Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Whenever there’s a Threepenny Opera within easy traveling range, I make every effort to see it

Whenever there’s a Threepenny Opera within easy traveling range, my husband and I make every effort to see it. We went to NYC last weekend to see the production at the Atlantic Theater—the 6th (or maybe7th?) we’ve seen together. Rick was fortunate enough at the age of eleven to have seen the first New York production with Lotte Lenya.

This production got luke warm reviews but we both liked it and would recommend it. I think most reviewers have an ideal production of Threepenny Opera in their heads and no actual production can ever measure up.

The Threepenny Opera has some of the greatest songs in musical theater—Mack the Knife, Pirate Jenny, the Tango Ballad. Judy Collins first introduced me to Pirate Jenny’s song and it’s still my favorite version—although Sally Murphy who played Jenny in the Atlantic production was very good.

Although the Threepenny Opera has been generally viewed as Brecht’s satiric take-down of capitalism, I’ve never seen it that way. Sure there are those famous lines—e.g. “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?” But I’ve always seen the Threepenny Opera as a cynical account of human cruelty with those on the bottom preying on those even more vulnerable, and with a savage portrayal of gender inequality at the emotional heart of the piece. The one time the caricatures become human beings is when Jenny pours out her pain at Macheath’s betrayal in Pirate Jenny’s song, followed by one of the most poignant songs ever written about love gone bad— Macheath and Jenny’s duet in the Tango Ballad.

So if you’re in NYC anytime soon, I recommend the Atlantic Theater’s production of Threepenny Opera. (of course, I’d recommend just about any production.)

Friday was our Weimar Republic day. In the afternoon we went to the Neue Galerie to see Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937.

The exhibit was definitely worth it-–although just because Hitler hated a painting doesn’t mean it was a major work of art. There were some truly awful paintings in there with the Feininger’s and Klee’s. The exhibit also included archival footage of the citizens of Munich wandering through the exhibit looking dazed, uncomfortable and uncomprehending.

Definitely worth it if you’re in NYC before it closes on June 30. And the Neue Galerie has probably the most beautiful café in NYC, a recreation of a Viennese café with pastry to die for.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Finally, I have daffodils!

February Gold

February Gold arrived in April this year but did finally arrive! The early daffodils are all blooming and my old reliable Ice Follies are popping up all over the garden. Ice Follies is the toughest, most long lasting daffodil variety I’ve come across and one of the least expensive as well.
Ice Follies

A carpet of blue scilla is everywhere. This is an amazing little bulb; it flourishes in deep shade as well as in sun, multiplies rapidly, and requires no fertilizer to return reliably year after year. Also, it is one of the very few true blue flowers--as opposed to the much more common purplish blue.
Scilla and Hyacinth on verge of blooming

In the next couple of days, my hyacinth should all be in bloom and I’m really looking forward to that intoxicating fragrance. The fragrance of hyacinth forced in pots just can’t compare to hyacinth grown in the garden.

Hidden away in shady spots, my hellebores are blooming. It's easy to overlook them and one of the great joys of retirement is that I get to really take in the beauty of the flowers. Of course the down side is that I no longer have a long stretch of gardening seasons ahead of me, but I try not to think about that too much.

And yesterday, my first tulip appeared--a tiny species tulip, pulchella. The species tulips appear with the early daffodils. They are thought to be very close to the original tulip varieties with small cups and short stems. They are much less showy than the hyper-hybridized tulips we all love and they last for a very short time, but unlike most tulips they return reliably year after year.

Tulipa pulchella,variety Persian Pearl

At last, the show has begun!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Where are the daffodils?

, Clumps of early daffodils all over my garden by mid-March, 2011

I have been keeping garden records for about 20 years now; there is variation from year to year, but in all my gardening years spring bulbs have never been as late as this year. Early daffodils (February Gold, Early Sensation, Ice Follies, and Tete a Tete) have come as early as late February (not usual) and as late as the third week of March, but this is the first year in which I have NO daffodils on March 31.

