Saturday, March 29, 2008

Harrisburg LOVES Obama apparently!

I just got back from the Campaign Headquarters here on Second St. I sort of knew it was a lost cause, I slept too late due to a nasty little head cold I picked up yesterday. But, like his campaign, I figured I'd keep my hopes up.

The tickets were gone at 9am, which was when they opened the doors.

The line formed at 3 am. It was hella cold last night.

The line at its longest apparently snaked all the way up 2nd street, up State Street, and up Third past the Capitol.

I am hoping Senator Obama comes back and reserves the Giant Center!

As for me I admit I teared up a little bit, but I still hope to get to see him again.

(The image is from Boston in October).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Veruca Salt

Remember the bratty Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

Lately, the Clinton campaign has really reminded me of that character.

It's sad, because I really did like her and her husband, former President Clinton a great deal. Going into Primary Season I liked all of the candidates (at the time there were 6 or 7) a lot, although I thought some were total long shots.

Now, not so much.

I'll still vote for her in November in the off-chance she does indeed win the nomination via the only real option left--superdelegate coup. But I doubt I'll do much else. For one thing, she'll not get a dime from me.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Life Lesson #41

Always check your clothes before you put them through the wash.

My Letter to Whole Foods

I've seen Whole Foods stores in downtown Philadelphia, serving the needs of an improving neighborhood.

I think your corporation could do well here in Harrisburg city. There are a number of sites in town that were former retail that are simply sitting empty. Many city residents want a grocery store within the city limits. With gas prices continuing to rise, going to the grocery store for many of us city residents often means a 10-15 minute drive. Building within the city also helps us expand our tax base and help limit suburban sprawl.

The city itself has a nighttime population of about 48,000. During the day it swells to almost 100,000. In the region there are almost 500,000 people. You will have a decent market here.

With stable employment and a fairly educated population I think Whole Foods could do well here.

I am simply a private citizen, with an interest in improving the city that I've adopted as my home.

Thank you for your time.

-Terry Pinder
Harrisburg, PA

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My dad doesn't believe me that I started spring cleaning so here's pictures for proof.

Yes, still a tad junky, but notice no sofa bed? All the big stuff is gone and the little stuff is all that's left to sort through and toss out. I need a coffee table. And a vacuum cleaner. And a real bed, although the Aerobed is quite comfortable and firm (it had better be, for the price I paid for it!)

Actually this is further proof that 549 square feet is too small for me, and it's getting time to move. I really don't want to add any more furniture to the space because it's so small (like more bookshelves, etc.) We'll have to save more and then get serious about house hunting.


I had accumulated about 2 years worth of junk. See, I developed this habit of ordering stuff from Amazon and never throwing away the boxes. As a result closets overflowed and I ended up using the bedroom as a closet.

It's all gone! Yay!

I have to highly recommend 1-800 Junk. They arrived on time and got the job done within a half hour, all for $200. They even came out in today's Onion Snow. I mean I wasn't going to do it myself, so I figured it'd be best to just pay someone to just come in and do it.

Now I have to buy a bed. But the biggest part of Spring Cleaning is now done and I'm happy.

Olde Uptown

You know, I just have to say good job and mad props to the guys redeveloping Olde Uptown here in Harrisburg.

An observation I've noticed is people seem very set in their ways around Harrisburg, and they belittle any new change that tries to come down the pike. I don't much care for Mayor Reed, but he does deserve some credit for making the attempt to make the city better. And everyone else who has come up with good ideas should be too. It's time for an effort like Olde Uptown to occur in the State Street Corridor. With those huge houses that line the street it could be a real showcase hit.

I am sort of househunting, and I may just do it in Olde Uptown. It's a bit farther then my original part of the 17102 I was looking for. but it's really worth a look (since it seems to be the only part of the 17102 that's not in the 6th St. Corridor that's affordable.)

Link: Olde Uptown

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Speech

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Everyone should have a Crackberry.


I am looking for an orange seersucker suit.

It is probably better if you don't know the reason why.

If anyone knows a retailer who sells such a divine piece of clothing, please let me know.

I need to have this by early June.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Capitol Blue Cross is really getting on my nerves

So for the second time this year, they've denied payment a major medical procedure.

I had electrodiagnostic testing done for Carpal Tunnel. I indeed do have that injury. Capital Blue Cross denied the claim, stating in so many terms it wasn't medically necessary. (Apparently, the doctor tested too many nerves. Um, no he only tested one major nerve and its radial branches present in both arms. How is that too many nerves?)

