Philly.com reports today that police found a 15-month-old child who had been strapped inside a locked car for more than an hour outside Bensalem's Parx Casino, charging his father, Donald Waige, with child endangerment.
Waige said several times in this article that he had simply lost track of time:
Donald Waige, 59, told police that he had intended to stop into the casino for only 10 minutes to collect a $10 credit on his player's card when he left his little boy in the car Tuesday afternoon.
. . .
"Waige stated he did not realize he was in the casino for over an hour," a police statement said.
This, of course, follows on the heels of revelations that a former Jenkintown tax collector has been charged with gambling away more than $200,000 in taxpayer money also at Parx Casino.
Why is this not surprising? Because slot machines and the big boxes that house them are designed to do exactly what they did to Donald Waige: to suck players into a state of mind where the meaning of time gives way to the repetitive mechanical high of gambling on the slot machine, the most efficient money-sucking machine ever invented.
I'm reminded of research by MIT Professor Natasha Schull, who has studied extensively the way humans interact with slot machines (she has a new documentary about Las Vegas out; I haven't seen it, but it looks interesting).
I cited some of her findings in my 2009 cover story about the subtle ways slot machines have been designed to seduce gamblers:
Much of Schüll's work concentrates on the shocking efficiency with which slot machines not only relieve players of their money, but are able to induce them into a state she calls "the zone."
In the zone, the goal is not to win money, but simply to keep playing, as intensely as possible. Players describe the state as a kind of trance, in which the world melts away and they are alone with the machine.
In one academic paper, Schüll quotes a gambler named "Isabella" describing the experience: "I was gone," Isabella says. "My body was there, outside the machine, but at the same time I was inside the machine, inside the game."
Kind of makes you wonder what we'll be hearing about when Sugarhouse opens, doesn't it?
It's a question you'd think the city would have studied closely: the Nutter administration pledged two years ago to conduct an independent economic impact study but, two years later, has not (or has not made its results public).
Yesterday, the Inky's "Heard in the Hall" blog posted a letter from (purportedly, I guess) a New Yorker who happened to be on the same ill-fated flight as Mayor Nutter and his entourage as they made their way to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Oklahoma City this past weekend.
The letter is a fascinating and highly flattering peek into the mayor and his staff on the road. Apparently the mayor, along with other passengers like the letter's author, got tied up in one of those hellish flights, first getting delayed for hours, then missing a connection and having to stay in Memphis overnight. According to the author, Mayor Nutter and his staff took it all in gracious stride (I love the part about waiting to sit at the bar):
"I am not from Philadelphia (I am from New York) but it was so notable just how cool, gracious and modest Mayor Nutter and his entourage were. Not once did they ever try and pull rank always waiting patiently in-line behind everyone else. ... never raising their voices, never asking for favors ... just acting like everyone else, but classier. Not even his staffers tried to pull the do you know who this is? routine. They all just waited patiently in line with the rest of us seething passengers.
"While I and other business colleagues, were so fed up that we chose to not wait for the free shuttle to the hotel, choosing instead to take a $25 cab ride ... we were shocked to see Mayor Nutter and his entourage walking towards the shuttle stop and waiting patiently with all of the others (including the screaming babies).
"But the real kicker was when we got to the hotel and tried to cash in our $12 meal vouchers. ... the restaurant had an open dining room, and a bar area. The dining room closed at 10. And food was only available at the bar until 11. Mayor Nutter and his folks finally had checked in and were just trying to grab a bite to eat just after 10 pm, but they refused to seat him in the empty restaurant, and instead insisted that they wait until spaces opened up in the bar (which was completely full and overwhelmed by the sudden influx of passengers/guests) ... Again, Mayor Nutter and his people just quietly waited for any seats to open up at the bar
And I'll say this: As a reporter, I've found the mayor himself and his staff, particularly the mayor's press office, with which I interact fairly often, to be remarkably accessible and down-to-earth even when my writing is, as is often the case, critical.
They deserve some credit for being accessible not only out on the road, as this letter suggests, but here at home, too.
MyfoxPhilly has done it again, delivering to the public this scoop:
And this shocking video of the alleged "drinking" (it looks empty to me):
Now I don't have any babies of my own, but I did used to live with one, and she loved beer bottles: picking them up, putting her mouth on them, banging them on stuff they're just satisfyingly shaped or something.
