The heartbreaking news on Friday night managed to be both shocking and numbingly familiar at the same time: A massive terrorist attack in the streets and against public venues in Paris, carried out by seven or eight vile thugs from the terrorist group ISIS, armed with automatic weapons and twisted ideas about God and humankind. Their tactics vary from New York to Madrid to London and elsewhere, and the casualty numbers rise or fall, but this Paris attack, with 129 dead and many more wounded, was especially barbaric. The 21st Century rituals of terror, however, from the candlelight vigils to our leaders' immediate but vague promises of revenge, always remain the same, painfullly so.
In the initial fog of savagery, it's hard to know what to say, other than to express our deep, deep sorrow for all those who lost loved ones, and our limitless love for, and solidarity with, the people of Paris. In the darkness of such a moment, we have to unleash the light of the billions who love humanity and who abhor the use of violence, the forces that affirm life.
The scenes that were disrupted on Friday by these thugs -- watching a rock concert, entering a big soccer game, or just dining out in an ethnic restaurant -- could have been happening here in Philadelphia or Bangkok or Peoria. It's why we say Nous Sommes Tous Les Parisiens -- "today we are all Parisians," bonded in the universal blood of hope and fear.
So in what's been a pretty hectic week so far, as the world counts down to the arrival of red Starbucks coffee cups and the end of Western civilization as we've come to know it, Gov. Wolf and Pennsylvania lawmakers kind of sneaked in a budget deal. And there's definitely some good things in there, including a significant increase in the amount of money for schools. And here's the best part of this tentative framework for a budget -- everybody's paying his or her fair share!
Haha, for a second there I had you going, didn't I? Are you new to the Keystone State or something? Of course everybody isn't paying his or her fair share. Big Oil and Gas is getting another Get-Out-of-Taxes-Free Card. The rest of us? We're getting fracked. Again.
First of all, here's the deal, with the "best" parts highlighted in bold:
College campuses aren't supposed to be intellectually safe. They need to be intellectually dangerous
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but It truly was the best of times and also the worst of times. Over the past week, students at the University of Missouri rose up in response to both a longstanding history of racism and a series of very recent, very disturbing incidents in which black students have been harassed, both verbally and physically.
They did something amazing -- students at Mizzou reminded the rest of America what can be accomplished through the power of collective action and non-violent protest. The actions at Missouri introduced us to a new young hero, Jonathan Butler, who went on a hunger strike until the president of the state's university system resigned, which he ultimately did. They were aided in this by the university's African-American football players, who brought matters to a head in our pigskin-obsessed society by joining the crusade of Butler and Concerned Students 1950 and pledging to boycott future games until Tim Wolfe was out.
Let's be clear: Wolfe -- whose response to blatant racism on campus was too little and too late -- deserved to go (and don't worry, I'm sure he'll get a lucrative lobbying gig or something, since those types always take care of their own.) The conniption fits that the Mizzou protests caused among right-wingers were worth the price of admission alone. But these actions by students at Missouri also produced something real, something positive. Because of their efforts, I'm certain that the campus in Columbia, Mo., will be a more diverse, more welcoming, and better place than it would have been if students had instead embraced silence.
It's rare when so many of the things that we talk about when we talk about Philadelphia come together in one thing, in one place.
Yet the planets will be in rare alignment on Thursday -- in a hearing room at City Hall, of all places.
The wealth and prosperity of Center City versus the struggles of the outlying neighborhoods? Check.
I've been in the news business a long time, and there some days I can get pretty jaded about the headlines, as if I've seen everything. But some days there's a headline that makes me bolt upright and take notice. When you're a middle-aged white dude like me, you're bound to pay attention when the New York Times reports: "Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds."
After stopping to check my pulse, I read this:
Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.
It was the summer of 1996 and I'd only been at the Daily News for a year when I was fortunate enough to latch onto the politics beat. As you'll remember, '96 was a presidential year -- Bill Clinton's re-election didn't seem at all guaranteed after some low moments in his first term, and Bob Dole was gearing up his campaign for the GOP.
My editors wanted me to cover the presidential race, but not cover it very much. The only thing that really mattered in Philadelphia, I was assured, was the mayor's race -- even though the replacement for then incumbent Ed Rendell wouldn't be picked for another three years. And it was front-page news over the next year or so when the likes of state Rep. Dwight Evans or city councilwoman Happy Fernandez jumped in that '99 race. Covering that election consumed three solid years of my life in journalism.
Philadelphia also elected a new mayor on Tuesday, its 99th. If you weren't playing close attention, you're forgiven. In the fall election, the Democrats' massive 7-1 registration edge has helped create a chicken-or-egg downward spiral. Does the ever-shrinking news media not cover general elections in Philadelphia because it knows Republicans have no chance of winning, or do GOP candidates have no chance of winning because there's such little media coverage? And the more elections that the Republican Party loses, the more it sends out unknown, underfunded candidates who -- even when they are an appealing fresh new face, as this fall's Melissa Murray Bailey was -- are certain to get buried.
Same as the old boss? We'll have plenty of time. Eight years, if history is a guide. Eight looooong years.
More on Philadelphia politics, soon...I promise.
There's a stench of phoniness and hypocrisy (nobody could have predicted, right) over this endless controversy over the CNBC Republican debate the other night -- which now has the GOP candidates trying to, ahem, collectively bargain for a better deal with different debate partners who'll ask easier ...excuse me I meant to say more substantive...questions. As 912 people have pointed out before me, nothing says that you'll stand up to Putin from the Oval Office better than confessing that you're afraid of policy questions from "flaming liberals" like the capitalism cheerleaders of CNBC (including, for cryin' out loud, the inventor of the Tea Party!)]
First of all, this is Politics 101, especially for Republicans -- when all else fails, run against the news media. It started with Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew (if not earlier) and has continued straight through to Newt Gingrich four years ago and Ted Cruz in this election. That said, I've read the CNBC debate questions (so can you -- they're compiled here) and while a few of them aren't what I would have asked, only one or two of them remotely resemble "gotcha questions." Unless your idea of a "gotcha question" is a fair, hard-hitting query about the seeming contradictions in one's policy positions or past statements. (For actual embarrassing "gotcha questions" about trivia like lapel flag pins, check out the 2008 Democratic primary debate in Philadelphia.)
That said, I actually agree that journalist debate moderators generally aren't great, and that they tend to ask questions that aren't what the typical American schlub on his living room couch would ask. You know who does ask really good questions about those kinds of issues (like college tuition or health care)? Actual citizens. Indeed, there was more of this in 2008 and 2012, including a mostly citizen-question debate run by YouTube that I recall as the best candidate event in a while. So if the GOP candidates really want to mix things up, this would be my solution -- give more power to the people.