Monday, February 27, 2012

PA State Senator Larry Farnese Clarifies Campaign Separate from Office

On Saturday, I wrote a post complaining that I had gotten a robocall on my cell phone asking if I was planning to vote for Senator Farnese 5 minutes after I had requested a form from his office. I have learned to be skeptical of coincidences from Mark Harmon's character on NCIS. Special Agent Gibbs is fond of saying, "I don't believe in coincidences."

On Monday, I chatted with Cameron Kline, Farnese's director of communication, and Tony Mannino, his Chief of Staff. They assured me that they are vigilant about keeping the campaign separate from constituent services.

Kline wrote in his initial email, "After reading your post I became concerned too because we in the District Office pride ourselves in ensuring that Senate resources, like constituent information, are not shared with any campaign." 

Mannino said, "Farnese's campaign was conducting a poll of voters at the time that I made contact."

 Mannino explained that the campaign could never have instituted a call to the office that quickly. Knowing how bureaucracies work, I believe him.

"The numbers have to be gathered, then put into a computer and then the calls made. That could never have happened in five minutes," said Mannino.

I flat out asked them if they would forward the name of a constituent that demanded a lot of services to the campaign. Kline and Mannino empathically said, "No."

I applaud Farnese's staff for responding so quickly. Politicians should be concerned if their office staffs are sharing information with their campaigns. I accept the timing of the robocall as a weird occurrence. In deference to Agent Gibbs, I will not use the word coincidence.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pennsylvania State Senator Farnese's Dangerous Invasion of Privacy

This month, I called the office of my state senator, Larry Farnese, to request a state form. While I was satisfied with the constituent service that I received from his office, I have a lot of concern about what happened next.

Literally five minutes after I hung up the phone from Farnese's office, I received a robocall asking me if I was likely to vote for Senator Farnese in the next election. I felt pressure to vote yes in the automated poll for fear that I would not receive the form from his office if I voted no. The call was a good reminder that Big Brother is always watching.

Although I did vote for Farnese in the last election, I would not vote for him again. I would never vote for a politician that ties his constituent services to future votes. Farnese and politicians must serve all their constituents, not just the ones that vote for them.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jon Stewart's Continued Woman Problem: Male Guests Dominate Daily Show 4:1

Liberal women want to love Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, but that love is not returned. After Jezebel wrote a post about the difficulties that female staffers encountered working at the Daily Show, feminists were angry at Stewart. Unfortunately, nothing changed at the testosterone fueled Daily Show. Despite producing great work, female correspondents have seen very little air time since that blog post.

Stewart's recent eloquent defense of a woman's right to control their reproductive health has caused some feminists to fall in love with him again. While I thank him for pointing out the obvious about birth control and abortion, I want to ask him why he has so few women guests on the show.

In 2010, the Daily Show had 131 male guests and only 35 female guests. In 2011, it was even worse. 138 men were invited on the show while 32 women appeared. That works out to a ratio of men to women guests of 4.3:1. In fairness, 2012 has been much better. There have been 20 male guests and 9 female guests, but the year is still young.

Feminists should demand that Stewart invite more female guests. Many people get their news from the Daily Show. If they do not see women on the show, they will think that they do not count.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sheldon Adelson Gets Bad PR For One Reason

In recent weeks, Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands and sugar daddy of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has complained that his treatment in the press is unfair. This is because Adelson pays scant attention and little money for his public relations advice. His casinos flourish despite the inattention thanks to people's greed and addictions, but his public persona needs some help.

I worked briefly in conjunction with his chief public relations adviser, Israeli Dan Raviv, to generate press coverage for the opening of Adelson's Singapore casino. My friend Gali Cohen, who previously worked for the Prime Minister's Office under Ehud Olmert, is his low paid employee. I arranged for Bloomberg, among others, to have a hard hat tour of the casino led by Adelson and his wife.

While Adelson is famous for making his own decisions, his wife Dr. Miriam Adelson, who knows nothing about marketing or public relations, picked her friend Raviv to manage his public relations strategy. Raviv has no website and does not seem to have any other clients.

Raviv, from Israel, was in charge of the public relations for the Singapore hotel. He was making frequent trips to Singapore but was not on site. The Singapore project was well under way when I came aboard. Obvious media outlets such as Bloomberg, Financial Times, CNBC, and CNN's Richard Quest had not been contacted yet.

