Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Acklin for Allegheny County

Today's Trib carries an article by Dave Brown on Kevin Acklin's announcement tomorrow morning that he is running for the GOP At-Large seat on Allegheny County Council.

A Pittsburgh native, Kevin is a graduate of Central Catholic, Harvard and Georgetown Law. He works as an attorney at Morgan Lewis and lives in Squirrel Hill with his wife and two young sons. He would be a strong addition to county council.

Kevin also was a generous supporter of my '06 State House bid. I hope all my Allegheny County family members and friends give him their full support this year!

Help Stop Hunger

This is a marketing gimmic but probably a good thing: Celebrity Pasta Lovers.

For every free download of "The Celebrity Pasta Lovers' Cookbook," Barilla will donate $1 to America's Second Harvest, the food bank network. If you choose the local option, the Pittsburgh-area location is in Duquesne. That's where the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is located.

I had the opportunity to tour the GPCFB back in the spring of 2005. It's a great place.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Prophets of Love

There were several notable items in the readings at Mass today. Here's a look:

Part of the first reading was from the Prophet Jeremiah:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

The second reading was St. Paul's famous exploration of love in his letter to the Corinthians:

Brothers and sisters:

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Today's Gospel continues where we left off last week in the Gospel of Luke -- the passage from which we get the phrase: 'never a prophet in your own hometown':

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”

He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”

And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.

Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.

But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Hearing

Yesterday, I attended three hours of the latest in the series of public hearings on the Port Authority of Allegheny County's proposed bus route cuts. This hearing was held at the Doubletree Hotel in Moon Township.

Representing McDonald Borough Council, I called on the PAT board members and administrators not to totally eliminate the 33F ("McDonald Express") and 28G ("Oakdale Express").

Most of those commenting yesterday were riders of the 28X bus that connects the Pittsburgh International Airport to Downtown Pittsburgh; riders of the 28K bus that carries commuters between Downtown and a relatively new $2.5 million-park 'n ride in Moon Township; and riders of the 25A bus that takes local workers in the Coraopolis - Moon Township area to mostly retail jobs at The Pointe at North Fayette.

Many of those speaking were commuters who (#1) do not drive, (#2) do not have a car or (#3) come from a family that cannot afford a second car. One Kennedy Township woman who does not drive talked about how she and her family purchased their home because it was located on a busline. She said she would walk to another bus stop but her community has no sidewalks and such a walk would be treacherous in the dark winter mornings.

One young man who rides these buses stated that all of the 50 busiest airports in the United States are connected by mass transit to downtown business districts. Pittsburgh International (which this rider stated was the 42nd busiest airport) would be the only major U.S. airport not served by transit of some kind if the 28X is dropped from the Port Authority's schedule.

Long story short -- it's long past time for the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Rendell to decide on a dedicated source of funding for mass transit in the Keystone State. And it needs to happen before Southwestern PA's already-mediocre mass transit system takes a significant step backward.

(Photo above from PAT's Wikipedia entry.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Catching the Bus

Tuesday's P-G included a story on the first public hearing on the Port Authority of Allegheny County's proposed bus route cuts. Among those providing testimony on behalf of the buses that serve the McDonald area were McDonald Council President Louis "Tim" Thomassy and local bus rider Yvonne Darragh.

Below is the text of a letter McDonald Borough Council has sent to PAT objecting to the proposed elimination of the 33F and 28G buses:

January 10, 2007

Mr. Steven Bland, Chief Executive Officer
Port Authority of Allegheny County
Heinz 57 Center
345 Sixth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-2527

Dear Mr. Bland,

We are writing to convey our strong opposition to a proposal by the Port Authority of Allegheny County to eliminate its 33F ("McDonald Express") and 28G ("Oakdale Express") bus routes as announced on January 3, 2007.

The 33F and 28G buses currently travel via Noblestown Road through McDonald Borough (in both Washington County and Allegheny County), North Fayette Township, South Fayette Township, Oakdale Borough, Collier Township and the Borough of Carnegie. The 28G conveys passengers into Downtown Pittsburgh via Liberty Avenue. For many decades, the 33F also traveled directly into Downtown Pittsburgh. In recent months, a service change forced the passengers of the 33F to disembark at the Carnegie Station and make a transfer onto a 33X or 100 bus for the distance into Downtown Pittsburgh.

