No Ordinary Princess

...anything but ordinary...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Eakins' "The Gross Clinic" Update

I heard on the local news of my NPR station that a group of local concerns attempting to maintain a Philadelphia home to Thomas Eakins' famous paintint, The Gross Clinic, has raised about one-third of the $68 million needed to keep the painting in Philadelphia. They look to prevent Thomas Jefferson University's sale of the painting to a partnership of the National Gallery and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, slated to be open in 2009, in Bentonville, Arkansas.

This makes me very happy. If you'd like to contribute to keep The Gorss Clinic in Philadelphia, here is information I posted in a previous post on the subject.
Tax-deductible donations to the Fund for Eakins' Masterpiece can be made online at:

Checks payable to the Fund for Eakins' Masterpiece may be sent to:

Fund for Eakins' Masterpiece
c/o the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Box 7646, Philadelphia, Pa.

There is also a Fund for Eakins' Masterpiece hotline for information at:

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (a fabulous institution, I might add) offers the following information about tax-deductible donations to the Keep Eakins Fund:
If the efforts to acquire the Eakins masterpiece are unsuccessful, we will contact you to find out if you wish to have your contribution returned or if you would be willing to have your contribution used to keep other significant works of art in the Philadelphia region for public enjoyment and education.
Here's why I think this is important and why I will be making a small contribution after I'm done writing this post.

It's not just because I happen to think Wal-Mart is a demon corporation and because I'm disgusted and immensely annoyed that people who have lots of money think it's their due to pick up whatever they want simply because they want it and have the bucks to back that up. It's about respect for tradition and about the spreading infection of fundamentalism in the United States.

I am a Christian. I have been a Christian since I accepted Christ as my savior in 1976. I still consider this to be a very positive event in my life which has supported the development of my personality and moral view. I attended fundamentalist, evangelical Christian churches for six or so years a couple of decades or so ago. I have very fond memories of some of my communions with other Christians at these congregations.

Since I stopped going to church, I've witnessed the rise in popular culture of Jerry Falwell, Liberty University and Heritage USA; Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and The PTL Club; Pat Robertson and The 700 Club; megachurches like Crystal Cathedral. You remember Pat Robertson? The "evangelical" who suggested that Hugo Chavez, the democratically-elected president of Venezuela, should be "taken out?" The "Christian" who told the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania that they had "rejected God" when they voted out all seven school board members who favored the teaching of intelligent design and not to expect any help from His quarter when they called out to Him. (Thanks to People for the American Way for posting the video. Go visit their Right Wing Watch for more hilarity! Oh...and don't miss the Right-Wing Outrage page!)

Joseph Coors and the Heritage Foundation, anyone?

Is it any wonder I don't attend a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian church any more.

It's not about rich people or class divisions and classism. It's not about exploiting poor people or exploiting workers. It's about the marriage of fundamentalist Christianity and commerce.

On my trip out west last summer, I happened through southwestern Missouri. I ate at a restaurant made famous for people throwing buns. I came within an hour's drive of Branson, MO, the Las Vegas of the Bible Belt. Even from that distance, you could see evidence of the contemptible, contemporary, commercialized version of Christianity in the vicinity.

I had stopped at the Black Madonna Shrine in eastern Mo. on the trip out. Tht is a wonderful, peaceful place tucked into the hillside off a very small country road in Eureka. It's a series of grottoes set in the hillsides with paths, trails, memorial benches, tiny sitting spaces and the stations of the cross. It was constructed, according to,
"Brother Bronislaus Luszcz of the Franciscan Missionary Brothers started in 1938 and spent 22 years building the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottoes."
Brother Bronislaus built walls of broken bits of crockery, stones and cement and decorated them with pieces of glass, costume jewelry, tiny ornaments, seashells. I am not Catholic. I appreciate some of their rituals but most of Catholicism sticks in my craw. Yet I loved the Black Madonna Shrine. It spoke to me of the intensely personal relationship one can have with God. It preached inner peace and the joy that brings and the opening of the heart to the world that results from meditation on the divine.

Southwestern Missouri is nothing like the Black Madonna Shrine. It's glittery lights and flashy fountains. It's STORIES FROM THE BIBLE screaming out from giant sound systems in vast auditoria hollowed out of the hills. It's massive, expensive passion plays. It's all bling.

Bling ain't what God's all about. God's about helping other people, about learning about oneself, about offering respect to everyone and accepting them for what they are. God's not about scaring children with horrid tales of homosexuals. It's not about cloistering oneself away so that you only interact with "your own kind." Note that the demographics of Branson, MO indicates that the racial makeup as of the 2000 census was 90.92% white. In a nation that's comprised of at least 20% people of color.

It's about empire and those who believe that because they accepted Christ at some point in their lives, everything they do is justified. God is on their side. So, it's okay to exploit those less fortunate because you're going to use the proceeds for a more important "good." You can justify anything this way including wresting a precious piece of art from the city with which it has always been irrevocably related and in which it has always resided. Even a war of greed, power and delusion in which 100,000 civilians are killed.

No, I don't want The Gross Clinic to ever reside in Arkansas. I want us to stand up to Alice Walton and her $18,000,000,000 net worth and her fundamentalist Christian family roots. I want to support what I believe (read: know) to be the right thing, not what someone else says is the right thing. Let Eakins' work stay in Philadelphia and let Alice Walton collect Grant Wood.

tags: art / bitchy / Christian Dominion Theology / Christianity / Thomas Eakins / keep Eakins / fundamentalist Christianity / The Gross Clinic

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Living Minimum Wage

Here comes a bitchy post because I'm premenstrual and bitchy as hell and just because I can. Nyah.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a Democratic Congress working hard to raise the ridiculously low minimum wage in this country. What does it stand at now...$5.15 an hour? A worker working 40 hours a week at that rate would gross $206.00 a week or around $800 a month. This is before taxes are taken out. How many of us could come even close to surviving on thaat amount. Okay, so I might have some readers who like to spend money and some who are compulsive shoe buyers so let's leave those things out. This amount wouldn't cover my rent alone.

So, let's look at how a worker would make out if the national minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour, a number I believe I've heard bandied about in recent months. $7.25 an hour grosses one $290 a week or $1,160 a month. Now I've got my rent covered and my utilities but nothing left over for food or other important things (medicines and such...forget a night on the town). I am a single woman with no dependents but the dog I cannot claim on my income tax return even though her vet bills are more, out of pocket, than my own health care. Throw a few kids in the mix and things get very sticky.

I like the idea Chicago had...raising the minimum wage retailers with 90,000 square feet or more of retail space must pay their employees to a more reasonable level of $10.00 per hour plus benefits (which would equal about $3.00) per hour. It addresses underpayment and underinsurance of employees. $10.00 per hour equals $400 per week and $1,600 per month. Now we're talking about something a couple with children could really begin to care for their families on.

Many firms which employ people at lower wages (in my area it's convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food operations and family-owned businesses) often pay in the vicinity of $7.00 per hour already as they've had trouble finding people willing to work for the national minimum. So, really, an increase in the federal minimum to $7.25 isn't going to be of much benefit to these people. Why don't we look at what it really costs to reasonably live a life in a community or region and tailor the minimum to what the actual cost of living is in that area, region. state?

I guess I should be happy for a start. Unfortunately, the Chicago plan was vetoed by the mayor so it's scrapped. I am encouraged by the many cities in which voters approved living wage referenda.

A few resources on the living wage:

Living Wage Resource Center
Center for Policy Alternatives
Economic Policy Institute: Living Wage Facts

tags: economic justice / economy / poverty / US politics

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I read this in Thursday's Philly Inquirer and am totally psyched about it. It seems scientists have been able to withdraw amniotic fluid, extract the stem cells and use them to grow heart valves in vitro. The idea is to use a fetus's own cells to create these valves so they are ready (they grow in 4-6 weeks) for use in a newborn with congenital heart valve anomolies.

Here is the whole story:

Scientists grow heart valves from stem cells

The technique, which uses no embryo cells, could lead to ways of repairing hearts.

By Lindsey Tanner
Associated Press

CHICAGO - Scientists for the first time have grown human heart valves using stem cells from the fluid that cushions babies in the womb - a revolutionary approach that may be used to repair defective hearts in the future.

The idea is to create these new valves in the lab while the pregnancy progresses and have them ready to implant in a baby with heart defects after birth.

The Swiss experiment follows successes at growing bladders and blood vessels and suggests that people may one day be able to grow their own replacement heart parts - in some cases before they are born. And it is one of several radical tissue engineering advances that could lead to homegrown heart valves for infants and adults that are more durable and effective than artificial or cadaver valves.

"This may open a whole new therapy concept to the treatment of congenital heart defects," said Simon Hoerstrup, a University of Zurich scientist who led the work. It was presented yesterday at an American Heart Association meeting.

Also at the conference, Japanese researchers said they had created new heart valves in rabbits using cells from the animals' own tissue. It was the first time replacement valves had been grown in this manner, said the study's lead author, Kyoko Hayashida.

"Very promising," University of Chicago cardiologist Ziyad Hijazi said.

Heart-valve defects can be detected during pregnancy with ultrasound tests at 20 weeks. At least one-third of afflicted infants have problems that could be treated with replacement valves, Hoerstrup said.

"It could be quite important if it turns out to work," said Robert Bonow, a Northwestern University heart-valve specialist.

