jennifer's blog

Four seriously-hurt Haitian patients taken to Philadelphia for treatment

Partners in Health reported that they arranged transport of four seriously-hurt Haitian patients for medical treatment in Philadelphia. These are possibly the first Haitian people approved to enter the U.S.

we had a late day opportunity to evacuate 4 patients to the US. these may be the first haitian nationals allowed to leave for the US. but martinique has taken over 200. the DR has taken many many more. so we circulated in PAP looking for urgent cases. found hundreds but picked up the 4 to get out, hopefully to philadelphia. open fractures, gangrene, one 4 year old boy with a leg broken in 3 places, a minor head wound, and now 4 days of sleeping outside with IV fluid and maybe some pain meds. probably none.

The four arrived in Philadelphia Sunday and had surgery.

Partners in Health also has posted this letter from a Philadelphia couple, Dede and Roosevelt Maitre. They share their personal story of meeting in Haiti and settling in Philadelphia. And urge:

This next stage of relief is crucial to preventing continued devastation to the ailing families in Haiti that were not nearly as fortunate as ours.

We are very familiar with Partners in Health and the profound work they do throughout the world. In 2003, we got the rare chance to visit their facility in Cange, Haiti and meet Dr. Paul Farmer. We remain in complete awe of the efficacy of their work and the sincerity of their purpose. The PIH medical team has years of experience in Haiti and have worked tirelessly to raise the bar for health care throughout the country. And from where we see it, that means they are better positioned to manage the gravity of the current crisis from each important angle.

All human beings need hope...and we cannot bring ourselves to imagine a world without hope. Our individual contributions, our small acts of compassion, believe it or not, are such a huge part of empowering individuals and their families to persevere. Please consider helping Haiti in any way you possibly can.

Wake Up Yoga (in Fairmount, South and West Phila), where Dede is a teacher-trainee, is going to be holding a series of fundraisers during Valentine's weekend for Partners in Health, with benefit yoga classes and raffles for yoga and healing items. Keep an eye out for details, and email Corina if you have anything, goods or services, you want to donate to the effort.

I focused on Partners in Health here because of the Philadelphia links and because they are an organization with a long history of doing public health work in Haiti that is sensitive to the cultural issues embedded in doing such work in the developing world.

(It's easy to just be stricken by the immense tragedy and suffering and reach for the most obvious way to contribute. But it is critical to examine the political dimensions of this natural disaster so as to not unwittingly further oppress a country that has been historically subject to devastating economic and anti-democratic intervention from the developed world (just scratching the surface...). After the immediate medical needs are staunched, I'd urge us all to continue to think about how we can responsibly support the rebuilding of Haiti, by directly supporting community groups and pushing for progressive U.S. Haiti policy.)

Cheers to Helen

After a year of fierce advocacy, against strong opposition, Helen Gym's been recognized by Asian-Pacific Americans for Progress as their 'unsung hero for 2009'.

Helen has been a longtime activist in Philadelphia and has been a visible and vocal Asian voice on a number of progressive issues. She has been a leader in public education struggles (includes leading the fight to stop privatization in the Philly public schools, fighting for arts and music and more teachers in the public schools, helping found an education newspaper – the Public School Notebook – as well as a charter school), the immigration movement (including a national campaign to successfully seek justice for a Chinese businesswoman who miscarried twins during a violent deportation attempt and to highlight inhumane medical practices by ICE), and healthy communities (stopping a casino and stadium and building a school instead). More recently, she has taken up blogging at a local site where she takes on city politics, race and education issues as well as other significant ideas.

This year's work included the casino fight, battles over school district funding of BRT patronage positions, and now the ongoing and ugly process of forcing recognition of safety and cultural issues at South Philadelphia High School. I would say I wonder how she can do it all, but I know: she is up all night, sending thoughtful emails and blog posts out at 4 am.

We are all glad you use YPP as a tool in your work! Congratulations, Helen.