Usually at this time of the year I have early daffodils and a few white hyacinth. For some reason the white hyacinth always emerge before the blue hyacinths.

This year the only hyacinths I have are the ones I forced in an old refrigerator in our basement.

The succession of bloom can always be counted on: daffodils appear after crocus, tulips after daffodils, allium after tulips etc. etc. But the timing of this parade of blooms can vary.

I hope with the warmer temperatures we are supposed to get this week, the daffodil show will begin. There is nothing, nothing more cheerful than a bright yellow daffodil. I long to see one!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Finally the debris has been removed from my garden.

My English Laurel crushed by tree limbs

Finally the debris has been removed from my garden. This winter’s storm left fallen tree limbs all over my garden. I had to wait until most of the snow was gone before I could get the debris cleared out. The good news is that most of my shrubs survived—in misshapen form perhaps but still more or less alive.

My English Laurel springing back to life.

Here's another set of before and after pictures:
fallen tree limb dangling from tree

fallen tree limb cleared and yew pruned

I can’t wait to get out there and finish the cleanup, plant a few pansies and maybe a shrub or two in the bare spots.

It is snowing again (!!!)as I write this, but I don’t think we will have storm conditions—with more flying tree limbs. Just don’t think I could deal with that.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Finally, the snow has disappeared from my Mt. Airy garden.

Finally, the snow has disappeared from my Mt. Airy garden. They call it Mount Airy for a reason. An insurance adjuster once told us we were about 400 feet above sea level. It’s great in the summer when leafy Mt. Airy feels about 10 degrees cooler than center city. But when the snow has disappeared from most of the city, there are still heaps of dirty snow in Mt. Airy.

The first snowdrop emerged from the snow last week. We usually have snowdrops from January through early March. Not this year. The first species crocus usually appears in mid to late February and we have lots of early daffodils by mid-March. This year the first species crocus emerged last week and there’s not a daffodil in sight.

I’ve always wondered how my gardening friends in Vermont endured those Vermont winters. This year I’ve gotten an inkling of what it must be like.

I so hope the snow predicted for tomorrow is not much more than a dusting!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Some Books About Second Wave Feminism I Hope Somebody Writes

When doing background reading for Feminism in Philadelphia: The Glory Years, 1968-1982, I think I read and re-read just about everything in print about second wave feminism--a lot of repetition and duplication, but also some unexamined areas, many untold stories. These are some books I hope somebody writes:

1) The role of Republican women in second wave feminism.
Feminism in Philadelphia contains a chapter on Ernesta Ballard, founder of Philadelphia NOW, in some ways an atypical NOW member--wealthy, Republican, Wasp elite background, but a passionately committed feminist. Ballard certainly deserves a full length biography, and there is definitely room for a study of the role of women like her in second wave feminism.

2) A clear-eyed assessment of the consciousness raising movement
The consciousness raising movement has often been written about in glowing terms but had another side. Groups that were generally seen as "safespaces" also served to re-enforce race/ class divisions. See Shirley Geok-lin Lim's observations reported in The Feminist Memoir Project:
“Living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I heard my Anglo-European-American college acquaintances plan for baby-sitters and car rides to their women’s groups; but even as a graduate student in a prestigious university,I was never invited to attend one of the many consciousness-raising groups that [Sara]Evans’s history made out to be so democratically accessible.”

3) A comprehensive analysis of early 70's grassroots feminism and lesbian rights.
Anti-lesbian feelings have been associated with NOW in its early years, thanks to founder Betty Friedan's much publicized reference to lesbians as the "Lavender Menace." In Philadelphia and in PA such attitudes appear to have been largely confined to Friedan. Philadelphia NOW passed a motion censuring Friedan and made history as the first NOW chapter in the country to elect an open lesbian as chapter president. When we have more regional histories, we will know to what extent the pattern in Philadelphia holds across the board. This is a book I would really like to read.

4) The Socialist Workers Party's campaign to take over the feminist movement.
Political scientist Jo Freeman documents that the SWP and its youth movement, the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA) had deliberately targeted the feminist movement as early as the late 1960's and early 1970's. The SWP's ultimately unsuccessful campaign is interesting not just because of the havoc they caused (at least in some places) but because of the ideological challenges they posed, especially within NOW, a prime target for SWP take-over.

NOW from its earliest days claimed that feminists of all political persuasions could find a home in NOW. Socialist feminists who entered NOW in the mid-1970's, many of whom were abandoning the then disintegrating New Left, challenged the idea that feminist beliefs trumped over-all political ideology. Philadelphia feminists focused on the disruption and didn't really address the ideological challenges. I explored how this unfolded on the national level and in Philadelphia but it was happening all-over the country. I would love to read a book about how this all played out in different regions of the country.

5) African-American feminists within NOW and other predominantly white feminist organizations
Another untold story is the efforts of second wave African-American feminists within NOW to get the organization to address issue of women of color. Much of the literature focuses on women of color rejecting white feminist organizations and charting their own path. However there were serious efforts within NOW, especially Pennsylvania NOW which in 1978 identified combating racism as its top priority in (The leadership was clearly ahead of the membership here.)

These early efforts to develop an intersectional analysis were greatly aided by the explosion of powerful feminist writing by women of color in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Reading lists of books by women of color first began to appear in the newsletters of Pennsylvania NOW in the late 1970’s. I’ve tended to think about this in terms of what it meant to so many women of color more than its consequences for a largely white feminist movement. However as Jane Mansbridge points out:
Despite the efforts of individual Black and Latina and Asian women to influence their mostly White organizations, and their standing up at conferences to present their points of view, it was not until a significant literature by women of color appeared that the larger feminist movement began to learn significantly from those differences and be transformed. It was too painful for each Black woman individually to have to teach the White feminists in her organization about the differences in their experiences. But through the written word, which can teach many at once, and through the controversies and understandings generated when people talk about what they have read, the movement… is now beginning to absorb, confront, and be transformed by these new insights.
6) A comprehensive study of the fight for the ERA
We have yet to get a comprehensive study of the fight for the ERA which captures the excitement of the movement and explores its impact on those who participated--among them the increasing number of women drawn to a career in politics. We have had anatomies of why the movement failed: Jane Mansbridge's Why We Lost the ERA and Mary Frances Berry's Why ERA Failed, but nothing which fully captures the social moment fervor and its transformative impact on individual participants

7) A Biography of Eleanor Smeal.
At the readings/discussions I’ve held for I ask groups which leaders they associate with second wave feminism; usually only two names come up--Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. After having read mountains of archival material on NOW in the 1970's, it's clear to me that Eleanor Smeal (the founder of Pennsylvania NOW and later president of national NOW) was the organizational genius behind NOW in the 1970's. Smeal brought a political scientist's understanding of the political system and the possibilities it afforded for social change; this was to have a dramatic impact on the future of NOW and on the feminist movement. Smeal was both a visionary leader and skilled in the nuts and bolts of building an organization--a highly unusual combination.

If someone has written these books and I somehow missed them, please let me know!

Feminism in Philadelphia is now available in a paperback and in a kindle edition.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Last night was our final and most successful committeeperson workshop.

Last night was our final and most successful committeeperson workshop.There were folks there from neighborhoods all around the city. City Commissioner Stephanie Singer and Deputy City Commissioner Tracey Gordon once again conducted a lively, very well-received workshop. Commissioner Singer actually manages to make arcane topics like the ways to avoid a petition challenge really interesting.

In addition to the workshops sponsored by the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Stephanie Singer and Tracey Gordon also conducted workshops sponsored by community groups around the city as well as one by Young Involved Philadelphia. I was very happy to hear about the Young Involved Philadelphia workshop as the Philadelphia Democratic Party’s old-school, top-down way of doing politics turns off so many young people and makes it so hard to get progressive young people involved in the Democratic Party. Increasing numbers of young people refuse to even register as Democrats.

