On to a Curmudgeonly New Year

The pessimist has been characterized as a person who gazes at a half-full glass and proclaims it half-empty.  But what if the glass isn’t even close to being half anything?  What if it’s damn near dry?

Take the displaced people of East Liberty and points nearby.  People use words like “renewal” and “revitalization” to describe the process but everyone knows those words mean that poor people have to go.  People with low incomes need low-cost housing, and gentrification is not about cheap housing. The historical record shows that gentrification always results in a net loss of affordable housing in the targeted neighborhood.

Being forced to move is hard for people who don’t have money.  In fact, just living in general is hard for people who don’t have money.  Maybe real urban renewal would include the creation of decent-paying jobs in the targeted neighborhood.

Maybe we could revitalize the entire region with an increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour?  I bet the people pushing “revitalization” in the mainstream sense would oppose that idea: somehow, we are told, raising the wages of the least paid would hurt the standard of living of the better-off classes.  (We’re even told that higher wages for the poor would hurt the poor!)  You can’t please everybody, they say, so we should serve the good and universally-accepted cause of economic growth by  catering to the wealthy.  Makes $en$e to them.

The public gets served

I wonder if they’re still teaching the old bull crap about the social contract in Pennsylvania’s public schools?

You know how it goes. The people faithfully perform their duty by paying taxes; voting for an assembly and governor to govern them; joining the National Guard or military so that people overseas (poor people who, much like our own, are often forced to move against their will) can be told how to live like us; and, most importantly, always obeying the rules and believing the official hype. The governor and legislators are hardworking, altruistic “servants” of the aforementioned people.

And they all went to heaven in a little rowboat . . . !

As you know by now, we will not have a state budget for the New Year and, if you’re reading this blog, you know what I think about that!  Of course, the Republicans are the biggest culprits.  Under former Governor Corbett’s leadership, they shamelessly cut education and social service funding while heartlessly refusing Medicaid expansion.

What are the priorities of the public servants of the GOP?  The privatization of liquor stores (so they can break the union and sell franchises to their cronies who will be able to hire people on the cheap), pension reform for teachers and real public servants (meaning the phasing out of guaranteed benefits and adding more 401(k) chips for Wall Street to gamble with), no new taxes and more tax relief for the overburdened corporations, and a sleeper, H.R. 1538.

H.R. 1538 would protect the identities of police officers who shoot people while the investigation is pending.  The director of Philadelphia’s Police Advisory Commission writes:

The bill allows the release of officers’ identity only if they have been criminally charged, creating an additional requirement that names be withheld if the release of the information can “reasonably be expected to create a risk of harm to the person or property of the law enforcement officer or an immediate family member of the law enforcement officer.”

This bill would obviously undermine present and future attempts at police reform everywhere in the state.  H.R. 1538 passed the state house in November and now awaits senate action.

The minority Dems in the general assembly and Gov. Wolf want to return funding to the schools and to social services, but they want to do it through regressive taxation — they now feel too sorry for the Marcellus Shale frackers to tax them.  In fact, Wolf proposed lowering the corporate tax rate from the very start.  These guys and gals may, for the most part, truly want to serve the public; but our society is divided into the haves and the have-nots. You can seldom serve both of them simultaneously.  The Dems, both locally and nationally, haven’t understood that for a long time.

Unless they have understood and are just pretending to care about us.  After all, the Dems joined the GOP in passing an antiunion bill that was all showboating and bluster: it makes it illegal for unions to do what is already illegal — stalk, engage in harassment, and threaten to use “weapons of mass destruction.”

Maybe we’re the ones who need to learn the lesson; maybe we should stop supporting people who just keep serving someone other than us. If we want 2016 to be a year of justice, then we’ve got to find ways to make it happen without counting on the Democrats to act out fairy tale versions of an obsolete civics lesson.

Our crazy corner of the world

I no longer know what to think about the case of Anthony Mohamed.  He is the African American gentleman from Hazelwood accused of paying his cab fare with gunshots on Thanksgiving evening.  He was also alleged — by the media — to have made anti-Muslim statements to the cabbie during his ride home. This news understandably riled up the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), and yours truly.

Now we hear that the victim of the shooting pointedly refused in court to accuse Mohamed of making such statements. Mohamed, as always, should be considered innocent until proven guilty, but not even his lawyer denied that he came out of the house leading with a rifle rather than his wallet.  Hmmm . . .  From now on, I’m staying out of it!

It’s not often I give kudos to the police, but some compliments are in order for the Pittsburgh police.  First, after the Thanksgiving shooting of the Muslim cab driver, Chief Cameron McLay met with the community at the Islamic Center to strengthen ties between the police and the local ummah. Then, earlier this week, during a shootout in Brighton Heights, police shot the armed suspect in the lower extremities, wounding rather than killing him.  Maybe it was just poor marksmanship, but I’d like to believe the police were actually trying to wound him.

Maybe 2016 will hold some positive surprises after all.  Just maybe . . .


— Jim Collins









2 thoughts on “On to a Curmudgeonly New Year

  1. It would be relatively cheap to provide financial assistance for moving to families priced out of their current communities. This admittedly minor step would probably be achievable with little resistance from developers and their pols.


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