Hearings, and not hearing

The state Human Relations Commission has voted to investigate whether there was actionable discrimination involved in the situation at South Philadelphia High, and held a preliminary meeting yesterday. Reports from the meeting (including here) show the district superintendent still not willing to hear what some communities are saying about their experiences at the school.

Instead Ackerman seems to be actively trying to create narratives about what the problems are and aren't, and which are the "real faces" of the school:

Ackerman had booked a bus and brought along a number of South Philadelphia High "student ambassadors" - predominantly African American students not involved in the Dec. 3 fights - to talk about their efforts to promote harmony at the school.

Absent were any Asian students who had been victims of the attacks or who had boycotted the school last month.

"We don't know" why Ackerman enlisted no Asian students who were involved in the strife or its aftermath, Glassman said.

Her spokesperson explained the display, weirdly:

"They were hearing from the community, but the community is just one side of the story," she said. "She wanted to make sure that the commissioners heard the students' side - that's one voice that has been silent."

Though I think I live just within the South Philadelphia High School's boundaries, I'm not directly part of any community affected by the conflicts at the school. So I am not invested or accountable in the same way others are, including Ackerman. But from this outside perspective, I am not sure what valid motivation there is for her continued intervention in this manner. (She seems unhappy about it as well, with comments like "this is taking up a lot of my time.")

The Ackerman approach reminds me somewhat of when people absurdly talk about "reverse racism," a fiction. Racism does not work symmetrically in two directions. Systemic power imbalances exist, and matter. Likewise, while all students matter and should be valued and heard ("I'm the superintendent of almost 200,000 kids, and I care about them all"), it is not somehow unfair that students and communities suffering violence and marginalization seized a temporary platform to voice their experiences and ask for redress. It's not unfair that they are organized. All people are not the same, all experiences are not the same, and things do not need to work the same way for everyone all the time. Systemic power imbalances exist, and matter.

While this has become a profoundly complex object lesson in racism, power, and inter-/intra-community violence for all involved and observing, it is sad that district administrators are such major players in that.

A new DA!

It's a new day, and we have a new DA (and a bit of comic relief, as Seth Williams and Michael Nutter sparred onstage at the Kimmel Center this morning over which of their slogans owed what to whom).

I sat in the front row and looked up as Pennsylvania's first African-American District Attorney was sworn into office.

He joins the police chief and the mayor in committing to stem what the mayor calls a genocide of young African-American men in Philadelphia: over 700 killed in the past three years.

The mayor charged Seth Williams with Frederick Douglass's words:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

Seth has family, friends, supporters, and his sense of what must be done, all propelling him. I hope that he will hold close his own words, that "justice without mercy is evil," and always struggle actively with the power that he now holds.

Congratulations, Seth! And congratulations to everyone who brought about this historic day.

Temple and its foresaken acres of diamonds

This story is not new--the article I want to talk about is a few days old, and I've posted about this topic before. But it's still worth focusing on. That's the fact that it's getting harder to get into Temple.

The Inquirer reports that as part of a plan to become a top 100 school, with all the shifting towards research and away from teaching that entails, admission rates in general have tightened, scores and grades of incoming students are up.

And here's where it gets messy:

Over the last 25 years, Temple's share of African American students grew to a peak of 26 percent in 1999. Today, however, they make up just 16 percent of the university's 26,618 students.

On one hand, it appears that Temple has commendably focused on actually getting the minority students who do enroll to graduation. This is a big problem with schools that serve students coming from underfunded school districts. At the worst, schools pocket students' loan money as students eventually give up and drop out, ending up with no degree and debt that they can't even discharge in personal bankruptcy.

And they are setting up a new high school in North Philadelphia, an experiment that will hopefully set up a strong feed of interested local students who can enter Temple prepared for college.

But the article suggests that Temple is cutting off programs that historically have helped local students bridge the gap between the shitty high schools they were stuck attending and a college offering upward mobility. These programs offered intensive tutoring and support, starting the summer before the first year of college, and continuing through that year. I worked at one, and have written about how amazing it was to watch students transform and develop a sense of themselves as college students, part of an intellectual community. The process was rough, but I respected Temple intensely for being committed to it.

Yet the honors program, which is expanding, is only 6% African-American. I taught an honors class there this fall without any black students. Many seemed to be from outside of Philadelphia (the article notes that, "Philadelphia students are down 27 percent, while students from the Pennsylvania suburbs are up 56 percent and those from elsewhere in Pennsylvania are up 192 percent.").

The Temple in the article sounds too comfortable with what it is trading off. The school serves a unique role in Pennsylvania. My undergraduate degree is from Temple, and I was grateful to have had the choice of something other than Happy Valley (check the crazy 'This American Life' episode from a couple weeks ago about Penn State's recent #1 party school designation): an urban state school totally engaged with its community.

The story of the rent-to-own slumlord

Today's Daily News cover story has it all. It's a cautionary tale very much for our time.

* One landlord
* Nearly 300 properties, many inhabited by tenants believing they had rent-to-own agreements
* 185 houses currently scheduled for sheriff's sale November 3 for unpaid mortgage obligations
* Years of forged city rental licenses
* Hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to the city in taxes and fees
* Many, many hours spent by legal services and pro bono lawyers working to unravel the mess
* Immeasurable fear and suffering by tenants at risk of losing their homes as well as equity, both in dollars and sweat, that they believed was theirs.

Of course, some elements of this are timeless. Real estate fraud's been around, so have slumlords.

But look again at these numbers:

The 118 homes that Coyle mortgaged with Republic First for $6.6 million are only worth about $2 million and Coyle owes about $800,000 in taxes, fees and penalties that the bank would have to pay off before selling them, according to a source familiar with the case.

On just 118 of the almost 300 houses, you have about $5.4 million in negative value. And that's not counting all the potentially-evaporated equity from the rent-to-own agreements. This is the direct product of uncontrolled and badly regulated lending. The banks even agreed to use Coyle's own affiliated title company to run the title searches and appraisals.

There's another ugly truth embedded in the story. Philadelphia's landlord-tenant court is designed to efficiently process evictions, not protect tenants or identify systemic abuses. The closeness between the landlords' bar and the court comes partly just from lawyers like Coyle's (a member of a firm with the blackly-comic name, "Evictions Unlimited") spending whole mornings standing before judges and court staff and processing 15-20 eviction cases at a time. Familiarity develops.

Judge Moss is now doing important work to right years of likely wrongful evictions based on Coyle's forged rental licenses. But the court should be looking deeply at what this case reveals about the need for systemic reform in how the First Judicial District handles landlord-tenant cases. Judges routinely refuse to hear evidence of code violations or other serious problems, such as those that plagued many of Coyle's properties. And landlords are often treated generously when their filings have procedural defects, including omitted rental licenses.

The fallout from this case and story should include a hard look at how the system enabled Coyle many steps along the way.

Fighting dog fighting

There's a heartbreaking Daily News cover story today about how dog fighting's not just a PR problem for the Eagles, it's an enforcement problem for Philadelphia.

I fostered this pitt bull puppy from PAWS (info on fostering is here), which matches people with animals picked up by the city's animal control, where time is short before animals have to be killed to open up space. He was found in a park, starved so badly he couldn't walk on his own, with scars where his front and back legs had been tied together.

If you go up to the city's facility on Hunting Park Boulevard, it's just teeming with pitt bulls. Trucks in the parking lot are filled with stacked cages of these dogs who were seized from DIY breeders raising them to fight.

The article worries that the Michael Vick thing--dramatic renunciation and all--just raised the profile of dog-fighting. So, how can Philadelphia attack its dog-fighting problem?

The DA can continue to prosecute cruelty cases, and be encouraged to take on as many as resources allow:

Barbara Paul, who prosecutes animal-cruelty cases for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, said that many lower-level dogfighters in Philadelphia and other cities are involved in drug dealing and other crimes. ...