In addition to the people who attended the workshops, I’ve heard from others who could not attend but were planning to run. There are also neighborhood campaigns to run candidates for committeeperson slots, not connected to the series of workshops run by Stephanie Singer and Tracey Gordon. Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez is running a slate of candidates for the state legislature in the 2014 primary election and I expect that also includes committeeperson candidates.

Something is bubbling up from the grassroots and there is the possibility of really shaking up the local Democratic Party.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fran Gilmore's Spiritual Journey to India

The many levels of the temple represent levels of consciousness.

I returned a few days ago from a month-long trip to India, a pilgrimage really, and I'm just emerging from the cave of jet lag. It's very hard to put into words what this experience was like--it was spiritual and deep. We stayed at an ashram with our leader Russill Paul whom we have known for many years, as a great musician, scholar and teacher.

We visited several Hindu temples, and a yogini center--all female yoginis who run a school for orphan and indigent girls, and also preserve some of the most ancient traditions in the world, in the form of detailed Vedic ceremonies. We witnessed one of these, and you'll see a few pix of it.
Yoginis carry on hours long Vedic ceremony

We also visited a village across the road from the ashram, which the ashram helps. They actually paid off generations-old debts of a group of "untouchables" who were skilled weavers, but really permanent indentured servants. Now they live in the village and earn a living as weavers. The ashram also supports a home for indigent elderly there, and provides milk for school girls. Indigent elderly supported by ashram

When we helped with chopping vegies, we were doing it for our own food and the elderly. They got exactly the same food as we did. It was a nearly all carb diet of mostly rice, beans and vegies. All fresh and organic. The ashram cows provided milk every day. Very grateful to them. I was VERY careful to limit portions, and actually lost 6 lbs.

We were a group of 27 pilgrims from all over the US and Canada, a wonderful group of people. We lived in spartan quarters, and had pretty structured days, including sessions with Russill of meditation, chanting and lecture. Toward the end we had a week of 24/7 silence, though we could speak when necessary, and still had sessions with Russill. I finally found deep internal silence on Day 6--the deepest peace I've ever felt. Hope I can return to that state.

We visited several Hindu temples, were well instructed in proper behavior, and were able to witness the innermost rituals. For the first and last 2 days we had transitional hotels in pretty luxurious beach resorts, and a mad shopping rush at the very end for gifts and whatever.

You can see a sample of pictures here Some of them have captions if you click on the picture.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Just came back from a long day at PA State Committee Meeting

At least from my perspective—as just an ordinary state committee delegate—on Friday there seemed to be very little tension. The general feeling seemed to be that the first tier candidates were all strong and could all beat Corbett.

That mood changed on Saturday. Some delegates—mostly supporters of candidates unlikely to be the top vote-getter at state committee-- argued for an open primary on the grounds that with seven candidates in the race it was highly unlikely that any one could get the 2/3 margin necessary for endorsement. This struck me as a good idea—admittedly one of my motivations was to go home early.

However, supporters of Rob McCord pushed for a vote count. They clearly knew what they were doing and to my surprise McCord made a very strong showing. The first vote was:

314 votes with 209 needed for endorsement

McCord: 146 votes, 46.5 % of total
Schwartz: 75 votes, 23.9 % of total
Wolf: 52 votes, 16.5 % of total
Hanger: 22 votes, 7 % of total
McGinty: 19 votes, 6 % of total
Litz: 0 votes, 0 % of total

According to party rules, the candidate with the least votes drops out and the vote is taken again. The second time around the results were:

321 votes (Several delegates who had abstained in the first round voted in the second round.)

McCord: 157 votes, 49 % of total
Schwartz: 77 votes, 24 % of total
Wolf: 59 votes, 18 % of total
Hanger: 16 votes, 5 % of total
McGinty: 15 votes, 4.7 % of total

As someone who voted for Schwartz, I was both disappointed and surprised by the results.

And the same process with no candidate receiving the necessary 2/3 margin for endorsement repeated itself in the Lt. Governor’s race. More on that later.

