Monday, February 28, 2005

Draft Anthony Zinni for U.S. Senate (Pennsylvania) in 2006!

In the United States Army you never have a party, at least most of us didn't as far as I know. You just voted for people that were strong for national security. When Bill Clinton ran in '92 and I listened to him and I had of course known of his record from Arkansas, I found him extraordinarily inspirational and I voted Democratic. I later ended up working around the White House when I was at the Pentagon. I was back and forth across the Potomac for various staff meetings and so forth. And I was impressed with the people in the Clinton administration . . . . That's when I learned that the old myths were wrong. That it wasn't that the Republicans were tough and strong on defense and the Democrats were soft and blame America. It was really that the Republican Party had become shrill and partisan and isolationist and the Democrats were working mightily to craft a new strategy to take us into a new world. And that's where I found myself.
Gen. Wesley Clark on why he chose to leave the Republican Party.

Like most Democrats, I’m sick of losing. Losing, however, is a symptom of much greater problems for Democrats and Progressives. A major part of the problem is structural—we lack both an effective and efficient party organization and the complementary structures (think tanks, a real “liberal media,” etc) that could effectively distribute our Party’s message. But the more pressing problem that plagues the Democratic Party stems from its inability to control its image in the minds of voters and to frame issues in a way that benefits Democrats. There is also the additional failure to field candidates who embody the frames we’re trying to put forth.

With that in mind, I am putting forth this suggestion: In the biggest race of 2006, the race for Rick Santorum’s Senate seat, it is insufficient to put forth a candidate who will simply win. Instead, we should aim to begin the process of transforming the battle field. This is why I am advocating that we Draft Anthony Zinni for US Senate in 2006.

Before you ask “is Zinni even a Democrat?” The answer is “no”. Zinni voted for Bush the first time, and has called himself a “Lugar-Hagel-Powell” Republican. But then again, Wes Clark voted for Reagan and Nixon, and possibly the first Bush, yet he inspired many in the grassroots as he attempted to become the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2004. But, and this gets to the heart of what I’m trying to say-- we need to reframe what it means to be a Republican and a Democrat, especially when it comes to the subject of National Security.

Zinni doesn’t seem like a social conservative, or at least he doesn’t seem in favor of shoving his values down other people’s throats. When discussing why he though the Bush Administration had made so many mistakes in Iraq Zinni said:
“I have spent my life as a U.S. military man in the Caribbean, in the Far East, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Southwest Asia, and in Central Asia, in Europe, Eastern Europe. Our biggest flaw is that we never take time to understand the culture. Some things we do that make perfect sense to us do not make perfect sense in another culture.
This open-mindedness seems to indicate that Zinni is not a so-called values voter, but then the question is—why in the world would this incredibly intelligent and open-minded, working class guy, who has selflessly given his life to his country, align himself with religious extremists, neoconservative fanatics, and the corporate-greed lobby? My guess is that, like Wes Clark in the above quote, and like those “security moms” that voted for G.W. in 2004, Zinni felt that the Republicans were the stronger party on national security issues.

The most persuasive arguments that I have seen for why John Kerry lost to George W. Bush had to do with Bush’s advantage over Kerry in the perception of national security abilities, especially amongst married women. That Kerry couldn’t beat Bush, even though Bush had invaded another country on false pretexts, presided over the first net job losses for a sitting President in almost 100 years, and watched as the dual deficits grew (three if you include personal debt), says a lot about the power of national security as an overarching issue. And when I look at papers like this, which show how the shift in women voters correlated closely with their views on who was stronger on security issues, all doubt is removed from my mind- security issues are killing us and we absolutely must take them back.

My hope is that, like Clark before him, Zinni will see that the image of the Republicans as the national security party is an illusion. Zinni saw first hand how the Bush Administration “cooked the books” to gain support for the invasion of Iraq, and he also noted the numerous follies that the Bush Administration made once the war was under way. He saw the way that the radical ideologies of the Neo-Conservatives overrode rational decision making, and the chaos that resulted. Zinni should know better than almost anyone else just how wrong the image of Republicans as strong on national security is. My hope is that Zinni will do as Clark did; survey the current landscape and make a rational decision to switch to the Democratic Party. Moreover, my hope is that by bringing Zinni into the big tent of the Democratic Party that we can convince security voters in Pennsylvania and across the country to join him.

I also think that the Democrats need to embrace the military and what they stand for. It may surprise some people, but there are a number of areas where military and progressive themes are interwoven, which makes me even more convinced that the switch of this sensible general (and hopefully sensible Americans) makes sense.

First of all, Military Officers are usually not very gung-ho about starting wars, in fact most of them are extremely reluctant to resort to arms, with the full and personal knowledge of the hellish nature of modern warfare. Though it would be a stretch to call four-star generals “pacifists” or “anti-war”, I think that most could be classified as “anti-stupid-war”. To me this is the only sensible position for those who abhor war to have, ignoring the cruel and aggressive nature of man might make some feel good, but it certainly isn’t going to protect us from that aggressiveness.

Zinni, in particular, has also made it clear that he believes in speaking up when our leaders bring us into a war using a faulty strategy. Here’s one quote that coincides with how many Democrats feel about speaking up against Bush’s strategic and tactical blunders:
Look, there is one statement that bothers me more than anything else, and that's the idea that when the troops are in combat everybody has to shut up. Imagine if we put troops in combat with a faulty rifle, and that rifle was malfunctioning and troops were dying as a result. I can't think anyone would allow that to happen, that would not speak up. Well, what's the difference between a faulty plan and strategy that's getting just as many troops killed?
It’s also important to note that military thinkers, a group that certainly includes Zinni, recognize that the non-traditional security threats we face today require a readjustment of our domestic and international policies. Non-traditional security basically refers to any threat not coming from another large nation state on the traditional battlefield (thus they can either be threats from non-state actors, or asymmetric threats from states). As Zinni observes:
We have a very real danger of many failed or incapable states that are sort of hot beds or sanctuaries that breathe instability in regions like Afghanistan and Somalia. We have the threats of international terrorism and extremism. We have the tremendous humanitarian catastrophes the could be out there, either man-made or natural, threats to the environment, international crime, non-state entities like Osama Bin Ladin and others who pose threats that were only posed, basically, by nation states before. The asymmetric threats of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of fanatics, not in the hands of accountable nation states, so that you could hold something as a counter-value --that you could strike, but maybe instead, we are dealing with people without state power, like terrorists, and we lack the means to act against them.
So how can this shift help Democratic causes? Well to begin with, Zinni can help us talk about building a strong national health care system as a national security issue. As Zinni has noted:
We will eventually see a weapon of mass destruction used in a terrorist act. And, I would say we had better start thinking about how we're going to be prepared for the threat, because we're woefully unprepared for that event, and that's inevitable.
And as this study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)- a semi-governmental non-partisan defense think tank- points out:
The US and its allies also need to rethink internal security planning, public health, response, and defense efforts to deal with the broad range of CBRN threats. This requires us to refocus homeland defense on attacks using each type of CBRN weapons, and covert means of delivery.
Within the United States, we need to examine the full range of options for defense and response, make hard trade offs between them, and develop an integrated mix of federal programs to deal with them. The most urgent effort, however, should be in dealing with biological attacks, simply because they combine high potential lethality with greater ease of acquisition and use. This means developing new detection, characterization, and warning systems where these can be proved to be cost-effective. It also means rethinking the national stockpile of vaccines and medical goods, and our investment in public health services and surplus medical capacity.
As Ron Brookmeyer, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, noted (sorry, the link to this is now dead):
Strengthening the public health infrastructure to improve early detection and rapid response is going to be a better use of resources to improve disease surveillance and to get drugs out to people quicker than a mass pre-attack vaccine program
So a strong national defense equals a strong public health system. I believe we have a lot bigger chance of getting hit with a biological agent than a nuclear one--due to the much lower restrictions on production, acquisition, transportation, and delivery-- so why are we investing in Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems that don't work instead of building up a dual-use public health system?