I think this whole baby beer bottle thing is being overblown, and I offer the following pictures, but a small subset of the results from my "baby beer bottle" Google search, as proof:
Meanwhile, send us your beer baby pictures! We'll publish them here let's call it a contest!
I don't do hit pieces for the sake of it, and I don't relish at all taking shots at my colleagues and fellow writers around town.
And I don't know, or have any personal beef whatsoever with Jon Campisi, the author of this week's Philadelphia Weekly cover story, Who's Packin' Heat in Philly.
But to call that story half-baked would be generous ... and I won't be generous: It's one of the most irresponsible uses of ink and bandwidth this fair city has seen in a while.
I say this not because I am critical of the story's subjects (although I am), who not only proclaim the joys of walking around packing heat themselves, but actively promote casual gun use among others and oppose attempts to curb it (including opposing attempts to take guns away from people who let them get stolen from their cars).
Not because I think the topic isn't relevant, or the author's subjects don't merit journalistic exploration (it is, and they do).
Not because I think gun ownership or use is inherently wrong (I don't).
Not just because of the silly glorification of the authors' subjects "He wears his gun as well as he rocks his navy blazer," or the obtuse quotes "For me, guns become very academic," and "It's kind of hard to practice Buddhism when you're dead," and fawning, unquestioning representations of their opinions: "Dillon understands how guns can be demonized in a city like Philadelphia ... but he says it's important not to blame an inanimate object for society's problems."
Not just because the author used the phrase "so-called 'assault rifles'" as if the very idea of semi-automatic weapons being made for the purpose of killing were absurd.
But because this is bad reporting.
And if you want to do bad reporting, don't do it about something as serious as handguns.
I won't go point by point, but here are a few particularly low moments:
"One might expect police officers who see rampant gun violence everyday to be offended that people are looking to protect themselves. But a canvassing of city streets shows they're the first to admit they can't be everywhere at once. One Northwest Philly bike cop who spoke anonymously says he sees absolutely nothing wrong with a citizen carrying a handgun for protection."
After "canvassing of city streets," the author produces two comments, one from one anonymous police officer, the other from one Captain William Fisher, who merely says, "I really don't think it matters what our feelings are ... you have a right to bear arms" a statement of fact, not opinion, and by no means a ringing endorsement of packing casually.
What the reporter neglects to say is that urban police forces in Philadelphia and elsewhere have been vocal supporters of tighter restrictions on handguns, with Chief Ramsey joining mayor Nutter in efforts to institute tighter gun laws here.
Including laws regarding straw purchases, an incredibly important part of gun control which the author barely mentions, burying the single reference in a long sentence leading up to Captain Fisher's lukewarm comment:
During an April rally in front of the Shooter Shop in Kensington, where religious protesters gathered to decry urban gun violence, and specifically call for firearm dealers to sign a code of conduct that would aim to cut down on straw purchases (the act of someone who can legally buy a gun doing so for a prohibited person), another police officer said ...
Huh? What was that you said about straw purchases?
That an article about urban gun-use would skip so lightly over straw purchasing which, according to the city's figures, accounts for a whopping 46 percent of all guns used in Philly crimes is bad enough.
But also unmentioned in the article are the number of stolen and illegal guns recovered annually by Philadelphia police alone (more than 5,000); the unintended consequences of handgun use, like the fact that American children are 16 times more likely to be murdered, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die from a firearm accident than children in 25 other industrialized countries; or a slew of other reasons to consider tougher gun laws.
This is the kind of lazy that borders on propaganda.
Speaking of which, how about this whopper:
"[Gun enthusiast David Laden] compiled statistics that showed a drastic drop in Philadelphia murder rates between 1990 (503 homicides) and 2001 (309 homicides) which coincided with the issuance of a greater number of carry licenses for private citizens."
The notion that the issuance of carry licenses somehow caused the decrease in homicides is so laughably absurd I'd be laughing if it wasn't printed in an otherwise respectable magazine's cover story for thousands of people to read.
The declining murder rate also happens to have coincided with the demise of big-hair rock: Correlation, duh, is not causation. Even if Campisi's subjects are too thick to get that, he shouldn't be.
Last is the issue not of accuracy but of taste: in a city where hundreds of people die to gun violence or are assaulted, robbed, raped, or intimidated by people with guns; in a city where police officers are killed by criminals whose guns are sometimes burgled from the likes of Campisi's subjects; and where jackasses keep shooting people on purpose or accidentally for stupid, jackass reasons this article isn't just bad, it's offensive.
