Sunday, November 4, 2018

Tips for Inside Voting Booth

Maybe helpful info for your important role Tuesday? Love Dotty

Please circulate widely amongst all voters that you know.  Philadelphians, please add Philly-specific information for your contacts at the end of this message.

There have been reports from TX and GA about voters noticing the machines switched their selection from the Democrat to the Republican candidate. This is your reminder to ALWAYS CHECK THAT THE LIGHTS ARE ON FOR THE CANDIDATES YOU WANT TO VOTE FOR before you hit the cast vote button. While we don’t anticipate this being an issue here, it never hurts to be prepared; particularly since our machines are on the older side so could be glitchy. This is true whether you like to push each individual button or push D11 to vote straight Democrat.
Check your vote before hitting the “cast vote” button.
IF YOU HAVE THIS PROBLEM HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO.  If you are having a hard time getting a candidate to register properly DO NOT HIT the Cast Vote button. Stay in the machine and call for help from the judge of elections. If the judge of elections cannot fix the problem ask to cast an EMERGENCY BALLOT instead. (Please note this is NOT a provisional ballot, and it should be clearly marked Emergency at the top. If the precinct is out and need to cross out provisional and write emergency that is Ok.)  Other actions and options are just below.
Double-check that the voting machine registers your vote properly.  Do NOT hit the cast vote button if you see any problem.
  1. DO NOT press the "cast vote" button and DO NOT leave the booth.  
  2. Stay in the booth and ask for a poll worker to examine the problem
  3. Insist that you be allowed to vote on a different machine 
  4. Request the Judge of Elections to take the broken machine out of service
  5. Write down the ID # of the machine
  6. If the judge of elections cannot fix the problem ask to cast an EMERGENCY BALLOT instead. (This is NOT a provisional ballot, and it should be clearly marked Emergency at the top. If the precinct is out and needs to cross out provisional and write emergency that is OK.) 
  7. Follow up Afterwards (see below)
If Your Name is Not in the Poll Book and You are told You Can’t Vote, ask a Poll Worker to:
  1. Check and make sure this is the right precinct. Sometimes more than one precinct is housed in the same building and you may just in the wrong room.
  2. Spell your last name again and look on the book yourself while they search for your name. Sometimes they just misheard you.
If you are still not able to vote
Ask a Poll Worker to:
  1.  Call Voter Services About Your Registration
  2. Direct you to the Correct Polling Place
If none of that works, ask for a Provisional Ballot You Can Track
Please be courteous, these are volunteers who are spending the day helping our democratic process run smoothly.
You have the right to vote with a provisional ballot if: 
  • You registered to vote in Pennsylvania and are eligible in the election district, but your name is not in the voter roster and Election Officials cannot determine your registration status.  
  • You do not have an approved form of identification when you go to vote in an election district for the first time.  
  • Someone challenges your eligibility to vote. You may produce a witness to sign an affidavit to affirm your identity and residency. If you produce a witness, you can vote either by paper ballot or on the machines. If you are unable to or choose not to produce a witness, you can vote with a provisional ballot.  

How do I vote on a provisional ballot? 

If you vote by provisional ballot, you will be asked to follow these instructions: 
1. Complete and sign the provisional ballot affidavit on the back of the provisional ballot affidavit envelope. 
2. Mark your provisional ballot in an accessible and private area of the polling place. 
3. Seal your provisional ballot in the secrecy envelope. 
4. Seal the secrecy envelope in the provisional ballot affidavit envelope. 
5. Sign the front of the provisional ballot affidavit envelope. 
6. Return the sealed provisional ballot affidavit envelope to a polling place election official. 
7. Receive your provisional ballot identification receipt. 
Other Follow Up 
Call the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE)
  1. Email your county voting office and cc yourself.  For Montgomery County, email  For Delaware County, email
  2. Use our Contact Form to report issues
For more information:
See CBE’s web page on Election Day problems

Sunday, September 2, 2018

F.I.R.E. ; Very Very Early Retirement

This trend reminds me a bit of the 1960s and ‘70s when my generation, then young, sought to move to Vermont and raise our own food, cut our own firewood and live independently off the grid.
This time, though, it’s Millennials burned out at jobs they hate, calculating with advanced math skills, that if they had $1 million and lived really really frugally, and prayed that the stock market kept going up, they could move out of their expensive urban apartments, move to an inexpensive community and enjoy their lives.
The trend is called FIRE – financial independence, retire early. I learned all this from a story in the New York Times. Read it here.
But all this is too late for me. Besides, I loved my job and felt that I was  helping others lead better lives as a result of the explanatory journalism I was doing. I wouldn’t have traded that in for retirement at 35. And like those people we met who had gone to Vermont to be self-sufficient, we saw them burn out after they realized how hard it is.
I wonder if these folks embracing FIRE will find it too boring. Or maybe just not meaningful enough

Monday, August 27, 2018

To Philly Seniors: A Chance to Volunteer

Penn's Village is a Center City Philadelphia  non-profit that offers interesting educational programs while also providing, via member volunteers, services to others in the community.