Raviv also handles the publicity for Adelson within Israel and for his philanthropic activities. Although Adelson underwrites many humanitarian causes in Israel, his good work is always overshadowed by his spouting off of his radical political opinions. Admittedly, Adelson is not an easy man to control, but Raviv could still manage his public image better. Sources close to Adelson told me that Raviv keeps his job because he works cheap and does not reprimand Adelson for his political incorrect comments.

While Adelson loves to make outrageous political statements, he is strangely mum on his charitable donations.  When the Adelsons gave a record breaking $25 million donation to the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem, Raviv denied all requests for interviews and did not issue a press release with any quotes from the Adelsons. The same thing happened when he came to Philadelphia to raise funds for Birthright, an organization that sponsors free trips to Israel for Jewish college students.

Adelson is certainly entitled to his privacy, but then he should not complain that he has been demonized.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Philadelphia Daily News Bunch Hypocritical On Al Jazeera

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News is so worried about the potential editorial influence of a powerful investor group bidding for his own paper that he has signed a petition calling for editorial independence. Yet, he evinces none of the same concern about Al Jazeera English, which is owned by the royal family of Qatar and headed by one of their princes. He wrote yesterday on his popular blog Attywood that it is time for Comcast to offer Al Jazeera English.

I asked Will Bunch by twitter and email exactly how many hours of Al Jazeera English he had actually watched. He refused to answer that question. He tweeted,  Al-Jazeera offered REAL coverage of "Arab Spring" -- w/ no Whitney Houston cutaways. U.S. viewers deserve chance to see 

Lack of Whitney Houston cutaways are not a good enough reason to recommend a channel that promulgates hate and lionizes terrorist. His editors at the Daily News should be monitoring his posts to see that he writes about things that he possesses actual knowledge of. Bunch has confided to me in the past that his editors do not check his posts before they go live.

Living in Israel, I was able to watch many hours of Al Jazeera because all the cable companies there offer the station in their lineup. I would often turn on the station after seeing a terrorist attack on innocent civilians with my own eyes. Their reports were rife with inaccuracies and proselytism of the Palestinian cause.

Leading Israel advocate Mort Klein, who has appeared on the network, recalls his experience in an article I wrote for the Jewish Exponent. He said, "Every time that I have been on the network, the moderator is anti-Israel. Usually, I appear in a panel of three, and the other two guests are anti-Israel."

Reporting on Israel is not the only case of Al Jazeera's distorted reporting. They rarely broadcast stories that reflect Arabs in a bad light. When CBS reporter Lara Logan was viciously attacked in Tahrir Square in Egypt, the channel refused to report on it. Al Anstey, the head of Al Jazeera English disingenuously argued at the time, "Many others were hurt during the demonstrations and the network couldn't cover everyone that was hurt."

My reporter friends at the website WhoWhatWhy unsuccessfully tried to interest the channel in their headline grabbing story about the ties between the Saudi Royal Family and the 9/11 hijackers. No producer from Al Jazeera even called back to get more information. 

Since the Qatari royal family was backing the Libyan rebels, Al Jazeera never once questioned the humanitarian value of the NATO strike in Libya. Comedy Central's Jon Stewart did. 

Comcast does need to diversify the channels in its lineup, but Al Jazeera is not the way.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Possible Reasons for the Rigging of the Philadelphia Inquirer Auction

I have been puzzled why investment bank Evercore, run by Roger Altman, would have prevented the Perelman family and real estate investor Bart Blatstein from bidding for the Philadelphia Media Network, which included the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and Very few people turn down Ronald Perelman's money.

Having been a stockbroker that specialized in trading distressed securities before I became a reporter, I called my old Wall Street contacts. This included former employees of the reclusive Randy Smith, one of the current owners of the Inquirer. I frequently bought bonds from Smith's old firm, R. D. Smith, which was closed due to charges of insider trading charges that were never proven.

This is what I have unearthed.

Roger Altman of Evercore, the former deputy treasury secretary under Clinton, is an ethical investment banker, but wants to be Treasury Secretary more than anything. While former governor Rendell is not as close to Obama as he was to Clinton, he does some sway and could possibly help Altman fulfill his dream of becoming Treasury Secretary. Altman would do what he could do in the bounds of ethics to tip the auction to Rendell.

