Posted tagged ‘philadelphia’

Walking Into A Knife

September 3, 2018

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer front page headline read “Florida Man Slain As He Visits Phila. Kin”.  Apparently the deceased had just arrived in Philadelphia and was intent on surprising his relatives, after all this is Labor Day weekend.   Saturday night, however, is time for other activities than just saying “hello”.  While sitting in his car, another car pulled up and peppered the victim with some extra lead.  Hmmm.

At this point in the police investigation, details are lacking.  The victim might have been a bad person himself, who knows.  His Philadelphia in-laws, however, are certain his death was a case of mistaken identity.  All that is certain is the victim did not walk into a knife but rather had his body perforated with bullets.

In comparison to Chicago, Philadelphia is a relatively “safe” city.  Over 250 people die from gun shots each year in the city of brotherly love.  Chicago is more than double that rate.  So should Philadelphia residents feel good?

As one might guess, most of the shootings are black on black, or viewed differently, the shootings occur in areas of low income.  Like Chicago, Philadelphia has strict gun laws and like Chicago these laws seem to have little affect.  There are so many guns outside the city and State that getting a gun is simply a detail.  Done.  Bang, bang, your dead.

A border wall, 10 miles tall, regardless of who pays for it, will not noticeably change the sad state of current affairs in Philadelphia or any place else in the US.  Gun availability is a problem of interstate commerce and the Federal Government can play a role.  Why people wish to kill each other is a local problem requiring a localized treatment.  

Let’s not get distracted when our President sensationalizes, chooses to pander to his base, and misapplies a tragedy for his own political purposes.  

Religious Freedom The Catholic Way

May 22, 2018

In Philadelphia, foster parents are selected by private social service agencies using criteria provided by the city of Philadelphia.  As part of the cities “non-discrimination” policy, all qualified applicants should be considered regardless of religion, color, ethnicity or gender orientation.  Non-Discrimination means just that no one is disqualified for reasons unrelated to whether the candidate is trustworthy with the economic and emotional means to become a foster parent.  Sounds pretty clear to me.

Hold on, says the Catholic Social Services Agency, what about our religious freedom. Hmmm. Consequently, the Philadelphia Catholic Services Agency filed a law suit in Federal Court claiming the City was not treating them fairly.  Hmmm.  

So to be clear, the issue does not involve fitness (economic or emotional) to be a foster parent.  Rather the suit is about a  which groups of people or more to the point which groups cannot be considered as foster parent candidates due to a religious intolerance directed towards gender orientation.  Like many other Catholic dogma views, Catholics are not content to practice their dogma by themselves.  For example, the Catholic Church is free to decide who can be members of its churches. 

If the Catholic Services Agency does not want to interview same sex couples for foster parents openings, then CSA should not seek business from Philadelphia which clearly states that all qualified (economic and emotional) residents should be considered.  The Philadelphia CSA apparently sees “hypocrisy” differently.

Sadly Philadelphia’s decision to honor its non-discriminatory policy will deprive the city of what otherwise was a very competent services provider.  For Catholic Services Agency, backed with money from someplace, there could be another chance to challenge in court for the right to discriminate in the name of religious freedom.

Can 46,000 Be Wrong?

May 7, 2018

Yesterday, in Philadelphia, 46,000 area residents, gathered together on North Broad Street near Temple University in the early morning hours.  Grouped in “corals” from elite to no so fast, amateur runners waited for the 8 o’clock start.  The weather forecast had predicted rain which is a fun spirit killer, but instead the weather remained overcast and  a perfectly runner friendly cool.

Philadelphia’s Broad Street runs north to south and roughly bi-sects the city.  The Street is six lanes (4 for traffic, two for parking) and on race day all six lanes are open for runners to head south, around City Hall, past South Philly, and into the Navy Yard, 10 miles away.

The “Broad Street Run” is so popular that entrance is by lottery.  Bib numbers as high as 46,000 were visible.  Other than a few elite runners along with a few wheel chair participants, the remainder of the 46,000 came in all sizes, shapes, and outfits.

The “race” also has the spectator component.  Friends and family pick cross streets were they can find access and then spread out along Broad Street.  Bands pop up every so often and play spirited music (the theme from Rocky being a must).  Signs, the bigger the better, also dot the sidewalks.

