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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Photo Challenge: Future–of Democracy Depends on Citizen Participation

This quote serves as our inspiration for the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
 – Peter F. Drucker

Participation in civic life is paramount to support a healthy democracy. Whatever issue is important to you, it’s time to get involved to change the future. Elected officials must represent us rather than direct the policy decisions to citizens.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future

Bernie Sanders for President: Rally in Philadelphia

I jumped back into politics placing a reservation to attend the Bernie Sanders Rally in Philadelphia on April 6. I’m very much a pragmatic thinker. As much as I would like to overhaul the American economic system, replacing corporations with worker-owned collectives, I can support a candidate who strongly endorses unions and a living wage.  Bernie’s positions on income inequality, living wage, medicare for all, tuition-free college are issues I strongly support. Bernie cannot, however, change the broken economic system alone.  It is up to the citizenry to create that sweeping change. We must be invested in our democracy by participating in ways that guarantee that every citizen has a voice.

The Rally

I returned to my graduate school Alma Mater, Temple University, for the rally. When I arrived at the Liacorous Center a little after 5, the line, ten deep, snaked along the sidewalk, weaving through the side streets for ten blocks. I thought I’d never get in, seeing that many people; and the doors had already been open so more folks were already inside. By 6 o’clock I entered through the security check, the Secret Service, inspecting coats and bags. My necklace alerted the wand, but the guard finally let me pass through. We waited until 8:30 for Bernie to speak because it took so long for people to get through security and get seated.  I didn’t think the arena would fill, but it did, all but some seats on the balcony. I estimated 5,000 but turns out more like 10,000 were present.

The crowd, mostly students and young people under 35, were friendly and well-mannered. No one was pushing or shoving in line, and most were engaged in happy conversation. Someone was carrying a sign, Free Hugs, and Philly Jesus showed up, giving his blessings. I sat down on an aisle seat for good visibility. The young man sitting next to me introduced himself, and we had a conversation about Pennsylvania politics. I met everyone around me, and turns out we were all alums of Shippensburg! I heard stories of underemployment and low wages, even for college graduates.

When Bernie walked to the podium deafening cheers erupted. As Bernie spoke the audience responded with enthusiastic cheers or boos, depending on the subject, i.e., living wage or mention of Trump.

Pennsylvania Primary, April 26

The Pennsylvania primary will take place on April 26. Political history in the United State will be made if we elect a progressive candidate for President such as Bernie Sanders.

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering

Invasion of Starbucks by gathering of activists supporting workers by advocating wage increase to $15.

Starbucks demonstration.

Starbucks demonstration.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/gathering/

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Happy Place, In Solidarity: Weekly Photo Challenge

Happiness is standing side by side in solidarity with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors, working toward a goal of social justice. I especially find this participation satisfying when advocating for justice and fairness in the workplace. By making connections with my fellow workers, we can come together to improve our mutual conditions, recognizing the bonds we share.

solidarityemail

Without worker solidarity, we find ourselves adrift and alone in the workplace where many employees have little voice or camaraderie. Corporations like to keep it that way, pitting employees against each other for raises, power and influence in the organization, the very opposite of encouraging teamwork, consensus and harmony. When we resist human labor as simply being a commodity, we have taken a virtuous path.

Solidarity is by nature inclusive. Regardless of background, solidarity brings everyone together. Differences fall away as the greater good of the group becomes paramount. We nurture our collective rights rather than than engage in competitive interactions. For those who experience the greatest degree of discrimination and marginalization, we can stand together so that they have the strength to participate and defend their freedom of association.

Solidarity is not a quiet place, but it is not a forced state of mind. It evolves naturally as our shared responsibility displaces uncertainty. The result is a joyful state of mind.

WordPress: Weekly Photo Challenge, My Happy Place

Teresa Forcades Speaks on Women’s Ordination

Women’s Ordination Conference
 A Voice for Women’s Equality in the Catholic Church

“We have a church that’s misogynist and it’s representing the Gospel. We need freedom, equality, and the people’s capacities to participate in the conversation. I look forward to having this discussion in Philadelphia.” –Teresa Forcades

Teresa Forcades WOW

Teresa Forcades: History

As a supporter of anarcho-syndicalist movements, which advocate for democracy for the working classes in politics as well as the workplace, I’ve followed the news about the strikes against the Spanish government’s spending cuts, which create severe consequences for workers and their families. Following these events, I read about one of their leaders, Sister Teresa Forcades.For folks who have their doubts about capitalism, Teresa has launched a political manifesto to counter austerity measures by the Spanish government. The document calls for an independent Catalonia to carry out a more democratic and progressive agenda, including nationalizing banks and energy corporations. I visited Spain in 2013, and on my first evening in Barcelona, I attended an event, Women, Spirituality and Social Change, a dialogue between Teresa and Lekshe Karma Tsomo, a California Tibetan nun, who share the same commitment: to promote social change based on inner transformation.

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A year ago I heard Teresa speak again, this time in my relative neighborhood, at Red Emma’s in Baltimore. Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative started in 2004, supports a bookstore, restaurant and community space and is “dedicated to putting principles of solidarity and sustainability into practice in a democratic workplace.” The namesake of the cooperative, Emma Goldman, a political activist known for her promotion of anarchism, is another woman I admire for her progressive views on women’s rights, prison reform, racial equality and right to organize our workplaces.

While some may consider Teresa’s ideas radical, I think of them as being common sense, such as viewing capitalism as an unethical construct. Sometimes when I’m talking with people about the problems of capitalism, they agree but then say, “Well, that’s the way it is.” Teresa says it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I learned that Teresa was speaking at the WOW conference in Philadelphia, I immediately signed up to attend.

Women’s Ordination Conference, September 2015

WOW Protest

WOW Prayer Vigil at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

The WOW Conference represents forty years of advocacy for women to become full participants in the Church by allowing women’s ordination. I am a former Catholic and what drove me away from the Church was thinking about my daughter’s perceptions of how affirming Catholic practice contradicts a fundamental belief that women must be treated as equals. The Church’s embedded bigotry against women, which arises from historical chains of oppression, undermines women’s liberation.

Teresa flew into Philadelphia just before she spoke, as she had to stay in Spain for an important leadership event on Saturday. Teresa presented an inspiring talk, a few of the highlights in the video:

I met Teresa after her presentation, and we talked about the political situation in Catalonia and her candidacy. She asked about my son, John. Truly a remarkable experience to connect with a woman who is on the world stage advocating for her fellow citizens and for equality for women in the Church.

Links:

Teresa Forcades Facebook Page

The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Scale: The “Big Chair” and the Metaphor

What’s the big deal about a chair? Well, actually, because this chair is big, about four times as large as a normal chair, and a work of art that has taken on a life of its own. Jake Beckman, a student at Swarthmore College, conceived and built the original chair, which found a place among the other normal-sized Adirondack chairs that dot the stretch of lawn in front of the main hall on campus. The iconic chair even appeared on the Colbert Report.

Several years ago the original chair fell apart and was quietly removed from the lawn. However, the campus community, becoming attached to the Big Chair, clamored to bring the chair back. Jake agreed to return to rebuild the structure, and the chair resumed its place with the others.

I guess I wasn’t the only one beginning to think metaphorically about the Big Chair. Some unnamed inventives would come by during the night leaving the chairs in different arrangements, such as the Big Chair leading a line of the other chairs or the Big Chair in the middle of a circle. One morning the Big Chair stood upright while a semicircle of normal chairs tipped down in front of the Big Chair.

Now I was thinking hard. The chairs assumed the metaphor for power dynamics .  .  . and not just at Swarthmore! I thought about “Big Chair” people, folks that tell us what to do or think: politicians, pundits, advertisers, bosses, CEOs, presidents, board of directors .  .  .  and I’m sure you can think of many more. Do we perceive these folks as big in influence, power, authority, wealth and get drawn into a mindset that binds us to a deferential attitude? Many normal chairs sit on the lawn–there is strength in numbers when we act collectively. And normal-sized chairs serve a real function. We wouldn’t make 25 more Big Chairs.

On reflection, perhaps we do need the Big Chair–reminding us to keep the right perspective.

Bringing Voice to Community Needs: A Collection at Swarthmore College

Collection 5.2.14This Collection was unique: a grassroots initiative with staff, faculty and students working together to offer all community members an opportunity to speak on decision-making and governance at the College.