While I think all money is green, my sources thought Bart Blatstein might not have enough of a national reputation for Evercore to consider.

Smith, whom I have met, is superstitious like many traders. The very few investment losses in his career have come from investing in Perelman controlled entities so he is not in a hurry to be involved with Perelman again. (Before he invested in newspapers, Smith had an unparalleled track record in distressed trading.) Smith, who is conservatively worth $500 million, has long disapproved of Perelman's tactics against minority shareholders. His investment philosophy has always been "Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me."

He is also a make "lemons out of lemonade" kind of guy. Being a trader of debt, he is all about leverage, financial and personal. He has already lost a boatload on his investment in Philadelphia Media Network. Wringing the last dollar out of this investment is not going to help him get out of the hole he is in. Rendell, however, could help him with wooing clients in the government sector, which is a weak spot for his firm, Alden Global.

Now a word about the greatest bromance of modern times - not George Clooney and Brad Pitt- but Ed Rendell and Lewis Katz. I have actually seen the always dignified 60 year old Katz lose his cool and run down the street after Rendell.

Katz hates the media. He told me once, "I never talk to reporters even off the record." People close to him said, "He will do anything that Rendell asks. He is not buying the Inquirer to make money.

In a six degrees of separation meme, Katz was my mother's very bad divorce lawyer many years ago. He certainly has come a long way from his law office on Kings Highway in Cherry Hill. I would not count him out.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

RIP : Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia Inquirer has ceased to be a newspaper reporting on its community. The Rendellization of the paper has started.

I wrote a previous blog post that Rendell did not think he would end up buying with the Inquirer. I fortuitously bumped in Rendell on the street on Saturday. After he stopped talking on the phone to address me, I asked, "Will the deal actually happen?" He said, "I do not think we will be buying. I could not ask any more questions without running down the street after him or follow him into Schlessinger's Deli.

I did not say that he was drop out of the bidding process. Raymond Perelman knew that he was going to lose the bid two years ago but suffered through the entire lengthy auction process.

If the Inquirer's reporting on even this silly subject is so in the tank for Rendell, I can just imagine what will happen when there is a serious subject.

John Martin, in an email to me, confirmed the accuracy of my quote.
No we never said he didn't say it. We say he said he didnt mean it. No one is challenging what you reported that he said. 

Yet, the Inquirer story reads:
He said he did not say that to Goldman because he did not want to get bogged down in a long conversation on the street. Plus, he did not realize who she was or that she would publish his remarks.

John Martin, an Inquirer reporter since 2010, made no attempt to balance the story. He acted as Rendell's public relations counselor while writing the rebuttal to my piece. He has seen me in action at press conferences and knows that it is unlikely that I would not be noticed. I an a stocky middle aged lady, who never wears a suit but wears flowers and feathers in her hair. My voice is high and squeaky. This is not the typical demeanor of most reporters.

In addition, I typically ask the questions that most people are thinking but to politically correct to ask. I do not cover one beat but many, Therefore, I am not afraid of losing access to one person.

When I was at the Governor Corbett press conference with John Martin, I asked Corbett doesn't your new budget shaft Philadelphia? Politicians tend to remember people who ask intemperate questions if only to avoid them in the future. BTW, my question was the lead in Martin's article the next day.

Rendell is not denying that I quoted him accurately.. He is saying that he did not know who I was or that I would print it. I offered John Martin proof that the governor knew I was a reporter but he refused to print it Fox 29 made an attempt to journalistically balance the story by writing that I have known him for 30 years and mentioned the interviews with him I had written.

When I first came back to Philadelphia after 10 years, Rendell recognized me but could not place me until I told him that I had been living in Israel for 10 years and had retired from being a stockbroker to become a journalist.  Rendell granted me an exit interview as governor. After I identified myself as a reporter at a different time, he talked to me about taking over the possibility of his taking over the job as White House Chief of Staff at the opening of the Visitor's Center for twenty minutes. He discussed Dan Onroato' chances for Governor at Henry David's Halloween party after I identified myself as a reporter. He refuted a column written by  prominent Daily News columnist Sty Bykofsky on the steps of the Part Hyatt even though he was late for his next appointment, and called me when I wrote something about his ex-wife. He invited me to his Governor's Farewell Beach Boys at the Electric Factory. 

