Archive: September, 2009
Matt Stroud is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer. He's written for City Paper about porn star Stoya, subterranean Philadelphia, juvenile life sentences and anarchist newspaper The Defenestrator. He writes regularly at True/Slant (where this piece first appeared) and will be filing daily reports from the G20 Summit this week.
How far can activism go during a week of overexposure? What issues will garner attention? What issues will be forgotten?
It's typical journalistic discussion (What's worth editing? What's worth keeping?), but this week, as the City of Pittsburgh and local police attempt to toe that apparently delicate line between "keeping the peace" and "brutalizing people for no reason whatsoever," it's very pertinent. In honor/horror of G20, a ton of valid ideas and opinions are being dispersed en masse. And, from the street, it's going to be very difficult distinguishing one idea from another, particularly when most organizers take identical approaches to disseminating opinions.
For example: I work downtown and heard about a 2 p.m. rally yesterday commencing at Grant and Liberty. A friend and I dropped by to check it out. The protest's leaders called for $50 billion to be distributed internationally from the US to people with AIDS. And as we walked (marched?), another group assembled across the street to protest a housing issue. Nearby, they were protesting healthcare reform. And undoubtedly there were others. These rallies were noted in Pittsburgh's oldest and most widely-read newspaper (where I freelance from time to time), but in a way that only served to further confuse who's marching with whom and what ideas they're hoping to get across.
The amount of space Pittsburgh's mainstream media is willing to devote to protested issues during G20 is limited, so they end up doing what they do in the aforementioned story: which is mash together pleas for healthcare reform, medicinal funding for AIDS patients, cries against so-called "clean coal" and "mountaintop removal," as well as the travel schedules of people busing in from Philadelphia. And they do this in 500 words. As a colleague said during the march yesterday: "You end up praying for broken windows." In other words, the only way to get an an issue noticed is by fueling or being fueled by a clash.
Exhibit A is the Seeds of Peace fiasco I noted yesterday. Today it's getting even more coverage. Problem is, Seeds of Peace doesn't even highlight a specific issue; they're just here to hand out free food to activists and people who want it. So we're left discussing over and over again how fucked up the security situation is, how clueless the police appear to be, and how vehement the City appears to be against dissenters.
Which maybe is the point: Cut off the dissenters' free food supply (so they'll be forced to participate in the capitalist market), distract the conversation (so nothing substantial gets discussed), and then head over to Primanti's for a sammich and a Ahrn City Beer.
Hopefully the rest of the week won't pan out so predictably.
More from the front as things heat up (or fizzle away).
- On the eve of the G-20 summit, a native son finds a city moving toward the future but longing for its past (WSJ)
- Conservatives chime in on global money ills in G-20 precursor (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
- For G-20 Summit, Old Issues Give Way to New (WaPo)
- "Healthcare, housing, jobs, food, clean water are basic human rights," says Cindy Sheehan in downtown Pittsburgh yesterday. "Not just rich, white, Christian Americans." (G20 B&B)
With President Ahmadinejad set to speak before the UN General Assembly today at 5 p.m., scores of Iranian ex-pats will take to the streets of New York City with a rally, starting around 4 p.m., that will continue throughout his speech.
Among them will be local university students Ali and Kayhan, who took part as well in a demonstration at Rittenhouse Square in June, to protest against the Iranian election results.
Conceding that he has no hope of having the recent election overturned, with nearly two months having passed since Ahmadinejad took the oath of office, Ali says the "overall goal is [to] keep pressure on the government, with the first goal being to have the political prisoners released." While they certainly want to reinforce the message in the West that they donât consider him a legitimate president, "it's more to do with addressing the human rights violations, the rapes in prisons, the shutdown of newspapers, the murders during the protests, and those that followed within the prisons."
Kayhan adds that people within Iran have transformed post-soccer match celebrations into anti-government rallies. In terms of his countrymen back home, he says, "Many of the people, we feel it is a majority, feel he is illegitimate and that he has committed many misconducts. Psychologically it affects us since we can't take part in protests in Iran. Through this protest we are able to take part, to make sure people do not forget."
The two are somewhat worried that their own message might get lost amid the many protesters focusing on the Iranian president's denials of the holocaust and promise to wipe Israel off the map.
Emphasizing that they support these protests as well, Kayhan simply adds that "we have our own agenda to talk about as a people."
Kayhan is organizing a panel discussion through UPennâs Middle Eastern Center for mid to late October in the hopes of continuing the dialogue on the Iranian elections. This coming Tuesday, Sept. 29, UPenn hosts New York Times journalist and Iranian correspondent Roger Cohen.
Residents living in the neighborhood surrounding Manayunkâs Dobson James School are welcoming some temporary neighbors. Early this week, flocks of chimney swift birds started roosting in the chimney of the elementary school, as well as other chimneys in the area.
Rich McIlhenny, a local realtor, took his children to Manayunk to see the chimney swifts at the school Thursday evening. McIlhenny, who filmed the birds, said that they appeared around 7 in the evening in great numbers, all swarming around the top of Dobson James School until they dove head-first into the chimney.
"It was like something out of a science fiction movie,â he said. "My kids were screaming because they looked look bats, so I explained to them that they were birds getting ready to roost.â
Another Philadelphian, Steve Hebden, saw the spectacle Friday night with his daughter. He described the birds diving into the chimney as a "steady stream that just goes on and on.â
"It took 20 minutes for them to dive in the chimney,â Hebden said. "They shot right down and folded their wings in a way that made it look like they were collapsing.â
McIlhenny heard about this occurrence from a guest speaker at the Friends of Wissahickon, a non-profit nature-interest organization in Philadelphia. He said the chimney swifts fly south to Peru each year, making Philadelphia a regular en-route pit stop.