But health care isn’t the only area where military thinkers can add authority and perspective to Democratic causes. As I noted Zinni has mentioned environmental catastrophes, ethnic conflicts, and trans-national crime, all issues which should concern progressives, as a security issues. Outside of the strictly non-traditional area, the military has firmly supported affirmative action. Zinni was a signature, along with many other generals on the of the 'friend-of-the-court brief' to the Supreme Court in defense of Affirmative Action. Zinni could also help to promote a more cooperative and less confrontational foreign policy, as he is a Distinguished Military Fellow at the Center for Defense Information, a group who’s mission statement indicates that it is:
dedicated to strengthening security through: international cooperation; reduced reliance on unilateral military power to resolve conflict; reduced reliance on nuclear weapons; a transformed and reformed military establishment; and, prudent oversight of, and spending on, defense programs.
But, there is one frame that I think could help Democrats the most. If I had to use one word to describe the current Republican Party it would be “deceit”. Throughout many of the most important political debates—from justifications for Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, to the Social Security debate, to the debates around Medicare, to energy and environmental policies, to the justifications for starting a War with Iraq—Republicans have turned time and time again to deception, knowing all too well that the American People would flatly reject their agenda if it were argued on its own merits. I firmly believe that the Republican Party would find it hard to win many elections if the issues that affect the lives of ordinary Americans were debated openly and honestly. For a democratic state to function properly it must ensure that voters receive truly “fair and balanced” information instead of partisan propaganda. Because our current government relies almost exclusively on misleading or lying to the public in order to push its radical agenda, our Democracy, and with it the American way of life, is at risk.

It is my belief that what Progressives need most, definitely more than someone who is “ideologically pure” to Progressive causes, is someone who will seek and speak the truth themselves and who will demand the same from government, no matter which party is in charge. This is the biggest reason that I think Anthony Zinni would be a perfect candidate to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate. He has proven in his numerous assignments around the world, and especially with his outspoken criticism of the Bush Administrations rationales for invading and occupying Iraq, that he is unafraid to speak the truth even in the face of blistering personal attacks.

I especially think that this line of attack could be used effectively against Rick Santorum, one of the senior members of the deception wing of the Republican Party. I doubt it will be hard to find Santorum’s hand in many of the lies or misrepresentations surrounding policy debates such as Medicare, invading Iraq, and the tax cuts for the wealthy. I also think that a man of honor and integrity like Zinni could really hammer home the point that Santorum and the rest of the Republican leadership are lying to the American Public to push a radical agenda which threatens American Democracy both through the lies used to pursue the agenda, and through the agenda itself. Rick Santorum and his Republican colleagues represent arrogance, corruptness, recklessness and fantasy. And who can contrast this better than a one time Republican, four star General, brought under the big-tent of the party that represents opportunity, innovation, strength, and sensibility?

But, before I finish, it’s important to note that there’s another problem with drafting Zinni to run for office, other than the fact that he hasn’t left the party that turned its back on national security. Zinni has stated unequivocally that he would not run for public office. Here’s one episode where he was asked about the possibility:
At the end of an appearance by Zinni before the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on Tuesday night, the event’s host, Washington power broker, Aspen Institute president, and former CNN head Walter Isaacson turned to Zinni, a registered Republican, and suggested that Kerry might call him and say, “You should run with me on a ticket of national unity.”
The audience of 200 retired State Department officials, Washington lawyers, and foreign policy think tank experts burst into applause.
Zinni replied, “I’m not interested in any political office in either party.” When Isaacson persisted, Zinni said, “Do you have trouble with the ‘N’ or the ‘O’?”
And as this piece notes: Zinni vows that he has learned a lesson. Reminded that he endorsed Bush in 2000, he says, "I'm not going to do anything political again -- ever. I made that mistake one time.

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I have faith that if we drafted Zinni to run that he would actually consider it. I mean nobody has been more outspoken about the internal threat faced by the Neo-Cons. Nobody has had a better seat to watch as the Bush Administration guts the military, state, and intelligence agencies. And I believe that Zinni understands the unique threat we face from this revolutionary administration, so why wouldn’t he, in the face of a great threat to our nation, heed the call to once again protect and serve the United States of America?
Anthony Zinni promised himself that in the hills of Vietnam that he would speak up and talk honestly with the American people if he witnessed the government lying to support a war, and to a large degree he has done this. But the American people are being lied to on every political front, and we desperately need someone who can go into the halls of government and demand that the American people be told the truth. What we need to do is draft Anthony Zinni for US Senate in 2006!

Kansas on My Mind

Bread and Roses Community Fund will be sponsoring an event tomorrow with best-selling author Thomas Frank.
On Tuesday, March 1 Bread & Roses Community Fund will host best-selling author Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

Frank argues that over the last thirty-five years the Republican Party has transformed its image from an aristocratic minority into the nation's dominant political party and a true friend of the worker. How has a right-wing class war grown so powerful? How is it that in places like once-liberal Kansas, the Right draws headlines with high profile campaigns against evolution and abortion? What can we in Pennsylvania learn from the experience of Kansas?

The program is co-sponsored by American Friends Service Committee Third World Coalition, AFSCME District Council 47, and AFSCME Local 1723.

7 pm - 9 pm, Friends Meeting House, 15th and Cherry Streets.

RSVP to 215.731.1107 x204 or by February 28. This program is pay what you can; a collection will be taken up at the end of the event.
In my opinion, Frank is one of the smartest people writing about American politics. Long before "values" became the buzzword to explain the 2004 Election, Frank was writing about phenomenon of working-class white people voting against their own economic interests. Moving beyond the traditional explanation of left, which is to simply write such voters off as racists, Frank offers a much more in-depth analysis.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Conference Call with Chuck Pennachio (ok, Pennacchio), Pennsylvania Senate Candidate

(This is written quickly, from the road. I thought I should get it out there, editing errors and all.

Second update- his name is spelled Pennacchio, not Pennachio. I will leave the misspelling alone, because a few people have been spelling it wrong and finding this post. So, from this they can learn.)

As expected, I participated in a conference call Thursday evening with Dr. Chuck Pennachio, a candidate to unseat Rick Santorum in 2006. From what I could tell, the conference call will actually be available at his website,, so, if you want to hear it, or just hear my sweet baritone in action, listen in.

I am not going to go deeply into a lot of his politics, per se, because you can get most of that off of the website. But, some of the things that I thought worthy of writing:

-What came off clear is that Pennachio is an old school, grassroots political organizer, with a history of a few notable successes under his belt. (For example, Tom Harkin's first Senate campaign in Iowa.) His goal is to run a campaign that merges his knowledge of the grassroots with a strong focus on the "netroots," as well. So, this is by no means going to be an internet only exercise, which was good to hear.

-As he pointed out, the PA Democratic party has lost in every Senate race for decades (with the exception of Harris Wofford for an abbreviated term after John Heinz died). He is, rather than starting as a hand-picked candidate who then tried to build an organization, is a organizer who will turn himself into the well-known candidate eventually. As he confidently stated, he will essentially be doing a huge service for the State party, given its generally failing history in so many races.

