From Harold Jackson's Under the Sun blog on inquirer.com
Listening to the eulogies this week for Nelson Mandela and reflecting on how he put aside some of his own beliefs as a rebel fighting against South Africa’s apartheid government to become a promoter of reconciliation and cooperation, I keep being drawn to thoughts of the political division here in our country, and wonder if we will ever get past it.
President Obama, speaking at the memorial service for Mandela in South Africa today, said “It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well -- to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth. He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.”
Bad habits that at first seem amusing become irritating when they are repeated over and over and over again, like all the times City Hall has patted itself on the back for suggesting an inadequate solution to the public schools’ cash-flow problem.
The latest example of that is a City Council committee’s recent passage of legislation that would allow the School District to sell advertising space on its buildings. That idea, which at best might generate $15 million, will produce a pittance compared to the district’s budget gap, once estimated at $304 million. Council members may argue that’s not all they’re doing to get the schools more money, but an incomplete grade is all they deserve for their other initiatives. Council wouldn’t raise the by-the-drink tax on alcoholic beverages. The legislature wouldn’t approve a cigarette tax to fund city schools. And extending the city’s temporary sales-tax hike is still up in the air.
The state had to be shamed into finally giving up an additional $45 million for Philadelphia schools. The city came up with $50 million. Meanwhile, the city teachers’ union appears adamant in its refusal to give up $103 million in concessions.
It's great that Long Island native Billy Joel, an artist who has traditionally been in high demand in the New York area, has signed a Las Vegas-style music franchise agreement with the 18,000-seat Madison Square Garden to play monthly concerts there as he sails off into the twilight of his super-brilliant career.
With Atlantic City in dire straits due to burgeoning gaming competition, I’ve often wondered why any casino company couldn’t sign Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to a similar long-term contract to play at the 14,000-seat Boardwalk Hall.
Imagine that, instead of touring, Bruce was to anchor himself in the gaming capital of the East Coast and force his worldwide following to come to legendary Jersey Shore: How that would revive the city and its image.
The timing of The Inquirer’s recent front-page article on proposed AMTRAK northeast corridor high speed rail changes was interesting, coming just days after an AMTRAK train to New York was incorrectly routed onto SEPTA tracks. Anyone who has spent many years working in the rail transportation industry, as I have, can only wonder at who at AMTRAK is coming up with the impractical/high cost proposals noted in the Inquirer article.
The article refers to the NEC as "an antiquated system prone to failures and delays". Just saw a news report this morning about how smoothly this "antiquated system" has operated over Thanksgiving. The NEC is a four track electrified line that is already maintained for the highest passenger train speeds in the country.
The projected cost of proposed changes is $151 billion. With the usual federal government incompetence and cost over-runs the real number is probably $500 billion. The stated plan is to increase top speed to 220 MPH and reduce transit time from Philadelphia to New York to 37 minutes, One problem with this is that AMTRAK's Acela trains are already going over 100 m.p.h. and making the run in about 70 minutes. Where is the benefit of spending all of this taxpayer money? Only a small percentage of the train schedules between New York and Philadelphia would even be able to operate at these speeds. To make a 37-minute run the train can have no scheduled stops. Most of the trains stop at stations like Trenton and Newark along the way.
Before the ink was even dry on the West’s multilateral agreement with Iran to call a halt to their weapons grade uranium production with the stated goal of a larger agreement regarding their pursuit of nuclear armaments, we began hearing the knee-jerk negative reaction from the right, from the usual suspects among rightwing press and politicians.
Charles Krauthammer, in his usual hyperbolic fashion, compared the agreement to Munich, while politicians like Dick Cheney sad it was akin to surrender, to giving Iran the green light to acquirer nuclear weapons
What would be astounding is if anyone at this point would give any credence to the neocon point of view when it comes to strategy involving another Mideast country. If ever there was a time to learn the lessons of history, it is now.
By tomorrow, Americans may know who really calls the shots for House Republicans in Congress — their selected leaders or the Koch brothers.
The House may vote Thursday on bipartisan budget legislation crafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Wisconsin. If the deal is approved, it would mean a truce in the debilitating budget wars between Democrats and Republicans. The impasse has kept them from seeing eye to eye on almost any subject for the last two years.
This new agreement isn’t perfect. For one thing, it doesn’t include an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed, which is essential to keeping the economy on the right track. But as President Obama noted, not getting everything you want is “the nature of compromise.” Ryan and Murray deserve the nation’s gratitude for stepping out of their partisan roles to reach an agreement.
As City Council negotiates the final details around a Philadelphia Land Bank ("Philadelphia Could Make History With Land Bank Plan," Nov. 25th), it's important they stay focused on a key goal of this historic reform: transforming our vacant and blighted properties into opportunities for jobs and economic growth.
Philadelphia's 93,000 small businesses are important drivers of our economy, providing over half of private sector jobs. But our current broken land acquisition and development process stands in the way of the start-up, prosperity, and expansion of these important stakeholders. Right now, a business owner who wants to transform a vacant property is encountering bureaucratic barriers at every step. Those barriers send a message that private investment is not welcome here.
Despite the deterrents, the 400 business members of the Sustainable Business Network have made significant investments in Philadelphia, and their work is paying off. Our city is growing a unique local business culture, and new sustainable businesses are attracting private capital and providing jobs.
Stacey Burling’s article on a scientific gender-based brain study was fascinating reading. Although the article makes no judgment about gender brain differences, the front-page headline was a disparaging cheap shot: “No Surprise? Men using just half a brain.”
Haha! See? Men really are dumb! That type of negative stereotyping would never be tolerated for any other subgroup in our culture. That same headline would be blasted as prejudiced, insensitive, or, inappropriate, if you were to replace the word men with, say, women, gays, Christians, blonds,-you name it! I can’t think of a single other group that would take that kind of front page ribbing without generating a significant backlash.
Perhaps, I’m just not using the half of my brain that’s supposed to have a sense of humor about such things. After all, it’s become quite common in advertising to poke fun at stupid, dirty men who, along with their unruly children, are constantly being chased around by full-brain-using women with appropriately strong vacuum cleaners and chemical disinfectants. I guess the logic is supposed to be that men have ruled the roost for so long that it’s our turn to be the brunt of the joke. Can’t we think of better jokes? Turning science into an opportunity for negative stereotyping is bad journalism.