphia next month:

Not stopping there, Rollins will also attempt to break the current Guinness World Record for ‘Longest Batted Ball’, which currently stands at 576 feet. The record is for the greatest distance one individual can hit a batted baseball in a legal manner with no restriction on equipment.

The free event will be held June 27th, 11:45 to 1:00, over the lunch hour. You can read more online.

Drexel Fashion Show

Fans of Project Runway can see the local version, live, at the Drexel Annual Fashion Show Saturday June 4th. There are two showings, at 4 p.m. ($25) and 8 p.m ($50). More than 30 senior and graduate collections will be presented, at the Urban Outfitters Corporate Headquarters (5000 S. Broad St.).

The show features eveningwear, men’s and women’s wear, sportswear and swimwear, children’s wear, lingerie and more with students drawing inspiration from the artwork of Basquiat, the poetry of Maya Angelou and music of Miles Davis. Japanese motifs, Tokyo street wear and the rural country sides of India and Morocco were also sources of inspiration as students created their collections for this year’s show.

Tickets can be purchased online.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

SEPTA: No Fare (Increase)

Our friends at SEPTA would like us to know they have a budget for fiscal year 2012 that does not increase fares but does maintain current service levels. To pay for it the transit system is deferring a number of capital improvement projects. Find out more at www.septa.org.

Schwartz Bill on Research in Biotech

from the inbox:

U.S. Reps. Susan Davis (CA-53) and Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) have introduced the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011, H.R. 1988, a bill aimed at continuing the earlier tremendous success of a tax credit that spurred research and investment in life sciences and biotechnology.

Building off of the earlier tax credit’s success, this new initiative will provide one billion in tax credits and grants per fiscal year through 2017 to small U.S. biotech firms that show significant growth potential in new and cost-saving therapies. The bill does not add to the deficit as it directs the Office of Management and Budget to cut duplicate spending in order to offset the loss in revenues.

“From scientists and business leaders to doctors and researchers, every single day critical work is done in America in the field of biotechnology, one of the leading growth industries in the 21st century global economy. Biotechnology companies are transforming the field of medicine by developing life-saving cures and groundbreaking new and improved medicine. Smart, targeted tax credits and grants like this effort are exactly the types of investments we must make to ensure America leads in a global economy driven by innovation and forward-thinking ideas,” said Rep. Allyson Schwartz.

“It’s important to encourage innovation in the areas in which it has a competitive advantage, such as biotechnology and medical device development,” said Rep. Susan Davis. “Medical technology industries create products that improve human health and help Americans to manage illnesses. Americans will ultimately live healthier and more productive lives with the investment made by the program. These fields also provide high-paying and stable employment, and investment will lead to additional hiring,” Davis added.

Rep. Schwartz has long been a leading advocate in Congress for increased investment and support of the growing biotechnology and life sciences field. In 2010, she led the way to pass the inaugural effort of the qualifying tax credit. During the past year the program achieved enormous success with over 4,000 companies from 47 states applying for funding, and more than 3,000 companies received either a grant or tax credit totally one billion dollars.

Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011

The Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011 extends the therapeutic tax credit through 2017 by providing tax credits and grants to small firms that show significant potential to produce new and cost-saving therapies, support U.S. jobs and increase U.S. competitiveness. Applicants will be required to have their research projects certified as eligible for the credit or grant.

The credit or grant will cover up to 50 percent of the cost of qualifying biomedical research, up to a maximum credit of $5 million per firm and $1 billion overall, and is only available to firms with no more than 250 employees. Firms can opt to receive a grant instead of a tax credit, so start‐ups that are not yet profitable can benefit as well. Credits and grants are available for investments made in 2009 and 2010.

"The legislation introduced by Representatives Davis and Schwartz extends the Therapeutic Discovery Project to support continued American innovation and accelerate the development of life-saving cures for numerous prominent diseases, such as cancers, mental illnesses, heart disease and Parkinson's disease,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

“It is critical for the U.S. to maintain its leadership in biotechnology innovation and retain jobs in this country. Leaders of American biotech companies say that the Therapeutic Discovery Project will help them sustain or create high quality jobs by providing capital assistance that supports their work and their work force. The biotechnology industry is a thriving sector, directly and indirectly employing millions of Americans in high-quality jobs, and is an important growth engine for our economy,” Greenwood added.


As one of the top ten biotech states in the nation, Pennsylvania companies were on the frontlines of benefiting from the critical investment under the earlier tax credit program. In Pennsylvania, 161 small biotech firms received funds from this initiative totaling $48 million to support cutting-edge research and development in biotech and life sciences. Renewing this program will grow high-skilled, high-wage jobs in the Keystone State, and ensure Pennsylvania has the resources it needs to compete for the top talent nationwide.

The state’s biotech firms are pivotal to the Commonwealth’s economic growth, by creating jobs and generate economic opportunity. Over 80,000 Pennsylvanians working in the life sciences, with workers earning an average salary of more than $82,262, almost twice the statewide average.

What Drives Teachers?

The full out onslaught on teachers is alarming for a number of reasons. Firstly because I like the teachers I’ve encountered as a parent and also those I’ve met in other circumstances. Secondly, some of the rationales behind the teacher bashing doesn’t have any substance.
For example, State Sen. Anthony Williams, in an online chat on philly.com in August of 2010 says:

Sen. Anthony H. Williams:
Of course I recognize that some citizens with good schools in a poorly run school district want to keep the district chugging along. And I recognize that this has nothing to do with the NAACP. That is why they should not have been a party to the lawsuit. Profit is in the eye of the beholder. I've driven around many school district buildings and viewed quite an impressive array of automobiles. Lets not talk about who's profiting. My point is that a failing school regardless of a for-profit, charter, or traditional public should not remain open.

Notice the crack about the cars. He doesn’t say what school district building, whether it was a school or an administrative building. But he does make a judgment about people based on what they drive, and on how they are spending their money.

