While I was Out

One of my regular reads is Philadelphia Gun Crisis, a photojournalism blog that reports on the rampant, spine-curdling gun violence in our city.

To my mind, guns are the worst kind of weapons when used in crime. Not because they are more effective than a knife or a club when killing a person (although they are), but because the odds that other people will get killed as well are exponentially higher. You always read about how some poor child or little old lady got mowed down or paralyzed because the bullet missed its intended target and wound up flying through a window or door. The sheer ease with which guns can be used is also troubling: if you want to kill someone with a knife or a club, you have to get in pretty close. With a gun, you just have to pull it out and pop pop pop, there’s a body on the ground.

Every Sunday, Gun Crisis publishes its Week in Review. Each headline is a link: this week saw an arrest for a double homicide in Kensington, a 10 year old wanted for mugging people with a toy gun, a man with four bullets in his head, an eight year old child witness to a different double homicide in Kensington (this one is particularly hideous), and several more, including a man shot dead and discovered n a burning house a few blocks from where I live.

There is a lot to love about Philadelphia, a tough city with a lot of heart. But our murder rate is not one of them.

Update: I almost forgot about the guy who rode up to a car on his bicycle, and killed the driver. Dumbfuck either didn’t know or didn’t care that a goddamn marked cop car was right behind him the whole time You can read about the judge that allowed this menace on the street, and watch video of the bloody aftermath here (NSFW).

Returning

So after two weeks in California, I arrived back in Philadelphia at 5:45 AM last Friday. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to returning (who would, after two weeks of sunshine and flowers) but tried to put my mind in that “clean slate” frame.

The cabbie tried to rip me off by taking a circuitous route home.
My street was littered with trash.
My neighbor’s front yard, which we share, was overgrown with crabgrass.
It didn’t take very long to hear people on the street loudly referring to each other as “nigger” and “motherfucker”.
I got stuck behind someone double-parked, and could see that there was a HUGE parking spot she could have been using.

And I thought to myself, “I can do better than this. I can do a lot better than this.”

Deep thoughts on a Wednesday morning.

Piggie of the Week: the GOP Makes a Boo-Boo. Again.

Ben Franklin is believed to have said “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

If he had been alive today, he would have added “and Republican’s complete lack of foresight.” The Iraq War, for instance, was going to be over in weeks. OOOPS. Holding the debt ceiling hostage would make them look strong. OOOPS. Scott Walker was going to dominate Wisconsin. OOOOPS. The Tea Party was going to be their personal conservative army. OOOPS. Sarah Palin would rally the GOP. OOOPS. Impeaching a sitting president would work out swell. OOOOOPS.

In today’s Piggie of the Week, AP Ticker considers how the Citizens United decision backfired on the Republicans.

SOPA Post

I’m too lazy to figure out how to black out my site to protest the thoroughly idiotic and destructive SOPA and PIPA bills, which would allow the government, and more importantly the corporations who really run the world like Comcast and Time Warner, to censor the Internet.

Instead, I’ll just tell you this: if you live in PA and you’re having trouble running your Mozilla-based internet and email, if you can’t get to Wikipedia, or you can’t look for a job because craigslist is down, blame Bob Casey, who continues to support this dangerous and misguided legislation, even though support for it is peeling away like skin off a rotten banana. It’s shelved in the House, opposed by the White House, and dying in the Senate.

Bob Casey’s had plenty of opportunity to drop his support. the fact that he’s pushing on into strong head winds shows either that he truly believes Comcast and the government should be able to censor the Internet, or that he doesn’t exactly understand how the Internet works.

Neither reflects well on the man. With unemployment pushing 9% in PA, and 12% in Philly, the last thing we need is the country’s biggest job site shutting down. But that’s where we are, because of Bob Casey. I’m sure the unemployed are grateful to him for standing up for the likes of Comcast.

Also worth noting: Republican Pat Toomey opposes the Protect IP Act. Just sayin’.

Driving in Philly, 10/3/2011

I was on my way to Northern Liberties, a neighborhood just north of old Philadelphia, when I got involved in some classic Philly driving.

Let me set the scene. I was headed north on 7th Stree, behind an enormous maroon Durango, one of those SUVs that are so big they look like some kind of prehistoric cow made of metal, the kind that’s so wide they almost take up a lane and a half.

I don’t know why people buy these things for city use. The cost of filling up the tank must be a fortune, and you can never get the vehicle up to speed simply due to the characteristics of urban driving. But there he was in front of me, leaving just enough room for traffic in the right lane to squeak by. We were at a stoplight just before passing under the entrace to I-95 when I heard the distinct shriek of a police siren, and saw the lights in my rearview. It must have been a real emergency, because that car was making a TON of noise.