Organized by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), the idea for the Collection grew from their advocacy for a child care benefit. In the previous week, SLAP and Human Resources released survey data from the dependent care survey of faculty and staff at the College. Of the 28% who responded that they used childcare, 41% of that number claimed that they were unhappy with their current child care arrangements. More than half of the respondents preferred an on-campus child care placement. In 1991 the Women’s Concerns Committee submitted a survey, and spent the next 14 years advocating for child care for faculty and staff. The question SLAP and the community had to consider: if the community supported a child care benefit, why hadn’t that benefit been implemented, especially since funding had been provided?

The Collection, facilitated Joyce Tompkins, Religious and Spiritual Life Advisor, brought together a panel to begin the discussion on decision-making processes and endowment spending at the College.

Gathering

Joyce Tompkins introducing Panelists

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Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics Professor, advocate for child care

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Peter Collings, Physics Professor

Peter recently wrote a series of articles on the endowment in The Phoenix:
The inequity of Swarthmore’s endowment: An open letter to the Swarthmore College community
The inequity of Swarthmore’s endowment, revisited
Why endowment policy needs community input

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Gwen Synder, Class of 2008

Gwen Synder is Director at the Philadelphia branch of Jobs with Justice.

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Anna Gonzales, Editor in Chief, The Phoenix

Brett Day, Staff from Dining Services (unfortunately Brett could not make it because of difficulty arranging for child care).

It is the hope that this Collection will be a catalyst for the College community to work toward participation and transparency, as now neither faculty, staff or students have voice when it comes to financial decision-making. Truly enlightened institutions will foster coöperation that can only come by encouraging participation in decision-making as an inclusive practice that educates students in the process of genuine democracy and brings community members together to work in partnership with each other.

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More photographs at the Daily Gazette.

Proposal to Meet Staff and Faculty’s Child Care Needs at Swarthmore College sent to the College administration in May 2014.

Disastrous Financial Priorities and a Community Mourns

School Nurses Forewarn the District

Outside the Philadelphia School headquarters, on a cold January day in 2012, a gathering of school nurses, bundled up against the chilling wind, protested the district’s laying off nurses. The nurses, calling themselves the Occupy 440 movement, continued the protest for five months, assembling every Wednesday at 440 Board Street. The district cut over 100 school nurse jobs in the 2011-12 school year, and other staff reductions left schools at the state minimum of one nurse per 1,500 students. According to The Notebook, “Nurses warned that the District was potentially endangering children by failing to have trained medical staff in buildings most of the time.”

Betsey Piette carries poster Picture of Laporshia.

Betsey Piette carries picture of Laporshia.

Vigil for Laporshia

Samir Robinson from Musicopia plays for the Vigil

Samir Robinson from Musicopia plays through the Mist

Just 17 months later, the nurses organized a candlelight vigil for Laporshia Massey, who arrived home from her school, Bryant Elementary, suffering from an asthma attack and dying later that evening at Children’s Hospital. Laporshia fell ill during school the day, reportedly complaining of difficulty breathing. At that time, no nurse had been on duty at the school.

Father, Nurses, Youth

Laporshia’s father, Daniel Burch (holding umbrella) stands with school nurses, who organized the vigil.

Austerity Cuts Deep

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett and the Republican-controlled legislature have imposed substantial education cuts throughout the state, causing the School District of Philadelphia to fall into a deep financial crisis. The Governor failed to release $45 million of federal funding earmarked for Philadelphia schools. While evoking the concept of “shared sacrifice” to justify cuts in education, in contrast, the legislature passed a corporate tax cut that would cost the state $600-800 million per year, more than double Philadelphia schools’ deficit for the next fiscal year. In addition, the district carries an enormous debt. According to City Paper,

The district spends more than ten times the national average serving its debt, with an astonishing $280 million—12 percent of its entire budget—going to interest payments and $161 million going to Wall Street firms in what have been called “toxic” interest rate swaps, under criticism in other cities for unjustly robbing schools of resources.

Girl With Candle CRChildren’s Health at Risk

When authorities cut school nurses from budgets, children who have health problems may not receive proper treatment while at school. Children on medications may have to rely on untrained staff to assist them. Children with epilepsy, ADHD, diabetes, food allergies and asthma are particularly at risk. The question arises is who is responsible for schools’ record keeping on each child’s health concerns if no nurse is present to evaluate a student who becomes ill during the school day. AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote in an open letter to Pennsylvania Governor Corbett that one in five students in Philadelphia have asthma, and that “parents and educators—would sleep easier knowing their children’s schools had enough school nurses, guidance counselors, safety personnel and support staff so that a tragedy like this would not befall another child.”

Ironically, a day before the candlelight vigil for Laporshia, the district learned that Philadelphia will receive the $45 million in federal funds that Corbett had been withholding. A spokesman for Corbett stated that the release of the funds and Laporshia’s death were not connected. Philadelphia school superintendent, William Hite, stated he did not plan to rehire any nurses because the district has “met the state’s caseload standard.” Are parents left wondering whether there will be another time the school nurses will be holding candles outside the 440 Building?

Candle

An Empty Desk

Bryand ES Final

Bryant Elementary School is located at the corners of Cedar Avenue and 60th Street in West Philadelphia. Playground equipment stands securely on one corner of the school lot, and along the walls of the brick building, colorful murals illustrate scenes of children swinging, dancing and jumping rope.

While economists, bureaucrats and government officials argue the merits austerity measures, one mural might be different now.

Links

Her Name is Laporshia Massey and Our Hearts are Breaking

Justice for Laporshia Massey Update

Vigil for Laporshia Massey – Victim of Philly Schools Budget Cuts

The Great Austerity Shell Game

Sick Days: The Philadelphia School Nurse Shortage

Doomsday Plan Could Wreck the Regional Rail Lines in SE PA

Update: November 20, 2013, Pennsylvania House voted 104-95 to give key preliminary approval to the $2.4 billion transportation funding program.

Passengers on

A Ticket to Ride

Last evening as I was boarding the Media-Elwin Regional Rail at the 15th Street Station, I watched as passengers streamed onto the train filling up the seats and then standing in the aisles. It seemed incredulous to me that considering both the crisis of global warming and the thousands of riders who depend on public transportation, that SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) has presented a “doomsday” proposal to shut down the Elwin-Media line, as well as closing eight other regional rail lines.

Market St Station

Will deserted stations become the norm?

During the Pennsylvania State Transportation Committee hearing held at Temple University on September 12, 2013, SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey stated that these changes would affect 89,000 daily transportation users. Yet, just two months ago, SEPTA announced an all-time high in regional rail ridership. Passengers made over 36 million trips in a year’s time, including 2.9 million on the Media-Elwyn line.

Leaving Staton

Leaving the Wallingford Station

Commuter Nightmare

The hardships created by such a shutdown are almost immeasurable. People with disabilities, senior citizens, and those unable to afford an automobile would be prevented from getting to their jobs and medical appointments. Paratransit service for the handicapped would be reduced. Students requiring transportation into the city from the Western suburbs would find it difficult to get to Penn, Temple and Drexel, and the 31 other universities in the city and surrounds. The young man sitting next to me was studying a medical textbook. Trains allow time for people to study, read, socialize or just relax, which is totally unavailable to automobile commuters. Increased car traffic would add to the congestion on our already crowded highways. Economic losses would befall Philadelphia as suburbanites rely on public transportation to bring them into the city for volunteer work, cultural activities and special events. Philadelphia could lose 60,000 jobs. According to a study released by SEPTA, home values would drop if Regional Rail service would be cancelled.

The average property value premium for houses located in counties is $7,900. Homes in communities with higher levels of Regional Rail service and parking capacity, the property value premium averages between $31,000 and $37,000 per house.

Ticket Office Closed

Closed Ticket Windows . . . the future for Delaware County Riders?

Funding Held Up in State House

Without funding from the state for SEPTA’s backlog of critical repair work to the tune of $6.5 billion, the Authority will have to significantly shrink the transit system over the next 10 years, SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey reported during his testimony at the hearing. Four trestles, which are over 100 years old, need significant repairs. Unless Pennsylvania legislators approve this funding, commuter citizens will be held hostage by the politics of the State. A small minority of state legislators are set against it as lawmakers wrangle over funding allowances and tax increases. Currently, the bill is held up in the Republican-led house.

Conductor

Cuts will cause layoff of hundreds of SEPTA employees.

Citizens Rally for Transportation

Delaware County citizens have been rallying support for SEPTA funding. A Swarthmore college student started an on-line petition and has collected over 3,200 signatures so far. At a press conference on October 18 at the Media Courthouse, (Former) Governor Rendell, standing with local Democrats as well as a few Republicans, expressed his objections to the possible closure of the Media-Elwyn line. Rendell encouraged supporters to support the passage of SB-1, the transportation bill that’s been proposed to fund SEPTA.

Protest at Media Courthouse

Protest at Media Courthouse

Rendell addressed the crowd stating,

There are 37 counties with transportation systems in Pennsylvania and all of them would benefit, in my opinion by the bill. The bill would have produced $400 million dollars a year annually for public transportation . . . something that is desperately needed, something in the past we wouldn’t be talking about closing the Media-Elwin line, we wouldn’t be talking about cutbacks not here in Delaware County . . . we should actually be talking about improving public transit.

Rendell

Former Governor Rendell speaks to demonstrators.

End of the Line?

Later that week, after returning from Philadelphia on the Media-Elwin line, I watched as our train left the Wallingford station, fading into the darkness. I wondered if concerned citizens can rally lawmakers so that our public transportation does not disappear from sight.

Shakey Train

A Moment in Democracy’s History: Bob Edgar Elected to Congress 1974

B Edgar Button

When grew up in Springfield, Pennsylvania, in the 195os and 60s, I was very much aware that the Republican machine ran the politics of the town, as well as the county, going back to the Civil War. My parents were Democrats, and I remember my father remarking how a Democrat didn’t have a chance of being elected to any office in the county. As a teenager I became interested in supporting the Democratic underdogs, and I attended several events for John J. Logue of Swarthmore, who tried to unseat the entrenched Republican congressman in the 7th district. Young and idealistic, I felt betrayed by the democratic process and wondered how the voices of the people could be drowned out by the powerful Delaware County Board of Republican Supervisors, nicknamed the “War Board.”

In 1974 the Republican machine still controlled Delaware County, and the War Board monopolized local politics. The break came when the public became outraged over the Watergate scandal. What fired me up was when President Nixon demanded the resignations of Attorney General Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus. Bob Edgar, a Methodist minister, decided to run for the 7th Congressional seat, and I signed up to join his campaign.

I canvassed with Bob and stood train stations and malls, handing out flyers. His parents lived a few blocks away, and his Dad and I would walk through the neighborhoods of Springfield talking up the cause. I attended strategy meetings with his dedicated campaign staff and spoke to union representatives. Bob had a platform we could believe in:

Bob Edgar Platform

Bob Edgar Platform 2

I wrote several letters to the local newspapers. The first letter was published in The Evening Bulletin, June 15, 1974, Saturday Forum: Bulletin Readers Speak Out. The subject was Church and State: Clergy in politics, in favor and against.

Church and State Letter

The second letter appeared in the Delaware County Daily Times, Friday, July 5, 1974.

Select Man, Not Party

As election night approached, we were still very much uncertain of the outcome. We faced a voter registration of 3:1 in favor of Republicans. The Republican party ran a new candidate, county district attorney Stephen J. McEwen. The G.O.P. had plenty of monitory resources while Bob’s campaign spent only $3,000 on his primary. Even the Associate Director of the Democratic National Committee stated that “the national party does not rate the chances of winning the 7th district seat as high as other districts.”

Edgar Campaign Literature

Undaunted, the campaign soldiers solicited friends, neighbors and family members to help Bob’s campaign. We were determined to keep the momentum going. I signed up to distribute campaign literature outside the polls at the old Central School in Springfield on Election Day. After the polls closed, my job was to call in the voting tallies to the Edgar headquarters.

Bob Edgar Post Card

That evening after the voting was complete, I held my breath as they opened the voting machine and read the numbers. Bob had won with a clear majority. I called in the tallies, and headed over to the headquarters. We were still waiting for final results to come in from the other precincts when Stephen McEwen entered the room with his entourage. I could hardly believe Steve was conceding as we expected a long night of vote counting. The joy of the victory spread through the crowd as we shared that moment of celebration with each other.

Bob passed away on April 23, and his contributions to Common Cause, as well as his accomplishments when serving six terms as a progressive congressman, are being remembered in The New York Times, the Nation and Huffington Post. For me, Bob’s greatest legacy is when he stood with the people of the 7th Congressional District to restore democracy from control of one-party rule.

B Edgar Thank You

Thank you, Bob.

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