Archive: August, 2010
|Courtesy of the Pennsylvania House
|Rep. Mark Cohen
Yes, it's cool and all that state Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) introduced a bill back in April '09 to legalize medical marijuana. (It's cool, as well, that state Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) introduced a matching bill in the Senate this May.) But both bills are stalled in committee â¦ and what chance do they have of ever getting out, in this conservative bizarro old-people land known as Pennsylvania?
More than you might think, it turns out. According to a recent Franklin & Marshall poll, 80 percent of voters favor medical marijuana. 80 percent! Do you know how many people in Pennsylvania are old as shit? That's a lot of old people saying medical marijuana is OK by them. Pretty encouraging.
Terry Madonna and Berwood Yost, of F&M, call this proportion "striking."
"Just about every demographic group supports the use of medical marijuana, but the likelihood of supporting it is higher among women than men, among liberals and moderates than conservatives, and among those who do not consider themselves born-again Christians," wrote Madonna and Yost in a press release.
Even more interesting: Although four in five Pennsylvanians support medical weed, only one in three or 33 percent support complete legalization. Still, that's up from 22 percent two years ago.
As you Cloggers are well aware, I've been obsessing a bit this week over the major parties' bullying tactics toward their minor party competitors and more than a bit perturbed by the fact that Pa. law makes those bullying tactics not only possible, but almost assuredly successful. Sure, if I was part of the Sestak campaign, and worried about a spoiler in a close election, maybe I would have done the same thing. But that doesn't make it morally right, particularly for someone who purports to represent the Democratic Party. Competition, it seems is for pussies. (I come from a state, after all, where ballot access is something of a free-for-all. During the 2008 presidential election, for instance, there were 13 minor party candidates on the ballot; it didn't hurt anything.)
This morning I chatted with Mel Packer, the former Green Party candidate for Senate. First impression, based on a 20-minute conversation: He's a hell of a nice guy, completely sincere and not one of those third-party candidates who runs vanity campaigns.
âIf you're going to run at all, youre aware youre going to be challenged,â he says. âIf you don't walk in with a whole lot more [petitions] than what you need, you're not going to be able to stop them from challenging you and they might challenge you anyway.â
State law required about 19,000. His campaign filed about 20,500, he says: âIf you don't get 30,000, you're going to be in trouble. At least 10 to 20 percent [are bad].â It's not so much a problem of fraud, but of human error, he says: People say they're registered when they're not, people move and don't update their registration info, and so on. Moreover, he says, the Sestak campaign had a process server send him a binder that included the findings of a handwriting expert (!) they paid to analyze some 700 petitions. The Sestak folks also challenged petitions where people signed in the space assigned for printed signatures (and vice versa), and people who write in their neighborhood instead of a zip code or city of residence.
âAs you know, they have challenged every single candidate. Will not have any third parties in any of the statewide races.â If he lost, after all, he'd have to pay Sestak's expenses including the handwriting expert probably $80,000. âWho can afford that? I can't afford that.â
He continues: âIf you run, one of the things you hope to do is gain ballot status. If you can gain 2 percent, I think, they put [your party] on [the ballot] automatically the next time. You at least get ballot status. The other reason you do it is, you know third parties don't win, but you hope they gain status.â There's also the principle of the thing, he adds: âThis is what I've done my whole life because I believe in human justice and peace. Someone has to speak out on these issues.â
And no, Packer, 65, doesn't like the notion that he's a spoiler: âSpoilers look at the policies of the two parties. We are in a lot of trouble. There's no recovery coming except for the rich. â¦ We're in a load of shit here, man. â¦ It's an arrogant assumption of their part. Half the electorate stays home. It was reinforced out there collecting signatures. You hear that over and over again, âThey're all the same.â They can see what's coming down, man. It's a plain out corrupt system.â
A lifelong activist, Packer says he'll continue doing what he's done the last four decades working on issues of âhuman justice and peace,â including drilling in the Marcellus Shale. âMy thing has always been about getting up every morning and saying, I've got to do the right thing, trying to make the world a better place. â¦ I do what any peace and justice activist does. I'll go to my grave doing that what a life.â
Not that it matters now, but you can check out his platform here.
