Philly is Primping for #PHLDNC

Constitution Center

Constitution Center

It’s Independence Day weekend in Philadelphia and ohhhh… the sites and sounds. There are spectacular things to do and see… and some things will remain (and be added!) for the DNC Convention the last week in July.

I brought my nieces and my sister-in-law to, of course, the Constitution Center yesterday both to see the newest version of Freedom Rising, and the renovation of the Bronze Room. To me it really is the happiest place on earth. For this weekend, there are displays and demonstrations on the front lawn of Colonial times: a blacksmith and a weaver, just to name two of many.

Remember, the Constitution Center is hosting PoliticalFest, which will run July 22-27. It’s inexpensive and will be a terrific experience. You can get your tickets (good for all six days) at the convention website. If you’re credentialed, PoliticalFest is free.

This is a great place to get a sense of all the historical things you can tour in Philadelphia. Independence Hall. (The original home of the Declaration of Independence, and compilation of the Constitution.) Betsy Ross’ House. (Our first flag!) Effreth’s Alley. (The oldest, continuously occupied street in the United States.)

We then crossed the street to the Independence Visitor Center and at the south end, the Liberty Bell.

In the Visitor Center, we were greeted by two donkeys. There are 57 of them around Philly comprising the Donkeys Around Town program. They are created by local Philly artists to celebrate the states, DC and the territories, all in celebration of the DNC coming to town.

The Vermont Donkey

The Vermont Donkey by Philadelphia artist Sam S. Petner

The Rhode Island Donkey

The Rhode Island Donkey by Philadelphia artist Kathryn Pannepacker


Rocky Statue formerly located in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rocky Statue formerly located in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Stilt people at visitor center

Stilt people at visitor center

We then crossed the street to the Independence Visitor Center.

There’s more to see in the Visitor Center, including a Rocky statue and stilt people. Normally, I take visitors out on the second floor veranda of the Constitution Center, point past the Visitor Center, down the grassy mall to Independence Hall and remind them that the Founding Fathers and their families were guilty of treason against the crown, and risked life, limb and everything they held dear to fight so that we could breathe free today. This year, as I looked out at the crowds and the displays all I could wonder was about the juxtaposition of the coming Convention. Would this be Chicago ’68 redux? Would the arrests of the 2000 GOP convention be repeated, with so many people arrested that they were housed in the Armory at NAVSUP? What will happen on the streets and in the hall?

Philadelphia's Chinatown

Philadelphia’s Chinatown

No time to dwell, however, because there was more to see. If you’re coming to Philadelphia for the Convention, and you decide to come down to the Historic Area, you can walk out the north end of the Convention Center, turn east, and you’ll be in Chinatown. Philadelphia’s Chinatown is the third largest in the US, only San Francisco and New York’s are bigger. Our Chinatown is on a path of extension, both up and out towards the north. There’s great food, interesting shops, and I need to spare a word about the bakeries. As someone who is about 99% sweet tooth, I always scope the bakeries, and embrace the differences between, say, the macarons at good French bakeries, the cakes at Austrian bakeries, cannoli at Italian bakeries, and oh I could go on. The Chinatown bakeries should be Chinese, but for some reason, they all seem to carry Philly soft pretzels. Along with cheesesteaks, Philly soft pretzels are considered a delicacy when made right, but, well, not Chinese and I’m a purist.

Jess hugs her favorite delegate: James Madison.

Jess hugs her favorite delegate: James Madison.

Get excited! Come to Philly. The Convention will be a unique undertaking. I close this a picture of myself hugging my favourite delegate of all time at any gathering… James Madison. (And yes, you too can hug your pick fave in the Bronze Hall at the Constitution Center.) I think a lot about his Federalist Paper #10, on factionalism, and wonder what he would think about the upcoming floor fight over the Platform. What all the Founding Fathers would think about the possibilities regarding both Cleveland and Philadelphia. Perhaps they would be enamoured of the idea of sea change taking hold against a country that has become a corporatist country: a concept that didn’t exist in their day.

