This is Philadelphia, where we arrest Jesus one day, go crazy for the Pope the day after that, and on the third day, we hand the keys to the city over to a casino. Once again, Springsteen was right: It's hard to be a saint in the city...this one, anyway.
That said, the news that Pennsylvania's anonymous gambling poobahs have granted Philadelphia's slow-train-wreck-coming 2nd casino license to the future operators of a parking-lot-ringed abomination near the sports complex called the Live! Hotel and Casino is about as exciting as the 76ers latest D-League free agent signing. (Also, note: When you need an exclamation point to tell people you're alive, that's never a good sign.) The gaming palace strip-mall is headed to a location, at 9th and Packer, site of a Holiday Inn, where 95 percent of Philadelphia can ignore it. Mayor Nutter, who seems to be finally finding his voice now that he's leaving office, spoke for most of the city yesterday when he said: "It is what it is."
Gone are the days when we pretended that a new casino operator could be made to bring some architectural pizzazz to the table. With one gaming parlor on North Delaware Avenue and with neighbors in Bensalem and Chester, we know now what to expect: A lifeless dead-air Amazon-style warehouse, except with rows of slot machines instead of boxes of "50 Shades of Gray." Yeah, there are some pluses -- there'll be some more blue-collar construction jobs, and hopefully Live! in South Philly can be an escape valve for a few of the thousands of gaming workers who've been laid off in Altantic City -- folks who should be in our thoughts and prayers, especially with the holidays and winter's chill approaching.
There are certain words and phrases that simply don't have a good history. I mentioned last week that some observers felt that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was being unnecessarily provocative when he used the term "uprising" -- a loaded word, as it was popularized during the era of slavery -- in an effort to warn off violence in Ferguson. The town is already on pins and needles this week awaiting word from a grand jury in the police-shooting of Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager.
The track record for the phrase "state of emergency" is also not particularly good. It's an extraordinary measure -- calling up troops and granting sweeping powers to a chief executive -- intended for extraordinary times. And such times certainly come -- natural disasters like a Hurricane Katrina or a Superstorm Sandy, for example. Politically, however, a "state of emergency" tends not to be good. Before today, the most recent "state of emergency" in the news was in the African nation of Burkina Faso, where a dictator invoked it in a desperate (and unsuccessful) bid to cling to the power he'd held for 27 years. It was a "state of emergency" panel that tried to oust Russia's Mikhail Gorbachev in an anti-reform coup as the USSR collapsed in 1991. Historically, a "state of emergency" is when civil liberties get tossed out the window.
Today, Missouri's Nixon declared a "state of emergency" in Missouri -- a move that allows him to press the state's National Guard soldiers into duty, immediately. This, despite the fact that there's currently no unrest or violence in or around Ferguson or greater St. Louis, and there's not even official word on when the jury will decide the legal fate of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown on Aug. 9. At first blush, his order seems a little less Sandy and a little more Burkina Faso.
I know, I know, it's too easy (and someone on Twitter already said this...I already forget whom) but the city that booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus has now arrested Jesus. You could see this coming, though, when they started cracking down on Elmo and his friends over on Sesame Street.
Is there a serious point here? Maybe. "Philly Jesus" was arrested for asking folks for money in taking a picture with them...soliiciting. Perhaps they could have just simply told him to knock it off? Do we arrest too many people in this country? I have a hunch we'll find out, for better or worse, this week.
It turns out Kim Kardashian may not have been the biggest, um, hindquarters in the news this past week. Unless you live in a cave somewhere If you watch a lot of Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh, you've surely heard the case of Jonathan Gruber the world's most famous celebrity health care expert some guy who teaches at MIT and apparently did such a good job advising Mitt Romney on his successful government Romneycare that they asked him for input on Obamacare, too.
This week. video surfaced of Gruber -- who should be called MacGruber, since he seems to be skilled at blowing himself up -- speaking at an academic conference here in Philadelphia last year. We learned some important things when the video went viral. First of all, apparently you can be a moron and still get a teaching job at MIT. The key soundbite was that Gruber said that "the stupidity of the American voter" helped the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, become law in 2010. This was, in his opinion, because voters didn't understand that healthy young enrollees would be partially propping up the expansion of health insurance to millions of Americans. He also suggested that the Congressional Budget Office didn't understand the plan well enough to score the personal coverage mandate properly, as a tax.
