Wednesday, May 27, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, May 26, 2015, 4:04 PM
A general view shows the Philadelphia Energy Solutions petroleum refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 4, 2014. (Reuters)

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about air pollution issues at the massive Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery in South Philadelphia, and the growing fears felt by neighbors. They're probably not feeling any better about it today. PES just got dinged for violating air-pollution standards in a flare-up that spewed thick black smoke over the Schuylkill River landmark -- as reported in The Declaration -- even after officials at the refinery had assured residents there was no problem.

Oh, and then there was a new blaze at the site this weekend.

Oh, and another small fire today.

Will Bunch @ 4:04 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2015, 5:11 PM
Demonstrators by the hundreds march near McDonald's Corp. headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., in efforts to get a raise to $15 an hour and to form a union. This marks the second year that protests have been held ahead of the fast-food chain's annual meeting; in this case, it was the day before. The protesters were reported to have come from as far away as New York to wage what is called a fight for not just wages, but also for racial equality. (Bloomberg)

I couldn't have said this better myself (No, seriously, I couldn't have) -- the Charlotte Observer editorial page editor promised to celebrate Honesty Day by answering reader questions, so one reader in this mostly blood-red southern state wanted to know "why do you support such a liberal agenda?" Here's an excerpt:

We believe in consistency, so if you are going to drug-test recipients of public assistance, drug-test them all, including the corporate chieftains who are the biggest beneficiaries.

We believe that police officers should act professionally, under incredibly difficult circumstances, regardless of a suspect’s race.

Will Bunch @ 5:11 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 5:54 PM
Helen Gym looks at election results with Antione Little of Philadelphia at the Belgian Cafe. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON/Staff Photographer)

Frank Rizzo and Wilson Goode lost Tuesday night. OK, that's literally true, in that at-large city councilman Wilson Goode Jr. and ex-councilman Frank Rizzo, son of the late mayor and police commissioner, both were defeated in the Democratic primary. But it's even more profoundly true in the metaphorical sense: That the 20th-Century politics embodied by their fathers, iconic Philadelphia mayors of 1970s and 1980s, has finally gone the way of pay phones, 8-tracks and rabbit-ear antennas.

For forty-plus years, Philly politics has slalomed between the slippery poles of knee-jerk law-and-order and rigid racial-identity politics. That created a city that remained firmly Democratic -- yet was rarely progressive. And you don't have to go back to the era when MTV showed music videos -- just remember where City Hall was at just a couple of years ago.

It was the city's current chief executive, Mayor Nutter, who ran on a platform of stopping-and-frisking young men in urban neighborhoods, who vetoed -- after heavy lobbying by Comcast and the Chamber of Commerce -- mandatory sick leave for city workers, and who resisted calls for a higher living wage in city contracting. Up at 440 Broad Street, the School Reform Commission was working stealthily with a large philanthropy to draft plans that would close traditional neighborhood schools and speed the advance of charter schools.

Will Bunch, Daily News Staff Writer @ 5:54 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2015, 7:23 PM
President Barack Obama in Marine One on May 18, 2015. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )

For a lame duck, President Obama had a pretty busy Monday. For one thing, he went on Twitter -- and this time, it counts. Then, unlike most of us, he went to Camden. He had a good cause -- to celebrate how officials there have reduced crime though community policing. So what better place to announce at least a preliminary step to demilitarize your local police force. The order that Obama signed today before heading to New Jersey states that the feds will no longer be providing Officer Friendly with tracked armored vehicles, grenade launchers and bayonets, and there'll be tougher restrictions on certain kinds of riot gear.

I was even more impressed by what the president has to say in Camden:

"We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people the feeling like there's an occupying force as opposed to a force that's part of the community," he said to applause. "We're going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments."

Will Bunch @ 7:23 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Sunday, May 17, 2015, 8:19 PM
This image released by AMC shows, from left, John Slattery as Roger Sterling, Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell, Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris and Kevin Rahm as Ted Chaough, in a scene from the final season of "Mad Men." The series finale airs on Sunday. (Justina Mintz/AMC via AP)

In a television show that depicts a lawnmower severing a key executive's foot in a busy Madison Avenue office and a forlorn co-worker delivering one of the key female employees his severed nipple in a box -- and dozens of other memorable moments in more than 80 hours of densely layered drama -- there is one key scene that truly defines the ethos of "Mad Men."

