In the Philadelphia mayor's race, to call environmental issues an afterthought would mean giving afterthoughts too much credit. Admittedly, the seven major-party candidates for City Hall have a lot on their minds -- a schools crisis, neverending issues with crime and policing -- so there's not much time left for pondering the fate of the earth.
Environmentalism -- today, as was the case 40 years ago -- tend to get reduced in this blue-collar metropolis to "jobs." All of the candidates are eager to talk about Philadelphia as a high-tech "energy hub" because of the paychecks. Building the city's economy around fossil fuels -- a leading contributor to worldwide climate change -- doesn't strike anyone as much of a thing.
Global warming? That's someone else's problem. Today, that someone else is the governor of California, Jerry Brown.
America is finally having a national conversation about policing in lower-income communities, but it keeps getting interrupted...by stuff like this:
Officials are investigating the death of a man who died while in police custody Tuesday.
The man, identified as Phillip White, was arrested at a home on the 100 block of Grape Street in Vineland, New Jersey around 11 a.m. Tuesday. He died shortly after while in custody. Witnesses told NBC10 officers were extremely physical with White after he was already restrained and unconscious on the street.
Gridlock? That's a Beltway thing. On the state level, where a lot of the real policy action takes place, divided government isn't so much of a problem, and so amazing things are happening. Or nightmarish things are happening. Your results may vary, depending on your political -- and maybe sexual -- orientation.
America is fast becoming two nations. Not rich and poor, or black and white...OK, maybe those things too. But it's also becoming a nation where stone-cold Tea Partiers rule in one town, while the dirty freaking hippies are in control just across the state line. The not-so-United States is a place where a gay couple in Seattle is smoking a joint and planning their wedding on the $15 an hour they make from McDonald's, where down the interstate in Arizona some modern incarnation of Yosemite Sam is chasing immigrants back toward the border with his six-shooter.
But what are we going to do about the formerly purple state known as Indiana, a state that threw America a giant head fake in 2008 by giving its electoral votes to Barack Obama, and then decided it was time to exit modernity, stage right? Just seven short years later, the Hoosier State has enacted arguably the most regressive state law since Sheriff Jim Clark was walking the beat in Selma.
If the probably decisive Democratic primary for the 99th mayor of Philadelphia were being held today, former DA Lynne Abraham would be the winner. And what an historic occasion this will be. After all, Philly's got 98 mayors, but, um...a female has not been among them. It would also represent something of a throwback Tuesday to the law-and-order era in the city's history, a past that comes dressed in a leisure suit and bearing a pet rock. But before that '70s show can premier on the 2nd floor of City Hall, the Abraham administration has to deal with its very first crisis.
The election isn't being held today.
Instead, it take place on May 19, and you can bet your bottom dollar -- or $500,000 a week, if you have much dough that laying around on your dresser -- that the other candidates will devote much of the next several weeks to chipping off huge chunks of the ex-prosecutor's support. And you have to think their chances for success are really, really good.
It's time for some political straight talk. Our political, business and civic leaders have been kicking the can down the road for way too long. Solving this crisis is going to take a national conversation and some hard choices. Painful sacrifices will have to be made. So let's just come out and say it.
America can no longer afford the promises we once made to our hard-working CEOs, corporate board members and our wizards of Wall Street.
It's time for salary-and-perk reform. The money that we pay our top executives and Wall Street gurus has been rising steadily since 1981. In an era of prosperity, when the Pied Piper in the White House was promising buttercream candies served on the priciest china, what we were able to do to reward our toil-and-sweat-soaked bosses was a symbol of American audaciousness. From 1978 through 2011, we increased salary for our CEOs by 725 percent. which was 127 times -- 127 TIMES -- the rate of pay hikes for the average worklng stiff. These Masters of the Universe even increased their compensation during the Great Recession, when everybody else was making painful concessions.
My long-awaited (not really) newspaper opus -- on the three multi-millionaires (probably billionaires...after a certain point, who can count?) from Montgomery Country who plan to invest some of their fortune in an independent effort to boost state Sen. Anthony Williams in the mayoral race -- dropped today.
In a matter of days, you'll be seeing a blitz of pro-Williams TV ads funded by these principals of Bala Cynwyd's Susquehanna International Group, whose political interests are tied to one issue, and one issue alone: "School choice," led by the rise of charters as an alternative to traditional neighborhood schools.
Here's the issue for Philadelphia, and its voters:
Sen. Ted Cruz' misappropriation and abuse of the late John Lennon -- in announcing his 2016 GOP White House bid -- had to be the worst since that lame Al Pacino movie about the late ex-Beatle. OK, actually the Pacino flick is just out this week, but you get the idea. The Texas Tea Party icon spent much of his announcement speech at Virginia's Liberty University with a riff on the word "Imagine," much as Lennon had done in front of a haunting piano riff 44 years ago.
Never mind that Cruz was speaking at a college founded in 1971 -- the same year Lennon's record was released -- by Religious Right icon Jerry Falwell, who'd spent his previous years running whites-only 'segregation academies" and crusading against Martin Luther King. "Imagine no religion"?...not under Cruz control.
For that matter, never mind that Cruz' wider message -- taking away health care from millions of Americans, fetishizing an never-ending "war on terror" and denying to civil right of marriage equality to LGBT couples in loving relationships -- is about as close to Lennon's timeless utopia of love and equality as the 76ers are to that last NBA playoff spot.
If you were born in 1959 (or later), you missed out on a lot of cool stuff. Here's Exhibit A: You never got to see the great Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik play football for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Instead, a young kid starting to watch the game in the mid-late 1960s felt only the shadow of a legend, looming over the game at a moment when the world was changing so quickly. In that era, NFL TV announcers spoke of Bednarik -- who'd retired two seasons after leading the Eagles to their last-ever pro football championship in 1960 -- in almost reverent tones. Much of the awe was inspired by Bednarik's most remarkable accomplishment -- playing the entire 60 minutes in a game, as both a center on offense and a bone-crushing linebacker on defense. He was pro football's last two-way player.
Also, for all of us latecomers, there was The Picture -- Bednarik, looking like an ambulatory slab of granite and exalting after he'd flattened the Giants' Hollywood-handsome star receiver Frank Gifford (not realizing that Gifford was out cold, and about to spend the next year-and-a-half out of football) during a key game that propelled them toward that 1960 title.