Teachers at public schools are public employees, which is one reason why they’re being bashed so much during an economic downturn. However, it does seem worth mentioning that State Sen. Williams is also a public employee, and that he makes more than the average PA teacher. In the last year that I can find such data, 2009, State Sen. Williams drove a state supplied Mercury Mariner Hybrid, costing $644 per month. State Sen. Williams pays for the time the car is used for personal reasons (see “Fewer in PA take state vehicles,” by Mario Cattabiani, Philadelphia Inquirer 31/4/2009). That’s in addition to his salary. Teachers don’t get extra money for a car to drive for school related purposes.

It is, however, never good to make assumptions. Take those 35 parking tickets that Sen. Williams didn’t have to pay (“Ticket-fixing probe shows city still has 2 sets of rules ,” by Paul Davies, Philadelphia Inquirer 6/13/2010). I’m sure there was a good reason for that. State Sen. Williams also has the luxury of correcting the record. This past month (4/28) the Inquirer’s “Clearing the record” had a note that a story published earlier that week implied that Sen. Williams owned or was driving a Cadillac Escalade. A Williams staffer contacted the paper to say that it was not his car and he was not driving it. The initial article, which mentioned the Cadillac Escalade, was the impetus for this post. I remembered Williams’s crack about the cars by the school buildings and intended to write about his use of a Cadillac while being snarky about teachers’ cars. A little research showed the correction, and his 2009 use of the Mercury Mariner Hybrid. So, there you go. He doesn’t own a Caddy. He got to correct the misconception. Where can teachers go to clear up the record of their car use? Maybe some of them have spouses with good incomes. Maybe they borrowed a car for the day. Maybe they choose to eat oatmeal, soup, and ramen noodles and spend their money on cars. Point being, they’re being slammed without a chance to reply.

When I drive through my local schools’ parking lots there might be some nice cars there; I don’t know enough to recognize makes and models. What I am sure of is that there are some great teachers in those schools and I don’t care what they drive. And I don’t like reading about people bashing teachers with little basis and no real evidence behind their comments.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shapiro / Richards on PA GOP Budge

from the inbox:

Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, the Democratic candidates for Montgomery County commissioner, today sharply criticized the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives for passing a budget “that will negatively impact Montgomery County’s budget situation, but more importantly place the county’s most vulnerable residents in greater jeopardy.” At the same time, they urged their Republican opponents – Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown – to join them in opposing the budget. Shapiro, a Democratic state representative, fought doggedly against the budget bill, and voted against its passage.

The following is a joint statement issued by the Democratic team:

“The $27.3 billion budget passed today by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is an extreme budget that will negatively impact Montgomery County’s budget situation, but, more importantly, place the county’s most vulnerable residents in greater jeopardy. And, it does all this while excusing gas drilling companies from paying their fair share.

“We call upon our opponents – Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown – to join us in this fight by using whatever influence they may have with their GOP colleagues in the legislature to restore this critically needed funding. Regardless of political ideology, we should all be able to agree that a budget that hurts Montgomery County is not a budget worth supporting.

“These draconian cuts, proposed despite significantly increased state revenues, will cut $1.9 million from our community college’s state allocation, and put higher education out of reach of more of our young people.

“The cuts will also impact a wide range of human services, job development and veterans’ services. In just one Montgomery County example, cuts to the Behavioral Health Services Initiative will result in the loss of a thousand halfway house days for county residents seeking drug and alcohol services, and the loss of those services will place additional strain on law enforcement, prisons and healthcare budgets. This scenario will repeat itself in services to children and youth, mental health services, the elderly and the homeless.

“The county budget will be under increased stress, if the county is forced to provide some of the services that the state is neglecting. Nevertheless, we remain committed to not raising county taxes. The bottom line will always be our focus, and we will find creative ways and solutions to do more with less.

“In the end, this is a very bad budget for Montgomery County and its residents. Whether you are a Montgomery County Republican or Democrat, this should concern you, and that is why we are asking our opponents to join with us in trying to fight against this budget.”


According to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, which vigorously opposes the budget, here are just a few of the significant cuts made by the Republican budget:

• Human Services Development Fund (HSDF), a flexible fund that Montgomery County primarily uses to serve individuals that have physical and mental disabilities that do not qualify for Medical Assistance, is $4 million less than the 2010-2011 budget

• The Homeless Assistance Program is proposed at $20.6 million under the House Republican proposal, which is a decrease of nine percent from Gov. Corbett’s proposed state funding of $22.6 million, and a ten percent decrease from last year’s state funded amount of $22.8 million. This will have a significant impact on the ability of counties to provide homeless services across the commonwealth

• Medical Assistance Transportation (MATP) funds have been decreased by almost $10 million from Governor Corbett’s proposed state budget amount of $74.6 million. In total, when looking at both state and federal funds, the House GOP proposal reduces MATP by almost 14 percent from the 2010 – 2011 appropriation

• County children and youth programs have been cut by approximately $22 million from the Governor’s proposal, and about five percent from FY 2010 – 2011 levels. In particular, the House Republican proposal cuts county child care services an additional 16 percent beyond the governor’s proposed cuts and turns the slight increase proposed by the governor for child care assistance into a reduction of 6.48 percent over 2010 –2011 levels

• Mental health services would also be impacted by a significant cut to behavioral health services initiative (BHSI) dollars, which were reduced an additional $4.3 million (8.3 percent) below the cuts proposed by the governor; this equates to a total cut from FY 2010 – 2011 for BHSI under the House Republican proposal of ten percent. State dollars for autism services have been reduced by 20.3 percent compared to the Governor’s proposed budget.

Washington Exhibit at Constitution Center

from the inbox:

George Washington is coming back to Philadelphia – and this time, he’s tweeting! To kick off the countdown to this summer’s must-see exhibition, Discover the Real George Washington: New Views from Mount Vernon at the National Constitution Center (July 1 – September 5, 2011), George will tweet daily clues about his whereabouts in the Philadelphia region. From May 24, 2011 – the day before the start of the Constitutional Convention – to September 17, 2011 – Constitution Day – follow George at @GeorgeInPhilly as he revisits his favorite Philadelphia-area haunts, all the while sharing personal stories and dispelling pesky rumors about cherry trees and wooden teeth!