I find that interesting since I have done tons of homework on Carpal Tunnel and the best way to determine if someone has the condition is through electrodiagnostic testing (essentially, they take a low voltage and and shock certain points along the nerve to check the electrical impulses. It's non-invasive. They had to do this in both arms, as I have it in both arms.Yes, Capitol Blue Cross, it is indeed possible to get Carpal Tunnel in BOTH arms. Imagine that!) How in the heck is this not medically necessary, when it's the BEST way to get a CONCRETE diagnosis? Riddle me that, Batman.

I don't see the purpose of having medical insurance if they're just going to deny payment for everything and not give decent concrete reasons why other then "it's not medically necessary," when there's really no better way to test for the condition then the procedure (which isn't even that expensive a procedure!) I had done is. So I don't see the point in bothering to go to the doctor, since Capitol Blue Cross seems to not want to bother paying for anything, even though I ALREADY PAY FOR IT ON A BI-WEEKLY BASIS.

Yeah, best health care in the world. Whatever. And Capitol Blue Cross wants to expand statewide. I chose them because they were concentrated only in this area, other then the other ones offered to us who are national organizations and have some pretty big black marks against them too. Statewide just dilutes the brand. Maybe they want to be like their brother Blue Cross organizations, all of whom suck.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

Humorous Pictures
Enter the ICHC online Poker Cats Contest!

Obama stuff

While I personally cannot fundraise, I read nothing in the Civil Service rules that says I can't point people who would want to donate to various campaigns, say the Obama campaign. Help out a friend of mine reach his goal.

yes they're using my picture. it's free for anyone to use if they wish.

The Best She'll Probably Do

Clinton is ahead by 20 points as of now.

That said, that's the best she'll probably be ahead. This mirrors pretty much every other state. And a small poll done by Susquehanna/Triad polling indicates there could be a lot more undecideds then other polls have picked up.

So we shall see. I expect the gap to close significantly and I expect a close race.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Governor Spitzer.


Resign already.

I had high hopes for you too. What a waste. Now go away.

One thing that has irked me about this whole process, now that Pennsylvania is a Very Important State that Matters and not a Boutique State with Cute Latte Volvo Caucuses, is the comparison that Pennsylvania is Ohio.

It is not. Pennsylvania is NOT Ohio. It's its own special animal of crazy!

I am going to go region by region across the state, using the recent SUSA poll.

There are caveats to the poll I'm using in the analysis: I expect the gap to close significantly, especially 6 weeks out, and the polling was done last week after Clinton had 3 big (2, depending on who you ask) wins. I am waiting for the latest Keystone Poll which may or may not (I have had issues in the past with the way they sample) close the gap some.

As an Obama supporter I'm going to attempt to point out where he can win, especially in areas where he's really down. But as a Democrat I'm going to mention that I hold little ill will toward the Clinton Campaign, although her campaign since South Carolina has turned me off from enthusiastically volunteering for the presidential campaign should she get the nomination. Plus, a friend of mine is the regional field director for Central PA on the Clinton campaign, and I would like to keep the friendship. I also know a few people highly placed who are Clinton supporters, and burning bridges this early in my real and political career would be pretty goddamn stupid. So, let's keep it civil, folks, because in the real world, people are still civil to each other. If you cannot do that, please don't aggravate me. I can be really mean and spiteful and bitchy when I want to, and this goes out to both camps. Do not make me pull this blog over......!

South Central PA and Central PA

We'll start with South Central PA, where I currently live. This would be PA-16, PA-9, PA-19, parts of PA-5, parts of PA-10 and much of PA-17. Of the four Congressional districts, only PA-17 is represented by a Democrat, Tim Holden, who last I heard had not endorsed. I can see him going both ways. He is a Blue Dog Democrat, so if anyone has any stats on how the Blue Dogs have endorsed if they have at all, please feel free to add to the diary.

South Central PA is an oddball and mishmash of places. It's not quite urban, not quite suburban. Not quite rural, not quite Appalachia. Not quite Yankee, not quite Southern. Not quite rust-belt, and not quite Coal Country. It's got pretty much all of that all mixed in to what we all know is the southern two-thirds of the infamous Pennsylvania(tucky) T. The part that is "Alabama" in the middle. It's also where I live.