Elimination of the 33F and 28G bus routes would present an economic hardship for the many commuters who live in the small towns and villages of southwestern Allegheny County and northwestern Washington County. Until the recent service change for the 33F, the early morning and late afternoon runs of theses buses had significant numbers of passengers.

Elimination of the 33F and 28G bus routes would be a particular blow for our efforts to revitalize the Borough of McDonald. A Downtown Development Plan for the Borough of McDonald was recently completed using a $25,000 allotment of federal tax dollars via the Washington County Redevelopment Authority. "Location on a public transit route" was one of the key "assets" listed in the plan. Elimination of the bus routes would be the loss of a resource for our existing businesses and make the process of new business development more difficult.

For more information about the impact the proposed elimination of the 33F and 28G bus routes would have on the Borough of McDonald and the neighboring municipalities, please contact us at (724) 926-8711 or via e-mail at mmaximovich@mcdonaldboro.com. We would be pleased to discuss these issues with you or your representative.

We do intend to present testimony at the January 22, 2007, public hearing on the Downtown routes.

Thank you for your interest and consideration.

Louis Thomassy, President
McDonald Borough Council

A similar letter also was sent to all of McDonald's county, state and federal representatives asking for their help in preserving the 33F and 28G bus routes.

The Guv in WashPA

Governor Rendell was in WashPA yesterday and stopped by the O-R. Barbara Miller has the skinny on his cold, briefing books and health care proposal.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Son of Donora

The federal judge presiding over the Scooter Libby - Valerie Plame CIA leak case is a native son of Washington County. Scott Beveridge has the story in today's O-R.


Monday's P-G included an article by Ann Rogers on the position Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., has taken in the debate on whether Catholic public officials who are not pro-life should be denied the Eucharist.

The article was timed to coincide with the former bishop of Pittsburgh's first occassion to preside over the huge Masses at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception that precede the annual March for Life.

Whispers in the Loggia also has coverage.

(The archbishop is pictured above seated at the Basilica in an AP photo via the P-G.)

From Ann's article:

In a talk last week in a small chapel on Washington's K Street, the heart of the lobbying community, Archbishop Wuerl distinguished between doing nothing and teaching.

He had said Mass for an overflow crowd, most of which stayed for his talk on a renewed openness to Catholic teaching that he said he sees among young people.

When he took questions, a woman asked how be would respond to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion.

His response was "teach."

"That is what Jesus did," he said. "Did everyone accept that teaching? No. ... But he didn't stop teaching. We are in this for the long haul."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Glad Tidings

The Gospel at Mass today recounts one of the first steps in Christ's ministry. From the Gospel of Luke 4:14-21:

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Loved A Challenge

Today's Post-Gazette includes a feature obit for Michael Wallace. It includes this quote from his business partner, Bill Lieberman:

"Michael had this attitude that there was nothing we couldn't get done."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

In Memoriam: Michael Wallace: 1958-2006

On Thursday, our world lost a man of curiosity and verve. And we are less for it.

Michael Wallace, 48, a successful insurance and real estate executive who lived with his family in a simple yellow farmhouse on back road in Chartiers Township, died Thursday at Montefiore Hospital.

Michael and I had been friends for almost six years. We met in the summer of 2001 when we both were volunteering with Study Washington County 2001, an ad-hoc citizens group promoting a ballot question to establish a study commission that would evaluate the structure of Washington County government. Michael would go on to be elected to the study commission and was the person who moved to close it down when it became obvious a majority of its members had no interest in changing the county government.

Michael took a great interest in my State House races, actively promoting me to the State House GOP leadership and generously contributing again and again to my campaign committee.

Michael's obituary in today's O-R mentions his educational background. At the time of his death, he was working on his doctorate in information science and communications from Robert Morris University. The Ph.D. work was driving him a little crazy but I think he genuinely enjoyed it. Michael probably would have made a fun professor if he had someday chosen to go that route.

But, the obituary fails to mention two other things about which he was always telling me -- the large farm he was creating in Greene County and his annual two-week trips to Israel during which he would volunteer with the Israeli Army. He told me he was the only Christian among the volunteers, who were mostly Jewish college-aged men from New York and other parts of the United States. I don't think his going to Israel had anything to do with politics -- I think he just loved the adventure of living and training with the soldiers.

In my mind's eye, Michael will always be this young 40-something with a wonderful spirit and a great sense of hope. I am going to miss him. I'm going to miss knowing him as an old man. I bet he would have been one of those fun old grandpas.

In the Catholic tradition, there is a blessing which the entire congregation may speak at the end of a funeral. I am going to use it here:


May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs come to welcome you,
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Samoa-gate? Tuna-gate?

I'm a week late finding out about this first scandal of the new Democrat-controlled Congress but it's still interesting. (Go to the link -- it's too complicated to rehash here.)

Speaker Pelosi must be trying to keep down the price of tuna salad sandwiches at her favorite Capitol Hill bistro (not to mention helping out a company in her district).

I'm going to limit the complaining, however -- Del Monte has a significant presence in Pittsburgh, too.

Poor American Samoa.

The photo above is from Wikipedia.

Is that ... ?

I did a double-take when I first saw the photo above at GrassrootsPA. But, a quick Google search proved it was true ... Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney really did attend Governor Rendell's 2nd Inaugural earlier this week. According to many of the news reports, he's a friend of Lt. Guv CBK.

The AP photo is by Bradley C. Bower.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Libertarian Lobbying

Today, I finally got to see the DVD of "Thank You for Smoking," which came out back in March/April, 2006. It's a comedy about a lobbyist who works for the cigarette industry.

"TYFS" is definitely worth checking out. I suppose you could say the movie takes a negative view of smoking but it also has many strong libertarian sentiments.

Aaron Eckhart was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of lobbyist Nick Naylor -- although he was bested earlier this week by Borat.

Clock is Ticking

The lack of a known GOP candidate for this year's Allegheny County Chief Executive race was noted yesterday by Dave Brown in an article in the Tribune-Review.

Notably, Mary Beth Buchanan didn't return his call seeking comment.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Shy Monkey?

Yesterday's Tribune-Review carried an article on shyness in children that was led by an interview with Tracy Milai, a friend of mine from the Young Republicans of Allegheny County. Tracy spent Election Day '06 helping to staff our Campaign HQ in McDonald.

Tracy says that one of the ways she has dealt with her shyness is by participating in the Amish Monkeys, a Pittsburgh-based comedy improv troupe that often performs at the Gemini Theater in Point Breeze. Tracy is in the center of the photo of the Monkeys below.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


More details emerged today about the Democrat-orchestrated deal that raised Republican Rep. Dennis O'Brien of Philadelphia to the speakership of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

According to an AP article by Mark Scolforo, O'Brien basically has pledged to attempt to be a non-partisan / bi-partisan speaker for the House, which is made up of 102 Democrats and 101 Republicans.

Could this most political of moves really help establish a coalition legislature? Certainly couldn't hurt to give it a try. Stay truly independent, Speaker O'Brien! Always keep them guessing.

Hat-tip: Chris Lilik of GrassrootsPA.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Washington, D.C.: August 28, 1963

To mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, below are MLK's words spoken on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends - so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an
oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi - from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring - when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunday in Ordinary Time

With the Christmas season over, many Christian traditions now enter approximately six weeks of "Ordinary Time" before the Season of Lent. Today's Gospel reading at Mass was the recounting of the Wedding at Cana from the Gospel of John -- it also just happened to be one of the topics today in the 7th Grade Sunday School class I teach.

From John 2:1-11:

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him,“They have no wine.”

And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them,“Fill the jars with water.”

So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them,“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”

So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from -- although the servers who had drawn the water knew -- the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.


Articles appear today in both the P-G and O-R about this year's Washington County commissioner race.

Also, updating on a post just before Christmas, today's P-G has a story on JCPenny leaving the Washington Mall.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Double Nay

Update #2: Tim Murphy also voted "no" on H.R. 4, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Update: Tim Murphy voted against H.R. 3, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. The P-G has coverage.

All-Time Low

Yesterday, it was stated that the morale at City Hall in Washington, PA, is at an "all-time low."

See Terri Johnson's articles in today's O-R here and here for details on the mess that calls itself municipal government in this small city of about 15,000 citizens.

Tim Wants Your Opinion

Also on the Tim Murphy (PA-18) front:

The congressman has sent out two messages in as many days to his "E-News" mailing list asking for opinions on upcoming votes. While he has certainly held public forums in the past, this is the first time the Gentleman from Upper St. Clair has ever asked for opinions en masse in an e-mail like this. One has to assume the Democrat takeover of Congress has motivated him to operate in different ways.

But, I do think it's a smart move - both from public policy and politics standpoints.

I am posting both e-mails below in their entirety:

Message #1:

From: RepMurphy Newsletter [RepMurphyNewsletter@MAIL.HOUSE.GOV]
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 9:22 PM
Subject: Key Vote Alert: Embryonic Stem Cells

From the desk of Congressman Tim Murphy


Dear Friend:

On Thursday, January 11, 2007, there will be a very important vote in the House of Representatives regarding stem cell research. Congress will be voting on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, H.R. 3, which would mandate the use of federal tax dollars to fund the use of human embryos for scientific research.

The stem cell debate is one of the most controversial issues facing Congress and the nation. Stem cells are cells from which all other cells originate. Medical research has indicated that there is great promise that many stem cells can lead to cures for many different diseases.

There are many different kinds of stem cells including embryonic, amniotic, and adult stem cells. Unfortunately, the media and public information campaigns often do not differentiate between the different types. While all are similar, they have shown different levels of potential and different levels of risk. No research has yet shown embryonic stem cell research to be fruitful to curing any disease.

Tomorrow's vote is not whether or not to fund stem cell research, but rather whether or not to federally fund research in embryonic stem cells. This is where the controversy lies. Medical research involving embryonic stem cells requires destruction of the embryo. For those who believe life begins after conception, this is equal to ending life. Others think the research benefit outweighs the concern of ending life if it will find cures for such diseases as Parkinson.

Many U.S. companies, universities, and states are engaged in a great deal of embryonic stem cell research already. California is currently spending $3 billion on stem cell research. The President and the U.S. Congress have supported research with over $90 million for embryonic stem cell lines derived from embryos that had already been destroyed with more than 700 shipments to researchers since 2001. The upcoming vote upcoming is whether or not to use federal funds that would result in the destruction of more embryos for research purposes.

Those who support embryonic stem cell research have stated that these are embryos would have been destroyed and discarded anyway. However, many parents have asked Congress to consider that they want the opportunity to adopt these embryos and raise the children as their own infants.
In fact, according to the non-partisan RAND Corporation the 'vast majority' or 88 percent of the 400,000 embryos that have been frozen since the late 1970s are not going to be discarded but are held for family building and not for medical research.

As previously mentioned, there are other types of stem cells with great potential that can be used for research. Adult stem cells have already been used to treat humans for 72 different types of conditions, ranging from different types of cancer to Chronic Coronary Artery Disease to Spinal Cord Injuries.

Just this week, an amazing scientific breakthrough was announced in which stem cells taken from amniotic fluid have the ability to develop into human tissue. These amniotic stem cells have the potential to develop human brain, muscle, bone, liver, and other cells. The tissues developed from amniotic stem cells cannot be rejected by the human body because they genetically match developing fetuses. The cells can be used to treat birth defects in newborns, frozen for personal use later on in life, placed in a bank for use by the entire population, or used for advancing research. Given the fast pace in which amniotic stem cells have matured, it would not take long to develop a bank large enough to ensure every U.S. citizen had access to cells that could cure them of countless diseases. According to the scientists involved in the breakthrough, just 100,000 women will need to donate their amniotic cells for this to happen.

Many argue that if we federally fund embryonic stem cell research there will not be enough money to fund research for other types of promising stem cells.

Given that this policy change is not going through the regular Committee process and further Congressional investigation will not take place, I am anxious to hear how you feel about this issue. Are you in favor of using federal tax dollars to conduct embryonic stem cell research which would involve the destruction of a human embryo or are you in favor of extending federal funding for research even if it involves embryo destruction and could divert funding for other stem cell research? Please email me your thoughts at Murphy@mail.house.gov or call my office at 412-344-5583.

Thank you for being an E-News subscriber. E-News is a great way to provide up-to-the minute information to the people who live and work in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. In the coming weeks you will notice several changes to our E-News format that will provide you with more specific information on the issues you are interested in and make it easier for you to provide me with your input. This will greatly help with the decisions I face in Congress. I look forward to hearing from you.

Congressman Tim Murphy

504 Washington Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15228 412-344-5583
322 Cannon Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 202-225-2301
2040 Fredrickson Place, Greensburg, PA 15601
Visit Us On the Web: http://murphy.house.gov/
E-mail: murphy@mail.house.gov

Prepared by the Office of Congressman Tim Murphy

Message #2:

From: RepMurphy Newsletter [RepMurphyNewsletter@MAIL.HOUSE.GOV]
Sent: Thursday, January 11, 2007 7:43 PM
Subject: Key Vote Alert: Medicare Prescription Drugs

From the desk of Congressman Tim Murphy


Dear Friend:

On Friday, January 12, 2007, there will be a very important vote in the House of Representatives regarding prescription drug medications, and I would like to hear your input on the issue. Congress will be voting on the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, H.R. 4, which would allow the government to directly negotiate prices with drug manufactures that are part of the Medicare prescription drug program.

