Dan U-A's blog

ALERT: Lawyers, Law Students and Paralegals: Get Off Your Butts and Get Involved. Now.

This note is from YPPer Adam B. But, let me paraphrase quickly. To all the lawyers, law students and paralegals, now is the time to get involved. Despite all the hype, the Obama campaign is short of its goal for the number of Philly Lawyer-ish people who are involved in protecting the vote. This is ridiculous... Adam's message is below.

We need you to join the Voter Protection Team.  

You don't need to know a thing about election law to do this.  Trust me.  What we need are folks who are smart enough to recognize a problem (and we've got checklists), address it on-site if possible using basic persuasion skills and the psychological power of business attire, and who will know when something needs to be referred back to HQ.

We are especially in need of people registered to vote in Philadelphia who are lawyers, law students, legal professionals and anyone who you think is probably smart enough to go to law school to serve as inside-the-polling-place monitors for the campaign.  How in need?  Eric Holder visited my firm and others in Center City today to recruit people for the task.  

The campaign is especially concerned about Philadelphia because it is the largest city in a swing state, and is likely to be central to any GOP efforts at voter intimidation and legal challenges on Election Day.  Just weeks ago, fliers were anonymously placed under car windshield wipers in minority sections of the city, falsely insisting that "on the day of the election there will be undercover officers to execute warrants" based on those who come out to vote and that anyone who had "outstanding warrants or traffic offenses" had better clear things up, since voting was the one time they had to use their real identities.  The flier also asserted that at polling places, police cars equipped with "plate identification computers" would boot any scofflaw cards.  

During our 2003 Mayor's race, men with clipboards driving black vans bearing official-looking insignias were reportedly dispatched to African American neighborhoods to ask minority voters for their identification cards. Tom Lindenfeld, who ran a counter-intimidation campaign for Democratic candidate John Street, said there were 300 cars with the decals resembling such federal agencies as the DEA and ATF and that the men were asking prospective voters for identification. In a post-election poll of 1000 African-American voters, seven percent said they had encountered such efforts.

We have no idea what they have planned for Election 2008.  We need to ensure that all legal voters can exercise their right to vote in an atmosphere free of free of coercion and intimidation, and to be able to identify problems as soon as they occur.  Lawyers and other law-talking folks are our eyes and ears, and our first responders to any crisis.

If you are not registered to vote in Philadelphia but are otherwise in the area, we can still use your help as an observer outside the polling places.  We are not in the business of challenging Republican voters or engaging in confrontational behavior; we want all legal voters to be able to vote.  Period.

Please reach out to anyone in Philadelphia who can serve on Election Day, or even a half-day, and urge them to email voterprotection [at] paforchange [dot] com to sign up and visit http://www.pavoterprotection.com to learn more.

Forget Barack Obama

...'cause right now, I care much more about the rebirth of Ryan Howard's opposite field power.

Two things that have been true my entire life: our sports teams suck, and our politicians don't win.

Are you telling me that in one week...

Get ready for a crazy 8 days.

Philly Guys...

The Wasssssssuuuuuuuuuuupp guys from the Budweiser ads are back... The guys, who are from Philly, used to get on my last nerve. But this is pretty damn awesome:


The PA GOP Says That if we Elect Barack Obama, my Family and I will be Exterminated

This is seriously unbelievable:

A new e-mail making the rounds among Jewish voters in Pennsylvania this week falsely alleged that Mr. Obama “taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud,’’ and equated a vote for Senator Barack Obama with the “tragic mistake” of their Jewish ancestors, who “ignored the warning signs in the 1930’s and 1940’s.”

At first blush, it was typical of the sorts of e-mails floating around with false, unsubstantiated and incendiary claims this year.

But where most of the attack e-mails against Mr. Obama have been mostly either anonymous or from people outside of mainstream politics, this one had an unusually official provenance: It was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s “Victory 2008” committee.