Each Saturday beginning June 4, 2011 and culminating with his arrival at the National Constitution Center on June 30, 2011, George will make in-person appearances at popular historic sites that held significance to him during his time in Philadelphia. Sites currently include Brandywine Battle Historic Site (June 4) and Valley Forge Historical Park (June 25). Additional appearances will be announced. At each site, George will pose for photos and answer questions from fans. Constitution Center staff members also will provide coupons to the Discover the Real George Washington exhibition.

Beyond the Center’s exhibition, organizations across the Philadelphia region are coming together to make the “Summer of Washington” a can’t-miss experience. A special “Summer of Washington” map, a dynamic mobile application, and Washington’s tweets, will lead visitors to sites offering a myriad of options for Washington fans of all ages.

Discover the Real George Washington provides a new and refreshing perspective on Washington, his achievements, legacies, family, intellectual pursuits, and entrepreneurial ventures. Architectural models, decorative and fine art items, maps, manuscripts, and paintings reveal his personal side and uncover his roles as an entrepreneur, farmer, and businessman. Three life-size models of Washington at ages 19, 45, and 57, developed through an unprecedented two-year forensic investigation, serve as focal points of the exhibition.

The Center is pairing the exhibition with its first-ever Kids Free Summer promotion! Families can save a pocketful of “Washingtons” with this special deal: free admission to the Center for up to four children (ages 12 and under) with one paying adult. The promotion applies to both general admission and group reservations.

Admission to Discover the Real George Washington is $15 for adults and $14 for seniors (ages 65 and up) and students. Children ages 12 and under and active military are FREE. Group rates also are available. Admission to the Center’s main exhibition, The Story of We the People, including the award-winning theater production “Freedom Rising,” is included. iPod audio tours cost an additional $5. For ticket information, visit www.constitutioncenter.org.

Hanger Endorses Murphy

from the inbox:

Today, John Hanger, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, endorsed Iraq war veteran and former Congressman Patrick Murphy for Pennsylvania Attorney General.

“When it comes to issues like public health and the environment, the battleground has clearly shifted to the states. That is why Pennsylvania needs a leader like Patrick Murphy – someone who will stop at nothing to keep Pennsylvania families safe from all threats to public safety,” said Hanger. “Patrick believes in a comprehensive approach to fighting crime, which means investing in education to give young people opportunities, and keep them out of the criminal justice system.”

“Pennsylvania is presented with significant challenges, but also tremendous opportunities. Patrick understands that we need a balance,” said Hanger. “On natural gas, he understands that drilling in the Marcellus Shale has huge economic potential and could aid in the development of cleaner energy, but he knows we need to do it right. That means making sure we have strong enforcement of sensible regulations that protect our water supply and preserve our environment in the process.”

“In addition to locking up dangerous criminals, Patrick knows that the Attorney General has a responsibility to protect our natural resources and water supplies,” Hanger said. “Patrick is tough and aggressive. He knows that law enforcement means taking action before Pennsylvania families are harmed or exploited.”

“John Hanger is one of Pennsylvania’s leading voices on public health and safety and throughout his career, he has shaped public policy to protect Pennsylvania families. Nationally, Secretary Hanger is a trusted authority on environmental protection, renewable energy and consumer protection,” Murphy said. “I’m honored to have his support and I look forward to working with him to make Pennsylvania an even better place to work and live.”

Schwartz Takes on Another Role in National Politics

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is already recruiting candidates for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She has a national reputation for her fundraising abilities. Now she is taking on a role previously held by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, that of handling candidate services for the DCCC. Wasserman Schultz is now head of the Democratic National Committee. Schwartz got a head start on her new role by sending two staffers to help out with the special election in New York.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Comments on Chrysler

Chrysler paid back it's government loan today.

Vice President Biden's comments on this:

Readout of Vice President Biden’s Calls to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, UAW President Bob King, and Chrysler Worker Frances Soehartono

Earlier today, Vice President Biden called Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler; Bob King, President of the United Auto Workers (UAW); and Frances Soehartono, a worker from Chrysler’s Jefferson North Plant, to congratulate them on Chrysler’s repayment of $10.6 billion in U.S. government loans more than six years ahead of schedule. Vice President Biden hailed Chrysler’s return to profitability and recent job creation, expressing confidence that today’s milestone marks a turning point for the entire American auto industry. Vice President Biden acknowledged the tremendous sacrifices made by many Chrysler workers and their families over the past two years, and he emphasized his conviction that Chrysler’s historic turnaround is due to the high quality of American workmanship and the dedication of workers like Frances Soehartono.

President Obama's statement:
Statement by President Obama on Chrysler’s Repayment

Chrysler’s repayment of its outstanding loans to the U.S. Treasury and American taxpayers marks a significant milestone for the turnaround of Chrysler and the countless communities and families who rely on the American auto industry. This announcement comes six years ahead of schedule and just two years after emerging from bankruptcy, allowing Chrysler to build on its progress and continue to grow as the economy recovers. Supporting the American auto industry required making some tough decisions, but I was not willing to walk away from the workers at Chrysler and the communities that rely on this iconic American company. I said if Chrysler and all its stakeholders were willing to take the difficult steps necessary to become more competitive, America would stand by them, and we did. While there is more work to be done, we are starting to see stronger sales, additional shifts at plants and signs of strength in the auto industry and our economy, a true testament to the resolve and determination of American workers across the nation.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Anne Covey on PCN

Anne Covey recently won the Republican primary to be that party's candidate for judge on the state's Commonwealth Court. As has many other judicial candidates, Ms. Covey was interviewed on PCN TV. The interview is available on their website www.pcntv.com, select PCN Plus, then election 2011. I encourage all voters to review the interview in full for themselves. It is about 35 minutes long.

I typed up rough notes as I listened. Ms. Covey speaks quickly and covers a lot of territory. It was impossible to catch all that she said; this is just a gist. In a few places I combined the answers to a few questions all into one answer. Where there is a quick follow up question that is often the easiest way to go. Often I just jotted down the main idea of her answer in an incomplete sentence.

I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions. Again, I encourage votes to listen for themselves.

Q: Anne Covey why are you running?