Whether or not the government plays a direct role in medication pricing has important implications for Medicare. The Medicare prescription drug program started one year ago. In this first year 80 percent of seniors who have selected Medicare drug plans said that they were satisfied with it. The Medicare prescription drug program is federally funded, and administered by a group of private companies. It is designed to give seniors a choice of pharmacies and prescription medications at a low cost. Under the current system, there are 66 Medicare private prescription drug plans in Pennsylvania for seniors. The private plans negotiate with drug manufacturers to get the lowest price possible for each drug. The plans vary in cost and the number of drugs available.

Under this system of private plan negotiation, the Medicare program has worked with great success and yielded significant savings for seniors. These private plans continue to negotiate throughout the year for lower prices. These price reductions have led to dramatic savings for seniors. The Medicare Trustees report the average senior's premium was 33 percent lower than projected for 2006, down from $37 a month to $24 a month. The 2007 projection is for still further savings, down to $22 a month on average. Seniors are saving an average of $1,100 each year on their medication costs under the program.

However, some people have proposed that these savings could be even lower if the government (not the private plans) "negotiated" drug prices with manufacturers. Manufacturers would submit bids to the government to offer a drug to Medicare patients at a certain prices. The government would then select the drugs that cost the least. As a consequence, similar drugs offered by other manufacturers may no longer be available to Medicare beneficiaries despite possibly having fewer or different side effects or other benefits, because the government would be selecting only the least costly drugs. Some analysts have worried such a system would lead to just a few or even only one manufacturer controlling the drug market if companies whose bids are not selected reduce manufacturing of these drugs altogether. This may lead to fewer medication options for seniors. However, some argue that cheaper drugs are worth the drawback of fewer choices of prescription drugs.

Another concern is that seniors will be limited to receiving their prescription drugs only through the mail and not be able to get the prescriptions filled at their neighborhood pharmacies. For some, this could be positive, but for others they may miss the personal relationship they have developed with their pharmacists who review their medications, and provide advice and consultation.

The Veterans Administration directly negotiates with drug manufacturers for its prescription drugs and it is often touted as a model for government negotiations to keep costs under control. Veterans enjoy lower drug costs; however, there are limits to what drugs are available. Some popular medications such as Celebrex and Lipitor are not available through the VA. For some, lack of prescription drug choice is not something they are willing to give up. There remains concern that government negotiations for Medicare may lead to limited prescription drug choices similar to the VA program.

Finally, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which is responsible for providing non-partisan analysis of legislation, state that government negotiation would not lower prescription drug prices any further: "CBO estimates that H.R. 4 would have a negligible effect on federal spending because we anticipate that the Secretary would be unable to negotiate prices across the broad range of covered Part D drugs that are more favorable than those obtained by PDPs under current law."

This bill is moving quickly through the House of Representatives and supporters are bypassing the customary procedures that would permit further investigations and hearings prior to a vote. I am anxious to hear how you feel about this issue. Do you believe private prescription drug plans should continue negotiations with manufacturers to lower prices for seniors? Or are you in favor of the government negotiating prices even if it restricts access to certain medications? Please email me your thoughts at Murphy@mail.house.gov or call my office at 412-344-5583.

Thank you for being an E-News subscriber. E-News is a great way to provide up-to-the minute information to the people who live and work in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. In the coming weeks you will notice several changes to our E-News format that will provide you with more specific information on the issues you are interested in and make it easier for you to provide me with your input. This will greatly help with the decisions I face in Congress. I look forward to hearing from you.

Congressman Tim Murphy

504 Washington Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15228 412-344-5583
322 Cannon Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 202-225-2301
2040 Fredrickson Place, Greensburg, PA 15601
Visit Us On the Web: http://murphy.house.gov/
E-mail: murphy@mail.house.gov

Prepared by the Office of Congressman Tim Murphy

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Murphy & the Minimum Wage

It's interesting that Congressman Tim Murphy (Republican, PA-18) yesterday supported the federal minimum wage increase of $2.10 an hour. Under the bill passed by the House, the minimum wage would increase in three steps to $7.25 an hour.