-Each of the three questions that were posted earlier were also answered:

1) Will he stay in the race if Rendell and Co. clear the field of established candidates? His answer, unsurprisingly, was that he was in the race all the way.

2) Gay marriage in a socially conservative state? He said he is for civil unions with full rights to gay couples, including full federal benefits.

3) How much money does he need, and how will he raise it? He said that he thinks 3 million dollars should be what he needs for the primary. In terms of how he does it his goal is to build a huge base, both locally and nationally of small donors. If possible, in fact, he wants build a base of hundreds of thousands of them pledging small amounts. (My take: The jury is certainly still out. Howard Dean's money machine proved it possible, but, lets see what happens in a state election. Many people will vie to emulate the Dean money machine. I hope he can do it.)

I will write more on the candidate soon, I just wanted to get this out there. Visit his website, and check him out. Above all else, he seemed like a confident, intelligent, humane person. He is certainly worthy of your attention (if not your support), and it will be great to see him in debates with others, getting his message out on a larger scale.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Gone Fishing

I don't know if Alex, Charles or anyone else will be writing, but I am traveling for the next few days, and so, the site may not be updated for a little while. How will you ever get by?!

On Sunday night or Monday morning I will post my thoughts on the Chuck Pennachio conference call that I was in on last night.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Renaming the Convention Center

It has to be odd being Mayor Street right now. No matter where you stand on the corruption trial, you have to wonder what its like trying to govern through this whole thing.

Anyway, yesterday, Street hinted at how he was going to pay for the arts budget he proposed a while back: Sell naming rights to the Convention Center. He says the City can get between 3 and 5 million dollars a year from such a deal.

From the Inquirer:
Street's naming-rights proposal was news to Gov. Rendell. Spokeswoman Kate Philips yesterday said the governor "supports innovative ways to fund arts and cultural programs, but has not seen a proposal."

But the idea drew a cold response from City Councilman Michael Nutter, board chairman of the Convention Center, which is awaiting funds to undergo a $632 million expansion.

"Research indicates there are no major convention centers in America that have corporate names," said Nutter, who attended the chamber event.

That said, some convention centers have sold naming rights. Cincinnati sold the naming rights to its convention center for $9 million, for 30 years, to the local gas and electric company.

And in Houston, Reliant Energy paid $300 million to own the naming rights for 30 years for what is now known as Reliant Park, a five-building complex that includes the Houston Texans new football stadium, the Astrodome, an arena, exposition center and convention center.


But one consultant, Jeff Knapple, who has worked on more than 20 major naming-rights deals, said he thinks the benefits are slim where convention centers are concerned. Even though tens of thousands of people may traipse through a convention center, "What's overlooked is the exposure from television: They don't have the media coverage a hockey game or a baseball game has, and so the value of the agreement is less," he said.

I guess if the City can actually get that much, why not? We sell the rights to everything else. (Coming soon: The Frank's Bail Bonds City Hall!) But, I sincerely doubt they get that much for it. Because really, who cares what a convention center is named? Why in the world would a company pay that much?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Politics PA Poll: If you so choose

Politics PA, the meta site for PA politics (and to a certain extent PA wide-blogging) is running a poll on who is their best featured blog, which Young Philly Politics is one of. So, if you are interested, go there and cast your ballot. And, if you are voting for us, scroll on down to the bottom, and cast away.

And, just so you know, the guy currently winning is from a blog self-billed as "the epicenter of conservative grassroots actvity in Pennsylvania." (I don't think we are drawing from the same pool, I will just say that.)

What would YOU ask a Senate candidate?

On Thursday night I will be in on a conference call with Senate Candidate Chuck Pennachio, as part the start of his internet outreach stuff. While I am far from "endorsing" any candidate, I really like the potential for his campaign to simply invigorate young people in PA, and create some real grassroots momentym. Pennachio certainly has big shoes to fill when he compares himself to Paul Wellstone, but, again, it certainly gives him some promise. (He has a newly forming, really cool website, as well.). Most of the conference call will be all of us, bloggers from around PA, asking him questions. But, frankly, I don't really have any ideas of what to ask.

The question is for anyone out there: What should I ask Chuck Pennachio on the conference call? If any question is better than one that I can come up with, I will gladly use it, and credit you when I write the call up on Friday or so.

So, if you have any, please let me know.

Watered down ethics bill may pass

Or, at the very least, may actually get out of committee. According to a column today by Jill Porter, a watered down version of Michael Nutter's ethics bill looks like it is making its way to a full vote by City Council. Unfortunately, the bill really has lost quite a lot of its bite...

From the article:
Councilman Michael Nutter has agreed to postpone part of his three-piece ethics package to move forward on legislation that would change the way no-bid professional services contracts are awarded, sources said yesterday.

Those contracts, allegedly awarded to insiders in exchange for political contributions, are at the heart of the federal trial that began yesterday - and at the heart of the city's reputation as a cesspool of cronyism and corruption.


Nutter has agreed to hold those two parts of his package back, sources said, in the hopes of reviving them later if the pay-to-play legislation is successful.

Some fierce advocates of the package are disappointed and say Nutter got his "ass whupped" by the committee.

The ethics board, which would enforce the rules, is a particularly important piece of the package. But, frankly, if Nutter can get any reform through council at all, it will be a major triumph.

His pay-to-play legislation will require a change in city charter rules to allow council to set policy regarding the awarding of contracts. It will take 12 votes from Council to get the measure on the ballot - and supporters are reasonably confident the votes are there.

If Council moves quickly, the charter change legislation could be on the ballot by May - and the new law in place not long thereafter.
Nepotism today! Nepotism tomorrow! Nepotism forever! Again, I do not care who a member of City Council hires for their personal staff, because it is there staff to see that their needs are best served. But the idea that City Council is shocked (shocked!) that someone would dare take away their ability to infiltrate the rest of City Government with their family members is mildly disturbing, if not unsuprising.

This post is obviously quite intertwined with the one right below it. So, Mr. Stalberg, lets just say that although this is good news, I hope your new and improved organization has something up its sleeve to supplement this bill.

Confirmed: Stalberg to head the Committee of Seventy

It is confirmed that former Daily News Chief Zack Stalberg will head the Committee of Seventy. From the Daily News:
The Committee of Seventy, a nonprofit group funded mostly by foundations and the business community, is best known for its monitoring of elections.

But under Stalberg, that is likely to change.

As a result of the City Hall "pay-to-play scandal" - and its negative impact on the city's image - the committee wants to play a much more active role in city politics, according to both Dunham and Stalberg.

"Basically I'm going to try to re-invent the organization," said Stalberg. "For many, many years, it was a tremendous instrument of reform in Philadelphia, and over time its mission got smaller and smaller."

He added: "Against the backdrop of pay-to-play and all these tremendously embarrassing head- lines, there's been a decision to try to bring back the Committee of Seventy to make it a tool for cleaning up the political environment."

Under Stalberg's guidance, the Daily News launched a number of campaigns to improve the city, and he said last night he'll be able to continue that in his new job.
Good. We do not need a wannabe politician in this role, we need a citizen activist. Stalberg fits the bill. It will be extremely interesting to see what changes he makes in the group as a result.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Drexel Republicans Come Right Out and Say It

The Social Security battle has never been about "fixing it," always about starting a process to kill it. And, it looks like Drexel Republicans have come right out and said it.

From Daily Kos:
In a surprising display of candor, Drexel College Republicans admitted to knowing the real plan for Bush's Social Security : ending it.