"It's an incredible underground society," Paul said. "They have their own kennel registration, and the wins and losses are registered. It's an incredibly well-developed system. I've seen their breeding certificates."

Federal government resources can be used:

The Agriculture Department investigates violations of federal animal-cruelty laws. Special- agent-in-charge Brian Haaser, who worked on the Vick case, said that since his arrest the department has gotten more tips and has mounted more investigations than before his arrest.

"We've heard anecdotally that some of these people have been laying low, and changing their routines," Haaser said.

But they still find plenty of dogmen. Coordinated raids in six states in July netted 26 arrests, including a Little League coach, a registered nurse and a teacher. Four hundred dogs were rescued.

And education campaigns can be mounted:

Goodwin, of the Humane Society, said that different strategies are required for young urban street fighters and organized dogfighting rings.

"The professionals among them are so ideologically committed, the only thing that will reach them is a good long prison term," Goodwin said. "They come up with all sorts of insane rationalizations for what they do."

But Goodwin said that many younger dogfighters in cities can be reached with the right kind of campaign to turn their thinking around.

But we also need to push for tough sentences (as with the new kennel law, recently upheld as constitutional) and consistent enforcement. I hope this catches the attention of City Council and others who could take the disparate attempts at enforcement and bring them together into a larger campaign to stop dog fighting and all the collateral suffering. Fostering, however critical, can't break the flow of dogs into the city's shelters, as animal control seizes hundreds and hundreds of dogs and more are bred to take their place.

Summer in the city: urban farming edition

This morning the NY Times has a very booster-ish article about vertical farms. These are exactly what they sound like, and apparently theoretically can grow produce in air and water many stories high. The author is talking about a venture capital/for-profit model, but I'm sure someone can figure out how to DIY this. There are so many cool farming projects already happening around here:

Greensgrow is going strong with a CSA (Community-supported agriculture, a plan where you buy shares of the season's crop and receive changing produce each week), classes, and a market up in deep North Philly.

Yesterday I bought produce that Weaver's Way Co-op grows in the midst of Germantown's Awbury Arborteum. And I bought it right at 2nd and Lombard in the beautiful Headhouse Farmer's Market run by the Food Trust.

The Food Trust also has some cool projects running, like a project to get coolers put in corner stores so that fresh food is available in neighborhoods lacking full grocery stores. This was one of the topics discussed at a recent event held by Obama administration officials, interested in picking up some of Philadelphia's ideas around farming and food to replicate around the country.

There's a new facility in West Philadelphia opening up that will let people with ideas for start-up culinary businesses have access to a restaurant-quality kitchen and business facility. This will let some of the off-the books underground economy written about by Sudhir Venkatesh (he's the guy who hung out with Chicago gang leaders, as featured in Freakonomics) expand further than it could have otherwise, helping both the larger Philadelphia economy as well as the individual entrepreneurs. And at that Obama food event, Judy Wicks (founder of West Philly's White Dog restaurant) asked officials how we could foster a local industry of preserving local food for availability year-round in a place with inhospitable winters like ours.

What else is going on that you've seen or heard about? In London people are building home beehives, and in cities around the US (including here!) people are petitioning to be allowed to keep small home chicken coops. I've been reading Austin's Rhizome Collective's book on sustainable urban living, and this great urban gardening guide, "Garden Anywhere". My garden is still mostly weeds, but what about yours?

Post pictures, links, stories!

You know you are in downtown Philadelphia...

...when the line of people waiting to get into the healthcare reform town hall meeting is chanting "people not profits!" and has on pink shirts for women's health. The sense I got was of people just really, really wanting someone to give them health insurance.

There were exceptions, but not many (the Inquirer had to reach for a five-paragraph LaRouche anecdote to fill its crazy quota).

A doughy white guy in a navy blazer with gold buttons (you can't make this stuff up) was handing out flyers that appeared mimeographed (even during the 90s reform attempt, there was desktop publishing...). They threatened that "death may be inflicted in your home even if it's against your wishes!" There's a mention of "elderly 'euthenizing' and other disrespectful ending of life" as well as an inexplicable number of references to ACORN taking over. A little research suggests the guy's from Florida.

