Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Follow Up on Fishtown Action

In my last post, I mentioned a community group called Fishtown Action, which supports the building of casinos in this city. A member of the group had written a letter to the City Paper denouncing opponents of the measure in insulting terms.

Well, apparently, Fishtown Action has not limited its activity to verbal attacks. A search of the group on Yahoo reveals their involvement in at least one physical attack on a casino opponent.

Although no charges were apparently filed in the incident, it makes you wonder about the type of people who support the casinos.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Casino Lover Makes An Ass Out of Herself

In this week’s City Paper, there was a letter by Maggie O’Brien of the community group Fishtown Action, attacking opponents of the SugarHouse Casino as “the hip few” who really don’t know anything about Philadelphia. I do not even know where to begin.

Perhaps I should start with an article in this week’s Philadelphia Weekly, which covers a broad spectrum of opposition to the casinos. Far from the “hip few” O’Brien caricatures, they include people such as Fritz Dietel, who converted an abandoned factory into a home for his family, and Andrea Preis and Joanne Sherman, middle-aged women who, if you look at their pictures, hardly qualify for the fashionable fifth, let alone the hip few. (No offense, ladies…)

O’Brien’s letter is filled with self-delusion regarding the benefits of the proposed casino. As a previous post on this blog mentioned, and as community activist Kathy Dilonardo points out in the PW article, the casinos will not draw money into the local economy; rather, they will drain it from the local entertainment industry.

More importantly, she does not even begin to address the moral issues involved. She hopes for the jobs the casinos would bring, but doesn’t give a thought to the gambling addicts and their families whose lives would be ruined by the presence of the casinos. She is perfectly willing to profit from having a den of vice in her community. Yeah, real good Philly values, Ms. O’Brien.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our Devoted Public Servants

My father received a parking ticket last night or very early this morning for parking in a vacant lot on our street. This lot is used by no one for any other purpose than for parking, as part of a de facto neighborhood agreement.

Don't the Philadelphia Police have anything better to do than ticket cars parked on vacant lots? We have hordes of drug dealers in this neighborhood, murders aplenty, and these heroes are wasting their time ticketing cars!!! I know some experts subscribe to the broken window theory of crime prevention, but this post on the Young Philly Politics blog indicates that it may not really hold water.

The real irony of it is that my father normally prefers not to park in that lot, as he likes to watch the car from our window so it will not be vandalized. He only parked there last night because he had returned late from visiting my grandmother in the hospital, and there was no other parking available.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Oh Please, Please, Please...

The Clog, the City Paper blog, reports that the writers' strike may be coming to an end.

We can only hope so. I am getting sick of waiting for the next season of 24.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

10,000 Man Flop

A recent article by the Philadelphia City Paper, written by an old friend of mine, Tom Namako, reveals that the vaunted 10,000 Man March held to counter violence in Philadelphia last autumn has so far failed to produce a viable movement. A lack of organization and failure to mobilize large numbers of men has hindered the effectiveness of the proposed anti-crime campaign.

This lack of results testifies to the ineffectiveness of solutions to community problems imposed from the top down. The very structure of the 10,000 Man movement has a militaristic ring to it, with the City Paper article describing members drilling in military formation and being granted faux military ranks. The account testifies to the impracticality and borderline pretentiousness of the movement as currently organized.

Perhaps the most telling example of how out of touch this movement is with the actual circumstances of the community it is supposed to help is the involvement of my church, the First Unitarian Church on Chestnut Street. On the day of the 10,000 Man march, the entire congregation-which is largely white-marched out, got on the subway, and went to join the march. This is not wrong in and of itself, but seems ludicrous when one considers that the 10,000 Man movement ostensibly focuses on motivating African-American men to fix community problems.

Although their intentions were noble, the First Unitarian congregation is largely composed of middle class Caucasian liberals who have no more first hand knowledge of life in inner city African-American communities than Dan Quayle. (e.g. In order to gain an understanding of how people on food stamps live, they set off with a food stamp budget, roughly $21, to shop at Trader Joe’s! Hardly a place most food stamp dependents would bother with.)

As the article ultimately concludes, it will take community directed efforts to solve the issue of violence in Philadelphia, not cumbersome, outsider directed movements.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Super Tuesday in Perspective

Well, Obama and Hillary are almost neck and neck after the results of Super Tuesday, with some surprising results such as the shift in Missouri in Obama's favor. Furthermore, as the Tavis Smiley Show reported last night, some estimates suggest Obama won more delegates than Hillary. I think the results say some very good things about Obama's future.