Today, I picketed at one of Rick Santorum's Privatization town hall meetings at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Anti-privatization forces and Drexel Dems out-numbered Pro-privatization forces and College Repubs. 6 to 1. There were about 40 of us total -- but CNN, the Washington Post, ABC were all covering our anti-privatization protest.

CNN started filming, so we started to chant "Hey-Hey Ho-Ho, Rick Santorum has got to go!" In response, the Drexel Republicans retorted with their own chant: "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Social Security has got to go!" Our jaws just about jawed as CNN continued to film. We stopped our chant, and let the Repubs take over -- they were doing our job for us!

Who has been feeding Drexel Repubs the lead paint???
Well, at least they are honest. Ha.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Santorum Privatization Protest: Tuesday at Drexel

(Bumped up as a reminder to all you non-working types who can go. Although it says location TBD, I think it is safe to just show up at the Drexel address listed. If anyone goes, let us know how it went.)

Sen. Rick Santorum is on tour of college campuses to promote his privatizing of Social Security proposal. Defenders of Social Security will be on hand to offer counter arguments to his ideologically-charged diatribes against Social Security. We will also have an informational picket walking outside the auditorium.
Join us at Drexel University's Creese Student Center, 3210 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, from 9:30: to 11:30

When: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 9:30 AM

Where: (A location for this event hasn't been chosen yet)

More information about this event

Seinfeld and Philadelphia politics

Seinfeld, Episode titled "The Wig Master":

Jerry: "Excuse me I'd like to return this jacket."

Salesperson: "Certainly. May I ask why?"

Jerry: "........For spite..."

Salesperson: "Spite?"

Jerry: "That's right. I don't care for the salesman that sold it to me."

Salesperson: "I don't think you can return an item for spite."

Jerry: "What do you mean?"

Salesperson: "Well if there was some problem with the garment. If it were unsatisfactory in some way,then we could do it for you, but I'm afraid spite doesn't fit into any of our conditions for a refund."

The Inquirer:
A bubbling feud over political control in Northwest Philadelphia has produced a new ripple in the pool of intrigue that already is the 2007 mayoral race: a possible strike at powerful U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.).

Philadelphia NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire says he "absolutely will" run against Fattah in next year's Democratic House primary unless Fattah renounces his interest in exploring a campaign for mayor.

"He's a 300-pound gorilla in a small cage, playing games for his own agenda," Mondesire said. "It's arrogant."

Because Fattah is well-known and has a disciplined political organization, Mondesire and others believe that his interest in the 2007 race has frozen the organizing efforts of other serious black candidates for mayor, including State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) and Councilman Michael Nutter.

Fattah said Mondesire, who has not run for office before but was chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. William Gray, was welcome to try.

"If he wants to run, he should run," Fattah said. "But he doesn't seem to have a substantive complaint about my work or a pressing ideology he wants to pursue in Congress."

The feud appears to have its roots in tensions between some Northwest Philadelphia ward leaders and Fattah over local political decisions, most recently in a fight over who would get the Democratic Party nod in the May 17 special election for a vacant state Senate seat.
Many absurdities of local politics could be straight out of sitcoms, but this really is strange. The idea that Jerry Mondesire is going to run (and almost certainly lose badly) out of spite, and not with any substantial complaint about Fattah at all, really makes it seem like we are living in TV land.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Rizzo comes out against Wi-Fi; I say: eh

Councilman Rizzo, in a follow up to Dianah Neff's CNET editorial defending the City's wi-fi plan, has written his own piece, slamming the Philly project. Maybe I should more call it "his piece," because as the Inquirer implies, he may not have exactly written some of the very tech jargon laced points himself.

Rizzo compares the Philly project to infamous Boston road project, the big dig. (If anyone doesn't know, the big dig is the billion dollars over budget Boston road project that has gone on for years.) The comparisons are just silly. And, as an aside, Rizzo comparing the project to the by far most infamous municipal project is a similar debate tactic to when people compare a quote from a politician to something that was said in the Third Reich- it is just dumb. In fact, I think there is an understood rule in debating that the first person to bring up Hitler loses. Well, when discussing municipal works, the first person to bring up the big dig should be similarly disqualified, because it is so out there, that it is useless as a comparator.

Rizzo says:
More than a decade ago, city officials promised to relieve traffic congestion with a new tunnel and street infrastructure, for a $2 billion tab. But today, with a running bill of more than $15 billion, the project is six years overdue and counting, while cracks in the tunnel's infrastructure are being discovered.

As the most expensive public works project in U.S. history, it has become a boondoggle. The Big Dig, it turns out, became a black hole for taxpayer dollars because city administrators and contractors weren't candid with state and local legislators about project costs, instead selling them on unrealistically low estimates.


Information technology professionals experienced in deploying large-scale Wi-Fi networks all tell us that significantly higher build-out costs, involving literally thousands of access points, will be required to deliver secure, scalable and reliable services, with user speeds greater than 1 megabit per second. And these don't include costs associated with much-needed network redundancy, customer service, antihacking security measures, billing and other administrative costs. Under these conditions, the cost of truly building out an advanced network could skyrocket.

I would assume Rizzo would agree that 11 million versus 15 billion is an inherently different proposition? And his point that the project involves "thousands of access" points you have to build? That just seems silly. This is not like we are talking about constructing towers here. You are essentially throwing up wireless routers on top of light posts, which is partly why infrastructure costs are reasonably low- there is not much building needed.

He also talks about how other cities have failed in similar type projects. The Inky article has some other experts who adequately dismiss his points here, so I will not address them here.

Rizzo also says silly things like this:
Further competition among wireless providers has already produced 93 "hot spots" in the city of Philadelphia as hundreds of wireless ISPs, big and small, compete for a slice of the action. The notion that we would use precious taxpayer subsidies to disrupt that competition--competition that would otherwise help bring service to underserved areas--seems a bit odd.
I guess I cannot confirm or deny Rizzo's numbers, but I will just say, if he is counting things like Starbucks as among these hotspots then he is being intentionally misleading, to put it charitably. And, where exactly, does he see evidence that this competition will bring service to underserved areas? He doesn't of course, he just makes it up.

Rizzo similarly says that Wi-fi will not close the digital divide because it will not deal with the fact that poor people do not have computers in their homes. So, in other words, instead of trying to come up with ways to make that happen (hell, even I have an idea for making it happen), he gives up.

It is a shame that the Councilman, instead of thinking on how to use this project as a great social equalizer for poor people all over the City, is willing to take the Verizon/Comcast company line that we should just let them do whatever they feel, at whatever speed they feel like doing it. And, if this project were going to be such a disaster, why would the big telecoms be fighting so visciously against it? They are screaming "unfair," which tells you that they obviously think it can work.

Yes, Philly is in some tight budget times. And, of course, the project could fail. But, we should never shy from being visionaries. As the NY Times stated, Philly could be the tipping point towards a country wide effort to ensure that poor people everywhere have access to the internet, and in cities across the country, you never are "off-line." Considering we are a City that finds millions of dollars of incentives for businesses and developers (which have on occasion left us with 40 million dollar holes in the ground), we can figure out a way to come up with this money. With all things, you must measure the risk/reward. Here, the scales are clearly tilted towards the reward, and so, the City builds.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Two John Streets

I think there are two John Streets. Seriously. There is the first one, who used to be a big rabble rousing, gruff, innovative, loud reformer. He is the one who does things like promote city wide wi-fi access, to help Philly become the first City in the Country to close the digital divide, to make sure abandoned cars were towed, to pay attention to real, gritty neighborhood issues. I think of him as Reformer John.