Mostly, it was Sestak's show. He played it up, both listening and parrying, in total buddy salesman mode. He was good. And it was good to hear him state that a public option was nonnegotiable.

Frequently the audience response didn't make sense, cheering at politically opposite points. But the whole thing was a nice break from the stories that have been flowing in from town halls elsewhere. Instead of the total breakdown of civic discourse we've been seeing, last night felt more like the messy work of coming to consensus in a shared project. Cool.

Adding injury to injury: PA Supreme Court imperils Luzerne teens' right to sue

You all likely remember the case of the Luzerne County judges who accepted kickbacks in exchange for sentencing youth to a particular detention facility, often denying the teens legal representation and otherwise abridging their rights.

In case you missed yesterday's article, the NY Times has reported that the state Supreme Court--the same body whose inaction delayed the uncovering of the judge's misconduct--issued a ruling that would affect the teens' ability to sue over their treatment.

In a bizarre twist to a closely watched case that rocked the Pennsylvania legal system this year, thousands of youths who had to appear before a corrupt county judge are in danger of losing the ability to sue for damages and court fees.

The potential loss stems from a decision by the State Supreme Court in May that it would help the youths move on with their lives by destroying all documents related to their convictions that it deemed faulty. But doing so would hamper the public’s ability to investigate the corruption of the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and limit the youths’ ability to sue him.

“This is about destroying evidence,” Marsha Levick, chief legal counsel for the Juvenile Law Center, a public interest law firm in Philadelphia, said after appearing on Monday before Judge A. Richard Caputo of Federal District Court in Scranton, Pa., to ask that the records be preserved.

“Without these documents,” Ms. Levick said, “it would make it nearly impossible for these kids to get justice.”

As the Times notes, Pennsylvania law requires that juvenile records be deleted before they are expunged. The Court has amended its May order requiring the deletion of all records related to the youth convictions, ordering that the records of the named plantiffs in a suit brought by the Juvenile Law Center be preserved. However, this leaves all the other potential class members (about 6100 teens) at risk of losing the evidence necessary to get justice and redress.

The position of the Supreme Court here is hard to comprehend:

Zygmont A. Pines, the Pennsylvania court administrator, wrote in a June 25 letter to Judge Caputo that the main concern of the Supreme Court was “to ensure that tainted convictions of affected juveniles in Luzerne County be undone as expeditiously as possible.”

Mr. Pines also wrote that youths who had not joined any of the lawsuits might not want to have their records preserved.

This month, after Judge Caputo was asked to protect the records, the Supreme Court sent him a letter opposing the move.

On July 2, Judge Caputo denied the request to protect the records, citing federalism prerogatives and concluding that the issue was “best left to the Pennsylvania courts.”

The Juvenile Law Center is arguing that records may be expunged even while copies are kept under seal for purposes of future ligitation, and note that this is already happening with the records of the 400 named plaintiffs. Judge Caputo has yet to rule.

"Policing" communities, online and otherwise

Discussions of the recently-filed lawsuit against the Domelights message board by African-American police officers reveal the problems that led to the suit in the first place. Exhibits 1 and 2 are the responses to Dan's post announcing the suit and Domelights' own thread on the subject.

There's a point that I think gets lost in the back and forth over whether anonymity in Internet posting is desirable or not (setting aside that there will always be anonymous forums if people desire them; even China struggles to control the whole Internet). What gets lost is the larger question of what is necessary for a successful community.

Particularly in locally-oriented web sites, there's a direct interface between the anonymous online world and people's real lives. We are talking to our neighbors, about our jobs and politicians and teachers, and most of the time, reporters are listening in. As Dan coincidentally brought up just before the Domelights suit was filed, there's one way to negotiate all this--effective moderation.

