Rose and West Philidelphia

Last weekend, and on through Tuesday’s election, I phone-banked for Biden and Democrats’ Get Out the Vote campaign. For those four days I spent my shifts calling voters in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Texas encouraging supporters to vote and offering to help them find their polling place or make a voting plan. Most of my calls that evening were to West Philly.

West Philadelphia Commons, Creative Commons

The majority of the people I talked to had already voted or were ready to do so. Quite a few people were irritated about all of the calls they’d received. A few people were republicans, and one of them wasn’t even a prick. Many of the people I spoke to, however, were friendly, grateful, and hopeful for the election.

A lot of the people I reached were excited to share their enthusiasm, including a Philadelphia campaign manager in the thick of it. Some were a little more apprehensive and wanted to talk about how much the election meant to them. A dozen or so even needed my help to find their polling location or some other information. But my very favorite interaction was with Lois.

Lois is 90-years-old, lives in West Philadelphia, and was my second to last call Monday evening, around 8:50 p.m. for her on the east coast. She quickly informed me that she did not need my help, but she was excited to share her plan.

“My neighbors are going to drive me right down the street, first thing in the morning,” she told me proudly. “I’ve got my ballot, I’ve got my bag packed, I’ve got my roller and my folding chair, in case we have to wait in a long line.”

“I’ve been voting since the 1950s and I’ve never missed an election,” she said. “I’m ready to go vote him out of our house.”

I told her that she was an inspiration and must have seen some significant elections in her time. She replied that she remembered voting for Kennedy, and remembered her parents voting for FDR when she was growing up in the Catskills, “across the Hudson River from his home.”

Lois and her church had linked up with churches across seven states and earlier that day they spent something like 6 hours joined in prayer, asking that people would find kindness, let go of their anger, and show up to vote and help heal the country. She told me that it was important that America elect leaders who were good people again.

Lois thanked me for my efforts and I thanked her for her example, before she said goodbye and hung up to go to bed. She had big plans in the morning.

If you have ever wanted to do something easy to support a candidate or cause, beyond donating $15, I endorse phone banking. The bad interactions were brief, and you still get to help everyone by removing them from the list. The good interactions were longer and heartwarming, and sometimes you even get to help some people take action. That’s a bunch of wins.

Gritty 2020
Gritty, of the Philadelphia Flyers

Early Tuesday morning I saw a video going around of a 90 year old lady in Southwest Philly dancing her way to the polls. I hoped it was Lois, it sure fit the picture in my mind; I later learned her name was Ms. Mildred, so perhaps not. If not, West Philly is apparently full of cool older ladies, in addition to Gritty.

I spent the better part of the next 5 days watching Philadelphia on TV and often thought of Lois. West Philadelphia ended up being perhaps the most important community in the country this week, and they came through. Lois is awesome and she did it. I hope she feels proud and I hope she’s dancing.

westphilly #westphiladelphia #BidenHarris2020 #pennsylvania #vote

Trust the Police? Racism is a Systemic Pandemic

Some white Americans still claim they can’t wrap their heads around black Americans’ fear of or distrust in the police.  A quick glance at the history of the U.S. legal system, and the police in particular, is all it takes to see that distrust is a reasonable and predictable response to centuries of mistreatment. Racism is systemic and it always has been.

For centuries it was the specific job of police to demean, abuse, and dehumanize black Americans. Is it realistic, let alone fair, to expect history not to leave a mark? At the very least through implicit biases?

The conversation doesn’t even require any moral or political conclusions or judgments; it’s just facts. It’s  a large part of why, in the wake of the killing by police of numerous unarmed black Americans, people of all races flooded the streets of major cities across the country for months straight.

For many, the fact that many of these unarmed victims were murdered on camera has made it impossible to deny the problem any longer. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Ahmad Brooks, and Jacob Blake are merely the newest faces among the lasting legacy of America’s original sin.

Racism isn’t just real, it’s been an intrinsic part of the United States since the very beginning. The law isn’t always right, breaking the law isn’t always bad, and enforcing the law has often been supporting inexcusable evil. “Just following orders,” isn’t supposed to fly as a defense, but it always has here.

Slavery was the law of the land and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. So was the 3/5 compromise. The Missouri compromise was legal, as the country expanded and required that every new free state must be a matched by a state where slavery remained legal. Our national entanglement with human trafficking continued. 

The Dred Scott Supreme Court decision was legal and held that escaped slaves were not free or safe in northern, “free” states and could be seized and forced back into bondage. Police enforced these laws, abusing and terrorizing black people. Following orders did not make them right. Notably, police were also known to sell free Black Americans into slavery.

After hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, and slavery was finally made illegal, it should have been the end of it but our country failed to facilitate equality and integration.

Black people may have been freed, but they were never given restitution for all of the unjust enrichment the country and the southern states stole from slave labor. They were never even given the reparations they were promised. They were free to leave, but had no homes, no jobs, unfriendly neighbors, and likely little training beyond plantation labor. White dominated society stacked the deck against them, lawfully.

Enslaved Black Americans were left out of the Homestead Act, unable to take advantage of the generational wealth building opportunity. Blocked from the American Dream, legally. A century later, black Americans were denied the benefit of the GI Bill’s college funding. Due to legal segregation they had sorely limited access to higher education. Again, white America stiff armed Black Americans away from the American Dream.

Reconstruction was short lived, as the north quickly decided that enforcing some semblance of equality in the South was more trouble than it was worth. Yankee soldiers went home and the South instituted a new legal system where white America again treated Black Americans as less than human.