Then, there is the other John Street. I don't like this other one, though he seems to be coming out more and more these days. This would be the Tammany Hall John Street. The John Street (I will just call him Tammany John from now on) who looks the other way while his brother scams the City, the Tammany John who takes advantage of a loophole to give himself a huge chunk of change when he leaves office, and, apparently, the Tammany John who showed a stunning lack of judgment.

The Daily News and Inquirer have a huge amount of details on the FBI probe, from a freedom of information request they recently had fulfilled.

Some choice parts of the Inquirer article:
When the Eagles' new stadium opened in 2003, Mayor Street made sure two seats in the city's box were guaranteed for two of his sons before the rest were doled out for campaign contributions.

The year before, after meeting with bankers about financing the city's new baseball park, Street approached one of them about refinancing his mortgage.

If nothing else, the release of new court documents in the continuing federal probe into alleged municipal corruption shows a mayor not shy about mixing the political and personal with the public's business.


Along with the taped conversations, the government yesterday released a spreadsheet listing those invited to that first fund-raiser at Lincoln Field.

Most represented companies doing or seeking business with the city. One, Andre Allen of Phoenix Capital Markets, was listed as having been asked to donate $25,000. In their indictment of Kemp, prosecutors allege he and White tried to get Allen to make a $25,000 donation to Street in exchange for time with the mayor at that game. The total collected that night: $162,500.

Asked about the event the next day, Street denied holding the fund-raiser at the stadium. "There never was a fund-raiser," he told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Well, Rendell apparently used the Vet Stadium box to fundraise as well, so Street certainly is not unique. Of course, the fact that he lied blatantly about it is a little disconcerting.

And then, from the DN, there is this:
A HIGH-RANKING Commerce Bank official told his boss in 2002 that Mayor Street had approached him after a City Hall meeting and asked about refinancing the mayor's home mortgage.

The mayor's personal-loan discussions with the Commerce aide - while the bank was winning millions of dollars in city business - are disclosed in a company memo, one of more than 1,000 bugging transcripts and documents released yesterday in the sweeping federal city corruption probe.

The discussion with Street, who ultimately got two loans from Commerce in 2003, was just one of several examples of public deals and personal loans overlapping.


The papers also shed new light on how Street's son, Sharif, described as "a VIP referral," was able to get a $40,000 loan during the 1999 mayoral campaign despite poor credit and other problems. And they show that top mayoral assistant George Burrell, a key aide in doling out contracts, called Umbrell in 2003 "to discuss his personal financial needs."

The idea that the Mayor is conducting business for the City, and interrupts it by making sure he gets a good deal on a mortgage refinance actually seems pretty pitiful to me. That it appears Tammany John got his son, a past and future candidate for office, a loan as well, despite poor credit? Ugh. The City is worth more than that.

Reformer John and Tammany John. Two people who would hate each other if they ever met. I just hope that maybe, just maybe, this whole scandal has made sure that Reformer John rubs his eyes, looks around, and realizes that his legacy as a Philadelphia public servant is being destroyed by his awful Doppelganger, and the reformer decides to make a comeback.

A Letter from Seth Williams, candidate for District Attorney

I was sent this email from the Seth Williams campaign, and will re-print it in its entirety. I will write a little more about it tonight.

Check it out, Williams really seems like the real deal, so to speak. And, as I said before, especially amidst the pay-to-play cloud of cronysim that hangs over our City, new, principled leaders are a welcome sight, whether they win or not.

The letter follows:

Dear Philadelphian,

My name is Seth Williams and I am running for District Attorney.

On January 20, while George W. Bush was inaugurated a second time, Philadelphia
experienced the 14th murder of the new year. A lack of jobs, affordable
housing and access to education have been driving more and more of our
city's residents to violence and crime as solutions to their problems.
As a result, our city's murder and crime rates have been on the rise.

How has the District Attorney's office and our criminal justice system
adapted to meet the challenge of a weak economy and a city struggling
to provide opportunities for all?

It hasn't.

If we want to make real change in this city, we need to all pull
together and try something new. That's why I am asking you to support
my campaign to be Philadelphia's next District Attorney:{17C21D3B-F33E-409D-9F7C-

After more than a decade as a Philadelphia prosecutor, I know what it
takes to make the system work for all Philadelphians and that's why I'm
running for District Attorney.

I know that by building partnerships with town watches, schools, social
service agencies, churches, police and neighborhood organizations, we
can build a justice system that works just as hard to prevent crime as
it does in punishing criminals.

Mired in politics and lack of vision, our current District Attorney is
failing our children. Today, it's not enough to be "tough" on crime, we
must be "smart" on crime. If we really want to make a change in
Philadelphia, we have to follow the lead of other cities across the
nation and eliminate crime at its roots.

Please join me in making a change:{17C21D3B-F33E-409D-9F7C-

With the support of progressive Philadelphia voters like you, we can
reduce crime and expand opportunities for everyone.


Sincerely, Seth Williams Candidate for the Democratic Nomination for
District Attorney February 17th, 2005

PS- The only way my campaign to make changes in the District Attorney's
office is only going to work with grass roots support from committed
Philadelphians like you, so please spread the word about me to friends
and family!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dianah Neff on Philly Wi-Fi (updated with NY Times Article)

From CNET, by way of Philly Future Philly Chief Information Officer Dianah Neff wrote a column defending the Philly wireless internet project. As I have said before, I am a fan of this project in a big way, so I am not exactly unbiased.

Neff says some great stuff:
Tell me who among incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs)--have deployed ubiquitous, high-speed wireless networks that support roaming/mobile capabilities. No ILEC. Who provides high-speed, broadband, ubiquitous services at dial-up rates for the underserved populations? No ILEC. Who is working to get equipment and training into the homes of low-income and disadvantaged portions of our community? Again, no ILEC.


When was the last time they were elected to determine what is best for our communities? If they're really concerned about what is important to all members of the community, why haven't they built this type of network that meets community needs or approached a city to use their assets to build a high-speed, low-cost, ubiquitous network?

For all the money they've spent lobbying against municipal participation, they could have built the network themselves. The truth, of course, is that the incumbent local exchange carriers want unregulated monopolies over all telecommunications.
And then, there is this:
Since the 1980s, ILECs have been talking about installing fiber as long as they were given incentives to protect their investments. Now, in Pennsylvania, they've been given another 12 years, and they promise to upgrade some share of the homes passed to fiber optics if, and only if, they don't have to let competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), Internet service providers or video program providers onto their network. (And by the way, let's prohibit governments from serving their community with low-cost Internet access to strengthen economic development in the neighborhoods, to help overcome the digital divide or to help families with children better communicate with teachers and the administration to improve their kids' education.)
This is about forward thinking in Philadelphia. This is about potentially closing a small piece of the wide digital-divide. This is good, really good. This is, above all else, a win for the City and its residents. I have previously detailed why I think this is a crucial project for Philly. But, I just want to say that I think Neff, without knowing her at all, or frankly, what she generally spends her time on, is doing this city a great, great service.

(Update Thursday- 10:30PM:)

The New York Times article on the project is pretty laudatory. There are a few parts that I especially like:
City officials envision a seamless mesh of broadband signals that will enable the police to download mug shots as they race to crime scenes in their patrol cars, allow truck drivers to maintain Internet access to inventories as they roam the city, and perhaps most important, let students and low-income residents get on the net.

Experts say the Philadelphia model, if successful, could provide the tipping point for a nationwide movement to make broadband affordable and accessible in every municipality. From tiny St. Francis, Kan., to tech-savvy San Francisco, more than 50 local governments have already installed or are on the verge of creating municipal broadband systems for the public.