It comes at unlikely juncture, midway through the second season. At the end of 1960, the rising secretary-turned-copy-writer Peggy Olson has seen her journey at the Sterling Cooper agency all but thwarted by a childbirth that wasn't just unwanted but unforeseen, triggering a breakdown -- making Peggy an extreme case even among the show's united states of denial. Her boss, Don Draper, is the only co-worker to visit Peg during her long recovery in the psych ward -- empathy tinged with the knowledge of finding a kindred spirit. Don's buried past -- he isn't even Don Draper but a Korean War vet and identity thief named Dick Whitman -- dwarf Peggy's new secret, and so his hospital bedside pep talk is layered with irony.

"Get out of here and move forward," Don says. "This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened."

Will Bunch @ 8:19 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 14, 2015, 5:42 PM
Jim Kenney listens to Darryl Clarke speak at a press conference to announce City Council President Darryl Clarke's endorsement of Jim Kenney for mayor in North Philadelphia on Thursday, May 14, 2015. ( STEPHANIE AARONSON / Staff Photographer )

At the start of this year, most "shrewd" political observers never thought Jim Kenney would give up his relatively safe City Council seat (and the paycheck that comes with it) to run for mayor. When there were rumblings that he might change his mind, I asked here, "Kenney Do It?" Today, he's on the brink:

IS THE 2015 Philadelphia mayor's race effectively over?

An independent poll released yesterday contains a staggering amount of good news for former City Councilman Jim Kenney - he's leading the pack by a whopping 27 points - and a mountain of migraine-inducing numbers for state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

Will Bunch @ 5:42 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 6:16 PM
Investigators on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, examine the scene of a deadly train wreck that occurred the day before in Philadelphia. (David Swanson/Staff Photographer)

The pictures and the stories that have been coming out of Philadelphia's Frankford section since 9:21 p.m. last night have been truly gut-wrenching. One minute they were speeding through the heart of Philly, many of them on their way home -- a young Navy midshipman visiting his mom, a woman balancing motherhood and running a high-tech start-up, a software engineer -- and seconds later at least seven of them are gone, while many others survived an ordeal they will never forget. Our hearts go out to the passengers of Amtrak 188 and their loved ones.

By definition, a tragic accident is an event that didn't have to happen. It's not surprising that the dueling issues coming into focus -- personal responsibility vs. the failings of a once-proud society -- in the Amtrak disaster are the same issues we talk about in so many other contexts. Should we race to assign all of the blame to the train operators going 106 mph in a 50 mph zone? How do we account for our declining spending on rail structure, including the lag in installing the technology that would have saved those seven lives but which wasn't in place on that northbound curve? How can America proclaim itself an exceptional nation when its leading "high-speed" rail corridors still has stretches that are slower than the adjacent interstate?

Ironically, the New York Times published an op-ed this morning from Democratic (or "leftist," as I heard him described on talk radio today) mayor Bill De Blasio of NYC and not-rightest-enough (I'm guessing) GOP mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City regarding infrastructure. It's definitely timely:

Will Bunch @ 6:16 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 12, 2015, 7:09 PM
President Barack Obama at today's poverty summit. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

As a teenaged Watergate geek of the 1970s, I never thought that trust in government, or authority in general, could get lower than it was then. Maybe I was wrong.

One of the big stories in Washington this spring -- to the extent that people are even following that stuff at this point -- has been President Obama's push for a trade deal with Asia called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Basically, the bottom line is that Congress has to pass the TPP so we can find out what's in it (I know we've heard this before, but this time literally). One thing that's united every American president of the last generation -- liberal or conservative -- has been their unwavering support for "free trade." There's certainly an argument that old fashioned protectionism won't work in the 21st Century. But no president has made a coherent case for how these deals going back to NAFTA have helped the American worker, especially as wages have been not even treading water since the 1980s.

And yet somehow folks are shocked, shocked that this mysterious but probably-not-good deal isn't breezing through Capitol Hill. David Corn has a good analysis of why the TPP went down in Round 1:

Will Bunch @ 7:09 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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