It was a very long day and I was impressed by the fact that almost all of the delegates hung in there for the duration-- a clearly hard-working, committed group.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Helpful information about running for Committeeperson

When NOW/ CLUW decided to hold workshops to run for Committeeperson, our goal was to get people to run in those divisions where there was no engaged committeeperson. Some divisions have committeepeople going door-to-door, making sure the voters in their divisions know that an election is coming up and have the information they needed to cast an informed vote. But unfortunately many divisions in neighborhoods around the city do not have committeepeople who provide this essential service.

As City Commissioner Stephanie Singer noted in her presentation at our Jan. 18 workshop on running for committeeperson, if there is an incumbent who is doing a good job—someone who regularly visits the households in the division to inform neighbors about upcoming elections—then you might not want to run against this incumbent. You might want to meet with him/her to join forces. Some wards make room for people who want to help with the work of the ward by appointing associate committeepersons; if there are already two committed incumbents, you might want to try to become an associate committeeperson rather than run against the incumbents.

Several people have asked me how to find out if there is an incumbent in their divisions, so I have put together some resources which will help potential candidates to find out.

First you need to know your ward and division. It is listed on your voter registration card. If you cannot find your card, go here and type in your address. This will give you your ward and division as well as the location of your polling place.

You can find out if someone was elected during the 2010 primary by checking the list of committeepersons (organized by ward and division) posted here This list includes all committeepeople who were elected for each Party in 2010-- the last time there were elections for committeepersons. Each division is allotted two committeepersons for the Democratic Party and two for the Republican Party.

Sometimes people are elected and then drop out. Sometimes a ward leader appoints a replacement and sometimes not. There is no database which indicates whether or not there is someone currently serving. You can sometimes get this information from your neighbors or from the ward leader --who may or may not be open to new people running for committeeperson. See a list of Democratic ward leaders here and a list of Republican ward leaders

To find out how much support an incumbent had in your division, go here to learn the vote totals for committeepeople elected in 2010. Select “results tables.” Under “select an election,” select 2010 primary. Then select your ward and division. Scroll down to the bottom for committeeperson results. This will allow you to get a sense of how much support a committeeperson elected in 2010 had in the division.

The vote totals also indicate how many people generally vote in your division. In many divisions the turn-out is depressingly low. These are the divisions most in need of an engaged, committed committeeperson. But even in the “high turnout" divisions, turnout is often lower than 50% in non-presidential elections and sometimes under 25% in off-year municipal election.

Committeepeople are in an excellent position to significantly increase voter turn-out.

Please share this information with anyone you think might be interested and encourage them to attend our follow-up workshop on Feb. 18!

Friday, January 31, 2014

One of the best things about book discussions/ readings about Feminism in Philadelphia is meeting some of the women featured in the book.

One of the best things about book discussions/ readings about Feminism in Philadelphia: The Glory Years, 1968-1982 is meeting some of the women who were featured in the book. Recently at an event at Watermark Retirement Community, I met Sharon Wallis, a key figure in 1970’s feminist movement in Philadelphia, and at a reading at the Cosmopolitan Club I met Philadelphia NOW’s first treasurer Pat Corboy. Pat said she really regretted not having played a greater role in Philadelphia NOW but that she was struggling to establish her career in finance—-a field with very few women in senior level positions.

Her comment made me realize that being active in the movement was not the only way to advance a feminist agenda. Women like Pat Corboy were trailblazers in fields once closed to women and their success must certainly have inspired other women to pursue non-traditional careers. That’s another book I hope someone will write—-Philadelphia’s trail blazers in non-traditional careers!

Feminism in Philadelphia is now available in a kindle edition.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2013 was not a good year for supporters of abortion rights, but there are hopeful signs for 2014!

2013 was not a good year for supporters of abortion rights—especially in Pennsylvania. Randy LoBasso documents reduced availability of abortion in PA

A Southeast Pennsylvania abortion clinic closed in late 2013, bringing the grand total of commonwealth closings since 2012 to eight. And at least five of those are directly related to a law passed by the state Legislature in 2011 which put new construction restrictions on clinics and was referred to as a “back-door ban” on abortion services when it was passed.