Days after Team Sestak forced Green Party candidate Mel Packer out of November's election (a post on my interview with Packer will come later today), the Libertarians announced that their three statewide candidates will end their campaigns as well.
HARRISBURG - All three Libertarian Party nominees for statewide office in Pennsylvania abandoned their bids to get on the fall ballot Wednesday, leaving no third-party opposition to the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor and the Senate.
Filing papers to withdraw were York lawyer Marakay Rogers, running for governor; Douglas M. Jamison, an engineer from Washington County running for Senate; and Kat Valleley, a Bucks County homemaker seeking to become lieutenant governor. The action came after nearly two days of intensive scrutiny of their petition signatures.
Commonwealth Court Judge P. Kevin Brobson canceled a planned Monday hearing and directed elections officials to strike the Libertarians' names as candidates in the Nov. 2 election.
Marc Antony Arrigo, a Philadelphia lawyer representing the three, said they conceded that the challenge filed by a group of Republican voters would leave them with fewer than the 19,082 signatures required for third-party candidates for statewide office.
On Monday, self-proclaimed tea party candidate John Krupa withdrew his petition to run for governor.
He posted the following in the Clog comments, but I think they warrant their own post. I'll try to get in touch with him tomorrow, and with the Sestak camp for comments as to his Packer's factual representations, and update as warranted:
Jeffrey, great article. â¦ It's true, I had to withdraw. Faced with the knowledge that we only had about 1000 extra signatures above the minimum and the most basic human errors alone would probably would be about 10%, it would have been worthless and possibly break me financially if they sued for legal costs. Heck, I might have had to apply for a job with the City Paper!!
It's amazing how much Sestak spent (but don't worry, we probably paid for it). They even handed over copies of 710 petitions to hand-writing experts!! Give me a break, Joe, this isn't CSI!
Seriously, once again, democracy is denied to the voters of PA, thwarted by corporate cash funneled through corporate candidates. Take heart in the fact that elections are just one small part of the struggle to build the movement for peace and justice and in that, I believe we made some progress. My campaign was an uncompromising stand for an end to a system that has failed the people of this nation, continues wars without end, and continues to increase human suffering both here and abroad. We remain a nation run by thieves, a corrupt government in which our legislators are simply hired guns for those who presently run the world and continue to exploit it for their own gains. We found thousands who agree and there are thousands more who will continue to stay home rather than vote for corruption. Good for them. The lesser of two evils is STILL evil and must be opposed every day in every way. Remember, we'll all do better when we ALL do better. It's that simple.
Mel Packer, former PA Green Party candidate for US Senate
MUST READ: Gene Healy/Will Wilkinson on the Not-Ground Zero Not-Mosque: Is the GOP playing the Tea Partiers for saps, or do they believe their own horseshit?
Yes, this goddamn mosque faux-controversy is still making headlines. But let's move beyond the "issue" itself, because the "issue" is verifiably idiotic. Rather, let's talk motives.
A guy from the Washington Examiner, Gene Healy, argues that the right-wing rabble is being played by the Republican establishment. It's an interesting argument:
All this posturing is getting tiresome. The "mosque" controversy isn't about property rights or religious freedom. It's a bogus issue seized by the GOP establishment to distract the rank-and-file from the party's reluctance to shrink government.
From all the caterwauling, you'd think the Park51 group planned to fashion a mock Kaaba out of trade center ashes and mount it atop the wreckage. But you can't see Ground Zero from the Park51 site -- it's separated by two canyonlike city blocks, occupying the former site of a Burlington Coat Factory. "Hallowed ground," indeed.
You don't need to buy amateur theologian George W. Bush's line that Islam is "a religion of peace" to recognize that the Park51 controversy is a red herring. With Muslims making up 0.8 percent of the U.S. population, dhimmitude seems a more remote threat than national bankruptcy.
In a recent (pre-campaign?) appearance in Des Moines, Iowa, Newt Gingrich denounced Obama's "secular socialist machine," but, when asked, he declined to specify federal programs he would cut.
You see, cutting government is hard, and often unpopular. No surprise, then, that Boehner would rather play urban planner than embrace Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's "road map" for shrinking middle-class entitlements.
