Richard W. Vague

, chief executive officer of Philadelphia electric-power marketer

Energy Plus Holdings L.L.C

., cheered when

Sen. Joe Biden (D., Del.)

was tapped as

Barack Obama's

No. 2.

Vague's career as a Wilmington credit card bank boss resulted in his becoming friendly with Biden. Last year, Biden placed Vague, who was organizing public-policy forums questioning the Iraq war before that was fashionable, on the State Department's Advisory Committee for International Economic Policy.

"I've been faithfully attending," Vague told me, "but there are a whole lot of cooks in the foreign-policy kitchen these days."

Vague was "very discouraged" to hear over the weekend that the United States plans to send up to 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan next year.

"My sense is, that is the last thing we need to do," Vague said. "Obama said in his campaign that he would escalate in Afghanistan, but I had hoped he was saying that as a way to deflect questions regarding Iraq without appearing soft, and when the time came he would exit Iraq but resist escalating in Afghanistan.

"The trouble is that we could defeat the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the warlords in Afghanistan again and again, but unless someone provides a viable economic path forward for the broad citizenry there, it won't matter. They'll just come back."

Vague said analysts had suggested that the United States buy Afghanistan's illicit drug crops as a way of easing tensions. He says that's no crazier than the way the United States paid tens of thousands of insurgents - "our former Sunni antagonists" - to stop shootings in Iraq.

"This all seems absurd in the context of our current economic crisis," Vague added. He hopes spring reinforcements will be the last troops we'll need to send.

Philly sells bonds

Philadelphia borrowed $165 million from investors by selling general-obligation bonds last week, priced mostly to yield 7 percent or more. Pennsylvania borrowed $300 million two weeks ago, and paid just 5 percent. The state has a better credit rating.

"It's a little higher because of the turmoil in the market," said city finance director Rob DuBow. "But it's important to bring the cash in to keep our capital projects flowing," including repairs to police and fire stations and recreation centers.

Morgan Stanley led the underwriters for the sale. The city spent $4.267 million on "bond-issuance costs," including legal counsel. Co-bond counsel were Cozen O'Connor and Booth & Tucker L.L.P.; underwriters' counsel were Greenberg Traurig L.L.P. and Andre C. Dasent.

Buying loyalty

Under pressure from Congress,

American International Group Inc. chief executive officer Edward Liddy

, who's working for $1 a year, went on CNBC yesterday to defend multimillion-dollar bonuses for some of his top lieutenants at the company, which is dependent on more than $140 billion in U.S. government financial support because Liddy's predecessors ran it into the ground with stupid financial investments.

"To pay back every single penny that has either been loaned to us or invested in us," Liddy said, "we have to sell 70 percent of our company." But to raise that cash, he said, "you have to keep the people in place. If you don't use retention bonuses, those people are some of the best in the insurance industry, they will go elsewhere and we won't have anything to sell."

Maverick raises $1.5M

A group of venture capital firms led by

Emerald Stage2 Ventures L.P.

, of Philadelphia, and

Innovation Ventures L.P.

, Wilmington, have invested $1.5 million to expand the sales force at

Maverick Network Solutions Inc.

, Wilmington, which is rolling out MasterCard-brand debit cards, among other products, for corporate users.

"The advanced-payment card space is an explosive growth market, even in this economy," said Saul Richter, managing partner at Emerald. Sean Healy, vice president at union concrete construction contractor Healy Long & Jevin Inc., Wilmington, says he uses a Maverick "reloadable" MasterCard to pay safety bonuses to his 130 employees.