Will my local newspaper become a political tool?

Former Philadelphia Mayor, Pennsylvania Governor, and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Ed Rendell has put together a group to buy the local newspapers.  This article in today’s New York Times gives me reason to worry.

The situation in Philadelphia speaks to the vulnerability of regional newspapers. Long operated as functional monopolies with attractive margins,local papers have undergone a nosedive in earnings and advertising revenue. Having ceased to be sure-fire financial investments,these newspapers,the reporters fear,could still be attractive as a tool to advance new owners’ political and business interests.

And then, of course, Buzz Bissinger puts it in perspective in a guest op-ed, also for The Times:

These men want the papers because they crave power and will always crave power. They like to win and they have always liked to win. They can erect the biggest firewall they want between themselves and the papers. It won’t matter. As the owners of The Inquirer and The Daily News and the Web site Philly.com,they will have successfully toppled the last enemy. The newspapers will become their personal Gutenberg press,which effectively means that the one city in the country that needs a newspaper the most will not have one.

Street Justice – My initial thought on this Bill Conlin madness.

Firstly, here’s the link to the Philadelphia Inquirer story. A veteran sports journalist has been accused of committing horrifying acts of child molestation during the 1970’s. He himself is now well into his 70’s.

I have no feeling about Bill Conlin the man. I’ve never met him and only know him from his columns and tv/radio appearances.

What you see in the article is that the Sandusky/Penn State media frenzy has caused the alleged Conlin victims to want to come forward and tell their story. They say they can no longer keep silent.

And there is no question that the story they tell is nauseating and describes a man who is every bit the monster that Sandusky is made out to be. The key similarity is the sickening detail of descriptions. We all know a child molester is evil, but we are rarely taken into a moment by moment narration of the attacks. That narration was absent, as I recall, from stories about abuses committed by Catholic priests.

The most important distinction between the Sandusky accusations and those being made public about Conlin is that the latter cannot be prosecuted. The events described are too remote in time. Thus, even if every sickening story in today’s article is true, Conlin does not face any legal problems as a result.

And yet, he has retained attorney George Bochetto to represent him. Perhaps he intends to pursue a defamation claim against his accusers. The only problem with that is he has the burden of proof and can’t prevail on such a claim if what is being said is true. The newspaper, by the way, is immune from any suit because of its journalism privilege. Interestingly, that newspaper is owned by the same parent company that employed Conlin. Until he resigned this morning.

So what’s going on here? The answer, I believe, is punishment, retribution. These accusers believe that this man ruined their lives and now they are going to ruin his. He is a widower in his late 70’s and his life has just been ruined. He may deserve that punishment, I don’t know. But I am struck how this justice drama is so public and completely outside the rule of law. The courts and our system of government, so dear in our hearts, play no role whatsoever.

Want to be a Judge in Philadelphia Courts? Get in line to buy some votes!

There are those who are jaded who will say that, “Of course, this thing happens all the time.”  And there are those who will say that Philadelphia and corruption go together like a bagel and cream cheese, but the practiced described herein is not illegal.  And now that I see some of my peers (Emily’s peers, actually) running for Judge, well, I just don’t know.  But, in the meantime, here’s some facts for you from today’s Inquirer:

“It’s ‘the process,’ ” said Ladov, among 45 candidates for 10 spots on Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court. The 10-year term comes with a $164,602 salary.

Eleven candidates are vying for one slot on Municipal Court, a job that lasts six years and pays $160,793.

“Either you fold your arms across your chest and say you don’t like the process and, therefore, ‘I am not going to be involved and not going to serve the people,’ ” Ladov said, “or you say, ‘This is the process. If I get elected, I can do good, and I can make a meaningful contribution.’ “

She chose the latter, and she is paying thousands of dollars to hire two “consultants,” including still-influential former U.S. Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers, jailed in 1981 in the Abscam scandal, and a 30-year ward leader, John Sabatina, who works to persuade other ward leaders to back his judicial candidates.