It's a dynamic group. Upcoming talks include a session on how to organize your personal information, , a lecture on the history of North Korea by a University of Penn professor, and an afternoon with poet and author  George Economou. (Sorry, you missed my talk on Boathouse Row some time back!)

The group also offers, via member volunteers, support to others in the downtown Philly community.

Here's their recent announcement seeking administrative volunteers :

Hello members, volunteers and friends,
Penn's Village is looking for a couple of administrative volunteers to assist with daily operations of the village.  This is not your usual office volunteer opportunity!   It is a chance to facilitate volunteer-delivered services in the community, to help with registration for workshops, outings and social events and to respond to inquiries about the organization.  
Administrative volunteers work from their own homes to provide office "coverage" via our information management system and remote access to our phone.  We have a dedicated group of such volunteers who each "cover" their specific day(s), but we need to expand the group.  We will train you and support you all the way!
If you are interested in learning more, please respond to this email or call the office at 215-925-7333.  You will be contacted either by one of the current administrative volunteers or by me.
Thank you for considering this request!
Jane Eleey
Executive Director

Friday, June 29, 2018

Requiem to a Retiring Museum

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Despite several years prowling through Philadelphia's great repositories of history to research my book Boathouse Row I had never visited the Philadelphia History Museum, formerly known as the Atwater Kent. But hearing that the museum was immediately closing after the failure of a  possible merger with Temple University, I ran out today to check it out.
The collection is odd: a little of this and a little of that. There's a gallery of oil paintings of famous and not so famous Philadelphians, highlighted by a portrait of William Penn by an unknown artist and one of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
William Penn

There's a room of Norman Rockwell covers for the Saturday Evening Post, published in Philadelphia. One, from 1960, asks the question "Is there a Woman's Vote?"  Fifty-eight years later, we're still wondering

An entire room was dedicated to Octavius Catto, a noted African American educator of the 19th century whose story was brought to light by my former Inquirer colleagues Murray Dubin and Dan Biddle in their book, Tasting FreedomSince its publication in 2010,  Philadelphia has celebrated Catto with numerous events, readings, and most recently a statue, the first memorial to an African American in the city.

To my disappointment, there was little to amplify my knowledge of Boathouse Row but for a James Peale portrait of Frederick Graff, the engineer who in 1821 built the Water Works, which used a hydraulic system to pump water to the city. Another result was that its dam, which flattened a turbulent river, allowed rowing to emerge as a great Philadelphia sport. Also, there were a few photographs by Frederick Gutekunst, a noted photographer of the mid to late 19th century who, I discovered, was also a rower.
Photo by Frederick Gutekunst

A few other items resonated with me. I loved seeing an old Bulletin newspaper "honor box" as it was called, because once you put in your  quarter, you could lift out as many newspapers as you wanted. I've got one in my house, which we obtained after the paper folded in 1982!

Other quirky things: George Washington's pocket watch, William Penn's shaving bowl and snuff box and a shell and leather wampum belt, dating from about 1682 . It's supposedly the one given by a Lenape chief to William Penn in a gesture of good will.
There was also a gorgeous silver and gold "presentation sword"  inlaid with diamonds and amethysts given by "grateful Philadelphians" to General George C. Meade for his victory at Gettysburg.

Let this brief report be a requiem to the Philadelphia History Museum. May it reopen some day,  hopefully with more stuff in it!
Sword given to Gen. George C. Meade 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Great News for Older Workers

Imagine this happy consequence of a tight labor market in the U.S.: more jobs for older workers. It's a happy result I hadn't thought about before.
And a number of organizations are emerging to match older workers with employers including : Goldman Sachs Returnship project, Operation A.B.L.E in Boston, Encore Fellowships, AARP's Back to Work 50+, Senior Community Service Employment Program and Senior Job Bank, just to name a few.
But I'm not raising my hand right now. Between the talks for Boathouse House Row and a new project to dig into my family history, who's got the time?