A: I’m at a point in my career where I’ve had years of experience and would like to serve the commonwealth in a diff way. Clerked for then President Judge David Craig on Commonwealth Court, serve on state labor relations board.

Q: Difference between Commonwealth Court and other state courts?

A: Can appeal to superior or commonwealth court, different jurisdictions. Commonwealth concerns matters relating state or local govt, regulatory matter; Superior court hear other matters

On labor relations board last several years. All appeals to commonwealth court, hears unemployment insurance, banking, whether or not an organization is a non profit. Commonwealth court is a workhorse.

To understand what an important court this is, the people’s court, all matters relating to everyday life, workers comp, labor relations, property zoning, very important that people vote for the right person

Q: What are some of the misconceptions about the court?

A: People thing the county courts of common pleas appeal cases to commonwealth then superior, but commonwealth and superior are the same level, just handle different types of cases

Must have highest integrity, must be impartial, high standard, I clerked in commonwealth court, we had two manuals, how to keep secretaries happy, at that point learning to go from longhand to dictating machines, the second is how to write property, opinions clear and precise. To know every opinion issued would have major impact on litigants’ lives.

Q: How will it feel to go from advocate to judge

A: As an attorney always represent client, now on labor relations board must apply facts to law, easy transition, last 8.5 years on labor relations board.

Q: what is involved being a clerk

A: not that many people are clerks because not that many judges. To have the opportunity is of high value.

Q: how long have you thought about running

A: from my perspective the highest pinnacle of being a lawyer is being a judge. Thought about it for years. Knew at age 8 wanted to be a lawyer. Goal for quite some time.

Q: on your campaign website you say you will not look to international law for precedent

A: as a judge we understand basics are the US constitution, judges in other areas looked outside US law for basis of opinions. We need to base on constitution

Q: other experiences

A: as a clerk, first female on labor relations board since its inception in 1937. Started own firm.

Q: what is labor relations board about

A: in disputes people write in and ask for exceptions, etc., look at letters, affirm, modify or reverse

Q: why law

A: law is foundation of country. Love history, give back, be part of society. Had passion for our whole life. Wrote a book on labor and employment law, written extensive articles, spoken on it.

Q: Can you trace that interest back to an event, what influenced you?

A: Abraham Lincoln. For a young female, not many female role models growing up, one day I thought I would like to be a role model. Read about Lincoln extensively, always looked to follow. One of my other goals was to be first female US Supreme court judge but Sandra O’connor older, got there first.

Q: education

A: Widener u school of law, went to University of Delaware, close to widener, good reputation, graduated #1 female, 4th overall. Undergrad, history and criminal justice with minor in political science. knew wanted to go to law school as an undergrad

Q: specialties in your practice

A; business, labor and employment law, advise firms how to hire, fire, what you need to look at, preparing employment manuals, matters that go before equal employment commission,

Q: memorable cases

A: you make sure every client is zealously represented, clients reported back they feel they are the only client that I have.

Q: what gives you an edge if you win?

A: no other candidate has served as clerk on commonwealth court, worked for president judge, held in high esteem by people in both parties. Set me on a path of holding a high bar for myself. Asked to write a law review article on history of the commonwealth court, on the court’s first 40 years.

Q: campaigning

A: This is my first race, working hard trying to meet as many individuals as possible, talk with them so they can ask me questions, find out who I am and what I’m about. Commonwealth court affects every resident, visited 40 counties in pa

Q: what are peoples’ questions, concerns

A: what is commonwealth court, background and qualifications, they are impressed and walk away saying thank you. I want individuals to know that I believe strongly judges should not legislate from the bench, don’t make laws, that is what legislators do. I believe foundation of country is US Constitution and of state is PA Constitution. Have endorsement of state party. Started in November going around state meeting people in party to tell them why I’m qualified. Received unanimous party endorsement, met so many people who are now supporting me. Appreciate support.

Q: PA Bar Association rating system, highly recommended, recommended, not recommended. You got recommended.

A: for that process you have to fill out extensive questionnaire. Interviewed by attorneys and non-attorneys, they contact references, etc. provide information to commission, 18 individuals, they do in person interview, delivery recommendation. Friend conducted research says sitting judges always get highly recommended because lawyers will be before those judges, people running first time get recommended. They ask many of the same questions you ask, why running, writings, media interviews, background information, see how you act in person, judicial temperament.

Q: does it make a difference to people?

A: people do ask how I’ve been rated, look at bar’s description of me.

Q: opponent Kathryn Boockvar, differences between you

A: Even though we both live in Bucks I don’t know her personally, can’t speak of her personally. I have no knowledge of what she’s doing for her campaign.

Q: differences, what is your edge?

A: the biggest edge I have is close connection to commonwealth court. Know the people there, Commonwealth Court is unique, known to be strong, hardworking court but judges get along. Been doing labor and employment law for 26 years, taught management training programs, good communication, good working skills, having clerked at the court, on labor relations board, know judges

Q: insight into being a judge on the court

A: being a judge on the commonwealth court, started own firm 14 years ago, have to learn how to manage chambers, in two locations, have to be available to meet with other judges, get their perspectives, get your own viewpoint across, many decided by a panel

Q: restoring public confidence in court after juvenile justice scandal

A: absolute nightmare and a travesty, makes judges work even harder. From my perspective in labor relation law, personal injury cases dry up then went to labor law, purely for the money, not why I went into the law, how society maintains itself. Have filed motions against opposing attorney for frivolous cases.

Q: published some works

A: my biggest work is a book that I authored, people say are you kidding me, only about 2% of manuscripts accepted, used to write a column, people write in for advice, took those columns and made them into a book. How to get along in the workplace, rights and responsibility, how book was accepted, there to reduce litigation, wrote a chapter in business: the ultimate resource, bestseller, going into 4th edition, wrote articles, editor of different journals, another plus that I have, not only hear cases but communicate by writing decisions.

Q: basic rights of employees

A: right to be hired regardless of sex, race, disability, etc. had people use crutches, learn what it’s like to have a hearing problem, so people learn what it is like. It’s equal opportunity not entitlement.