The "free speech!" minions have died down somewhat recently, but when I talk to people about community blogs, this is the first thing I tell them: If you want a community, you cannot have a bland, non-moderated blog. Period. It will fail, or disintegrate, or give you the Athenian School known as comments. That is especially what, in general, big media types never get. Anonymous internet message boards (especially about politics) will, and have, generally failed.

I've been thinking about this, and see moderation as a necessary part of these ongoing conversations in online communities. Although sometimes moderation involves suppression of communication (through deletion or blocking), mostly it's a back and forth where rules are explained and people try (and fail, and try some more) to adapt to them. And it fosters more dialogue rather than less, by overcoming tactics that people use in argument to shut down others.

The lack of such moderation on Domelights and the comments section (and at times Phillyblog) makes me sad, because to me it reflects a lack of responsibility to the communities to which the site creators or managers belong. There is a great power in moderation to shift norms, which is the flip side of how non-moderated sites seem to collapse towards the uglier parts of people's ids. We can talk about the Domelights suit as a straightforward claim of employment discrimination. But the response to the suit reveals a lack of community among officers who need to work together and trust each other. And a lack of concern about that lack.

And one of the clearest expressions of that lack of community is the claim of 'reverse racism'. Now is a scary time economically, and some white people may feel further displaced as they watch people from ethnic minorities take new positions of power (president, Supreme Court justice). But come on. All 'racism' is not the same. White people have not experienced generations of exclusion and discrimination. Context matters. To call 'reverse racism' whenever white people are treated differently than minorities, or when minorities are given preferences of any kind, shows a complete lack of interest in or engagement with the lives of fellow community members that differ from your own. So quit it before you end up like the obsolete old men Frank Rich depicts in his Sunday column on the Sotomayor hearings.

Desegregation almost 40 years on: update on the School District settlement

This is what happens when a desegregation lawsuit is almost forty years old when it gets settled: the problem's still there, but what is understood as necessary for effective desegregation has evolved. So today when a settlement agreement is presented to the court for approval, the balance of power between the district and its unionized teachers is on the table as well.

The same schools that are defined as 'racially isolated' (90% or more African-American or Latino) are stuck with many of the most inexperienced teachers, with damaging rates of attrition and unfilled permanent teaching positions. The consent decree that would settle the lawsuit would commit the district to ditching the current system (a result of contract negotiations with the teachers' union) where the most senior teachers have first choice of school assignments. The switch may be necessary, but it's an open question whether it would be part of meaningful reform or simply be another one-way shift of power between Ackerman and the teachers:

"Site selection" ideally means that a school counsel, or selection committee made up of a principal, peer-selected teachers and perhaps community members, may interview and hire teachers at that school rather than have teachers assigned by district headquarters.

Under the current PFT contract, a 50/50 site-selection system is in place, with half of a school's vacancies filled by seniority and the other half by site selection.

Some teachers say that they accept the idea of full site selection at the targeted schools - with some conditions.

"A site-selection panel needs to consist of the principal and teachers chosen by their peers to ensure integrity and not favoritism in the selection process," said Sharon Newman Ehrlich, a member of TAG and a teacher at Edison/Fareira High School.

"The bottom line is, the poorest students and the students of color have the highest number of inexperienced and ineffective teachers, the highest rates of teacher-turnover at their schools, the largest number of vacancies, long-term substitutes, teachers teaching outside their subject area and a host of other issues," Nijmie Dzurinko, of the Philadelphia Student Union, said Friday.

As of Friday, the union was reportedly considering its legal options with regards to the proposed consent decree.

Throwing away the key?

Representative Brendan Boyle's bill, introduced in early June, would largely end parole for repeat violent offenders. The bill was spurred by outrage over shootings of police officers, and has the support of the governor and Philadelphia's likely next DA, Seth Williams.

There's an essential logic at the heart of the bill: if someone is in jail, he or she can't commit crimes outside. That logic can be extended indefinitely: the longer someone is in jail...

