Of all the people running for mayor in 2015, no one is offering ideas that are bolder and more progressive. If elected, he would freeze charter schools, re-open some of the many neighborhood schools that have been closed in recent years, and work to restore an elected school board. On hot-button policing issues, his ideas are truly radical. He would put more officers on the street -- 1,000 more, in fact -- but also proposes a huge shift in the way that law-enforcement works. There would be a new emphasis on conflict resolution, and keeping folks out of jail (saving tax dollars in the process). He backs a $15-an-hour minimum wage, but he'd curb abuses of tax break programs for big business.
No candidate for mayor has a resume like his, either. He was raised by parents who came to America when he was 10, in search of a better life in the city's then-booming factories. He's survived a lifetime of rough-and-tumble ward politics and taken on the city's corrupt, entrenched Democratic machine and won. Now in the mayor's race, he's doing battle with a candidate endorsed by only by the city's wealthy business elites but by President Barack Obama.
And the crazy thing is that he just might win.
A lot of people are conflating Bill O'Reilly and Brian Williams and the brouhahas over whether these two familiar (or once familiar, Williams is already starting to fade from memory a bit) TV talking heads had a penchant for exaggerating at best, or out-and-out lying at worst, about their alleged exploits reporting from dangerous combat zones.
On one level that's a little silly, I guess. Bill O'Reilly is a late-night commentator for Fox News, a.k.a. bloviator, and an avowed conservative. Williams is, or was, a TV news anchor, supposedly objective, and has had a much longer career in news reporting than O'Reilly, who didn't become well-known until his stint as an anchor on a puffy entertainment-and-gossip show. Now that they're brothers-in-scandal, I've heard folks suggest that O'Reilly is the right-wing scalp and that Williams was the left-wing one. But I'm still trying to figure out what's "liberal" about Williams, who seemed to tattoo his love of NASCAR and "the troops," real or invented, on his sleeve.
What is similar is the considerable evidence that both men did the same thing: Invented backstories that turned them into swaggering war correspondents, natural heirs to the front-line journalists from World War II and then Vietnam who dominated TV news throughout the 21st Century. Their "combat experience" was brief in the initial re-telling, before the world figured out these encounters were probably not so much "brief" as non-existent. But these stretched tales gave O'Reilly and Williams the cred they needed to report or, in the case of O'Reilly, bloviate opine -- on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, or the dozens of other global hot spots where President Obama has launched drones, or John McCain has fantasized about invading, or both.
Last Thursday, the New York Times media columnist David Carr died suddenly and way, way too prematurely after collapsing in the paper's newsroom -- succumbing to lung cancer that the world, his colleagues, and possibly Carr himself didn't know that he was afflicted with. He was just 58, with a wife and three children.
His death resonated in places you might expect (above the fold on the front page of the New York Times) and places you wouldn't (an article about the New York journalist's death is, as I write this anyway, one of the most-read stories on Philly.com.) On the surface, all the furor is a tad hard to explain. After all, Carr never won journalism's premier award, the Pulitzer Prize (although I'm thinking that could change in April if the Times had the foresight to enter him this year). He didn't "take down a president" with his reporting (to be fair, neither, really, did these guys). He was a sharp writer who often brilliantly turned a phrase, but his sole book -- The Night of the Gun, about his fall into and rise up from drug addiction and other sins -- got mixed reviews.
One might be tempted to chalk it up the flurry of Carr tributes and remembrances from journalistic cohorts to our 21st Century American trend of forming our communities -- the people we overly protect celebrate, protect and ultimately grieve -- not around where we live but around where we work.