And, to answer an earlier question as to whether Comcast considers this a threat, I give you this:

Industry officials say that if the program takes off, it will inevitably take customers from providers like the Comcast Corporation or Verizon Communications.

"Is it fair that the industry pay tax dollars to the city that are then used to launch a network that would compete with our own?" asked David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia. "I don't think so."

This project could literally forever change how the country views the right to be online.

Little Piece of Good News: Please Touch Museum signs lease for Memorial Hall

This is cool:
It's been a long time coming, but yesterday the Please Touch Museum finally and formally took over venerable Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, a much-awaited new home.

The museum, now crammed into quarters on North 21st Street near Logan Circle, has been seeking more expansive digs for nearly a decade.

That search, which originally focused on Penn's Landing, ended with a one-dollar 80-year lease on a drafty National Historic Landmark and one of the last relics of Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exposition. The lease was paid in full yesterday: 100 pennies in a Please Touch Museum sippy cup.

With no more glitches, Please Touch could be up and running in the building by spring of 2007, officials said.

Think about all the attractions the City has within about 7 or 8 miles of each other: Kimmel Center, Art Musuem, Franklin Institute, the Rodin Museum, the Zoo, etc. Now add to that the Barnes, an expanded Please-Touch, and the proposed Calder Museum, and that is a lot of wonderful, marketable attractions. And of course, we have that whole birthplace of a nation thing going on as well...

Monday, February 14, 2005

SEPTA Raillies: Did you go?

We had quite a lively discussion below on SEPTA. Did anyone head to Harrisburg for the SEPTA rally today? Did anyone brave the rain today at City Hall?

If so, post what you saw and heard, and thought of the whole thing...

Here is part of KYW's take on the rally:
Mayor Street also made the trip:

“We’re working for the little people around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who don’t have a lot of choices."

But the rally will likely do little to break the logjam over mass transit funding. Stephen Miskin is a spokesman for the House Republican leader:

“The transit issue already has everyone’s attention. Really, all that’s lacking is the governor’s leadership.”
Yeah, how dare PA expect legislators to take some initiative! It must be against the law! I wont bother wasting space discussing how many ways this makes me angry- just read John Baer's Valentine to SEPTA riders.

(Update, Tuesday morning)

Here is the Daily News take on the Rally:
Threatened by service cuts and fare hikes that would disrupt their lives, thousands of working people, seniors, students and disabled riders spent Valentine's Day huddled in a cold rain to rally for permanent mass transit funding.

A thousand Philadelphia working people boarded buses and a SEPTA train to the rally, including Henry Nicholas, venerable leader of Hospital Workers Union 1199C, who went because "my union is the largest parent in the public school system. Our members have 37,000 school children.

"Seventy-eight percent of our child care, home care and nursing home workers, and 47 percent of our hospital workers, ride public transit to their jobs.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Life on SEPTA, and Monday Philly and Harrisburg rallies

The Sunday Inquirer has an article about a variety of people and their dependence on SEPTA.
Facing a $49 million deficit this year - and a projected $92 million hole next year - officials of the nation's fifth-largest public transportation system have threatened route cuts and fare increases that would make Philadelphia the most expensive ride in the nation.

Gov. Rendell will seek approval later this month to divert federal highway funds and avoid a fare increase. But, Rendell says, there are no guarantees. Next year's deficit looms, and a long-term fix remains elusive.

What can't be forgotten is that SEPTA is more than its infrastructure or its bleeding budget; more than a giant web linking distant and disparate neighborhoods.

It is the people - roughly 365,000 a day; more than 133 million a year - who depend on it to get to jobs, schools, hospitals, libraries, business centers, churches, shopping, the airport.

People such as wheelchair user Damon Banks, who needs his independence.

People such as Nitza DeJesus, for whom it's "better than walking."

Even people such as James Smoyer, a retiree who simply believes in public transportation and takes the bus every day from Elkins Park to Chestnut Hill for coffee or shopping.
The article talks about a variety of SEPTA routes, from the R5 shepherding Main Liners to and from Philly jobs to the 26 Bus taking Central and Girls high kids to Germantown and Mt Airy.

In his budget address to the Pa legislature, Gov. Rendell did not really talk about mass transit. In fact, rather than a permanent fix, he is floating the idea of again transferring highways funds to make up next year's gap- another stopgap solution. The thought now seems to be that everything will have to wait until after the 2006 election, which would be ridiculous. Hopefully it does not come down to this.

(The other, notable and potentially awful thing that came out of SEPTA lobbying this week was that legislatures may try and require some part of the SEPTA solution to be raising fares anyway. Lets be clear: the fares are plenty high. SEPTA provides huge benefits to the entire region. Mass transit keeps cars off the roads, delivers workers to jobs, keeps the air cleaner, and gives a huge economic boost to the region and State. It is ridiculous to make riders, so many of them low-income, pay even more.)

To that end, there are two rallies in support of SEPTA on Monday, one in Philly and one in Harrisburg. The Harrisburg rally, sponsored by the PA Transit Coalition, has busses leaving from Philly at 9AM, or, likely before you have read this. I know one or two people going, who said they may write about it, so hopefully we can get a good update by Tuesday or so. And, if anyone else out there wants to write about it, email me.

The Philly rally takes place on the west side of City Hall, at 5PM. That one, I will try and make it to.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Kenney, Ramos call for referendum on Philly Immigration Director

One of the first times that I really became impressed with Councilman Jim Kenney was a few years ago, when he tried to get city officials on board with luring immigrants to Philly. His idea was not embraced by Street, or by any other Council members, but it was smart. Immigrants coming to the U.S. considering a move to Philly would be an extremely positive thing, especially in a city that is shrinking like ours, but has the infrastructure for an additional million people.

And today, Kenney and Councilman Ramos are trying again.

From The Inquirer:
The bill sponsored by Councilmen Jim Kenney and Juan Ramos calls for a city-wide referendum on creating the position of director of immigrant affairs, whose job it would be to promote the interests of the city's immigrant community, provide services to new immigrants, educate the public on immigration policies and develop a marketing plan to promote Philadelphia as a destination for immigrants.


Last year, the Street administration announced an initiative dubbed Global Philadelphia, under which the city opened bidding on a contract for on-call interpreting and translations. Global Philadelphia provides interpretation and translation services to residents who do not speak English, or do not speak it well.

"This is going to be a strategic, overall effort to put Philadelphia on the map internationally," Kenney said of his proposal, "and you need an office that deals with nothing but this issue."

As I said, we have the infrastructure. An infusion of New Philadelphians, who are simply looking for a shot at a better life would help them and help Philly. It is refreshing to see a Councilman thinking outside the box, and not held to any ideology.

So, it looks like in the end, if this passes, it will be up to you and I. I will certainly be behind if it comes up.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Smaller Schools in Philly


Philadelphia school officials today gave the School Reform Commission an outline of plans for new and smaller city high schools.

The School District wants to reduce the size of its poorly performing neighborhood high schools in favor of smaller campuses that have proven more successful in urban areas.

Currently, officials said 15 such schools are in progress with 13 more slated in coming years.

In addition, officials said they will more magnet schools for gifted students and those interested in specialized academic subject areas.

I am of a few minds about this. As someone who has experienced tiny schools (as in 100 people total, k through 8) as well as some big ones (2000 plus person high school), I have seen both sides of the spectrum. But frankly, while I liked the small school, I don't think that in of itself makes for a good school. I would be more interested in what the class size is at those schools. You can have a high school with only 500 people, but if there is one teacher for 33 kids, as is the Philly High School norm, I don't know how much of an impact it will have.

