Tuesday, June 30, 2015

POSTED: Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 5:19 PM
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, talks with students of the Human and Social Science University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam May 29, 2015. (Reuters)

The use of torture isn't just immoral -- it's illegal, banned by laws that are already on the books and by treaties championed by the likes of Ronald Reagan.

If this is possible, torture may soon be even more illegal in the United States:

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to ban the use of torture, moving to ensure that the government does not return to interrogation techniques like waterboarding.

Will Bunch @ 5:19 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 9:00 PM
Wiping away a tear, Sarina Santos of Frankford tells a recent Center City rally that her advocacy for higher wages cost her her job as a baggage handler. (MICHAEL PRONZATO/Staff Photographer)

I have to confess feeling more alienated than ever about American presidential politics these days...most of it, anyway. And it feels strange for a guy who, as a 13-year-old kid, stayed up past midnight in a summer vacation cottage listening to the 1972 Democratic convention on a scratchy transistor radio, and who never thought seriously about a career in anything besides journalism after reading "The Boys on the Bus" about that year's White House campaign.

This week's World Series of campaign kickoffs -- a Murderer's Row (oops...wrong Bush) of Hillary Clinton, Jeb! Bush and clown prince Donald Trump -- was a dose of weak methadone for this lifelong political junkie. I could only force myself to "watch" the announcements on Twitter, if at all. I didn't even have anything clever to add to the social-media snarkfest record about Trump, maybe because I couldn't think of anything funnier to say than, "Donald Trump is running for president."

Clinton presented a solidly bland liberal agenda, minus anything so liberal that it might strike her backers on Wall Street as too rabble-rousing. The former Secretary of State now seems completely uninterested in foreign policy, including a trade agreement that she pushed for before learning that every Democrat (and most everyone else, too) doesn't want it. Jeb! is already something of a laughingstock with an exclamation point!...unaware of who caused global warming or of how many living Americans will never again vote for someone named "Bush" (or "Jeb!" for that matter). Trump forgets who won World War II.

Will Bunch @ 9:00 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 4:39 PM

Rioters Joyous hockey fans erupted in Chicago last night after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Although the crowd was mostly peaceful (Hmmm...where have we heard this before?), two men scuffled with a police officer and tried to choke him while others smashed in the window of a police cruiser. At least 5 thugs celebrating fans were arrested.

Will Bunch @ 4:39 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, June 15, 2015, 5:22 PM
Pope Francis delivers his message on the occasion of an audience with participants of Rome's diocese convention in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, June 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

A lot of cops stopped going to Bruce Springsteen concerts after he wrote and performed the song "American Skin (41 Shots)" -- a screed against police brutality (at a time when the issue wasn't on the nation's front burner). In that same vein, I wonder if any Catholics (or other curious folks) will now shun Pope Francis when he comes to Philadelphia in September -- thanks to this:

After months of build up, an Italian-language document believed to be an early draft of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment was leaked four days early on Monday, breaking a Vatican embargo on an official papal teaching that flatly rejects traditional conservative Christian justifications for exploiting the planet.

Vatican officials condemned the leak on Monday, saying that the early release of the nearly 200-page document constituted a “heinous act” and insisting that it is “not the final text.” Regardless, if genuine, the Italian-language draft of the encyclical — or one of the highest forms of official Church teaching a pope can produce — will undoubtedly make waves not only for its insistence that humanity protect the environment, but also for its deconstruction of conservative arguments against climate change.

Will Bunch @ 5:22 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Sunday, June 14, 2015, 8:12 PM
A water main break in West Philadelphia early Sunday morning continuing to cause chaos for residents. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)

Curse you, Grover Cleveland! For the second time in the last couple of years, the ghost of America's 22nd Democratic president (famous for also becoming America's 24th president, and also as the subject of "Ma, ma, where's my pa...gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha" -- Google it) has appeared to wreak havoc on Philadelphia, which was a national Republican stronghold in the 1880s.

Cleveland's mid-1880s was nearly as technologically primitive as "Gilligan's Island" -- few phones, gaslights, no motorcars, and not many luxuries except for those flaunted by a few titans of a rising Gilded Age. But the Industrial Revolution was at its steepest ascent, and labor conflict like the explosion in Chicago's Haymarket Square was arguably at its peak. Massive public works like the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883, and a national rail network were a sign of a kind of American exceptionalism, a surging world power that knew how to build things.

Today, America is exceptional as a nation that doesn't want to fix things.

Will Bunch @ 8:12 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, June 11, 2015, 8:12 PM
Heeding God's Call, a faith-based movement seeking an end to gun violence, marched recently in Overbrook.

The last couple of years have been surprisingly forward looking in the political arena. Despite Republican hegemony in Congress and in a number of statehouses, we've seen issues that were once nowhere on the radar screen -- topics like paying workers a living wage or curbing police brutality -- zoom into focus. It was striking today to see Philadelphia City Council stand up for a $12 wage for airport workers and balk, for now anyway, at land for a new prison -- two progressive moves that would have seemed unlikely a short time ago.

And then there's guns.

It was little more than two years ago that the nation was still grieving the slaughter of kindergartners and 1st-graders in Newtown, Conn., and a slew of proposals for more rational gun laws wasn't just part of a progressive agenda...it was front and center. But when Congress, cowed once again by the National Rifle Association, refused to pass even the most modest agenda item, stepped-up background checks.

Will Bunch @ 8:12 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 5:36 PM
A view up the river: The city is eyeing land to replace the House of Correction, one of six correctional facilities in Holmesburg.

UPDATE: Victory...for now. Stay tuned.

You've probably never heard of Kalief Browder, unless you spend a lot of time on social media or read The New Yorker (and I recommend doing one of those things). Browder was just 16 when he was arrested on New York's mean streets, based on minimal evidence, for a robbery he says he didn't commit.

What happened next was a saga that even Franz Kafka would have had a hard time putting down on paper, as the teen spent three hellish years in the city's notorious Riker's Island, where -- video evidence confirmed -- he was violently abused by both guards and other inmates. Finally, with no trial and no good explanation, he was simply released. But freedom wasn't more powerful than the deep, jail-bred depression that the youth simply could not expunge. This weekend, the demons won out. Browder hanged himself in his family's home in the Bronx. He was just 22.

Will Bunch @ 5:36 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 7:42 PM
FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2011 file photo, then White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answers questions during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington. McDonald's on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 announced it has named Gibbs its global chief communications officer, as the fast-food giant looks to improve its image. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

I never was a huge fan of Robert Gibbs, President Obama's 2008 campaign spokesman who became his first press secretary. At his "best," he was a bland comedown from the promise of the '08 campaign, not unlike his boss in some of the lower moments. Occasionally he even attacked the people who got him and Obama their jobs, the so-called "professional left." That was better, at least, than the time he defended the U.S. drone killing of a 16-year-old American citizen by stating the boy "should [have] had a more responsible father."

Gibbs became a highly paid soporific pundit, and today he became the rarest of all creatures -- a fast-food worker who just got a big raise. The former Obama mouthpiece was hired as McDonald's chief spokesman, where he'll presumably be the counterweight to Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiatives when he's not defending wage theft and sub-living paychecks underwritten by the American taxpayer.

Is this a great county or what? I'm looking forward to Gibbs' statement that a young worker trying to support herself on $7.25 an hour "should [have] had a more responsible father."

Will Bunch @ 7:42 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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