This is what drives me crazy about the right-wing outrage machine and its constant focus on gaffes. (Liberals, for all their many flaws, focus a lot more on "gaffes" like invading Iraq for no reason or blowing up the world economy in 2008, but I digress...). In this case, though, there could actually be some substance behind the gaffe -- we'll talk about that in a minute. But the real "news" here is still just a gaffe, which may explain why a lot of mainstream news outlets have offered little or no coverage, infuriating conservatives.
The shorter version of this week's news out of Ferguson is basically this: Tin soldiers and Nixon coming. The grand jury investigation of the shooting of teenager Mike Brown, by the Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson has dragged on for weeks, from the hot summer afternoon when Brown's corpse was left to rot on the street for four long hours, to this week's polar vortex. This cold snap makes it even more likely that authorities will finally announce the decision they've been carefully grooming for weeks, that Officer Wilson will not be charged with murdering an unarmed 18-year-old.
Still, even with the way that officials have unlawfully and selectively leaked pro-Wilson tidbits from the closed door legal proceedings, the news conference held on Tuesday by the beyond-ironically named Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was a remarkable show of force...and I mean that in the worst sense possible. Flanked by six uniformed officers, Nixon's entire purpose was to show zero tolerance for violence that hasn't occurred yet, to show he's ready for an "uprising" (a racially loaded term he used twice). The youth whose life was taken from him, Mike Brown, was never mentioned, not once. Meanwhile, CNN seems weirdly excited about what it claims is a spike in gun sales in and around Ferguson. I guess vigilantism is the new, Ebola.
People, we seem to have lost the entire thread of what Ferguson is all about -- the reasons this story has stirred the passions of millions of Americans. The so-called leaders of St. Louis County, the scene of the crime, have spent most of the last two months focused on these three things. 1) Stocking up, and I mean stocking up big-time, on the latest state-of-the-art riot control equipment, to the tune of at least $100,000. 2) Amassing a civilian army of 1,000 police, who've received, in total, at least 5,000 hours (costing God only knows what) of training in battling civil unrest, etc. and 3) Constructing an artificial, bogus narrative that will keep the focus on the possibility of violent protest (something there's actually been very little of over the last three months) and away from any culpability for the reckless actions of Darren Wilson...or the separate and unequal society that Wilson's department props up.
In 2013, I put together all the puzzle pieces of the various freebies -- from yacht trips to private jet travel to sold-out sporting events -- that Gov. Corbett had accepted from lobbyists and business executives seeking something from state government. Some of the credit for that piece belongs to the website StateImpact PA -- which first uncovered the 2011 Rhode Island yacht vacation with a fracking executive and caused me to look deeper at all the Corbetts' gifts. But after the piece ran on the front page of the Daily News, a number of newspapers around the state called for a gift ban.
And then...nothing happened. Which makes sense politically -- why would Corbett impose guidelines in the second half of his term that he'd so wantonly violated in the first half? Last week, though, the governor ran on his record, and he lost.
Like Sam Cooke said, it's been a long time, but a change is gonna come:
Here's a heaping of honor for our women and men who've earned it on Veterans Day 2014. It comes from former Philadelphia journalist Howard Altman, now the military affairs reporter for the Tampa Tribune:
Rutherford said he understands the focus on the struggle of veterans, especially around Veterans Day.
After all, the Veterans Administration says that 22 veterans a day take their own lives and that as many as 250,000 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. About 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to the department of Housing and Urban Development.
You remember the 2014 midterm election, right? You know, the one that ended 6 says ago, or before that guy from Utah fumbled on the 1-yard-line and the polar vortex and Ted Cruz said that net neutrality is "Obamacare for the Internet" or whatever else Big Media is distracting the masses with today, now that Ebola has gone from O.J. Simpson-style coverage to getting tossed completely down the Memory Hole. Last week, even before the votes were counted, I said that this was the "Seinfeld election," a show about nothing, thanks to deceitful Republicans and cowardly Democrats, among others.
It turns out maybe the election was about something after all, just not the stuff that anyone dared talk about before Nov. 4. Now it's time for what James Brown called -- and the billionaires who sponsored Election Day 2014 would agree -- the Big Payback. All those average folks, struggling to get by, angry at the gridlock in Washington and at the guy in the Oval Office who overpromised on the hope-and-change and couldn't really deliver, may now get something they didn't even ask for.