The Jim Crow system of legal segregation was legal. Black Codes, limiting Black Americans’ freedoms and creating excuses to take their freedom altogether, were legal. Voter suppression was legal and rampant, and for the past eight years has been on the rebound. The peonage system of prison slave labor was legal slavery under a new name, and likewise has again reared it’s head, in recent decades.

Even after legal segregation was struck down by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board, in fact it remained in place across much of the country. Redlining was the concerted effort to limit Black and Latin Americans to real estate in designated areas, and to limit services and expenditures in those areas. These legal and professional polices created slums and ghettos and then forced black Americans to live in them. It was the law and police enforced it.

The War on Crime and the War on Drugs targeted black people, with over policing, excessive charges, excessive penalties, and little accountability for malfeasant police or prosecutors. Black men were charged more often and sentenced to far harsher sentences for the same crimes which they commit at the same rate as white men.

Theses fear and race driven policies destroyed the lives of generations of black fathers and their families, while creating the largest prison population in the world. Generations of black men were ripped from their families and condemned to futures of undesirable jobs and limited options.  Both wars were legal and it was police waging these wars against black families.

Racial profiling was legal. Stop and frisk policies were legal. Mass incarceration is still legal. And it too often judged legal for police to use violence and take black lives, even when their is no imminent threat to any other lives. After centuries of the police enforcing bad, racist laws, and regularly getting caught on camera using excessive force to this day, how in the world can anyone expect Black Americans to feel like the police are on their side? Even if some finally are.

Institutional, systemic racism has always been real. The fact that some people escape its worst effects, or don’t notice it all, does not diminish its nefarious effects.


The EPA and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Finally in the Game

In the United States’ recent history, republican administrations have not been the best friends of the environment, but that was not always the case. Decades ago the quality of the ecosystem was much less of a partisan issue, recognized as a necessity for all citizens, and it was actually President Richard Nixon that proposed the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA was established shortly thereafter on December 2, 1970, yet. Since its inception the agency has done a lot to protect many aspects of our environment from waste and pollution, including the air we breathe, under the Clean Air Act, signed into law the same year. But it wasn’t until January 2, 2011, that the EPA first began regulating Greenhouse Gasses (GHG).

The road to our new protections was a long and hard fought one, at first fought against the EPA itself. On October 20, 1999 the International Center for Technology Assessment petitioned the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases emitted by new motor vehicles in order to reduce the effects of global warming. The agency, however initially declined to take action on the petition, claiming not to have the authority to act on climate change, as the issue did not fall under its traditional powers to regulate emissions directly harmful to humans.

Furthermore the agency went on to explain that even if it were within their power to act on the petition they would not do so, for two reasons: the first being that to do so would not be effective in combatting global warming. The second, and more troubling reason, was that such action would go against the Bush administration’s policies, which aimed at further investigation into the legitimacy of the climate change issue and its causes, as well as encouraging efforts by private parties such as voluntary reductions and technological advances. EPA Logo

On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court found, in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), that GHGs, are air pollutants covered by the CAA. The Court found that the “EPA was required to determine whether or not emissions of GHGs from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” So under pressure from the courts the agency began the investigative process they had been putting off for nearly a decade.

Almost exactly two years later, in April 2009 under the new democratic presidential administration, the EPA proposed a finding that greenhouse gasses do in fact contribute to air pollution that may threaten public health. In early December of that year the Administrator signed two findings on GHG, under section 202 of the CAA: Continue reading

All Sides Report Obama Will Find Support to Punish Assad, Most Don’t Seem to Mind

Obama v Assad 

Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before Congress Tuesday to pitch the White House’s case for military action against Syria. Coverage of the discussions on the floor in congress have led the front page of the website of the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, the Daily Beast and Fox News.

In the wake of the murder of over 1,400 Syrian civilians by sarin gas, President Obama and his staff have been pushing for consensus support in punishing the nation’s president, Assad, and his military capabilities for the war crimes committed against their own people. It seems, according to each web site, that Mr. Obama is likely to be granted 90 days to conduct military operations as well as a an option for congress to allow an extra 30 days if needed to accomplish military objectives.

After initially reading proffered by the New York Times I moved on to the Wall Street Journal, the flag ship paper of Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch. One might expect such an entity to subscribe to a position contrary to the Time’s report of support from all sides of the President’s request. But such was not the case.

According to the Journal, though Kerry spent hours in front of congress fielding questions from both parties, he left with support from many Republicans and Democrats alike.

Continue reading

Rebel Bingo Brings the Circus to Your Dobber

Rebel BingoBingo is not exactly the hip gaming craze that excites the masses, not the masses under fifty at least. But the traveling circus that is Rebel Bingo is trying to change that by infusing the simple game with crazy prizes, competitive face-offs for prizes, sexed up punked out girls talking dirty and a liberal dose of liquor.

The event, that has previously graced Las Vegan guests at LVH and the Boulevard Pool at the Cosmo, on July 18, held court at the Act nightclub inside the Palazzo Casino. Act makes earns its fame from the side show theatrics that is nightly injects into the standard local nightclub life, thus it seemed like a perfect environment to host this bombastic underworld party of Bingo and debauchery. No one appeared to blink as the costumed wanderer on stilts shimmied through the crowd surrounding the dance floor.

The show started a little late but with much enthusiasm from the MC as he called the crowd to the stage. He introduced his troupe, laid down the rules and the Bingo began. Continue reading