That is right, ladies and gentleman. The state GOP has implied that voting for Barack Obama means that we are going to be exterminated. Seriously. It is such a bizarrely dumb email, that I almost feel sorry for the people who wrote it. I mean, you have to be bizarrely out of touch, and altogether nuts to do something like that, right? It is like one of those email forwards that only your crazy uncle, stricken with dementia, would possibly think about sending around.

Right? I mean, you have to be a total nut to wri...

Oh boy:

And it was signed by several prominent McCain supporters in the state: Mitchell L. Morgan, a top fund-raiser; Hon. Sandra Schultz Newman, a member of Mr. McCain’s national task-force monitoring Election Day voting, and I. Michael Coslov, a steel industry executive.


In a brief interview earlier Friday, Judge Newman — a former state supreme court justice now in private practice –- said she had helped write the letter. Then she quickly passed the phone to Mr. Rudnick. He said the e-mail was sent to 75,000 voters in Pennsylvania and asked that other questions be e-mailed to him.

Ohhhhhh boy.

This is so bizarrely stupid that I cannot even be angry at them. They are pitiful, and are grasping at the stupidest straws possible... But, Justice Newman? Someone who seems to be highly thought of in Philly? A former member of our Supreme Court?

Ohhhhhh boy.

RIP Paul Wellstone

Six years ago today, Paul Wellstone, the liberal Senator from Minnesota, died as he was campaigning for re-election in Minnesota.

As I said last year, Paul Wellstone, my personal hero, was a rabble-rousing unabashedly liberal Senator from Minnesota. At a time when liberal was a dirty word, Wellstone wore the badge proudly. At a time when it was inconvenient to talk about the have and have nots, and when a Democratic President was proposing repulsive acts like the Bankruptcy Bill, Wellstone did everything he could to put his five foot, five inch body in the way. If he had been around today... All of those crazy views of his- that the Iraq War was going to be a disaster, that we needed universal health care, that we needed to support progressive labor unions- have become firmly mainstream.

Paul didn't change my views of the world, or magically turn me into a liberal. It was pretty hard to grow up in the U-A household and not develop an outsized notion of fairness and justice and right and wrong. But Paul gave me hope that someone so concerned with the betterment of his fellow citizens could be elected to the United States Senate and stand up for what was right, even if that meant being on the wrong end of a 99-1 vote. To a liberal teenager growing up in a world where Newt Gingrich was trying to destroy America (and aiming to put my own dad and his colleagues out of work), Wellstone was the voice who proudly represented me, even if he died a few days before I would have voted for him for the first time.

(In fact, the same reason that I hold the memory of Wellstone so highly is the same reason why, despite some things that really piss me off, I still have so much affection for Ed Rendell. If being proudly liberal was one huge part of my identity, so was being from Philly. And Big Ed got a megaphone and let everyone know, every day for 8 years, that being from Philly was cool, too.)

As I watch videos of Wellstone, it still shocks me just how good he was, and how much the country has moved towards him in the past six years. The destruction wrought by George Bush, the growth of a real progressive politics, and the emergence of a big-eared kid from Hawaii have all profoundly changed the political landscape of our Country. And if Wellstone were alive, he would be right in the center of it all.

Election Day Ballot Lawsuit Filed

Yesterday, the Public Interest Law Center (PILCOP), the NAACP, Voter Action and others filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to make a basic demand for election day: If a division in the City or State has at least half of its machines out of order (for many divisions, that would realistically be one machine), then voters in that division must be allowed to vote on emergency paper ballots, so that they will not be disenfranchised.

This all is a very real concern. Last election, there were documented stories of broken machines and long lines leading to people giving up, and even campaign workers telling them to go home. And that was not a unique occurrence to the primary. In fact, after studying the failure rate of our voting machines, the plaintiffs come to a scary conclusion:

As Dr. Lopresti’s analysis confirms, assuming a conservative breakdown rate of 10%, there is an 18% probability that a precinct with two machines will be operating at 50% of its capacity by the end of Election Day. Assuming a 20% breakdown rate, there is a 32% probability that a precinct with two machines will be operating at 50% of its capacity by the end of Election Day.

When you combine that level of failure, along with the outpouring of turnout that we all know we will see, there is the potential for chaos on election day, and for a lot of people being disenfranchised. That is why the lawsuit is making the basic demand: that paper ballots be available if the machines fail.

One thing that is amusing in the lawsuit is that some of the evidence for why need an injunction against the city are the arrogant words of Fred Voight- the former head of the Committee for Seventy, who now works for the City Commissioners. Voight, in a video shown here, was asked about machine failures causing long lines, and gave us these charming words:

Are there lines? Of course there are. Tough. That’s the way it works.” “People are always going to have to wait in line. I mean, get a life.” When asked if an emergency paper ballot could be used in Philadelphia to alleviate long lines and overstressed polls, Voight stated: “Forget a long line. A long line is not justification for anything except waiting.”

When I saw that this lawsuit was filed, the first thing I did was to do a ‘find’ and see if those words were going to be used against him. Lo and behold….

Look, this is a very basic request in any election. But in one such as this, where we know turnout will be sky high, this is a must, and is so basic. Print the paper ballots, and make sure that all Pennsylvanians have the right to vote. And in a sane world, the Philadelphia City Commissioners should simply volunteer to do this here.

Who is this guy?

More David Cohen:

"Philadelphia remains a tale of two cities, one populated by a majority upwardly mobile white middle- and upper-class, and the other populated by persons of color still waiting for the opportunity to participate in all that Philadelphia and this nation has to offer," Cohen said.

Sure, what he said is factually true, but, that is a statement that you are more likely to read on YPP, not something from the new head of the Chamber of Commerce.

Cohen has a ridiculous amount of power, given the last 20 years or so in the City. This could be huge. In fact, he sounds more like he is running for Mayor or Governor than anything else.

Either way, here is to hoping that Ray keeps writing his speeches, and that the follow through is as dramatic as the shift in rhetoric.

Some Commie Takes Over the Chamber of Commerce

Yesterday it was announced that Stan Shapiro had taken over the leadership of the Philly Chamber of Commerce:

The chamber's singular - and highly public - goal in recent years has been to browbeat City Hall into sticking with a schedule of cuts in business taxes.

But Cohen is pledging a new direction for his turn at the chairman post. Philadelphia is facing its most severe financial crisis since the early Rendell years. Mayor Nutter has said the five-year city deficit could reach $850 million.

Continued tax cuts for businesses probably shouldn't even be asked for, Cohen said.

He will call instead for the chamber to lobby Harrisburg legislators to boost state taxpayer funding for public education, which, Cohen said, eventually will improve the region's economic competitiveness.


"Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is absolutely essential for our businesses," Cohen said of boosting education funding. The chamber "cannot pursue an exclusively business agenda. We have to have a broader view of the vitality of the region and work in partnership with the government."

OK, it isn't Stan, it is David Cohen, Ed Rendell's former Chief of Staff (and effectively co-Mayor), current executive at Comcast, and all around powerful dude. And Cohen has told them that they shouldn't ask for more tax cuts, 'cause they need to focus on funding education? If David Cohen can make this happen, I will hereby accept the always lovable Comcast and its crappy customer service, high prices, and monopoly on our sports.

The Chamber of Commerce in Philly has done some good things- like fund IssuesPA. And, despite their constant push for tax cuts and donating money to people at questionable times, they are in no way as retrograde as their national Chamber of Commerce counterparts. (The national Chamber is run by a corrupt guy, and is doing things like spending a couple hundred thousand dollars against a soon to be progressive Congresswoman.)

Anyway, this will be interesting to follow. It could be nothing. Or it could be a really, really big deal.

Elections Matter

As Philly struggles with looming financial doom, our three newest Councilmembers are showing that elections matter:

Today, Council members Bill Green, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and Curtis Jones, all freshmen, released 15 legitimate, thoughtful, progressive-oriented ways to save the city money in light of these hard economic times. (Mayor Nutter has said that "everything is on the table" when it comes to needed cuts.)

The best thing about the 15 ideas is that they are sure to make entrenched bureaucrats sitting on fluffy patronage jobs a bit uncomfortable. For example, the council members suggest increasing car sharing (alleged savings $2.72 million annually), cutting all but necessary travel (alleged savings $100,000 annually), banning swag and custom printing (alleged savings $100,000 annually), and hiring more auditors (alleged savings nearly $3 million annually).

It's actually appalling that many of the suggestions aren't already in use. One, for example, is switching to the electronic transfer of funds (alleged savings $2 million annually) from the state to the city. The city still accepts paper checks, which get lost, thereby losing interest! You've got to be kidding.

Another suggestion is the electronic sending of all reports and memos. Bill Green attached a letter that was mailed to his office -- which costs, of course, 42 cents -- from someone inside City Hall (alleged savings $25,000 annually).

The mail and the direct deposit stuff are really only-in-Philadelphia type moments. Of course, when your government complains about how hard it is to publish voting returns...

Anyway, it is cool to see the three new Council members continue their buddy-buddy ways with real solutions. I am not saying that our more tenured politicians cannot come up with good ideas, because I am sure they can. But there is little question that three sets of fresh eyes is doing us a lot of good.

The City Paper has more, including their whole list of ways to save.

Election Returns Still On Schedule for Election Night

Via the good folks at KYW (Mike Dunn, specifically), we get word that the city is still on schedule to have election results up on election night:

Philadelphia election officials are rushing to set up a new web site by November 4th that would give realtime access to election night returns to anyone who wants.

Until now, election night returns have been password-protected. City elections officials would give those passwords for free to the politically connected, and charge new organizations for access.

Mayor Nutter, prompted by activists at www.youngphillypolitics.com, ordered the results opened up to all.

Bob Lee of the city commissioner's office says a vendor is working furiously to have free web access to those tallies ready by November 4th:

"It's not something that a 12-year-old can do, it's not something that's easy. It's not something that can be done in eight hours, despite all the press reports. But they're making an attempt to do it."

Lee says the original password protected system will be up and running on November 4th regardless.

All I can say is, until I see the site is up and running, I will be a little bit skeptical. Especially with that quote on how tough it is...

Update- I updated with the original story from KYW. The best part is the 12 year old quote. We now have both Bob Lee and the City Solicitor on record disputing whether or not a 12 year old can figure out how to get it done.

Brian Tierney Uses the Inquirer to Spread Right-Wing Talking Points, and Settle Old Scores

Yesterday, the Inquirer endorsed Barack Obama. Not a shock, right? The endorsement was nice and well thought out. But then, there was something strange... The paper also published a 'dissenting opinion,' hid under anonymity. Seems pretty weird, and it is not something I have ever seen. But when you actually read it, the implications are pretty clear: Brian Tierney, the former communications guy for local Republicans, appears to be doing exactly what he said he would not do: using his newspaper to push his own agenda.

And why does Brian Tierney the dissenting opinion want McCain?

Perhaps, my friends, you have heard of Joe the Plumber?

There are other reasons Tierney the dissenter is for McCain too- and they are pretty standard. He was a POW, national security, he is a Mavericky Maverick who will get all Maverick-like when the times call for a Maverick of Maverickian proportions.

But then, Brian Tierney the dissenter had to mention why he was against Obama. And in doing so, he gave us the dumbest, stupidest recitation of right-wing talking points that you will find in a major newspaper. It could literally be pulled off of a far-right website:

Ask people to describe McCain and the first response often is, "He's honest." What you see is what you get. There are no mysterious associations to dance around. No 20-year attendance of a church whose pastor preached anti-American sermons. No serving on an education reform panel with a domestic terrorist. No financial support from a convicted felon. No ties to a group currently under investigation for possible voter-registration fraud.

Even for Tierney the dissenter, that is a stupid paragraph and shows that while he dutifully gets his right-wing talking points in the mail, he doesn't pay attention much beyond them. Lets take that felon line, for example. If Tierney the dissenter had watched as John McCain was interviewed by that hard hitting journalist David Letterman, he would have known that not only did McCain get financial support (including donations, a fundraiser, etc) from a convicted felon- the oh-so-wonderful G. Gordon Liddy- but that he was proud of it.

The whole thing seems like it is straight from an pitch man who got used to spouting off some unchallenged talking points on ABC's Inside Story. I wonder why?

And then to top it off, we get this:

And McCain didn't hire as a strategist David Axelrod, who helped lead Mayor John Street's race-baiting reelection campaign.

This is almost too bizarre to be true. For those that don't know, Brian Tierney did communications for Sam Katz on his Mayoral campaign. His counterpart in the Street campaign was David Axelrod. Tierney The dissenter is so small that he is using an op-ed to settle a score with the guy- David Axelrod- who beat him 5 years ago. And he is too cowardly to do it in the open.

Hell, the reporters from the Inquirer didn't even try to hide that it was Tierney who wrote the POS op-ed:

Editorial page editor Harold Jackson said that some newspapers, such as the USA Today, occasionally offered dissenting views on issues, but that he did not know of one being crafted for a presidential endorsement.

"I've been on three editorial boards, and I'm not aware of it being done," he said.

Editorial Board discussions usually remain private, Jackson said. He said that the goal was consensus, and that dissenting opinions were not necessarily expressed in board positions.

In this case, Jackson said, "we felt there are attributes about John McCain that members of the board wanted presented to the reader in a positive way."

All but one member of the board, which includes publisher Brian P. Tierney, took part in the endorsement discussions.

That got me to thinking... Didn't Brian Tierney promise that he wouldn't interfere with editorial decisions?

Tierney backed his bid with a brilliant PR blitz. The Inquirer's editorial staff viewed him as a Voldemort-like character. Over the years he had had some nasty battles with reporters on behalf of his clients.

What if he used the papers to advance his former clients' interests? Tierney shrewdly defused the issue by signing a pledge not to interfere with the editorial side. He charmed the paper's labor leaders by getting the local carpenters' union pension fund to join his investing group. He said he would revive the Inquirer by ramping up the marketing, not by laying people off.

It certainly would be good to clarify how Tierney went from not interfering with editorial decisions to taking up space for this.

Tierney's The dissenter's editorial was poorly researched, a regurgitation of right-wing talking points, and shockingly petty. Let's hope this is not a sign of what is generally going on inside the Inquirer editorial board.

Get Canvassed, Lit Dropped or Robocalled by McCain? Let us know.

Via Daily Kos, The Morning Call lets us know that McCain is aiming for South Philly and the Northeast:

Pennsylvania Republicans are targeting 17 wards in Northeast and South Philadelphia that are home to high concentrations of white, blue-collar voters and large immigrant communities in a bold effort to blunt Democrat Barack Obama's margin of victory in the city.

The unusually intense push will be on display this week, with GOP presidential candidate John McCain at a rally in Northeast Philadelphia on Tuesday and his wife, Cindy McCain, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the National Constitution Center in Center City Monday.

Behind the scenes, the party says it is spending $300,000 on behalf of McCain in Philadelphia on everything from targeted newspaper buys -- including ads in Latino, Korean and Vietnamese publications -- to doling out ''street money'' to foot soldiers to talk up the candidate and get voters to the polls on Election Day.

I am a little skeptical that there will actually be real targeting here. But, readers in the Northeast and South Philly, if you get robocalled, canvassed or lit dropped by McCain, let us know. Scan and email us the lit, record the call if you can, etc. Let us know what the McCain camp is doing, precisely.