And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law a bill banning abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges authorized by the federal healthcare reform law.

Apparently despairing of making gains in securing abortion rights in Pennsylvania, feminist advocates in the state have signed onto a Women’s Health Agenda that does not include a strong defense of abortion rights, other than calling for a 15-foot buffer zone around health clinic entrances. Many good bills are proposed and they deserve strong support. I understand the rationale behind this strategy of working on a range of women’s issues separate from the more politically charged issue of abortion rights. But if the list of bills doesn't include bills repealing restrictions on abortion rights and calling for Medicaid funding for abortion, then we shouldn’t call it a Women’s Health Agenda.

However, despite the bad news in 2013, I sense renewed commitment to defending abortion rights. National NOW President Terry O’Neill also believes the forecast for 2014 looks brighter. From O’Neill’s press release:
The tide, however, is turning. Voters rejected the radical Tea Party agenda in the 2012 elections nationwide and again in 2013 in Virginia.
Also, women's health allies in Congress are pushing the Women's Health Protection Act. From Cecile Richards, President Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Your rights shouldn't depend on your zip code — so we're fighting back. Women's health allies in Congress are pushing the Women's Health Protection Act, and it will make a difference in communities where the Roe v. Wade decision is under direct attack.

Please take a minute to tell Congress to support the Women's Health Protection Act

The Women's Health Protection Act is designed to protect the rights promised by Roe v. Wade. It will stop the outrageous laws that are undermining women's health and rights in state after state. Laws that require doctors to perform state-mandated procedures on women seeking abortion. Laws that impose bans on abortion at 20 weeks in states like Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana — and at just 6 weeks in North Dakota. Laws meant to force abortion providers to shut down and deny women the right to make their own medical decisions.

And NARAL’s is mounting a campaign to demonstrate that pro-choice values are shared by the majority of Ameicans. From Ilyse G. Hogue
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

We put together this graphic because the vast majority of Americans support the principles of Roe, and we need to show these politicians we won’t be silent. Like our graphic on Facebook so we can show them, loud and clear, that we are in the majority; pro-choice values are American values.

Recent national polls data have brought some encouraging news: Seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, according to new data from a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, as the landmark Supreme Court abortion-rights ruling turns 41 on Tuesday. According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

That is the highest level of support for the decision, which established a woman's right to an abortion, since polls began tracking it in 1989. The shift is mostly the result of more Democrats backing the decision—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—and a slight uptick in support from Republicans.

The poll is not all good news for advocates of abortion rights. There is still majority support for some restrictions on abortion rights. However, the generational trend lines are favorable. We are moving in the right direction and this is not the time for an advocates of abortion rights to retreat from the position that abortion is an integral part of a Women’s Health Agenda.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reinvigorating the Grassroots: NOW/CLUW How to Run for Committteeeperson Workshop

In 1998 and in 2002 Philadelphia NOW organized workshops to encourage women to get involved in grassroots politics by running for committeeperson. For a variety of reasons we did not have much success—we started too late and we didn’t have the broad-based networks to reach significant numbers of women. We did much better in 2002 thanks to Liz Terry who organized the project and trained our members to run workshops. Interestingly the people who actually ran (and won) were our members who were giving the workshops. They were convinced by their own pitch!

It wasn’t until 2013 when we teamed up with the Coalition of Labor Union Women, City Commissioner Stephanie Singer and Deputy City Commissioner Tracey Gordon that we were able to reach a wider community. In January 2013, we held a well-attended workshop, “How to Run for Judge of Elections and Election Inspector.”

On January 14, 2014, thanks to Tracey Gordon’s amazing organizing skills we held a very well-attended workshop on “How to Run for Committeeperson” in the May 2014 primary. Commissioner Stephanie Singer made a powerful case for the critical role played by committeepeople. She cited a body of research demonstrating that the most effective way to encourage people to vote is having a neighbor/friend speak to them directly. Nothing is as powerful as personal contact with someone you know and trust.