People always say that high-rise public housing causes problems, and to a certain extent that is true. But, at the same time, if you simply demolished a high-rise, and split the people up into two or three communities, would all the problems be solved? I don't think so, because you are not tackling things like poverty, crime, access to jobs, etc. Similarly, if you think that simply splitting schools up makes them better without attacking the core problem, I don't know that you will see much improvement.

That said, I don't know a whole hell of a lot about education. Anyone out there with more experience/knowledge have any thoughts?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Stalberg to the Committee of Seventy?

According to a column in The Inquirer, outgoing editor Zack Stalberg may be the next head of the Committee of Seventy:
The buzz in political circles has outgoing Philadelphia Daily News editor Zack Stalberg way up high on the list of those being considered to head the Committee of Seventy, the public-watchdog group.

Stalberg, who stunned colleagues last week by announcing his resignation, said that "weeks and weeks ago" he spoke to the group, at its request, as an adviser. He emphasized that he often has been called on to dispense advice to various civic groups.

Seventy, which pushes for good government and fair elections, is searching for a replacement for executive director Fred Voigt, who shortly will step down after 28 years. The salary in 2003 was $111,236, according to public records. Voigt will remain in an emeritus capacity.
The Committee of Seventy needs a shake-up of some kind to make themselves more relevant in today's Philly political scene, rather than just a group that we see come election time. Stalberg, someone who probabaly has little political ambition, would seem to be a good choice for the role. In fact, it was the Daily News that a few months ago said the exact same thing about the need for changes in the organization, so this makes sense.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Purchase yourself a State Rep

Surprise, surprise... Pa is one of the worst states in the Country for reporting how much lobbyists spend to influence PA lawmakers. And, of course, a law being proposed to change this looks like it has little chance of succeeding:

From The Inquirer:
A proposal to require lobbyists and their clients to publicly disclose how much money they spend trying to influence public policy has been assigned a bill number in the Senate. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the House next week.

Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that do not require disclosure of lobbying expenditures, and Rep. John Maher, who is sponsoring the House bill, says that encourages citizens to imagine the worst about what their elected representatives and special interests do behind the scenes in Harrisburg.

"Sunlight is a great disinfectant," said the Allegheny County Republican.

But the optimism that buoyed disclosure advocates in the last legislative session is gone this year, after they watched similar bills sail through committee reviews, only to be crushed in the Senate by partisan feuding and in the House by the Republican majority's refusal to allow a vote on the issue.

And, just in case you think this is chump change, it is not. The last year reporting was somewhat required, the number was around 52 million dollars. That is a lot of unreported money buying dinners, rounds of golf, and anything else those lobbyists are doing.

And then there is this:
In a 2003 ranking of states' lobbying disclosure laws by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based investigative journalists' group, Pennsylvania was the only state to score a zero.

And, while I know this is a shock, guess why there is little chance of this passing:
House Republican leader Sam Smith, asked why lobbying disclosure was not included in a list of GOP priorities that leaders from the two chambers released last week, said House leaders oppose it.

"It's not on here because we're not in agreement, plain and simple," the Jefferson County lawmaker said.

So maybe it's another legislative session, but another long shot for lobbyist disclosure.

It looks like both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are willing to get something done. Unfortunately, the House, the forward thinking kingdom of John Perzel and Sam Smith, probably will not even let it come up for a vote. Terrific.

The Fog

I, like many of you I'm sure, am just sort of in a fog over the loss... But, we are Philadelphians. We deal with this. The Birds were the better team, but, they just did not play well enough. The pain is just going to make our parade, whenever it does happen, that much sweeter.

And, as for Donnie Mac... Yeah, he did not play stellar. But, the man is more driven than just about any other athlete in the world. If you don't think he will be even better next year, then you have not been paying attention.

And, if T.O. did not show you what he truly was made of...

Sunday, February 06, 2005


History is made. Today.. Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Event notice: Thomas Frank

Another email, for an event on March 1:

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

Bread and Roses will host best-selling author Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

Thomas Frank argues that over the last thirty-five years the Republican Party has transformed its image from an aristocratic minority into the nation's dominant political party and a true friend of the worker. How has a right-wing class war grown so powerful? How is it that in places like once-liberal Kansas, the Right draws headlines with high profile campaigns against evolution and abortion? What can we in Pennsylvania learn from the experience of Kansas?

Thomas Frank's talk is open to the public and costs $5 and up, depending on ability to pay. This program is cosponsored by AFSCME District Council 47 and AFSCME Local 1723.

7:00 pm-9:00 pm, Friends Meeting House, 15th and Cherry Streets.

RSVP to 215-731-1107 x204 or by February 25.

This is one of those books, along with Don't Think of an Elephant that you should read if you want to know how Republicans keep on beating us. It certainly dispells a little bit of the myth that says 'if we just made sure people understood the issues, they would vote for us.' I think last election plenty of people understood key differences between Kerry and Bush, and agreed with Kerry's positions. They still voted for Dubya...

The Center for Progressive Leadership

A friend of mine forward me this email from a group called the Center for Progressive Leadership, I thought I should pass it along...

"Get involved in a new national organization!

The Center for Progressive Leadership is the first national progressive
political training institute. Through extensive training fellowships, CPL
provides progressives with the skills and resources necessary to become
effective political leaders.

Over the last 25 years, conservatives have built a powerful (c)3 training
infrastructure for emerging leaders at every level of political and civic
involvement. Our goal is to match and surpass their efforts by making
significant investments in our own future.

Right now, CPL is building the infrastructure to develop tomorrow's
progressive activists, nonprofit organizers, political leaders and future

Mobilizing Pennsylvania

In 2005, CPL will be targeting two states across the country: Michigan and
Pennsylvania. To that end, we recently hired a PA State Director and will be
expanding our local office with more staff over the next six months.

CPL's goal is to launch our 10-month State Political Leaders Fellowship
(SPLF) in late summer, as a part of a 6-10 year commitment to building a
state-wide leadership training infrastructure. The SPL Fellowship will
recruit and train emerging first-time candidates for local office across the
state by linking them to mentors, consultants, fundraisers, and various
networks. Through one-on-one and group training sessions twice a month for
10 months, each Fellow will develop the skills and resources needed to
become a powerful civic and political leader.

The SPL Fellowship will be the first of many leadership development
programs, including programs that target high school students, college
organizers, activists, nonprofit, civic and advocacy workers, and upcoming
candidates for local and state-wide office.

How You Can Get Involved

CPL's success will depend, in large part, on the the support of progressive
communities across the state. We need your help to identify emerging leaders
and to help develop the infrastructure necessary to build the next
generation of progressive leaders in the state.

For anyone who wants to get involved, there are a variety of ways to help.
If you're interested in helping a play a part in our PA efforts, please get
in touch with myself or Jordan Schwartz and we can talk individually about
to get involved.

Join Our Regional Council Email List

If you are interested in joining our email list, email me
( and we'll add you to our Philadelphia list.

About CPL

CPL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based out of
Washington DC. CPL is roughly 16-months old, and was founded by a small
group of nonprofit and community organizers. We are currently based out of
Washington DC, but are currently expanding into Pennsylvania, Michigan and
soon, Arizona.

You learn more at"

Check out their website. Basically, this seems like a talent identification center, which is certainly a good idea. Republicans have this type of thing, but on a massive scale, in think tanks all across the country. They basically breed thousands of conservative talking heads and politicians every year. It would be great to see us do the same.