Conventional procedures to fix faulty heart valves have drawbacks. Artificial valves are prone to blood clots and patients must take anti-clotting drugs for life. Valves from human cadavers or animals can deteriorate, requiring repeated open-heart surgeries to replace them. That is especially true in children, because these valves do not grow along with the body.

Valves made from the patient's own cells are living tissue and might be able to grow with the patient, said Hayashida, a scientist at the National Cardiovascular Center Research Institute in Osaka.

The Swiss procedure has another advantage: Using cells the fetus sheds in amniotic fluid avoids controversy because it does not involve destroying embryos to get stem cells.

"This is an ethical advantage," Hoerstrup said.

Here is how it worked:

Amniotic fluid was obtained through a needle inserted into the womb during amniocentesis, a common prenatal test.

Fetal stem cells were isolated from the fluid, cultured in a lab dish, then placed on a mold shaped like a small pen and made of biodegradable plastic. It took only four to six weeks to grow each of the 12 valves created in the experiment.

Lab tests showed they appeared to function normally.

The next step is to see if they work in sheep, a two-year test Hoerstrup said is under way.

He and co-researcher Dorthe Schmidt called their method "a promising, low-risk approach enabling the prenatal fabrication of heart valves ready to use at birth."

It makes one wonder what kind of progress could have been made without restrictions on embryonic stem cell research in America in the last six years. Almost makes me want to get back into OB at some very cutting-edge facility.

tags: medicine / obstetrics / science / stem cells

More on Eakins' "The Gross Clinic"

As I suspected might happen, there is a movement afoot in Philadelphia, spurred by local art and civic organizations, to keep Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic here in the city. Two major influences behind this move are the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Eakins studied.

Here is the article from today's Philadelphia Inquirer, posted below in case it disappears into archive hell:

Work in progress: Will the art stay?

By Stephan Salisbury
Inquirer Culture Writer

A coalition of cultural institutions, foundations, city officials and individuals - led by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts - has been formed in an effort to keep Thomas Eakins' masterpiece, The Gross Clinic, in the city.

Organizers have also established a fund for donations and a hotline for those seeking information on the effort.

The painting, created in 1875 and depicting renowned surgeon Samuel Gross performing a difficult and bloody operation, was sold by Thomas Jefferson University on Nov. 10 for $68 million to a partnership consisting of an unbuilt Arkansas museum, backed by Wal-Mart heirs, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Jefferson, which has owned the painting since it was donated by alumni in 1878, has given local institutions until Dec. 26 to match the sale price.

"If they match it, it's theirs," Robert L. Barchi, Jefferson's president, said at the time of the sale.

"I think we're rolling here," Anne d'Harnoncourt, director and chief executive officer of the Art Museum, said yesterday. "There have been some wonderful offers of support, large and small."

Donald Caldwell, chairman of the Pennsylvania Academy, said the coalition was "still fleshing out how the expression or desire to help will translate into terms of dollars."

Mayor Street said he was encouraged by the local effort, adding that "retaining The Gross Clinic will underscore" the importance of the arts in the fabric of city life "and ensure a place in the heart of our city for this treasured painting."

Both Caldwell and d'Harnoncourt said it was too soon to say how much money might be in the pipeline.

"I don't think we can be more specific, because we don't have permission," said Caldwell, regarding other organizations and individuals involved in the effort.

The decision by Jefferson to sell the painting came as a surprise to students, faculty and alumni, as well as to the city at large, and has sparked considerable controversy.

Jefferson officials argue that the 10-year strategic plan they hope to partially fund through the sale of the painting will transform the Center City campus and surrounding neighborhood.

Critics contend that the painting, on display at Alumni Hall, on the 1000 block of Locust Street, depicts a founding father of the university and is indelibly bound to the identity of the entire community.

"This painting ties all of medicine together," Gerald Herbison, a Jefferson professor, said when he learned of the sale. "Eakins, as a Philadelphia painter, ties Philadelphia medicine to the city. It is medicine at its best, in a community known for medicine at its best, in a medical institution with roots going back to 1800."

Eakins, who lived virtually his entire life in Philadelphia, was a student at the academy and then taught there before being asked to resign by prudish administrators upset by his use of a nude male model in classes with female students.

Eakins also studied anatomy at Jefferson with Gross and viewed the surgeon as a heroic figure, said Kathleen Foster, curator of American art at the Art Museum.

Eakins is "totally connected to Philadelphia," said Larry Francis, a painter who teaches at the academy.

D'Harnoncourt said the challenge of raising such a large amount of money in such a short period was daunting, but "it's not impossible."

"By working together, our city may be able to preserve Eakins' greatest work in Philadelphia," she said.

"It is imperative that The Gross Clinic remains here, and we are working together to find a way to make that happen," Caldwell said. "This has got to be a community effort."

How to Give

Tax-deductible donations to the Fund for Eakins' Masterpiece can be made online at; checks payable to the Fund for Eakins' Masterpiece may be sent to Fund for Eakins' Masterpiece, c/o the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Box 7646, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101-7646. There is also a Fund for Eakins' Masterpiece hotline for information at 215-684-7762.

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or

This is an old city with many deep pockets full of old money. I sure hope some of them come through for this Philadelphia icon. Please note that, should you be interested in donating to the cause of keeping The Gross Clinic in Philly, there are ways to do that. Information is included at the end of the article.

I will consider throwing the pittance I can afford in the direction of the painting, though it would be a very small drop in a $68 million bucket. What we need are some big, Philadelphia foundations or philanthropic individuals to step forward if this masterpiece is to remain in the city where it was painted.

C'mon, Main Line! Get behind this one, please? December 26th is a few, short weeks away!

tags: art / culture / history / medical history / medicine / Philadelphia

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wal-Mart IS Evil...Here's Why

I haven't had a terribly keen interest in blogging recently. Life was busy for a while before the election and I've been spending a lot of time reading political stuff since then. I've had even less interest in looking at the blog stats here. But today I went to Technorati to check links to NOP and found a new one, from Phawker. There's no "about" that I can find on the site but this seems to be a Philly-based journalist. There are some interesting items there...politics, culture, news, media...many of the things I hold near to my heart.

Though I'm proud of the fact that I actively do not support Wal-Mart and feel I have pretty valid reasons for boycotting them, I can't articulate my objections nearly as well as I'd like. While I was reading the Phawker post, I noticed a link to Wal-Mart, the High Cost of Low Price. This was a documentary released in 2005. It sounds so familiar, I'm sure I must have heard about it last year. I wish I'd seen it; I should keep an eye out on the Sundance Channel or Independent Film Channel. The official site for the film contains a page which outlines, with documentation, exactly why Wal-Mart is so bad for America and, ultimately, for the global economy.

Here's the trailer:

So, I rest my case. Wal-Mart is evil and is not good for America or the world, same as any other monopoly. And monopoly they will eventually become unless someone steps up to the plate to put the brakes on their unending expansion. Kudos to Maryland for taking legislative action to require corporations like Wal-Mart to be civically responsible.

tags: consumerism / corporate culture / culture / economic justice / Wal-Mart / social justice

Monday, November 13, 2006

Philadelphia History vs. the Wal-Mart Empire

This is a painting entitled The Gross Clinic which was painted by Philadelphia's own Thomas Eakins in 1875. The painting has been the property of Thomas Jefferson University in downtown Philly since its purchase in 1878. It has been prominently displayed at the university since the alumni association bought it for $200. At some points, it has been displayed so it was visible from the street. It has never been permanently housed outside of Philadelphia since it was painted here.

There was a front-page headline in Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer announcing the university's plans to sell the painting. Proceeds of the sale, a record $68 million dollars, are slated to be used toward Jefferson's ambitious $400 - $500 million dollar revamping. A noble goal. I glanced over the article but didn't really read it. As a helthcare professional in the Philadelphia area, I had some knowledge of the painting and felt sad at the possibility of its being removed from the city. I wasn't aware just how much the artwork's history was entwined with Philadelphia's.

It wasn't until Sunday that I read an entire article about the painting's expected sale. Here is what the Inquirer culture writer had to say about the sale that day. This time, I read the article through.

Stunned by sale, but not giving up

City and arts leaders are ready to try to match the $68 million price tag for Eakins' masterpiece.

By Stephan Salisbury
Inquirer Culture Writer

Shock bordering on anguish spread through Philadelphia's cultural, medical, philanthropic and political communities yesterday as news of the impending sale of Thomas Eakins' incomparable painting, The Gross Clinic, hit home across the region.

But in the midst of the immediate trauma, efforts are already stirring to save what many believe is the very heart of Philadelphia's cultural identity.

"Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic should never, never, never leave Philadelphia, where it was painted," said saddened artist Andrew Wyeth. "It is my favorite American painting."

"We have to give it our best shot," said Donald Caldwell, board chairman of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "It's going to take all of us in the community."

That sentiment echoed around town.

"People have a lot of feeling about this," said Dr. Geno Merli, a member of the executive committee of the Thomas Jefferson University Alumni Association. "There is shock... . But maybe the alumni will rise to the occasion and save the painting for Philadelphia."

The painting, which is widely seen as Eakins' masterpiece and an indelible part of the Philadelphia cultural landscape since its creation in 1875, will be sold by its owner, the university, to a partnership of a new museum being built by Wal-Mart heirs in Arkansas and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

To retain the painting here, local institutions and government agencies have been given 45 days to match the price tag of $68 million, a record for an Eakins and for a pre-World War II American painting.

The clock started ticking Friday, when the Jefferson board approved terms of the sale.

After Dec. 26, if no local match is made, the painting will be a part of Philadelphia's past, a memory haunting a depleted cultural landscape.

"I was heartsick at the news," said Stephanie Naidoff, the city's director of commerce. "I'm going to see if I can convene a meeting of stakeholders to see what the sentiment is and what might be done."

She declined further comment.

"It's such a startling piece of news," said David Haas, board chairman of the William Penn Foundation and former board chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

"I had no idea," Haas said, speaking as a private individual. "I was flabbergasted."

Painted when the artist was 31, The Gross Clinic was intended by Eakins to portray the extraordinary scientific and cultural achievements of Philadelphia. The eight-foot-high canvas depicts Dr. Samuel Gross, a renowned surgeon and educator at Jefferson, demonstrating the bloody removal of diseased bone from a patient's thigh. The dark amphitheater, packed with Jefferson students, including Eakins himself, the anguished figure of the patient's mother, the monumental figure of Gross, bloodied fingers clasping a scalpel and poised in mid-gesture - all combine to create an unforgettable image.

Although some 19th-century critics were shocked by the bloody portrayal, Jefferson alumni were so moved that they purchased the painting from the artist for $200 and donated it to the university in 1878.

The painting has been in Jefferson's possession ever since, occasionally traveling for exhibitions, most recently in the Eakins retrospective mounted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2002.

For many years, the painting hung in the college building on Walnut Street, between 10th and 11th Streets. (It is now located, with two Eakins portraits, in Jefferson's alumni hall on Locust Street between 10th and 11th Streets and is available for public viewing at no charge.)

"You could see the painting from the street when it was in the college building," said Julie S. Berkowitz, the university's art historian who retired in 2003. "All the old guard would come in to see it. It was part of their daily life because they would pass it every day."

"I'm extremely upset," she added. "First, that it's leaving Jefferson, and secondly, that it is leaving the Philadelphia area. I saw it every day for 12 years."

Kathleen A. Foster, curator of American art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, called The Gross Clinic "Eakins' greatest painting" and one that is inseparable from Philadelphia, the city where he was born, raised and died in 1916. His ashes are interred in Woodlands Cemetery in West Philadelphia.

"It's not a generic painting that can be hung anywhere," Foster added. "It is all about his life, the life of the city, and the life of one of the city's greatest heroes, Dr. Gross. It is about the connections between the science, education and art of the place where it was made."

Brian Harrison, Jefferson's board chairman, said trustees formed a small committee three months ago to explore sale of the painting. Proceeds would be used to help fund the university's ambitious $400 million to $500 million plan to transform its Center City campus and educational programming.

Christie's auction house was brought in as an adviser and quickly recommended that the university pursue a private sale to "maximize the value," said Marc Porter, Christie's president.

Porter contacted the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the as-yet unbuilt Arkansas museum backed by the Wal-Mart heirs' Walton Family Foundation. Heiress Alice Walton, whose net worth is pegged at $18 billion by Forbes magazine, wanted to pursue the painting after seeing it in Philadelphia.

Walton, who is a member of the National Gallery's Trustees Council, was also behind the Crystal Bridges purchase of the New York Public Library's Kindred Spirits by Asher Durand last year. Acquisition of that painting for a record $35 million ignited considerable controversy in New York when Walton easily outbid a partnership of the Metropolitan Museum and National Gallery.

For The Gross Clinic, the National Gallery moved from being a Walton competitor to a collaborator. Officials refused to break down financing for the deal, although a National Gallery spokeswoman said her museum would participate financially in the purchase and would be a co-owner.

Porter, of Christie's, said that he wanted to avoid New York-style acrimony this time in Philadelphia and therefore suggested that a clause be added to the sale agreement granting local institutions 45 days to match the sale price. Crystal Bridges, he said, suggested bringing the National Gallery on board.

"That was really smart," said Caldwell, Pennsylvania Academy chairman. "It shows Jefferson isn't being cavalier. She [Alice Walton] got so much flak in New York, this will help her with the flak here.

"But 45 days is an extraordinarily short time when you're talking about $68 million."

Yet Anne d'Harnoncourt, director and chief executive officer of the Art Museum, said that cultural and civic leaders had started to explore possible options.

"I really, really hope that Philadelphia institutions and individuals can work together to keep it here," she said.

Want to See It?

What: The Gross Clinic, by Thomas Eakins.

Where: The Eakins Gallery, Jefferson Alumni Hall, Thomas Jefferson University, 1020 Locust St., Center City. Request entry at information desk, main entrance.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday; last visitors admitted at 3:45 p.m. Limit of 15 visitors at a time.

Admission: Free


Now I got pissed. It seems the purchase is being arranged by the Walton Family Foundation and Alice Walton, heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune, and the painting is slated to be moved to the proposed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. Apparently, Ms. Walton saw the painting when she was in Phihladelphia and wanted it for her museum. So, Philadelphia history be hanged, forget the fact that this piece of art was painted in the city and depicts a Philadelphia physician and medical professor, to hell with its as yet unbroken ties to Philadelphia, Ms. Walton with an estimated worth of $18 billion wants that painting in Arkansas.

In order to avoid the flak she received when she purchased another famous painting, Arthus Durand's Kindred Spirits from New York Public Library last year, this purchase allows local institutions 45 days...a month and a raise a matching bid in order to keep the painting hanging in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia also happens to be the location of the first hospital in the United States.

C'mon, Philly! We can do it! There's got to be some philanthropist out there with fairly deep pockets who's willing to see that this integral piece of Philadelphia's medical history does not wind up in the hands of the recipients of the wealth of the Evil Demon Wal-Mart. Let's keep this piece of Philly right here where it belongs!

tags: art / history / medical history / medicine / Philadelphia

American Populism

Egalia has posted an article by Paul Krugman over at Tennessee Guerilla Women about populism in the recent election. I love it! Here's (imho) the best part:
Ever since movement conservatives took over, the Republican Party has pushed for policies that benefit a small minority of wealthy Americans at the expense of the great majority of voters. To hide this reality, conservatives have relied on wagging the dog and wedge issues, but they’ve also relied on a brilliant marketing campaign that portrays Democrats as elitists and Republicans as representatives of the average American.

This sleight of hand depends on shifting the focus from policy to personal style: John Kerry speaks French and windsurfs, so pay no attention to his plan to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and use the proceeds to make health care affordable.

This year, however, the American people wised up.
Fabulous! We are tired of the very few rich getting richer and the many, many poor sinking further down into the abyss! It's about time someone started talking seriously about raising the minimum wage and reining in the immense power of the big drug companies!

Let's hope the Democrats remember what we elected them to do and begin making the playing field a little more level from the starting gun. If they diverge from this course, God help us in 2008.

You can read the whole article here.

tags: economic justice / US Congress / US politics

Thursday, November 09, 2006

To the Editor

I found a wonderful letter to the editor of the New York Times this morning. I couldn't have said it any better. I wonder if Ken has a blog?...

To the Editor:

Now that our electorate has finally woken from its stupor, we should ask ourselves why it took six years to recognize the incompetence and demagogy of this administration and the responsibility of the Republican leadership that blindly followed its lead.

The damage done is enormous, in Iraq, in the United States and around the world. Years have been squandered while the critical issues of our time have gone unattended.

How and why were we fooled?

We have a fascination with personalities instead of policy, a desire to be entertained rather than enlightened, and a need to have an enemy to define us and give our lives meaning.

Thankfully, our democracy is still functioning, though we will not see really meaningful progress until we can disconnect the electoral and legislative processes from the flow of corporate cash.

Let’s not forget that the Senate voted to give President Bush authority to start a war in Iraq. Our euphoria should be short-lived, and our vigilance should be redoubled.

Ken Swensen
Pound Ridge, N.Y., Nov. 8, 2006

tags: 2006 election / US politics

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Official!

Democrats control both houses of Congress!

Tennessee Guerilla Women pointed me there...MSNBC, NBC news and the Associated Press have have called Jim Webb the winner of the Virginia Senate race over incumbent (racist, sexist, anti-Semitic schmuck) George Allen!

The Democrats are in the house...BOTH of them!

All we're waiting for now is for Allen and the Repubs to decide if they're going to ask for a recount. Chances aren't good that any recount will recoup 7,000 votes for Allen. Why, even right wingers are calling for Allen to take it 'like a man' and concede. Go read that letter to Senator Allen at RedState, then read the comments. I was almost drawn to comment that the "whining" that Florida elicited was because Gore actually won the popular vote in that state in 2000...just like Webb did in Virginia yesterday! (Thanks to Talking Points Memo for that one!)

Allen (and Conrad Burns in Montana) should let it go and concede and let us get on with the business of putting this country back together.

As if you needed any more excitement tonight...Arizona voters defeated a gay marriage ban at the polls yesterday!

Whoot! Christmas is in November this year, peeps!

tags: Bush / Democrats / US politics / US Senate / Virginia politics

Rummy Finally Does the Right Thing

The day after the election, Donald Rumsfeld resigns.

The fact that Rummy waited until after the election to do this proves to me that this administration is as delusional as I've feared.

Had Rumsfeld made his exit a few weeks ago, the massive shift to the Democratic side might not have occured. Had this administration been willing to suck it up, accept what we've all come to realize...that they've bungled miserably in Iraq...and seek a true bi-partisan resolution to the war, Republicans might have avoided being swept out like so many dessicated bug skeletons from the floor of Congress.

They really believed they could pull it off. They really believed their "base" would come through for them. Or, and this (I believe) is highly possible for Bush, they really believed that God would make it happen for them, that they were fulfilling a destiny and God would provide the means.

Think about how different today might have been if Rumsfeld had resigned in October. If Dennis Hastert had resigned or at least relinquished leadership of the House following the Mark Foley scandal.

Bush chose to stay his course. One has got to wonder why.

tags: Bush / Iraq / mental illness / Republicans / US politics

It's All Good


Who really believed two months ago that things would end up this way on November 8th?

The House of Representaticves has gone handily to the Democrats. The Senate hangs on the almost certain recount in Virginia. As for the Virginia race, may I refer you back to my post of one week ago...

As much as I want to see that racist anti-semite in Virginia defeated, I would still consider a 50-50 split in the Senate a victory for the side of decency in America. The Senate has always been a much more deliberative body than the House. There are a number of conscientious moderate Republicans who are not exactly salivating at the prospect of continuing to "stay the course" on the faulty policies of the Bush administration. Even with Tricky Dickie II as the deciding vote in a 50-50 Senate, it will be a much more interesting place than it has been for the past several years.

The congressional candidate I've volunteered for this season (my first time participating so directly in the political process) won easily, defeating a ten-term incumbent. Surprisingly, the Pennsylvania 8th district is still tied 50% each as of this writing. Frankly, if I lived in Bucks County, I might very well have voted for Mike Fitzpatrick over Patrick Murphy. I just learned that Lois Murphy, the Democratic candidate in the county I lived in a few years back, was narrowly defeated by the Republican incumbent. That's a darn shame. This was Murphy's second tight race against Jim Gerlach and second defeat. But then, Berks County is rife with old-timey white sheeters, being considered by some to be the birthplace of the KKK in the central-eastern part of the state.

The greatest victory is that Rick Santorum will not be returning to DC to represent me in January, not that he ever represented me at all and not that Bob Casey is a tremendously better choice. Both candidates are "pro-life," running counter to my core beliefs in a woman's right to control what happens inside her own body. But Santorum was frighteningly fundamentalist...claiming gaya sex was a step away from bestiality and that women should not work outside the home. It's scary to think of how our nation might have evolved had Santorum's presidential aspirations come to fruition. Hopefully, he will return to the private sector and squelch any desires for the White House in the future.

All in all a very good day to be a Democrat in PA!

tags: Pennsylvania politics / US House of Representatives / US Senate / US politics

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tonight... feels great to be registered as a Democrat in Pennsylvania!

tags: Pennsylvania politics / US politics

I hope you voted!

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Isn't it convenient that, four days before an election that is likely to turn over control of the US House of Representatives, and maybe the Senate, to the party not currently in control of the executive and legislative (and, arguably, the judicial) branches of government, the Department of Labor releases very positive employment statistics? Not only do the Labor Department numbers reflect the lowest unemployment level in 5 1/2 years (note: that means the jobless rate was lower in the final days of the Clinton administration, but we won't mention that) for October, but they retroactively revised the numbers for August and September upward by 139,000 jobs. How I wish I was able to revise my numbers retroactively. (If you're having trouble falling asleep, here is the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Bush has been touting these numbers as he stumps for faltering congressional candidates.

What the President doesn't mention is what kind of jobs these are. Are these jobs that will pay a living wage and provide enough to support a family? Are these jobs with health care benefits for the employee and his/her family? Are these permanent, full-time positions or temporary or part-time, minimum wage jobs? The national minimum wage, you'll recall, is still stuck at $5.15 per hour, a number which equates, at 40 hours per week, to $206 a week...before taxes. $5.15 per hour is still the minimum wage despite efforts to pass an increase recent;y which was voted down by Democrats in Congress after Republicans tacked on a provision to eliminate the estate tax which would, admit it, mostly benefit the wealthiest in this country, those with the greatest dollar value in their estates. I think we all know what kind of "benefits" these 92,000 new jobs likely provide. (From Market Watch, "jobs in the services increased 152,000.")

Also: tomorrow, as scheduled, the verdict will be handed down in the trial of Saddam Hussein.

Two days before the election.

How very convenient.

tags: economy / economic justice / employment / unemployment / US politics

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ahhh, Philly Politics

I heard an interesting little snippet on the local public radio station news today. It seems 70,000 registered voters in Philly will have to present to new polling places on Tuesday. My first thought was , "another example of trying to disenfranchise the electorate," until I heard the rest of the story. The previous polling places had included local barrooms and political party offices and these are no longer considered legal polling places.

Gotta love Philly pols, no?

(Jimmy Tayoun, Philadelphia politician, restauranteur, author.)

tags: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania / Philadalphia politics

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Who Says Irony is Dead in American Politics?

Why, this is repleat with irony!