Q: what else, why vote for you

A: have shown throughout legal career, hard worker, understand importance of the law, people have the ultimate right to choose who the judge is, not to legislate from the bench, reviewed and scrutinized by PA GOP, by bar association, appointed by Gov schwiecker to be first female member of labor relations board, reappointed by Rendell, because of who I am not along party lines, quality of person.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Twitter Friends

Those with twitter accounts may wish to follow two recent additions to the social media site:

Chris Satullo, formerly of the Inquirer, and now at NewsWorks.org: www.twitter.com/chrissatullo

Sen. Bob Casey has also joined the twittersphere: www.twitter.com/senbobcasey

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Goolsbee on Colbert

Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, was on Stephen Colbert last night. The interview ran over and the full interview, in three sections has been posted on the Colbert Nation website. Start with the first section and it should lead you to the other two. The whole thing is about 16 minutes long. Having become something of a Goolsbee watcher I think he does better on the White House white board than he does in settings like the Daily Show or Colbert, but those shows have a much greater viewship than the WHWB.

The topic of conversation was the debt ceiling. It was an interesting conversation and entertaining to watch. Colbert says he won't drink any water at Goolsbee's house. Watch to see why.

SEPTA's Fox Chase Station

SEPTA is having a formal ribbon cuttinghttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif on the newly renovated Fox Chase Station tomorrow. The Boyle brothers (State Reps Kevin and Brendan) and Sen. Shirley Kitchen are scheduled to attend. SEPTA’s rebuilt Fox Chase Station is eligible for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-Silver designation. The station’s renovations were funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Festivities at the station are slated for 10 a.m. on Friday, May 20th.

Prez O's Remarks on Middle East

from the inbox:


State Department
Washington, D.C.

12:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, have a seat. Thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark -- one million frequent flyer miles. (Laughter.) I count on Hillary every single day, and I believe that she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.

Today, I want to talk about this change -- the forces that are driving it and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.

Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate –- an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy -– not what he could build.

Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.

That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17th, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It’s the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world -– the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaints, this young man, who had never been particularly active in politics, went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.

There are times in the course of history when the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home –- day after day, week after week -- until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.

The story of this revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of a few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn -– no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.

And this lack of self-determination –- the chance to make your life what you will –- has applied to the region’s economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge, based on innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.

In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half-century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.

But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and strategies of diversion will not work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world -– a world of astonishing progress in places like India and Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. And so a new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.

In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”

In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”

In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now. It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”

In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”

Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.

Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age -– a time of 24-hour news cycles and constant communication –- people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days and there will bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we’ve already seen, calls for change may give way, in some cases, to fierce contests for power.

The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.

We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to people’s hopes; they’re essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.

Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways –- as Americans have been seared by hostage-taking and violent rhetoric and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens -– a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world.

And that’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then -– and I believe now -– that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

So we face a historic opportunity. We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It’s not America that put people into the streets of Tunis or Cairo -– it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and it’s the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome.

Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests don’t align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region. But we can, and we will, speak out for a set of core principles –- principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region. (Applause.)

The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.

And we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.

Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest. Today I want to make it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.

Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy. That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high -– as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab world’s largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections, a vibrant civil society, accountable and effective democratic institutions, and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.

Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi launched a war against his own people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force -– no matter how well-intentioned it may be.

But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: Keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Qaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Qaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.

While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it’s not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime –- including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.

The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests. It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad.

So far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. And this speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet represses its own people at home. Let’s remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.

Now, our opposition to Iran’s intolerance and Iran’s repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for consistent change -- with change that’s consistent with the principles that I’ve outlined today. That’s true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that’s true today in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a longstanding partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law.

Nevertheless, we have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and we will -- and such steps will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. (Applause.) The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.

Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States.

We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future -– particularly young people. We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo -– to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education, to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with -– and listen to –- the voices of the people.

For the fact is, real reform does not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard -– whether it’s a big news organization or a lone blogger. In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. Let me be clear, America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. And sometimes we profoundly disagree with them.

We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.

Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” America will work to see that this spirit prevails -– that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.

What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered. And that’s why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men -– by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. The region will never reach its full potential when more than half of its population is prevented from achieving their full potential. (Applause.)

Now, even as we promote political reform, even as we promote human rights in the region, our efforts can’t stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy.

After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many people in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, perhaps hoping that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas.

The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. For just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.

So, drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; on investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness, the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform, and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy. And we’re going to start with Tunisia and Egypt.

First, we’ve asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.

Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.

Third, we’re working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. And these will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with the allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.

Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this entire region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. And just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress -– the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts at anti-corruption -- by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to increase transparency and hold government accountable. Politics and human rights; economic reform.

Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.

For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost to the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security and prosperity and empowerment to ordinary people.

For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.

I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever. That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth: The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.

The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people -– not just one or two leaders -- must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.

Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them -- not by the United States; not by anybody else. But endless delay won’t make the problem go away. What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows -- a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Now, let me say this: Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. That father said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate. Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”

That is the choice that must be made -– not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region -– a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.

For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, “peaceful, peaceful.” In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying lose the grip of an iron fist.

For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful Civil War that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of nonviolence as a way to perfect our union –- organizing, marching, protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa -– words which tell us that repression will fail, and that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights.

It will not be easy. There’s no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. And now we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.

END 1:00 P.M. EDT

Schwartz Announces New Service for Veterans

from the inbox:

As the daughter of a Korean War veteran, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz takes very seriously the opportunity to help provide veterans with the medical, educational and career benefits they need.

During her service in Congress, the Congresswoman’s district offices have successfully assisted more than 1,500 veterans with VA benefits.

Through the Wounded Warrior Program, Schwartz employs a marine and Iraq war veteran, Mike Gabriel, on staff as a full-time veterans’ constituent service representative.

Mike assists constituents with obtaining official copies of separation documents, replacing medals, questions related to the Washington Crossing Cemetery, and issues with the Veterans’ Administration or military. He can also provide resources to veterans seeking assistance in areas related to education, employment, training and business opportunities.

To provide even more assistance, Schwartz’s Philadelphia office will be offering an exciting new service to veterans in the 13th District.

Beginning next week, on May 26th, Joseph Buckley, an accredited veteran service officer from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) will be available every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to assist veterans and their families with the submission of new VA claims. He will also be able to answer eligibility and paperwork questions for constituents. Veterans do not need a membership with the VFW to participate in this service.

Those wishing to meet with Mr. Buckley should visit the Congresswoman’s Philadelphia office at 7219 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19135.

Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Another bookmark for your online reference sources, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/), is still in a work in progress but already has some really good information on it. Be sure to read the entries on the Spanish flu and on the Italian Market. The site has a blog to keep up with new encyclopedia entries and other developments.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Election Notes

Internet connectivity issues kept me from posting last night. When I could get intermittent access to the web Philly.com provided excellent and frequent updates to city election results. State-wide results weren't so easy to find. The state's website didn't seem to have an election results link on the main page. I had to go in via the PA Dept of State to find electionresults.state.pa.us and fairly often when I tried to check it the page wasn't available. This was especially frustrating, trying to figure out if the problem was with my connection or the state. Sometimes it was one sometimes it was the other. Some county results slow to come in.

I was voter #18 at 8:30 in the morning. Voter turnout overall was low, as is usual with off year primaries. It is always disheartening to realize how few people come out to vote.

Some of the races I had been watching are too close to call and will have to wait for absentee ballots to be counted. Among these are the GOP mayoral primary in Philadelphia, and the Democratic primary for Commonwealth Court. It will be interesting to see how these races go.

Now, on to the next ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Election Day Tomorrow

I had almost forgotten that tomorrow is election day. Then I noticed that blog usage was about twice the norm. It's the standard bump when voters start researching candidates. Things trending today:

Commonwealth Court candidates -- endorsed candidates R Anne Covey and D Kathryn Boockvar
Philadelphia City Commissioner -- Stephanie Singer

Interesting because I only have one or two meaty posts on any of them and I don't see a lot of search hits for the two Philadelphia city council candidates I've followed the most closely, Howard Treatman and Cindy Bass (both 8 city council district), even though at least one of my posts on each of them shows up fairly high in google search results (at least for me, google might be specializing these days).

There aren't any D primaries in the county commissioners / supervisors races in Bucks, Delaware of Montgomery Counties. Often county judicial candidates can cross list. School board candidates can sometimes, too. I ran into Cheryl Austin at some regional women's events this year -- she's running for judge in Montco. I like her quite a bit. She has a military background and you don't often find that in female candidates (trivia: the only female veteran in the state house lost her re-election campaign in the 2010 election). I also ran into Sherie Cohen at a few events. She's running for Philadelphia city council at large.

There are a lot of good candidates out there. Please review newspaper endorsements (see philly.com for city elections) and check out your local patch site, if you have one, for school board candidates. If they aren't listed there google your local political parties and review their candidate pages. School boards are facing a lot of tough important decisions these days and you really need good people making them.

For my GOP readers in Philadelphia, remember John Featherman for Mayor!
For my GOP readers in Bucks County, is Andy Warren a Republican again? Running for county commissioner? Last time I checked he was a Democrat running for Congress.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Amara v CIGNA and Pensions

Still trying to catch up on accumulated newspapers while I was away, this evening I read through the May 7/8 Wall St. Journal. One article that particularly caught my eye was "When benefits bite back," by Ellen E. Schultz. It was alarming because the story involved workers who were told (sometimes in writing) that there pension benefits were one thing but once retired discovered that the benefits were less than promised. The case went to court, and all the way up to the Supreme Court. Basically the companies' stance was that even if the information provided to employees was misleading the company wasn't liable because the employees should go back to the official, wordy, source documents to check. Scary scary stuff.

The article said the SCOTUS decision was due in a few days and since that was a week ago I looked around to see if it was out. Yes. Amara v CIGNA was released on May 16. The Pension Rights Center has an overview; here's a brief excerpt:

The Court ruled that, if pension plan trustees deliberately mislead plan participants, and the participants can show that they were harmed by the mis-statements, a court has the power to ‘reform’ the terms of plan to conform to what the participants were promised in a summary plan description (SPD) and provide them with the benefits they thought they would receive.

The Court's 34 page slip opinion is available as a pdf at: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-804.pdf, if you want to slog through the whole thing.

I hope my 401K is safe!

Back Atcha Glenn

Glenn Beck is losing / has lost his Fox News tv show but is still broadcasting on the radio. Recently he found it necessary to pretend to vomit on his show in response to a public service announcement Meghan McCain recorded in which she appears in a strapless dress and refers to going out without sunscreen as going naked. Mr. Beck and his crew suggested she wear a burqa and implied that the thought of Ms. McCain unclothed is what made him ill.

Ms. McCain responded in an open letter that was reposted on the Daily Beast. She stays classy and points out that by mentioning her PSA he has probably helped her spread the work about skin cancer.

Mr. Beck finds the thought of women who are not stick thin to be nauseating. I hope he has the self-awareness to realize that the feeling is mutual.

Local Blogosphere News

A few tidbits from the local blogosphere:

My old buddy Gort has taken to the keyboard again after a few months away. His stomping grounds are Luzerne County politics. Comments and conversations are lively up there. If you had taken him off your blogroll or regular reading list, add him back on. See gort42.blogspot.com

Our friends at Newsworks have a new radio show, NewsWorks Tonight focusing on local events; it is also live in the web. Today was the maiden broadcast. I missed it (it airs at 6 p.m. and I'm usually either in motion or fixing dinner then) but hope they will post the shows as podcasts.

Philly.com has increased it's stable of bloggers over the past year or so. One of the newest additions is the MontCo Memo, providing local reporting on Montgomery County happenings, similar to the Daily Delco for Delaware County. A Bucks blog is the only collar county missing.

Patrick Murphy Update

Two news items on Patrick Murphy, former congressman for the 8th Pennsylvania district, is currently a candidate for Attorney General. He's been in the news a couple of times this week for different reasons.

