Today, the Inquirer reports how Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell wants to increase the state’s income tax rate substantially ( by almost 17% ) to help the state with its budget crisis.

Is Mr. Rendell living in a bat cave ?  This has to be the most absurd idea ever, especially with the current economic situation our state and country is facing.  This will just make life that much harder for everyone…with the state slicing off more of each person’s paycheck, less money will be available for Pennsylvania residents to spend in retail stores, meaning sales tax revenues will decrease.  This proposal most likely will have no effect on how much money comes into the state’s coffers, it will merely reallocate where the funding comes from.

I would greatly apprecate if our state would elect a Governor who at least could present himself or herself to the media as someone who sincerely cares about issues other than whether there should be toll booths on Interstate 80, how the convention center in Philadelphia should be run, and the logistics regarding Philadelphia’s future casinos.  Photo opportunities where the Governor is cutting  a ribbon at a groundbreaking ceremony for a building or work project do not qualify under my definition of a sincere interest in an issue.

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Phillies vs. Mets

June 10, 2009

Baseball Prospectus, a great web site that caters to NJ ( Nerdy Justin ) had a great piece yesterday on the current three game series between the New York Mets and the Phillies.  You’ll need a memberhip to Baseball Prospectus ( $5 / month ) to read the whole article, but the gist was that the two teams are relatively evenly matched in a number of statistical categories especially pitching depth throughout the team.  The piece has a very technical analysis of how well the Phillies have performed so far compared to how they were expected to at this point based on information such as the total number of runs the team has scored and how many they “should have”.

This short paper on “Regression to the Mean” is helpful in understanding the point made in the article about how Raul Ibanez is likely to perform at a slightly lower level during the remainder of the season than he has so far.

Since the Phillies were unlucky last night, let’s hope they can salvage a 2-1 record for this series and be energized for their return to Philly later this week!

* This blog may read like a rant, but I mean what I’m saying in it.

According to an article about real estate in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, a conversation similar to the following one took place in an office somewhere recently:

Prospective Condo Buyer: “I offer $1,300,000, cash, for the unit”
Greedy Real Estate Mogul: “Sorry, no can do!”

This person’s offer was $50,000 less than what the developer wanted for the unit in the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, a new luxury high-rise condo building across from the Philadelphia City Hall… a discount of slightly less than 4 percent.  Big deal.  You have to probably be sufficiently snobby and hard-to-deal with to live in a building like this.  The building’s web site notes how a “privileged few” will live there at the city’s “best” residential address.

In my opinion, the developer should have taken it, rather than saying no.

The “Greedy Real Estate Mogul” is Mr. Craig Spencer, who is the Chairman of the Arden Group.  The company’s web site describes in plain language how the company makes money:

” The Arden Group pursues undervalued opportunities where, due to market fundamentals, current mismanagement, lack of sufficient capital or market timing, assets can be purchased at a discount to replacement cost, repositioned and sold at a profit.”

If this company buys assets at a discount, why shouldn’t it offer a small discount to people who want to buy parts of what it owns?  Hmm…

Doesn’t Mr. Spencer have enough money already?  I mean, he is a majority owner of the Philadelphia Soul and can afford to live in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania — one of the richest cities in the U.S. with a median income of almost $160,000 a year per person!!!  If this man wants to do real estate investment in Philadelphia, he should live in Philadelphia too.  He does just enough community service and urban redevelopment (redevelopment of Dilworth Plaza) to generate positive public relations for his company without making any real financial sacrifice due to his massive resources.

I think our city would be better off with less of a difference between the poorest and richest sections.  Some people who live and/or work in Philadelphia will never be able to live in a building like this one unless they win the Powerball lottery, which is just not right.  There wasn’t quite this level of residence quality stratification in the past.  We wonder why Philadelphia has so much crime…. maybe income inequality and housing stratification are some of the reasons.

Unlucky

May 26, 2009

This is what we call unlucky:

This cute, innocent looking husky (Daphne Dakota) enjoys her toy:

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And this is what she did to my laptop’s power cord!

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Using the Newsweek “Mildly Tacky” to “Utterly Shameless” scale, I would put this near the Utterly Shameless category.

Just about an hour ago, I received an e-mail from PhillyCarShare, essentially informing me that starting in May, there would be only one plan available, which will come with a $15 per month fee.  Opting out requires account cancellation.

Here is the e-mail text.  It sounds like a professional PR firm helped write it, as I don’t see how paying a new fee benefits ME.

Rate Plan Change to Benefit You: Please read on…

PhillyCarShare is pleased to announce that we’re simplifying car sharing in Philadelphia!

Starting May 1st, we will streamline our offerings into one plan, the Philadelphia Plan, which will give every residential member access to the lowest PhillyCarShare hourly rates.  The monthly fee will be $15 and the hourly rates will range from $3.55 to $8.55, with the continued monthly 5 cent reduction in the hourly rate through July 2009.  All current Basic Freedom members will be converted to this new membership plan on April 30th, when the first of your $15 monthly membership fees will be charged to your credit card.

With the significantly lower hourly rates available in your new plan, you will have access to the lowest hourly rates on the largest fleet with the most locations in Philadelphia.

If you have any questions, please call our Member Services folks at 215-730-0988, ext. 5.  If you would prefer to pay all at once, we will provide a 30% discount on the monthly fees; you should mention “Coupon Philadelphia” to the Member Services associate, who will then charge you $125 for a 12 month membership.

If you have any concerns, please call Member Services at 215-730-0988, ext. 5.  If this plan is not for you, then please use the link below by April 30th, 2009 to cancel your PhillyCarShare membership and avoid being charged the $15 May membership fee.

With rate simplification and the most extensive network of vehicles and neighborhoods, we are solidifying the fact that PhillyCarShare is the most convenient choice for those short trips around the city.

Since we launched in 2002, Philadelphians have embraced car sharing because we’re convenient, we make good sense for your wallet, and we’re green.  As the nonprofit car sharing company dedicated wholly to serving Philadelphia now and in the long-run, PhillyCarShare is, in fact, a plan for Philadelphia, creating a more sustainable future for this great city and playing a fun and convenient role in your life.

My problem is not that there is a mandatory fee now.  It’s how little advance notice was given about the change.  The e-mail hit my inbox after most people would leave work for the day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the members don’t get the message til Monday or even later if they’re on vacation.

I’m floored.

Even a credit card company would (in theory) provide at least a little bit more advance notice before changing the terms of an account.

Even if PhillyCarShare contacts me based on this blog post and offers me a waiver of the fee, I will still probably cancel the account.  I don’t know that I want to associate with a company that does business this way.

I had to pay 95 cents (the difference between the full fare and the student advantage fare on my ticket) to an Amtrak conductor on the train today because I did not have the Student Advantage card I used when I bought my ticket in my possession.  This was mildly irritating, but would have been much more irritating had the amount of money been more substantial.  I have never had any issues in the past with using my discount.

Those who plan on using NARP, Student Advantage, Military, etc. for discounts should remember to bring the appropriate ID along or risk having to pay more money on the train!

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On May 2, the Yankees are scheduled to play the Angels.  It’s not the World Series or even a game that’s part of one of the earlier rounds of the playoffs.  It’s just a regular season game.

When selecting “best available” on the Ticketmaster buy ticket screen for this game, the pricing is a whopping $2,625 per ticket, plus a convenience fee of $59.70 per ticket.  That means for two of these tickets the total price would be $5369.40.

yankee_game_pricing

Something is just wrong with anyone who would buy one of these tickets.