Current Affairs Feed

Why trust Philadelphia's new voting machines?

Rabb voting machines yt
We  received a voicemail on our landline from Pennsylvania State Representative for the 200th district Chris Rabb (pronounced like "dab") with an invitation to try out,
this past Friday, Philadelphia’s new ES&S voting machines at the Wadsworth Branch Public Library. Your correspondent planned to first attend a yoga class at the nearby Lovett Branch Public Library, then head over to Wadsworth to get acquainted with the new machines which have been in the news. See Philadelphia's New Voting Machine Contract in Jeopoardy... Coincidentally, PhD renaissance man, yogi and fair election activist Josh Mittledorf was substitute teaching. After class, I asked Mitteldorf to explain his concerns about the new machines. He pointed out the ES&S company’s sordid history and claimed that the software it uses could possibly skew results; even election officials purchasing the machines do not have access to the software to verify its integrity because, in legal terms, the software is considered a trade secret.

I headed off to Wadsworth where a representative from the Philadelphia City Commissioners' office walked me through how to use the new machine and referred me to Rep Rabb for any additional questions. The voting process is initiated when a voter inserts a physical ballot into the machine.  On a large display screen, the voter then touch taps the candidates they want and, when done,  the printed ballot with the voter’s choices shows up behind a window panel for the the voter to approve before submitting their vote. Predictably, on the demonstration machine, your correspondent voted for Democrat Party candidate Nick Foles for President and Green Party Candidate Julius ("Dr. J" Erving) for U.S. Senate. Then it was time to buttonhole Rabb.

Interview with Rabb

BR (your correspondent, Brian Rudnick): Are these machines secure?

CR (his Pa State Rep Chris Rabb): No.

BR: How do we know the election is not being stolen?

CR: We don’t.

BR: We don’t? Well that’s not good.

CR: I agree. Just like any system, Any system  is imperfect.

BR: Any system- even a paper ballot system…

CR: Well paper ballots can be stolen…

BR: Why don’t we have access to the software in the systems?

CR: I don’t know.

BR: You’re our representative, can you ask?

CR: The City Commissioners’ office is here so you can ask directly.

Watch video of activist and Pennsylvania legislator expressing concern about integrity of new ES&S voting machines in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Neighbors react to presidential candidates debates

Of the approximately 15 people your correspondent approached Friday morning to gauge their reaction to the Democratic presidential primary debates on TV Wednesday and Thursday nights, only three had watched one or both of the debates. Some of the remainder thought that there were just too many candidates at this time to make tuning in worthwhile. Responses of other non-viewers were “I don’t watch TV,” “I was asleep at nine”, “I get my news from social media” and “I watched 30 seconds of Joe Biden and had enough.” Here are what the three had to say

BR: What were your impressions of the first Democratic Party presidential debates?

Biden and Sanders were predictable Mcdowell debate reactionGeorge McDowell: One- too many candidates for an effective debate. I think a couple people started to make a name for themselves but ultimately it was just too little time to get any serious sort of issues really drawn out. BR: Anyone impress you , depress you? GM: Kamala Harris, I thought, was effective last night. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were somewhat predictable. A couple had some good answers and stood out somewhat but it still was very hard for them to really get across their messages during the time that was allowed.

 

Too many but I like Harris, Buttigieg, and intrigued by Yang

Esberg debate reactionTema Esberg: I'm overwhelmed with the number of people who are battling for attention. It’s hard to focus on anyone and learn anything meaningful about any of them other than how they perform in that moment when they're vying for the moment to get their pre-scripted lines out. That's my general observation. BR: Anyone you definitely would not vote for or would consider at this point? TE: I think it's too early. I did start liking some people more than others but recognizing that I liked them for their performance in that moment. I was surprised that I liked Buttigieg’s performance so much. I like Kamala Harris. I was disappointed in Biden and I was intrigued by Yang …So I shouldn’t say “shit show” on your video?

 

Biden's the right man for the job

Whitehead debate reaction

Jay Whitehead: First day it appeared that the candidates were just trying to show what they had. They really didn't seem important to me. Nobody really said anything significant. Last night it got pretty in-depth. I think Joe Biden, regardless of how Kamala kind of pinned his ears back a little bit, I think he's the man for the job. I'm impressed with Kamala. But Joe -I want to see Joe Biden become president. I think he's got the fortitude and I think he's straight up and down American no matter how you shake it – no crooks, no books. Just straight up and down. BR Would you like to see Biden on a ticket with Kamala? JW:I’d like to see Kamala on a ticket with Biden.