This weekend, CP senior writer/resident rapscallion Isaiah Thompson will have a story on public radio's This American Life. Yes, it's a big freaking deal.
Can't wait that long? Well, if you have "the Internet," you can listen via live stream. Check publicradiofan.com for real-time streaming schedules. The show's first airing will be tonight, Friday, at 8:00 P.M. (East Coast time) on Chicago's WBEZ.
In the last two weeks, in the wake of Ralph Cipriano's April 22 cover story on the city's Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), "The Billion-Dollar Boondoggle," the local media has piled on. The Inquirer called for the end of DROP in an editorial called "DROP is bad all over." The Daily News' Signe Wilkinson lambasted City Council and its president, Anna Verna, in an editorial cartoon. The DN also mentioned DROP in an odd editorial, "The big lie isn't DROP," claiming that the "double dip" is not the biggest of the city's pension worries (without exactly explaining why DROP isn't a big POTP). But nobody's been quite so enthusiastic in its DROP-kicking as Fox29, which has run multiple segments on the program, starting with this one and including the videos linked above and after the jump.
- Fox29 seems fixated on the elected official angle which is, granted, the easiest to work up a lather about (though that loophole has been closed for future elected officials) but what Cipriano's piece points out is that while the DROP bonuses of high-ranking officials are the easiest to pin a bullseye on, it's the sheer number of people (all city employees are eligible) receiving smaller DROP bonuses that really seem to endanger the pension system.
- Kerri Lee Halkett's Boondagle/Boondoogle slip up in the video above is awesome stuff.
I'm a little insulted that the Metro, Foobooz (!) and Philebrity got mentioned, but City Paper didn't. But still. Alert the "Down the Shore" girls indeed.
This morning, in an editorial titled "DROP is bad all over," the Inquirer editorial board praises our April 22 cover story, "The Billion Dollar Boondoggle: DROP is bleeding us dry," written by Ralph Cipriano looking into the controversial 11-year-old retirement program:
It is bad enough that a handful of elected city officials have abused the pension perk known as DROP. But now there is more compelling evidence of an even bigger drain the plan is having on Philadelphia's already wobbly pension system.
A lengthy story in the City Paper last week detailed a number of red flags regarding DROP, short for Deferred Retirement Option Plan.
The plan has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and provided little to nothing in return. The firm that helped the city establish DROP has run into legal trouble in other cities. Before trying to raise taxes, Mayor Nutter and City Council should end DROP for all employees.
Almost 9,000 city employees have either cashed out of DROP or are enrolled in it. The retirees have collected lump-sum payments averaging more than $100,000, according to the City Paper story, written by former Inquirer reporter Ralph Cipriano.
Investigative reporter Ralph Cipriano, author of this week's probing cover story on the city's Deferred Retirement Option Program (or DROP), "The Billion Dollar Boondoggle: DROP is Bleeding us Dry " was on Fox 29 this morning discussing the story and the program.
Watch the video here:
Well, it's time again to identify the inspiring, intimidating, and just plain mystifying depictions of His Honor, Philadelphia's own Mayor Michael Nutter.
The front page of phila.gov almost always features a picture of Nutter but every now and then, that picture is updated. And with each time, with each pic, we get a chance to remark on it.
Before I weigh in on the current picture (above), some history is in order.
|2008: We're-in-trouble Nutter|
I thought, at the time, that Nutter looked "frightened and defensive" and it was posted, after all, in the thick of the city's budget collapsing. Doron Taussig, my former editor, called it "perplexed and slightly angry."
Then came 2009, with a decidedly more cheerful-looking Nutter:
|2009: Confident Nutter|
Last year, I called it "decidedly more confident if less interesting."
|2010: Captain Nutter|
This year's most recent picture (above) takes us back into ambiguous territory: Nutter looks earnest, even concerned a throwback, methinks, to 2008. Yet rather than reacting to something, as he appears to be in Nutter '08, Nutter '10 seems to be demanding our own reaction.
Maybe it's the Philadelphia flag waving in the background. Maybe it's the podium, which resembles the helm of a great ship. Or maybe it's the right hand, lifted in action about to crash down with an angry slam or gently point us in the right direction, we don't know. Regardless, I call this depiction Captain Nutter: Eying the storm, while grabbing the wheel.
But the most important question is: What do you think?
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