For years, Philadelphia and the surrounding region have sold itself to tourists on our colonial charms -- walk the cobblestone streets of Old City, check out the crack in the Liberty Bell, or stroll the hallowed hillsides of Valley Forge where George Washington's troops camped out! Maybe they should add the region's circa-1789 power grid to the list. There are more and more nights when Ben Franklin had more electricity in that glass bottle than do residents of Philly's suburbs.
Last Thursday night, on the eve of the Independence Day weekend, a storm rumbled through my neighborhood of insufficient strength to even wake me up, yet it was powerful enough to knock out the lights for me and about 160,000 of my closest friends. Presumably because PECO had given lots of folks off for the long weekend -- probably because no one expected a 10-minute rainstorm to knock out power to tens of thousands of people!!! -- it took 60 hours...count 'em, 60 -- to get the power back.
OK, stuff happens, but last night there was a storm of similar, middling, intensity -- the pavement wasn't even wet when I got off my train last night -- and the lights were off again! The news said that 240,000 lost power for a time (the vast majority in the counties served by PECO...hmmm), which, again, seemed like a lot for a briefly intense but otherwise forgettable weather event. This time there was no electricity for only 6 hours, not 60. I guess I was supposed to be relieved.
In the last 24 hours, there’ve been two comments that I can’t get out of my head. They were about two very different situations but in my mind they keep running together – because they both had to do with immigrants and with children.
Only one of the comments surprised me.
I was kept here at the newspaper until late last night, helping assemble our story about a tense scene in Southwest Philadelphia involving the police and a crowd of residents – mostly immigrants from West Africa, mainly Liberia -- who are overcome with grief and anger about a fire last weekend that killed four kids, and asking questions about the city’s response.
Hey, I'm not saying that about Cleveland -- I actually had a fun, besotted time my one and only night there, and that was in 1987, the heyday of post-Industrial decline, and before the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. But others will surely say this -- after the 2016 Republican National Convention ends up with the Ted Cruz/Chris McDaniel ticket, or whoever, pulling out of town on their triumphant post-nomination bus tour.
Because if there's anythng the city of Cleveland of known for, it's producing winners...
So says Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, a media scholar in the Mexican American Studies (MAS) department at the University of Arizona:
Given the Justice Department definition of a hate crime, one can argue that, in a strict sense, letters do not rise to the level of hate crimes because they don't specify a time or place. But the letters sections of Arizona's mainstream newspapers often contain threats of violence against Mexicans/immigrants, undeniably contributing to a climate that normalizes hate and fear.
The letters or comments sections appear to have become sanctuaries to virulent hate and, especially since the advent of the internet, a comfortable home to discourses of extremist hate and calls to violence, primarily of the extreme right-wing variety. Here, hate germinates, and has become normalized as a result of a daily drumbeat of dehumanization.
OK, let's be honest -- there's a lot of scandals in Pennsylvania state government a lot of the time, so sometimes it's hard to keep up. We still don't know, for example, if anything will ever happen to those state lawmakers who saw nothing wrong with pocketing cash in an envelope from a lobbyist and not reporting it. And then there's all the ones from Vince Fumo to John Perzel to...well, you get the picture -- the ones who got caught and got sent away. Sometimes it's amazing that they still get a quorum in Harrisburg.
Honestly, is there anything worse than public servants getting rich on other people's money? Actually, there may be. What about public servants who are muzzled and prevented from talking to average citizens about potential serious health problems? There have been startling allegations in recent weeks that over the last three years workers in Pennsylvania's Health Department have been hampered into talking with citizens about any issues that may be related to fracking.
These charges have surfaced thanks to some remarkable reporting by Katie Colaneri of the website StateImpact Pennsylvania, a National Public Radio project that covers the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania and related topics. She learned from two retirees from the Health Department that -- a little more than a year into the Corbett administration -- line workers in the agency were given a list of fracking-related buzzwords that they were not to discuss with citizens who called in:
There they go again. The good professors at Quinnipiac University -- a college that no one can find on a map but which apparently is very good at ice hockey and taking polls -- just released another one of its surveys. This one ranked the best and worst presidents since World War II, about as far back as any folks around nowadays can remember (you know what they say: If you remember the Crash of '29, you weren't really there, man). The results have been getting a lot of play on the news.
Most of the attention has focused on the landslide winner -- and the landslide loser.
One of them is a president who raised taxes almost every year of his presidency (some 11 times in all), increased the size of the federal government, presided over an era of mushrooming debt, saw unemployment top 10 percent during his presidency, made secret deals with a terrorist regime, "cut and run" from another foreign engagement after American casualties, offered amnesty to undocumented immigrants, signed the paperwork to outlaw torture, and nearly gave away America's nuclear dominance at a summit meeting.
The United States won't play another game in the World Cup 32-team finals (assuming they even qualify, which always has its hairy moments) until 2018, in Russia no less.In other words, the second year of the Ted Cruz Administration, when we'll all be commuting to work in flying cars...not to mention the human sacrifice and the dogs and cats, living together.
Sad that they're out in 2014? You bet. I checked out the U.S. national team for the first time way back in 1990 when they qualified for their first tournament of the modern era, in Italy. I should have been repulsed (as they were really, really terrible) but was intrigued enough to come back in 1994, when the finals were held here in America, and I've been hooked. By 2002, I was setting a tiny alarm clock for 2:30 a.m. to make sure I watched all the action from Japan in the dead of night.
As a fan, I had two dreams. One was that, in my lifetime, the United States would...win the World Cup! Kind of like a young boy or girl dreaming that some day he or she will become president, except that some boy or girl somewhere actually will become president, while the U.S. may never win the greatest trophy in global sports, not competing against nations like Brazil or Germany where babies emerge from the womb in cleats looking to take their first corner kick.
OK, I'll admit it's hard not to like a nation whose main exports (from what I can gather) are fries, waffles, beer, and some more fries. But tomorrow afternoon at the World Cup in Brazil, it's time for the home of Waffle House, Old Milwaukee and greasy cheese fries to crush those Belgian impostors like a plate of their puffed-up, fru-fru so-called "waffles." I'm so pumped up for Team USA that I took tomorrow off to watch the big game! I'll see you Wednesday...before I disappear yet again for the long holiday weekend.
Please use the space below to explain -- hopefully in an 1,000 word comment, or (even better) more! -- why the IRS scandal or Benghazi or Fast and Furious or Obama's years in the madrasa are far worse than Watergate, or to reveal how I've been conspiring with my friends on the Journolist to keep all that out of the media by writing about fake issues, like the decline of the American middle class. I'm really looking forward to watching soccer and not reading those.