Falling Prices, Falling Ethics

The Census Bureau released a report that found 45.8 million Americans lacked health insurance, an increase of 800K from 2003. “We have a serious cost and availability problem in employer-based coverage,” said Diane Rowland, exec dir of Kaiser’s foundation commis on the uninsured, in an 8/26/05 interview. “We’re not going to work out of our uninsured problem by having a good economy.”

Wal-Mart is leading the way as the employer-based system continues to crumble. According to the company’s Web site - - the company provides health care benefits to about 568,000 of Wal-Mart’s 1.2 million workers in the U.S. Based on Wal-Mart’s own figures, the company covers only 47 percent of its workforce.

While Wal-Mart reaps its $10 billion profit from 2004 alone, who pays for the health-care for the rest of their employees? We all do.

Up in Smoke

ACM, of A Smoke Filled Room, pointed out an interesting study yesterday:

Amidst all the discussions about how to encourage but direct/control development of city neighborhoods, one thing often goes unspoken: that the low-rise "character" of Philadelphia, with its row-houses of 2-4 stories, represents a long-term constraint on growth and modernization of the city as a whole. All the more reason for the city to make some central plans about neighborhoods to protect, regions where taller buildings would fit in better, areas needing complete redesign, and the like.

Anyway, was made to think of these issues while reading this Harvard news article, which reports that experts think that density is critical to urban vitality.

In some ways, this idea is pretty obvious. In dense cities, especially in the Northeast, you can almost "feel the electricity" or whatever; much of it because people are simply on top of each other. I spent 4 plus years in the Twin Cities, and while they are wonderful places, there is a palpable difference in cities that are spread out over a much larger geographic area.

New Jersey's Campaign Finance Experiment

As I have said before, I think real, deep campaign finance reform, which has to involve some public financing of elections, is a crucial step to getting better, more effective government in Philadelphia. New York City has an interesting model, that appears to have significantly changed how NYC elections work. (I will get into the NYC system at some point soon.) But, just across the Delaware, New Jersey has its own campaign finance system that they are experimenting with in three counties, including Camden.

From NJ Citizen Action, we see the basic outline of the New Jersey program:

Candidates who voluntarily choose to participate in the clean elections pilot must agree to four simple rules to qualify for public funds:

Mike Malloy from Air America tells Paul Lang he would work for him if he lived in Bucks county

Mike Malloy to Paul Lang: "Your experience looks good. Your service in the military looks good. Your education looks good. If I lived in your district I'd be knocking on doors for you."

Listen to the 08/09/2005 archive (around minute 32) here:

The Place of Non-Profits in our Economy

The Inquirer has a really interesting article on the major role Non-Profits play in Philadelphia's economy.

Nonprofits now employ about one in 10 working Pennsylvanians, among the highest rates in the nation, the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies said. Philadelphia itself is almost off the charts, with one in five workers in the city employed by nonprofits at the end of 2003.

The comparable rate for the United States: one in 14.

"There would be a big hole in this economy if they didn't have those jobs," said Joe Geiger, director of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations, which helped pay for the study.

But whether Pennsylvania's heavy reliance on nonprofits is good or bad depends on whom you ask. Experts say the nonprofit growth spurt happened as the region dealt with enormous manufacturing-job losses, driven by globalization and high business costs in the Northeast. Some worry that nonprofits tend to recycle money within a community rather than generate new prosperity.

Nearly half of Philadelphia's 50 largest employers are nonprofits. Included among them are the University of Pennsylvania, which has more than 13,000 full- and part-time employees, and Albert Einstein Medical Center, which has 5,763 full- and part-time workers.

Check out the rest in the extended entry.

A Youngster Running for City Council

I don't know how serious this is, but I stumbled onto the blog of a supposed City Council candidate, Joel Rice. Rice is a Philly native, went to Central High School and Penn. He must be all of about 23 years old. What does he stand for? According to his blog:

I will not be bought, nor will I buy others.

I will fight for better EMS services city-wide.

I will hold law enforcement officers accountable.

I will ardently advocate the rights of the homeless.

I will strive to improve the lot of cyclists throughout the city.

I will propose legislation to bring Philadelphia among the nation's greenest cities.

I will accept only the median wage in Philadelphia as salary and will divert the rest of the alotted councillor's salary to community initiatives.

I will champion the cause of liberty and will prove that a little bit of intelligence and a generous serving of integrity can overcome corrupt partisan political machines.

I am not one to tell someone they are too young to do anything. I am interested in seeing if anything comes from this or not.

Another PA Vet Announces Bid For U.S. Congress

Since the last election ended I have been focused on pushing forward a seemingly simple meme for Democrats- if we are going to regain our political majority, in our post-9/11 country, we must destroy the myth that Democrats are weak on security. To put it simply: It's Security, Stupid! Security is one of the few "single issues" that people will vote for, and because Dems are seen as "anti-military," we lose all of those voters (mainly married mothers- i.e. "security moms") who vote primarily for who they feel will keep them safest. This is why, IMHO, Shrub was able to beat Kerry even though he was, by historical measures, in deep-deep doo-doo before the election, what with the faltering economy and a war of choice without a visible exit.

Last week I noted that two Veterans are running for PA's 8th Congressional District, veterans Patrick Murphy and Paul Lang. Yesterday, All Spin Zone noted that another Vet has thrown his hat into a PA race for U.S. Congress, this time in PA's 10th CD:

Oh, Rick!

Poor Rick Santorum. Things are so confusing for him. I think he was for challenging the President on Iraq, before he was against it, or something like that.

What am I talking about? As I mentioned last week, Bob Casey has begun the process of attacking Rick Santorum on Iraq. His line of reasoning is that Santorum took glee in excoriating Bill Clinton when we went into Kosovo, saying he could not support some ill-defined war without an exit strategy. Yet, according to Casey, as Pennsylvania deaths mount, Santorum has never questioned how President Bush has conducted this 2 year old war. Of course, many in the blog community were happy to see Casey actually mentioning Santorum and Iraq, indicating that the issue would be raised until November 2006.

But little Ricky doth protest! Of course I have raised the tough questions on Iraq, says he! Unfortunately for Rick though, there is this thing called Lexis Nexis, which lets people search print media and transcripts of news shows, which lets us see if 'ol Rick is telling the truth. Annnnd, survey says:

Hip-Hop Voting Bloc?

The Nation

Hip-Hop Voting Bloc?


Hip-hop culture has proved to be a very effective means of conveying
political ideas to young people. Its images and lyrics speak far more
clearly to many of them than the language of mainstream politicians.
And we may have seen only a hint of hip-hop's political promise.

A year ago the press was heralding the possibility that a young,
progressive and hip-hop-influenced voting bloc would decide the 2004
presidential election. Now, with President Bush re-elected and vital
statewide and Congressional elections upcoming, many on the left are
wondering what happened to the "hip-hop voting movement."

"It hasn't disappeared in any way," says Adrienne Brown, co-founder of

Temple and "Progress"

The Philadelphia Weekly has a profile of a Temple Professor, who wants to stop the perceived change of Temple from a locally focused College into an internationaly known research institution. I have some definite problems with the article, but it is a good opportunity to talk generally about Temple and its aims and about the familiar "progress" debate.

First, the article tells the cool story of Anthony Dandridge, a 36 year old Philly native who did not like where his life was heading, and turned it all around, by getting his bachlor's and master's degrees from Temple. Dandridge is now an instructor at Temple, studying to get his PHD. It is a plain ol' feel good story. The article ends like this:

Andy Warren

So Andy Warren is about to announce in CD 08. Does this ex-GOPer really think he's going to win over the hearts of the Democratic base by comparing Fitzpatrick to DeLay? We can see right through that message. And as taxpayers continue to suffer from the Wal-Marting of our economy, does Warren really believe his pro-choice creds will gain traction in Upper and Lower Bucks?

Challenging the Pay Raises

In a nice bout of irony, the PA legislature presumably thought that with a 2 month layoff after their pay raise, the outrage would slip away, and people would simply forget about it... Forget that at the same time they were cutting Medicare and not raising the minimum wage, they were voting themselves as much as a 34 percent pay raise... Forget that they were cleary skirting the law by giving themselves the raise this year, but instead simply calling it unvouchered expenses... But, surely due to the fact that there is not that much news in the summer, the fiasco has remained front page news.

The Inquirer has an article today detailing the history of challenges to pay-raises. While it is noted that previous challenges have indeed lost, it is pretty clear that if it can be proved that the "unvouchered expenses" that Legislators gave themselves, in a clear attempt to subvert Pennsylavnia law, were salary and not expense, the pay raise can be over-turned.

John Grogan also has a column on continuing outrage over the raises. As he implies, what has only made it worse for our Representatives is when they try and defend the hike.

From Grogan's column:

Otterbein announces race for US House in PA-19

GoodWorks-PAC is joining its first Congressional candidate, Joe Otterbein, in announcing his novel campaign this Tuesday, August 23, 2005 in York, PA (see Joe is following the GoodWorks-PAC game plan by calling for more Democrats to compete against him in the Democratic primary.

It’s counter-intuitive, but having more Democratic opponents in the primary campaign can actually help Joe win in November, 2006.

Why is that? Well, first of all, you need to know that Joe is running in one of the most Republican areas in the country. No Democrat has run for Congress in the PA-19th since 2000. The Republican Congressman, Todd Platts, is also reputed to be one of the nastiest campaigners in the Republican Party! Can you imagine?

So, the situation is difficult. But look on the bright side: having Democratic opponents cannot make Joe’s chances any worse. Even better, having more opponents will help shield Joe and his opponents from Republican attacks during the course of their primary campaign.

Click Read more to see the rest.

The Revolution Starts In PA?

While many people have heard of Tom Delay's infamous redistricting of Texas Congressional seats, where Delay had the State re-draw districts in 2003 (after they had already been re-drawn in 2001, as is customary). Delay's goal was to lock in districts that would make sure that a large majority of Texas Congressman were coming from the GOP. And succeed he did. In fact, Delay's redistricting move alone, creating suicide boundaries for many Dem Representatives, was the only reason that the Democratic Party did not gain Congressional seats in 2004.

However, what a lot of people forget is that, although they redistricted at the appropriate time, 2001, Pennsylvania Republicans took a similar approach to their drawing of Pennsylvania Congressional boundaries. That has helped lead to a situation where a state with more registered Democrats than Republicans has 12 of our 19 Congressman coming from the GOP.

People complain a lot that far too many Congressman never get serious challengers; that boundaries are drawn to simply protect incumbency. And, while that may be true nationally, it does not have to be true in Pennsylvania. And, we have the PA GOP's own piggishness to thank for it.

Click Read More to see what I am talking about.

Will Bunch on the Legacy of a Fallen Local Soldier

If you have time, check out Will Bunch's piece on the legacy of John Kulick, one of too many area soldiers who have recently died in Iraq.

Jim Kulick said his brother's emails showed a man who was becoming more and more worried. John Kulick said the insurgents were using increasingly sophisticated IEDs -- improvised explosive devices -- and were firing rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs, into their camp. "They had to hide under their cots -- there was nothing they could do," Kulick's brother said. "The Humvees weren't armored, or lightly armored -- they were basically useless. At first they were sending them out in pickup trucks. They weren't really equipped to fight this war."

Check out the whole thing at Attytood.

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