With the stage ready, along come the runners.  For a little over two hours, 46,000 runners travel down Broad Street hooting and hollering, and slapping high fives with those along the sidewalks.  

Police presence, in this day and age is a must.  For this race, Bicycles and foot patrolmen (and women) provided most of the security.  Visibility must have been the secret ingredient and thankfully there were no incidents (other than possibly a couple of runner stumbling from exhaustions).

To appreciate the significance of Sunday’s Broad Street Run, one needed to look across the street, and the forward to the many rows of advancing runners.  Tall, short, thin, and not so thin, white, black, and all shades of brown, long hair, short hair, and no hair running for the simple fun of running. 

Judging by their faces, the 46,000 must have thought America was already great.  I wonder, however, when they returned to their homes whether they thought their President was about tear down the nation’s institutions, ruin the economy, or display a cruel and uncaring American face to the world?  Hmmm.

For about one and a half hours Sunday morning, however, the 46,000 runners seemed content to just enjoy the run.  

Starbuck’s Dilemma

April 17, 2018

Thanks to cell phone video capability, the arrest of two young black men for “loitering” at a Center City Philadelphia Starbucks was shared across the nation.  The two men apparently entered the coffee house planning to meet with a friend.  They asked to use the restroom but since they had not purchased anything, were denied the key.  The store manager subsequently asked the young men to leave and they refused (since their friend had not arrived).

The Starbuck’s manager called 911 and when the officers arrived told the police that these two men were trespassing.  The police responded to the manager’s complaint and proceeded to arrest the two men.  In the process of taking the men into custody, the previously mentioned “friend” arrived.  Too late in the eyes of the store manager and the police proceeded to take the two men into custody.  Later that day, charges were dropped and the men were released.

One can think of many other ways this confrontation could have gone.  For instance, the officers could have asked the men to call their friend and determine when the friend would arrive.  Starbucks is well known as a place to meet and talk, why treat these men differently?

Shortly thereafter, however, the video went viral and soon protesters were picketing the shop.  Social media had another hit on its hands.  This incident took on “Black Lives Matter” stature.

As in most black-white, or black-police confrontations, after the event one can see numerous ways a more sensible outcome could have been reached.  Most observers would have assumed two similarly dressed white men, doing the same as these two black men, would have been given a pass and allowed to wait for their friend.  Why weren’t these black men not afforded the same?

Protesters claim this was a blatant example of racial profiling and bias.  Maybe, but is that the only explanation? 

Philadelphia has experienced “flash mobs” where young men and women suddenly converge upon a store or shop, or even just an intersection in the city’s center.  Cell phones (texting) have clearly facilitated this phenomena.  Why younger people like this, I do not know.  And by the way, these groups are almost always 100% black.

Consequently, it is relatively easy to understand where the store manager might have been coming from.  Regrettably, however, the store manager should also have known that not all black customers act this way.  Certainly in a city like Philadelphia (45% African American), there were other options which could have been useful.  African Americans are customers too, and for sure not all white patrons order coffee or order enough coffee to justify the amount of time these customers take using Starbucks’ free WiFi.  

Starbuck’s CEO visited Philadelphia on Monday and met with protesters and the Mayor.  The CEO also apologized to the two victims and promised to increase “sensitivity” training.  In all, the CEO represented Starbucks well.  Today, Starbucks announced its 8000 nationwide locations would close one day in May for “bias awareness training”.

Looking back at this incident, a more experienced store manager could have handled the situation differently, like waiting 30-60 minutes for the friend to arrive.  The police could have assessed the situation differently since there was no evidence of theft or damage, or called for a supervisors opinion. 

On the good side, no one was roughed up or worse shot.  But the situation never needed to happen.  The two victims could have bought a coffee or waited outside until the third person arrived.  The Starbucks’ manager could have used judgement that these two black customers were telling the truth and invited them to relax, maybe even use the restrooms.

Would have, could have, should have.

Thanksgiving Perspective

November 28, 2014

Yesterday was Thanksgiving 2014. It’s a toss up over which is the biggest and most important US holiday, Christmas or Thanksgiving. Commercially, Christmas takes the prize, at least in the minds of most businesses. For college students, Christmas offers the charm of a longer break from the class room. Judging, however, from Thanksgiving travel options, buses, trains, and planes are book solid and tend to cost the most of anytime during the year. Hmmm.

Probably the biggest advantage of Thanksgiving is that it is secular. Christmas comes with the baggage of christianity and does not resonate with non-christians as much as with those with other religious affinities. Most younger people have made already the transition to Santa Claus and scratch their heads why some parents argue vehemently about putting a manger on the town square.

Thanksgiving is suppose to be a time when all Americans pause and give thanks for their good fortunes. Being with family and enjoying good food and drink is considered one of the most important activities on Thanksgiving. And one does not need to read many newspapers to recognize how well off compared to billions of other people living elsewhere in the world. These less fortunates find themselves with disease, hunger, and some with outright war. For most Americans, they have so much more to be thankful about than their peers around the world.

If, however, Americans reflect upon the Washington DC political climate or the partisan world at State level, there are big questions about what there is to be thankful about. Each party incessantly reminds Americans about how their government is failing them, and how much better it would be if they were in power. Thankfully Thanksgiving is a time when most Americans can step back from the negative leadership Democrats and Republicans offer.

No better example could be found than than attending a Thanksgiving Parade. In Philadelphia, like New York there is a magnificent parade featuring marching bands from cities distant from Philadelphia. These high school marching bands show visibly what young people can do cooperatively when provided decent leadership. The music is thrilling and the precision band movements evoke a strong feeling of “can do”.

Of course no one knows what lies ahead for these student musicians. Some may turn into dysfunctional political partisans like those we see in Washington. Others may get a bad break or waste a wonderful opportunity. But, my guess is that far more will learn from their band experience the power of working together and what individual effort can accomplish if they work hard.

Marching bands need no religious anchor so no one needs to argue over their own personal frailties. Marching bands bring pleasure to both the participants and those looking on. And no amount of rationalization can talk up a poor performance, especially if the marching band had not worked at practiced.

Maybe a good lesson for everyone.

Does An Exception Prove The Rule?

July 26, 2014

This week, in a Philadelphia suburb, a mental health patient shot and killed his case worker and wounded his doctor. The shooter was in the doctor’s office in a section of a much larger wellness center. The entire building was a “gun free” zone.

The rest of the story, was a surprise.

The doctor pulled his gun and returned fire. When the dust settled, the patient was seriously wounded and being restrained by other hospital employees who entered the room through windows. Police officials credit the doctor’s action with saving the lives of an untold of other hospital patients, workers, and visitors.

The facts seem to support this claim. Packing even when expressly prohibited saved a life and possibly many others.  One for the NRA?

Maybe but not for certain. A doctor’s oath is “do no harm”.  The oath seems compromised when he/she is packing, and completely over the line when using a firearm while on duty.

So how do we reconcile the use in self defense? This is a trick question.  The doctor never needed to be put in jeopardy.

Mistake number one is that the patient should never have gained access carrying a gun and more than 40 bullets. Mistake number two, some one considered potentially dangerous should never be in a position to attack the doctor or case worker without security personal present. In short, the “wellness center” was not prepared for a reasonably predictable outcome if there were no steps to insure guns were in fact prohibited.

The NRA will argue that everyone should be carrying. They feel packing will act both as a deterrent and as a self defense measure. Hmmm.

In this case, however, the patient, if he thought the doctor was packing, would have fired at him first before then shooting the case worker. I don’t like this picture.

The alternative to unlimited carry is keeping guns in homes, fields for hunting, and shooting ranges for sport.

For public buildings it is impractical to screen everyone.  Those buildings where mental health clients are more likely to frequent, we should remember President Reagan.  He once said, “Trust but verify”.   Mental health patients, considered capable of violent behavior, should be screened (metal detectors) prior to doctor’s office or hospital entrances.

No sets of procedures, however, other than the most draconian, can assure complete safety from irrational acts. Arming everyone will simply put more weapons in the hands of those unable (or unwilling) to use them safely.

Doctors with guns, even though in this situation greater tragedy was prevented, is not the answer.