GOP unveils stage for convention

(Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch)

The GOP released a model of the stage for their 2016 convention.

A couple of thoughts:

  1. Because it’s a model, I don’t think releasing it achieved the effect they desired. It kind of looks like a middle-school panorama project.
  2. It looks like a standard convention stage. Anyone expecting anything dramatically different for a Trump convention won’t find it here.

[Read more…]

PJVoice is Going to the Democratic National Convention

dnc2016We’re pleased to announce that PJVoice has been credentialed to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 24 – 28, 2016. We plan to post both here on our website and via our twitter feed (@PJVoice). We will be sharing our experiences, showing pictures of people we meet, covering events and making you feel as if you’re there.

Most people only know the part of political conventions that are shown on the television in the evening, but there is much more! Business of the party is handled at business meetings and caucus meetings throughout the day. Events are planned by NGOs, businesses and other organizations. After the day’s events, there are after-parties, concerts and receptions. In addition, there are multiple public events relating to politics, history and just plain fun.  [Read more…]

Choosing a Candidate: The PA Senate Primary

VotingBoothImage_0The first time I was in a voting booth, I was 5 years old. It was one of those machines where you pulled the lever to close the curtain, clicked down the little metal bars, and then pulled the lever to open the curtain. My dad held me and told me which metal bars to pull and then put his hand over mine and we opened the curtain together. It was so much fun, I wanted to do it again, and the next guy on line offered to take me into the booth, but my dad was having none of that. I loved voting even then.

I’ve voted a lot since then. Since coming of age, I have missed exactly one election, which was an off-year primary, missed due to a medical emergency. And I always know for whom to vote: at the local level normally I know the candidates, and they know me. But this year I am facing a huge dilemma. Who to choose? Which of them?  [Read more…]

Democrats Seek to Take Back PA 6 With Mike Parrish

Mike ParrishWe spend a lot of time thinking about the presidential race, but we should remember that the House and its 435 seats are also on this November’s ballot. Here in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, the Democratics have an opportunity to capture the seat because their running a strong candidate with a great biography against first term Republican Ryan Costello who’s been committed to voting the GOP line since he got to DC. I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with Mike Parrish, Democrat for Congress and you can read all about his background and his stand on the issues.  [Read more…]

Salvaging the Democratic Party

us electionIn February of 2012, Ann Coulter famously said “… Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.” Her prescience fell on deaf ears. We Democrats are facing a similar situation this year: we will nominate Hillary Clinton, and we will lose in November. But Bernie Sanders has said continuously that his candidacy is not about him, but rather about a movement, a revolution, and it will be possible to lose the battle but win the war.

3_1Today, the likely outcome will be as shown in this chart. Note that Democrats Abroad have 17 delegates and will vote from the first through the eighth of March. In addition, no matter what anyone tells you, the Colorado caucuses are non-binding so there’s no knowing what the final outcome will be.

If you are a Clinton supporter, you look at the numbers, see a rout, think it will be continued throughout the month and by the end, we’ll have a candidate. If you are a Sanders supporter, you look at the numbers and think that there’s still a chance that momentum will shift and things will level out by the end of the month, especially in light of the newest endorsements  and polling on later states which you see as proof of momentum.

As a Democrat, a lifelong, liberal Democrat, I can tell you that no matter who the nominee is, we need to pull together as a party and move forward. Sadly, if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination and Bernie Sanders drops out before amassing enough votes to pen a minority report, we will lose not the just the White  House, but even more seats in the House, and we will not regain the Senate. And then the question for all of us is Canada, Central America or Europe?