The Obama campaign demonstrated the importance of door-to-door, in-person contact with voters and used sophisticated data analysis to target exactly those voters who needed a nudge to get to the polls. According to Jonathan Alter, in The Center Holds, “ Like the ward heelers of old who knew a lot about their neighbors when they rang their doorbells, Obama field organizers, armed with the fruits of Big Data, could bring a presidential campaign to the front porch as never before.”

I recall when I was going door to door in the 2008 presidential election, some of my neighbors told me that the Obama campaign had been in the neighborhood and were knocking on doors. I wondered why they hadn’t stopped at my house. Then the light bulb flashed—they knew they didn’t need to. Their data told them how best to use their volunteers. And from all accounts, the 2012 campaign was an even more sophisticated operation, precisely targeting those voters most likely to be responsive to persuasion.

National campaigns are not a permanent presence in a neighborhood and can’t possibly replace the reliable committeeperson who knows the neighborhood terrain and is out there in every election reminding neighbors to vote and providing the information they need to cast informed votes.

But in so many divisions in Philadelphia there are no functioning committeepeople and this has had an impact on over all turn-out. Many of our voters are presidential year voters and tend to skip non-presidential years. If the 2008 voters had come out in 2010, the Pennsylvania political landscape would be very different.

In off-year elections, like our recent municipal election, there was no barrage of television commercials to remind voters an election was coming up. As one of the voters in my division said, "there hasn’t been much in the media about the election, and if you hadn’t knocked on my door and reminded me, I wouldn’t have known it was Election Day.

Will our efforts to encourage civic-minded folks to run for committeeperson make a difference? There was a lot of enthusiasm at our January 14 workshop, but will this translate into people actually getting the required signatures and running in the primary? Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sometimes the good guys win!

On January 10, I attended the robing ceremony for newly elected Judge of Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas, Giovanni Campbell. I had worked for his election and was so happy that the candidate I strongly supported actually won. (So often, that’s not the case.)

I have long been opposed to Philly’s deeply flawed method of selecting judges. But sometimes somebody really good manages to get through this awful process.

It was a truly inspirational ceremony with moving testimonials to Judge Campbell from his colleagues. And all my friends in the political world were there celebrating. Although we agree on values and issues, we sometimes have serious disagreements about which candidate can best advance those issues. Giovanni Campbell’s campaign was a real unifier. Everybody in the Philadelphia progressive community supported Giovanni!

We might as well enjoy this brief moment of unity because it looks like we are not going to be unified in the upcoming gubernatorial race. When I asked a good friend whose opinion I really respect who he was supporting, he said, “Well, I’ll tell you who I’m not supporting, who’s at the bottom of my list.” It turned out to be the person I’m leaning towards supporting. The conversation with my good friends made it clear to me that my candidate didn’t have much support in the progressive community--at least not much support among this group of committed progressives. For me, one of the hardest parts of electoral politics is dealing with sharp disagreements about candidates with good friends I work with in progressive/ feminist organizations.

But we were all together celebrating Giovanni Campbell’s victory. There was general agreement that his judicial career would go beyond the Court of Common Pleas. The federal bench? The PA Supreme Court?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My 2014 New Year’s resolution: Campa un giorno e campalo bene. Live for the day and live it well.

I have just one New Year’s resolution this year. No, I haven’t learned Italian. "Campa un giorno e campalo bene" was the recipe for happines--Neapolitan style-- which concluded a New York Times travel article on Naples.

I don’t have one of those sunny personalities which savors the pleasures of the moment. But it’s time to practice a little cognitive therapy on myself and try to live more fully in the present.

I am very happy with my life and love just hanging out with my husband, seeing friends, writing, working for social change. It’s a good life.

But at this stage in our lives, we can’t ignore the fact that some very difficult experiences may be not too far down the road. We’re both in good health now, but unlike the "young invincibles" we can no longer take this for granted.

I tend to think about this too much. But why spoil the present moment worrying about the future? I need to make every day count--"Campa un giorno e campalo bene"