Faced with difficult choices, the alleged party of small government always retreats to the lazy politics of Kulturkampf. Hey, that guy's a "card-carrying member" of the ACLU! Ask me about my flag-burning amendment!
John Cornyn, R-Texas, head of GOP efforts to take back the Senate this fall, plans to make the Park51 "mosque" a major campaign issue. It's all too typical: Feed the rubes conservative identity politics, and, with luck, they'll be too distracted to notice you've grafted a Republican "K Street Project" atop the same old edifice of Big Government.
The establishment Right wants to play the Tea Party movement for suckers. It remains to be seen whether they'll play along.
Which brings us to Will Wilkinson, a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute,who counters thusly:
I don't find this believable. This idiotic foofaraw could be a distraction only if the GOP rank-and-file actually cared more about the size of government than the cultural politics of American identity. But they don't. It's not even close. American conservatism is a movement consumed by protecting and asserting a certain fabricated conception of the traditional American way of life against imaginary enemies.
I approve of what Gene's trying to do here rhetorically, but the fact is that complaining about Muslims and keeping holy the memory of 9/11 and Ground Zero the legitimizing altar of aggressive American imperialism is a direct manifestation of contemporary conservatism's essence. If it's not the twitchily bellicose identity politics of self-righteous middle-class white Americans, it's a distraction. Gene graciously lets the rank-and-file off the hook by blaming all this tiresome dim-witted chest-thumping on âthe GOP establishment.â But I'm afraid in this case the establishment is just nervously along for the ride.
I lean toward Wilkinson's interpretation, based on the political and cognitive science research I've seen. Namely, modern conservatism, especially movement conservatism, is predominantly oriented with authoritarian values and the preservation of the existing social order, which is, let's face it, largely favorable to relatively well-to-do white folks (hence the undercurrent of racism in the Tea Party), who figure that since they made it, seemingly without government help, so can everybody else, and if they can't, that's too bad. The antipathy toward "big government" is, as Wilkinson alludes to, really just a manifestation of this broader perspective. So and to boil several books on the subject down to a sentence the movement conservatives' obsession with Park51 is part and parcel of their supposed opposition to small government. It all comes from the same cognitive source (really, read Lakoff's books; he explains it much better than I can).
But Healy is right, too, at least to some degree: For the hapless, anti-intellectual GOP establishment, which is attempting to grab power despite the vacuity of its ideas, the scary Muslims certainly presents a good rallying cry two months before the elections, and plays on the fear of and loathing toward Barack Obama that many conservatives possess, as well as the sense that âtheirâ country is changing, and not to their benefit, which is why they want it back.
In both cases, I think there's an overestimation of the difference between the conservative elite and the rabble the assumption being that the elites know better, but they're either using this issue to gain power (Healy) or being dragged along with the current (Wilkinson). Certainly, in the case of charlatans like Gingrich and opportunists like Pawlenty, they're right. My sense, though, is that the establishment has been so co-opted by the rabble, either because they're dependent on them to energize campaigns (Cornyn, Boehner), or because they've been thrust into the spotlight by these groups (Palin, DeMint, Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, etc.) and really believe this shit.
So maybe it's not an either/or. Maybe it's both.
What to say? The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has said it all:
A Monroeville drilling company could tap natural gas beneath 15 cemeteries in Allegheny and Washington counties under a lease signed by the Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the association's director said Tuesday.
The association leased nearly 1,060 acres of cemetery land in 2008 to Huntley & Huntley Inc., including the 200-acre Calvary Cemetery in Hazelwood, which City Councilman Doug Shields called "ground zero" in the debate over whether natural gas drilling should be permitted in Pittsburgh
In case you missed that last phrase: "the debate over whether natural gas drilling should be permitted in Pittsburgh," â it is, in fact a debate and a distinct possibility: Pittsburgh, unlike Philadelphia, is located on top of the Marcellus Shale and the drilling industry is moving in quickly to begin drilling within city limits.
|Courtesy of Eric Ascalon|
|BEFORE (left) and AFTER (right)|
If any of you Tyler or UArts grads secures a job with the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg or the city of Harrisburg's Department of Parks, Recreation & Enrichment, think twice before dropping your gallery gig to erect the next great piece of public art. Once you've completed your sculpture or painting or meta-performance art piece about performance art pieces for the city, you may return years later to find that your name has been erased from your work, and, even worse, the whole project has been âdrastically alteredâ without your permission to the point of âmutilationâ and âbastardization.â
At least, that's what David Ascalon, an artist from Tel Aviv, claims happened to him. In a lawsuit filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Ascalon says that the Federation commissioned him to create a Holocaust memorial on public property (which is maintained by the Parks Dept.) that did not âprettify the landscapeâ but instead was âcommitted to developing a truth-telling monument.â
In other words, the death of 6 million Jews was horrifying, so let's make sure the memorial isn't all puppies and rainbows, eh?