So, like all the other drivers, I pulled over to the side to let the cop get by. Well, like ALMOST all the other drivers. The SUV didn’t move at all. It just sat there. The cop blared on his horn, flashed his lights, but nothing. Finally, I leaned on MY horn, and the driver’s head popped up. Realizing he was blocking the cop, he FINALLY pulled off to the left. The cop hit the gas and sped by.

As we continued up 7th, two more cop cars shot by, lights and sirens in full display, followed by ANOTHER car. Big times up the street to be sure, and as we crossed Spring Garden Street, the cops had amassed at the Edgar Allen Poe housing project. [and may I add here that, historical figure or not, the name "Edgar Allen Poe" conjures up images of horror and murder, why would you name a housing project after that?]

One car had blocked access to the cross street, Brown. Cops were heading north on foot, into the project. A federal homeland security van pulled up alongside us and parked. Meanwhile, a policeman was waving the line of traffic through.

Unfortunately, the maroon SUV had other ideas. Instead of moving along, the SUV just sat there taking up a lane and a half. People started honking, but the driver wouldn’t budge. There was no way to get around him without damaging the federal van.

But finally, very very sloooooowly, the SUV moved to the left, just enough so the rest of us could go on our way. He pulled up onto the curb, his ass-end blocking the cross-street like he was an unofficial deputy.

As I passed the behemoth, I saw that the driver and his wife were staring out the window, watching the activity up the street with their jaws dropped. Yes my friends, they had decided that traffic be damned, here was an actual crime investigation taking place, for once it wasn’t on the teevee, and by gum, they were gonna watch the fun.

I hate Philly drivers.

Progress

Booman Tribune is a self-described “progressive community”, but for me it’s that blog I love to hate. I think the guy who runs it is, personally, a nice guy, but our views on the country and the Administration have gone in utterly different directions, to the point that I’ve tried to stop reading it because I get angry, and that brings out the troll in me. And yet I can’t stop. I can’t help myself, so I’ve just cut down my reading. In Booman’s eyes, the left and progressives are largely to blame for the President’s current predicament, because we didn’t clap hands say yeah for half-measures and watered down legislation, and many of us have been bitterly disappointed by the president’s record on the economy, his ties to Wall Street, and his record on civil liberties. And to be sure, Booman is not entirely inaccurate when he points out the that Republicans have tied his hands by playing the ‘Party of No’, and the Democrats in both houses of Congress have been disunited and cowardly (someone like me will point out that the Dems are owned by the same moneyed interests that own the Republicans, but are embarrassed about it). You can imagine what his take on the Wall Street Protests is: they are incoherent, not working with the system, pointless. Not that Booman opposes progress, but he would prefer it a bit more orderly and well-behaved: we must take what victories we can, however incremental.

That said, nowhere on the web is there a more perfect example of how the Wall Street Occupation is being absorbed by political thinkers who represent the status quo.

September 26: “Wall Street Wankathon”:

I don’t understand why I am supposed to care about this whole #OccupyWallStreet protest. There is no platform, no legislative vehicle, no coherent call to action, no overriding message, and very little in the way of any point. While the enterprise is less nihilistic than the Rodney King riots or the recent unpleasantness in England, it is even less effectual. I am not sure they are even being successful in inconveniencing anyone. The best I can say for the whole effort is that at least they haven’t created a right-wing backlash. If you want to hurt Wall Street without hurting everyone else in the process, develop a legislative goal that sticks it to Wall Street without further tanking the economy. Walking around in circles in Lower Manhattan and chanting “This is what Democracy looks like” is little different from holing up in your apartment with a week’s worth of free porn. It’s nothing more than a Wank-a-Thon, and I find the whole thing boring and depressing.

Shorter: You damn kids get offa my lawn!

September 28: “What’s Eating the Left”:

despite efforts at campaign finance reform, the problem has grown much worse over the last decade. Anyone looking at the Democrats to solve this problem is going to be disappointed. Even where the Democrats are attempting to do the right thing (such as increasing marginal income tax rates on the wealthy) they are easily thwarted. So, I see the desire and the need for some kind of movement that doesn’t rely directly on politics. Neither political party is capable or really even willing to create a fairer system or to truly protect us from the excesses of global capitalism.

In any case, I understand the motive behind the #OccupyWallStreet drive, and I can see why people are seeking non-political avenues to express their discontent. But I’m bothered by the lack of specificity in the movement….