Right winger on soul patrol for homeless

Romig

Christian Romig has plastered “Hillary for Prison 2020”, “Police Lives Matter” and similar bumper stickers on the back of his compact SUV. But most prominent are the banners for “States Rights” and “Jesus Saves”. On the window portion in large letters are “Homeles [sic] Outreach” and “Soul Patrol.” In this photo, Romig was taking a breather in the Wissahickon at the top of Forbidden Drive on a nice spring day. He grew up in Chestnut Hill and now lives in Erdenheim The push broom and coolers strapped atop his vehicle are part of his own personal ministry of providing socks, blankets, novena candles and such to the homeless in center city and sweeping their living areas. A terrible struggle with Lyme disease concluded his long term employ at the Woodwards’ Cresheim estate some years ago, he says. Overcoming despair, Romig has been acting on his longstanding concern for those in need by going on “soul patrol” for the homeless. “What Jesus has done for me, I want to show to others.”


Waldorf students weave jump ropes to benefit UNICEF

Waldorf students weave

Using a handloom built by former school parent and woodworking teacher, John Fiorella, Philadelphia Waldorf middle-schoolers set up yarn on three spindles for people to crank out their own soft jump ropes. Admissions Coordinator Maggie Davis says the students decided to donate all monetary proceeds on Sunday April 7, 2019 at the Clover Market in Chestnut Hill, to UNICEF after reading Alan Gratz's book, "Refugee," about the plight of refugee families from three different countries in three different time periods. Watch video of Waldorf students using a hand loom to weave jump ropes to benefit UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.


Kushner envies Zuckerberg's Facebook Data - painted

Jared kushner envies data of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg painting
 
"These are some of the folks that have been haunting my dreams. These are the folks that I've been thinking about, watching on TV...and so much of the imagery... I feel a need to process it in some kind of way that helps me cathartically to just deal with everything that's going on. It's also a way of exercising my free speech. This painting is called "Data Envy." This is Jared Kushner [senior advisor to his father-in-law, President Trump] looking curiously or longingly at Mark Zuckerberg , Facebook founder. He's interested in data, how to use that data machine that is Facebook to potentially win over the whole country. There's moments that I can picture in my mind that results in what we are living through now." Germantown painter Colleen Quinn's other dark portraits depict former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Quinn was exhibiting at the Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival. Watch video of artist describing her painting of presidential advisor Jared Kushner longing for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his data.

Editor crunches out weekly

Editor crunches out weekly
Your correspondent observed and spoke with Chestnut Hill Local Editor Pete Mazzaccaro on a busy Monday morning as he was busy finalizing stories with his associate editor, staff writer and interns, churning out the obituaries that are usually handled by the vacationing articles editor, deciding on lead stories and knocking out headlines, then laying these out with photos for the front page. The weekly, a publication of the Chestnut Hill delivers news and features to some 5000 residents of Northwest Philadelphia and neighboring Montgomery County through with its printed edition and to thousands more regular readers of its online edition, https://www.chestnuthilllocal.com

Watch video of Editor finalizing stories and headlines for weekly edition.

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Len Lear edits the "Local Life", second section of the Chestnut Hill Local.  Your correspondent observed Local Associate Editor Sue Ann Rybak who sometimes contributes articles to Local Life express her admiration for the articles he writes. "They are so...." "Compelling" Lear suggests and Rybak is happy to have the word put in her mouth. While the subjects of some stories bring attention to themselves to promote a book concert or a public performance, many others who perhaps have won an award or are doing great humanitarian work do not bring attention to themselves but are brought to Lear's attention by neighbors, friends or family members who suggest a profile on the subject might make an interesting story.

Palestine Teach-In draws hundreds in Philly

From the Facebook Event Page

"Join us on June 30 for our Palestine teach-in! This event brings together an amazing group of scholars, organizers, activists, and teachers for a day of teaching and strategizing. Whether you’re looking for a basic introduction or advanced analysis, the event will be a valuable experience." Hosted by Uncle Bobbie's Coffee and Books in Germantown.

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Meanwhile  Weavers Way Co-op may have gotten around the boycott Israel issue by selling Equal Exchange Olive Oil produced by Palestinian small farmers

Palestinian farmer olive oil


College bound Syrian refugee survived bombings

Syrian refugee survived Assad bombs
When Philadelphia Inquirer syndicated columnist Trudy Rubin called on a young man to pose his question after her talk, "7 years, 4 months and counting: the Syrian Civil War" at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Philadelphia on Saturday evening, she addressed him by name. In an interview afterward, M. Eisa, a Syrian refugee, who had been living with church Reverend Jarrett Kerbel, echoed what Rubin had concluded- that the presence of foreign forces from Russian, Turkey and Iran fighting in pursuit of their individual agendas bode very poorly for the civilian population remaining after millions of Syrians have fled. As Rubin put it, they are fighting over Syria's dying body. Rubin believes the United States missed an opportunity to militarily back non-Islamist rebel forces many years ago and a United Nations powerless against Russia's security council veto, has sealed Syria's fate. M Issai says he tempted fate in 2013 when he stayed amidst regular bombing by the Russian supported Assad regime of his Homs neighborhood in order to finish 9th grade exams. He then fled with his mother to Turkey via Lebanon, received a scholarship to attend Friends Select High School in Philadelphia in 2016 and now is bound for Bard College in upstate New York where he intends to study philosophy. Of friends and family, he has lost a lot. "I don't think there's a single household in Syria that hasn't suffered losses." Grandparents and aunts who remain are facing economic hardship and food shortages. Watch video interview of young Syrian refugee describing escaping bombings by his own government and taking refuge in Turkey and U.S. and the plight of his remaining countrymen and women and kin.


Impeach Trump Party draws candidates for Congress

Impeach trump party democrats midterm election
Your correspondent, a reliably strident protester of former candidate – now President Donald Trump, signed an online petition earlier this year calling for Trump's impeachment. This past week I received an email invitation from Tom Steyer at "Need to Impeach" inviting me to "and [sic] impeachment party", space permitting. The invite didn’t explain at all what would happen at the party but I sniffed free food. Sure, I would "stand with Tom" as other emails asked me to do. Steyer turns out to be a billionaire former hedge fund manager turned born-again environmental activist and Democratic Party candidate funder and fundraiser. I adhere to the credo that “behind every great fortune is a crime,” so it didn’t take long to find an academic critique of hedge funds that concludes they provide no social value and while they provide returns on investments no better than average they do make some managers extraordinarily wealthy. ​

https://www.alternet.org/economy/hedge-funds-serve-very-little-useful-purpose-except-make-few-people-very-rich

In a subsequent email we were instructed to arrive at the Liberty View Ballroom at the Independence Visitor Center in downtown Philadelphia with photo ID. We arrived. The other partygoers were mostly middle aged and white like us but much better dressed. We were ushered into a room with waiters walking about offering hors d'oeuvres and an open bar! I schmoozed and conducted some interviews

I engaged Paul Shrader, a tall man with an “impeach trump” t-shirt, the only one I spotted sporting political attire. He was an ATF-Explosives certified military man who felt it wasn’t appropriate to continue service in an administration where 130 people in leadership positions do not, according to him, have security clearances. Working with the enemy? he asked disbelievingly. That’s the number one thing you don’t do and that the administration has been doing.

I also interviewed Lindy Li and Rich Lazer, both young idealistic Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District. The map was redrawn just today by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to correct court found Republican Party gerrymandering. Li, who came to the US from China when she was 5 years old, was propelled into politics when a shooter killed children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut on December 14, 2012. The date happened to coincide with her birthday and, in her words, damaged her “eternally.” She is vehement about diminishing the influence of the NRA in gun control matters and big oil on environment, climate change matters. Lazer had just resigned his position as labor liaison for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and opposes Trump‘s measures clamping down on sanctuary cities and calls for Trump’s impeachment for obstruction of justice in the FBI’s investigation of Russian state operatives’ interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. I also saw candidate Nina Ahmad who smartly drew attention to herself with a sign with her name on it.

Steyer eventually took a high seat at the front of the room alongside Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Bullock who spoke about how her constituents were being damaged by both Trumps policies and his manner. Seated at her right was Baltimore psychologist John Gartner who has been making the case that Donald Trump suffers from deteriorating pre-dementia and malignant narcissistic personality disorder. He speculated Trump might find relief, vindication and perverse pleasure in starting a nuclear war.

Steyer followed with remarks abut the need to energize college students to participate in the midterm elections. When he couched the situation as one of "absolute" right versus wrong, your correspondent impolitely rose before the third and final question that had been chosen from ones earlier submitted by attendees, to question Steyer about his extraordinary wealth. Steyer promised to be transparent. Considering how unrevealing he was in the party invitation, that’s a good thing.

Watch Impeach Trump Party video interviews with people and candidates for Congress here.


Heavy rains heave gas tank out of ground

Diesel gas tank heaves service station
After heavy weekend rains, Mohammad Bepary was on site at the Luk Oil gas station he operates through lease at Bethlehem Pike and Montgomery Avenue where a newly installed 10,000 gallon diesel tank had nosed upwards out of the soggy ground. The tank needs to be hoisted out and the ground re-excavated before it goes back in. Bepary expects the renovation of the mini-convenience store, which is being enlarged by conversion of two former garage bays, and addition of a diesel pump will be welcome by the community when he reopens, if all goes according to plan, in early March. Watch video interview about diesel tank excavation problem after heavy rain.