According to the New York Times in this graphic about the first 100 hours of the new Democrat-majority Congress, Murphy was one of 82 Republicans who voted yes. In fact, Murphy issued a press release touting his co-sponsorship of the bill and noted he didn't think it went far enough in also addressing health care.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with his vote -- if government is going to mandate a minimum wage, it probably should keep up with inflation and other economic indicators.

But, I'm not certain this is a vote that's going to endear the Congressman to some of the corporate leaders who support him. There is an argument in the business community that minimum wage increases harm economic growth and have a net negative effect on jobs numbers.

Of course, Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District is only about 37 percent Republican. By voting for the minimum wage hike, Murphy has perhaps neutralized at least one potential attack issue for the Democrats in '08.

Mike Neville for Washington Co. Commissioner

Yesterday, Mike Neville formally announced that he will be a candidate in 2007 for the GOP nomination for Washington County Commissioner. Today's O-R has the story.

I've known Mike since 1998 when I covered Peters Township Council as a newspaper reporter. When I moved into politics in 2002, Mike became a supporter of mine -- working many, many hours outside the polls for me during all three of my bids for the State House.

I think Mike would be an excellent commissioner. He's the kind of person who would not tolerate delays in important county projects and would be a strong fiscal conservative on budget matters. I think he also would be incredibly responsive to the needs of the county's citizens.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Holding 200K

The financially-troubled City of Washington has a $200,000 check in its possession that the City Treasurer doesn't want to cash.

The O-R's Terri Johnson tells us why.


Greenlee Partners, the lobbying firm that publishes Harrisburg Online, has this lead brief on their Website today:

Senatorial Privilege! Not noted over the Christmas shopping season was U.S. Senator (and Presidential candidate) John Edward's attempt to get to the front of the line at a local Wal-Mart Store to secure a rare Sony PlayStation3. An Edward's campaign staffer made the call to a Raleigh, N.C. Wal-Mart in an unsuccessful attempt to get the new game for a Senator who consistently bashes Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Coalition Legislature for PA?

Could a coalition arrangement work for the Pennsylvania legislature?

This Patriot-News article by Charles Thompson asks the question.

I think they should give it a try. Share power. Split up the committee chairmanships. Try to work together for the good of all Pennsylvanians. Stop worrying so much about partisan gain.

Some of the new back-benchers need to push for this. Good policy can sometimes make good politics.

(Hat-tip: Chris Lilik of GrassrootsPA)

Mary Beth Buchanan for Chief Executive?

After reading yesterday's post, a friend told me something interesting:

Perhaps U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan is considering an '07 run for Allegheny County Chief Executive.

She might make an interesting "out of the box" GOP nominee, especially if she ran on an anti-crime platform -- with a strong accent on improving the quality of life in the City of Pittsburgh and other urban areas in Allegheny County.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Candidate Needed

Today's P-G carries a story about how Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato has no known challengers as the gears begin to turn for the 2007 election cycle.

This is disappointing -- for our democracy to be healthy, we need strong candidates in competitive races in which the issues of the day are debated. With the Penguins management visiting Kansas City and the Port Authority facing the biggest service cuts in its history, there certainly are issues that need to be debated.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Little Christmas

Many Christians today celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany or "Little Christmas" -- remembering the the visit of The Three Kings a.k.a. The Wise Men a.k.a. The Magi to the Christ Child.

Today's Gospel at Mass was from the Gospel of Matthew 2: 1-12:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel."

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage." After their audience with the king they set out.

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Molly Ray Welch

I am pleased to report that yesterday, January 5, 2007, my friends John and Allison Welch became parents for the first time. They named their baby girl Molly Ray Welch.

Everyone from the 2006 State House race will remember John and Allison, who contributed in so many ways -- from organizing our Relay for Life team to helping to writing out friend-to-friend postcards to working outside Chartiers 6 on Election Day. The photo at left of John and Allison is from our Night at the Wild Things.

Congratulations, John and Allison. I know the Holy Spirit will always be your guide.

Pace e Bene, Molly Ray. Welcome to the party.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Getting to this blog just got easier.

The domain name of my former campaign Website, Snatchko.com, now redirects here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cheap Sunshine

Last night, we went to see "Little Miss Sunshine" at what was formerly called Star City Cinema on Route 50 in South Fayette Township. Star City recently reopened as a discount theater with tickets at $1 (before 6 p.m.) or $1.50 (evenings).

