Tuesday, May 29, 2012

After two years, the will of the voters is upheld in the Tracey Gordon case.

After two years, Tracey Gordon and the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus (PDPC) won Round 1! In 2010, Tracey Gordon was elected to be a committee member of the 40th Ward in the Philadelphia Democratic Party, but despite that election, she was denied her seat by the vote of the Ward. See “When Elections Don't Matter: The city Democratic Party doesn't always care what voters think” The Philadelphia Democratic Party and its chair, Bob Brady, refused to fix the problem.

Despite repeated attempts to resolve the matter by Tracey, her supporters, her attorney Irv Acklesberg, and the PDPC, it wasn’t resolved until Irv Acklesberg filed a lawsuit seeking not only to reinstate Tracey, but to permanently enjoin future election nullifications by the Philadelphia Democratic Party. See the chronology of the case posted at YPP.

No doubt realizing that it would lose the court fight, the Philadelphia Democratic Party reinstated Tracey Gordon. On May 17, 2012, under the direction of the Party, the 40th Ward voted to rescind the illegal resolution it passed almost two years ago. Because Tracy is now serving as a Deputy City Commissioner—a job in which she is continuing to protect the right to vote—she had to resign from her elected position. (City ethics rules do not permit employees to hold party office.)

It took two years to get the Democratic Party to honor the will of the voters. Isaiah Thompson’s Citypaper article is a fair and accurate account of the chronology of events and recent developments in the case. I was struck by the comment of Dan McCaffery, an attorney for the Democratic City Committee in this case: “This is about a group of individuals who identify themselves as the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus trying to oversee or take charge of the Democratic Party of Philadelphia.”

The Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus was formed not to take over the Party but to encourage more progressives to work within the Democratic Party, to make the party more transparent, more “small-d” democratic, and by doing so, to make the Party more attractive--especially to young people. McCaffery’s comments remind me of opposition to feminists' struggles for gender justice in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Those hostile to feminists assumed they were seeking role reversal rather than equality.

As Irv Acklesberg stated (as reported in the Citypaper article): “The case was never just about [Gordon],” he says. “It was to prevent the party from doing this, and we're still trying to do that. … They want to retain the power to nullify elections, and the purpose of this lawsuit is to make sure that there is no such legal power so that courageous people like Tracey Gordon will come forward in the future...and stand up to this dictatorial party.”

The Tracey Gordon incident was the catalyst in the formation of the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus. Remedying this injustice was critically important, but our goals are broader. The case now moves to Round 2. The Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus is seeking to take the baton from Tracey and continue this fight for a permanent injunction. We are awaiting a court ruling on that effort.

In partnership with a range of civic and advocacy organizations, the Philadelphia Progressive Caucus plans to develop materials and run workshops to encourage more people to run for committeeperson. The Democratic Party in many parts of the city is an empty shell with many committeeperson positions unfulfilled or filled by people who are not actively engaged in educating voters and getting out the vote. We intend to change that.

When I do voter registration work, I encounter more and more young people of all backgrounds who want to register as Independents. It’s getting harder and harder to convince them (especially those who identify as progressives) that there is space for progressive politics in the Democratic Party. The Philadelphia Progressive Caucus hopes to encourage significant numbers of progressives to run for county and for state committee in 2014. If we can’t guarantee that if they win election that they will be seated, how will we ever convince them that Democratic Party is worth their time and energy?

A note of thanks to Citypaper: Our major dailies, the Inquirer and Daily News have generally ignored the internal workings of Democratic Party—a real problem, given that this is a one Party town and it’s difficult for candidates (especially in low profile or judicial races) to be elected without some Party support. Many thanks to Citypaper for covering the Tracey Gordon issue and especially to Holly Otterbien. Most of us would not have known of this betrayal of democratic values without her story which first alerted citizens to the Tracey Gordon case.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Roman Ruins, Medieval Cathedrals, Art Nouveau—Barcelona has it all! The Barcelona Diaries: Part II

Sagrada Familia still under construction!

We certainly didn’t exhaust Barcelona’s riches in our five days in Barcelona. The city is an open air museum with one of the most beautiful medieval old towns in Europe and neighborhoods filled with gorgeous 19th and early 20th century townhouses festooned with Art Nouveau touches. And looming over it all--Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. I’ve never been a fan of Art Nouveau in general and Gaudi in particular, but somehow seeing Gaudi in Barcelona—a city he loved and which loved him back—made a difference. To my surprise, I enjoyed Gaudi’s monuments –and all the echoes of Gaudi throughout the city.