The question for them is whether this is a progressive training ground, or whether it is a Democratic training ground. It is an important difference. Obviously, they are not officially affiliated with the Democratic party, but the connections seem to run pretty deep. In my mind, a progressive institute helps identify people who are progressive in their policies (and who are not bound to the Democratic party, and may in fact challenge conservative Democrats in primaries, etc), while a Democratic one more focuses on finding young Democrats to win races (be they moderate, progressive, whatever). There is a big difference between the two, and each one is valuable. But I would guess that given the connections, this is the latter. Only time will tell.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Can you concentrate?

Because I can't.

I am going to be a wreck by the time the game starts. I keep pacing the halls at work. I can get nothing done. I have been so calm about the game over the past 10 days, but when I got to work this morning, I became overwhelmed. I dont know if it was the fact that almost all 60 people are in Eagles gear or it is just that game time approaches. But, I feel like I should go to sleep for the next two days, and just wake up at 6:30 on Sunday. Yikes. I need to calm down, or I am going to have a nervous breakdown.

I promised myself I would just enjoy this. I think now that was a lie. Yikes.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Johnson-Street bugging questions becoming clearer

Yesterday Charles posted on the report that Police Commish Johnson knew about the bug probe. This all followed the Daily News publishing an editorial calling for his ouster. As more news came out today, it seems more and more like I suspected yesterday- Johnson leaked that he knew about the bug, because he was tired about being linked with the Street/Burrell regime when he in fact knew about the bugging all along, but kept it secret from the Mayor. As a result, the Daily News has made a sort of apology with a new editorial.

From the new, oopsie editorial:
Here's what is known so far: Sources close to the federal investigation told the Philadelphia Inquirer that mayoral aide George Burrell instructed Johnson to sweep Mayor Street's office for a hidden listening device and mislead the press and public on why the office had been swept. Johnson complied, found a bug planted by the FBI, ending the feds' covert operation, and told reporters the bug had been found during a routine sweep.

When we asked Burrell and Johnson about the Inquirer story, neither chose to comment or challenge it.

But sources are now telling the Daily News that Johnson alerted the feds before conducting the search. According to one source, federal agents "arrogantly" believed that the bug wouldn't be found. Johnson's men were better than expected.

Sources say the feds also asked Johnson not to comment on why the office had been swept.

Given the choices, it's now more understandable why Johnson took the highly unusual - and to our mind still unwise - course of action that he did.
The always entertaining windbag, Michael Smerconish also weighs in on the whole thing. And for once I agree with him, it really seems like the Commish really was doing the right thing here. He gives the new, more complete account of what went down:
Johnson knew about the bug long before the mayor did. That's because the feds took the police commissioner into their confidence, and he kept their secret. Almost immediately after the bug was planted, and for reasons that would seem to warrant an investigation in itself, Burrell came to Johnson and asked for a sweep of the mayor's office.

Johnson called the feds, and told them about Burrell's request. The feds were shocked to hear about it. (Why did Burrell asked?) They told Johnson to proceed with the sweep, believing that police would find nothing.

But they did find something in the ceiling above the mayor's desk. The media learned this immediately.

Then, when Johnson was asked whether his search was at anyone's request, he lied to the media. The l-word is harsh. But it means he made a false statement, which he presented as being truthful. He had noble intentions, mind you, but he still said something that he knew to be inaccurate.

He didn't do it to protect the mayor, nor to protect Burrell. To the contrary, he did it to protect what he believed to be the feds' interest in how Burrell came to request the sweep. He wanted Burrell to believe he was keeping his secret so as not to jeopardize the fact that Burrell's request of the bug sweep was itself something that had now raised the curiosity of the feds.
So what it really comes down to, is that Johnson, instead of simply saying "no comment" when asked why he swept the mayor's office for bugs, lied. And, we really cannot have cops lie about police business. But, it all seems a lot better for him than it did three days ago.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

For Some Bloggers, all Politics is Local

Personal Democracy Forum has a great article today about local polticial blogs and their emerging power in local politics.
In a nation of one newspaper towns and muted local discourse, bloggers are pushing traditional journalists by gnawing hard on local issues. They're reading legislation, attending city council meetings, questioning the coverage and editorial posture of the local press – and forcing people to take notice of issues that might otherwise be ignored.

It's hard to point to a local election last November in which blogs made a decisive difference – the paid bloggers who helped John Thune beat Tom Daschle in the South Dakota Senate race come to mind, and blogging candidates like Jeff Thigpen, who ousted the incumbent Register of Deeds in Guilford County, NC, may have gained some incremental advantage. But clearly local poli-blogging is beginning to come of age, especially in relatively well-wired urban communities with some critical mass of web-aware readers.
On a similar note, Tim Tagaris of the Swing State Project, announced at MyDD that he has launched an initiative to try and force all of the Democratic State Parties to adopt blogs as part of the party mechanism.

Here's the intro to the new site:
Did you know that 3/4 of the Democratic state party websites lack(ed) the most basic tools for two-way communication with the grass/netroots?

This project is a grassroots effort encouraging all 50 Democratic state parties to not only put a blog on their official website, but to use it effectively. The Internet is the only medium of communication available for mass two-way communication. It is not only an effective fundraising tool (the language most "professionals" speak), but has tremendous organizational and communicative benefits most fail to recognize.

The time has long passed to build an effective communication infrastructure online. If the good folks in Washington, D.C. don't want to do it, then the netroots will pick up the slack once again.

If one of the states listed below does not have a blog on their website, please consider "adopting" that state, especially if you reside within its borders. As a "foster parent" to the communications wing of that state party, your objective is to politely convince them through emails and phone calls to put a blog on their state party webpage. If your state already has a blog, please visit it and thank them for providing the tools necessary for a dialogue.


I don't know what to make of this Daily News article about prior Street's prior knowledge of the FBI bug.

POLICE COMMISSIONER Sylvester Johnson knew that the FBI was intending to plant a bug in Mayor Street's office about a month before the electronic device was discovered, according to a source close to the investigation.

Johnson, who has a long-standing relationship with the federal agency, had received a telephone call from an FBI official warning him of the unprecedented action by federal investigators.

And before the city's top cop had Street's office swept for listening devices on Oct. 7, 2003, Johnson made several calls to the FBI, telling them when the sweep would occur and urging them to remove any bugs beforehand.


Last September, the name of Karen Simmons, Johnson's departmental legal adviser, surfaced as the person who had tipped off the Street administration to the possible presence of a bug. Through an attorney, she has denied any involvement.

What Simmons knew and how she found it out is unclear, but Johnson has told federal investigators that he had kept secret the impending bugging and ongoing investigation, according to the source. But then, in early October, mayoral spokeswoman Barbara Grant and Street's top aide, George Burrell, left City Hall for a walk, during which Grant told Burrell that she'd learned the mayor's office might be bugged.

Burrell passed the information on to Johnson with a request to sweep the office.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Fund-raising under way for mayoral hopefuls

The Daily News has an article about the fundraising activities of possible Mayoral hopefuls. Likely candidates include City Controller Jonathan Saidel, State Rep. Dwight Evans, and City Councilman Michael Nutter. Other possible candidates include Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Republican City Councilman Frank Rizzo, and our favorite champion of Unions, labor leader, John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty.

Philly For Change Meetup Tomorrow

This is a reminder that the Philly For Change Meetup, as well as all other DFA meetups, will be held tomorrow at 7PM.

The current location for the Philly For Change Meetup is as follows (subject to change):

Ludwig's Beer Garten
1315 Samson St.
Philadelphia, PA

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