He complimented me on how nice I looked at the gala for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. Anyone who knows Ed knows that he does not go out of his way to flatter overweight middle aged brunettes unless they are donors or reporters.

Politicians meet lots of people, but I have known Rendell for over 30 years. I used to exercise with him on the stair climbers at the Sporting Club. He knew me enough to pull up my shirt and say I had a good body for a working girl. ( I was a stockbroker not prostitute), He felt comfortable enough with me to pull the zipper down on my bathing suit at the Lombard Swim Club,

Some questioned why Rendell talked to me, In 40 years of public office, I don't Rendell has ever issued a no comment. He always says something. My style for on the fly reporting is to get the answer to the main questions and then proceed with the details if I can. In this case, I could not because he started walking away.

Rendell's nickname is "Fast Eddie". He is quick. It was reasonable for me to assume that he know I was a reporter after identifying myself as one several times.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rendell Not Buying Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News

Former Governor Rendell had assembled an investor group to buy Philadelphia Media Network, which consists of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and from hedge funds Alden Global and Angelo Gordon. His investor group included Flyers owner Ed Snider, South Jersey political boss George Norcross, parking lot king and former Nets owner Lewis Katz. In short, all the people who make news in the city.

Many complained that the auction process was rigged. Evercore Partners, the investment banking house running the auction, would not allow Raymond and Ronald Perelman and an investor group headed by real estate mogul Bart Blatstein to participate.

Just ran into former Governor Ed Rendell on Locust St near 15th. He said, "I don't think that we will buying." His thin skinned buyers group probably could not take the negative publicity on their bid from Buzz Bissinger, the New York Times, and others. Bissinger, who compared Rendell to Randolph Hearst, worried about the journalistic conflicts of interest with such an investor group. The New York highlighted a censored a blog post about rival bids on

The real villains in this deal are not Ed Rendell and his buddies but Randall Smith of Alden Global and John Angelo and Mike Gordon of Angelo Gordon. They refused to allow philanthropist Raymond Perelmann to buy the papers two years ago even though they knew that they were not interested in being long term owners of the paper. They can not even justify their refusal on economic grounds. The papers are worth less today than two years. One of the nation's finest regional newspapers, which was the only check on a corrupt political culture, was destroyed by their inflated egos.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Springsteen returns to the "Streets of Philadelphia".

“From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen,” the first major exhibition about the legendary rock and roller that was originally assembled for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland,  is now in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center until Sept 3, 2012. 

Springsteen himself explains why there should be an exhibit of his work at the National Constitution Center in the opening quote of the exhibit - "I try to chart the distance between American ideals and American reality. That's how my music is laid out."

The guitar he played from 1968-1971

The Stone Pony was one of the first clubs Springsteen played

The handwritten lyrics of Glory Days

The SteelMill was one of the predecessors to E Street. The name reflects  his interest, even then,  in the working class. 

A sign to promote his concert for former Democratic Presidential Candidate George  McGovern

A typical sign brought by fans to request songs

The 1960 corvette, still registered, that Springsteen bought with  the proceeds of "Born to Run". 

Somehow I can picture Springsteen calling his act Springsteen and his Band of Elves

The medal awarded him at the Kennedy Center Honors

Earlier sartorial choices indicate that Springsteen's taste has improved

Before the E Street band, the band was called the Castiles, after the  soap.

The clothes he wore for the album cover of "Born in the USA". 

Jim Henke, who originally put together the exhibit for the Rock and Roll  Hall of Fame, and Frank Stefanko, who  photographed the early album covers

The exhibit underscores that our patriotic troubadour was a pack rat, but will thrill even the most casual of Springsteen’s fans.  Visitors are greeted at the entrance by his 1960 Corvette, which he bought with the money from "Born to Run". It includes 150 items that range from the Fender Esquire guitar featured on the cover of the “Born to Run” album to his hand written lyrics (complete with a flourish on his T’s) of “Glory Days” to his original audition tapes for Columbia Records. Springsteen, who has won 20 Grammies, 2 Golden Globes, and one Oscar, was very involved in the selection of items such as his writing desk and the suit that he wore to the Obama nomination. 

Philadelphia is the natural home for a Springsteen retrospective. Bolstered by the constant plugging of WYSP’s Ed Shockey and his sold out appearances at the local Main Point and Tower Theater, 50% of the sales for his sophomore album, “The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, came from the Philadelphia area.