Regional economy remains fairly good. The southern tier of York, Adams, and Franklin Counties are Baltimore/Washington exurbs (Baltimore for York, Washington for Franklin and Adams.) This may or may not be a factor in the vote---I have not seen any research on how these exurban folks from Maryland (although they could be from anywhere in the nation) vote. Suburban sprawl is sadly eating up land all across the area, and due to Pennsylvania's arcane municipal laws the urban core cities of Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg have struggled, York especially, although all three are making strong comebacks.

A common commercial seen on TV here depicts the region as "The Smart Market." Sometimes I wonder about that after reading the letters to the editor in the Patriot-News or the message board at Pennlive, but I digress. This is, more or less, not a region of dumb hicks which the pejorative version of "Pennsyltucky" or "Alabama down the Middle" implies (and is unfair to Kentucky, Alabama, and Pennsylvania.)

Nascar is pretty popular here, though. Anyway.

SUSA has Obama down in this area.

Clinton: 55%
Obama: 40%

Not too distant a race for an area supposedly filled with inbred racist hicks according to that ragin' Cajun.

I could see this gap closing, and I'll tell you why. Although Democrats are fairly outnumbered in this area by Republicans those that are here tend to be on the progressive side, except perhaps in the Harrisburg area. I realize this evidence is perhaps weak, but we can take a look at the Casey/Pennacchio Senate matchup of 2006.

Obviously, this was a bloodbath of a matchup, and Pennacchio never had any semblance of a chance. But have a look at Lancaster County:

Lancaster County
Democratic Primary
Candidate Votes Percent
CASEY, BOB JR (DEM) 7,858 69.2%
SANDALS, ALAN (DEM) 603 5.3%

Other then Fulton County, which technically is in South Central PA but more in West Central (but I consider it an outlier, for now, not knowing much about that county), there were no other counties where Pennacchio polled so high other then Centre County where Penn State is. And from personal experience, Democrats tend to be very progressive in Lancaster County (PA-16). Obviously it's still a very Republican county (2-1 ratio) however I kind of do anticipate a lot of crossover votes in this county. In private, lots of Lancaster County denizens will admit they're really Democrats, but because our closed primaries are also defacto local general elections in most of the state, they remain Republicans to moderate the more nutty influences of the local party there. And I think they have--the very creepy, very nutty, and very fundamentalist Heidi Wheaton is not representing anyone in Lancaster Co.

Clinton made a campaign stop here today, and got a crowd of about 2000 (with some turned away, the Forum only holds 2000 people.) Both the McCain and Clinton campaigns paid to march in our St. Patrick's Day parade. Her office is open downtown here, and is well placed on the 2nd Street Party Strip (and 3 doors down from PA State Democratic Headquarters.) I think people agree with her economic message, as times here were better in the 1990s then they are now. I admit to being somewhat surprised as to her support here, as some of the Hillary hatred in the area is pretty visceral and vile, particularly among Republicans and more conservative Democrats (that said, SUSA reports Clinton has the support, as of now, of conservative Democrats). That said, I still have to remind some people in areas I sojourn in that 1. Kenyans are not Arabs and 2. Obama is a Christian. Racist attitudes are still a problem here, even among some Democrats. That retarded little email is still making the rounds and it's pretty disheartening to hear Democrats spouting them (but more or less expected of Republicans, although I don't get the gay ones spouting it of either party.)

I think outside of Philadelphia and its suburbs, Obama should stump here heavily. Stops in Pottstown, Shamokin, York, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Williamsport, and State College should be on the agenda. Talking the real story about NAFTA would appeal especially in York which is a manufacturing town. Explaining what that "change" is would get through to a lot of over-cynical state workers in Harrisburg who either don't believe him or think the fix is in and she'll get the nomination even if he wins delegate and popular vote wise. Whatever he did in downstate Illinois would probably work here. I dunno, but perhaps mentioning the machine and mainstream state Democrats were generally for the 2005 legislative and judicial pay raises may help in Central PA, though that's a local issue and not relavent to the entire nation. Still...

I don't have a crystal ball, but I expect that gap to close here in the midstate. I will say I would be shocked to see him win York County, because there are certain communities there that I could not ever see voting for a black person (think Confederate flags everywhere, despite being north of the Mason-Dixon), and there is also a large Hispanic community in the city which at present according to SUSA is in support of Clinton. I also think the Lancaster progressives will come out for Obama, as I get the distinct feeling they're really not Clinton fans. Beyond that I'll make no more predictions about South Central PA.