Michael Smerconish wrote a column on the office of the Attorney General in this Sunday's Inquirer "Can Patrick Murphy make history in AG race." He quotes Murphy as saying:

"The bottom line is that Pennsylvanians are looking for an attorney general who will fight for them, someone who will protect them from crime wherever it might be - on the street, from big special interests, or in Harrisburg. I've dedicated my entire life to protecting American families, and I will be that attorney general," Murphy told me.

On May 10th Murphy wrote a column in Stars and Stripes on the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" in the military ("Don't turn back the clock on repeal of dadt"). Here is a excerpt:
Congress should not suddenly stand in the way of the military’s steadfast progress on implementing Congress’ own legislation, approved in a bipartisan manner and signed by the president just months ago. We must see this through. If we do, it will be only a few short months before every man or woman who wishes to fight for this country will have the opportunity to do so and we can put this unfortunate and discriminatory chapter of American history behind us once and for all.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Recent Reading

I've been in and out of town lately and am behind on newspaper reading. Finally caught up on Inquirers this weekend but still about a week behind on WSJ. Here are a few articles I found especially interesting:

Help wanted on the factory floor,” by James R. Hagerty, Wall St Journal May 6, 2011. The gist of this article is that manufacturers in the US are having trouble finding employees with adequate math and science skills. Pennsylvania companies mentioned are Lehigh Heavy Forge Corp of Bethlehem and Curtiss –Wright Corp of Cheswick,

Firms feel ‘say on pay’ effect,” by Joann S Lublin, Wall St Journal May 2, 2011

Stale deal?” by Joseph N. DiStefano, PhillyDeals Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 2011. Amoroso Baking Co decided that instead of paying delivery drivers as employees the company would outsource the delivery routes, charging $100,000 per route. After paying for the route, drivers would have to pay for their own retirement and health insurance, fuel, and so on. The drivers usually work 6 12-hour days. There hasn’t been a rush to buy the routes.

Activists spend big in voucher battle,” by John P. Martin and Amy Worden, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 8, 2011. This is a very enlightening look at the forces, including conservative organization FreedomWorks, paying big bucks in Pennsylvania’s legislative battles over education vouchers.

"D.A. letter questions abortion bill's reach," by Angela Couloumbis, Philadelphia Inquirer May 7, 2011. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams weighs in on bill HR 574 which would equate most abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities.

Obama on Domestic Oil Production

from the inbox:

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Washington D.C.

Recently, there have been signs that the economy is picking up steam. Last month, we saw the strongest job growth in five years, and have added more than three-quarters of a million private sector jobs in just three months. But there are still too many Americans who are either looking for work, or struggling to pay the bills and make the mortgage. Paychecks aren’t getting any bigger, but the cost of everything from groceries to college tuition keeps on rising.

Without a doubt, one of the biggest burdens over the last few months has been the price of gasoline. In many places, gas is now more than $4 a gallon, meaning that you could be paying more than $60 to fill up your tank.

These spikes in gas prices are often temporary, and while there are no quick fixes to the problem, there are a few steps we should take that make good sense.

First, we should make sure that no one is taking advantage of consumers at the pump. That’s why we’ve launched a task force led by the Attorney General that has one job: rooting out cases of fraud or manipulation in the markets that might affect gas prices, including any illegal activity by traders and speculators.

Second, we should increase safe and responsible oil production here at home. Last year, America’s oil production reached its highest level since 2003. But I believe that we should expand oil production in America – even as we increase safety and environmental standards.

To do this, I am directing the Department of Interior to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, while respecting sensitive areas, and to speed up the evaluation of oil and gas resources in the mid and south Atlantic. We plan to lease new areas in the Gulf of Mexico as well, and work to create new incentives for industry to develop their unused leases both on and offshore.

We’re also taking steps to give companies time to meet higher safety standards when it comes to exploration and drilling. That’s why my Administration is extending drilling leases in areas of the Gulf that were impacted by the temporary moratorium, as well as certain areas off the coast of Alaska. And to streamline that permitting process, I am establishing a new team to coordinate work on Alaska drilling permits.

Finally, the third step we should take is to eliminate the taxpayer subsidies we give to oil and gas companies. In the last few months, the biggest oil companies made about $4 billion in profits each week. And yet, they get $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies each year. Four billion dollars at a time when Americans can barely fill up their tanks. Four billion dollars at a time when we’re trying to reduce our deficit.

This isn’t fair, it makes no sense. Before I was President, the CEOs of these companies even admitted that the tax subsidies made no sense. Well, next week, there is a vote in Congress to end these oil company giveaways once and for all. And I hope Democrats and Republicans come together and get this done.

The American people shouldn’t be subsidizing oil companies at a time when they’re making near-record profits. As a nation, we should be investing in the clean, renewable sources of energy that are the ultimate solution to high-gas prices. That’s why we’re investing in clean energy technology, helping businesses that manufacture solar panels and wind turbines, and making sure that our cars and trucks can go further on a tank of gas – a step that could save families as much as $3,000 at the pump.

These are investments worth making – investments that will save us money, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and protect the health and safety of our planet. That’s an energy policy for the future, and it’s what I’ll be fighting for in the weeks and months to come.

Cell Phone Ban Passes PA House

from the inbox (Shapiro currently running for Montgomery County commissioner):

Shapiro ban on hand-held cell phones while driving passes House

HARRISBURG, May 12 – Last evening the state House passed legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, to make Pennsylvania’s roads safer by banning the use of hand-held cell phones and texting while driving. Shapiro’s amendment to H.B. 8 passed by a bipartisan vote of 151- 39.

House Bill 8 bans reading, writing or sending a text message while driving. Shapiro’s amendment expands the legislation to include a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones for all drivers.

“I am pleased with the bipartisan support my amendment received in the House,” said Shapiro. “This is an issue of paramount public safety and importance and is long overdue; we need a comprehensive solution to deal with this dangerous driver distraction. We will simply save lives and stop accidents from happening by disconnecting distracted drivers from their hand-held devices on Pennsylvania’s roadways.”