Read more about the new demand for senior workers here.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

An Encounter with a Mobster's Son

As a reporter back in the late 1970s, I had written about the Mafia and its corrupt financial ties to a Philadelphia city union. The exposé had even prompted an anonymous phone call: “You will end up like Jimmy Hoffa,” the voice said, implying we might end up encased in cement somewhere.
But now I was in Sicily, retired and vacationing, when a talk arranged by our tour group, Overseas Adventure Travel, brought me face to face with two middle-aged men whose lives had been touched by the Mafia in ways I had never imagined.
The two were both born in Corleone, the traditional hometown of capos of the Sicilian Mafia (and, of course, the raison d’etre for the name of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather.” )
Angelo Provenzano, son of the notorious Sicilian chief, Bernardo (Binnie the Tractor) Provenzano, was one of the speakers. The other, Gino Felicetti, had fled Italy as a youngster with his family after a relative was murdered by the Mafia.
Gino, who has long lectured about the Mafia in Sicily, acted as the historian of the program, showing slide after slide of gruesome killings presumably orchestrated by Angelo’s father and the capo under which he worked. The visuals included blood-drenched scenes of the 1992 murders of two Italian magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who had tried to prosecute the Sicilian mob.
Magistrate Giovanni Falcone's 1992 death scene
For his part, Angelo revealed what it was like growing up in hiding with his mother, father and younger brother. He was home schooled, he said, moving often and had no friends. He had no clue as a youngster what his father did for a living. But he felt loved by him.
Angelo Provenzano, a son tries to build a life 
In 1992, Bernardo reinstated his wife, 16-year-old Angelo, and Angelo’s nine-year-old brother back to Corleone, in an effort to allow them to be educated and lead honest lives, Angelo said.  Living openly for the first time, he learned his father’s true occupation.
Meanwhile, his father continued to hide out, even as he became Sicily’s capo di tutti capi (boss of bosses) in 1993 upon the arrest of his superior,Toto Riina.
From the mountains, communicating only by pieces of paper, Bernardo ran the organization while police hunted him as a suspect responsible for orchestrating 15 murders. Some news reports say he tried to steer the mob away “from the attacks on high-profile figures that were hardening public opinion against the Mafia and provoking police to respond.” 
In 2006, police finally cornered him; he died in prison 10 years later, at age 82 having spent 43 of those years in hiding.
Angelo’s life struggle has been trying to reconcile the love he still holds for his father with the mobster’s heinous deeds. Not to mention that neither he nor his brother, tainted by the sins of their father, has been able to land good jobs or create sustainable businesses. Even a laundry that Angelo tried to run with his mother in Corleone failed.
Bernardo Provenzano, arrested 2006
“He might have been wrong. He might have made choices that I don’t understand that I don’t know about,” Angelo has said. “That’s basically his business, his choices. To me, he’ll always be my father.”
In his talk to us, Angelo said he experienced his father as a loving, protective figure.  “I think of him as a father, not as a man.”
The evening with Gino and Angelo is now a routine part of the Overseas Adventure Travel tour of Sicily, though in its first year, 2015, it caused an uproar as Italians protested the platform being given to Angelo to say kind words about his father and by extension the Mafia.
But it has quietly continued, with Angelo earning money for his participation.
Responding to the Italian media criticisms, he said this was an opportunity to work in an important sector, tourism. “Do I have the right to a normal life or not?”

Friday, March 9, 2018

On International Women’s Day, there was Good news about getting older, especially for some of us of a certain gender and a certain age

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Retiring my wood burning stove

For sale: Vermont Castings "Defiant" style wood burning stove
Excellent condition, barely used, dated 1975 
 $400 or best offer. Located in Grantham, N.H.
Contact me at

(For followers of this blog, forgive this posting, but I need a URL to post on social media--and even vintage items are beloved by many).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Arguing for A "Democracy Movement"

Even before the 2016 primaries, even before Donald Trump was elected President, even before Americans began marching over concerns about immigration, women’s rights, the environment, health care, science, and more, Bruce Berlin was calling for a “Democracy Movement” that would mimic in size and impact such upheavals as the Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement or the Anti-Vietnam War Movement.
In his self-published treatise, Breaking BigMoney’s Grip on America,  Berlin argues that our nation has become a plutocracy, run by the “economic elite.“ The results, he says,  are exactly what we are seeing now:
--Lobbyists pushing the agenda of corporations and the wealthy, to the detriment of the people;
--Elected officials beholden to the big money that supported them – a reality only amplified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United;
--A revolving door of corporate executives and lobbyists swinging into and out of government, bringing with them their agendas benefiting companies and the affluent.
“It is the curse of unbound capitalism,” he writes, “that America’s factory workers, farmers, housewives, machinists, shopkeepers, and others have toiled to build, or fought to preserve, democracy in our country only to have the economic elite reap disproportionate financial benefits while tens of millions of Americans barely get by, many others are homeless, and over 15 percent live in poverty.”