Ascalon complied. His memorial depicted a serpentine made of Cor-ten steel a purposefully rusty, ugly material to represent the âoppression, decay and miseryâ under the Nazi regime wrapping itself around the Star of David, conversely constructed out of shiny, flawless stainless steel to represent the goodness and permanence of the Jewish people. A âtear-filled ceremonyâ on July 17, 1994, fÃªted the creation of the Holocaust memorial, and the Patriot News gushed that, âa lot of symbolism is featured in the monument. â¦ The rusting barbed wire that wraps around the core represents the fences around Nazi death camps.â According to Ascalon, the memorial was so popular that it made it into Yumiko Mochizuki's book Public Art: A World's Eye View, which chronicles the greatest public visual art.
Fast-forward to 2007, when Ascalon says he found that his name had âbeen completely excised and grinded off of the memorialâ without his permission and replaced with this: âRestored by David Grindle 2006.â
Additionally, Ascalon claims that Grindle switched out the serpent's Cor-ten material for stainless steel, which doesn't sound like that big of a deal, until you consider that stainless steel was supposed to represent the Jews' tenacity, not the er â¦ Nazis'.
âThe modification of the sculpture has changed it so that now the same shiny stainless steel that represents the enduring Jewish people is also used to depict the Nazi regime and atrocities of the Holocaust,â reads the lawsuit. âThis alteration is abhorrent.â
Oy vey. Did we mention that several of Ascalon's relatives, including cousins, uncles and two grandparents, were killed in the Holocaust?
Ascalon is demanding an injunction, as well as actual and statutory damages, in his suit against the Parks Dept., the Jewish Federation and Grindle.
None of the three defendants have returned our calls.
MUST READ: When ignorance and demagoguery meet: The not-mosque at not-Ground Zero (updated with TDS goodness)
|Courtesy of the Village Voice|
For a country (ostensibly) built upon religious tolerance and freedom, the hullabaloo surrounding the construction of a community center with an Islamic prayer space in a long-vacant building that once housed a Burlington Coat Factory several blocks from where the World Trade Center towers stood which, in lower Manhattan, is basically is a world away one of those things that makes you want to just throw your hands in the air and say as my late, wonderfully curmudgeonly grandfather would âPeople are no damn good.â
Goddammit, aren't we better than this? Don't we understand that the politicians championing this non-issue are, in fact, preying on our fears, ignorances and bigotries?
That this thing has gained currency, that race-baiting (yet supposedly mainstream) politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have been allowed to beat their chest and rile up the reasonless passions of their bases with lies and fact-less insinuations, that a president's intonation that the First Amendment is a cherished American tradition became a political liability (at least among the pundit class), that the fact that the blatant religious bigotry plays right into our enemy's hands and undermines what the values that make us better than them has been all but ignored I'm beginning to wonder, is this the sacking of our Rome?
Probably not. In all likelihood, this thing will get built and the rabble will refocus its attention on American Idol or whatever until the next Fox News trumpeted faux-scandal emerges. But still: aren't we better than this?
Anyway. I would like to direct your attention to The Village Voice's post on why, really, you shouldn't give a shit about the so-called Cordoba House.
What's more offensive: Having a....
- "Ground Zero Burger King."
- Memorial that's never happened because of hyper-capitalist conflicts.
- Bunch of tacky souvenir tables.
- Bunch of tacky souvenir tables that profit off of cheap, China-made 9-11 memorabilia.
- Bunch of tacky souvenir tables that profit off of cheap, China-made 9-11 memorabilia when they're not selling fake Rolexes to the same Americans coming to New York, buying from them, going home, and telling New Yorkers where to put our Mosques.
or an Islamic Cultural Center with a 9/11 Memorial (more than what's actually been put to paper for an official 9/11 Memorial) two and a half blocks away?