West Central PA

West Central PA is Appalachia. It includes the cities of Altoona and Johnstown. This is PA-9, a very gerrymandered PA-12, the rest of PA-5 and parts of PA-18.

My experience in this area is limited. I've been to places like St. Marys, Altoona and Dubois. It's very white, but I can't say the area is racist as the folks here likely have not had any experience with people of other cultures. The area suffers from a general lack of access due to the terrain, Johnstown in particular, and is generally bleeding its population elsewhere in the state. Oil leases have come back into play in PA-5, as the oil remaining in the ground which was not profitable to extract now is. Manufacturing left in the 1980s and 1990s.

SUSA looks great for Clinton, and grim for Obama.

Clinton: 76%
Obama: 17%

Obama simply needs to show up in this area. A stop in Johnstown is a must. To my knowledge, Murtha, who represents PA-12, has not endorsed. There are some big Democratic names in the machine out there, however, and I'm not sure if the Governor will call on their support.

A lot of this is diary country. While I think it's arcane to the general public, talking about Montasano and labeling milk could go well here for either candidate (although I expect Obama to talk about it more then Clinton.)

Jesse Jackson did well in Appalachia when he ran, and lemme tell ya people can't stand him in this part of the state and where I live. All he did was show up and talk to people.

Clinton can depend on, I think, a very reliable machine to deliver the region for her. This is an area of old fashioned conservative Democrats. I do expect the gap to close, but not as drastically as I do in South Central.

Southwest PA

Southwest PA includes the city of Pittsburgh and is the epitome of the Rust Belt. This is PA-12, PA-14, PA-18 and PA-4 (which was last cycle's most satisfying Democratic pickup. We really need to pick up PA-18 this cycle, which would make this area totally Blue. Blue Dog, but still Blue.)

OF all of PA's regions, this one resembles Ohio the most in terms of jobs lost and towns devastated by the loss of manufacturing, especially in the Monongahela River valley and places like Beaver Falls. There is still coal mining in the region, especially in Greene County. Other then internal suburban migration in Butler County from Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, this area is not growing and despite all the universities in the region especially in the city of Pittsburgh, those kids leave when they graduate, despite a decent and growing tech market in Pittsburgh and a low cost of living.

SUSA for Southwest PA:

Clinton: 58%
Obama: 27%
(The Other category was 10%)

I cannot even begin to describe the byzantine machine politics that go on in Southwest PA, so I won't. I've experienced it in attending biannual transportation hearings through my job. It gets pretty ugly out there. I think the machine is for Clinton.

Both of my siblings attended universities in Pittsburgh and enjoyed the place, although they found it a tad segregated for their tastes (not that the Philadelphia region is much better).

NAFTA, NAFTA, NAFTA needs to be the message. Outside of Pittsburgh it's pretty grim, with many towns along the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers in pretty sad shape. The coming recession will hit this region hard.

As before, I expect this gap to close. A large student population in the region may help. The primary, however, falls during UPitt's finals week. Beyond that I think it's anyone's region to win or lose.

Northwest PA

This contains PA-3 mostly, and parts of PA-5. Other then Erie, it's mostly rural. Oil is becoming big again in PA-5 (this was where oil was first struck in the US.) I read an article in the paper that states most of the oil is still in the ground, but like the tar sands out west, it wasn't profitable to get until now. They're getting it now (which kinda pisses me off, environmentally.)

This area also resembles Ohio, although Erie still has some heavy industry (locomotives, and plastics) and they build ships there too. A recent article which I can't find, sorry, indicated there was a strong, strong need for shipbuilders as the area has bled much of its educated young to other parts of PA or elsewhere.

This is Clinton Country, per SUSA

Clinton: 79%
Obama: 19%

It is, however, not Rendell Country. I-80 traverses the area, and the recent sale of I-80 to the Turnpike Commission so they could toll it really has a lot of people honking pissed off. It was the only time you ever heard from Representative Peterson and English, on this issue.

Obama just needs to show up to close the gap. I don't expect him to win, but I do expect the gap to close significantly. Showing up is 80% of the job.

Northeast PA

Northeast PA is PA-10, PA-11, and PA-15. I'll include parts of PA-17 as well. Only PA-15 is a Republican district, and I haven't the foggiest reason why given the Lehigh Valley's demographics.