For Berlin, like so many of us "unretiring" folks, the book is a culmination of his life's work as a lawyer mediator and social justice activist.  It's clear he poured himself into it: the book, published in januariy 2016, is filled with real facts supported by more than 200 footnotes (about 2 footnotes per page in this slim volume). 
Even Obamacare, Berlin argues, was compromised by the influence of insurance companies; a health insurance VP and lobbyist helped the Senate draft it. 
(And who knows what financial interests are helping to draft the Senate's current health care bill, being hammered out behind closed doors.)

Half of the book outlines the problem; the other half spells out a route to mobilizing the Democracy Movement Berlin envisions. 
Given that the most expensive House race in U.S. history just took place in Georgia, it's clear that money alone will not create a "Democracy Movement." It's also clear that the money spent on that race -- some $60 million --- would leave the victor (it doesn't matter who) in serious debt to moneyed interests. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Notes from the Refugee Ball

Jason Dzubow, asylum lawyer

If you think the transition after retirement to "the next great thing" is huge, imagine what asylum seekers in the United States are facing. I got a glimpse of that challenge at an extraordinary event this week in Washington, D.C.: the Refugee Ball.
Among the 500 or so people attending were asylum seekers still in limbo as to their fate; those whose quest for a safe home in the United States had already been granted by the courts; immigration lawyers and those who support a compassionate immigration policy for victims of torture or persecution.  

As organizer Jason Dzubow, a prominent Washington asylum lawyer, put it in his address to the group:
"Critics of our humanitarian immigration policies will tell you that asylum is a gift, given to needy people because Americans are nice. And it's true that giving refuge to people fleeing persecution is the right thing to do.... But America did not create the asylum system to be nice.
"Since its beginning during the Cold War, asylum was about advancing our country's strategic interests. It was about demonstrating our moral superiority to our Soviet adversaries. We celebrated famous dissidents, athletes, and artists who defected to the West. Now the Soviet Union is gone, but asylum remains an essential tool of U.S. foreign policy.... 
"When we give asylum to interpreters who served with our soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, we demonstrate our loyalty to those who served with us. When we grant asylum to women's rights advocates, we show our support for the cause of gender equality. When we support journalists, we show that we stand for free speech. And when we grant asylum to religious minorities, we reinforce our founding principle of Religious Freedom."
Artist Antonio Flores with Q-tip sketch made in detention

Among those I met at the event was Antonio Flores,  who came to the United States at the age of 15 – his mother has been here since she left him behind at age 4 in Honduras. With legal help from the University of Maryland, this aspiring artist, now 18, was out on bond from a detention center after being arrested as an undocumented, illegal immigrant.  He's never taken formal art lessons, but in detention learned that you can paint with the most meager of materials. Rub a colorful magazine (he used Food and Wine) with a deoderant stick, then touch the magazine with a Q-tip and you can get enough color to draw with the Q-tip.  

Michael Namalum,  who was in 2015 was granted asylum status here, would not talk about the torture he suffered in his home country of Azerbaijan, because, he said, children were present at the ball,  but he would not wish what he went through on his very worst enemy.
Coming to the United States, this human rights advocate faced more suffering after he was placed in a detention facility by ICE, he said. "I was insulted and humiliated in detention and my rights as a human being were outrageously violated. Well, isn't it a paradox? You come here, you seek protection and the next thing you know, you're sitting completely naked in a freezing room – like a refrigerator."

Nonetheless,  now he can speak out freely, and he is. His wish for America is that it will become a place where "no Arab guys would be kicked out from the plane for speaking Arabic, no hijabs would be taken down by force... no Hispanic immigrant would be attacked in Kentucky for taking a longer time at the cashier, no "N" words will be written on vandalized cars of African American people, no Nazi meetings will take place here in Washington, D.C.,  and no woman would be grabbed by her genitals against her consent.  That was my hope, that was my wish , and I'm still hopeful."

Mark Hatfield, president of HIAS – the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the oldest refugee agency in the world,"  founded in 1881, lamented the door that America slammed on immigration in 1921 and the many who perished in the decades after until our immigration policy was expanded.
He reminded those gathered of the many ways in which  refugees "made this country great." 

"America is a country that welcomes refugees, and i don't want an America that's any other way."