Chimney swifts were once known as American swifts because they nested and roosted in hollow trees. As early American pioneers deforested their homes, the birds were forced to adapt by roosting in chimneys.
In addition to building nests and roosting in chimneys, swifts sometimes seek refuge in stone wells and abandoned buildings.
When the flock comes here in Philadelphia, they typically make their rest stop at other schools in the are besides Manayunk: the John Story Jenks School in the Chestnut Hill area of the city and the Shawmount School, said Director of Environmental Education at Fairmount Park, Debbie Carr.
"Theyâre only roosting at the Dobson School this year and weâre not sure why,â said Carr. "Itâs possible that they could be down in their numbers.â
Carr said that if the chimney swift population is experiencing a decline in numbers, it could be attributed to a variety of factors, such as trouble rearing, some birds not making back during the migration back north or not enough sustenance, insects, in our region.
|Photo | Drew Lazor (click to enlarge)
This was near 23rd and Catharine. Address all reward checks to The Clog.
What We've Found: Racial animus, immigrant hate-mail, Zelaya's return, Gadhafi's tent-site, Palin speaks and PSPCA removes duct tape from Philly cat
Julia Harte with your morning fix.
"Racial animus" and "racially-coded comments" were behind the decision of administrators at a Montgomery County swimming pool to revoke permission for 56 children from a Northeast Philadelphia day camp to use the facility, according to a just-released report by investigators with Pennsylvania's Human Relations Committee.
German politicians from immigrant backgrounds received letters that outlined a five-point plan for "moving foreigners gradually back to their home countries" from Germany's far-right National Democratic Party. The letters were signed by a non-existent "commissioner for the repatriation of foreigners," but the right-wing leader Joerg Haehnel defended the letters as permissible under Germany's democracy.
Deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was trapped inside the Brazilian embassy in Honduras along with 70 friends and relatives. Crowds of Hondurans cheered outside to celebrate his return until Interim President Roberto Micheletti sent baton-and-tear-gas-wielding soldiers to clear them away.
After being denied permission to camp in Central Park while visiting the United Nations, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi instead settled on the Bedford, NY, estate of Donald Trump, where he has plenty of room for a tent containing four satellite dishes and lavish Persian decor.
Promising to "share with you candidly a view right from Main Street, Main Street U.S.A.," former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin addressed an annual conference of investors in Hong Kong in what was billed as a wide-ranging talk about governance, economics and U.S. and Asian affairs.
Police were looking for the "very sick" person who body-wrapped a cat in duct tape and left her abandoned in a North Philadelphia yard. The adult female cat, nicknamed "Sticky" by workers who removed the tape at the Philadelphia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, is now in stable condition.
I saw this note getting passed around on Twitter earlier: "MontCo Animal Shelter is closing today. Having free adoption from 12-4p! Sadly, all remaining animals will be euthanized."
Turns out, though, that this was all a misunderstanding the Montgomery County animal shelter in question is located in TEXAS, not Pennsylvania, but somehow this news got twisted around and applied to our home state. I called both Last Chance Ranch Animal Rescue in Quakertown and the Montgomery County SPCA in Conshohocken, and both confirmed that they will not be closing their doors.
We're very glad all this is not true but it's still as good an opportunity as any to get more info on pet adoption. Please check out both shelters' Web sites for more.
|Â©Scott Weiner 2009|
This is not a promotional shot of the new Mickey and Mallory a la Natural Born Killers II: Peyote Buttons. Or a goofy sequel to Whatâs Eating Gilbert Grape? Or even a slacker version of Cape Fear. This is Juliette Lewis having a pow wow with Jackass Bam Margera before her show at his club, West Chesterâs The Note, last night. My good friend Scott Weiner snapped the shot. The place didnât sell out sadly Lewis is always a sweat inducing heart racing thrill yet everyone was all smiles anyhoo.
Always be on the look-out for your less-than-usual celeb sightings at Icepack online.
|Photo | Brian Howard's Android
They weren't finished as of last night, but they sure do look nice. If you're thinking that the bike lane looks kind of narrow, keep in mind that those two parallel stripes are NOT the lane. They'll be filled in with diagonal lines which will serve as the buffer between the car lane on the left and the bike lane on the right. If you're thinking that that's one huge bike lane, you're right.
What We've Found: Disgruntled theatergoers, illegal file-sharing, net neutrality, offshore-accounts amnesty, impending dementia and a budget shortfall in Phila. schools
Julia Harte with your morning fix.
Described by the president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance as "the fight for our lives," patrons of the arts protested a 6 percent sales tax on tickets to concerts, live theater, performing arts, zoos and museums, and assured Gov. Rendell that he'd hear from them in fax-machine-clogging numbers.
Musicians were warring over whether or not to crack down on illegal file-sharers in the wake of news that forty billion music files, or 95 percent of all digital music, was downloaded illegally in 2008.
The head of the Federal Communications Commission endorsed a plan to uphold "net neutrality" -- the state in which no Internet content provider can manipulate how quickly or easily a user sees their web site. The commission, he said, "must be a smart cop on the beat, preserving a free and open Internet."
Wealthy Americans with secret bank accounts in Switzerland and other offshore sites were given an extra 22 days to reveal their accounts and thus escape the stiffer penalties that will be incurred if their accounts are discovered by IRS investigators after the end of the amnesty period.
Scientists found that an increased inability to manage money, including new difficulties understanding a bank statement, balancing a cheque book, paying bills, preparing bills and counting coins and currency, can be signs of impending dementia in persons already afflicted with mild cognitive impairment.
The Philadelphia School District was deciding which district programs to reduce or cut in the wake of the state budget deal reached last week, which gives schools $160 million less than originally agreed.
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