In what can only be described as a massive moment of civic relief, Philadelphia today beat out Columbus, Ohio and Cedar Rapids, Iowa some place called Brooklyn, N.Y., to host the Democratic National Convention in July 2016. The decision is not only a big win for Philadelphians who can now watch Bill Clinton pass the bejeweled crown of American hegemonic dynasty to Hillary Clinton, but it's also exposed the red tide of civic insecurity that is New York City, as a certain "newspaper of record" launched not one but two lame hatchet jobs against our City of Brotherly Love. This is a classic case of a civic "rivalry" that's only a rivalry for the sad folks who live in New York; most Philadelphians don't even know where this place is.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia seems overcome by a wave of good feeling and self-congratulation. The Pope's coming here! Hillary's coming here! Bob Covington is going to All-Star weekend! Right here, right now, there is no other place I'd rather be....um, yes and no. We shouldn't let a few tidbits of good news make us forget that there's a large high school in Philadelphia with no biology teacher, or that the city of presidential and papal dreams also has the highest rate of deep poverty of any large American city. Maybe the next 17 months aren't a time for patting ourselves on the back, but for getting our house in order.
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday night was made for staying up late on the World Wide Web --the evening had been a little bit like Pearl Harbor for media-news junkies, after all, thanks to the dueling departures of Brian Williams and Jon Stewart. Indeed, on Twitter there was little talk of anything else. Maybe that's why it was shocking to wake up early today and see that many of the tweets were about the brutal slaying of three Muslim-American students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. That had happened at 5:15 in the afternoon -- hours before CNN treated Stewart's departure like the "fake news"-caster was a missing Malaysian jetliner.
Where had been the mainstream news coverage of a human tragedy that had, circumstantially, all the trappings of an act of religious terrorism? Many folks had that reaction -- and when they tweeted their shock, sadness, dismay and outrage, they added a hashtag with a powerful undertone: #MuslimLivesMatter. "Why deaths of muslims are not noticed in a terrorist incident?," posted Twitter user @shahzad2404. "They are humans too! #MuslimLivesMatter." A cartoonist, citing the example of the terror-attacked French satirical Charlie Hebdo, posted his own rendering of three young corpses on the pavement, observed by a yawning TV cameraman proclaiming "no news here" in the killing of three Muslims in a Southern college town.
But the three murder victims were anything but cartoons, and the details that emerged of who we lost were truly beyond heartbreaking. Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, had just been married two months ago; the last known photo of Abu-Salha shows a beaming young bride dancing at her wedding. Her husband, Barakat, of Syrian descent, was heavily involved in charity work said to include building homes for Habitat for Humanity, offering free dental care to the homeless and destitute of nearby Raleigh, and raising money for the same type of care in war-torn Syria. Ms. Abu-Salha’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, was, like the other two, a top student; she'd just won an award at North Carolina State University for her work in 3-D modeling. What's more, amid a climate of increasing Islamphobia in this country, the man arrested and charged with the murders was an avowed atheist who's written of his hatred of religion on social media.
As I started writing this, the 835th most trusted figure in America got bumped from the air. That would be the just suspended, without pay (ouch!), NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who -- according to a new report -- had recently been the 23rd most trusted, before his reputation for telling the truth dropped faster than a Chinook helicopter taking RPG fire.
But trials and tribulations of Brian Williams is only one of two big media stories tonight. The other arguably more important one involves the man that at least in some surveys has been named the MOST trusted deliverer of the nightly news:
Jon Stewart, the comedian who turned Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” into a sharp-edged nightly commentary on news events, the people behind them and the media that reports (and sometimes misreports) them, said on Tuesday that he would step down from the program after more than 15 years as its anchor.
President Obama has been talking a lot these days about "middle class economics," and his poll numbers have been rising, so this time he must be doing something right. You don't really need a Ph.D. in running focus groups to see that the average American worker still isn't happen with the current state of our economy -- with real incomes soaring for the top 1 Percent and stagnant or even falling for the 99 Percent, and with a job market that's still kind of dodgy, especially for under-employed mid-career workers.
But there's only so much that lame duck Obama can accomplish, especially with a Republican Congress, so any hope for real change seems pinned to the 2016 election.
Good luck with that.
Alabama, March 1965:
Alabama, February 2015: