5 Reasons to Vote (No Really!) For Tom Corbett

Barring some disastrous circumstances, I can’t really see myself voting for Tom Corbett’s re-election in November.

Then again, you probably can’t either.  Polls consistently show the Republican governor down about 20 points or more to Tom Wolf, his Democratic challenger, and while there’s plenty of time to narrow the gap, it’s hard to imagine that Corbett has any news up his sleeve that will suddenly make him attractive to an electorate that’s found him so unattractive for so long.

Understanding Corbett’s predicament is easy: He didn’t prioritize education the way he should’ve — in Philly, he seemed more interested in breaking the teachers union than in educating kids.The state economy is anemic, even by the anemic standards of post-recession America. His fracking policy seems designed to serve energy companies instead of the people of his state. It’s not a great record.

And then there’s this:

Still, it’s easy to imagine scenarios under which the last four years could’ve been worse. My home state of Kansas, for example, has been getting an example of what happens when the GOP id is unleashed — and it’s left almost nobody happy.

So in the interest of fairness — and just to see if I could — I’ve scrounged up five reasons Tom Corbett might deserve re-election. Maybe.

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The Big List of the Worst Philly Lists of 2014

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They’re called demolisticles. Or, at least that’s the name FiveThirtyEight editor Chadwick Matlin came up with for them. The idea is that you appeal to a limited target audience, but a large percentage will click on it and share it. “19 Signs You Went to Penn,” for example.

It’s no surprise Buzzfeed is best at these. Buzzfeed gets a lot of flack for lists, and I sometimes think it’s misguided: There’s nothing inherently wrong with a list. They can be fun to read. Readers clearly like them. Not everyone wants to read a 3,000-word essay all the time (or ever). I’m not even at 200 words yet and some of you have already checked out. Lists can be just as informative or witty (or stupid) as articles.

The problem is when Buzzfeed’s lists are stupid as heck. This list about Penn explains that “you know not to sit and take pictures next to the Ben Franklin statue” but doesn’t explain that’s because drunk people pee on it. I guess the audience is just people who went to Penn and want to look at photos and GIFs and don’t care if they learn no new information about their alma mater. But to me, though, the Penn article is boring — and not just because it says I should’ve been mugged on the block where I lived.

But that doesn’t stop people from sharing them. No matter how lame, no matter the author, no matter how cliched a list about Philadelphia is, it will pop up in your Facebook feed. Repeatedly. Or someone will email it to me. “Hey, Dan,” they write, “I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I know you love Philly, so here’s a list about cheesesteaks and Rocky.” I’m getting angry just thinking about it! Then I feel like an asshole for getting irrationally angry at a friend of mine who was reaching out to say hi.

Clearly, much of this problem is my own. (Count to 10. Take a deep breath.) I have no power or wish to stop you from sharing stupid stuff on Facebook. But since I’ve seen so many bad Philadelphia lists this year, I decided I’d make a list of my own. Read on for a list of the Worst Philly Lists of 2014. By the end, you’ll even have read another one.

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Should You Feel Guilty About Privilege?

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On Monday, I lead three rotational sessions about journalism and black feminism at the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Justice Research Institute. The classroom is made up of notably progressive 15- and 16-year-olds who have words like cisgendered already in their lexicon. At the top of the sessions as a means of introduction, I asked each aspiring social justice practitioner to say their name, their age, and to identify at least one way that they were privileged.

It was an impressive mix of students, some of whom are from far-off places such as Greece or China. Each of them could identify the clear privilege that they’d had in common — an opportunity to spend the summer studying at one of the nation’s foremost Ivies — but as individuals there was some variation in the things they said. Gender privilege. Sexual orientation privilege. Economic privilege. The privilege that comes from having a supportive family. And of course, race.

“Do you feel guilty about it?” I asked one student whose face was turning red as words stumbled out of her mouth, trying to find the right way to land.

“About?”