Maybe we'll care what you have to say when you stop bothering us for directions in the subway on how to get to Ground Zero so you can go there and buy some dumb, tacky knickknack you can take home and give to friends to let them know that you spent money on a shake-a-snow where a few thousand people died. Maybe then. But probably not. Shut up, go away, and also, stop lying, or at least tell your politicians to stop lying. It might help you recognize the truth, which is that you're wrong, and you're attacking vital American freedoms by going against this Mosque. The truth is that you're terrorists in you're own right. You are striking against America by going against this mosque. You are, in effect, almost as bad as the ones who killed people on 9/11. Okay, not quite, not really, but kind of, because you're fighting against what 9/11 victims died for: religious freedom, which terrorists don't have and don't want anyone else to have.
But now you have a map to see how wrong you are, okay? Now: Fuck you. Fuck you and shut up, you assholes. Shut up and leave New York alone.
Also, this clip is worth 12 minutes of your life. (For the record, I'm not the biggest fan of Olbermann or cable news in general I don't have cable, actually but it's worth a viewing because, well, he's right.)
It's not sad to watch right-wingers try to score points off this thing: that's what they do, it's expected. It's sad that hate and fear have become so ingrained our our politics.
Aren't we better than this?
UPDATED: Daily Show goodness:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
On Aug. 9, Democrat Joe Sestak filed a challenge to the petitions collected by would-be Green Party rival/spoiler Mel Packer, under the theory that enough of Packer's petitions were in some way defective so as to place him below the threshold Pennsylvania has established for ballot access (this year, about 19,000 ballots), Sestak's campaign confirms. And over the weekend, campaign lawyer Manly Parks told me, the two sides reached an agreement: Packer is off the November ballot.
Lesson: Bullying works.
As we've previously reported, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that requires minor party or independent candidates folks with no money, usually to pay off their rivals' lawyer bills if their petition are successfully challenged. And in this case, that law worked to Sestak's advantage: The threat of paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees was enough to get Packer to bail out, on the condition that each side pays its own litigation costs.
More on this in the paper this week. I will update if I can get a comment from Packer, who has not yet conceded, at least on his website.
QUICK UPDATE: Haven't heard back from Packer, but scoping out his website, I came across this post from Aug. 10, in which he all by admits the likelihood of defeat:
On August 9, shortly before State offices in Harrisburg closed, Joe Sestak, Democratic Party candidate for US Senate in PA, filed a formal challenge to my election petitions for that same office. This was not unexpected and given the absurd requirements that third-party candidates must meet to attain ballot status, his challenge will likely be successful and I will lose my already state-certified ballot status for that position.
Let me be very frank about this action. Joe Sestak is a moral and political coward, who is unwilling to let the voters of PA decide for themselves which candidates they support based on their political platforms and positions. By using technicalities to keep 3rd party candidates off the ballot, he demonstrates his continued support for the corrupt and undemocratic system that so many voters have learned to distrust and in which they have no faith.
A candidate for office who is unwilling to face his opponents in the open market of political ideas becomes exposed as a fraud in his willingness to subvert democracy solely to maintain the entrenched powers.
Joe Sestak shows all of us that we are not only fighting a corrupt economic system that rewards the rich and punishes workers, but a similarly corrupt political system that serves at the will of those who have bankrupted our nation, forced millions into long-term if not permanent employment, wages endless wars that only benefit the corporate powers, and now seeks to decrease much of our social safety net at a time when we are most in need of increases instead.
My candidacy for US Senate is a clear departure from the politics of old, a clear challenge to the system that has failed most of our citizens, and a clear choice that voters should be allowed to make in a democratic society.
I call on Joe Sestak to immediately withdraw his challenge to my candidacy for the US Senate and to demonstrate his willingness to debate our ideas openly in front of the voters of PA. I welcome such a challenge and he should do likewise.
Anything less means he knows that his positions cannot stand in open debate and also shows the voters that he is on the sides of corporate power and against restoring power to the people of the State of PA.
- Mel Packer, Green Party candidate for US Senate in PA.
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