Hillary Clinton is the single worst person our party could run against Donald Trump, who seems to be unstoppable in his quest for the Republican nomination. In a normal year, we, the Democrats would win against a Republican in a landslide. HILLARY CLINTON! The background! The experience! Bubba the Big Dog back in the White House! Plus changing demographics and a built-in Electoral College advantage. But this is not a normal year, and Donald Trump is not a normal opponent. There is a detailed article explaining correctly why Clinton cannot win against Trump. But the arguments relate direct to the match-up between the two candidates, and overlooks the demographic problems that make a Trump victory even more likely. First, Clinton is having trouble with the Hispanic demographic, which may well be surmountable by naming Julio Castro as her running mate. More importantly, turnout is down massively (in some demographics by 30%) over 2008 levels. Neither Democrat is able to galvanize millennials, and overall Democrats are nowhere near as enthused as Republicans this year. This means that Democratic turnout will more mimic an off-year election then a presidential election, and we will get trounced.

A good test of this will be Massachusetts on Tuesday.  The state has more registered Independents than Democrats and Republicans combined. These independents can vote in either primary. Look at the numbers that come out of Lowell, New Bedford, Groton, Acton and the other old mill towns. These areas should be Democratic country because they are mostly white, very blue collar and old mill towns/shipping towns. If the numbers amassed by the Republicans far outstrip the Democratic numbers, well, think about what that will mean in a general. And if we cannot carry Massachusetts (think Mitt Romney as governor, twice, and Scott Brown), we’ll also be in big trouble in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

What we need to think about is how to drive engagement. Bernie Sanders is great at drawing huge, young audiences, but cannot get them to the polls. I’ve done some research about why this is. My sources are actual millennials. I asked around. And here’s what I heard: the problems facing people in their 20’s relate to student loans, bad job prospects, a lack a hope, and most importantly, a sense that they don’t matter and their votes don’t matter. Many of them feel neither party represents them. Without finding a way to engage them ON THEIR TERMS, IN THEIR LANGUAGE, they’re not coming to the polls in November.

Last year I attended a session on young voters at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit. After, I spoke with a number of people who work at getting millennials engaged. What I heard, then and now, is that they like to discuss. I was told to set up shop in a bar near a college, get to know the bartender, be willing to pay for rounds of drinks, and leverage social media to get  groups of college kids to discuss issues and politicians. Note the word “discuss” — this is different from lectures or rallies: actual discussions with real answers after listening to the questions.

The one thing that MIGHT be able to used to engage young people would be if Bernie Sanders won 1,192 delegates.  That is 25% of total delegates, and would entitle him to not only 25% of the personnel on the platform committee, but also the right to write a minority report, which could be voted on but would at least serve as a dissent from whatever platform was enacted. Closer to 35% of the delegate count would enable Sanders to claim a growing part of the party, people overlooked by the party, and potentially a growth area. Think about it: if suddenly there was a platform that could be presented to millennials in their language, on their terms, and if they could be convinced that voting not just at the presidential level but down the ballot to reclaim the Senate and get closer to parity in the House, not to mention state and local races…it may be the sole thing that could gin up interest. Finding a way to move the party from its current centrist, pro-business, hawkish platform could cement the movement to which Senator Sanders says he is committed.

For the good of the party, Bernie Sanders must continue no matter what the outcome tomorrow. If you doubt that we need a different platform, or at least a strong dissent, I recommend you read the current platform. When I ask people (and I’ve asked thousands of people over many years) whether they have ever read a party platform, I get blank stares. The platform is what our party stands for, what our elected officials are supposed to work towards (even when stymied), and that which defines us as a viable party. If we stand for pablum, there’s no question that our minions are not excited, not willing to work, and completely disengaged. As individuals, we get back what we put in. We are drawn to that which energizes us, and muddle through our list of “gottas.” We are our party, and we need to stand up and be counted, and bring along others. To do so, we need a party that stands for what we believe in. We cannot get that with a Clinton candidacy unless the progressive liberal wing makes its voice heard.

The Democratic Presidential Candidates

us electionToday is the South Carolina Democratic primary. Three days from now is Super Tuesday. The primary/caucus schedule is advancing and soon will come to our area, and you will have a choice to make. Some of you have already made you choice, and are contributing time and money to the candidate of your choice. Some of you are torn. We asked a supporter for each of the candidates to explain their thinking. You can click

  • here for the case for Bernie Sanders, and
  • here for the case for Hillary Clinton.