The valley regions are urban and the hills and elsewhere are rural. This is also Coal Country. Chris Carney, in PA-10 (another very satisfying pickup) is a Blue Dog, and has not endorsed to my knowledge.


Clinton: 58%
Obama: 33%

Not bad, considering the hometown girl angle they're playing in Scranton.

There are a lot of New Yorkers in the region. This is pretty much a New York City exurb, especially east of Scranton and in the Lehigh Valley. I am not sure how this dynamic will play out. I'd expect the polling to be further apart to be honest given the New Yorkers in the area and how well she did in her home state, and in New Jersey. At the same time manufacturing died in the 80s and was killed with NAFTA. Coal is still going strong, but with Powder River Coal in Wyoming being so much cheaper---well, you see where I'm going.

There are lots of ways Obama can close the gap here as this is a pretty diverse region with all sorts of people from blue collar to wealthy New York City executives who wanted cheap land and a 5 acre lot in the mountains close to where they ski. It is this dynamic and not just the choking incident that led Chris Carney to beat his opponent, I believe that. There is also a large Hispanic population in the Lehigh Valley. Their votes are as good as anyones, I think.

This is also the home of Hazleton and its nutcase mayor.

Southeast PA

The Delaware Valley, where two-fifths of the Democratic electorate lives, and almost half of the state's total population inhabits, is where we'll end. It's also where I'm from originally. This is PA-1, PA-2, PA-6, PA-7, PA-8, PA-13 and a small portion of PA-16 (for exurban measure.) PA-1, 2, 7, 8, and 13 are Democratic seats. Lois Herr won the Chester County portion of PA-16, and some of the most exciting pickups in Congress and in the State House occurred in SE PA. Our one seat sliver in the PA State house is thanks to a seat in Chester County.

This is also Rendell Country.


Clinton: 48%
Obama: 46%

pretty much a statistical tie and within the sampling margin of error.

Obviously this will be a battleground for both campaigns. Both Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia and former mayor Governor Rendell have endorsed Clinton. Rendell's unfortunate habit of "speaking his mind" may or may not hurt him at home. At present I am fairly certain this is the only area he's still popular in, although I often joke that Philadelphians can't stand him either and were more then happy to send him statewide for "revenge," since the city is often the brunt of ire from central Pennsylvanian lawmakers who think the city is looting the state dry (it's actually the other way around.) I could see them doing that. Philadelphians have a mean, bastid streak. I hate and love that town.

I grew up in Delaware County (PA-7) and will use it as my Southeast PA example.

Of the 5 county Philadelphia region, Delco is the only suburban county that was not growing as of recently. The economy is fairly good, but demographics are changing. If I were to divide Delco up I'd draw a rough square with the Blue Route on the west boundary, the Delaware River as the Southern boundary, Lancaster Avenue (US 30) as the northern boundary and the city line as the eastern boundary. This area is more middle and working class (speaking broadly, as places like Swarthmore and much of Drexel Hill and Upper Darby's Beverly Hills neighborhood is pretty ritzy) but it's also Delco's most diverse area with a lot of young families (it's fairly affordable, by Philly area standards). Outside of the box is the Main Line, a very wealthy area, and other suburban sprawl. HGTV films in Aston a lot, which is outside of the rough square I drew and close to Delaware.

Delco is a long time GOP stronghold and from 1854 to 1988, voted reliably Republican. Outside of a few communities every local level office is GOP held. Republicans have a slight plurality in registrations. Because there are school board elections I really don't expect a lot of crossover votes. Democrats simply don't win school board elections in Delaware County, even in very diverse Upper Darby Township (hometown of Tina Fey, among other famous people, like me!) A lot of these people are somewhat moderate Democrats, (or liberal Republicans, for the tax purposes you see), so Clinton may still prevail. I'll be annoyed if either of them make their campaign stop at Drexelbrook in Drexel Hill, because that is where Bush always stopped whenever he made a campaign stop in the Philadelphia area. It would rub me the wrong way. And yes, I'm being irrational.

Both candidates would be stuuuuuuuuuuupid not to mention John Airbus McCain here. There's a Boeing plant in Ridley.

Overall in Philadelphia and region, this is where I expect Obama to do the best. He'll probably win it, but it may be close, especially in places like NE Philadelphia and the Chester County suburbs. I'm keeping my eye on Delco, though, because even though I really couldn't wait to get as far away from it as possible but still be close to Philadelphia, it's still home.

Whew. that's it. Have at it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008