According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation statistics, since 2002, there have been 590 accidents in Pennsylvania where hands-free phones were a contributing factor, while 10,231 accidents listed hand-held phones as a contributing factor. Moreover, studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Virginia Tech, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Utah have all shown that drivers who talk or text on their hand-held cell phones are three to four times more likely to be involved in a crash.

Shapiro has long advocated for a statewide ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving and first introduced this legislation in 2006. Eight states and the District of Columbia have all enacted bans on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving.

Obama's Remarks at National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

from last week's inbox:

Mellon Auditorium
Washington, D.C.
May 12th
9:29 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Well, good morning. This is just an extraordinary gathering. I have to say to Reverend Cortes and all the other organizers of this prayer breakfast, I think it’s getting bigger. Huh? I think this thing is growing. (Applause.)

I just want to thank Reverend Cortes. I just got a extraordinary gift -- a bilingual Bible. It is beautiful. (Applause.) I was told this will help improve my Spanish. (Laughter.) And I said, “I’ll pray on it.” (Laughter.)

To all the clergy, lay leaders, administration officials, and distinguished guests who are here today, it is an extraordinary pleasure to join you. We’ve had a number of prayer breakfasts over the past several months, and I’ve got to say, there is no more inspiring way to begin a day than by praying with fellow believers. And so I’m grateful to all of you to give me this opportunity.

I also know that these past few days have not only been a time of prayer and a time of reflection for all of you. They’ve also been a time to lend your voices to the causes that you’re passionate about. And I want you to know that I’m listening. When you lend your voice to the cause of creating jobs and opening opportunity for all communities, I hear you. When you lend your voice to the cause of educating all of our children, not just some, to succeed in the 21st century, I’m listening. And when you lend your voice to the cause of immigration reform, I am listening.

As some of you probably heard, I flew down to El Paso a couple of days ago to give a speech on this topic. And what I said in that speech was that we define ourselves as a nation of immigrants, as a nation that’s open to anyone who’s willing to embrace America’s precepts and America’s ideals. That’s why so many men and women have braved hardship and great risk to come here, picking up and leaving behind the world that they knew, carrying nothing but the hope that here in America, their children might live a better life.

Our heritage as a nation of immigrants is part of what has always made America strong. Out of many, one -- that is our creed. And we are also a nation of laws. A nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. And what I went down to El Paso to say is that we are enforcing our laws and we’re securing our borders. In fact, we have more manpower down at the Southwest border than at any time in our history.

And so what we need to do going forward is to address some of the broader problems in our immigration system. And that means changing minds and changing votes, one at a time. I know there are some folks who wish I could just bypass Congress. (Laughter.) I can’t. But what I can do is sign a law. What you can do is champion a law. What we can do together is make comprehensive immigration reform the law of the land. That’s what we can do. (Applause.)

Comprehensive reform is not only an economic imperative or a security imperative, it’s also a moral imperative. It’s a moral imperative when kids are being denied the chance to go to college or serve their military because of the actions of their parents. It’s a moral imperative when millions of people live in the shadows and are made vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses or with nowhere to turn if they are wronged. It’s a moral imperative when simply enforcing the law may mean inflicting pain on families who are just trying to do the right thing by their children.

So, yes, immigration reform is a moral imperative, and so it’s worth seeking greater understanding from our faith. As it is written in the Book of Deuteronomy, “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” To me, that verse is a call to show empathy to our brothers and our sisters; to try and recognize ourselves in one another.

And it’s especially important that we try to do that when it comes to immigration -- because this is a subject that can expose raw feelings and feed our fears of change. It can be tempting to think that those coming to America today are somehow different from us. And we need to not have amnesia about how we populated this country. What this verse reminds us to do is to look at that migrant farmer and see our own grandfather disembarking at Ellis Island, or Angel Island in San Francisco Bay; and to look at that young mother, newly arrived in this country, and see our own grandmothers leaving Italy or Ireland or Eastern Europe in search of something better.

That sense of connection, that sense of empathy, that moral compass, that conviction of what is right is what led the National Association of Evangelicals to shoot short films to help people grasp the challenges facing immigrants. It’s what led the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to launch a Justice for Immigrants campaign, and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition to advocate across religious lines. It’s what led all the Latino pastors at the Hispanic Prayer Breakfast to come together around reform.

Ultimately, that’s how change will come. At critical junctures throughout our history, it’s often been men and women of faith who’ve helped to move this country forward. It was in our Episcopal churches of Boston that our earliest patriots planned our Revolution. It was in the Baptist churches of Montgomery and Selma that the civil rights movement was born. And it’s in the Catholic and Evangelical and mainline churches of our Southwest and across our entire continent that a new movement for immigration reform is taking shape today.

So I’ll keep doing my part. I’ll keep pushing and working with Congress. But the only way we are going to get this done is by building a widespread movement for reform. That’s why I’m asking you to keep preaching and persuading your congregations and communities. That’s why I’m asking you to keep on activating, getting involved, mobilizing. That’s why we all need to keep praying. I’m asking you to help us recognize ourselves in one another. And if you can do that, I’m absolutely confident that we will not only make sure America remains true to its heritage as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, but we’ll make sure we remain true to our founding ideals, and that we build a beloved community here on this Earth.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Treatman's Statement on Miller Raid

from the inbox:

8th District City Council candidate Howard Treatman released the following statement in reaction to the apparent raid of Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller’s office by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.

“The media reported today that the Ethics Board is investigating Councilwoman Miller’s office for using taxpayer funded resources to influence the 8th District Council race. We don’t know all the facts yet, but if the news reports are true, this is yet another example of the kind of back-room politics that I’ve been running against in this campaign. Using a City Council office for political purposes is illegal and unethical, but it’s no surprise to hear that it goes on. Councilwoman Miller should be open and forthright about this misstep and tell the people of the 8th District what happened.”

At 1:37 PM today, the Philadelphia Daily News blog Philly Clout reported that the Board of Ethics raided Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller’s office for evidence that taxpayer owned resources were being used to produce campaign material for City Council candidate Verna Tyner. The blog also reported that Councilwoman Miller’s endorsement of Tyner was sent out Tuesday on City Council stationary.