It’s worth seeing the Cathedral of Seu before seeing Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s Art Nouveau riff on a Gothic cathedral. The exterior of Sagrada Familia with towers echoing Seu has always struck me as grotesque, but the interior was a wonderful surprise—all the light streaming through the many clear windows, the playful details.

Exterior detail, Sagrada Familia
Interior Sagrada familia

We did the usual Gaudi tour combining Sagrada Familia with nearby Parc Guell. Parc Guell was really way over the top with its gateway in the form of a giant penis--no mistaking Gaudi’s intention here. But the Gaudi sculptures were in a beautifully landscaped park and I really enjoyed that bank of lavender and rosemary in full bloom.

Gateway to Parc Guell

Finally, Casa Mila, an eccentric apartment house designed by Gaudi. I felt a little guilty dragging Rick to this. He is no Gaudi fan, but ever since I saw the scene with Gaudi’s bizarre sculptures on the rooftop of Casa Mila in Woody Allen’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona I really wanted to see Casa Mila. Up close, the sculptures struck me as kind of silly but the views of Barcelona from the roof top of Casa Mila were spectacular.

Casa Mila
Casa Mila rooftop sculptures

We barely scratched the surface of Barcelona’s artistic treasures and never made it to the acclaimed Picasso Museum. We had hoped to go there when we returned to Barcelona for one last day before flying home, but decided we preferred the open air museum. During the general strike all the city’s museums were closed, giving us less time for museums, but since walking around Barcelona is such a delight, we really didn’t mind the inconvenience of one less museum day.

The Catalunya Museum was the one museum open during the general strike—apparently most of its workers decided not to participate in the strike. It has an amazing archeological exhibit—the runs of the ancient Roman city Barcena which had all the attributes of the good life, Roman style—the baths, the sanitation system, the gorgeous mosaic floors.

Catalunya Museum

Another must-see museum is the Palacio Nacional housed in a gigantic 19th century neo-baroque monstrosity. There is an impressive collection of Old Masters and a much appreciated feature more museums should install—a vast open space with many huge incredibly comfortable couches filled with exhausted museum-goers taking a nap. Like many other elderly tourists, we took advantage of this opportunity for a much needed rest.

Palacio Nacional

We also went to the Joan Miro Foundation—a museum built by Miro to house his personal collection. Unlike my experience of appreciating Gaudi more after seeing him in his city, seeing Miro in his own museum in his native Barcelona did not lead to greater appreciation . I don’t find Miro’s paintings visually appealing and I just don’t get the point.

Finally we went to the Mies Van der Rohe Pavilion built for the 1929 World’s Fair and recently reconstructed. This was for Rick, who whenever he’s in a place with a structure built by Van der Rohe, will go out of his way to see it. I’ve never been a fan of modernist architecture—although a few trips to Chicago did increase my admiration. Because Mies Van der Rohe’s style has been so fully absorbed by 20th/21st century architecture, it’s hard to fully appreciate how original, how radical it once was. It wasn’t until we went to Vienna and I saw all that heavy, over-opulent architecture that I finally got what Mies Van der Rohe and the Bauhaus school were doing; I understood what they were rebelling against.

Mies Van der Rohe Pavilion

This is just a small sample of Barcelona museums and cultural attractions. I would love to go back, but realize we probably won’t. If Rick and I had discovered Barcelona 30 years ago when we started traveling together, we would in all likelihood have made some return trips. If we don’t return, it’s okay—I’m grateful for this opportunity to get to know Barcelona. That day in 1969 really didn’t count.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Life in the Rearview Mirror

Life in the Rearview Mirror By Margaret E. Guthrie Cross-posted from Metropolis

There are some pretty wonderful things about reaching old age that are little discussed; the disadvantages are far too well advertised to warrant further attention. I am officially old, I will be 75 in August of this year and learned recently that the "elderly" designation attaches when you reach age 72. So I think I have reached an age to be a reasonably good judge of the advantages of being old.

One of the advantages I like best is the ditching or overboard tossing. By that I mean certain things in your life that once seemed mighty important and now are not. Raising your children is one of these. By now, your children are middle-aged, have married or partnered well or not, are established in their career or profession or not, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about any of it. You have survived their adolescent years when you wondered whether either you or they would make it out alive. You have survived their twenties and early thirties when you despaired over partner and career choices, watching the light move across your ceiling as night turned to day and you still hadn't been to sleep. All of that is in the rearview mirror and good riddance. Your kids now are what they are.