Is that really the point? Is Wall Street oozing corruption and criminality in a way that it was not last year or the year before that? Is it less accountable than it was before the Dodd-Frank bill passed? Or, is it more that people are sick of seeing how much these bastards pay themselves as they ship our jobs overseas and try to whittle away the safety net?

I suppose the answers to those questions will depend on whom you ask. But I get the feeling that people like Greenwald consider Wall Street investment firms and banks as criminal organizations by definition, rather than by circumstance. Or, to be more precise, there are many on the left who don’t believe in capitalism to begin with. They didn’t believe in it before the September 2008 crash, and they especially don’t believe in it now. And without getting into a defense of capitalism, I have to say that I’m not comfortable with a movement that has no more coherent message than ‘capitalism sucks.’ I don’t even like the name. You’ll occupy Wall Street until _____ happens?

Shorter: “Yes, things are fucked up, and neither party can be expected to change things. But these kids probably don’t even believe in capitalism, fucking COMMIES.”

October 2: “Abandoned, the President Needs to Pivot”:

Meanwhile, as the president tries to arouse the left in support of a modest, reasonable Jobs Bill, the left’s heart has left the building and is now focused on protests against corporate greed and mismanagement. …

This is a recipe for the failure of the Obama presidency and the emergence of a conservative revolution in this country unlike anything we’ve ever seen…

Yet, the eruption of protest on the left can help the president if he recognizes the opportunity. Unlike what Steven D has recommended, I do not think the administration should align itself with the protestors. What they should do is what FDR did with Huey Long. While the protesters call for Wall Street to “Share the Wealth” the president should tack to the left but maintain himself as the safer alternative. “If you don’t give me a win on this jobs bill, these protests will continue to grow and the pitchforks will really come out.” I don’t know how many of the protesters would agree with my advice, but I do think that at least part of what they’re trying to do is to change the political consensus in this country and yank the discourse out of the death-hold it seems to have become locked in…

The administration has to look at this as an opportunity, because if it doesn’t adapt to take advantage of it, his effort on jobs will die a pathetic death, and his presidency will likely follow.

Shorter: “Holy shit, these people are serious and actually have a point! If the administration can’t figure out who to use this to their advantage, they are FUCKED for 2012.”

To me, it’s like that scene in the old 1980s movie, “War Games”, where the nuclear weapons are about to be launched and the heroes are sitting around this computer muttering “learn, damn you.”

Philly

I really need to start carrying around a camera.

This past Thursday I had to drop off my car for repairs. My mechanic (the only place I trust in this city, Schummer’s Super Sunoco) is located in the Mayfair neighborhood of northeast Philly, a good 30 minute drive from my place. There’s a bus that goes connects to the El, but I decided to take my bike and ride home. I’m glad I did.

I saw an interracial homeless couple walking down the street pushing a cart full of shit up Frankford Ave. They were arguing loudly about something and wearing matching American flag bandanas.

As I headed south under the El through Kensington, the now-decrepit manufacturing heart of the city, I watched a bus blatantly run a red light, as two angry junkies across the street looked like they were about to duke it out over god-knows-what.

I was in the shadow of Philly’s magnificent industrial past, zipping past empty buildings — a shuttered movie theatre that looked like it had been built in the 1920s, an old Fraternal Order of Indians lodge(i think that’s the name), the Northeast chapter of A.A. (it said so on a plaque on the building, which kind of obviates the whole “anonymous” concept), and more.

I reallyy need to get a camera….

Someday I’ll Get Paid for This

Well, the peppers are pickled, the records and books and games are put away, and the stereo’s been stored too. I’ve got a few bikes to move down to the basement (although I might just sell the little Raleigh that Sam’s outgrown). After that, I’m headed out to use the flipcam that woodshop loaned me, so I can start learning how to edit video. there’s only so much I can do in the living room by myself, but after this weekend, I should be ready to start scraping and priming. Next week, I should be able to repaint the dining room and get the baseboards primed in both rooms.

Big Days

I’ve been going nutso trying to get my house finished up. Over the summer, as I think I mentioned, we repaired the porch roof frame, re-roofed, and painted the entire exterior. Now we have moved to the floors. (Sorry, no pictures for now, as I don’t have a digital camera).

I have exposed yellow pine sub-flooring, 3? planks, but they are not in the best shape. When i bought the place, the floors had this ugly orange finish that was old and crumbling, so I scraped where I could and then hit it with a layer of grey floor paint. Now, almost 10 years later, that paint is in bad shape too.