“I’m working 24 hours a day trying to make sure these people get covered all over, from wards to churches to wherever there can be an asset to their candidacy,” said Sabatina, who also is helping three other would-be judges this year. For his work, they pay him $20,000 to $35,000 apiece.

We ran the bridge!

This picture comes from the amazing gallery over at the Courier Post online – check it out! This was a 10K to benefit the Larc School. It took us over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge into Philly and back, then through the streets of Camden, past Salvatore J. Avena’s law office, over by the Battleship New Jersey, and finished in the left field at Campbell’s Field. Em and I worked a nice time (for us, anyway), and it was a beautiful day and a great workout.

Go to the Wilma Theater. See ‘Becky Shaw’. Laugh.

It’s really that simple.  And, delightfully, it also is not.

On Wednesday night, we were fortunate enough to get tickets to the opening night of Becky Shaw at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.  The comedy has an extremely sharp wit and the audience rewarded the performers with numerous outbursts of laughter.

But there are a few points that are worth noting, a few items that elevate this over an episode of Friends or Seinfeld.

  • The play runs for ten to fifteen minutes without any mention of the title character.  That was the perfect set-up because Becky is all about absence.  She is fleeting.  Brooke Bloom, with the help of pitch-perfect hair, makeup, lighting and costume, presents a gauzy Becky Shaw who is like tissue paper or a threadbare fringe.  It is a hard role, intentionally difficult to pin down, and we were treated to a first-rate rendering.
  • The play has numerou floating points and, for the most part, avoids definitive statements and rigid narrative.  For example, there are events in the past (and even current events that occur offstage) about which the audience never learns the truth.  This created a soft space where the emotions of these characters floated out to the audience.  I could not help but see beyond the terrific wise-cracks and enjoy the emotional drama that unfolded before my eyes and ears.

So, we give special thanks to Anne for getting us in on the first night.  If you are around, I urge you to check in at the Wilma.  I am sure you will not be disappointed.  Becky Shaw runs through February 7, 2010.

Afternoon links, retweets and goodies

Start with this beautiful tourist video of our fair city from 1977, courtesy Philebrity:

@AnswerDave is one of the great sports humorists I follow on Twitter.  He and the folks at Big League Stew have found a great animated feature of Doc Ellis’ 1970 no-hitter for the Pirates, supposedly while he was tripping on acid.  There is an online petition urging MLB to find and air a video of the game.  It’s a veritable certainty that the poswers-that-be will not want to glorify Ellis’ claimed drug use, but it is a charming part of Baseball lore.  Here’s the animated feature, which should clearly win an Oscar of some kind:

In the world of F1, Jenson Button will be driving for McLaren next year.  This will be the first time two British champions will be on a British team since Graham Hill and Jim Clark back in 1968 – RULE BRITANNIA!

Here’s two links to Synthtopia that made me smile.

  1. First one is a live Berlin School jam with Moog modulars.  The set-up may not be as big as Tangerine Dream or Kieth Emerson, but it’s still pretty cool how people can pull this off, even in the age of computer synths and sequences.
  2. The second is a beautiful glimpse of Vangelis current virtual orchestra set-up, including great footage of the genius at work.

Here’s an AP article, via The American Blues Blog, that provides information about the birthplace of Robert Johnson.

Last week io9.com put up a bunch of artwork by Shusei Nagaoka, who created artwork in the 70’s for Deep Purple, ELO and Star Trek.


Finally, there’s a whole mess of great music available for immediate download over at ParisDJs.  What are you waiting for?

ROTOR at Johnny Brenda’s – heavy instrumental rock on a Sunday night


Heavy instrumental rock from Germany, and the guys were about as nice as could be.  Thanks to Jake for coming down from New York and getting me off my butt on a Sunday night.  I was very happy not to have watched the Eagles “game”.