You're also out of work or retired, depending on whose choice it was. In either case, you are no longer worried about the office, the shop, the restaurant. You no longer worry about the rogue co-worker, the super dysfunctional boss, the intimidating client. You no longer obsess over monthly sales figures, deadlines or annual employee evaluations. You no longer agonize over whether to change career in mid-stream, and if you do, what would be the gain and what would be the loss? All of that is also in the rear view mirror and good riddance to that as well.

If you're single, or divorced as I am, you also no longer worry about a partner, having one, finding the perfect match, dating someone younger, what your friends and family might think, etc. And then, having found someone, maybe, trying to find common ground, trying to build a new relationship that will not come unglued, that will last, that you can stand to be in, etc. All that, too, is now in the rear view mirror. And what a relief that is. No one to consult about what time dinner is or what it will be, no one else who gets a turn to pick the movie, or what to watch on TV or comment on what you're reading or wearing or doing. Living alone can be so liberating.

Now is my time. What I discovered is a new ability to focus as I have not done since I was a child and for the same reason. Children don't have the distractions that adults do, at least not in our society. Old people, having come out on the other side, don't either, and so can focus on whatever ignites their interest as they have been unable to do for years.

My focus has become food. First, I have become a member, through the Weavers Way Co-op, of Dining for Women. (www.diningforwomen.org) That organization supports women's groups in developing countries working to improve living conditions for impoverished families. Each chapter meets monthly at members' homes, bringing a covered dish. Each member contributes what she would have spent at a restaurant and that money is donated directly to that month's selected recipient. Since my chapter began, D4W has contributed to a women's cooperative in Mali granting micro-loans to women to start up small businesses, an organization working in Liberia and Sierra Leone to install composting toilets and water collection and purification systems in small villages and a women's cooperative in Guatemala that connects women weavers with designers in the US, enabling the women to feed and clothe their children and send them to school. So the gratification is immediate.

I am also hoping to join the board of a community partnership that is working to bring better food into the public schools in the northwestern part of the city and that operates a vegetable garden at a homeless shelter that usually houses 250 men, women and children. Anyone living in the shelter is welcome to work in the garden. The garden's produce goes directly to the kitchen of the shelter.

Finally, my next door neighbor, John, has surrendered his portion of our shared backyard so I can enlarge "our" vegetable garden. I try to grow enough so we can both live out of the garden all summer and early fall. I am learning something new about growing vegetables every day. Right now my downstairs, where I have large windows filled with early spring sunshine, is filled with peat pots containing small heirloom tomato and pepper plants. John loves the fact that he's the only one on our block with a gardener. I love that I have more than doubled production. There is something about watching nature at work that renews and energizes and when you're nearing the three quarter century mark, anything that energizes is fantastic.

Friday, May 4, 2012

For the first time I've gotten hate email on my blog.

For the first time I've gotten hate email on my blog. My blog is not exactly high traffic and the comments are almost always from friends and family members. I never expected that hate-mongers would find me and consider it worth their while to spew forth venom on my blog. But somebody found my post "Someone ripped our Obama bumper stickers off our car and left the following comments:

AnonymousApr 29, 2012 11:44 PM get over it. im sure that porch monkey will give you another. they are all about handouts anyway. maybe the next one they send out will be a chinese flag and his sorry face on it. Anyway, I normally just run people off the road that has that shit on their cars. so be lucky it wasnt me.

Joe BidenApr 30, 2012 06:52 AM I think you should get a bumper sticker that says "I'm An Idiot" instead. They really both say the same thing anyway. Oh, and by the way...thank you for shoving your head up your ass and pretending Obama hasn't been the worst president in the history of the country. Obama loves people like you. Too stupid to know better.<----Hey...another bumper sticker idea.

AnonymousMay 1, 2012 05:57 PM I found this because i was looking for the "that Obama sticker might as well say your stupid" and just had to read the comments. cant add anymore truth to what the above two poster submitted. id tell you to go shoot yourself but your probably to stupid to own a gun let alone know how to operate one. on another note, why do you own a toyota when GM is Obama's lovechild. you should really wash it.

The comments read like a parody of illiterate right –wingers and I guess I should just shrug my shoulders and delete the comments. I live a sheltered life—politically speaking. My neighborhood is a liberal/prgresive ghetto. I don’t have a single friend or family member who would vote for a Republican and the political arguments I get into are of the left vs. liberal variety. But there’s a world out there of people who think very differently. I didn’t expect to brush up against them on my blog!