Read them both and then return here and leave your comments about who you are supporting and why. And whomever you choose, remember to vote!

New Food Purveyor: Cool Twists Frozen Creations

Cool Twists 1

Rhea and Jaimie Lastick in front of Cool Twists Frozen Creations

There is a new frozen treat shop in Phoenixville, and it’s spectacular! It’s called Cool Twists Frozen Creations, and is located at 178 Bridge Street, right in the middle of Phoenixville’s resurging downtown area.

We came across is quite by accident, walking around after having caught a matinee at the Colonial Theater. We were talking about how ice cream would be great, and suddenly there was Cool Twists. Not ice cream, but frozen yogurt in close to a dozen flavors, with multiple topping options. When people are looking for a treat, they have different concerns. My better half likes interesting things that aren’t too sweet. My overriding concern is that the ingredients will not require the use of an Epi-Pen, as I have very serious allergies. Neither of us was disappointed.

The first thing you notice when you enter Cool Twists, past both inside and outside seating, is how bright and colorful everything is: and next you notice the cleanliness. You walk back past the toppings to the various flavors, and then you pick up your disposable cup and start deciding what you want. All of the yogurt is Kosher, and while not all the toppings are Kosher, they are in individual containers, avoiding cross-contamination of any sort. (Also great for people with allergies. Easy peanut avoidance!) The yogurt is all natural, much of it low-fat or no-fat.

Cool Twists is owned by mother and daughter Rhea and Jaimie Lastick. Rhea told me that she used to work in the medical field, and worked with a lot of diabetics. Thus, the commitment to a simple treat that people with eating limitations could enjoy.

Cool TwistsThe “Twist” in Cool Twists comes from the ability to automatically twist two chosen flavors into one serving. However, you can certainly make your own concoction. Each flavor is clearly marked, and samples are readily available if you have trouble making a decision. My better half chose a mixture of Tahitian Vanilla and Espresso, and I selected two different types of chocolate. The cups are large, but since Cool Twists sells by the ounce, you can have as much or as little as you like. Great for kids and other small eaters.

toppingsAfter you select your yogurt, you’ll want to choose from the vast toppings bar. This is even a more difficult choice than the yogurt. My better half went immediately to the Reese’s pieces, since peanuts are an absolute no-no at home. I was attracted by the strawberries. Again, you can have as much or as little as you like.

Downtown Phoenixville is filled with restaurants, wine bars, gourmet shops, unique shopping experiences, outdoor music, and of course the Colonial Theater: yes, the place where they filmed part of the Steve McQueen movie The Blob, and where Blobfest is held every July. Don’t wait that long, though, to check out Cool Twists. A cool, delicious treat on any hot day.


National Dog Day

Are you a dog lover? A dog parent? Today is the day to celebrate the one who always loves you, amazes you, and thinks you are singularly the best hunter/gatherer, cook, best friend, and fetch partner a canine could ever have.

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PA Supreme Court Ruled in Voter ID Case

PennDOT voter idFrom the PA Supreme Court:

Overall,  we are confronted with an ambitious effort on the part of the General Assembly to bring the new identification procedure into effect  within a relatively short timeframe and an implementation process which  has by no means been seamless in light of the serious operational  constraints faced by the executive branch. Given this state of affairs,  we are not satisfied with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on  the assurances of government officials, even though we have no doubt  they are proceeding in good faith.

Thus, we will return the matter to the Commonwealth Court to make a present assessment of the actual availability of the alternate identification  cards on a developed record in light of the experience since the time  the cards became available. In this regard, the court is to consider  whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport  with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached  to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards. If they do not, or if  the Commonwealth Court is not still convinced in its predictive judgment  that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the  Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for  purposes of the upcoming election, that court is obliged to enter a  preliminary injunction.

Accordingly, the  order of the Commonwealth Court is VACATED, and the matter is returned  to the Commonwealth Court for further proceedings consistent with  this Order. The Commonwealth Court is to file its supplemental opinion  on or before October 2, 2012. Any further appeals will be administered on an expedited basis.

Full judgement follows the jump.