“Being white,” I said, curious. Read more »

I’m HIV-Positive, and I Have No Interest in News About HIV Cures

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Philadelphia is all atwitter currently with news out of Temple University that researchers there have gotten a step closer to a so-called cure for HIV. Basically, medical researchers are doing their jobs. Being medical researchers, though, they need to gin up some interest and rationale for more funding, so they’ve decided to recklessly issue a statement so slippery you can’t exactly disagree with it: “This is one important step,” says Temple’s Dr. Kamel Khalili, “on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS.”

Thanks to those four little letters — “cure” — many journalists who have no experience or strong understanding about HIV/AIDS are writing about HIV/AIDS and society is yet again unfurling the “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner. HIV/AIDS is about to be over! Will the last the person out please shut off the lights? Thanks.

Most people are zooming by the fact that this Temple discovery has no relevance to people living today or even in the near future; the discovery is simply a “proof of concept” with a completely uncertain future use, particularly if it’s anything like past “steps on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS.” More on that later.

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We’re Not Criminalizing Parents. We’re Criminalizing Poverty.

Where are the adults?

Where are the adults?

On Sunday morning, I stopped into a Center City fast-food joint; I’ll not name it for reasons that may soon become clear. I took my breakfast sandwich to a table, not far from where a little girl, probably around 5 or 6, was playing with her dolls.

She was alone.

A group of middle-aged men sitting nearby noticed her as well. “Sweetie, are you here by yourself?” one of them asked. She gave them a wide-eyed blank look, but said nothing. He looked around, stymied for a second. Then: “Where’s your mommy? Is she working here?”

The little girl paused, then nodded slowly. “Okay,” the man said, ready to let the matter go and apparently pleased to not to have started his day with a report to child protective services.

It was a fraught, awkward moment — none of us wants to be the SEPTA passengers who let the “heroin nod” mother walk, but neither do most of us like to interfere in another person’s parenting. Finding the right balance can be tricky.

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10 Commenter Tropes That Should Get You Banned From the Internet

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If it were up to me, we’d just call it a failed experiment, like New Coke or Lindsay Lohan’s music career. We tried it. It went off the rails. And now we’re done.

But alas, with every day that passes, the comment sections of news websites persist. The argument in their defense is that they increase engagement and give readers an opportunity to have their voices be heard. Not for nothing, they also keep people coming back to the website, which is great for pageviews and thus, great for advertising which the journalism industry desperately needs to survive as the economics of the news business evolve.

So what’s the problem?

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I’m Pre-Gaming My 40th High School Reunion

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I spent some of this weekend trying to book a table for nine for lunch next Saturday, which turned out to be a lot more complicated than I thought. It seems a lot of places in my old hometown are only open for dinner on Saturdays. And that was a problem because my best high-school friends and I want to pre-game our high school reunion.

Well, not pre-game in the current college-student sense, as in “Get stumble-drunk before we even get to the party.” We’re not the drinkers we used to be, frankly. (And a couple of us never were drinkers at all.) But we want a chance to be able to talk and catch up without unfamiliar faces coming up to us in the dark and offering us hugs. (Note to reunion planners: You can’t read name tags in the dark.) It’s not like I never see my old high-school friends. A group of five of us have been getting together just about every year, sometimes with spouses, sometimes with moms, sometimes with kids, sometimes just by ourselves. We still get along, still make each other laugh and cry, just like we did when we were wearing hockey kilts, or “white shirts, dark skirts” for choir and band. Read more »

Get Off My Phone? Get Off My Ass!

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A few years ago, after receiving some bad directions from a man with a cool accent, I found myself embarrassingly lost in New Orleans’ French Quarter, en route to a destination whose name I can no longer recall. (I blame the Sazeracs.) So I decided to pull out my iPhone and punch the place into Google Maps to determine how not-even-close I was.

This, I learned, was a sight so troubling that strangers felt the need to inform me I was squandering what little time I had left here on earth.

An older man, who did not have a cool accent but did wear a hat with a feather in it (these guys always have hats with feathers in them), stopped abruptly on the sidewalk in front of me and placed his right hand on my left shoulder, like an uncle about to deliver bad news to a young nephew with a behavioral disorder.

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