But you can't imprison a person forever because they may commit future crimes. (The NY Times has explored the problems with attempts to indefinitely detain sex offenders in a disturbing series of articles.) Inevitably the criminal justice system has to draw a line as to when a term of imprisonment will end. This bill can't end the risk that a police officer will be killed by someone who has been released from prison unless no one is released from prison (another bit of obvious logic).

There are several lines of criticism of this bill: it will cost a lot at a time when we are looking to cut the prison costs that have ballooned in recent decades, it is unjust and possibly unconstitutional to count juvenile crimes when those convictions did not include the same procedural protections afforded to adults.

But it seems to me that the problem the bill responds to--a breakdown in the parole system whereby people who still pose great risk to others are released--is not fixed at all by the bill. My guess is that Seth Williams supports the bill because it seems to devote prison resources to people who--because of their demonstrated criminal histories--need to be there the most, thus shifting those limited resources away from first time or low level drug criminals who don't really need to be in jail.

I'm not sure that the blunt tool of Rep. Boyle's bill is the way to do this. We already have a multiple-strikes rule that sets sentencing parameters for repeat violent offenders: this could be tweaked if we decide terms should in fact be longer (though, as noted, you have to face the fact of release at some point and can't use a bill like this to create political cover forever). And it seems more productive to look hard at the parole system to ensure that parole is only granted where there is both evidence of rehabilitation and a lack of factors in a person's criminal history that demonstrate continued risk.

To do otherwise--to simply remove the possibility of parole--is to abandon further the rehabilitative purpose of imprisonment and instead simply and literally embrace warehousing.

TODAY! Anti-casino circus! Daring feats of doublespeak! Courageous acts of resistance!

From the No Casino in the Heart of Our City Coalition:

"Time to call it like it is: Bringing slots to Philadelphia is not democracy – it’s a circus.

Forcing slots parlors on Philadelphia is a serious business, but the process – from City Hall to Harrisburg – has been ridiculous. The circus has come to town!

But don’t let them have all the fun. It’s time for us to put on the red noses too."

Help us celebrate the opening of our new anti-casino organizing center.

Grand Opening & Anti-Casino Circus
718 Market Street
Thursday, June 25 at lunchtime

12 noon: Come See the Amazing Anti-Casino Circus
Circus acts, cotton candy, and our own sideshow – guaranteed to be more laughs than the circus that City Hall is putting on.

12:45 – 2:30: Volunteer: Outreach at the NO SLOTS SPOT!
The NO SLOTS SPOT is a place to:

* Volunteer
* Get updated on casino news
* Connect with others who want to fight the casinos

& all of this is located in a storefront kitty corner from the proposed Foxwoods casino site!

Stick around after the circus if you can join in outreach efforts to stop the slots.

For more information, contact the No Casino in the Heart of the City Coalition at 215.925.1538 or at aau @

Is the War on Drugs really over? - event TODAY

Moved back up for tonight! --Jennifer

Tonight the Jewish Social Policy Action Network welcomes Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance -- a leading progressive group advocating drug policy reform -- to speak at its annual meeting.

Drug policy is one of those issues that is both national and intensely local. And we seem to be at a pivotal moment. We have a president who is intensely attuned to the racial injustice that has marred the war on drugs for the last couple decades, and who has the common sense to question the very concept of a drug 'war.' And the critique has become almost mainstream: see Kristof and The Economist for two examples.

But now that the top federal official dealing with drug policy declares the war on drugs over, what happens next? Is this just rhetoric? What needs to happen for us to evolve a humane and effective way of dealing with addiction and the drug trade?

Feel free to discuss any of the dimensions of this issue in the comments--the new proposals to switch from zero tolerance to some harm reduction techniques, various levels of legalization, sentencing reform, just to start--and come out tomorrow for the chance to hear from Ethan Nadelmann, who has been called “the point man” for drug policy reform efforts by Rolling Stone.

Ethan Nadelmann will speak at JSPAN's annual meeting on Wednesday, June 17 at 7:30 pm. $10 admission includes a dessert buffet. RSVP required to 215-635-2554 or email

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