Serpent Throne played before Rotor and sowed some very nice local riffs, again instrumental rock with the added fun of doubled guitar lines.  I couldn’t make it for Stinking Lizaveta, but have no doubt that they tore the place apart, as ever.

I also need to state, for the record, that Johnny Brenda’s is the best place in town to see live music.

A Police Shooting Case

I am exhausted. I guess I left the settlement memo for the last minute, thinking that, in cases like this, settlement conferences, like the one scheduled for next week, are a total waste of time. These cases are HARD, and the city invariably does not want to settle, especially considering that Philadelphia has no money.

Here’s the deal. A mother and her fifteen-year-old son are at home. The son is a troubled guy who has been away for a few months at a residential facility for kids who are having a tough time with conventional public schooling. Anyway, the kid is giving mom a hard time and she calls the cops.

Two officers arrive and, to make a long story short, the kid is at the top of the stairs with a clothes iron. A moment later, one shot is fired and the kid is fatally wounded in the chest. He eventually dies in front of his mom, right there in the living room.

So, the only question in my civil case (this is not a criminal matter) is whether the shooter believed there was an imminent threat to his life. The cops get huge leeway in this situation, and they should. Would you want their job?

So, I figured this case is just going to trial and that’s that. Why should I worry about the settlement conference? But the more time I spent reading depositions and looking at evidence, the more I thought we might get somewhere with this one. I mean, an iron? Come on!

I ended up working late and putting together something a bit more complicated and detailed than I had originally planned. Who knows? Maybe we can find some justice out there yet.

PA State budget compromise is going to put a new strain on the arts

Here is Mr. Pf’s recent letter:

Do you take blog request? ‘rantz request? Today I’m worked up about
our balanced budget and thought I should write mpomy, the
Blogerantzer, to ask what he thinks about the PA strategy of
balancing the city budget with new taxes on the arts.

Personally, I think it’s nice the Arts are being recognized as a
source of revenue. And naturally I respect that we won’t be burdening
the common man who requires affordable entertainment from the Phillies
(am I spelling that right? spellcheck says no) and the Eagles and
Hollywood. But if we tax the performing arts, won’t we make it harder
for the arts to generate the tax revenue they’re supposed to generate?
Well, I suppose it’s only the cultural elite who actually pay full
price for the tickets anyhow — and if you’re a member of the elite you
might as well be asking to be slapped with a sin tax. But I just can’t
help thinking that the other group who ought to care about the attax
on the arts — the kids of the Philadelphia School District, since they
are a non-elite beneficiary of the educational programming by a lot of
local arts institutions. Hmm, maybe there’s logic that says they
deserve a sin tax, too, for being low-income city residents getting
mixed up with the activities of the elite?

Anyhow, I’m just trying to be a gadfly to get you to blog about this,
if you’ve got it in you.

Pf, as usual, has hit on something here.  There are two things happening around these parts lately.  The one I’ve been flipping out about has to do with how the City of Philadelphia is going to pay its bills.  That has been worked out, sorta.

The other thing, that I haven’t been sounding off so much about, is that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has failed (up until this weekend) to come up with a deal for the state budget.  That situation is also reaching some kind of resolution, but, as with the city, all is not well.  Mr. Pf notes that a large portion of the burden required to balance the state budget will be placed on the arts.  That’s not good.  the stifling affect will ripple trough our community and we will reap a bitter harvest in the not-too-distant future.  Follow this link to the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance to see what you can do.  Harrisburg needs to hear from all of us.

For a better explanation, I recommend this blog post from Ben Waxman of ‘It’s Our Money’.  If you are not outraged yet, you will be after reading about what’s NOT being taxed.

But there may be some cause for optimism.  Pf points out that the local sports teams are enjoying an exemption under this recent state budget deal.  The Inky is reporting that the one group I love to single out for hate and vitriol (my apologies to Mrs. Pf) is actually ready to step up and help with the bail out – Good for you, Eagles fans!