From today's Philadelphia Inquirer in an article about the continuing flap over John Kerry's bumbled joke which seemed to question the intelligence of the military troops in Iraq, the junior Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, has turned this into an opportunity to impugn the character of his opponent, Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. According to the incumbent, Casey:

"...played partisan politics and read his talking points just like he has done throughout this entire campaign," Santorum said. "John Kerry gave him the talking points: Botched joke. The words out of Casey's mouth? Botched joke. Just follow the script, Bob."

"Being a United States senator is not about following the script," Santorum said.


This coming from the Senator who thinks Bush is a great president:
SEN. SANTORUM: Absolutely. I agree with the president, as you see, a vast majority of the time. When I agree with him, I say it. And when I don’t agree with him, I, I say it, too.

MR. RUSSERT: You think he’s a great president?

SEN. SANTORUM: I think he’s been a terrific president, absolutely.

This coming from the Senator who still believes, along with Bush, Dick and Rummy, that there were WMD in Iraq at the time of the invasion, enough to constitute a serious threat to the US:
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, the president has accepted the report of his two task force and said, “That the chief weapons inspector has issued his report. Iraq did not have the weapons our intelligence believed were there.”

SEN. SANTORUM: Well, there were all sorts of weapons that our intelligence believed were there. They thought that they were new weapons. So far we, we did not—we have not found any new weapons. But we have found old weapons, weapons from the Iran/Iraq conflict, and we found over 500 and the report says that there were more.

This from the Senator who regularly toes the president's line over 90% of the time in the last three sessions of Congress. From Hill Monitor, a non-partisan source for records on congressional votes, Santorum voted with Bush:
95.77% of the time in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

98.19% of the time in the 108th Congress (2004-2005) and

96.46% of the time in the 107th Congress (2003-2004).
Apparently, it's alright to toe the line if the line in question is the extremely conservative ideological line offered by the right wing president but not alright in the heat of a congressional election campaign.

God, I love America!

tags: Casey / Pennsylvania politics / Santorum / US Senate / US politics

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

VA Senator George Allen and Democracy in America Today

This is an example of how democracy works in some parts of America in 2006. I'm sure we all remember stories about carefully selected audiences for Bush's stumps in the presidential race in 2000 and 2004. Has Allen learned from Bush or did our president learn from this apparent racist?

(Story via CNN, USA Today, AP. Mike Stark responds via the Richmond Times-Dispatch.)

You'll note the protester is not being charged. I sure hope he does press charges against Allen's crew.

George Allen...the man who calls an American-born citizen of Asian descent "Macaca." The man who is so ashamed of his Jewish heritage that he blows up at someone who questions him about it.

Funny, but my great-grandmother's maiden name was Rennebaum. I have forebears that had names like Hannah and Rebekkah. We used an awful lot of Yiddish idioms in my household when I was a child. And I've never once felt that having a heritage that was probably, in part, Jewish in any way "diminished" me.

George Allen, Virginia incumbent for US Senate...ever wear a sheet, George???

anti-semitism / George Allen / racism / US politics / US Senate / Virginia politics

Kerry Says what We're All Thinking

And Bush thinks he should apologize.

What sorts of people make up the bulk of the soldiers on the ground in Iraq? Are they mostly West Point trained? Are they mostly upper-middle class sons and daughters? Is the proportion of people of color to whites comparable with the population of the US? I don't have the firm answers or statistics but I know what I've seen.

I've recently seen an active-duty military person bring his baby into my ER for a choking incident. He and his wife were white. They were living in a motel at the moment. I know people who are in the reserve or National Guard who've only gotten into the military for the educational benefits.

Can anybody get me some stats on the number of soldiers on the ground in Iraq who have college degrees? As opposed to those who are there in the hope of obtaining a college degree and ticket to a better life through a stint in the service...supposing they survive.

Come on, Michael Moore pointed out years ago in Farenheit 911 that military recruiters target people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

This isn't to say that serving our country in the military is not honorable. God bless our troops! I wish nothing more than for every one of them to make it home whole and sound (and sooner rather than later). But facts are facts. The military machine is run on the blood, sweat and tears of the poorer people in this country. It's not the sons and daughters of lawmakers who are over there losing their lives. Many / most of them are ordinary slugs like you and me who were looking for a way to improve their lives and got no other help from our government that an offer to put their lives on the line for four years in order to earn some college money.

I know it's unpopular, but Kerry's only said what much of this country's known and been saying for over three years. The government created a situation where poorer people could not find a way to get an education then offered the carrot of educational benefit for risking life and limb in the military. Who do you really think took them up on that? It wasn't my son (thank God) because I was able to make sure he got four years in college instead. It was the children of the people who could not afford to do for their sons what I was able to do for mine.

If anybody should apologize, it should be Bush and the Republicans who have stripped so much away from so many over the last dozen years!

Rant over.

tags: Bush / classisim / Kerry / racism / US politics