The fact that he was able to do so well in red states such as Missouri and Colorado illustrates that Obama's lack of baggage compared with someone like Hillary Clinton is a definite advantage. He will not bring out the Republicans in as great numbers as Hillary would.

Furthermore, for the near future, the race will be to a certain extent dominated by Obama. With states where he is likely to win such as Louisiana coming up, he will have an even greater chance to build up momentum.

A Dip in House Prices

A recent post on the Hall Watch blog warns that house prices across Philadelphia are starting to drop as the housing market collapses. Although so far we have not been as badly affected as other parts of the country, it is only a matter of time before we really get hit hard.

What particularly worries me is how this will affect newly gentrifying neighborhoods such as Fishtown. These neighborhoods are still vulnerable, and major fluctuations in housing prices could damage the progress that has already been made. Many businesses and new homeowners who have been trying to restore the neighborhood could find their efforts sabotaged.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

An Open Letter to the Staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer

To the Ombudsman of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

I apologize for taking up your time, as you must be very busy, but I feel there is a question you need to answer.

Why should my family continue to purchase your newspaper?

With the recent price increase, your paper costs only fifty cents less than the New York Times. Having read the Times, I must conclude it is a much superior paper. Reading through their international section alone, I found four times as many articles as your paper’s international section, which on many days is given over largely to ads.

In terms of international news, I do not even need to rely on the Times. Thanks to the magic of RSS feeds, I can receive articles from national and international newspapers, including the Israeli Ha’aretz and the British Guardian, along with posts from a variety of well-respected blogs. Frankly, there seems to be less and less need for me to spend money on the Inquirer.

The Times also has, on the whole, better columnists than the Inquirer. Although your paper has a few good columnists, such as Trudy Rubin, its selection does not compare with the Times. Furthermore, some of the Inquirer’s recent selections for columnists have been questionable at best. When the Times hires a right wing hack, they get someone relatively respectable, such as William Kristol. Your paper hired Michael Smerconish, a moderately successful radio host who is neither a particularly good or insightful writer.

You may argue that the Inquirer is still vital for local news. However, your paper’s credentials in that regard are increasingly questionable. As a recent article in the Philadelphia Weekly reveals that Brian Tierney, CEO of the company that owns the Inquirer, is considering outsourcing to foreign countries in order to cut costs. If this is done, your paper can hardly claim to be local.

Furthermore, even if one ignores the outsourcing factor, your paper’s coverage of many Philadelphia neighborhoods is genuinely pathetic. The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, as noted in the Philadelphia Weekly article, has complained that many communities only get covered in case of a murder.

In recent months, the Inquirer has also demonstrated a disturbing lack of priorities in its local news coverage. For instance, the Inquirer gave only cursory attention to the arrest of one of Donna Reed Miller’s aides in an extortion case, while examining in minute detail every possible aspect of Alycia Lane’s misadventures. This will not do.

(And don’t try to hide behind the excuse that Lane is what people were talking about, as a certain Daily News columnist did. The function of journalists in a democratic society is to make people aware of government conduct. That was the reasoning of the Founding Fathers when they granted extensive First Amendment freedoms to the press.)

The Inquirer is not the only source of local news coverage. For example, the free Philadelphia Public Record newspaper gives extensive coverage to the inner workings of Philadelphia politics. The City Paper and the Philadelphia Weekly cover the neighborhoods and arts community with a progressive bent. I can get all of these papers for free. There are also many local blogs, such as the Young Philly Politics blog, that offer excellent coverage of local politics.

Unless your paper dramatically improves, I may have to discontinue purchasi

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Obama for Progressives

An article in The Nation by Christopher Hayes explores why Barack Obama is the best choice for Democratic progressives this primary season. Although Hayes's article is well worth reading, his basic points can be summarized as follows:

1. Obama is better on foreign policy.
2. Obama will appeal to a wider array of people.
3. He is not wrapped up in the political battles of the 90s.

To me, the most important issue is Obama's stance on Iraq. To paraphrase the Senator, it is not enough merely to be ready from the first day. In matters of foreign policy and strategy, you must be right from the first. As Senator Obama's stance on Iraq attests, he made the right choice on Iraq from the start: He opposed it.

Furthermore, unlike Hillary Clinton, his main appeal is not nostalgia for the 90s. Barack Obama is ready for the challenges of this century, and will not try to return us to an outdated appoach to the world.