Helen's Op-Ed in the Inquirer

Great Op-Ed in the Inquirer today, courtesy of Helen Gym:

There's something ironic about the use of the term casino culture to describe the recent Wall Street meltdowns. Everyone is lambasting our desire to gamble on high-risk deals with little public oversight.

Ironic because, virtually overnight, we're looking at a casino on Market East - the very heart of our city - and "casino culture" might be a fair characterization of how public officials are handling the decision to move Foxwoods from its planned waterfront location.

Legislation has been introduced to rezone Market East to a casino district even though there's no state gaming license for the site, no proposal, no impact studies, no cost assessments, and no design concepts. The waterfront communities had 16 months to review plans before the Planning Commission would even hear Foxwoods' proposal. For Market East, the Planning Commission will hold its first hearing Tuesday and the public has nothing to review.

Read the rest here.

Victories for Progressive Labor

Standing at Bread and Roses' Tribute to Change last night, I was reminded that we should make sure to highlight two important victories in the last couple of weeks by Philly and PA's progressive labor movement. They have each been mentioned on YPP before, but I think it is worthwhile to do so again...

First, and what jogged my memory, last night, Bread and Roses honored Thomas Robinson, a security guard for Allied Barton, for his work with Jobs with Justice and others to secure sick pay for his fellow guards.

The absurdity of refusing to give security guards sick days smacks me in the face every day, when I walk into a law school where tuition and fees alone cost $44,000, guarded by people paid too little, with inhumane work contracts. Organizing workers at big institutions who are working for a faceless third party is especially challenging, but Jobs with Justice (led locally by sometimes YPP poster Fabricio Rodriquez), and its POWR campaign are doing it.

Second, thanks to a years long struggle, Pennsylvania nurses won a victory for themselves, their patients and progressive labor, when the Senate last week passed a bill that bans mandatory overtime:

The bill, which took seven years to pass, ensures that nurses and other caregivers will not be forced to work double shifts - a common practice at hospitals and other facilities, and one that can be dangerous for nurses and patients alike.

According to a 2004 study by University of Pennsylvania researcher Ann Rogers, the risk of medical error was as much as three times higher when a nurse worked a shift of 12 1/2 hours or longer.

"Some of these nurses are working for 18, 24 hours without a break," state Sen. Christine Tartaglione said. "And, in a lot of cases, they're the last line of defense for a patient. If they're tired, if they're not on top of their games, it could be a life-or-death situation."

Kati Sipp, who told us last week that this went down, deserves much credit for this. As with pretty much all progressive labor struggles, a win is not just a win for a discrete set of workers.

Both are terrific developments, and a testament to persistence and hard work.

Shameful Act Passes

Unsurprisingly, and with little sense of shame, the State Senate and the Governor joined the State House, and passed a bill that puts even more of their constituents at risk from predators, as they legalized Wall Street's latest scam, for-profit credit counseling. (The last time I talked about this bill, I was greeted with a finger-jabbing tirade from a State Rep who called me a demagogue, and then started threatening me.)

The refrain from Dwight Evans is familiar:

Evans said for-profit companies have found ways to reach clients for years despite a ban on their operation. He said his bill will for the first time impose licensing requirements and give the state Department of Banking the authority to regulate the industry.

"In a Wild West, unregulated environment, anything can happen," Evans said in an interview. "Now both nonprofits and for-profits will have to meet standards, and consumers will know they're dealing with a regulated industry."

Yes, if there is anything that tells you that an industry will closely follow your law, it is the fact that an industry ignores your law.

I think I am going to start a business called Dan's Pickpocket. I will do it for a couple years, spread some lobbying dough and muscle around in Harrisburg, and then demand my industry be legitimized. Hell, maybe my pickpocketing futures could get rated, securitized and sold? Then we would be talking!

(And thank you for the parting gift to your legacy, Senator Fumo!)

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