I had missed "Little Miss Sunshine" when it came out this summer so it was nice to have the chance to check it out for only $1.50. Good movie. Good ensemble cast. It has been well described as a "funny, but slightly dark comedy."

On The Line

Mike Jones has a follow-up article in today's O-R about the proposed total elimination of bus service to McDonald, Oakdale and the villages along Noblestown Road. The topic was the O-R's lead editorial today, too.

According to an article in the Post-Gazette, the Port Authority's proposed cuts would be the largest service reductions in its history.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

End of an Era?

Today's O-R carries a story by reporter Mike Jones about the decrease in Port Authority of Allegheny County bus service to McDonald.

Turns out the story was just one day too early for a bigger hook. PAT announced today that it now wants to totally eliminate service to McDonald and the other southwestern suburbs (Oakdale Borough and the villages of Rennerdale, Noblestown and Sturgeon) serviced by the 33F and 28G.

We're going to speak out against this proposed route elimination at the upcoming public hearings. If PAT's plans do go through, it would mean the end of an era for McDonald. A town founded in the late 1800s at least in part due to the location of a train station would no longer have any public transit.

It would also make life much more difficult for many local commuters. I know many of them personally -- I was a passenger on the 33F for the three-plus years I worked Downtown at the Carnegie Hero Fund.

Yes, Virginia, there is a budget

Yet another member of Washington City Council has written to the O-R to weigh in on WashPA's budget woes. Virginia Ullom's description of events is not pretty.

Battle for the Gavel

Mario F. Cattabiani has more about the election of the new speaker of the PA House at his blog: Pennsylvania: Battle for the Gavel.

The photo above comes via from GrassrootsPA. Check out the look outing Speaker John Perzel (left) is giving new Speaker Dennis O'Brien. I believe Chris took the photo from The Morning Call Online which they say is an AP photo. (Apologies to the originial photographer for not giving proper credit.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dennis Who?

Looks like all hell broke loose in Harrisburg today.

GrassrootsPA and PA Water Cooler are providing coverage.

Dennis who? It's a name yours truly had never heard before.


A letter in today's O-R disputes budget numbers from an article published last week about funding and staffing levels for the City of Washington Fire Department.

E-mail from Haiti

From Page B1 of this week's Pittsburgh Catholic:

Rebecca Newlin, religion teacher at Oakland Catholic High School, is spending a year’s sabbatical working among the people of Haiti. Kenneth Ogorek, diocesan director of the Office of Catechesis, recently received the following e-mail from Newlin.

Hi Ken:

I hope all is well in Pittsburgh and that the peace of Christ rests in all hearts!

After spending three months in Fondwa, Haiti, I feel very much at home. I have been teaching English to 65 seventh-graders, 34 eighth-graders, 47 ninth-graders and 17 tenth-graders.

The classrooms are small and dark. The desks, made for three, sit about six or seven each. The expectations are low and there is little accountability. It is not like the United States. I have five seventh-graders who are in their early 20s.

Many students drop out of school to let a younger sibling go, since the price of education is very high. At some point, they jump back into the system. Or they have never started school, show up and are placed pretty much randomly, or it appears that way.

In the ninth grade the students are given a national exam and many quit after that either because of not passing, or more likely because there is a lack of money. I always thought myself to be a woman of hope, but when I look into these children’s eyes filled with enthusiasm and hope I notice that my hope is lacking. There are no jobs and a lack of economy and social services. Here is where the cross is relived and only God and an honest group of people can change Haiti. We pray earnestly every day for a resurrection.

I love it here even though it is hard sometimes. There is often no running water and we haven’t had electricity for three months, but we do have an electric current for about one and one-half hour a day.

We currently have Internet access, but we didn’t for the first two months. Travel is difficult. Yesterday was a national local voting day. Another volunteer and I wanted to go to the polls to experience voting in Haiti, so we went with the sisters. We started out at 10:30 a.m. and returned at 2 p.m. I think we walked about four miles each way, up and down the mountains. Luckily it was not a very bad road. Well, I just wanted you to know that all is well and what I have been up to. The current will be turned off in a minute. I was just warned, so until next time.

Peace and love,

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007!

Happy New Year '07!
May it be one of peace and happiness.

Photo above by Robert Stolarik for The New York Times. His caption: With the countdown complete, confetti filled Times Square at midnight to mark the beginning of 2007.