My original plan had been to do plywood floors, but C and I were both concerned that it might not appeal to a buyer. So instead, I settled on hardwood floors — but as the search went on I realized that the stuff I liked was out of my price range, and the stuff I could afford was ugly or poor quality. So then we reconsidered plywood: perhapsplanks like this or this; or maybe tiles.

But when my contractor and I discussed, she abruptly said, “hey let me show you something.” She got down on the floor with a scraper and sander, and in a few seconds the a spot of raw pine wood was peeking through the paint. She popped open the can of denatured alcohol I had used to strip paint off the baseboards and brushed a coating onto the pine, which turned a beautiful,glossy butterscotch.

“I’ve refinished worse floors than these, dude,” she said looking up at me. “Heck, I can replace the one or two boards that need replacing, it’s not like yellow pine’s in short supply.”

“Yeah, but the mess of refinishing,” I began but she reminded me “You’re gonna have to sand if you do plywood. And i can have these floors done in a couple of days once the room is cleared.”

So now we’re back to re-finishing, which will be completed in October (contractor leaves on vacation Tuesday).

So I’ve been working, largely by myself, to prep the rooms for refinishing. The dining room is largely done in terms of being emptied, and now it’s on to the living room. I have a few unrelated tasks to take care of first –harvesting the year-end basil for pesto and returning my friend’s food processor, harvesting another jars worth of hot peppers for pickling– and then I’ll be emptying and storing a bookshelf, sorting through my son’s toys and storing that away, moving more furniture into the storage room, and perhaps even breaking down the stereo. I doubt I’ll get this all accomplished today, since I stayed out late last night and woke up just before 11:00. But that’s the plan, Stan.

Allyson Schwartz Should Shut Her Piehole about Wiener’s Wiener

Oh look, here’s pennsylvania’s favorite family-destroying scold, Allyson Schwartz, calling for Anthony Wiener do step down. Someone tell this loudmouthed sack of shit to shut her piehole.

Let’s get some shit straight, shall we? Anthony Wiener’s penis pictures don’t hurt me. They don’t damage my relationship with my fiancee. They don’t take money out of my pocket. They don’t bankrupt my city and schools. They don’t send my friends and neighbors off to die. Anthony Wiener and his wiener have never hurt me. EVER.

Allyson Schwartz on the other hand?

Allyson Schwartz voted for the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005, which allowed credit card companies to charge any interest rates they like, while making it much more difficult (if not totally impossible) for consumers to get bankruptcy protection from those debts, even if they’re incurred by medical expenses or other catastrophes. My rates, probably like yours, went up to 25% or more. So right there, Allyson Schwartz has hurt me much more than Anthony Winer’s dick.

Oh, but it gets better. As a direct result of the Bankruptcy Bill, the mortgage industry took a HUGE self-admitted hit, and the banks admitted it:

Washington Mutual Inc. got what it wanted in 2005: A revised bankruptcy code that no longer lets people walk away from credit card bills.

The largest U.S. savings and loan didn’t count on a housing recession. The new bankruptcy laws are helping drive foreclosures to a record as homeowners default on mortgages and struggle to pay credit card debts that might have been wiped out under the old code, said Jay Westbrook, a professor of business law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin and a former adviser to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Westbrook said. “They wanted to make sure that people kept paying their credit cards, and what they’re getting is more foreclosures.”

Washington Mutual no longer exists. Wachovia was absorbed by Wells Fargo. Anthony Weiner’s penis had nothing to do with the mortgage collapse that destroyed banks, homeowners, and retirement savings. Allyson Schwartz, on the other hand, had a LOT to do with that. And here she is, strutting around moralizing: what kind of morals do you have when your votes destroy entire sectors of the economy, and you don’t voluntarily resign?

On the other hand, when it comes to sending young kids off to war to die for no reason, Anthony and Allyson are both wieners, idiotically sending our kids to die in Iraq for Dick Cheney’s fever dreams. However, Wiener’s publicly regretted his vote: Allyson voted several times to keep our kids dying for no good reason. Her war, in which she has no personal stake to the best of my knowledge, no kids overseas in the desert, has drained our national treasury, causing deficits and enormous pain for our people. And that says nothing of all the grieving families she’s left in her wake.

My opinion is that Allyson Schwartz should, if she’s going to open her piehole at all, stuff it full of a bag of dicks.

Update: A solid majority of Weiner’s constituents think he should stay. Maybe Senator Lieberman Allyson Schwartz should stick to sniffing her own panties.